Friday, March 14, 2014

Freegrace Fridays! Happy Pi(e) Day! Blueberry Brown Butter Custard Pie

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It's March 14, which means it's Pi(e) Day!  Get it?  3.14...  And Pie.  Every year I bake a pie, or 10, on the big day and enjoy the sweet pun.  Except most years, I'm gearing up for spring .  I'm doing a little tilling.  I'm getting my sugaring equipment together.  I'm tending to my seedlings.  You get the idea.

This year, I'm shoveling snow. 2 feet, to be exact.  I'm crabby.

Yes.  It's beautiful.  I still want it to go away.

To express my displeasure with this onslaught of the white stuff, I went ahead and baked my pie.  I filled it with blueberries I'd tucked in the freezer from last summer, a season that seems foreign right now.  I topped the blueberries with custard.  I decorated the top with blueberry bush fecundity, all branches, leaves and plump berries.  And once it baked and cooled, I dusted the top with a liberal sprinkling of confectioner's sugar, like all that snow covering my garden and shattering my dreams of fresh blueberries entering my life in the near future.

Freegrace.  Will you ever be free of snow?

At least I've got pie.


For the crust

2 cups flour, cold
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
egg wash (1 egg whisked together with 2 tablespoons water)

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray a 9" pie plate with baker's spray (non-stick spray with flour).  Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, pulse together the flour, sugar, salt and butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

In a small bowl, stir together the water and lemon.  Slowly add the liquid to the flour mixture, pulsing, until the dough just comes together.  Squeeze a small piece of dough between your thumb and index finger to make sure it holds its shape.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Gently turn each dough a few times, gently kneading, until all the dry bits are incorporated and shape into disks.  Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one disk into a rough 12" circle.  Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate.  Crimp the edges.  Freeze for 20 minutes.

Line the pie plate with parchment and fill with pie weights or dry beans.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove the weights and parchment and continue baking until the dough has lost its raw dough sheen.  Set aside to cool.

Roll out the second piece of dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut out branch shapes, leaves and using a medium sized plain piping tip, cut out small rounds of dough to resemble blueberries.  Place on a parchment lined sheet pan, brush with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the filling

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
4 ounces unsalted butter
one 8 ounces package mascarpone, I use Vermont Creamery
3 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and continue simmering over low heat until the butter browns but doesn't burn.  The butter will give off a nutty aroma.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt.  Continue whisking and slowly pour in the butter, leaving any brown bits behind.  Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Spread the blueberries in an even layer in the pie pan.  Pour the custard over the berries.  Lower the oven heat to 325º and bake the pie for 40-45 minutes until the top has formed a skin but the filling is still pretty jiggly.

Take the pie from the oven and quickly arrange the prepared decorations over the top of the pie and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more or until the filling puffs and barely shimmies in the middle.

Allow the pie to cool completely.  It will "fall" slightly once out of the oven, this is normal!

To finish

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Sift confectioner's sugar evenly over the top of the pie.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar Treats on The Talk

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Goodness, look how serious I look here.  This might have been the only image they could capture from the segment where we weren't busting a gut.  To see the hilarity, click HERE.

Whipped up a little bit of trouble, again, with the wonderful ladies of The Talk.  This time, we made Oscar Night Sweets.  We spent most of our 5 minutes together cracking wise so I've added links to the recipes here as well!

Click HERE for the recipes!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Freegrace Fridays! VALENTINE'S SNOW!

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I need say very little about what's going on here at Freegrace because...snow!

I left LA a day early after my appearance on The Talk, all that sunshine and 70º, in time to beat the big one to our front door.

View of a city in clouds as I leave the warmth of LA.

To see the video, click this LINK
 And boy, did it ever snow.  I'll let Ruthie tell you all about it.

Chicken Coop.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Treats on The Talk! And the recipes that go with it!

Pin It I had another fun baking extravaganza with the beautiful ladies of The Talk.  We made Valentine's Day treats.

Here's the LINK to the video.

Click THIS link to get all the recipes (you'll notice that there's an extra "vegan brownie" recipe that the ladies were nibbling on while we were playing).

P.S.  Sharon Osbourne is a dab hand with a pastry bag.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

National Pie Day

Pin It Happy Pie Day!  I actually recognize 3/14 as the official "Pi(e) Day" but who am I complain that there are two in a  year?  Not me!

And...oh yeah, I wrote a book about that.

Go Pie it Forward!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year of the Cat: A Happy New Year Greeting from Freegrace!

Pin It Today, the first day of 2014, I dragged a chair into the snow a few yards from the barn and sat in full view of passing neighbors.

About 20 minutes into my vigil a woman drove by, slowing as she caught site of me smothered in a floor length coat made of zippy blue, yellow, red and green striped wool blankets perched on a plastic lawn chair ; flaps on my hunter's cap drawn down snuggly over my ears; ginormous rubber Muc boots keeping my tootsies warm; puffy mittens keeping my camera held in mid air.  She may have waved in a neighborly fashion but her eyes radiated, "What the?"

Waiting on kitty to show.

I think we have a feral barn cat.  I've been leaving out food and water, refilling both a few times a day.  It gets eaten.  Until today, I'd seen tracks in snow and caught fleeting glimpses of a fur ghost darting into a dessert plate sized hole nestled into the foundation of our barn.

I'd ruled out raccoon, skunk and ground hogs because as best as I could tell, the animal in question has white fur.  Yesterday I spied a bushy tail vanishing into the void.  It occurred to me that perhaps I'd been feeding a fox or a lynx all this time.   It's unlikely but worth considering since the barn is a few meters away from a crowded hen house.  Not that I'd stop nourishing either critter during our brutal winter.  I just need to know if I have to give pepper spray to the fowl.

Our outdoor party center is hibernating under a foot of snow.

Winter is a wonderland here at Freegrace but it's fracking COLD!

Hence my snowy vigil this afternoon.  I'm gearing up for the photo shoot for my next book in the next week so this is my last and best chance to spend a quiet hour assessing the situation in my barn.  Do I finally have the cat I've been pining for since we first moved into Freegrace?

The answer is yes.  It might be feral as hell but our kitty revealed herself on the first day of the year.  So I declare 2014 as the "year of the cat."  Meet the new addition to our family:


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Snow-capped Pie, Cherry on Top!

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If you were a customer at my pastry shop, Gesine Confectionary, you'll know my strudel well 
(no, that's not a euphamism).  

If you never had the chance to experience my strudel (get your mind out of the gutter!), this is your chance to recreate it in your own home but in a pleasing pie shape.

What makes it so special?  Well, the bottom crust is a sweet tart dough.  Inside is a mixture of apples, pears, yummy pastry cream and cake bits.  This might sound a bit odd but what it manages to create is a luscious and creamy-fruity symphony.  The outside is a crispy layer of puff pastry topped with a sweet glaze.  
And, of course, a cherry on top.

If you are like me, you'll want to make the puff, the cake crumbs and the pastry cream yourself.  But since it's the holidays, I created this recipe for Better Homes and Gardens with the busy elf in mind and made totally legitimate substitutions to keep it fast AND delicious.  You can buy the puff pastry in your grocer's freezer section.  You can use instant vanilla pudding in lieu of homemade pastry cream.  And a frozen pound cake, grated with a cheese grater, makes quick work of the cake crumbs.

For my recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, click on THIS LINK.

If you prefer to make these elements yourself, here are links for the individual parts!

For the Puff Pastry (this is quick puff):  Click on THIS LINK
For the Pastry Cream:  Click on THIS LINK
For the Cake Crumbs (you can half the recipe and freeze what's left over for your next strudel!):
Click on THIS LINK

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