Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen

Archive for the ‘pie’

Carrot Tart 0

Posted on December 05, 2013 by Sahar

One again, it’s time for Quick Meals You Can Make After Work.

This time, it’s Carrot Tart.  I guarantee you, even the kids will like it.  As well as any meat-and-potatoes eaters in your house. You can make it as a light dinner (or lunch) with just a salad, or, as a heartier meal with wild rice and a green vegetable or salad. (This is also an excellent cold-weather dish, believe it or not.)

Not too many extra notes for this recipe, really.  It’s pretty self-explanatory.  If you don’t have or prefer not to use honey, you can use maple syrup (the real stuff, not Mrs. Butterworth’s), or raw or brown sugar.

And, yes. I did use a frozen pie crust.


The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Clockwise from top:

Clockwise from top: ground ginger; salt; fresh ground nutmeg; dry mustard; fresh ground black pepper; allspice

Carrots. I just thought this was pretty.

Carrots. I just thought this was pretty.


1 ea. 9-inch frozen pie crust or your favorite savory pie crust recipe

2 eggs

1 c. whole milk or half-and-half

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. honey

4 large carrots, grated (you want approximately 2 c. grated carrots)

2 tbsp. parsley, minced


1 tbsp. chervil, minced


1.  If you are using a frozen crust, keep it frozen until you’re ready to fill it.  If you’re using a from-scratch crust, par-bake the crust at 425F for 15 minutes and let cool.

2.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and honey together over medium heat.

Melting the butter and honey together.

Melting the butter and honey together.

Add the carrots and toss in the butter-honey mixture.  Continue cooking until the carrots have softened slightly and all the liquid has evaporated, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking the carrots. You want to cook them until they are just slightly softened. Remember, you're going to cook them more in the oven.

Cooking the carrots. You want to cook them until they are just slightly softened. Remember, you’re going to cook them more in the oven.

Remove the carrots from the heat, spread out onto a plate or other flat surface and let cool for about 15 minutes.

3.  Mix together the milk, eggs, spices, and parsley or chervil.  Set aside.

The custard mixture. In this example, I used parsley. if you use chervil, you'll have a slice anise flavor.

The custard mixture. In this example, I used parsley. if you use chervil, you’ll have a slight anise flavor.

4.  In the waiting pie shell, spread the carrots as evenly as possible over the bottom.

The prepared pie shell. I like to wrap the edges so they won't burn in the oven.

The prepared pie shell. I like to wrap the edges so they won’t burn in the oven.

Carrots in the pie shell. Spread them as evenly as possible.

Carrots in the pie shell. Spread them as evenly as possible.


Slowly pour in the custard mixture.

Adding the custard. be sure to pour slowly so the custard can seep into the carrots.  If you pour too quickly it can overflow out of the shell.

Adding the custard. be sure to pour slowly so the custard can seep into the carrots. If you pour too quickly it can overflow out of the shell.

Bake the tart at 375F for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Let sit for about 10 minutes, then serve.

The finished pie. Mmm....

The finished pie. Mmm….

Make this meal as light or as hearty as you like. It's a great cold-weather dish when it's served with wild rice and a lovely green vegetable like green beans, asparagus, or a bitter green like kale or mustard.

Make this meal as light or as hearty as you like. It’s a great cold-weather dish when it’s served with wild rice and a lovely green vegetable like green beans, asparagus, or a bitter green like kale or mustard.







Spinach & Mushroom Pie 4

Posted on June 14, 2013 by Sahar

Savory pies, or their fancier cousin, quiches, are a great way to use a combination of leftovers, pantry items, and your imagination.  Like with sweet pies, a savory pie can make you use your creativity in new and surprising ways.

Plus, it’s a good, quick meal after a long day at work.

A few tips on making savory pies:

1.  Frozen pie crusts are fine.  That’s what I used in this recipe.  I know some will think it’s cheating, or, at worst, sacrilege, but I think it works perfectly well for this recipe.

2.  Keep the pie crust frozen until just before you’re ready to fill it.  Otherwise, it will become soggy during baking.

3.  Always have whole milk and eggs on hand.  They’ll make the custard, or base, of the pie.  Don’t use 2%, 1%, or skim milk.  They won”t stand up to the heat.

4.  If you’re using a cooked filling in the pie, make sure it’s cooled off before you put it into the crust.  Otherwise, it will begin to melt the crust too early and/or cook the eggs too quickly.

5.  Cheese is always good.

6.  When you bake the pie, take it out of the oven when it has a slight wobble in the center.  Let the pie sit for 10 minutes before cutting.  This will allow the pie to settle and finish setting up in the center without overcooking the eggs,


Now, to the recipe.


The ingredients

The ingredients

A whole nutmeg seed.  Like most spices, it's so much better to buy the whole seed and grate or grind just what you need.

A whole nutmeg seed. Like most spices, it’s so much better to buy the whole seed and grate or grind just what you need.

A grated nutmeg seed.  It smells wonderful, looks really tiger-stripe cool, and lasts a long time.

A grated nutmeg seed. It smells wonderful, looks really tiger-stripe cool, and lasts a long time.

For my money, the perfect nutmeg-grating tool: the mini Microplane.

For my money, the perfect nutmeg-grating tool: the mini Microplane.

The flavoings: fresh rosemary, black pepper, salt, fresh ground nutmeg

The flavorings: fresh rosemary, black pepper, salt, fresh grated nutmeg


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 c. sliced mushrooms

1 c. spinach, chopped (if you’re using baby spinach, don’t worry about chopping)

1 c. whole milk or half-and-half

3 eggs

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. rosemary, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 c. shredded Gruyère cheese

1 ea. frozen 9-inch pie shell


1.  Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat  to 425F.  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil (this is to transport the pie to and from the oven).  Tear a long piece of foil in half lengthwise; fold each piece in half again lengthwise.  You will use these to wrap the edges of the crust before you add the filling. (The foil will keep the edges of the crust from burning in the oven.)

2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over rmedium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt, and saute until they soften, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Sauteing the mushrooms.

Sauteing the mushrooms.

Add the spinach and cook until it just begins to wilt.

Adding the spinach. In this example, I actually used a spinach-arugula salad mix.  It worked very well.

Adding the spinach. In this example, I actually used a spinach-arugula salad mix. It worked very well.

Remove the skillet from the heat and let the mixture cool. (To cool the filling faster, take it out of the pan and  spread it onto a plate.)

3.  In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, mix together the eggs, milk or half-and-half, rosemary, nutmeg, and salt & pepper.  Set aside.  This is the custard mixture.

The custard mixture.

The custard mixture.

4.  Take the pie crust out of the freezer and place it on the baking sheet.  Take your two reserved pieces of foil and wrap them around the outer edge of the pie crust.  There will be some overlap.  Be sure the foil doesn’t go down the sides of the crust where the filling will be.

The wrapped pie shell.

The wrapped pie shell.

5.  Line the bottom of the crust with the grated Gruyère.

Mmm... Gruyere.

Mmm… Gruyère.

Next, spread the spinach-mushroom mixture as evenly as possible over the cheese.

Layer #2.

Layer #2.

Lastly, slowly over the custard to fill the pie.

Pour the custard mixture over slowly so it has a chance to soak into the spaces around the cheese and vegetables.

Pour the custard mixture over slowly so it has a chance to soak into the spaces around the cheese and vegetables.

Ready for the oven.  Be sure to put it in immediately after filling the crust.

Ready for the oven. Be sure to put it in immediately after filling the crust.

6.  Place the pie in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and there is a very slight wobble in the center of the pie.  Let the pie stand for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

How can you resist this?

How can you resist this?


Nice lunch or a light dinner. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Nice lunch or a light dinner. Either way, you can’t go wrong.



Happy New Year! 1

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Sahar

Happy 2013 to All!

Like most Texans, my husband, Steve, and I will be enjoying the traditional Texas (and, yes, universally Southern) New Years Dinner: Hoppin’ John. With Collard Greens and Cornbread.

New Years Dinner. Yummy, yummy good luck goodness.

New Years Dinner. Yummy, yummy good luck goodness.

For those of you who don”t know the symbolism of this tradition, here is a quick rundown:

Black Eyed Peas: coins

Collard Greens (or Cabbage): paper money

Cornbread: Gold

So, if you haven’t surmised by now, it’s all about the money.  The more you eat, the more prosperous you’ll be in the new year.

Plus, you’ll be starting that New Years diet resolution off right.

Oh, yeah. And, since this is Texas, Pecan Pie for dessert:

Pecan Pie. A Texas Tradition.

Pecan Pie. A Texas Tradition.

OK. Well. The pie could set your diet back a little.


Enjoy! Have a great new year!



Arabic Style Savory Pies 6

Posted on September 30, 2012 by Sahar

Just about every cuisine in the world has it’s own version of savory pies.  The Latin World has empanadas; Austrailia has Meat Pies;  Great Britain has Pasties and Scotch Pies; India has Pakora.

And, in the Middle East, they have Fatayer (فطاير), Sfeeha (صفيحة), and Sambousek (سمبوسك).  They can be eaten as mezze or as part of a main meal (the way I like to do it).


A Primer:

Fatayer are baked triangle-shaped pies that are usually filled with cheese or spinach.

Sfeeha are open-faced pies usually with a meat topping, but other ingredients can be used as well.

Sambousek are essentially half-moon shaped pies that can either be baked or fried.  They usually have meat or cheese filling.

And they are all delicious.


For my post, I’ve made the Fatayer and Sambousek.  I used spinach in the Fatayer and lamb in the Sambousek.  No frying, though.

And now, on to the recipes.

The Ingredients

The spices. (L – from top clockwise) Black Pepper, Allspice, Cinnamon, Salt;
(R) Sumac


The pies in these recipes use a yeast dough.  I generally don’t proof my yeast (although I probably should).  I just pay attention to the expiration date on the package and use my yeast quickly.  However, if you want to proof, here’s how you do it:

Fill a measuring cup with 1/4 cup of warm (95F – 105F) water.  Mix in 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, then 1 package of the yeast. (Yeast loves warm temperatures and food.  Hense the warm water and sugar. It’s basically a fermenting process.) Let the yeast dissolve in the water (you may have to do a little stirring to accomplish this).  Set the measuring cup aside in a warm place and let the yeast do its thing.  If it begins to bubble and rise, then it’s good.  If the yeast does nothing, then either your water wasn’t the correct temperature or your yeast was bad.

There is a spice I use for the spinach filling that you may not be familiar with: Sumac.  Sumac can generally be found growing wild throughout the Middle East.  It’s “berry” has a thin skin and flesh surrounding a very hard seed.  These “berries” are ground down to make a powder.  Sumac has a tart, slightly astringent, almost lemony flavor.  Look for sumac that is brick red to dark burgundy  in color and is an even grind.  You want it to have a bright scent.  If it smells like dirt, don’t buy it.  It’s old.

Don’t go and pick berries off a sumac plant if you see one.  It’s most likely “poison sumac”.  Just buy the dried ground in the store.

Sumac is used for Zaatar (a spice mix that also has thyme, sesame seeds, and salt), in kebabs as a seasoning, on vegetables, eggs, in meat dishes.  It’s a ubiquious spice in the Middle East.



Pastry Dough

6 c. all-purpose flour

1 package yeast

1 tbsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1/4 c. olive oil

2 c. warm water (95F – 105F), more if needed


I prefer to mix my pastry dough by hand.  However, if you like to use a mixer or a processor, by all means, do so.

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.

Dry pastry ingredients

Add the olive oil and mix it in.

Adding the olive oil

Add the water.

Adding the water.


Now, mix throroughly.  You want to have a dough that is slightly sticky.  I’ve found that it’s all right if it isn’t perfectly smooth.  However, you want to work the dough as much as possible without having to add any additional water or flour if you can.

Trust me, it will come together.

(Apologies for the following photos. I didn’t stop to “pose” while Husband was taking them, so they’re a little blurry. But, I think you’ll get the point.)

Mixing the dough.

Mixing the dough. In the beginning there will be a lot of dry compared to wet. Keep working the dough.

The dough is coming together. I haven’t added any additional flour or water.

The dough has come together and the bowl is fairly clean. Which is what you want.

2.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can do this in the bowl or turn the dough out onto a flat surface. Or, if you’re using a mixer, use the dough hook.

3.  Pour a little additional olive oil to grease the bowl.  Place the dough back in the bowl and rub a little olive oil over the top.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm placce to rise.  About 2 hours.

4.  Meanwhile, make the fillings:


Spinach Filling for Fatayer

1 1/2 lbs. spinach (I like to use baby spinach.  I don’t have to trim the stems or chop it)

1/4 c. sumac, or to taste

1 tbsp. salt or to taste

1/4 c. lemon juice, or to taste

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed


1.  In a very large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.

The spinach filling mixture.

2.  Pour the spinach mixture into a large colander and place the colander over the large bowl.  The spinach will basically (chemically) cook as it sits and release moisture.  The colander allows the excess moisture to drain away.

Toss the spinach occasionally.  Because it’s essentially cooking, it will wilt.

The colander sitting in the bowl. This will allow any moisture to drain off as the spinach sits.

The excess moisture from the spinach mixture after about 2 hours.


And you may ask the questions: Well, why do this in advance then? Why not wait until just before making the pies before mixing the spinach?

Because, wilting the spinach and allowing it to drain will get rid of any tannins in the spinach and will make it easier to fill the pies bacause you don’t have to contend with leaves flying all over the place.


Meat Filling for Sambousek

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (I like to use an 80/20 grind. I find it has more flavor)

1 sm. onion, minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1 tsp. allspice, or to taste

1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste


1.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion has softened, about 3 – 5 minutes.

2.  Add the meat and continue cooking until it is cooked through and there is no pink left.

3.  Add the spices and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Cooking the meat filling.

4.  Put the meat filling into a large strainer or colander and allow any fat to drain off.  Set aside and allow to cool.

The fat after the meat has been drained. Gross, but, there it is.


5.  Prepare several large baking sheets (I usually do 4) for prepping and baking.  Line the baking sheets with heavy duty foil (saves on clean-up later) and then line the bottom with parchment paper.  Set the pans aside.

The prepared baking pans

6.  After 2 hours, the dough should be ready for forming.

The dough after the first rising.

Punch down the dough and knead it until it forms a smooth ball.

Punching down the dough to start releasing the excess air. Plus, it’s fun.

Folding the dough over on itself. I’m kneading and releasing the excess air.

The dough after kneading. Almost back down to its original size.


Now, take the dough and pinch off roughly golf ball -sized pieces and shape them into balls.

Pinching off the dough to form smaller balls for the pies.

Take each piece of dough and begin tucking under the edges to form a smooth ball of dough.  Well, as smooth as you can make it.

Forming a ball of dough.

Tucking under the ends.


Lay the balls of dough on one of the baking sheets as you finish them.  I generally keep them about 1″ apart.

Laying the dough on the tray.

Cover the try with plastic wrap and set aside to let the dough rise again.  About 30 minutes.

A finished tray of dough.

The dough 30 minutes later. This is the reason you keep them 1″ apart.

7.  Preheat your oven to 400F.  Have a rack in the center of the oven.

8.  Now, to form the pies.  Lightly flour a flat surface and a rolling pin. (Don’t over-flour.  It will make the dough harder to work with when you form the pies.) Take one of the balls of dough and place it on the board.  Roll out the dough into a roughly 4″ – 5″ circle.

Rolling out the dough.

Rolling out the dough.

Rolling out the dough.

Not exactly round. More like an amoeba shape. But, you get the point.

Fun tip:  I have also used my tortilla press to make the dough circles.  Just line your press with plastic wrap first.


9.  Fill the pies.  For the fatayer, place roughly 2 – 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling in the center of the dough (you’ll basically need to eyeball this measurement).

Placing the spinach on the dough.

The spinach on the dough. I like to spread it out a bit. Make it into, normally, a rough triangle shape.

Now, to form the pies:

Begin by taking the left side of the circle and folding it over at an angle towards the center, forming a partial peak at the top.

Folding over the dough to form the pies.

Take the right side and repeat the process.

Folding over the right side

Fold the bottom side over towards the center, forming the triangle.

The final side folded over.

Now, pinch the seams closed.

Pinching the seams closed.

The finished pie.

Lay your finished pies on a baking sheet.

Many finished pies.

Note:  As you get further down into the colander, you’ll want to squeeze some of the excess moisture out of the spinach.  While the spinach on top may not have as much moisture, gravity is doing its work and drawing the moisture down and, of course, the bottom will have more than the top.


To fill the Sambousek:  Roll the dough out as you would for the Fatayer.

Spoon roughly 2 tablespoons of the meat filling over 1 side of the dough.  Be sure to leave about 1/4″ of dough uncovered on that side for sealing.

Filling the Sambousek.

The meat filling for the Sambousek.

Fold the empty side over the top and cover the filling.

Folding over the dough.

Press and then pinch the seam closed.

Pressing the seam closed.

Pinching the seam closed.

The finished pie.

Lay the finished pie on the baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough and filling.

Many finished pies.

10.  To bake the pies:  Bake the pies for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.  I like to bake mine for 10 minutes, turn the baking sheet, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Now, especially with the Fatayer, some of the pies may come open during baking.  It happens to me all the time.  Don’t despair. Consider them a cook’s treat.  Also, even though you have do doubt worked diligently to remove as much moisture as possible from the spinach, some will remain.  Occasionally, the moisture will cause the spinach to break through the bottom of the Fatayer.

To remedy this,  either make larger balls of dough when you form them after the first rising (roughly somewhere between golf ball and baseball-sized; the dough for the pies will be thicker, but you will have fewer pies); or, simply roll the dough thicker to make smaller pies.

Otherwise, don’t worry about it. It’ll still taste great.

Hey, it’s homemade.

The finished Fatayer.

The finished Sambousek.


The pies can be eaten either warm or at room temperature.


Enjoy! Sahtein!












Key Lime Pie (with a bonus at the end!) 0

Posted on May 31, 2012 by Sahar

Key Lime Pie is the ultimate symbol of food from Florida. Specifically, the Florida Keys.  No one really knows when the first Key Lime Pies were made or who made them since there’s no documentation.  However, according to historians, the most likely candidate is a ship salvager turned millionaire named William Curry.  He had a cook known only as Aunt Sally.  She supposedly created the pie in the late 19th Century.

Other historians believe that fisherman off the Keys, off to sea for long periods of time, created the pie as a way to help preserve their supplies, especially eggs.

Sweetened condensed milk was used because, until the Overseas Highway was built in 1930, there was a lack of fresh milk, ice,  and refrigeration on the Keys.  To this day, it is the key to making the pie so creamy.

The other main ingredient is, of course, key limes.  The key lime tree is native to Malaysia and most likely arrived in the Keys in the 16th Century with the Spanish explorers.  They are about the size of a golf ball with a yellow-green skin.  Their juice is sweeter than the more common Persian limes.

As a fun little political aside, in 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr. introduced legislation calling for a $100 fine to be levied against anyone advertising Key Lime Pie that isn’t made with key limes. The bill didn’t pass.

(Some historical information from


Now, to the recipe.

The Ingredients


Of course, the purist, like Rep. Papy, would say that the only true Key Lime Pie is made with fresh key lime juice. And they would be right.  However, many of us don’t have access to fresh key limes, or, if we do, the time to juice & zest about 20 – 30 to make this pie.

I use a combination of fresh lime juice and bottled key lime juice.  The most common brand of key lime juice is Nellie & Joe’s.  However, if you can find fresh key limes, and have the time to prepare them, by all means, use them.

Another question is what kind of crust to use: pastry or graham cracker? My own personal preference is pastry.  More specifically, cookie.  Which is what I do in this recipe.  And, because the crust recipe here is essentially a cookie recipe, it isn’t going to behave like a regular pie crust.

Meringue, whipped cream, or plain?  Again, it’s up to the baker.  I like meringue.  It’s also most likely the original topping since heavy cream wouldn’t have been available in the Keys before the 1930’s.  In this recipe I use an Italian Meringue.  It’s made with a hot sugar syrup as opposed to granulated sugar.  It makes an excellent, stable meringue that is almost reminiscent of a fluffy cake frosting.

One more thing.  True Key Lime Pie doesn’t have green food coloring.  The color of the pie should be a light yellow-green color.  If you see a pie that has a fluorescent green hue, walk away.  It’s most likely a pre-made mix.

Also, I prefer a more tart pie than many people.  Many of the key lime pies I’ve tasted really put the emphasis on sweet rather than lime.  I feel I’ve remedied that here.  It’s more of a sweet-tart flavor.


Shortbread Cookie Crust

2c. (9 oz.) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. citrus zest (optional)

1/2 c. light brown sugar

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened


Key Lime Filling

2 cans sweetened condensed milk (don’t use non-fat. Yuk.)

3 egg yolks

1 1/4 c. lime juice (I use a combination of fresh Persian lime & bottled key lime in this recipe. However, you can use all fresh of one or the other)

2 tbsp. lime zest


Italian Meringue

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

2 tbsp. light corn syrup (keeps the syrup from “sugaring up” or solidifying)

6 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (if you don’t have this, it’s all right.  However, it does act as a stabilizer for the whites)


1.  Make the crust: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl.  If you’re using the zest, toss that into the dry ingredients as well.

Weighing the flour.


Zesting the limes. The Microplane is a perfect tool for this. It takes off the outer peel while leaving behind the bitter white pith. If you don't own a Microplane, go get one.


The dry ingredients and zest mixed together.


2.  In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

The butter & sugar in the bowl.


Beating together the sugar & butter.


You want a fluffy, aerated mixture. This will help with the texture of the crust.


3.  Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the flour mixture.

Adding the flour to the butter & sugar


Keep mixing until the flour is completely incorporated.


4.  Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a slightly flattened disk.  Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and chill for at least 3 hours.

The dough ready for the refrigerator


Note: At this point, you can simply use this dough for cookies.  Delicious.


5.  After you’ve let the dough chill, take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 15 – 20 minutes to let it soften slightly.  When you roll out the dough, you want it to be firm but not rock-hard.

Dough ready for rolling.


6.  Unwrap the dough and lay it on a floured surface and lightly sprinkle the top with more flour.  Alternately, you can sandwich the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap.

7.  Roll the dough out, starting from the center and working out to the edges.  Turn the dough a 1/4 turn each time you pass the pin over it.  This will help make a more even thickness as well as, especially if you’re using a floured surface, keeping the dough from sticking.  Use more flour if you need to, but try to use as little as possible.  Too much flour will make the crust tough and dry.

Note:  Again, remember, this is a cookie dough.  It is not going to behave the same way as a regular pie dough.  Because of the high butter content, this dough will get very soft, very fast as you work it.  If the dough cracks while you’re rolling, just press it back together.  If you give up on trying to roll it out (and believe me, I have a couple of times), you can simply take pieces of dough and press them into the pie plate.  Trust me, though, the results are worth a little frustration.

Getting ready to roll the dough.


8.  When you’re done rolling, take a 9-inch pie plate and measure the dough.  There should be approximately 3 – 4 inches of extra dough around the outer edges of the pie plate.

Measuring the pie dough.


9.  Now for the fun part.  Carefully flip the dough onto the pie plate and shape the dough into the plate.  Trim any dough overhanging the edges to a 1″ overhang. (if you don’t have any overhang, it’s all right.) Use whatever scraps you have to patch up any holes, tears, or spots and the edge that are a little short of dough.

Save the scraps for cookies.

Getting ready to flip the dough


A not entirely successful flip


If your dough looks like this after you've flipped it into the pie plate, don't despair. All will be well.


After a little repair work. See? I told you it all comes together.


10.  Tuck under the overhang around the edges. (If you have any.  The most important thing is that the crust is as even a thickness as possible.).  Finish the edges as you like.  Use a fork to prick a few holes in the crust and place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Pie crust ready for the freezer. Freezing the crust will help to keep it from melting & burning in the oven when you par-bake it later.


11.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.  Grease a piece of foil or parchment paper on one side with spray.  Set aside.

12.  Take the pie crust out of the freezer, place it on a baking sheet, and press the foil or paper down into it.  Fill the foil or paper with pie weights (i.e. dried beans, lentils, or rice) and place the pie crust in the oven.

Raw crust filled with pie weights ready for the oven.


13.  Par-bake the crust for 30 minutes.  Take the crust out of the oven, carefully remove the foil or paper and the weights.  Wrap the edges in foil, if needed, and bake an additional 8 – 10 minutes.

Note:  There will be a bit of melting of the crust, especially the outer edge.  It’s inevitable given the fact this is cookie dough.  When the crust comes out of the oven, it will be very soft and fragile.  Hence, the cookie sheet.

Finished par-baked crust


14.  Take the crust from the oven and let it cool completely.  At this stage, of you like, once the crust is cool, you can carefully wrap it in plastic and place it in the refrigerator.

15.  While the crust is cooling, you an make the filling.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up.  Add the condensed milk, lime juice, and zest.  Whisk until you have an even, well combined mixture.  The filling will thicken upon standing.  Set aside or cover and refrigerate.

Egg yolks & lime zest.


After adding the lime juice


After adding the sweetened condensed milk. Yummy stuff.


16.  Once the crust has cooled completely, wrap the edges in foil (to prevent any further browning)

Wrapped edges.


Carefully pour in the filling.

Ready for the oven.


Place the filled pie on the baking sheet (if you haven’t done so already) and put the pie back into a preheated 350F oven for 35 – 45 minutes. If your oven has a hot spot, and most ovens do, rotate the baking sheet about halfway through the initial baking time.

The center should be a bit wobbly when you take it from the oven.  It will firm up as the pie cools.


Note:  This is a very important thing to remember.  When you are making ANY type of cream pie, you must pay attention to the baking time & doneness of the filling.  I didn’t the first time around when I was making the pie for this post.

I had workmen in my house that day and became distracted.  So, here is what happened:

What you don't want to see. An overcooked cream pie.


The overcooked proteins have basically squeezed out all the liquid causing the filling to separate.


So, what you’ll end up with, if you aren’t paying attention, is essentially sweet-tart scrambled eggs.  And I’m fairly certain none of you will be going for that.  The pie will still taste good, but the texture will be, well, funky.

Eat the pie yourself or dress it up and give it to someone you don’t like very much.

Here is what you want to see:

A smooth, creamy pie


Let the pie cool completely.  (I usually cover it once it’s cooled and place it in the refrigerator overnight.)


17.  Make the meringue: Separate the eggs using the 3-bowl method (see my blog post “Mom’s Favorite” on how to do this).  Place the egg whites & cream of tartar in a mixer bowl and set aside.

Egg whites & cream of tartar ready to go.

Make the sugar syrup:  In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.

Sugar syrup getting ready to boil


18.  Once the syrup reached 240F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage):

Syrup at 240F


begin whisking the egg whites on high speed until they are frothy:

Frothy egg whites.


19.  Once the sugar syrup reaches between 245F & 250F (firm ball stage), remove the saucepan from the heat.

Syrup at 250F. You don't want it to get any hotter than this or the whites will too stiff to work with later.


Turn the mixer down to medium speed.  CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY pour the hot syrup into the whites, avoiding the whip.

Carefully pouring the sugar syrup into the whites.


(A hot syrup burn is really, really painful.  There’s a reason pastry chefs call this stuff napalm.  Do not give this to the kids to do, be sober, and pay attention.)

Once you have poured in all the sugar syrup, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and continue whisking the whites until they are firm and shiny.  The bowl should be just warm to the touch when they’re done.

Whisking the egg whites after all the syrup has been added


The finished egg whites. These could be used as a cake frosting at this point.


20.  Turn your oven on to broil (you may want to take a rack out) or have a torch ready to go. I usually set my oven on “Broil” setting and turn the temperature to 450F.

21.  Pile the meringue on top of the pie.  Spread it all the way to the edge of the crust and smooth or spike it out as you like (there will be A LOT of meringue).

An almost comical amount of meringue.


Ready for the oven.


Place the pie in the lower part of the oven and let the meringue brown.  Watch it carefully, though.  It can burn quickly.  About 60 – 90 seconds is all it will take.

If you have a torch, brown the meringue with that if you like.  You can direct the heat more directly and make the browning more even.

PIe! Yummy!


A cross section. It was really, really good.


Store any uneaten pie, covered, in the refrigerator.  It’ll keep for about 3 – 4 days.




P.S.  Remember what I said about saving the scraps for cookies?

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Have your oven preheated to 350F.

2.  Roll out the leftover dough into a 1/8 – 1/4″ thickness, depending on how crunchy or soft you like your shortbread cookies.

3.  Cut the cookies out into your desired shape.

Cutting out cookies


4.  Place the cut cookies onto the baking sheet about 1″ apart.  If you like, sprinkle them with a little turbinado (raw) sugar before baking:

Ready for the oven


5.  Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes.  Depending on the thickness and how brown you like them.  Turn the baking sheet about halfway through the initial cooking time.

6.  When the cookies are done, let them cool slightly on the baking sheet then transfer to a rack.  The cookie yield depends on how much leftover dough you have and how thick you make the cookies.

All done!




















A Pie Primer 0

Posted on May 15, 2012 by Sahar

Pie. Something everyone seems to love. They can be sweet or savory. Snack, main meal, or dessert.  And, I have no doubt many of us have eaten pie for breakfast more than once. Especially during the holidays.

Pie in form or another has been around for millennia.  The original pies had crusts that were several inches thick that were simply used as cooking vessels.  The crusts weren’t actually eaten.  Historians say that the roots of pie can be traced back to the Egyptians of the Neolithic Period, around 9500BCE.  These early forms of pies were essentially free-form made with oat, wheat, rye, barley, and filled with honey baked over hot coals.

The first pies were called “coffins”, meaning basket or box.  They were savory meat pies with tall, straight-sided sides with tops and bottoms.  Open crust pies were known as “traps”.  These were baked more like what we now know as a casserole and were made with meats and sauce.  Again, the crust itself was the cooking vessel and was inedible.  A tradition of these early pies was carried on by the Greeks. Historians believe that the Greeks actually originated pie pastry. The pies during this period were made by a flour-water paste wrapped around meat; this served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.

The Romans, sampling the delicacy, carried home recipes for making it (a prize of victory from a conquered Greece). The wealthy and educated Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course. According to historical records, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and other meats and fish were normal in Roman puddings. It is thought that the puddings were a lot like pies.

English women were baking pies long before the settlers came to America. Pie was an English specialty that was unrivaled in the rest of Europe. Two early examples of the English meat pies were shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. Shepherd’s pie was made with lamb and vegetables, and the cottage pie was made with beef and vegetable. Both are topped with potatoes.

The Pilgrims brought their favorite family pie recipes with them to America. The colonist and their pies adapted simultaneously to the ingredients and techniques available to them in the New World. At first, they baked pie with berries and fruits pointed out to them by the Native Americans. Colonial women used round pans literally to cut corners and stretch the ingredients (for the same reason they baked shallow pies).

Pioneer women often served pies with every meal, thus firmly cementing this pastry into a unique form of American culture. With food at the heart of gatherings and celebrations, pie quickly moved to the forefront of contests at county fairs, picnics, and other social events. As settlers moved westward, American regional pies developed. Pies are continually being adapted to changing conditions and ingredients.

(Some historical information from


A few notes on making pie crust: Pie crusts are fundamentally easy to make.  However, they are also one of the most seemingly complicated recipes to master.  There are so many things that could keep you from pie crust success: overworking the dough, a crust that shrinks when baked, a crust that isn’t flaky.

Pie dough, for the most part, if your treat it right, is quite forgiving.  If it tears, it’s easily patched.  You can trim it and add to places that don’t have enough dough (especially for the rim of the crust).  If the crust gets soft while you roll it, you can wrap it and place it back in the refrigerator to rest.  It’s easily frozen.

There are just a few rules to follow when starting a crust:

1.  Make sure the fat you use (lard, shortening, butter) is cold. The reason for this is that the fat doesn’t melt when you work it into the dry ingredients.

2. Use ice water.  This will also keep the fat from melting.  However, don’t use too much because your dough can become tough.  Too little, the dough won’t hold together.

3.  Don’t overwork the dough. If you overwork the dough, you’ll develop the gluten (fine for bread, not for pastry).

4.  Give the dough adequate rest time.  This allows the gluten proteins to rest and the moisture to distribute evenly in the dough.

5.  When you make the dough, you want to see bits of fat and keep it as cold as possible until you put in the oven.  As the crust bakes, the fat melts and creates steam.  The steam in the dough is what creates the flaky crust.


There will be more tips as you go through the recipe.


Mixed Berry Pie with Lattice Crust


The Ingredients



2 2/3 c. (12 oz.) all purpose flour (the best flour for pie crusts)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 lb. ( 2 sticks) plus 2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into approximately 1/2″ pieces

5 – 8 tbsp. ice water, as needed



7 c. fresh washed berries (you can use any mix of berries you like, or just one berry)


3 bags frozen mixed berries (ditto.)

3 tbsp. cornstarch

3 tbsp. tapioca


6 tbsp. tapioca flour

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg


1/2 tsp. cinnamon


1 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp. water


1.  Make the crust:  If you are making the crust by hand, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl

Weighing the flour.


Add the butter and press it between your fingers into the flour.  You want to have little disks of butter.  Add in just enough ice water (about 5 tablespoons to start) and carefully toss the ingredients together.  You want the dough to just come together when you press it in your hand.  If the dough is dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together.

If you’re using a food processor (as I did for this recipe), pulse together the dry ingredients:

Dry ingredients pulsed together


Add the butter:

Butter ready to be incorporated into the flour


Do 2 or 3 quick pulses to break down the pieces of butter and begin incorporating it into the dry ingredients:

Butter & Flour after pulsing


You want to have pieces of butter visible.  This is what helps make the crust flaky:

The pieces of butter in the flour.


Add 5 tablespoons of the water and do a few more quick pulses.  Add more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Again, you just want the mixture to come together:

After the water has been added


The dough just coming together after being squeezed in my hand


2.  Separate the dough into two equal pieces.  I like to weigh the dough so I’ll get the disks as even as possible:

Weighing the dough


Press the dough into disk shapes and wrap them tightly in plastic:

The dough ready for the refrigerator. Notice the pieces of butter in the dough. This is what you want to see.


Place the dough in the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 2 hours.


3.  Meanwhile, make the filling. (If you are using fresh berries, do this just before you roll out the crust; if you’re using frozen, do this about an hour before rolling out the dough.)

In a large bowl. toss the berries with the cornstarch, tapioca, sugar, ginger and nutmeg.

The berries and spices, etc. ready to mix


Berries after mixing. Now, let them sit. Stir occasionally.


Set the berries aside and let them macerate. Be sure to stir the berries occasionally so the dry ingredients are distributed evenly.  The have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the bowl otherwise.

4.  Remove one of the disks of dough from the oven and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to warm and soften slightly.  (You want the dough to be firm when you roll it out, but not rock-hard.)

Unwrap the dough and lay one disk on a lightly floured surface.  If you like, you can place a piece of plastic or wax paper over the top of the dough as well.

Getting ready to roll the dough


5.  Roll out the dough starting at the 12 o’clock position.  Roll away from you and then back towards you at 6 o’clock.

Rolling the dough.


Rotate the dough 1/4 turn.  Repeat.  By doing this, you’re making sure the dough doesn’t stick at the bottom (lightly flour if necessary) and you’ll roll out the dough more evenly.

Picking up the dough and rotating it 1/4 turn as I'm rolling


Be sure to apply equal pressure over the whole surface of the dough to keep as even a thickness as possible.  Just roll up to the edge of the dough, not over.

Rolling the dough.


Still turning the dough 1/4 turn after each pass with the rolling pin. This will also help you better gauge if you need any more flour as you roll. If you add too much, the dough can become dry and tough.


6.  Remove the plastic or wax paper (if using) from the top of your dough.  Place your pie plate upside down in the center of the dough to measure it’s diameter.  Ideally, you want the dough to extend out at least 3 inches on all sides.

Measuring the rolled dough. It's about 1/8" thickness at this point


Take the pie plate off the dough and set aside.

Very lightly flour the top of the dough.  Take the rolling pin from one end and begin to carefully to roll the dough around the pin:

Rolling the dough over the pin.


Take the pin to the pie plate, hold it over one side and carefully unwrap the dough by again rolling the pin across of the top of the pie plate. (Don’t press down on the edge of the plate.  You’ll run the risk of cutting the dough.)

Transferring the crust into the pie plate


7.  Start shaping the pie dough into the pie plate by lifting the edges and setting the dough into the plate.  Don’t press or stretch the dough.  Not only will it tear, but it will also shrink during baking.

Shaping the dough into the pie plate


Shaping the dough into the pie plate


Pie crust in the pie plate. Ready for the refrigerator.


Once you have the pie crust in the pie plate, trim the outer edges to a 1″ overhang.  Use the scraps to patch any holes or cracks in the dough.  Place the pie plate in the refrigerator to rest as you roll out the second piece of dough.

8.  Unwrap the dough and follow the same rolling instructions from Step 5.

9.  Either by eye (if you can do this, more power to you) or with a ruler (my preferred method), cut 10 strips of dough 3/4″ wide each.

Measuring & cutting the dough for the lattice top


Because I'm terrible at spacial stuff


10.  Mix the berries one more time (and you should’ve been doing this all along anyway), and remove the pie plate from the refrigerator.  Carefully fill the pie plate with the berries and dot the top with the butter.

The berries after a bit of maceration time.


Berries and butter in the crust ready for the lattice top


11.  Lay five strips of dough across the top of the pie, spaced evenly apart.  Be sure there is some overhang off the sides, especially the center.

Beginning the lattice top


Pull back alternating strips of dough and place a piece in the center:

Pulling back alternating strips of dough


Laying the top piece.


Lay the strips back down.  Again, fold alternating strips of dough and lay another strip of dough across.  Do this 3 more times.  Then, you’ll have a lattice top:

The lattice top. Almost finished.


Trim the edges back to a 1″ overhang, tuck the edges back under the rim of the pie crust and crimp the edges as you like.

All shaped, glazed, and ready to go.


Brush the crust with egg wash and, if you like, sprinkle on a little turbinado (raw) sugar or crystal (decorating) sugar.  Place the pie in the refrigerator for an hour or in the freezer for 20 minutes.

12.  Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with foil and place it in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  Carefully take the pie out of the refrigerator or freezer and carefully place it on the baking sheet in the oven.  Immediately turn the temperature down to 375F.  Using the preheated baking sheet helps the bottom of the pie seal quickly.

Pie ready for the oven. The foil around the edges of the pie is an option. My oven bakes hot, so I like to use them.


If you like, you can wrap the edges of the pie with some foil to keep the edges of the crust from browning too quickly.  If the top is browning too quickly, you can place a piece of foil, shiny side up, to keep it from over-browning.

Bake the pie for 60-75 minutes.  You want to see juices bubbling from the center, that way you know the pie is cooked through.

By the way, there will be a lot of juices and this pie will be a little messy.  Hence the foil on the baking sheet.

13.  Carefully remove the pie from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours to let the pie set up.

The finished pie. Notice the lovely juices. Yummy.







↑ Top