Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let's Bake Cinnamon-Molasses Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust!

Homemade Cinnamon-Molasses Pumpkin Pies with Pecan Crusts
So, THIS happened yesterday!  I ended up buying pies from Dean & DeLuca for Thanksgiving because I spent the entire day before Thanksgiving working on my stuffing, and I ran out of time to bake before I had to head to church for Thanksgiving Eve service.  The Dean & DeLuca pies were fine, I guess...  But they merely whetted my appetite for the REAL pumpkin pies, my favorite recipe gleaned from the pages of Bon Appetit magazine back in December of 1999.  I have been obsessing over this pie recipe ever since Thursday, and I had already purchased all of the ingredients before I admitted defeat and ran to D&D.  I figured, better late than never, and so I baked my pies yesterday.

Bon Appetit has a number of pumpkin pies available on their web site, but not this one, so I'm going to share it with you all today.  That's how much I love you.  You're welcome.  [Added bonus: by posting the recipe online, I will always be able to find it again if I ever misplace the original!]  And now, without further ado, I bring you the recipe for:

Cinnamon-Molasses Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

Yield: two 9-inch pies, one for Mom and one for the rest of the family to share

Advance Preparation: Dough for crust can be prepared 3 days ahead & refrigerated, or 1 week ahead & frozen.  Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before using.  Bake pies the day ahead.

Key Ingredients, Ready to Go


For Crust:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
6 T packed light brown sugar
1 1/3 c. finely chopped pecans
1 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) chilled
unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
4 T (approximately)
ice water

For Filling:
2 ½ c. packed light brown sugar
¼ c. all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground
½ tsp. ground ginger
TWO 15 oz. cans pure pumpkin
6 large eggs
2 T mild-flavored (light) molasses
1 ½ c.
heavy whipping cream

Quick note about the ingredients: I use Penzey's spices, which are so much fresher and stronger than the spices I can buy in the grocery store.  Sniff two jars of cinnamon side-by-side and you'll be sold.  There's a Penzey's store at The Arboretum shopping center in Charlotte, but if you don't have one near you it's totally worth ordering online.

As for the crust: I think the pecan crust is delicious, but you can use plain crust instead if you have nut allergies to contend with, or if you are in a time crunch and need to use the ready-to-bake grocery store pie crust pastry instead.  Just make sure you use a deep dish crust or it will overflow.  However, maybe you have no nut allergies in your family, maybe you have plenty of time and you LOVE pecans, but you are afraid of making pie crusts because you have failed miserably in the past?  Ah, do I have the gadget for YOU!  I am about to solve all of your pie crust problems for a mere $6.95 plus shipping and handling, and I don't do any of those affiliate links, either.  I am sharing this with you out of the goodness of my heart because it's the ONLY way I can make a pie crust without swearing like a pirate.  Allow me to introduce you to the 14" Pie Crust Bag from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalog:

14" Pie Crust Bag, available here from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalog
This is going to totally change your pie-baking life; I promise.  All you do is wipe your counter with a damp rag (the plastic bag will stick to the counter now instead of sliding around), unzip the bag all the way around, and sprinkle both halves lightly with flour... 

Meanwhile, back to our recipe:

For crust:

1.      Pulse pecans in food processor until they are finely ground but still have visible chunks.  Using electric mixer, mix flour, brown sugar, pecans and salt in large bowl until well blended.  Add butter and mix on low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Cut in larger chunks of butter with a pastry knife.  Using fork, mix in enough ice water to bind the dough. 
2.      Transfer dough to a work surface & gather into a ball.  Divide in half.  Flatten each dough half into a disk; wrap each in plastic.  Chill 1 hour (or up to 3 days; OR freeze).  Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before using.
3.      Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of parchment (or in pie crust bags, see photos below*) to 12” round, about 1/8” thick.  Remove top sheet of parchment and invert each dough round into a 9” diameter glass pie plate.  Remove parchment and gently press dough in place.  Trim overhang to ¾”, turn under and crimp edge decoratively.  Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Disk of Dough Centered on One Half of the Pie Crust Bag
Bag Zippered Shut
Roll Crust Through Bag, With No Sticking, Sliding, or Cursing!
For a Perfect 12" Circle, Roll to 1" from Outer Zipper on 14" Pie Bag
Unzip the Pie Crust Bag and Carefully Peel Back the Top Half...
Ta-Da!  No Sticking!  Perfect!
At this point, it's easy to invert your glass pie dish in the center of the crust and carefully invert the whole thing, easing the pie crust into your pie pan.  You have a nearly perfect circle of pastry to work with because you rolled it out in a perfectly circular bag, and the bottom half of the bag gives you extra pastry support when you flip the whole shebang over, so there's no risk of tearing your pastry or having it fall apart all over your counter after all your hard work.


4.      Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°.  Line crusts with foil, fill with dried beans or ceramic pie weights, and bake pie crusts until golden at edge, about 15 minutes.  Remove foil and beans, and continue to bake until crusts are pale golden, piercing with fork if crusts bubble, about 5 minutes.  Cool completely on rack.

After Blind Baking, Crusts Cooling on the Stovetop While I Mix Up the Pie Filling
For filling:

1.      Reduce oven temperature to 350°.  Whisk first 6 ingredients together in large bowl to blend.  Whisk in pumpkin, eggs and molasses; then whisk in the cream.  Pour pumpkin mixture into crusts, dividing equally.

Pumpkin, Eggs and Molasses Added to Sugar Mixture
...Now We Whisk In the Heavy Cream...
...And the Pie Filling is Ready to Pour Into the Crusts
Ready to Bake!
...Finally In the Oven, Crust Edges Protected by Pie Crust Shields
The purpose of the pie crust shields is to prevent the edges of your pie crust from over-browning or, heaven forbid, outright burning during the long baking time.  I got my nonstick pie crust shield ages ago, don't remember from where, but I found similar ones for you guys on Amazon here.  I put the pie shields on when my pies go in the oven, and I don't remove them until a few minutes before I'm ready to take the pies out to the oven.

2.      Cover edges of pie crust with nonstick pie shields or strips of aluminum foil.  Place pies in oven and bake until sides are puffed and center is just set but still looks wet.  Begin checking after 50 minutes.  (The Bon Appetit recipe said the pies would be done after about 50 minutes, but in my experience they usually aren’t ready to come out until about an hour and 15 minutes of baking).  Cool completely.  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate).  Serve plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Fresh From the Oven!
The photo above shows what the pies should look like when they are done baking and ready to come out of the oven.  See how the edges are puffy?  If you enlarge the photo you can see that the center of the pies still looks wet, but when I jiggle them I can see that the centers are indeed set, no longer liquid and sloshing around.  As the pies cool, that puffiness sinks down a little and then the finished pies look like this:

After Cooling, Ready to Enjoy
Oh, and you DO want to completely cool and refrigerate these pies before eating them.  Also, they are fabulous for breakfast.  :-)  Just sayin.'

Well, it's a rainy day in Charlotte today, but there's no more baking on today's agenda.  I need to spend some time learning the Second Soprano for the choruses and chorales in Bach's St. John's Passion, reviewing my Alto part for my upcoming Christmas caroling gigs, and maybe I can even squeak in a smidge of sewing before I have to pick Anders up from school and take him to his violin lesson.

Have a great day, everyone!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

And Now, Happy ADVENT! Let the Madness Begin...

Pineapple Log Cabin, Block 26 of 36, 17 3/4"
Man and Boy versus Christmas Lights
We all survived Thanksgiving!  The tablecloth and fine china are all washed and put away, I had my three pieces of pumpkin pie for breakfast yesterday, and we finished off the last of the turkey leftovers for tonight's dinner.  Bernie and the boys put up two of my three Christmas trees, garland, exterior lights, stockings...  So we're more than ready to kick off the first Sunday of Advent tomorrow.  I made another pineapple log cabin block today to celebrate.  That's 26 blocks done, 10 to go, for anyone keeping track.

Which means I am about to transform into a professional Christmas caroler again for the next two weeks.  I gotta tell you, I am not 100% looking forward to all of the mad costume changes, or to driving my little car while wearing a huge hoop skirt that pops up between me and the steering wheel, obscuring much of the windshield.  I am afraid that for all the fun I had designing and making that costume, I didn't take practicality into consideration...  But it is what it is, and I'll be wearing it again on a regular basis beginning this Friday, December 2nd.

My Giant Dress Does Not Fit In My Little Car!!!
Meanwhile I've got a rehearsal of Bach's St. John's Passion on Monday, December 12th, and I need to learn the Second Soprano part to that music ahead of time, in addition to refreshing my memory of the Alto harmonies on all of the Christmas songs in the Holiday Singers repertoire for the caroling gigs.  As busy as I'll be, December should fly by and Christmas will be here before I know it.  Yeah, don't look for my Christmas cards to show up before Epiphany...

EQ7 Block, Not Quite Peaceful Hours
And also meanwhile, after finishing the pineapple log cabin block, I went back to that EQ7 block that I printed out when I was looking for the Farmer's Wife block called Peaceful Hours?  I decided I like the fabric mockup I did for that block, and it's different enough to live in the same sampler.  Added bonus: No set in seams with this one.  Except that I don't actually have the virtual stash fabric I used to color this block in my real life fabric stash.  I had similar enough fabric for everything except the center patch, and decided that it really needs to be this older Kaffe Fassett print that I only have a jelly roll strip of, not big enough:

Ready to Paper-Piece, as Soon as Discontinued Fabric Comes In the Mail
See?  I didn't need it to be a floral print, but I needed globs of color, including pink, coral, and blue.  Thank goodness for people who sell fat quarters of discontinued fabric on eBay. 

Discontinued Fabric, Coming Soon to a Mailbox Near Me
In the meantime, I cut up the other fabrics and got my foundation patterns ready to piece the block.  That will look cute mixed in with my other 6" sampler blocks, don't you think?

Check out my Design Wall of Shame NOW:

Focus Diffused: Many Projects, Nary a Plan...
It's really the Design Wall of NO Shame, as I brazenly stick one project on top of another.  I am not ashamed in the least.  I'm having great fun chopping up perfectly good fabric and sewing it back together again, and right now I'm in a major Idea Generation mode, not so much a Finish It Up mode.  For your viewing pleasure, there is a 54" square baby quilt top (completed in July 2015 but never quilted) behind the first (and only) block of Anders' new Moda Modified Building Blocks quilt, also behind the latest pineapple log cabin block that is destined to be a California King sized quilt for my bed.  The 6" sampler blocks to the right of that are for skill building and color therapy.  The applique block above is destined to be one of nine identical blocks, and the others all have their stems stitched down but need petals next.  Haven't had a chance to prep any hand stitching for carpool duty in several weeks, so I've been reading kindle books on my iPad instead.  And that doesn't get ANY quilts finished!

Maybe now that it's advent, I should pull out my Jingle blocks and set them into a quilt top, maybe finish a Christmas quilt DURING the Christmas season?  All but one of these blocks, and the center medallion, are from the Jingle BOM pattern designed by Erin Russek that you can find here:

Weird Pre-EQ7 Mockup Done in Some Other Program
 What you see in the above photo are my completed pieced and appliqued blocks, my poinsettia setting triangles that are all cut out and ready to go, and a picture of someone else's straight set center medallion inside a wide border.  I must not have made my own center medallion at the time I was playing around with setting ideas, but mine is done now:
My Center Medallion Applique
What do you think?  This project was my first try at hand stitched applique, or any kind of applique, really, but I never finished it.  I didn't really want to finish the quilt by setting the blocks and medallion exactly the way everyone else did.  This is the way Erin designed the quilt to go together:

Erin Russek's Original Jingle Design, patterns available here
It's pretty, but it feels very contemporary to have the center medallion AND the other blocks on point,  kind of like a harlequin look or something.  I guess I like the more traditional look I get when I set the center medallion straight and then I thought of adding some other pieced borders in between, as well as on the outside of the quilt beyond the other blocks...  And then I didn't know how to figure out those pieced borders to fit between the parts that I'd already made (this was before I had EQ7), and then I vaguely remember having a strong suspicion that one of my red batik fabrics turned out to not be colorfast and will bleed all over the place and ruin this quilt as soon as it's finished and washed...  So do I REALLY want to put another hundred hours into it?  This quilt-along happened THREE YEARS AGO, people.  At this point, what do I really have to lose?  The work is done, the lessons have been learned, and the quilt blocks aren't doing me any good folded up on the shelf.  If I simplified my grandiose plans, this could actually be a finished quilt.

Or it could be one more project-in-progress fighting for space on the Design Wall of Shamelessness.  It's not like I'm going to finish anything during caroling season, anyway!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times www.patchworktimes.com

·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts http://www.cookingupquilts.com/

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt http://lovelaughquilt.blogspot.com/

·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: http://emsscrapbag.blogspot.com.au/

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Countdown to Thanksgiving!

"Freedom From Want," Norman Rockwell, 1943
Can you believe Thanksgiving is only two days away?  I'm hosting this year and preparations are already underway.  The Buttercup Squash and Leek soup was made and frozen two weeks ago, and I moved it to the fridge to start defrosting it this morning:

Buttercup Squash and Leek Soup, Ready to Puree
I've also made and frozen my maple spiced pecans, which get chopped up and added to my stuffing:

Maple Spiced Pecans for Stuffing
The fresh organic turkey we ordered from Whole Foods was picked up this morning and crammed into the refrigerator as well. 

Sherry Shallot Herb Butter, for Smearing Under the Turkey Skin
The herbed butter and roux for thickening the gravy have been made, and the Cranberry Citrus Compote is in the fridge, just waiting on scallions to be stirred in right before serving. 

Cranberry Citrus Compote, Scallions Will Be Added Just Before Serving
I've got another grocery store run to do today for perishables, even though I know it's going to be a madhouse.  I think of these pre-Thanksgiving grocery store trips as akin to invading Russia right before the first snowfall of winter.  You know you're in for it, but sometimes it just can't be helped. 

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  May your turkey be moist and flavorful, your stuffing be thoroughly cooked, and most of all, may your dinner conversations remain cordial and politics-free!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Another Wicked Little 6" Sampler Block: EQ7 Block 2968 Wisconsin

So after the not-so-peaceful "Peaceful Days" block was finished, I thought I'd make another 6" sampler block using a pattern that I found in my EQ7 block library.  The EQ7 notecard identifies the block as Wisconsin (Hearth and Home).  I picked this block because it was giving me a vintage vibe and I thought it would blend nicely with the 6" blocks from the Farmer's Wife Sampler books and the Vintage Quilt-Along blocks.  Hmmm...  I wonder what made this block look so vintage to me, so subtly different from the blocks I usually see in quilts today?  Could it be some wickedly wonky set-in zigzag seams to join the outer units to the center star?!  I didn't notice this until I had already started making the block.  It's not the end of the world. 

6" Sampler Block (No. 2968 from EQ7 Block Library)
I used my EQ7 software to audition color/value/print placement for this block before cutting into any of my actual fabric.  If I wanted to spend a lot of time on it, I could have scanned in the actual stash fabrics I wanted to use, but as you can see, I was able to find close enough approximations in my "virtual stash" to know whether what I envisioned in my mind would look good once it was cut up and sewn together in real life:

EQ7 Mockup with Similar Fabrics
I foundation paper pieced this block, but that method only got me this far before I had to resort to Old-School Traditional Putz-Putz Machine Piecing:

Paper Piecing Completed, Time to Sew This Mess Together
I wasn't really in the mood for this, and I had lots of other things going on in "Life" over the past few weeks that were eating up a lot of time, so I let the block languish and eventually got it done by sewing just ONE SEAM PER DAY.  Now that it's done, I think I need something mindless and easy as a palate cleanser, like another pineapple log cabin block.

Here are my assorted sampler blocks so far:

6" Sampler Blocks
And here's the entire design wall, kind of a Hall of Shame for all of the projects I've started and abandoned over the past year.  Except that only about half of my projects-in-progress even fit on the wall.  The others are packed away.  And yes, having run out of room on the wall, I did pin the one giant 30" block RIGHT ON TOP of another neglected quilt top...

My Design Wall of Shame
Meanwhile, I have two services of singing in church tomorrow, followed by a Confirmation Stepping Stone event to attend with my son Anders.  Then laundry to fold, a Thanksgiving menu to plan, lunches to pack, a house to clean, a birthday to plan, and somewhere in there I need to put in some time to brush up on rusty math skills (don't ask; I'll tell you about that one when I'm ready).

Happy November, everyone!

I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times www.patchworktimes.com

·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts http://www.cookingupquilts.com/

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt http://lovelaughquilt.blogspot.com/

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework http://quiltingismorefunthanhousework.blogspot.com/

·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: http://emsscrapbag.blogspot.com.au/