Monthly Archives: April 2013
When I was planning Clara’s birthday party, I was absolutely certain that I wanted to make some type of pie cupcake. Since I already had chocolaty mini pies and Nutella pie pops, I wanted the cupcakes to incorporate fruit. Clara loves bananas, so including these on the menu was pretty much a no-brainer. Plus I totally miss being around cupcakes every single day (I worked at a great cupcake shop before Clara was born) and will use any reason to make them, and obviously a birthday party for our sweet girl is one of the best reasons there is!
These cupcakes are some of the best I’ve ever made. I mean, they are filled with pastry cream, so their awesomeness should come as no surprise. I probably shouldn’t tell you that I ate it by the spoonful (and with graham crackers) the day after Clara’s party. Put it in a moist, flavorful vanilla bean cupcake and top the whole thing with freshly made whipped cream, and you are talking about one swoon-worthy cupcake. I debated between this version and another that uses roasted bananas, and I’m so glad I went this route. Banana cream pie has simple flavors and uncooked bananas. I just don’t think these would have had the same vibe if I had used roasted bananas. The pie crust toppers are so cute and also add that special touch to finish off the pie theme and flavor. I may have dipped a few of them into the pastry cream too.
*The baking cups I used are from Cake with Love on Etsy.
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It’s no secret that I love Nutella
, so it should come as no surprise that these Nutella pie pops were the first thing I added to the menu for Clara’s birthday party
. I changed the menu so many times, but I never wavered on my decision to include these. I knew they would be the perfect party favor, and they were the food I was most excited about leading up to the party. This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I sampled a few in the days before the party, you know, for quality control.
With the pie dough made in advance, these sweet little pops were a cinch to make. The Nutella bakes up almost brownie like, which makes these pops totally irresistible. Of course, you can substitute Nutella with your favorite filling. The possibilities are practically endless – peanut (or other nut) butter, strawberries or other berries, apples, cherries, peaches, pumpkin. You get the idea. And while I think the pop aspect of these makes them super fun, you can obviously leave out the stick and have Nutella hand pies.
These adorable pie pops can be made in advance and kept for at least 4 days in an airtight container.
About ¾ cup Nutella
About 30 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 egg, whisked together with a little water
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Heat oven to 375º. Line two baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking mats.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pie dough to about ⅛-inch thick. This may seem thin, but remember you'll be sandwiching two pieces of dough together. Use a small cookie cutter (mine was 2½ inches wide) to cut out shapes of your choosing.
Place the Nutella in a piping bag or sandwich bag with one corner snipped off, and pipe about 1 teaspoon of filling onto half of the shapes, leaving about a ¼-inch border (see my picture above). Place a lollipop stick in the center of each filled shape, making sure the top of the stick is near the top of the shape. Wet your finger in a small bowl of water and wet the edge of the filled shape. Wet the edges of an unfilled shape and gently press it onto a filled one. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Repeat until all the dough shapes have been filled and sealed.
Place the filled pie pops on the prepared baking sheets. Use a pastry brush to add a light coating of egg wash to each pie, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Use a small fork to prick the pies to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the pies are light golden. Cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, store in an airtight container or package in individual cellophane bags.
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I spent a lot of time thinking about foods to serve at Clara’s party, more than I should probably admit. I went through several drafts of the menu and found myself going back over it even after I swore I was done. I finally had it just the way I wanted when it hit me – what if the kids at the party don’t like any of these foods? Granted, Clara’s party was mostly adults, but I didn’t want to leave our younger guests without any snacks. I had considered hand pies in one of my earlier menu drafts but never decided on a filling and ended up scrapping the idea. As soon as I thought about them being a kid-friendly food, I knew it had to be ham and cheese. After all, that’s a classic combination that most little ones seem to enjoy. The hand pies would be small enough for little hands, and I knew they were the perfect last-minute addition to the menu.
These hand pies are basically homemade Hot Pockets, and they were devoured at the party. Our guests loved these. I mean, really loved them, which makes it kind of weird for me to say these hand pies were literally homemade pie dough, ham and cheese. That’s it! Oh, and a little sprinkling of sea salt just before baking. Making them was super easy since we cooked and froze them ahead of time. We only had to reheat them the day of the party. Score!
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Today I’m introducing a new series on my blog: Kitchen Fundamentals. I’ve had so many friends (and readers) tell me recently that they wish they could cook or are too scared to try difficult recipes from scratch. What they don’t understand is that I used to be that person. In college, my go-to cake recipe was a box of Funfetti. Seriously. This series will include recipes that I think every home cook, whether beginner or seasoned, should have in their repertoire. If you have any suggestions on recipes you’d like to see in the future, please let me know!
Pie dough is one of those things that tends to intimidate people, but I’m here to tell you it’s not as complicated as it seems. I think everyone should have a go-to pie dough recipe, and this one has certainly become mine (since I made a ton of it for Clara’s first birthday party). Let me start by saying this is not an all butter pie dough (blasphemy!), but I have my reasons for choosing this recipe after trying many others. During Big Summer Potluck last year, Pam Anderson talked about testing recipes for America’s Test Kitchen. I already knew they put each recipe through rigorous testing, but hearing her explain how methodical and detailed these tests were gave me even more faith in ATK. So if they say the combination of butter and shortening will yield the best pie dough, I’m going to believe them. The other reason I chose this recipe is that I knew from prior experience that doughs made with shortening handle much more easily than all butter doughs, and I needed something easy to work with since I was making several recipes with this dough.
This pie dough is perfect in every way. The butter gives the crust that rich flavor that shortening alone can’t achieve, and the shortening makes the crust extremely tender and flaky. You get the ease and texture of a shortening dough with all the flavors of a butter one, which is pretty much the best thing ever. You can make dough several different ways – in the food processor like I did, in a stand mixer or even by hand – and they’ll all yield similar results. Give it a try! I promise you that once you’ve made and tasted homemade pie crust, you’ll never want to use store-bought again.
I’ve included a step-by-step photo of the dough as it changes with each step so that you can have a visual of what to expect the dough to look like as you proceed with the recipe.
PS – Have you entered my Theo Chocolate giveaway? Details are on this post, and the giveaway is open until Friday.
Classic Double Crust Pie Dough
This pie dough can be made up to one month in advance and will keep, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for 1 month in the freezer and 2 days in the refrigerator. Allow to thaw completely before rolling out.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
12 tablespoons butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces and chilled
6-8 tablespoons ice water
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter shortening over the top and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter over the top and continue pulsing about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 6 tablespoons of water and pulse just until the dough comes together, adding additional water 1 tablespoon at a time if needed. (If you're worried about the food processor overworking your dough, you can always do this step by hand, using your hands or a rubber spatula to press the dough together. My food processor is very efficient and only takes a few pulses to bring the dough together.)
Weigh the dough, if desired, then divide into two equal pieces. Pat each piece into a disk about 4 inches across and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Before rolling dough, allow it to sit out for 5-10 minutes to soften slightly.
Roll the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, into a 12-inch circle. Carefully fold the dough over the rolling pin and gently unroll it into a 9-inch pie plate, allowing the excess to hang over the edge. Press the dough into place.
Trim all but about ½-inch of dough from the edge of the pie plate. Tuck overhang under itself and crimp the dough with your fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes before baking.
Proceed with baking as directed in your recipe.
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