Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pie is the new cupcake?

I've read articles recently both from the Washington Post and the New York Times that have proposed that pie is the new cupcake. NPR declared the cupcake dead and put pie on its throne. Never fear cupcake lovers, your beloved little cakes aren't going anywhere. They just have a little competition for dessert supremacy from the lowly pie. Hand pies just may have a shot at beating out the cupcake. I have to admit, the hand pie has won my heart. Hand pies are a smaller, portable version of a pie, much like a cupcake is to a cake. However rather than frosting, its delicious filling is ensconced in a flaky, buttery crust. For me, a good pastry crust trumps frosting any day.

This month Half Baked turned 5! I can't believe it's been 5 years since I started this little blog. My own birthday is also just a couple days away. How better to celebrate than with some hand pies! I really love cherries so I filled the pies with a sweet cherry filling....move over cupcake, there's a new kid in town!

Cherry Hand Pies
Yield: about 6 hand pies
Printable recipe
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup(1stick) cold butter, cut in small pieces
1/8 cup shortening- chilled
3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter and shortening over the dry ingredients and pulse until it is coarsely cut in-you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Drizzle the water over the mixture. Using on/off pulses, pulse just until the dough holds together when pinched. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.


8 ounces fresh or frozen sweet cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375°

Pit and roughly chop the cherries. Place in a bowl and add the sugar, almond extract, lemon juice, and corn starch. Mix well and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 4 inch cutter cut out circles. (I got five 4 inch and 1 smaller circle out of my dough) Place the cut out pieces of dough onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Place about 2 tablespoons of the cherry mixture onto one-half of each round. Lightly brush a little milk around the edge of the covered half of each round. Fold remaining dough over to enclose, forming a half moon. Gently press edges together with the tines of a fork to seal. Brush the tops of each pie with milk. Using a paring knife, slash the top of each pie.
Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pies to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Dust with powdered sugar. Pies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
*NOTE: I used Rainer cherries because they are my favorite but Bing cherries are great too.You could also use sour cherries if you want, just add a little more sugar to the filling.

Just in case you thought that having pie meant you'd have to sacrifice your sprinkles, who says you can't have sprinkles on your pie? Just top the hand pie with a powdered sugar glaze and add sprinkles. Be afraid cupcakes, be very afraid!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Don't even think about turning the oven on!

Most of the country has been hit with triple digit temps for the last couple of weeks. In places like Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's called an epic heatwave. Here in the deep South, we just call it summer. We rarely make it through a summer without at least a few days of 100+ temps. That kind of heat just makes me want to find a cool spot, a good book, and a glass of sweet tea. The last thing I want to do is turn on the oven, but since we still have to eat, I try to find things that can be made with as little cooking as possible. This triple berry tiramisu is the perfect dessert for those hot summer days. It's no-bake, yeah! Full of ripe fresh berries tucked into a lemony cream, yeah! And, it's served COLD, woohoo! Okay, so you do have to turn on the stove for like 5 minutes to make the syrup, but that's it as far as having to cooking anything for this dessert. This tiramisu is the perfect antidote for a sweltering hot summer day!

Triple Berry Tiramisu
Source: King Arthur website, Fresh Berry Tiramisu, Adapted
Printable Recipe
2-7ounce packages of ladyfinger cookies

Zest of 2 lemons, peeled in strips with a peeler
Juice of 2 lemons (1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or orange juice (optional)

1 pound mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 quarts berries: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or any combination you like

TO MAKE THE SYRUP: Combine all the syrup ingredients in a small pot and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture is clear, remove the syrup from the heat, strain it, and allow it to cool.

TO MAKE THE FILLING: Place the mascarpone in a mixing bowl, and stir in the lemon zest. Add the whipping cream a third at a time, stirring between additions until the mixture is smooth and starts to thicken slightly. Stir in the confectioner’s sugar.

TO ASSEMBLE: Lightly spray a 9-inch square pan with cooking spray. Drop the ladyfingers one at a time, into the cooled lemon syrup. Be sure to flip them over to coat both sides with the syrup. Do not over soak the ladyfingers or the tiramisu will be soggy. Fit as many ladyfingers into you pan as you need to cover the bottom of the pan, you may need to break a few to fit them in. Add a layer of your mixed fruit on top of the ladyfingers. Top the fruit with half of the cream mixture and add another layer of ladyfingers that have been dipped in the syrup. Spread the rest of the cream mixture on top of the lady fingers. Arrange the rest of the fruit on top. Chill the tiramisu for at least one hour before serving.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Here's just a quick, fun idea for a dessert for your 4th celebration. I made this one bowl vanilla cake. It's from Culinate, a great food centered website. You can use any white cake you want, but this recipe is easy and tastes great. I let the cake cool completely. I wanted to make individual cakes so I cut the cake into stars with my 3" star cookie cutter. You can also leave the cake whole, if you'd rather not bother with cutting out the stars, but how cute are they??!

I split the stars horizontally and spread on a layer of strawberry preserves, and put the stars back together. If you want you could use fresh strawberries, sliced and sprinkled with a little sugar instead of the preserves. Then I made some sweetened whipped cream, pipped it on top and decorated with a few fresh blueberries.  Easy, festive, and delicious! I hope you have a safe and happy 4th of July!