Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walnut Tartlets

Over the Christmas holiday, I was lucky enough to a.) go back to Chicago for some quality family dinner time and b.) attend a mini 10-year reunion with some of the girls I was close with in high school.  Being one of the few of us who still live in the area, my friend Liz graciously invited everyone over to her apartment for a tea party (we're a bunch of classy ladies), and I decided that no proper tea was complete without mini walnut tartlets. I found the recipe in my mother's enviable stash of random recipes, so I don't know who originally created it - but I do know that the crunchy walnut filling provided exactly the wintery spice I had been craving and that the dough turned out so sweet and flakey that I will definitely be incorporating it into my usual repertoire of pies. Happy New Year!

For the dough
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt

*In a large bowl, combine butter, cream cheese and sugar; stir until combined. Add flour and salt, stir until well mixed. Roll dough into small (about 1") balls and press into the bottom and sides of mini tartlet pans. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

For the filling
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup (I used dark because that was what was in my mother's cupboard)
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
spices to taste - I a combination of vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon and ground cloves

*Beat eggs slightly in a medium bowl, then stir in sugar, corn syrup, butter, walnuts and spices. Spoon about a tablespoon of mixture into each tartlet pan. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in tins for 5 minutes, then gently remove tartlets and cool completely on a wire rack. I found that running a very thin skewer along the edges of the pan helped to ease them out without breaking (they're pretty fragile). Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a steaming cup of tea ;)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday bark

 I decided to jump on this season's bark train and make my own version of this holiday treat (is it only at the holidays one can eat bark? Note to self: make bark in July, be a rebel, enjoy.) I made two kinds: Pumpkin Pie Bark (pie blog...) and Cranberry Bliss Bark (because it sounded good). One thing about the Pumpkin Pie Bark - pumpkin puree doesn't freeze well, so resist the urge to add a lot into your chocolate mix. Compensate for the lack of puree with a healthy shake of the spice jars. Happy barking!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pies Etc. turns one!

One year ago today, I found myself in quite a funk. I was in-between jobs, mopey, eating peanut butter out of a jar for dinner, and turning to flammable paints as a creative outlet. My roommate finally got fed up with my slowly atrophying self and dragged me to Momofuku Milk Bar, saying that what I really needed was a slice of pie. I have since come to realize that what she really meant was that she needed a slice of pie, but it nonetheless did the trick. Devouring a slice of delicious Crack Pie not only stomped out my inner Debbie Downer, it sparked the idea for this blog. The following day I woke up early excited for a new project, and created my first blog post - pictures and a recipe for a breakfast pie.

I initially assumed that like most new creative ventures, this hobby wouldn't last (I still have a giant bag of yarn and a partially-finished, very crooked blanket left over from my two-week obsession with crocheting). However, I quickly discovered there was something different about this pie thing - I actually liked what I was doing. Trying out new recipes, discovering small pie shops, taking and editing photos, encapsulating it all into a post - these were tasks I found myself looking forward to time and time again.

Admittedly, I wasn't always the most stringent about consistently writing - we all remember time when I moved to the mountains of New Hampshire and just posted a bunch of photos of light and trees for three months. Thank you all again for sticking with me through that ;-) But that's one of the beautiful things about having a website that I've been so excited to discover this past year. The malleability of blogging means that I can write about pretty much anything I want, which often provides some much-needed respite from a job (albeit one in a creative industry) in which I deal with a whole lot of lists, time tables and spreadsheets.

I'm waxing poetic now, so I will end with this - a hearty and sincere thank you to my readers and fans. I know there are few of you who read this consistently (I'm looking at you, dad), but it is with your clicks, re-tweets, re-pins, re-posts and re-reads that I am able to maintain my presence in such a small slice of the blogosphere. Pies Etc. is looking towards a fantastic sophomore year - I have some great recipes I can't wait to try out, new bakeries I'm so excited to visit, and so many excuses to eat pie you never even considered. Thank you all again, and stay tuned for more to come!

xoxo, Mary

Special thanks to Vanilla Sky for providing the apple tart in the picture above.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rock the Vote Whoopie Pies

What matters on November 6 is not who wins, but that every eligible person takes to the polls and exercises his or her right to vote.

Ok, that's a blatant lie, because it absolutely matters who wins. But this is a pie blog, not a political blog, and while I do have my personal views and beliefs, I will let the pundits and blowhards of the world inhabit that side of the blogosphere. (Spoiler Alert: I'm a single white female in my late 20's living in New York City and working as a freelance artist. It's shouldn't be too hard to figure out with whom my loyalties lie.) Go vote now!!!

I wrote about these pies-that-are-actually-more-like-frosted-cake-sandwiches a while back when I road tripped to Maine in search of their state treat, the whoopie pie, but never had the opportunity to make my own until now. Adding red and blue food dye to the cake batter puts a patriotic spin on the treat, and if your preferred candidate doesn't win, you can throw the "wrong" colored pies at the TV.

Alright, don't actually do that. Just make the pies for your Election Night party and know that whatever the outcome, there will always be pie (or at least I really really hope).

For the pies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
*1/3 cup egg whites
*1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
Red and blue food coloring

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp dark liquor, such as spiced rum, bourbon or honey whiskey - if desired

*Note: cooking with blue food coloring is very difficult. I was worried about the yellow color of egg yolks reacting badly with the blue food coloring (blue + yellow = green), so I substituted 2 whole eggs for 1/3 cup Egg Beaters egg whites and added a tablespoon of vegetable oil for good measure.

How to
Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, shortening, brown and white sugar. If you have an electric mixer, use it now. If you're like me and can't fit one in your tiny New York apartment, tell yourself that you don't have to go to yoga today because you're getting an arm workout by doing all the mixing by hand. Add the egg whites, vegetable oil and vanilla, and beat until smooth and fluffy.

Slowly add the flour mixture and buttermilk and mix until everything is completely combined. Half the batter and place each portion in separate bowls. In the first, add the red food dye, about 50 drops depending on your desired color. Add the blue dye to the batter in the second bowl. This is where it gets a little dicy, so slowly add the dye until you reach a desired color. My batter started to get a bit too pale, so I added two drops of red to the almost 60 of blue dye.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then use a spoon or ice cream scoop to drop small portions of the batter onto the sheet, leaving space between each pie as they will spread. Bake on your oven's center rack at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes cleanly out of the center of one of the pies.

While the pies are cooling, make the filling by beating together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and liquor. Again, if you have an electric mixer, use it here. If not, that's just one less push up you'll have to do later. Mix ingredients until frosting is smooth and creamy.

Finally, assemble the pies by spreading a generous amount of filling onto the flat side of one of the pies with a spatula, then sandwich together a matching pie. Store pies in a closed container for up to three days.

This recipe was inspired by and adapted from this one!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh Sandy...

As I write this, it is Hour #19* of Hurricane Sandy - The Frankenstorm. Luckily, I am safe and sound in Astoria, living a few blocks away from the edge of the flood zone and therefore not having to evacuate. Instead, my friends and I stocked up on wine, canned goods, more wine, toilet paper, cheese, and a few extra bottles of wine just for good measure, ensuring a three-day bacchanalia of day-drinking, bad movies and weather channel porn. And pie.

*Mary's Hurricane Clock started at 7pm yesterday, the hour at which the subways shut down, sequestering everyone in their apartments and in hurricane lockdown. This is not an official measure of time and is not endorsed by the National Weather Service.

Because it's not a true hurricane party without some pie (and because the bordom set in right around 8pm last night), I give to you the Official Hurricane Sandy Frankenpie (Disclaimer: it's pumpkin pie. I merely gave it an ironic and topical name).

Ingredients - makes 1 deep dish pumpkin pie
1 can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
Spices to taste:
1 sheet pre-made refrigerated pie crust, because let's be honest: you're just too distracted by insanely scary ariel photos of Sandy to bother with homemade pie crust.

How to
Stir together puree, sugar, eggs and evaporated milk. Mix in spices.

Neatly place pie crust in pan, sealing the dough around the edges. Pierce bottom and inside of crust with fork, then pour pumpkin mixture into pie pan. If you're using a shallow pan, you will have extra mix.

Bake on your oven's middle rack for 15 minutes at 325. Then increase temperature to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes, or until you can cleanly pull a knife out from the center of the pie.

Let cool for 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream alongside mulled wine and an intense game of Sheepshead.

Special shout-outs go to this guy for having the foresight to purchase all the pie ingredients and actually make the pie, and this girl for leading our pie-filled butts in core-strengthening yoga exercises so that we're able to fight off the zombies when they finally emerge from the eye of the hurricane. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sage and apple tart

I promise I'll get off this apple kick soon - but it is still fall, and it's not even November yet (when I plan to inundate you with pumpkin-flavored recipes), and truth be told, a friend of mine recently met me on a street corner with a huge bag of freshly picked apples, and I would be doing a disservice to the entire apple orchard industry if I didn't show at least a few more apple recipes.

This rich, savory tart is quick and easy to make, and would be a perfect party appetizer (or mid-Wednesday afternoon breakfast, if you're me). Double the recipe if you have more than a handful of guests and serve it warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Slice of the Week - Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Hi, I'd like to order four slices of pie.

Ok no problem, is that to go?

... No.

When I first started this blog, I made a list of all the best places in the city to get pie. Pulled mainly from a "best pie NYC" Goggle search, results like this and this made a few things clear. First, that there aren't actually too many bakeries in this city devoted solely to pie. Second, that Brooklyn seems to be a hub for not just shaggy hipsters with ironic clothing choices, but for all things pie. And finally, I learned that there is a place, a mecca if you will, deep in the heart of Gowanas that is the epitome of pie. Enthusiasts from near and far whisper it's name with awe, tomes have been written about it, soccer moms name their firstborn after it.
     (Ok, that last one might be an exaggeration. But then again, it might not.)

Anyway, Four & Twenty Blackbirds immediately moved to the top of my Pie to Try list. The problem, however, was that it's located off of the 9th Street stop on the R train in Brooklyn - about an hour away from my apartment, and in an area I never have a reason to frequent. My roommate and I started to refer to the trek to Four & Twenty as our Pie Pilgrimage, and decided to make the trip a reality as soon as possible.

10 months later, she and I finally found a four-hour block of time in which we were both in the city but without work or rehearsal. Sometimes I marvel at how artists ever get ANYTHING scheduled or accomplished.

So, on a rainy Tuesday in October, Amanda and I took the subway to Brooklyn and ordered slices of four of the five available sweet pies. Was this a healthy idea? No. Did we almost go into anaphylactic shock halfway through the meal? Possibly, but I don't really know what anaphylactic shock is. Was this the most delicious pie tasting ever? Absolutely.

Salted Carmel Apple
Soft, sweet apples nestled under a buttery salted crust. At first, this pie isn't anything special, just a really good apple pie. Then comes a burst of salty goodness. It's a crazy, surprising juxtaposition of flavor.

Brown Butter Pumpkin
Everything about this pie is so light and airy that you assume it's made with angel kisses (or at the very least, that it must be fat-free). Consisting of the fluffiest pumpkin puree known to man and a flaky crust that actually melts in your mouth, this slice was Amanda's favorite.

Black Bottom Oat
This pie is the lovechild of Mr. Shaker Oat and Ms. Nestlee Tollhouse. Both decadent and comforting, it's dessert at its' best. Shortbread crust, crunchy oat topping, a thick layer of chocolate on the bottom - there is nothing this pie can't do. We named it the "break-up pie" and told our server that this pie will be replacing the requisite tub of ice cream for all our future heartbreaks. 

Bourbon Pear Crumble
With tart pear slices and brown sugared oats, I was surprised to call this pie my favorite (I'm not a huge fan of pears). It wasn't overly sweet and I appreciated the crunch of both the crust and pears.

It's safe to say that I will go back to Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Not only do they change up their pie menu on a daily basis, they also feature a selection of savory pies that we didn't even attempt to try. The slices also weren't even that expensive - about $5 each, and they were served on actual plates with real silverware (low standards? Maybe, but realize that the last pie I tried was in a cardboard box in a train station).

food coma.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Magnolia Bakery - Peanut Butter Icebox Pie

Last weekend, I had a day off and was able to participate in Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day Live!, a national event in which museums across the country provide free admission to various sites and museums. It's a celebration of the no-cost nature of Smithsonian museums, and being a frugal and frequent museum-nerd, I immediately signed up for my free ticket to The Morgan Library.

Featuring a collection of rare books, manuscripts, letters and correspondance, the Morgan Library was once the personal library of J. Pierpont Morgan, New York's industrious banker of the early 20th century. The architecture and design of the library is beautiful, and more than a few times I had to stop myself from breaking out into half the songs from Beauty and the Beast.

But enough about the library.

I had some time to kill after the museum and needed a snack. I found myself near Grand Central Station and wandered in. There's something about the hustle and bustle of train stations that excites me to no end, and Grand Central's stunning beaux arts architecture seemed to be the perfect compliment to my artsy Saturday. With thoughts and hopes of a slice of pie, I walked down to the food court - and to my delight, discovered that Magnolia Bakery has a counter selling their sweets to weary travelers.

I know what you're thinking. Magnolia Bakery? The cupcake place? But Mary, this is a PIE blog - you don't even like cupcakes!!

And you're right. This is a pie blog, and I don't like cupcakes (sorry). BUT Magnolia serves goodies other than their famous cupcakes, and I had been itching to try their pie for some time now but had always been turned off by the long lines of pastelled women who believe that one cupcake will turn them into Carrie Bradshaw. Luckily, there wasn't a line at all at the Magnolia at the train station and I was able to order a slice of Peanut Butter Icebox Pie.

It was a HUGE slice of pie. And it was good. Not great, but good. The whipped cream/cream cheese filling was indeed smooth and creamy, but too much. After a few bites, I wanted more taste variation, and the filling-to-topping ratio left me needing less creamy and more crunchy nuts and Reese's. Same with the crust - it was decent, but way too thick to be your average wafer-graham cracker crust. A dash or three of nutmeg would have gone a long way. Most disappointingly, the pie was not cold enough. When I order a slice of ice box pie, I expect it to be freezing. Like ice.

I ended up not finishing my slice (although I made quite sure to eat all the Reese's bits). I suppose the real draw of Magnolia is the cupcakes. Or it's the sociological phenomenon that a popular style or trend will become more popular simply because it's thought to be popular. Whatever it is, I'm glad I finally got around to trying something from Magnolia, but I think I'll continue to see what the rest of the city has to offer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple and Brie Tarts

Because sometimes, you need a delicious treat that's easy to make but that still tastes like every wonderful part of fall ;)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Free PDF - Quick Reference Guide to Common Patterns!

While tooling around my pretty new MacBook Air (I recently kicked to the curb gave my father my old, white MacBook circa 2006) and teaching myself the ins and outs of Numbers and Pages, I created this - a quick reference guide to some common design patterns.

Why this on a pie blog? Well, why not? Sometimes you just really need to know what Damask looks like.

Feel free to copy/pin/use this for all your designing purposes, or email me at if you'd like a larger PDF; just make sure to always give credit where credit is due!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cheddar Apple Hand Pies

I haven't jumped on the pumpkin train yet. It's still in the low 80's here in New York, and there's something about still being in shorts and tank tops that doesn't quite make me think of fall foods and warm drinks. But, whether the weather agrees with it or not, it is apple season - and who am I to deny a fruit it's rightful place in the seasonal lexicon!

I had been wanting to try a cheddar pie crust for a while, and this recipe from Martha Stewart seemed like the right one for a first timer. Instead of baking an entire pie though, I made little hand pies so that I could throw one in a baggie and take it to work for a break-time treat.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Some final New Hampshire pics

I'm back in New York. Finally. And while I have a whole slew of pie posts and projects planned for this fall (gonna get back on the pie train real soon, I promise!), I would like to share one last batch of pictures from my summer in New Hampshire. Enjoy!

1.) Driving through Vermont
2.) Lake Champlain. Oh so pretty.
3.) 'Twas a good day for boating!
4.) Bug caught in tree sap. Close up. Very artsy.
5.) Waterfall in Franconia Notch State Park
6.) Blue moon in the White Mountains
7.) Group shot at the Mount Washington Hotel (picture courtesy of Mark Bradley Miller Photography)
8.) I can see Canada! 
9.) Hiking Cannon Mountain