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!