Big pies, mini pies, pie pops!

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An all pie table

I was beyond delighted to be able to create this pie table for Elizabeth Howard’s {of the Cordial Cricket - an amazing stationery store!} sister’s wedding. The bride did not want a traditional wedding cake and instead, wanted an all-pie table. I think it was the month of June when I was developing some pie pops for another customer when I thought that it was time to add pies to the Petites Bouchees product list.

Having an all pie table booked was also one way to kickstart this sweet development into gear. Besides, before macarons, pie was my favorite thing. 🙂

Anyway, here were the pies that were made: blueberry, cherry, apple, sweet potato and pecan. There were three big pies: apple, cherry and pecan the last one being the cutting pie.

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pie line-up

I wouldn’t lie and say it was easy. Pies don’t have a long shelf-life and they are best eaten within two days or three (pecan can last a week). I worked 20 hours straight and the apple pie was even slightly warm when I delivered it to the wedding venue.

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pie pops
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more pie pops!

I wasn’t able to fit all of them on the table, luckily the staff at the Mill at Fine Creek was kind enough to refill.

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mini-pies
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mini-cherry pies

The mini cherry pies were my favorite little ones to make.  I should just remember next time to assemble them first because when you’re tired and hungry, those lattices can get confusing. 😉

The meaning of pie…is a pie pop!

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The Pie pop

I know, I know, I just waxed poetic about pies and tarts in a previous post. The thing is I couldn’t get them out of my system just yet and I don’t think I ever will or want to.

And then, uhm, there are pie pops.

I’m not sure where I first saw these cute little bites, but it seems Luxirare and then Bakerella had blogged about them way back in 2009. The one complaint was that there wasn’t much filling in proportion to the crust. Now y’all know that doesn’t go well with me. Something might look cute but it has to taste good first.

A 3-inch diameter pie is perfect on a 5-inch stick. I’ve surmised that it’s best to precook your filling because a) the filling wouldn’t be cooked by the time your crust is done b) fruit in pies creates a lot of moisture and results in a soggy crust which is the last thing you want and c) it’s easier to scoop up and portion into your dough.

The good thing with fruit fillings is that you have 3 basic ingredients: fruit, sugar and cornstarch. And with that, the possibilities become endless.

I really wanted to make a peach pie pop, but I didn’t have any peaches at home and I was kinda tied to the house baking macarons and tarts for a bridal show. Besides I didn’t want to head out because the weather outside was just SO hot!

But I guess I was willing to fire up the oven to 375F to bake pie….so go figure.

Thankfully, I did have blueberries and I know just the perfect recipe.

Anyway, my first go-round making these I had some pies slide off the stick. I tried putting 1 tablespoon of filling first – yeh, wishful thinking, but it was really heavy and I knew right away that the pop won’t hold. I compromised with 2 teaspoons and though it still felt a bit heavy, it presented the best crust-to-filling ratio.

This is still a work in progress, but I’m pretty confident in the direction I’m heading, I’ve even made them for a bridal show and none fell off the stick! Next would be for the Farmer’s Market. 🙂

I’m still determining if I’m going to stick with Sherry Yard’s tender and flaky pie crust that can be found here or try a sturdier crust.

Hopefully, this wouldn’t spiral into another one of those Macaron Chronicles, but who knows how far my preoccupation with the pie pop will go. 🙂

Anyway, for those interested.

1. Roll out your dough and cut out 3-inch circles

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3-inch discs

2. You can insert the sucker stick two ways. Load up 2 teaspoons filling and lay the stick on it.

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2 teaspoons of filling
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                                                   OR

As I found on Bakerella’s website, lay the stick first and then cover with filling. I found this method more effective in keeping the pop sturdy.

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3. Then you lay your top crust – you may apply water on the edges but sometimes I forget and the seal was fine – and seal with the sucker stick or with tines of a fork.

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4. Brush with egg wash (yolk + cream) and bake at 375F for 12-15 minutes or until the filling bubbles through. I like chilling my pops first before baking but it’s a matter of choice.

5. Whatever you do, do not wiggle the sticks right after baking, let the filling firm up and it’s best to set the pops on a cooling rack.

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Uh, some of my pie pops ended up with strange expressions. I realized it’s best to put the vents near the top. I also started making pie pops with no vents at all and they were fine. The filling will seep out from the sides and as long as you let them cool properly the seal will be fine.

Blueberry Filling

makes about 18 pops

from tom parfitt (UR)

2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
juice and zest of half a lemon
pinch of salt

Mix berries, juice, zest, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Allow to stand for a few minutes to allow the juices to run. Set on a stovetop over medium heat. Cook until thickened and your mixture has turned purple.
 

Petites Bouchees Broad Appetit Menu

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Lemon Curd Raspberry Tartlets

I figured there will be other vendors with cupcakes so I’m skipping that this year and instead will be offering a favorite tart of mine: Lemon curd raspberry tartlets.

As usual, I’ll be offering macarons in packs of two. My classic flavors will be in full force:

chocolate-espresso buttercream

hazelnut-salted caramel

pistachio bittersweet chocolate ganache

almond passion fruit milk chocolate

almond raspberry white chocolate ganache

almond vanilla buttercream

And new to Broad Appetit this year, my favorite Chocolate-Chocolate

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Chocolate-Chocolate

Dark Chocolate Black Currant Ganache

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Black Currant Ganache

and

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache made with Richmond’s own Reginald’s homemade peanut butter.

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dark chocolate peanut butter

All prices are $3.00.

The meaning of pie … and tarts

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Lemon curd raspberry tartlets

If there is anything I love as much as making and eating macarons, it’s making and eating tarts and pies. There is something comforting and “homey” about running your fingers through sandy clumps of butter and flour, or wielding your rolling pin to flatten chilled discs of dough. And when heat transforms these marbled sheets of pastry into tender and flaky layers replete with the heady scent of butter, a mystical cloud of coziness blankets ones kitchen and soul.

I’ve been trying to figure out why, despite a parade of elegant and architecturally worthy desserts, I’ve always circled back to the simplicity of the apple pie or any iteration thereof like tarts or galette.

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Apple tartlets

I believe memories of childhood are deeply rooted in the fiber of who we become especially in affairs of the stomach. Even if we grow more sophisticated in our taste buds and are willing to be more adventurous, in times of stress, gaiety or moments when we just want to indulge, we become a youngster again and seek the satisfaction of food that brought us so much comfort in decades past.

Growing up in our bakery kitchen, I bore witness to sacks of flour, pounds of butter and crates of eggs being morphed into cakes, bread, pies or brownies. Of all these, I couldn’t wait for the apple pie or the brownies to come out of the oven. Cake, I often can do without, unless of course it’s chocolate. Risking the wrath of my parents {and often against the cautioning of those who knew better}, I would cut eagerly into warm just-baked pies – basically ruining its profitability – just so I can have it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy that hot and cold melty mess. Ahh, I can be a brat sometimes specially when the tunnel vision to apple pie begins.

I now make my own pies, thankfully and obviously learned that it is indeed better to let them cool down before partaking of a piece. However, I wonder if my preoccupation with mini sweets have something to do with this idea of independent pieces not affecting the whole.
 

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I’ve been obsessed with tartlets lately maybe because they look gorgeous and make perfect small treats. I used to be annoyed with tart doughs because they break easily. But after reading almost every baking book about them and finally having a chef instructor tell me the same, there is no secret to them except to keep them well-chilled, which can be difficult in the summer when most fruits are begging to be turned into tarts. It’s best to start rolling them just on the side of being too cold because the eventual friction from your rolling pin is going to warm them up quickly. When all else fails, this dough is very forgiving and you can always pat the pieces into your tart pan.

One I’ve always used is by Kate Zuckerman and can be found here. There are two types used in tarts, pate sucree and pate sablee. It’s almost hard to tell the difference between this duo except the latter is usually referred to as shortbread. Both are used for tarts but I prefer to refer to mine as pate sucree which is sweet tart dough.

I recently compared three new recipes, one from a tart class I took from the University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Center (URC), one from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s (RLB) Pie and pastry bible and the last from Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts (DM).

All worked really well. From the picture below, URC’s tart crust {on the right} is very similar to RLB’s, {on the left} except the latter is a bit flakier because  chilled butter was used. The tastiest and flakiest was DM’s {middle} but I couldn’t use it in an apple tart because it got too soggy. For a lemon curd tart though, it was perfect.

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From left to right, tart crusts: Rose Levy Beranbaum, Deborah Madison, University of Richmond Culinary Center (Chef Tom Parfitt)

For lemon curd recipe, see here.
I used Helen’s {Tartelette’s} grandmother’s apple tart recipe except I skipped the cardamom and used cinnamon. To make the tart, you make an apple compote, let it cool and then fill that into a partially-baked tart shell. Then you top with apple slices and bake until the top is brown.

Book Giveaway:

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I am also giving away Deborah Madison’s cookbook, Seasonal Fruit Desserts! In my cookbook buying frenzy last Christmas after seeing Anita’s best of baking books of 2010, I apparently added two of this to my shopping cart. I am bad with returns and since I’m going to pay the shipping costs anyway, why not just send it to a reader who would appreciate the book. With the bounty of summer fruits just at our doorsteps, there’s nothing like the perfect time for this book. To be entered into the book giveaway, leave a comment about what kind of tarts you like or wish to make. The winner will be picked by the random number generator, announced on Tuesday, June 7,2011. Sorry, U.S. residents only.
 

Here’s a dessert table I did for the Lululemon store opening. Mini-tarts add a refreshing look to your sweet table.

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Lululemon sweet table

Tart dough recipe at the jump:

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Deep-dish goodness

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Apple crumb pies

I have a backlog of recipes to blog about and I nearly forgot about this which I made almost 2 months ago. In case you all haven’t notice I have a penchant for petite sweets – I love them mini-sized. For me it’s not about how big the serving is, it’s how much each bite counts when it comes to flavor and satisfaction. In developing future treats for Petite Bouchees, I thought deep dish crumb pies would make a fabulous addition.

I got the inspiration from the book Sarabeth’s Bakery. I made it with apples because they were what was in season then, the book uses peaches and they’re what I’m including in this recipe, so you all can try it when they come into season in a few months. I find the pie dough recipe interesting, but I still prefer the flavor of my go-to pie crust (which I have not tried in this application yet…experiments…experiments).

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Innards

Individual Deep-Dish Peach Crumb Pies

{note…I used apples instead of peaches so don’t get confused with the picture, I used almost the same amount}

Tender Pie dough

14 tablespoons unsalted butter; at cool room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1/3 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

  1. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at high speed until the butter is smooth, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly dribble in the milk, occasionally stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides, of the bowl with a silicone spatula. The butter mixture should be fluffy, smooth, and shiny, like a buttercream frosting.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl. With the mixer speed on low, gradually add the flour mixture and incorporate just until the dough forms mass on the paddle and the sides of the bowl are clean. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times until it is smooth and supple. Divide the dough in half. Shape each portion into a disk, about 1-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap.
  3. Refrigerate until chilled but not hard, 30 minutes to 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 1 day, but it will be very hard, and should stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling out. the dough can also be frozen, double wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.)

Peach Filling

5 ripe medium freestone peaches, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups; see baker’s note)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
seeds from 1 plumped vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for apple, I figured the same amount of apple, use the same amount of sugar and cornstarch, omitted the vanilla and used cinnamon

Streusel
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Generously butter the insides of six 6-ounces (3/4 cup) ramekins. Dust the insides well with flour, being sure they are completely coated, and tap out the excess flour. Set aside.
  2. To make the filling, combine the peaches, brown sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Let stand while preparing the crumb pies.
  3. To make the streusel, combine the flour, superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir the melted butter and vanilla together in another small bowl. Gradually stir the butter mixture, just until evenly moistened (you may not need all of the butter). Squeeze the mixture in your hands until thoroughly combined. Crumble the mixture in the bowl to make fine crumbs with some small lumps. Set the streusel aside.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the first disk of pie dough, 1/8 inch thick. Using a 6-inch metal entremet ring or saucer as a template, cut out three rounds of dough. Stack the rounds on a half-sheet pan, separating them with parchment paper, and place in the refrigerator. (The dough softens easily and must remain cold.) Repeat with the second disk of pie dough. Working quickly, fit the rounds into the prepared ramekins, pressing evenly into the corners. Let the excess dough hang over the sides and gently form a ruffle. Place the ramekins on a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
  5. Scoop the filling into the shells, piling it just above the edge of the ramekins. One at a time pleat the pastry over the filling – the center of the filling will be exposed. Gently press the streusel over the top of the dough and filling.
  6. Bake until the tops are nicely browned, 50 to 60 minutes. To check the pies for doneness, use the rounded tip of a dinner knife to separate the top edge of the crust from the side of the ramekin and take a peek – the side crust should be golden brown. If not, bake a few minutes longer. If you are concerned about the tops overbrowning, tent them with aluminum foil. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cool, about 20 minutes. (Do not let the pies cool completely, or they may stick to the ramekins and be difficult to remove. If this happens, remember that the pies are just as tasty if eaten directly from the ramekins.)
  7. To unmold the pies, use your fingers to gently loosen the top edge of the crust from the ramekin. (If you wish, you may carefully run a knife around the inside of the ramekin to loosen the crust, but take care not to cut the crust.) Using a kitchen towel, pick up the ramekin. Cup your other hand and invert the pie into the cupped hand to unmold the pie. Place the right side up onto the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining pies. Serve warm or at room temperature.
     
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To form the purses, fit the dough into the ramekins
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Let the excess dough overhang and scoop the filling into it
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Pleat the edges over the filling {reminded me of making gyoza 🙂 }
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I could find many applications for these adorable purse-like desserts. Specially when unmolded, they look adorable!

Here’s an event I did last week at the Boathouse at Rocketts Landing. The colors were mustard and navy and I so enjoyed putting this table together!

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Cupcake & Macaron table, Boathouse Richmond, Va
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Close-up of the cupcake decor

2 days to apple pie …

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Apple pie is an Old-fashioned, All-american favorite

What?! An apple pie that takes 2 days to make? Who’s crazy enough to do that? Well, Michel Richard for one and uhm…me. What can I say? I’m a sucker for this particular baked treat. When yet another apple pie recipe promises to be the best one and has a technique I’ve never tried, I get “sucked” in. (Though 2 days is an exaggeration and most of the time spent is waiting.)

The problem with fruit pies is the soggy bottom crust that naturally occurs when fruit juices start soaking up the prized bottom layer that supposedly supports the pie. I have successfully addressed this issue before by letting the apples macerate with the sugar and by boiling the juices down further. Additionally, I fill the apple pie and then refrigerate it until the fruit-mixture is well-chilled. This guarantees that the crust cooks first before the filling does, thus assuring a firmer crust.

So why, when a more complex recipe comes along, do I even want to try it?

Curiosity.

Which killed the cat, if I remember.

I will state off the bat that I was not impressed with the result. I was rebelling with the recipe starting with the 12 fuji apples it required (though I think it was partly the thought of skinning 12 apples), not to mention that it was quartered and not sliced thinner than what I am used to. I really wonder how small were the apples used to test the recipes. Another glaring issue I saw was the low temperature used to cook the pie.

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Par-baked crust filed with chunky apples

I have utmost respect for Monsieur Richard, because dining at his restaurant, Citronelle, has been one of the few brilliant fine dining experiences I savor unto this day.

He is a great storyteller in his new dessert book, “Sweet Magic”, which I enjoyed reading cover to cover on one chilly night while sipping a steamy cup of chocolat chaud.

I was disappointed in my execution of this recipe and realized I have a disconnect with the great maestro of whimsical cuisine.

My bottom crust, despite being par-baked, tasted like plain “floury” dough. I had quite the amount of leftover apples and I did cut thinner to lessen the chunkiness. The taste of the filling was good – not too sweet- but failed to justify the time spent to make the entire pie. I do not know how to describe the top crust whether it was too flaky or too delicate for a robust and homey dessert like apple pie.

Maybe one of you will have better luck. Please let me know.

Continue reading

Random thoughts about macarons and other sweet stuff

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Chocolate Macarons with Raspberries

Just finished making my macarons for this weekend’s Farmer’s market. While making my crunchy chocolate souffle flavor, I had some leftover macaron batter that wouldn’t exactly fit on a full tray so I decided to experiment with bigger macarons.

The above macaron is about 7cm and made with the Italian Meringue. Normally, for this method, you just put the macarons straight into the oven without drying the tops, but for this size I dried it for about 20 minutes and baked it at 310F convection for about 20 minutes. I piped chocolate ganache in the middle, and I do wish now that I put some raspberries in the middle too, because that was a whole lot of ganache.

Now to answer some of your questions that I’ve received from emails and comments on my Macaron Chronicles.

When you live in a humid country like Singapore, Philippines or Malaysia

Macarons do have a difficult time drying in humid conditions. Air conditioning helps but most households do not have this. You can try using an electric fan but that is not always the solution. I tried making macarons in Baguio and had the weirdest experience with the macaron shells never really drying even if they were under a ceiling fan. And Baguio is hardly a humid city,but sometimes cold and wet is worse than hot and humid. When I notice too much moisture in my macaron batter I extend the cooking time by 1 minute. Sometimes it is also the eggs. If the chicken is free-range and eats grass there tend to be more moisture in its albumen.

Air-pockets

If overmixing is ruled out, this is usually undercooked macarons or sometimes the nut particles may not be fine enough. If you cannot grind your almonds finely you can probably increase your nuts. But really, even the best of us gets this sometimes and as long as they’re not too big and your macaron doesn’t look hollow, they should be fine.

Wrinkly tops

Nuts are too oily or the egg-whites are too wet. Not everyone has a commercial nut grinder. What you can do is break up the nuts part-way, add your confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) and continue grinding. I usually get the wrinkled top with my chocolate macarons that uses cocoa powder because of the oil content in the cocoa. Chocolate macarons made with cocoa powder taste more like a brownie than a macaron.

Baking multiple-trays in the oven

I bake a maximum of three trays in the oven without changing the temperature. I use convection. Remember the more trays you bake the more humid it gets in the oven.

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Big Mac

Pocket Pies

Since I started baking professionally, I’ve stopped buying every kitchen gadget I see, however when I spotted a picture of a miniature pie on twitter made with this pie-cutter from William’s Sonoma, I couldn’t help myself.

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Pocket Apple Pie

What do you all think?

I was dubious at first if I was even going to get enough filling in  it, but I did and it was the perfect size. In the future though, I don’t think I’ll use the lattice-cut for fruit pies. As pretty as it may look, it’s hard keeping the juices in.

One note about the cutter. The lattice was hard to cut out directly. I used the regular cutter and then took the dough and pressed it on the lattice-cutter to get the pretty design out.

A Pumpkin Dessert

Made this yummy and healthy sweet dessert yesterday. My friend’s Aunt brought an asian pumpkin, I think it’s a kabocha squash.

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Pumpkin and Coconut Milk

 

Wash the pumpkin, cut it into pieces and remove the hard knots that stick out from the skin. Lay it on a pot, pour a can of coconut milk {around 14 oz}, 130 grams of palm sugar, 2 tablespoons white sugar. Really you can just sugar to taste. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer undisturbed until soft, around 15 minutes. I prefer my pumpkin with a little bite and not too soft. You can substitute brown sugar for the palm sugar.

This is absolutely delicious and healthy too! 🙂