Category Archives: November

Maple Creemee Pie

The saddest day of the year for me is the day they stop serving maple creemees in my hood. That was on the last weekend of October, when Mac’s Maple closed. It wasn’t a real ice cream day, but to honor the occasion I secured two of their maple creemee pies. I figured they would be my step-down program, and perhaps inspiration for my own recipe for the same. Rigorous testing ensued.

The first test was between the purchased version—the control pie— and my own creation, a riff of Nina’s Margarita Pie. Scouring the Internet for ingredients of legit maple creemees had confirmed that this was a good master recipe to use as a starting point. Immediately, my group of testers confirmed that the control pie’s waffle cone crust was, as one tester indelicately put it “f’ed up.” It was indeed far inferior to the pretzel crust of Margarita Pie.

Still, it needed some tweaks. My first creation tasted good but, as another tactless tester (this one related to me) noted, “you need an axe to get through it.” Here’s where the science came in. I realized that margarita pie contains alcohol, which keeps it from freezing up like a brick. Adding more whipped cream could also help the pie retain a softer, more utensil-friendly, consistency.

I’ll spare you the details to the entire process, but a stalwart tester, when confronted with the two latest versions, said he felt a bit like Chuck Yeager. He was not far off. When Thanksgiving is this close, every pie matters! We needed something as good as Joni Mitchell Apple Pie, Knock Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Pilgrim Pie. And, this being a new player amongst traditional faves, we needed perfection.

Friends, my testers unanimously confirm, we now have it. I offer here maple creemee pie perfection, the clear winner, and a non-alcoholic version as well which is a worthy silver medalist. The use of alcohol, I assure you, is not gratuitous—it’s where good science meets good taste. That said, you can save yourself a trip to the liquor store, use a little more maple syrup and a touch of vanilla, and still have yourself a darned good maple creemee pie.

The constants in both versions: The crust is the bomb! It is equally excellent with regular and gluten-free pretzels. The cream is your structural integrity, so whip it good, until it has very stiff (even jagged) peaks, yet hasn’t turned the corner to butter.

Finally, to my Vegan friends. I failed you on this round. I tried two oat milk fillings, this one with nut butter and this one with cashews. I know there are pros out there who can work their sweet magic with such ingredients (looking at you, Sister A), but not me, not yet. I have not given up, but I need a rest. Sometimes, a girl’s gotta not eat.

One happy side note, is that after all this testing, and knowing that I can get my fix anytime, I really am ok with waiting six plus months for my next maple creemee. But you out there? You’ve got a lot more creemee pie capacity in you. I hope you enjoy this and every other deliciousness on your Thanksgiving table. Holidays, here we come!

Maple Creemee Pie

Prep time: 15mins, plus at least 4 hours freezing time.

Makes 1 yummy pie

Ingredients

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 14 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup*
  • ¼ cup maple liqueur* (mine was 30% alc/60 proof)
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream.
  • Optional: Maple sugar candies crumbled on as topping**

*For non alcoholic version, omit liqueur, and adjust to use 1/3 cup maple syrup plus 1 tsp vanilla (optional-Chuck Yeager opts out of it).

** These are way optional. Veteran testers say leave it alone as is, but one rogue tester notes that the pro pies featured these, and he was enamored by the flourish.

Method

Make Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9” pie pan. Refrigerate or freeze to cool while you make the filling.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, maple syrup and maple liqueur and whisk until it is well incorporated.

Whip the cream until it is very thick and stiff. Fold in the whipped cream as gently as you can until it is fully incorporated. Pour into pie crust and freeze for at least four hours, more to be safe.

Bringing it:

Warm weather travel with this is not recommended, but if you are celebrating away from home, and have the time and space for it to freeze, it is easily assembled on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze and syrup, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients— cream, a stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that expires sometime this decade. Make the pie right away so it has max time to freeze, and you have max time to put your feet up and prepare to be worshipped.

We can’t all be winners

 

Pilgrim Pie: When cranberries get nutty

Here’s an idea. Since this Thanksgiving is going to be necessarily smaller, probably weird and definitely unique, maybe we take a different approach. Maybe we bag the turkey and the hassle of all those sides, cut to the chase and make it all about pie.

I know…ain’t gonna happen. Once everybody gets themselves swabbed for COVID before showing up, they’re going to deserve a proper feast for the effort.

But for some of us, it’s still all about pie. For a new take on it this year, I highly suggest Pilgrim Pie, AKA the cranberry curd tart that has been all over the Internet. It’s kind of like a lemon meringue pie but with cranberries and without the meringue. With the toasted nut crust it definitely becomes it’s own thing.

This version is a hybrid of the one that appeared recently in the New York Times and the one in the Hannaford flyer. It is the best of both recipes. As a bonus, I sifted through the hundreds of comments on the NY Times one (you’re welcome, and…damn those readers have a lot to say!) and assimilated the complaints and suggestions into hacks and options. Because it took me three pies to get a decent photo, I got a lot of practice with all my tweaks.

Bottom line: Make this pie! I know you need pumpkin and apple and pecan and maybe mincemeat for that one person who insists it is edible.  I feel your pain. But I urge you to dig deep. It’s Thanksgiving and we’re all hanging on by a thread. One thing you CAN handle is another pie.

Some notes: The nut crust is what really does it for me. I have tried it as written, with hazelnuts, and also with almonds and a mix of almonds and walnuts. Love the nut you’re with. For a healthier version the pecan coconut crust from knockout vegan pumpkin pie would also be divine, especially if you doubled it and made it super thick like this one.

The filling is strained through a sieve, and you will need a rubber spatula for this. Some rogue commenters didn’t bother straining the filling and said it was just fine that way, so if you’re the rustic type go for it. If you’re going for perfection, do scrape the sides of the pan periodically with that rubber spatula as it cooks, to keep the filling silky smooth .

That’s all. Happy Baking!  

Size matters? Not so much. With pie it’s all good!

Pilgrim Pie

Ingredients

For the nut crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups raw hazelnuts or sliced almonds.
  • 1 cup flour (rice flour to go GF, sprouted wheat flour to be fancy)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

For the cranberry curd:

  • 12 ounces cranberries (~3 cups)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 chunks

Method

  1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. If using hazelnuts, roast them on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool. For sliced almonds, 10 minutes of toasting ought to do it.
  2. In a food processor, grind nuts. Add the flour and salt and pulse together. Add the cut up butter and pulse until it hangs together when you squeeze a bit of it.
  3. Press dough evenly into the bottom and around sides of a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch pie dish; Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.
  5. While the crust bakes and cools, make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Puree the cranberries in a food processor until smooth (careful here—they’re hot), wipe out the pan, then strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve back into the saucepan, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula. Discard solids (or sneak them on toast to bide your time). You can also use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then strain it into another saucepan.
  6. Combine eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup of the warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then pour eggs into the saucepan and whisk together.
  7. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula until mixture has thickened and reaches 170 degrees (8-12 minutes if you, like me, can’t find that dang thermometer)
  8. Remove from heat, whisk in butter one chunk at a time until fully incorporated, then whisk in lemon juice.
  9.  If using immediately, let cool to room temperature-ish. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
  10. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  11. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Variations:

Healthy it up a bit with the pecan coconut crust from this Vegan pumpkin pie.

Sub in orange zest and juice for the lemon zest and juice.

Go nutty and switch out the nuts with whatever turns your crank

That’s about all I’m going to mess with here. It’s darned near perfect.

Squash Season with a side of Pumpkin Muffins

Those cute Halloween pumpkins?  Going, going…gone! It’s time to put them to work. It seems we skipped right over apple season. I know that we didn’t really skip over it. Pies and crisps were made, cider was chugged. But apples did not get their due on Bring It this year. Let’s just blame COVID and move on.

Move right along to squash.  The phrase “too many squash” is never uttered in my kitchen (by me at least). Butternut and denser, drier kabocha squash fill the void left by watermelon at summer’s end, finding their way into my cart every time I go to the grocery store.  This year, I hit the jackpot when a friend shared her bounty of homegrown butternut squash and sugar pumpkins (thank you Carole!), so we’re having a full-on Squashtacular.

To celebrate, I’m sharing a round up of my favorite winter squash recipes, with a bonus new pumpkin muffin recipe at the end. They are my faves by far after way too much experimenting. For me, pumpkin baked goods can be a tough sell, as they usually involve way too much sugar, oil and spice to overcompensate for being vegetable based. They’re like the macho player of baked goods.

BUT, put squash in the savory role, and it becomes something else entirely, something comfortable with itself that doesn’t have to try too hard. It adds body and nutrition and enough sweetness to become its own special treat without dressing itself up like dessert.

My go-to squash recipes start with the ever-satisfying Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, featuring the brilliant threesome of red curry paste, coconut milk and candied ginger. For an even simpler, an very similar version try almost instant Halloween Soup.

Almost instant squash soup, with pro toppings for extra credit.

For appetizers, you can’t go wrong when you invite caramelized onions into the mix with some butternut squash on toast. Work through your kale supply with the easily made ahead Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry salad.

If you’re willing to get a little weird on pizza (or pasta) night, try Butternut Squash Sauce, or an easy, outstanding creamy pumpkin pasta  (a little crumbled bacon on top shuts the doubters right up).

And finally, my baked goods comment notwithstanding, I’ve fallen back in love with Knockout Vegan Pumpkin Pie. It’s all about the crust, which I made with hazelnuts instead of pecans this time. Soooo good. 

If you still have some pumpkins hanging around, fergawdssakes get them into the oven! …and save a bit to try these healthyish whole grain muffins that are proud to be themselves—just sweet enough, moist but not greasy, and only mess up one bowl in your kitchen. Happy November…the countdown is on!

Proud Pumpkin Muffins

Based on these from Cookie and Kate

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • ⅓ extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil 
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey (as if…maple all the way baby!)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature (or 6 Tbsp aquafaba)
  • 1 cup pumpkin (or winter squash) purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice (plant, animal, whatev)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar for a sweet crunch

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease or line all 12 cups of your muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs or aquafaba, and beat well. Add the pumpkin purée, milk, pumpkin spice blend, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now. (a heaping half cup chopped walnuts is outstanding)
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with about a tablespoon of oats, followed by a light sprinkle of raw sugar and/or pumpkin spice blend if you’d like. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. These muffins are delicate until they cool down. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan.
  6. These muffins taste even better after they have rested for a couple of hours! They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They keep well in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months (just defrost individual muffins as needed).