Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How I Made a Cherry Pie

I made it with love, of course!
How purty is that?  Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

I will let you in on a little secret.  It tastes really yummy, too!  I like to use a combo of both dark, sweet cherries and tart cherries for what I think is the best flavor punch. I can normally find dark sweet cherries in the freezer section, but it can be hard to find tart canned cherries around here.  Cherry pie filling is easy to find, but tart canned tart cherries can be hard to find.

So what's a girl to do?  This!

I take frozen cherries and let them thaw in a strainer over a container until they yield their juice.  This can take a while, so be patient.  But this is what the cherries will look like...
...and this is their juice.

I made a double recipe for these pics since I was making a total of two pies, but here are the amounts for a single pie.  Also, if you can find tart canned cherries, then combine the juices from both cherries in the recipe steps below, doubling the sugar and cornstarch amounts.

3/4 cup of sugar
2 T. cornstarch
Dash of salt
3/4 cup of cherry juice (add water, if needed to bring to 3/4 cup)
Splash of vanilla
Generous splash of almond (cause cherries and almonds will live happily ever after!)
1 T. butter
One 1-lb package frozen cherries
One can cherry pie filling

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy bottom sauce pan.
Mix in the cherry juice and place over medium high heat.  Cook and stir until thick and boiling, and then boil for 2 minutes to fully cook the cornstarch.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, almond and butter.  Then stir in the thawed cherries until fully coated with the glaze.
Now I mixed in the can of cherry pie filling, which gives us a balance of dark and sweet with light and tart.
Kinda pretty, right?

Pour this into your prepared bottom crust (your favorite recipe or even store bought.)  PS - Aldi has a good pie crust.
Then add your top crust - embellished to show your love if you like!
Or your thanks...
I love my little 1" letter shaped cookie cutters for just this sort of thing!  They make forming the letters so easy...
...and then you can brush the crust with cream or beaten egg and add the cut out letters, if you like.  (I like.)
I like to finish with a sprinkle of sparkling sugar before baking the pie at 425 degrees for 20 minutes and then another 30 - 45 minutes @ 375, adding a crust shield for the last 20 minutes or so.
Finally if you want pieces of pie that cut nice, wait at least 6 - 8 hours before cutting.  If you like a warm piece of pie with ice cream on top (and who doesn't???!!!), I suggest a quick zap in the micro of individual pieces so you get a pretty cut plus the wonderful mouth feel of warm pie with freezing ice cream.
I make no guarantees, however, about crust not breaking.

And with that I will close with a...
...for reading!  Happy Cheery Cherry Baking!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Two Carrot Cake Recipes

So this post only has two pics - the rest is narrative.  I will simply share the recipes for how I made this carrot cake last year for a bake sale...
...and this carrot cake that I made a few weeks ago.

Both are very good cakes, and both received compliments that they were the best carrot cake they had ever tasted!  So either one would make a great addition to your Easter Feaster!  (And trust me!  They are each easy once you get past the carrot grating!  PS - think food processor....)

The top one includes raisins and nuts; the bottom one does not.  Are you a raisin and nuts in your carrot cake kind of person?  Or are you a purest - keep it to carrots only, please.  I am divided.  I like both with no strong opinions of one over the other.

The top one is covered in slivered almonds. The bottom one is garnished with toasted pecans - cause toasted pecans!  (You can add toasted pecans to just about anything, and it'll taste WONDERMOUS!)

It may also appear that the one on the top is a bit fancier than the one on the bottom.  That isn't really the case; it's just a matter of piping or not piping.  I did on the top one; I didn't on the bottom one.  And if you're doing for Easter, you might want to add little carrots as a decoration!  Have fun!

The top one is from Helen Fletcher.  You can read her full post here.  Or I'm repeating the ingredients and steps below.

2 cups flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used buttermilk powder and water)
1/4 cup honey
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 cups carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
1/2 cup moist raisins (if the raisins are dry, cover with really hot water and soak while preparing the rest of the ingredients; squeeze them to remove excess water)

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Spray center only of two 9" x 2" round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper.  Spray center of parchment only, leaving sides of pans untreated.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  (If using buttermilk powder, mix in with these dry ingredients.)  Whisk to combine well.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the eggs, oil, buttermilk (or water), honey and brown sugar.  Mix on low to blend completely.  Add the flour mixture, mixing on low.  Add the raisins, nuts and carrots.  Beat on low to completely combine.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool in pans for 15 minutes and then turn out on racks to cool completely.  Frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

See?  Easy!  And Helen (like always!) knows what she's talking about, so it's a GOOD recipe!

That takes us to the bottom one.  This one is from America's Test Kitchen.  I typed up the recipe for a friend at work who really like this one a few weeks ago and plans to make it for her Easter family celebration.  I hope she has a great success baking it!

Carrot Cake
(America’s Test Kitchen)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I swear by King Arthur Brand flour)
1-1/4 t. ground cinnamon (I used 2 slightly heaping teaspoons)
1-1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/8 t. ground ginger (my addition)
4 eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
½ cups packed brown sugar
1-1/2 cups oil
Splash of vanilla
1 lb. carrots (about 6) peeled and grated (3 cups)

Spray the bottom of one 9” x 13” pan, or two 9” round pans or three 8” round pans.  Line the bottom(s) of chosen pans with parchment paper and then spray the paper. 

Preheat oven to 350°.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (if using). 

In a large mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid mixer), whisk the eggs and sugars together until the sugars are almost dissolved and the mixture is frothy.  Continue to whisk, while slowly drizzling in the oil, until thoroughly combined and emulsified.  Whisk in the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Stir in the carrots.

Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s), smooth the top and lightly tap the pan against the countertop two or three times to settle the batter.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  Begin checking at 25 minutes, but total baking time should take about 35 – 40 minutes.

Cool the cake in round pans for about 15 minutes or the 9” x 13” pan for about 20 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake and flip out onto a wire rack.  Peel off the parchment paper and then set the pan over the cake until completely cool.  

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 – 8oz package softened cream cheese
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
2 T. sour cream
Dash of salt
Splash of vanilla
Splash of almond
3 drops lemon oil (optional)
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 – 4 T. half-n-half

Beat all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.

Toasted Pecans
(Cause Toasted Pecans!!!!)
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 T. butter
3 T. brown sugar
½ t. powdered vanilla (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.   Combine all ingredients in pie pan.  Bake for 7 – 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir.  Return to oven for another 5 – 10 minutes until fragrant and evenly browned and toasted.  Spread onto waxed paper or foil to cool.

Soaking Syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 – 4 T. Amaretto or rum or other liquor of choice (optional)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add liquor.  Allow to cool and place in squeeze bottle.


If cake(s) have humps, even off with a serrated knife to make cakes even and flat.  Also since carrot cake flavor improves with resting, I suggest baking the cake one day and soaking/frosting at least 24 hours later.

Take first layer and place on serving platter.  If layers have been evened off, make sure cut side is up.  If layers have not required evening, poke holes in the layer with a fork and then squeeze some of the syrup all over to desired soaking level.  Allow the syrup to settle for a few minutes and then spread icing on the layer.  Repeat with the remaining layers and finish with icing over the sides.  Garnish with the toasted pecans / decorate as desired.  Store in refrigerator.

I don't know about you, but that's a lot of words.  I think I need to see the pics again.

Helen's yummy version with soaked raisins and nuts.

And America's Test Kitchen version that would be more for the carrot cake purest.

I have no plans to make carrot cake for our Easter Feaster, but after this post, I may just have to invite another 20 people to join us, so I can make a carrot cake, too!

But which one would I bake????!!!!!


Thanks for reading!