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Apple Streusel Pie

 I don’t care if it’s two-crusted or streusel-topped, but I’m a big fan of apple pie. But it’s much easier to make this streusel topping than tackle two crusts, and with so much to do for the Thanksgiving meal, why not save yourself some time?  The crumb topping gives this dessert extra crunch, especially with the addition of some walnuts. Use your favorite pie crust recipe, or buy one already packaged, like I did this time, with one from Trader Joe’s. Roll it out, place it into your pie plate and crimp the edges. I sprayed my pie plate first with some PAM, to ensure easier removal of the slices. Prick the pastry all over, then put it in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before baking.

Weigh down the crust with some pie weights that are nestled on a piece of aluminum foil. I also sprayed the bottom of the foil with some PAM, so it wouldn’t stick to the crust. If you don’t have pie weights, use some hard beans, like I did. I keep reusing mine year after year and I think they’re at least 30 years old by now — and still have more life in them.

I like to cook the apples a bit before putting them in the crust. Otherwise, the pie has a tendency to sink a lot — especially important if you’re making a double crust pie and don’t want a big gap between the apples and the crust. Just cook them a little, so they still maintain their integrity as slices. You don’t want them turning into applesauce!

After you’re prebaked the pie shell a little bit, gently place the partially cooked apples inside, cover with the streusel topping and bake.

If the edges seem to be browning too quickly, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.

Let the pie rest at least a couple of hours before digging in.

And don’t forget that it tastes even better with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream!

Click here to find the recipe for this other great apple pie – an upside-down apple pie with a gooey pecan topping.

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Apple Streusel Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 purchased pie crust or your favorite home made pie crust
  • 7-8 apples, peeled and sliced evenly (about 9-10 cups of sliced apples)
  • (I used a combination of mostly Honey Crisps and Granny Smiths)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch of cloves
  • a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • a pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PIECRUST:
  2. I rolled out the pie crust and placed it gently in a pie plate that was sprayed with PAM.
  3. Then, I crimped the outer edge and pricked the bottom with a fork.
  4. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F. and placed the uncooked pie crust in the refrigerator while the oven was preheating.
  5. When the oven reaches 375 degrees, place a buttered piece of aluminum foil in the pie shell, and weigh it down with pie weights or beans.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, remove the pie weights and aluminum foil and bake the crust for another 10 minutes.
  8. FOR THE PIE FILLING:
  9. Peel, core and slice the apples into slices about ¼ inch thick.
  10. Place the butter in a large skillet, big enough to hold all the apple slices.
  11. Cook the apple slices in the butter on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes or until they start to soften,
  12. Do not cook completely. They will continue to cook in the oven.
  13. When they begin to soften, turn off the heat and stir in the spices, the salt and the cornstarch.
  14. Spoon all the apples into the prebaked pie crust, then cover with the streusel topping and bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
  15. Check the pie to make sure it isn't browning too much on the edges and bake for another 5-10 minutes, placing aluminum foil strips around the edges if it's getting too browned.
  16. STREUSEL TOPPING:
  17. Mix the flour, brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon together, then using your fingers, blend in the butter.
  18. Carefully spread the topping over the apples and bake as directed above,
 

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie

Are you “pumpkined-out?” I can’t blame you if you are since you’ve probably been gobbling the remaining leftovers since Thanksgiving — and I know for a fact that some folks (you know who you are) have even raided the refrigerator for a pumpkin pie breakfast. Still, this recipe (adapted from Everydaypie.com) is so delicious I just couldn’t wait until next Thanksgiving to share it. There’s no shame in baking another pumpkin pie before the season is out. I used a “cheese pumpkin” for this recipe, which gave it an exceptional flavor, but you can certainly use canned pumpkin instead. Actually, you could even make this pie with different squashes too, or even pureed sweet potatoes. Whatever you do, make sure you prick the crust and blind bake it before filling it or you’ll end up with a wet bottom — and who wants that?

To blind bake the crust, I usually butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil and place it into the uncooked pie crust, then gently pour in some beans to weigh it down. These beans have been reused countless times over the decades. They’re at least thirty years old, if not older.  I just store them in a tin until I need them again. Follow the instructions in the recipe below.

Place dollops of the mascarpone filling atop the pumpkin, then swirl them in using a knife, or chopstick. Since I was using some pumpkin I had leftover from another recipe, I had only about 1 1/2 cups and it really didn’t fill the crust as high as I would have liked. Try to use about 2 cups of pumpkin, which is what you’ll get from a 15 ounce can.

I have to say that this was really one of the best pumpkin pies I’ve ever eaten, and I don’t know if it was because of using the cheese pumpkin, the addition of mascarpone, the mixture of spices, the perfectly baked crust or a combination of all of them. I do know that I’ll be making this again and I won’t wait for next Thanksgiving to do so. I hope you try it too. Don’t forget to add the whipped cream on top!

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Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1–9″ pie crust, homemade or purchased, blind baked (see instructions below)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 227 grams) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (This turned the mascarpone a beige color, so I might eliminate it next time and just add the vanilla to the pumpkin instead.)
  • ½ cup packed (100 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1–½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • Pinch cloves
  • 1 (15 ounce) can 100% pumpkin puree (I used 1½ cups of freshly cooked and drained pumpkin but 2 cups would have been better)
  • heavy cream for whipping and decorating the top of pie
Instructions
  1. TO ROLL AND BLIND BAKE THE PIE CRUST:
  2. Roll out the pie dough to an 11″ circle and line a 9” pie plate, crimping the edges as desired.
  3. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork to let steam escape during baking. Place the pie in the freezer for 30 minutes to let the pie dough chill.
  4. While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375ºF.
  5. Remove the pie from freezer and line the pie dough with a parchment round piece of paper (or aluminum foil that is greased on the side that touches the pie dough) and then add pie weights (or dry rice or beans or lentils) to fill the pie shell, making sure to push pie weights to the edges.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack, then remove from oven and remove the parchment and pie weights.
  7. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Set aside until ready to use. Lower the oven to 325ºF.
  9. ASSEMBLE THE FILLING:
  10. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mascarpone and the sugar, until smooth.
  11. Add in 1 egg and beat until thoroughly combined.
  12. Scoop out ½ cup of the mascarpone mixture and set aside.
  13. Then, add to the mascarpone mixture the remaining eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin puree.
  14. Beat together until fully combined.
  15. Add half of the pumpkin filling to the fully baked pie crust.
  16. Spoon in a few dollops of the set aside mascarpone filling to the pumpkin mixture.
  17. Then, pour the remaining pumpkin mixture over the top. Spoon drops of the remaining mascarpone mixture.
  18. Using a knife, chopstick or toothpick gently swirl through all layers of the pumpkin filling to achieve a marble effect.
  19. TO BAKE:
  20. Bake the pie on the middle rack for 45-55 minutes, or until the pie reaches a temperature of 180ºF and the outer edges have started to puff up but the center is still slightly wobbly.
  21. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to finish firming up.
 

 

Spinach Ricotta Pie

 I wish I had thought to post this before Easter, because it would have made the perfect meal to serve on Fridays during Lent. But it still is a good one to keep in your back pocket for those nights when you want a meatless meal.

I made this using a store bought pie crust, making it easy to get on the table in a snap, but use your favorite homemade crust recipe if you have time.
The recipe comes from “Blue Plate Special,” a memoir by Kate Christensen, read by my book group nearly a year ago. It’s a passionately written account of her unorthodox childhood and relationships as she navigates her way through adulthood. Through the sometimes painful, sometimes joyous, and frequently tumultuous events, food is the sustaining thread throughout. It’s well worth a read.
And if you have a food, travel or family story you’ve been wanting to write down for posterity, now is the time to start. We’ve got only a couple of spots left for our memoir writing retreat on Lake Como, Italy. Join us for an unforgettable week in this enchanting location in late September. Get more information by going to www.italyinotherwords.com

 

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Spinach Ricotta Pie
from Kate Christensen’s “Blue Plate Special”
1 onion minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 10-ounce frozen box of spinach, thawed
a dash of cayenne pepper, basil,
salt and pepper
1 pound ricotta cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs
Sauté the onion in the olive oil.  Add the spinach, the herbs and spices. Beat the eggs, then blend in the ricotta cheese and the cheddar cheese, plus the sauteed onion and spices. Stir. Turn everything into a store bought or homemade pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes until golden brown on top.

Crostata di Marmellata alla Sorrentina

Are you ready for Pi Day? It’s coming up next week and you need to be ready with a real pie – or in this case a crostata (close enough). Of course, you all know that Pi, represented by the Greek letter π, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and is commonly approximated as 3.14159.

Pi Day is celebrated around the world on March 14 (March=3rd month, and the 14th day, hence 3.14), which also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein, whose legacy is omnipresent here in Princeton, where the Nobel laureate gave lectures at Princeton University, but mainly served as a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Studies from 1933 until his death in 1955.
Princeton honors Pi Day with all kinds of events, from an Einstein look-alike contest, to a pie-baking contest. (The first year of the contest, I actually won second place, with “Alessandra’s crostata.”)
I made a couple of goofs while making this crostata, but in the end, it all worked out.
It calls for a mixture of amaretti cookie crumbs to be mixed with egg, then spread on top of the jam.
But I misread the recipe and put the amaretti cookie crumbs in first, before the jam. Whoops!
Fortunately, I was able to scoop them up before I went any farther.
So after scraping out the amaretti crumbs, I put in a mixture of jams – orange and plum. You can use only one kind if you like, or mix any others – apricot and plum are delicious too.
Now is the time to spread the amaretti mixture. I didn’t have quite enough, but it was just fine. Kind of looks like peanut butter and jelly at this point, but it tastes much better.
Spread the lattice strips on top, then brush with egg.
While baking, the amaretti crumbs and eggs puff up slightly and peek through the lattice strips.
The flavor is delicious and it slices so easily you may want to eat more than just one slice. After all, you are doing research on the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, right?
Happy Pi π Day.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.





Crostata di Marmellata alla Sorrentina
from “The Southern Italian Table” by Arthur Schwartz
printable recipe here

your favorite pasta frolla recipe (pastry crust – I cheated this time and used one from Trader Joe’s)
1 12 ounce jar marmalade (I used a combination of plum and orange)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely ground amaretti cookies (about 3 ounces, depending on the brand)

Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper or parchment. Line a 9-inch tart or cake pan with two-thirds of the pasta frolla, bringing the pastry up the sides of the pan just to the top. Save the other third of the pastry to make a lattice top.
Mix the jams (if using two different ones) and spread evenly on the pastry.
Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl until well blended, then add the amaretti crumbs and mix well. Spread this mixture evenly over the jam filling.
Roll out the remaining pastry. With a sharp knife or rolling pastry cutter, cut it into 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange the strips on top of the tart in a diamond-shaped lattice. Turn the edge of the bottom pastry over the edge of the lattice top.
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl, then brush the pastry with it.
Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until nicely browned. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the tart from the pan and finish cooling it on a rack.

Variation:
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of finely chopped nuts – toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts – on the bottom pastry before pouring in the marmalade or jam.
At Masseria Astapiana, Villa Giusso in Vico Equense, near Sorrento, a fifteenth century former monastery now operating as a bed and breakfast and party venue, they make a rather complex, but not difficult to accomplish, version of this tart. Instead of using 12 ounces of marmalade, use only 6 ounces. Then dip about 28 whole amaretti quickly into dry white vermouth. Arrange a layer of the cookies over the marmalade, packing them in closely and pushing them slightly into the marmalade. Now combine 2 beaten eggs with 3/4 cup toasted and finely ground almonds. Pour this over the amaretti. There should be just enough to barely cover the cookies. Arrange a lattice pastry top. Bake as above.