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Pies and Tarts with Heart’s parsnip pie

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So you know how I mentioned Jameson’s and my pie fail? Well, we turned that pie frown upside-down and created an overwhelming pie success.

Jameson received a copy of Dynise Balcavage’s fantastic Pies and Tarts with Heart, and gave me three choices: pumpkin, sweet potato, or parsnip pie.

Parsnip? Sounds weird. Heck yeah!

We split the shopping. Jameson still has a little bit of parsnip PTSD from this super chatty chick at the Broadway Farmer’s market who would. not. stop. talking. about parsnips, while I found Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies to be a decent vegan crust option — the recipe calls for vegan gingersnaps, which I could not find, so we added a bit of powdered ginger to increase the spiciness. I bet TJ’s Speculoos cookies would make a delightfully decadent alternative.

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The photography in Pies and Tarts with Heart is beautiful, but I think that this is the first time that my version of the recipe actually looks better than the book’s (the actual pie itself, not my gross blurry yellowy crappy lighting iPhone photos); Dynise’s version is a little chunky, while when smoothly pureed (as we did) the filling is gloriously silky.
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We ruminated on all of the different possibilities that one can take with this pie. Sub out the cookies for saltines and make a savory version with caramelized onions? Add some dried cranberries for color or candied pecans for crunch? The possibilities are endless. The parsnips are constant.

The parsnips add a slight hint of earthiness to an otherwise decadent experience — this pie is the new millionaire who’s still a country boy at heart; you can put some fancy clothes on him and give him the keys to a fancy German car (and I ain’t talking Jetta) and stick him in a luxury condo, but he still enjoys rustic pleasures like Budweiser and cowboy boots and treating a lady right. I’m not entirely sure whether we’re still talking about pie or the 50+ erotic novel that I’m about to write.

Umm, pie. right.

Despite the sweetness radiating from every custardy bite, it’s a health food compared to other pies gracing your autumn table — the filling is mostly parsnips and tofu instead of your traditional egg and condensed milk variety.

The other recipes in the book look equally delicious. I haven’t cooked any of them yet, but I’ve drooled a ton over the cheeseburger pie, the “yo rocky” road pie, frozen grasshopper pie, and so many others. At first, I was all, “how many different pie recipes do you really need?” but Dynise’s variety of crusts, from traditional to exotic potato-based delicacies like hashbrowns, and styles make you want to buy another pie plate (I totally did — thanks, Grocery Outlet!) and eat (n/360)πr2 after (n/360)πr2 (where n is the number of degrees in the central angle of the sector — get it? A wedge?) of pie, glorious pie.

Jameson brought over some fortified wine leftover from another article for us to sip with our pie: a dry Madeira, a sweet Madeira, and a port. I was a newbie to all of them, and found them to be quite drinkable and similar to vermouth: the port and sweet Madeira were sweet and smooth, while the dry Madeira would make a nice compliment to green olives in a Martini glass. Maybe?

But then Daniel forever ruined Madeira by introducing me to the song above that apparently his mother used to sing to him as a kid. Looking back as an adult, he agrees that was a little weird that his mom would sing ditties about date rape to her child.

Have some Madeira, m’dear.

Surprisingly Sweet Parsnip Pie

Thanks to Dynise for letting us publish this!
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 All-Purpose Cookie Crust made with gingersnaps (see below)
  • 2 pounds (908 g) parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks (about 4 cups [520 g]
  • parsnip chunks)
  • 1 (12-ounce, or 336 g) box aseptic-packaged tofu (do not use refrigerated tofu; it is too
  • grainy for this recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Prepare the cookie crust and press into a pan. Refrigerate until the filling is ready.
  2. Boil the parsnips until soft, about 15 minutes. Place in a large bowl and mash until creamy.
  3. Blend the remaining ingredients in a food processor or in a blender until well incorporated, then add the parsnips and process until smooth-ish and well combined. You’ll need to scrape down the processor every now and then.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust, leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) of space to the crust edge. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4) and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pie top is golden. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing.

All-Purpose Cookie Crust
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) crust

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups (150 g) crumbs from dry vegan wafer cookies or graham crackers (try chocolate, gingersnaps, lemon snaps, animal crackers, or just the tops from Oreo-type cookies minus the creamy filling; you’ll need about 3 cups [150 g] cookies or crackers to get 11/2 cups [150 g] crumbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (55 g) margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Whiz the cookies/crackers and salt together in a food processor until very powdery and fine. Add
  2. the margarine and whiz again. Press into your pie pan. That’s it!

If you need to prebake, bake for 10 minutes at 350ºF (180ºC, or gas mark 4).

Awaken… Piecaken!

Continuing in Vegtastic!’s guest post series, a post from my brother Carl! Carl just moved to Seattle and he’s single, ladies. He’s also looking for a job, potential employers. This Thanksgiving dessert was his first attempt at vegan baking, and he nailed it! He’s a master pie maker, so all of the recipes in here he sorta winged. He gives me undeserved credit for inspiring Piecaken, but it was all him.

(The order of events in this entry may or may not be correct. Mostly not correct. Probably. It was a few weeks ago and baking and drinking go very well together.)

I laughed out loud when my sister, Helen, showed me the picture. There in front of me was one of the most ridiculous culinary concepts I had ever gazed upon: the Piecaken. The name alone conjured images of not just mythical sea-monsters, but of pure excess and indulgence. From that moment I knew that this was going to be a Thanksgiving to remember.

Before this revelation, I had a few simple dessert ideas in mind; a couple pies, or maybe a cheesecake. But pie baked into a cake? This was one challenge I could not pass up. “It must happen,” was my knee-jerk reaction. Not only was I going to do a Piecaken, I was going to do two Piecakens on top of each other, a creation a lovely young blond I’d recently met stated “could get a girl pregnant.” This only offered further encouragement.

A procedure of this sort needed a carefully laid plan. Because I wanted Helen to enjoy this godless endeavor, I knew it had to be vegan. No problem. Vegan baking is really no more difficult than baking with eggs and butter, so that offered no obstacle. I didn’t want to go overboard with creativity, as it was my first attempt, and did not have time to make another if my first was a failure.

I decided to do simple chocolate and vanilla cakes, two classic favorites that most can agree on. The pies were not so easy. I wanted to blend compatible flavors, and given I’d never thought about what pie would taste best with what cake (in the same bite, of course), I had to wing it. Also, it was late, the store was closed, and I needed to get the first pie out of the oven and into the fridge that night. We had dates and raisins. Dates. I’d never had a date pie, but why not? They’re sweet, have a wonderful consistency, and I had few options. My doubts were put to rest as soon as I had a small taste of the filling. Why had I not made date pie sooner?

So, into the oven it went, then to the rack, and finally the crowded refrigerator (possibly the greatest obstacle of the procedure, Piecaken tends to not only consume the human soul, but shelf space as well). I then went to bed, realizing I needed to rest and gather strength for the epic battle I would soon face.

I woke up full of piss and vinegar, but mostly the former so I dealt with it before I headed down to the kitchen to continue. While I still needed another pie filling, I figured I’d bake the first cake, the chocolate. I took out the springform pan, put a healthy dose of Pam on it, and mixed up the batter. I took out the date pie; it was cool and ready to go. Pouring half the batter in the springform, I began to worry if there would be enough batter to make this work. I went forward anyways. In making Piecaken there is no room for doubtful minds. I placed the pie with the pan side up and popped it out into the batter. The pie held strong and retained its shape. So far, so good. I then poured the rest of the batter over it, only barely submerging the crust. The oven was ready, but was I? I took a deep breath and put the first half of the beast into the heat.

I quickly ran to the store. I already knew what I was going to do with the vanilla half: apples. Yes, it is not the most innovative pie filling, but few things go together like apples and vanilla. The chocolate-date concoction was ready to be birthed by the time I got home. Helen was up and around and was generous enough to help me cut up some apples while I made the oil-crust, the same I used for the date pie. The oven was still hot, so the pie was inserted. After it was done, all I could do was wait. The pie had to be cool enough to place in the batter, and the chocolate-date half needed time before I could pop it out of the springform. I would like to say I spent my time waiting trying to solve world hunger and bring down the TEA party once and for all, but it would be more realistic and honest to say that I drank beer and watched South Park.

Time passes. The pie is cool. The first half is cool. Forwards!!! The vanilla half was mixed up, the batter poured, pie placed snugly, and into the oven it went. The batter was gluten free, and did not rise well, creating a plateau in the cake where the pie sat. Oh well. The second half was done, and needed to cool. In this time, I whipped up some powdered sugar frosting and covered the chocolate date half. My most grave error in the Piecaken experience was the frosting. Almond extract. The stuff sucks, and I’m never going to use it again. I had already frosted too much of the layer to turn back, so I stuck to the same frosting recipe, Almond extract included, and whipped up some more to cover the cooling vanilla-apple half.

My creation weighed over nine pounds. The finished product was a sight of awe and wonder. I longed to cut into it to get a cross-section view, but knew that must come after all the other delicious food my mom and sister had prepared was consumed.

After dinner, we all sat there staring at the frosted behemoth on the table, realizing we needed time before we dug into it. We were all faced with a great challenge, and face it we would, together. After an hour or so our stomachs had just enough room for dessert. I made the first incision; this was the moment of truth. Would it be like in the pictures? Would the pie and cake be perfectly separated? Or did the cake batter somehow permeate the pie crust, and disintegrating the filling the batter? Second incision. I lifted the first piece out. I took a sigh of relief. The Piecaken was awakened, in all its photogenic glory. We all ended up sharing the one rather large piece I’d cut out. Aside from the almondy taste of the frosting, the flavors blended perfectly. Piecaken was complete. Helen had inspired a brutal culinary conflict that will be repeated time and time again.

Whiskey Apple Pie

3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693…

I’ve always thought that the first 30 or so digits of pi would make a lovely nerd tattoo, if I was into either body art or math.

Pi is used so frequently in the hard sciences that were I a mathematician or engineer, I would probably find it very handy to have a reference inked into my flesh.

There’s something very comforting about a mathematical constant: divide any circle’s circumference by its diameter and you get pi.

C/D = π.

The lid of a jar. A lens cap. Columbus circle.

I’m not that into math. I am, however, very much into pie.

But here’s a little fun with numbers: if I have a 9-inch pie pan, the circumference of said pie must be 28.27433 inches.

Yup– that’s my kind of arithmatic.

Whiskey Apple Pie

Crust (veganized from The Complete Book of Pies by Julie Hasson)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup cold Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Filling (from Group Recipes)

  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 6 or 7 apples (or one ginormous one and 3 normal-sized ones), peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup  whiskey
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Place flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl; mix thoroughly.
  4. With a pastry knife, cut in Earth Balance until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Add 6 tbs of the water and the apple cider vinegar; form a ball of dough, adding extra water if needed and handling as minimally as possible.
  6. Divide dough ball in two; wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Roll half the dough out onto a clean, floured surface; place in bottom of pie pan.
  8. Fill with filling.
  9. Roll out the other half of dough and place on top. Cut vents in top to let out steam.
  10. Bake 25 minutes at 425, then reduce temperature to 350 and bake 45 minutes longer or until crust is brown and juices are bubbling.

Vegan Hand Pies

Hand pies. So hot right now.

Some people are claiming they are the successor of the almighty cupcake. They’re single serving, portable, easy to bake in a variety of flavors (sweet and savory), and — most importantly — they’re cute.

Oh yeah– and tasty.

I could not be happier. My dad is a master pie baker, and though he definitely is not vegan, his pies are– he favors a shortening crust. I grew up with pies filled with the apricots from the tree in our yard.

If Dad has any leftover dough, he spreads it on a cookie sheet and sprinkles it with cinnamon and sugar like his mother used to– nothing goes to waste. This comes out of the oven all gold and flaky, sweet and spicy. It’s a treat in and of itself.

I was super pumped when a new pie shop opened in my neighborhood, and bummed to read that the shop prides itself on its all-butter crusts.

What’s a pie-lovin’ vegan girl to do?

Break out the rolling pin and get baking.

These are heart-shaped in honor of Valentine’s Day, but you can also use a round biscuit cutter to make crescent pockets, or just cut the dough into rectangles and fold them over.

Pie. Yessss.

Cherry Hand Pies (veganized from The Complete Book of Pies by Julie Hasson)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup cold Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • canned cherry pie filling
  1. Place flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl; mix thoroughly.
  2. With a pastry knife, cut in Earth Balance until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Add 6 tbs of the water and the apple cider vinegar; form a ball of dough, adding extra water if needed and handling as minimally as possible.
  4. Divide dough ball in two; wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll dough out onto a clean, floured surface.
  6. Cut out an even number of hearts. Place a spoonful of cherry pie filling on each one, cover with a second, and carefully crimp edges together, being sure that the filling does not spurt out. It’s probably a good idea to slash the top to let steam escape (I didn’t do this).
  7. Bake on a parchment-covered cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
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