Berbere Chicken Pie

Abby recently posted her recipe for Chicken Paprikash Pot Pie. It looked delicious, and I had recently been craving chicken paprikash, so I had to make it. Of course I also had to switch it up a bit, in this case, by adding 1 tsp. of berbere seasoning, a spice blend commonly used in Ethiopian cooking.

Berbere Chicken Pie

This one simple change completely transformed the dish. I loved it so much I could not stop eating it. I think I had it for supper five nights straight. And I’ve been thinking of making it again ever since.

I did make a few other small changed to Abby’s recipe, but nothing substantial. I used leftover roast chicken, because I had some on hand, and a red pepper instead of green for the same reason. For the pie crust I used my own standard recipe (1 1/2 cup flour, 3 oz leaf lard, 2 ox butter, 6 T. water and a pinch of salt). These were small tweaks, though. The real difference was the addition of the berbere.

P.S. While I make a lot of my spice blends myself, berbere is one I order, because I love the way this company makes it. I get it from Monsoon Coast. And no, they are not paying me to promote them.

Mrs. O.’s Pumpkin Pie

Back when I was in graduate school I lived in Hamilton, Ontario. There was a 19th century historic home/museum in town called Dundurn Castle. Every year, the people who ran it held a baking contest, a 19th century baking contest, meaning, of course, that all entries had to be prepared from 19th century recipes.

I loved this contest. I submitted multiple entries every year. I won multiple prizes every year. I won ribbons for my fruitcake, a silver and gold cake, a jar of apricot peach jam, and pumpkin pie, among other things. Of them all, I loved my pumpkin pie the best.

It is the one recipe that I continue to make again and again, especially around the Thanksgiving season. The recipe is titled Mrs. O.’s pumpkin pie. I have no idea who Mrs. O. was, but she made a damn fine pie. It is a perfectly balanced pie with just the right ratio of pumpkin to custard, and a lovely blend of spices.

I got all of the recipes I used for this contest from a facsimile edition of a book I tracked down in the McMaster University library. It was an American cookbook from the 19th century. I have long since lost the photocopy I made of the title page, and I really wish I hadn’t, because I’d love to give credit to the author.

Of course measurements were not exactly standardized at that time, so making these recipes required a good deal of interpretation. Here is my version of the recipe, complete with standardized measures.

P.S. Those are cherry marshmallows in the background of the photo. They are a subject for another post on another day.

Mrs. O.’s Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 single layer pie crust, unbaked (see Oh Boy Strawberry Pie! for recipe and instructions)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Roll out pie crust and fit it to a 9-inch pie pan.
  3. Stir the salt, sugar, and spices into the pumpkin puree.
  4. Stir in the eggs.
  5. Stir in the milk and cream.
  6. Pour custard into the prepared pie shell. (Depending on the exact size of your pan you may have some left over. If so pour it in a ramekin and bake it alongside the pie as a custard.)
  7. Bake until the custard is nearly set. Bump the pie gently and watch what happens to the custard. When only a 2-inch wide area in the middle wiggles, the pie is done. It should take 50 minutes to an hour.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing. Tastes best when served with lightly sweetened bourbon whipped cream.

The Secret of Apple Pie

I have four apple trees in my back yard. they are all different varieties. I have no idea which ones. The house is over 100 years old. Odds are good the trees are too. All I know is that these apples are really, really good. They all ripen at slightly different times. I missed two of them this year, from having to be out of town, but I arrived back home in time to get apples from the last two. It was a pretty good harvest this year, though not as good as my neighbor, whose tree is so full of apples the branches bend nearly all the way to the ground.

Needless to say, I have been making a lot of apple-related dishes, including my famous-within-the-family apple pie. There are a lot of recipes claiming to produce the best apple pie. I don’t claim this is the absolute best. It is, however, much requested, and my favourite. It’s also very simple. Many apple pie recipes are, to my lazy self, overly complicated. Pie should be simple. Apple pie should be simplest of all.

I have three basic rules for creating my ideal apple pie:

  1. Use an all-butter crust, with extra butter, and aim for maximum flakiness. The tenderness will suffer a bit, but that’s OK. Fruit pies taste best with a more toothsome crust.
  2. Use more than one variety of apple. It will lend a fuller, more complex flavor to your pie.
  3. Add a pear. That’s right. A pear. In your apple pie. Just one per pie, mixed with the apples. The pear takes an otherwise good pie and makes it transcendent. And nobody will ever guess it’s in there.

Now you know the secret to great apple pie. How great is it? Let’s just say this was all that was left by the time I could get a photo.

The Secret of Apple Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. butter, cold
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
  1. Blend the flour with the salt.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and scatter it over the flour.
  3. Using you hands, and working quickly, mix the butter into the flour by smearing it between your thumb and fingers. Continue doing this until only pa-sized pieces of butter remain and the mixture has the consistency of coarse corn meal.
  4. Drizzle in the ice water, and blend it into the flour/butter mixture, again using your hands.
  5. When the water has been blended just enough to form a dough that holds together, divide it in two. Shape each half into a disc.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 T. flour
  1. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. (I usually use the one I just made the dough in – no need to clean it first).
  2. Let them sit while you roll out the crust.

To assemble the pie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator.
  3. Roll it out, on a lightly floured surface, until large enough to line a 9-inch pie pan.
  4. Place the dough in the pan.
  5. Pour the filling into the dough-filled pan.
  6. Remove the other disc from the refrigerator and roll it out until large enough to cover the top of the pie.
  7. Place the second round of dough on top of the filling.
  8. There will be a decent amount of dough hanging out over the edge from both crusts. Roll the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and crimp them with your fingers to join them and make the rim of the pie.
  9. Using  knife, cut a dozen or so vent in the top crust for steam to escape.
  10. Place in the oven, with foil underneath the pan to catch drips.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, or until the crust is browned and the juices from the apples bubble up through the vents.
  12. Cool completely before serving.

Candy Bar Pie

When I was in NY a few weeks ago, I stopped into Momofuku Milk Bar and sampled their candy bar pie. I cannot get this pie out of my mind. It was so very delicious. I decided to try to recreate it at home.

There is a Milk Bar cookbook with the recipe printed in it, but that would take the fun out things. I prefer to work things out on my own. So I did. Here is what I came up with. If anyone has the cookbook do a comparison and let me know how close I got.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the candy bar pie, it’s a chocolate cookie crumb crust filled with a layer of caramel, peanut butter nougat, and chocolate glaze, topped off by pretzel decorations. I think there is some sort of praline stirred into the nougat, which does add a lovely crunch, but I elected to skip this part, and substituted chopped dry roasted peanuts instead.

The results of my attempt are pretty close to the original, though a bit too sweet for my taste. I think I will try again, upping the amount of peanut butter in the nougat, and dramatically increasing the amount of dry roasted peanuts.

Candy Bar Pie (a Milk Bar replication)


  • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 T. melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix crumbs with butter and pat into a pie pan so that it covers the bottom and comes halfway up the sides.
  3. Bake crust 10 minutes.


  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T.  heavy cream
  • 6 T.  golden syrup
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Heat the cream with the vanilla. Set aside on low heat to keep warm.
  2. Heat the syrup with the sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and it starts to boil. Stop stirring and brush down the sides of the pot with water to dissolve any sugar crystals.
  3. Boil to 305 F.
  4. Stir in the butter and salt, then slowly stir in he cream. The mixture will boil furiously and foam, and the temperature will drop.
  5. Continue stirring until the temperature has climbed back up to 245.
  6. Immediately pour caramel into the prepared cookie crust. DO NOT scrape the pot, or you will wind up with weird crunchy bits in your caramel. If it sticks to the pot it stays in the pot.

Peanut Butter Nougat:

(this makes way more nougat than you will need. Pour the rest into a buttered waxed paper lined 8-inch square pan and if you’re feeling adventurous, cut it into squares and dip it in chocolate, or just snack on it as is.)

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1 egg white
  • punch of cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-natural peanut butter, salted
  • 2 cups dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  1. Cook the sugar, syrup, and water until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.
  2. Stop stirring, brush down the sides of the pan with water to remove any clinging sugar crystals.
  3. Clip a candy thermometer in the pot and increase the heat. Begin whipping the egg white.
  4. When the egg white is foamy, add the cream of tartar and keep beating until it holds firm peaks.
  5. When the sugar reaches 245, remove it from the heat, and slowly pour it into the egg white, beating constantly. Continue beating until the mixture thickens and becomes firm. Switch to low speed (and use a paddle beater if you’re using a stand mixer) and blend in the peanut butter and peanuts.
  6. Scoop 2 cups of the nougat on top of the caramel, and pat it out with your hands to make an even layer. Periodically running your hands under the faucet to make them damp will keep them from getting too sticky.

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 T. golden syrup
  • 2 T. butter
  1. Melt ingredients together over very low heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Pour glaze over the nougat.

Finishing touch:

(the original pie has the pretzels underneath the glaze. If you prefer it this way add them, then pour it over.)

  1. Arrange pretzels over the still warm glaze, as many as will fit.
  2. Allow pie to cool completely at room temperature. Slice thinly and serve.

Fresh Berry Truffle Tartlets

Just one more, and then I’ll stop, I promise. This is my third and final June #baketogether contribution, and I’ve saved the best for last. At least, I think it’s the best, but then I’ve also got a bit of a thing for chocolate.

These are micro-mini tarts, made in mini-muffin tins, with a cocoa-walnut crust, filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries, brushed with strained peach jam to make them shine, and drizzled with a bit more ganache, because one can never have enough chocolate.

One recipe makes 24 of these jewel-toned mini tartlets. I have been giving them away all day to everyone I see in order to stop myself from single-handedly eating them all.

Before I get down to the recipe, just a note about the chocolate. I am very particular about my chocolate. There are many excellent high-end brands out there, and it is worth seeking them out. I order my supplies from the company I used when I had my chocolate business. My preferred brand is Cacao Barry’s single origin line, especially Santo Domingue and Tanzanie for dark, and Ghana for milk. It provides the best quality for the price. This is not the sort of stuff you will find in the grocery store, even a very nice grocery store. If you are in Canada you can order it online at chocolat-chocolat. They are also an excellent source for professional quality molds, and I buy my cocoa powder from them too. In nearly 10 years of dealing with them I have never received less than perfect service.

This recipe also features my favorite method for making ganache. By warming the cream and chocolate together, you can create a smooth, silky ganache without heating the cream much. It will not keep as long as other methods, but it creates a ganache with a fresh cream taste, instead of a cooked one.

Fresh Berry Truffle Tartlets

For the crust:

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 oz. cold butter
  • 1 oz. leaf lard (or an additional ounce butter)
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  1. Blend the flour with the cocoa powder and salt. Cut the butter and lard into small pieces and toss them in the flour. Working quickly, take handfuls of the flour-butter mixture and smear the fat into the flour by rubbing it between your thumb and fingers. Continue doing this until almost (but not all) the fat has been smeared into the flour. The mixture should look roughly like coarse cornmeal.
  2. Pour the ice water over the dough and mix it in, just until blended. Add the walnut pieces and do the same.
  3. Wrap the dough and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400.
  5. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle. Don’t worry if you crush the nuts a bit. It’s bound to happen.
  6. Fit each circle into a cup in a mini-muffin tin. Prick it with a fork.
  7. When all the circles have been rolled out and fitted into the tin, place it in the oven and bake until the crust is fully cooked, about 25 minutes. The crusts may very well puff while they bake. If this happens, get a spoon and poke them back down.

Make the Ganache:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, in discs or finely chopped (I used Cacao Barry Saint Domingue 70%)
  1. Place the ingredients in a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir gently, trying to minimize the amount of air you introduce to the mixture, until the chocolate is almost, but not quite melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate melts completely. If the mixture gets too cool and some chunks still remain, remove them and eat them. They are delicious.
  2. Pour the freshly made ganache into the fully baked tartlet shells, filling them about 3/4 of the way to the top.


  • 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup warm, strained apricot or peach jam
  1. Gently place one raspberry and three blueberries on top of each tart.
  2. Brush the fruit with jam.
  3. Drizzle a little of the remaining ganache on top.
  4. Let sit at least an hour to allow the ganache to set before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Custard Berry Tarts

It’s safe to say I got a little obsessed with the #baketogether this month. I’ve been on a bit of a pie-making kick lately anyway, and this fed right into my addiction. I can quit anytime, though. Really. Just watch. Next week I’ll do brownies, or mousse, or maybe pancakes. Definitely. Because I can stop. I can quit making piecrust anytime.

In the meantime, however, I am going to share another tartlet with you. My inspiration for this one was the custard tart, seen in bakeries across the U.K. and not nearly often enough in North America. Custard tarts are another addiction of mine. I could eat them every day forever.

Traditional custard tarts have a thick, toothsome crust, so I rolled my pie dough a  little thicker than usual for these. I also added berries: 2 raspberries and a few blueberries per tart. I love the flavor balance they bring: the mellow sweetness of the blueberries and the bright acidity of the raspberries merge beautifully with the creamy, eggy custard.

Give them a try and see for yourself.

Custard Berry Tarts

  • Pie dough (amount for a single crust pie, 1/2 the recipe in Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie)
  • 1 large egg, plus enough heavy cream to make 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. sugar
  • about 1/2 cup each of raspberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 400.

Divide the pie dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece out and fit it inside a muffin cup. Prick the bottom of each crust with a fork. Fill cups with pie weights. Bake the crusts for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and remove weights.

Reduce oven temperature to 325.

Place 1 or 2 raspberries and 3 or 4 blueberries in each tart shell.

Whisk the eggs until well blended. Whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar.

Pour the custard mixture over the berries, filling each tart shell as close to the top as you can get without it spilling over.

Bake until the custards are just set. if you use frozen berries, like I did, this will take 30 to 35 minutes. If you use fresh berries it will be faster.

Remove tartlets from pan while still warm, but cool completely before serving.

Try to eat just one. Go ahead. Try.

Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie!

My father likes to tell the story of how he was mercilessly teased by his family after one day walking into the kitchen to see his favourite dessert cooling on the counter, and exclaiming, rather more loudly than necessary “Oh boy, strawberry pie!” He says they could tease him and tease him all they wanted, but it didn’t matter. It was worth it for that pie.

I wish I could share my grandmother’s recipe with you, but I can’t. She passed away when I was a baby and her recipes passed with her. I can, however, share my recreation of it, based on my father’s memory.

It’s like no other strawberry pie I have ever seen, tasted, or read a recipe for. It is a cooked strawberry pie: think strawberry-rhubarb without the rhubarb, packed top to bottom with the sweetest, ripest, juiciest strawberries you can find. And I will warn you here and now that the quality of the strawberries you use matters.

My children love it almost as much as my father does. I made one last night after they went to bed. My oldest ate three pieces for breakfast. It’s that good.

Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 6 oz (12 T.) cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 2 oz (4 T.) leaf lard (if you can get it, otherwise use all butter), cut into small chunks
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. ice water
  1. Blend the flour with the salt. Toss in the butter and lard and, working quickly, blend it into the flour. I do this by grabbing clumps between my thumb and fingertips and smearing them together.
  2. Blend until the fats are mostly, but not completely mixed into the flour. There should still be small lumps scattered through. Pour the water over the mixture – using the lesser amount if you live in a humid climate and the larger amount if you live in a dry one.
  3. Using your hands again, blend the ingredients just until the dough comes together into a ball. Divide it in two, wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate it for 1/2 an hour while you prepare the filling.

For the strawberry filling:

  • 6 cups of sliced strawberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup flour (yes, this is a lot for a pie, but strawberries are a very juicy fruit. You will need it)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  1. Combine all three ingredients and let them sit for 15 minutes to draw the juice out of the strawberries and hydrate the flour and sugar. This will let you blend them in more evenly.

To assemble the pie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Roll out the bottom crust and lay it in the pie plate.
  3. Fill the plate with the strawberry mixture, spreading it out evenly.
  4. Roll out the top crust and fit it over the pie, trimming and crimping as necessary.
  5. Cut about a dozen vents in the top crust. This is crucial to let the steam escape and reduce the chances of you winding up with strawberry pie baked onto the bottom of your oven. (Still, I always lay a sheet of aluminum foil underneath it on the bottom rack just in case)
  6. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 60 to 80 minutes. It is done when the crust is nicely golden and the strawberry juices are boiling furiously (not just a little bit, wait for full on fury) in the vents of the top crust.
  7. Let the pie cool until just barely warm before cutting. It’s delicious as is, and even more delicious topped with vanilla ice cream.