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Sep 02, 2014
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By the Book

By the Book: Cheryl and Griffith Day’s Sweet Potato Pie

Saturday, August 30th, 2014



Augusta, Georgia is one of three cities between Atlanta and the Atlantic Ocean that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman left untouched during The Civil War. For this, Augustans have taken eternal umbrage against the general, since Sherman deemed the city not worth his time, strategically. Another city he spared is Savannah, today one of the few showcases of antebellum architecture in the Deep South. This makes it a time capsule of Southern memory, that famous power of remembrance characteristic of the region’s writers, politicians and confidence men.

Cheryl and Griffith Day, who own Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah and published The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, believe such backward-gazing belongs to the world of baking, too. For most Southerners, chess pie likely has as much cachet as Flannery O’Connor. The Days make this clear in their modest little cookbook, full of straightforward recipes that yield workmanlike results.

At the front of the book, there’s some agreeable reminiscing about the old days and, later, more practical advice for baking successfully, including a list of essential equipment and spices to keep in the kitchen. Scattered throughout the book are short profile pages on unusual ingredients like sorghum. At Sauce, August is the month of pie, so I went with that eternal flame of Southern confectioneries: sweet potato pie.




The recipe is punctuated by several lengthy periods of baking, so it’s easy to multitask. While the sweet potatoes were baking I whipped up the crust mix and pressed it into the pan, then employed a tip mentioned in our August issue – dried beans as pie weights. Lay a sheet of foil over the top and add the beans to prebake the crust without it bubbling.




After 50 minutes in the oven, the sweet potatoes easily came apart with a fork. Leave them in the oven for an entire hour – in hindsight, they would have been even easier to work with. The sweet potato filling can be mixed and prepared while the crust is prebaking. After removing the crust from the oven, use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface of the crust.

This was about the time my hand mixer went on the fritz, and whisking by hand quickly became time-consuming. After combining the dry and wet ingredients, it’s probably wise to pulse them in a blender or food processor to avoid chunks of sweet potato in the final product. And while blackstrap molasses imparts a savoriness to the pie, it gives it a most unsavory color. This is a major drawback to the recipe; by the end, I missed the rich orange color of the sweet potatoes. The deep, caramelized flavor dimension of the molasses isn’t worth the displeasing visuals.




Again hobbled without a mixer, I came across an ingenious solution for making whipped cream: Reduce the ingredients by half and add them to a mason jar, along with a wine cork. (A splash of bourbon or Gran Marnier will give the cream a bit more depth.) Shake vigorously until the cream reaches the desired texture or until soft peaks form inside the jar. While not quite as fluffy, it works in a pinch.

Sweet Potato Pie
8 to 10 servings

1½ lbs. sweet potatoes (1 to 2 sweet potatoes), or 2 cups canned sweet potato puree
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. sorghum or blackstrap molasses
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground mace
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1 recipe Shortcut Pie Crust made with brown sugar, prebaked (recipe follows)
1 recipe Fresh Whipped Cream (recipe follows, optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (optional)

• Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees if using whole sweet potatoes, or to 350 degrees if using canned sweet potatoes.
• If using whole sweet potatoes, wrap them in foil and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until fork-tender. Set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
• Unwrap the sweet potatoes and peel them. Measure out 2 cups of the potatoes, put them in a medium bowl, and mash with a fork until smooth. Or, if using canned sweet potatoes, put them in a medium bowl.
• Add the heavy cream, eggs and sorghum or molasses to the sweet potatoes and whisk until fully incorporated.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, cardamom, cloves, mace, ginger and salt. Add the sweet potato mixture and stir until smooth.
• Pour the filling into the prebaked piecrust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is firm around the edges but still jiggles slightly in the center when you shake it; the filling will continue to firm up as it cools. Let cool completely.
• Pile the whipped cream on top of the pie with a spatula and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg, if desired. The pie is best served the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Shortcut Pie Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie crust

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar or packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. fine sea salt
11 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

• In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the butter and stir with a fork until the mixture looks moist and crumbly.
• Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. You can crimp the edges decoratively or leave them rustic.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
• Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before filling.

Fresh Whipped Cream
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

• Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), whip the cream on medium speed until it starts to thicken. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until the cream holds nice soft peaks.

What twist have you added to your go-to dish from back in the day to keep it fresh? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

By the Book: Jennifer Katzinger’s Apricot Cherry Crostata

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014



I’ve always been skeptical of any recipe claiming to make dessert healthier. After all, I eat dessert as a sweet, decadent treat – a reward for my valiant attempts to eat healthy-ish all day. I initially scoffed at Jennifer Katzinger’s Honey & Oats, thinking that any baked good that didn’t allow me to use all-purpose flour or granulated sugar just wouldn’t taste the same as its original inspiration. But the more I read her cookbook, the more intrigued I was.




Honey & Oats advocates using whole grains and natural sweeteners. As a woman who thinks her bag of unbleached AP flour can conquer all baking projects (I learned the hard way it can’t be substituted for bread flour.) this was an education. Katzinger starts her book with a list of whole grains and whole-grain flour options, including the familiar rolled oats and barley to the more obscure einkorn and spelt flour. Most of Katzinger’s recipes for everything from breakfast muffins to cakes to pie crust call for some combination of the latter two flours. She’s also a proponent of natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and coconut palm sugar.




Since it’s pie month here at Sauce – and my crust-crimping skills leave something to be desired – I opted for the pie’s more rustic cousin, crostata. Katzinger packs hers with bright apricots and cherries, perfect since I’d just returned from a Michigan vacation with roughly five pounds of that sweet red fruit.




The butter almond crust called for a little more than one cup of light spelt flour, which admittedly proved tricky to hunt down in the baking aisle (Hint: top shelf, but not in an Uncle Bob’s Red Mill bag as expected). It also required almond flour and coconut palm sugar, both readily available at my local grocery.




The crostata process itself was the same as any other pie recipe; combine dry ingredients, pulse in cold butter and ice water, refrigerate and roll out on a floured surface. The most time-consuming part was peeling the apricots and pitting the cherries, all easy enough tasks. The end result was a gooey, beautifully rustic (read: messy) open-faced pie that smelled of mid-summer fruits.




My only issue was transport; Katzinger states this is the perfect dessert to take on a summer picnic, as it’s easy to pack and transport. However, after an hour in the car to a friend’s home, the crostata had spread significantly, gaining another inch or two all around. Upon serving, it looked less like a rustic pie and more like a fruit pizza. Even so, the flavors were divine. The crust was pleasantly nutty and toothsome, and the coconut palm sugar had an unexpected, molasses-like quality akin to brown sugar. Perhaps I could get used to this healthy dessert idea, especially now that there’s an open bag of spelt flour in my cupboard.




Apricot Cherry Crostata
Makes 1 13-inch crostata

8 fresh apricots
Butter Almond Dough (recipe follows) for a single-crust pie
2 Tbsp. light spelt flour
¼ cup coconut palm sugar, divided
1 cup (8 oz.) pitted, halved fresh cherries
¼ cup fruit juice-sweetened apricot preserves

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water and set it aside. Cook the apricots in the boiling water until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. With a slotted spatula, remove apricots to the bowl of ice water. After they have cooled, about 5 minutes, peel, halve, and pit them. Cut each apricot half into 3 wedges.
• Roll the dough out on a well-floured sheet of parchment paper to a 13-inch round. Slide a rimless baking sheet underneath the parchment. Combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the coconut palm sugar and sprinkle over the dough.
• Arrange the apricot slices, rounded side down, on the dough, leaving a 3-inch space around the edge. Arrange the cherries over and around the apricot slices. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of coconut palm sugar over the fruit.
• Fold 2 inches of the dough over the crostata to create a border around the fruit (the fruit should remain uncovered) and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of coconut palm sugar.
• Bake until the apricots are tender, about 50 minutes.
• In a small heavy saucepan, over low heat, warm the preserves until melted, about 5 minutes. Strain into a small bowl, then brush the strained preserves over the top of the crostata. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Butter Almond Dough
Makes 1 9-inch single-crust pie

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. light spelt flour, or ½ cup einkorn flour and ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. light spelt flour
¼ cup almond flour
1 tsp. coconut palm sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼-inch thick pieces
3 to 4 Tbsp. ice water

• In a food processor, combine the flours, coconut palm sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to blend. Evenly distribute the butter over the dry ingredients. Pulse (starting and stopping the motor) until the mixture resembles small peas, about 6 or 7 pulses, each lasting 3 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the ice water onto the pastry 1 tablespoon at a time, blending with a fork after each addition. The dough will be crumbly.
• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and mound it with your hands. Form into a disc roughly 5 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to chill and firm the dough.

Reprinted with permission from Sasquatch Books

What healthy version of an indulgence has most surprised you – for better or worse? Tell us in the comments below to win a copy of Honey & Oats.

By the Book: Warren Brown’s Peach Pie

Saturday, August 16th, 2014



Is there anything better than a ripe, juicy peach fresh from the farmer’s market right now? Actually yes, and it’s Warren Brown’s peach pie from his cookbook Pie Love.

I am hopelessly addicted to peaches and make cobbler quite regularly, so I was excited to try my favorite fruit in a different dessert. Pie Love is very accessible, with an introductory section on basic techniques and terms that are sure to make pie baking clear even to the novice. There is also a comprehensive section on classic and unorthodox pie crusts. Filling sweet and savory make up the rest of the cookbook, and Brown lets his simple recipes and gorgeous photos speak for themselves, leaving the anecdotes for another day.




The hardest part of making a pie for me is the crust. Every time I attempt to cut that butter in to produce that elusive, sand-like texture, I end up covered in flour with warm butter all over my hands. However, thanks to Brown’s simple step-by-step instructions and (and a handy food processor), I was able to construct the cinnamon-butter pie crust while keeping my hands relatively clean.




Brown blind-bakes the crust 5 to 7 minutes, but I found that was not enough to get the bottom crust perfectly flaky. Tack on a few extra minutes to your blind bake to achieve the ideal texture.




The peach filling was deceptively simple, but just quartering the peaches meant unmanageably large chunks of fruit in the filling. Next time, try cutting them in sixths to make the pie easier to eat. (And don’t throw the pits away! We’re got great recipes that use all that nutty goodness here.) After filling my pie to the brim, I still had a significant amount of peach left over. I kept it to eat with Greek yogurt, but if you prefer to use it all in one go, buy slightly less than the listed three pounds of peaches.




The finished product was delicious; the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt on top of the crust enhanced the natural sweetness of the peaches, and the flaky crust added another textural dimension to a dessert than could only be improved by a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Peach Pie
Makes 1 9-to 10- inch pie

3 lbs. fresh or thawed, well-drained frozen peaches, peeled and quartered
¾ cup superfine granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, plus additional for sprinkling
¼ tsp. sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Cinnamon-Butter Pie Crust (recipe follows)
1 egg
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Cinnamon for sprinkling

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees and position one rack in the middle of the oven and one on top.
• Put the peaches in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and salt. Stir the mixture into the peaches.
• Add the butter and cook the peaches over medium heat, stirring slowly but continuously, until the juices slowly simmer.
• Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the honey, and allow the filling to cool slightly. Scoop into the cooled pie crust.
• Cover with the crust of your choice. Whisk together the egg and vanilla and brush the wash over the pie.
• Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
• Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and salt across the top. Place an empty sheet pan on the top oven rack to prevent excessive browning.
• Bake the pie on the middle rack for 45 to 50 minutes, until the juices on the edges simmer rapidly and the crust turns golden-brown. Let the pie cool completely before serving.

Cinnamon-Butter Pie Crust
Makes 1 double-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. superfine granulated sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
10 Tbsp. (1¼ sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
5 to 6 Tbsp. ice water

• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- to 10- inch pie pan with butter and lightly sprinkle it with sugar.
• Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt to the work bowl of a food processor and mix for at least 30 seconds.
• Stop the processor and add the butter all at once.
• Pulse in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs; pulse in the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms into a ball and rides on top of the S blade.
• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Set aside one third of the dough. If you’re not making a double-crust pie, wrap it in plastic film and freeze or refrigerate it for another use.
• Form the remaining dough into a disk, place a second piece of parchment on top, and roll it into a large round about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.
• Gently fit the rolled dough into the pie pan, fold the excess underneath, crimp the edge, and chill the crust for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, if you are making a double-crust pie, roll out the reserved dough between two sheets of parchment to a round approximately 10 inches across. Set it aside, keeping it between the parchment sheets to prevent it from drying out.
• Dock the bottom crust and cover it with a circle of parchment paper cut to size and a disposable pie pan resting gently above the crust to prevent it from puffing up while toasting. If your pie filling will be baked, blind bake the crust for 5 to 7 minutes. If you’ll be using the crust for a custard pie where baking isn’t required, blind bake it for 10 to 15 minutes – checking often after 10 minutes.
• Set the blind-baked crust aside to cool while you prepare the filling of your choice. Top it as desired and bake it as directed in your recipe.

Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books.

Aside from pie, what’s your favorite way to prepare peaches in August? Tell us below for a chance to win a copy of Pie Love by Warren Brown. We’ll email this winner!

By the Book: Emily and Melissa Elsen’s Plumble Pie

Saturday, August 9th, 2014




After I gave birth to my second child, I realized that, while my feet had grown a full shoe size, I would never grow an extra set of hands. To keep an eye on my boys, I put them to work in the kitchen, and one son has especially taken to the world of pastry.

Since this month’s By the Book is all about pie, I figured Dough Boy might like to lend a hand. To sweeten the deal, I let him choose which recipe to prepare among those I’d marked in The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon recipes from the celebrated Brooklyn pie shop by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen. Would it be nectarine-blueberry (delightful fruit combo), paprika peach (love me some spice), muskmelon chiffon (melon juice, saltine crust – cool), Concord grape (because it grows in my backyard) or Plumble Pie (plum pie baked in bowls)? He chose the last.




The recipe calls for an all-butter crust, which the Elgen sisters note is the signature and most popular crust at their popular pie shop. It holds a hint of tangy cider vinegar and is easy to put together. The sisters do a fine job explaining exactly how to incorporate the ice water-vinegar mixture into the dry ingredients so the dough is neither wet nor overkneaded. Since the Elgens recommend refrigerating the dough overnight, we made the oat topping next and refrigerated both as well so it would be ready when we needed it the following day.




One reason the Plumble Pie recipe interested me was because aromatic bitters was listed among the ingredients. Bitters are made from numerous roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds and other plant matter infused in high-proof alcohol. Just a couple dashes of Old Fashion bitters adds complex flavor to the three ground spices – ginger, cardamom and allspice – that are tossed with the sliced plums.




Instead of a pie pan, bowls come into play for this dessert. My bowls varied in depth, so it was a tad tricky decide how much to roll out each piece of dough so it fit inside its respective bowl.




Once I ladled the filling inside and added the crumbled oat topping, my stomach started growling. It was a matter of tick-tock, watch the clock…




The results were spectacular. The buttery crust was incredibly light and flaky. The cooked filling offered ripe plum flavors with thick fruit juice oozing about. The whole thing begged to be topped with vanilla ice cream.

Distance prevents me from visiting Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop on a regular basis. Luckily, the Elgin sisters have given me the tools to duplicate their unique pies at home. And since my butter-loving boy is a teenager, I’ve a lot of parenting yet to do. Ergo, we’ll be baking together often from this book.

Plumble Pie
Makes 4 4-inch or 2 6-inch bowls

All-butter Crust (Recipe follows)
2 cups Oat Crumble (Recipe follows)
2 lbs. plums, sliced (4 to 5 cups)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. potato starch
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
2 dashes Old Fashion bitters

• Divide the dough into 2 or 4 pieces, depending on the size of bowls being used. Roll each piece into a disc 2 to 3 inches larger than the oven-safe bowl. Grease the bowls well and fit the dough inside; crimp the edges as desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
• Position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Combine the plums, lemon juice, granulated and brown sugars, potato starch, allspice, ginger, cardamom and bitters in a large bowl and mix well.
• Place the bowls on the rimmed baking sheet and distribute the plum filling evenly among them. Top with the oat crumble. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, move the pies to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 30 to 35 minutes longer.
• Allow the bowls to cool completely on a wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
• The pie will keep refrigerated 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

All-butter Crust
Makes 1 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pie

1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
1½ tsp. granulated sugar
¼ lb. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
½ cup ice

• Stir the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
• Combine the water, cider vinegar and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hand (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.

Oat Crumble Topping
2 cups

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, at room temperature

• Stir together all the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the butter pieces and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is chunky but not homogenous.
• Chill for at least 15 minutes before using.

What is your favorite pie shop and why? Tell us in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book!

By the Book: Allison Kave’s S’more Pie

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014




I think there is something daunting about making a pie, especially one with a fruit filling, which is why I don’t make them. I have made exactly one pie in my life. It was an apple pie, and while it was great, it took a lot of time. Honestly, I’d rather someone else do the work, and I enjoy the results.




So for my second attempt at pie-making, I decided to avoid the fruit altogether (even though this is the perfect season for a fruit pie) and go the chocolate route with a S’mores Pie out of Allison Kave’s book First Prize Pies: Shoo-fly, Candy Apple & Other Deliciously Inventive Pies for Every Week of the Year (and More). Kave offers a ton of interesting recipes in her book: grasshopper pie, a Nutella pie, even an avocado cream pie. But there’s nothing like the allure of a s’more: sweet, messy and a hallmark of childhood.




A simple graham cracker crust, a chocolate ganache and a burnished marshmallow topping was easy enough. Kave includes an actual marshmallow fluff recipe, but thankfully she gave me an out when she noted that you could skip the whole mess and just top your pie with store-bought marshmallows. Not every recipe in the book has step-by-step photos, but this recipe did, which came in handy when I thought my ganache looked too thin.




S’mores are sweet, as is this pie, but it’s a grown-up, fancy version of the original treat you loved as a kid. That’s reason enough to make it.



S’more Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Graham cracker crust (Recipe follows.)

1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. high-quality milk chocolate, chopped or chips
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Make the filling: In a saucepan, heat the cream over medium-high heat until it is scalded. Pour it over the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and let it stand 1 minute. Whisk it thoroughly until combined into a glossy ganache. Whisk in the egg and salt until fully incorporated.
• Put the crust on a baking sheet. Pour the chocolate filling into the crust and bake it 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling has just set and is still slightly wobbly in the center. Remove the pie to cool completely.
• Make the topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large heatproof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 2/3 cup water.
• In a clean, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and another 2/3 cup water. Cook the sugar mixture over medium-high heat, stirring only at the beginning to dissolve the sugar, and boil it until a candy thermometer reaches the hard-ball stage (260 degrees). When the sugar is close to reaching this stage, turn on the stand mixer with the softened gelatin (or quickly beat the gelatin in your bowl to blend).
• Once you’ve reached the right temperature, turn on the stand or hand mixer to low speed, and slowly pour the hot syrup in a steady stream into the gelatin while mixing. Try to avoid the sides of the bowl and aim for the space between the beater and the side. When all of the syrup is in, increase the speed gradually to high to avoid splashing, and continue to beat until the mixture is very thick and has tripled in volume, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the vanilla, beat 1 minute more, and then pour the topping over the pie. It will slowly spread to cover the surface or you can use a spatula to spread it.
• Allow the topping to cool at room temperature or in the fridge until it has set, about 30 minutes. If you are using a torch (the preferred method), make sure the area you are working in is clear of any plastic, paper or other flammable items, and that the surface you are working on is fireproof (steel, marble, etc.). You can put a baking sheet under the pie to protect your countertops. Light the torch and start to lightly toast the surface of the pie, going darker or lighter according to your preference (I like my marshmallow pretty scorched, but that’s me!). When the pie is perfectly bruleed, turn off the torch and allow the pie to cool 10 minutes.
• If you are torch-less, you can do this in the broiler, but keep a close eye, as it requires patience, watchfulness and speed. Preheat your broiler, put the pie on a baking sheet, and use foil or a pie shield to cover the crust edges. Broil the pie about 3 inches from the heat source, rotating the pie for even toasting, until the topping is at your desired color. It burns very easily with this method, so watch closely! It’s best to keep the oven door cracked open and watch and rotate the whole time. Remove the pie and allow it cool at least 10 minutes.
• Your pie is now ready to serve, or you can keep it in the fridge up to 1 week. To cover, spray foil or plastic wrap very lightly with oil spray to prevent it from sticking to the topping. For easier slicing, run your knife until hot water first to prevent the marshmallow from sticking to the blade.

Graham Cracker Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie crust

1½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
5 to 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Crumble the graham crackers into the work bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Alternatively, you can put them in a bag and whack them with a rolling pin until finely crushed. Pour the butter into the crumbs and mix (hands are best for this) until the butter is fully incorporated and the texture is that of wet sand. Firmly press the crumbs against the sides of a 9-inch pie pan, then against the bottom of the pan (the underside of a measuring cup works well for smoothing the bottom crust). Chill the crust for at least 15 minutes to help prevent it from crumbling when serving.
• Bake the crust 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove it and allow it to cool before filling.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori and Chang.

What’s your favorite s’more making memory? Tell us about it below for a chance to win a copy of First Prize Pies. We’ll email the winner!


By the Book: Michelle Tam and Henry Fong’s Uova In Purgatorio

Saturday, July 26th, 2014


Nutritionally speaking, can the Paleo diet really save us from ourselves? You are invited to think so. I mean really invited – strongarmed even – by the vocal, rather overheated boosterism of those espousing the movement. Admittedly, the constant pro-Paleo rhetoric is getting a bit wearisome these days, despite the slick packaging and glib explanation of its premise.

That premise is this, essentially: Homo sapiens, as a species, physiologically haven’t evolved to be able to metabolize things like grain, legumes, sugar and other omnipresent sources of sustenance in our modern, industrialized foodways complex. The logic is that eating like our pre-agriculture, hunter-gatherer ancestors (read: cavemen) will help the modern, often sedentary human to be healthier, lose weight and enjoy a longer life expectancy.

It’s a gutsy claim. Never mind that anthropologists have refuted much of Paleo’s scientific underpinnings, pointing out that nearly all the things we eat – grain, beef, nuts or otherwise – were selectively bred by humans in the first place. (On a quiet night, I can sometimes hear hoots of laughter emanating from Wash. U’s anthropology building, a few blocks from my apartment.) Still more dietitians have questioned Paleo’s ability to provide enough of the nutrients found in legumes, grains and dairy, all no-nos under the rules. Yet the movement has taken hold.

But let’s decamp from the ideology battleground and consider Nom Nom Paleo, a hip, well-curated cooking tome assembled by husband-wife duo Michelle Tam and Henry Fong: Crossfitters, card-carrying Silicon Valley-ites and parents to two young boys. Turning the pages, it’s a rather nice family affair, shot through with Paleo talking points, tasteful layouts and Fong’s gorgeous photography on matte gloss pages.

Kudos to its logistics, too. The first 40 pages are devoted to Paleo ingredients and how to procure them, and the recipes are laid out in a flow chart-esque format, not unlike a comic strip.  Indeed, the book is splashed with charming cartoon renderings of the authors and their children as they quip their way around the kitchen. As a production, this cookbook outclasses most others.

Following the Tam-Fong family’s instructions, I made Uovo in Purgatorio, a classic Italian ragu co-opted by the Paleo set. The simplicity of most Paleo dishes is on full display here; the ingredients cost less than $15, there’s minimal chopping involved, and the whole ensemble’s ready in a half-hour.




The first ingredient is ghee, or clarified butter, a basic recipe laid out on a separate page. Divorcing the dairy fats from the butter makes for a high smoke-point oil that’s useful for sauteing (and is Paleo-approved). It’s easy enough to make, though lacking cheesecloth, I strained the melted butter with a coffee filter, which took a long time.




The sausage will braise in the sauce, but it’s good to brown it a little beforehand.




I regularly worship at the Church of Put an Egg on Top, so I welcomed the opportunity to crack a couple over the marinara-sausage ragu. Lacking four oven-safe cocottes, I used two 16-ounce Corningware dishes – which meant more eggs for me.

The pepper flakes are a nice touch here, offering robust heat without overwhelming the palate. After baking 17 minutes (two more than prescribed), I had to switch on the broiler to finish off the egg whites, which made the top surface crispy and extra good. This is a hearty, protein-rich dish that goes well with sauteed vegetables.




The marinara sauce is the weak link in the recipe: It’s a Catch-22 of convenience versus quality. Store-bought marinara makes this a quick, easy option for after work or feeding kids on the go. But homemade sauce always tastes better, and since it dominates the flavor profile of the dish, is essential if serving this to more discriminating company.

Uova In Purgatorio
4 servings

1 Tbsp. ghee or fat of choice
½ medium yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
¼ lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. loose Italian pork sausage
2 cups marinara sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 large eggs

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the upper-middle position.
• Melt the fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Toss in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until the moisture released by the mushrooms evaporates.
• Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook until it’s no longer pink. Pour the sauce onto the meat and add the red pepper flakes. Stir to combine the ingredients, and cook until the sauce simmers.
• Divide the saucy mixture into 4 8-ounce ovenproof ramekins or mini cocottes. Makes a small well in the center of each, and crack an egg in it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs. Place the ramekins on a tray in the oven, and bake until the eggs are done to your desired consistency, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

What fad diet dish has made regular appearances in your kitchen after you first tried it? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Nom Nom Paleo. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

By the Book: John Currence’s Maryland-style crabcakes and green apple-celery salad

Saturday, July 19th, 2014



John Currence is a Mississippi culinary legend. A lifetime of food appreciation – first in New Orleans, then Europe, then back South – led him to open City Grocery, Snackbar, Big Bad Breakfast and Oxford Boure. He was named the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South in 2009 and has received numerous accolades from Southern food organizations. To put it simply, Currence knows his stuff. So when I started reading Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups (And Then Some), I was hooked.

Currence is obsessed with technique, something that’s obvious when you see how his book is divided. First comes his manifesto, laying out his rules for quality tools, ingredients and passion for cooking, then chapters dedicated to “Stirring, Shaking & Muddling,” “Pickling & Canning,” “Frying (Pan & Deep),” “Brining & Smoking,” and more. Pages of beautiful dishes, preserves, roasts and more set my mouth watering.




But for all the stunning images and elaborate dishes, the recipe I tried needed another round of editing. My Maryland-style crabcakes required me to whisk egg yolks, cream, spicy mustard and more into a small bowl, then, in a separate bowl, season a full pound of crabmeat with salt and pepper before adding lemon juice and zest… Hold up. I scanned the ingredient list and sure enough, there was no mention of lemon zest.  I was then instructed to refrigerate everything for 30 to 45 minutes – except the recipe skipped the part where I actually added my spice mixture to the crab. Thank goodness for common sense.




While the crab mixture chilled, I worked on the green apple-celery salad (which turned into a green apple-romaine salad since I was unable to find any celery with its leaves still intact that night). This was simple enough, and my knife skills got a great workout while I attempted to uniformly julienne apples.




I also ran into problems during the breading process. One of my first two crudely shaped “hockey pucks” fell apart in the flour, and the survivor met its doom in the egg wash. No one likes a bready crabcake, but just a half-cup of breadcrumbs was not enough for one pound of crab. Currence did say to add more, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the cakes just barely hold together. Another half-cup later, mine finally made it to the final crumb coating intact.




Many of Currence’s dishes reference his list of Basic Recipes at the front of the book. To bread the crabcakes, I needed to consult a separate page for Seasoned Flour (all-purpose flour doctored with spices), another for Egg Wash (eggs beaten with milk, cream and hot sauce) and another for Clarified Butter (I drew the line there. I didn’t have the time to spend another 30 minutes clarifying butter; milk solids never hurt anybody.). By the time I got to the suggested New Orleans-Style Remoulade (see page 106), I threw up my hands, grabbed a jar of my own homemade mayonnaise, beat some Dijon mustard, and declared it close enough.

Despite my struggle with the recipe itself, the result was pretty spectacular. The outside was perfectly crisp and the interior was deliciously spiced with creamy crabmeat. The green apple provided a great textural element and lightened up what would have otherwise been a very heavy meal. Novice cooks may have trouble with this book, but more experienced home cooks can rely on their common sense to create fantastic results.




Maryland-Style Crabcakes with Green Apple-Celery Salad
6 servings

2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Creole mustard (or grainy French)
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
3 Tbsp. very small dice red bell peppers
3 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 lb. lump blue crabmeat
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs, plus more to coat crabcakes
3 cups Seasoned Flour (Recipe follows.)
3 cups egg wash
¼ cup clarified unsalted butter

• To make the crabcakes: in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, mustard, shallots, red bell peppers and Sriracha. In a separate bowl, season the crabmeat with the salt and pepper and blend to combine well. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and breadcrumbs, cover and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes. This will give the mixture a chance to tighten up and it will be much easier to handle.
• When removed from the refrigerator, the crab mixture should be moist but not runny. If more bread crumbs are needed, add them 1 tablespoon at a time, until the crabcake mix just holds together.
• Scoop the mixtures by the ¼ cup into the seasoned flour (you want 12 crabcakes). Form crudely into small hockey pucks. Knock off excess flour and dip in the egg wash. Turn the cakes in the bread crumbs until fully coated. At this point the cakes can be cooked immediately or returned to the refrigerator, covered, to cool again, or they can be frozen.
• To cook the crabcakes: Heat the clarified butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to shimmer. Carefully place the crabcakes in the pan, decrease the heat to medium-low, and allow the cakes to brown on the bottom side, about 3 minutes. Move them slightly from time to time with a spatula to keep them from sticking. Once browned, carefully flip them over to brown on the second side for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
• Place some apple-celery salad in the center of each place and top with 2 cakes per serving.

Green Apple-Celery Salad
6 servings

4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Champagne vinegar
½ cup whole celery leaves
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. celery seeds
1 cup peeled and julienned green apples

• Mix together the oil, mustard, vinegar, celery leaves, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seeds in a medium stainless-steel bowl. Add the apples and toss together well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Seasoned Flour
Makes 3 cups

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cayenne

• Toss the flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic and onion powders and cayenne in a stainless-steel bowl and combine well. Store in an airtight container until needed.

What’s the best crab dish you ever had? Tell us about it below for a chance to win a copy of Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey. We’ll email the winner! 

By the Book: Julie Mueller’s Blueberry Superfood Smoothie and Peach and Kale Stem Smoothie

Saturday, July 12th, 2014



I weigh the merits of single-subject cookbooks in the same way that I do single-purpose kitchen gadgets. Do I really need an avocado slicer or a garlic peeler when I can get the job done with a universal tool like a knife? So when a cookbook wholly devoted to kale comes along, I ask myself whether it’s outstanding enough to replace the ones I have that encompass the whole brassica family – along with every other leafy green on the planet.

Julie Mueller’s Let Them Eat Kale! Simple and Delicious Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Superfood, published this month, offers 75 recipes for using kale morning, noon and night. A tidy introduction provides a primer on the health benefits of kale, varieties of the plant and methods for preparing it, which range from using it raw to putting it under heat via blanching, braising, sauteing, roasting and grilling.




Smoothie recipes comprise half of the breakfast section of the book. A colorful image of a purple-specked blueberry smoothie caught my eye, as did the minimal (five!) ingredients needed to make it. And, when it’s 6 a.m. and you’ve not yet had that cup of coffee, the uncomplicated task of blending appeals, too.




The smoothie was thick and filling, but it tasted mostly of banana and blueberries. While you can feel good knowing there is 1 cup of vitamin- and fiber-packed kale in there, its earthy flavor is lost amid the fruit. Were I to make this recipe again, I’d double up on the kale.




Mueller smartly offers a few recipes for using kale stems. Though tough and fibrous, stems hold some nutritional value. Rather than discard them, they can be chopped and used like broccoli stems or celery to add crunchy texture or, in this case, to bulk up a peach smoothie.




The herbaceous quality of kale was completely masked in the resulting beverage. Fruit flavors abounded, but the drink was overwhelmingly sweet. That’s logical, I suppose, since it held ripe peaches, bananas, almond milk, orange juice and coconut milk. Based on information from Nutritiondata.com, the sugar clocked in at 49.68 grams. That’s nearly 25 grams of sugar per serving and 20 percent of the daily recommended sugar intake, per the National Academy of Sciences. How beneficial is a “superfood” when it’s smothered in sugar? What I did like about this recipe was the undertone of fresh ginger. Next time, I’ll add more ginger, kale and ice, and ease up on orange juice and one of the nut milks.

Let Them Eat Kale! isn’t going to take up precious cookbook space in my kitchen. But those just jumping aboard the kale bandwagon will appreciate Mueller’s easy recipes for incorporating the vegetable (whether sneaking it in by the cupful or letting the big green leaves shine by the bunch) in their diet.

Blueberry Superfood Smoothie
2 servings

1 cup kale leaves, loosely packed
1½ frozen bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries
¼ cup coconut milk (full-fat from the can)
1½ cups almond milk

• Add all ingredients to a blender, starting with the liquids (This will help blend everything together.). Blend until smooth.

Peach and Kale Stem Smoothie
2 servings

2 ripe peaches, pitted and frozen
2 ripe bananas, peeled and frozen
2 kale stems
1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
8 ice cubes
½ cup almond milk
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup coconut milk (full-fat from the can)

• Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. If necessary, add more almond milk or juice to help the blender process the frozen fruit.

What’s your favorite way to eat kale? Tell us about it in the comments for a chance to win your own copy of Let Them Eat Kale! 

By the Book: Gabriele Bonci’s Pizzas

Saturday, July 5th, 2014



I first learned of chef Gabriele Bonci on an episode of Travel Channel’s “The Layover,” when host Anthony Bourdain traveled to Rome and went to a tiny restaurant near Vatican City called Pizzarium. There were no seats, just a counter, and under a sheet of glass, Roman-style pizzas were on display. These long, thick rectangles are definitely not the traditional Neapolitan-style pizzas commonly associated with Italy.

Bonci used scissors to cut up dozens of pies for Bourdain, from a more traditional Margherita and a potato pizza to the show-stopping foie gras with berries and a Hawaiian pizza. His toppings were inventive, but Bonci is best known for his dough, and that’s what spurred me to try Pizzarium last month during a trip to Italy – and to try my hand at his new cookbook, Pizza: Seasonal Recipes from Rome’s Legendary Pizzarium.



{Our selfie with Bonci at Pizzarium}


He’s been called “The Michelangelo of dough,” and while it’s a pretty lofty title, I can’t really argue after trying his pizzas. The crust isn’t pillowy and airy like Neapolitan-style pizza; instead it has a more artisan bread feel. It’s denser with more chew. It’s also complicated; he spends nearly 14 pages of the book detailing exactly how to make it.

Cooks more ambitious than I will attempt to make the dough, but for my impromptu pizza party, I used my go-to pizza dough and experimented with his fun topping combinations instead. Several recipes require baking pizzas with only some toppings, then finishing them with fresh or raw ingredients after they are removed from the oven – a revelation!




I started with Bonci’s Margherita, which requires that you only bake the dough with the sauce, the remove it from the oven at top it with mozzarella and basil. This worked well; it kept the crust crisp, the herbs had more flavor and the cheese started to melt when it was served but wasn’t a watery mess.




Next, I tried his zucchini pizza (Uncle Pietro’s Uncle Pizza), which saw the sliced summer squash baked onto the crust, then removed from the oven and finished with ricotta, raw zucchini and olive oil. The flavor was bright, redolent of springtime, and instantly took me back to my visit at Pizzarium, where I had this exact pie. Finally, I made the shrimp pizza. Like the Margherita, only the sauce was baked onto the dough, and was then topped with sauteed shrimp and a nice remoulade-type sauce – think shrimp cocktail via Italy.

I loved cooking out of this book for its inventive toppings, but most of all, I loved reliving my Roman holiday through my kitchen and sharing it with family and friends.

Classic Pizza with Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, and Basil
3 to 4 servings

1 12-oz. ball pizza dough
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
2 cups canned peeled tomatoes
Fine sea salt to taste
1 lb. buffalo mozzarella
3 cups loosely packed basil leaves

• Preheat the oven to 450 to 475 degrees.
• Stretch the dough and place it in a well-oiled pan. Place the tomatoes in a small bowl. Drizzle the tomatoes with a little oil, season with salt and toss to combine. Squeeze the tomatoes through your fingers to break them up and drop them onto the dough.
• Bake the pizza until golden brown and well-risen, about 25 minutes.
• Remove the pizza from the oven. Immediately tear the cheese into pieces by hand and scatter it over the pizza. Scatter on the basil leaves, then drizzle with some oil and season with salt.

Uncle Pietro Uncle’s Pizza
3 to 4 servings

1 12-oz. ball pizza dough
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
1 lb. zucchini
10 oz. sheep’s milk ricotta
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg to taste

• Preheat the oven to 450 to 475 degrees.
• Stretch out the dough and place it in a well-oiled pan. Slice the zucchini very thinly (a mandoline works well) and arrange about two-thirds of the zucchini slices in a single layer on the dough, reserving the rest.
• Bake the pizza until golden brown and well-risen, about 25 minutes.
• Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool for at least 5 minutes. Distribute the ricotta on top of the cooked zucchini, then place the raw zucchini slices on top of the cheese. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Shrimp Cocktail Pizza
3 to 4 servings

1 yellow onion, minced
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1 apple, peeled, cored and minced
2 cups tomato puree
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 whole cloves
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 12-oz. ball pizza dough
2 cups canned peeled tomatoes
10 large shrimp
1 head frisee (I used arugula.)

• Make the ketchup: In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in a small amount of oil over medium eat until softened. Add the apple, tomato puree, bell pepper, sugar, vinegar and cloves. Bring to a simmer and simmer until thickened, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the cloves, then puree the entire mixture in a blender and set aside to cool. (This is more ketchup than you will need for this recipe, but if you place the remaining ketchup in a clean jar and refrigerate it, it will last for up to 1 week.)
• Make the mayonnaise: Emulsify the eggs with the ¾ cup oil. An immersion blender is the best tool for the job.
• Make the cocktail sauce: Combine about 1 ½ cups of the mayonnaise with 3 tablespoons of the ketchup.
• When you are ready to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 450 to 475 degrees.
• Stretch the dough and place it in a well-oiled pan. Crush the canned peeled tomatoes and scatter them onto the dough.
• Bake the pizza until golden brown and well-risen, about 25 minutes.
• While the pizza is baking, in a saute pan over medium heat, cook the shrimp in a small amount of oil until just pink, about 5 minutes. Shell and devein the cooked shrimp, but leave them whole.
• Remove the pizza from the oven and tear the frisee leaves over it, letting them fall on top of the tomatoes. Top with the cocktail sauce and the warm shrimp.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli International Publications

What recipe takes you back to a favorite vacation? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Pizza.

By the Book: Faith Durand’s Blueberry Angel Food Trifle

Saturday, June 28th, 2014


When summer hits St. Louis, we stay cool by any means necessary – and that includes avoiding the oven. Who wants to add extra degrees to an already hot kitchen? Faith Durand, executive editor of The Kitchn and author of the new cookbook, Bakeless Sweets, couldn’t agree more. The recipes in this book disavow the oven in favor of the refrigerator, the freezer, and in a few cases, the assistance of the stove. And who knew there were so many no-bake desserts to choose from? Durand divides her book into seven chapters: stirred puddings and custards; rice, tapioca and whole-grain puddings; panna cotta and other gelled puddings; mousse and blended puddings; real fruit jellies; whipped cream desserts and fluffs; and icebox cakes, pies, trifles and cookies.

With Fourth of July right around the corner and berry season in full swing, I decided to prepare Durand’s Blueberry Angel Food Trifle. To keep things patriotic, I substituted half the blueberries for juicy red strawberries (which also happen to be my Kryptonite).




The homemade pudding was the best part of the trifle by far. Do not cheat and reach for the boxed stuff, as tempting as it may be. I promise the extra effort required for Durand’s Rich Vanilla Pudding is well worth it; I found myself wishing I had doubled the recipe to eat again later.




Pudding novices like me can handle this recipe; Durand outlines every step clearly and concisely. Have a good whisk ready, as you will use it during almost every step. My biggest fear was tempering the slurry, but I followed the directions exactly and was rewarded with a bubbling custard that smelled “like the best vanilla ice cream ever,” according to my kid sister.




After the adult-task of making the pudding is complete, kid sous chefs love to help layer the cake and sprinkle the fruit, as my sister did. After tasting the trifle, I wish the cake cubes were a little smaller (bite-sized pieces would have made for easier eating), but the larger pieces supported all the pudding and fruit well, even two days after creating it. This treat was sweet, refreshing, and most important, cold – a perfect summer dessert.




Blueberry Angel Food Trifle
8 servings

About 8 cups (12- to 16-oz.) cubed angel food cake,
1 batch Rich Vanilla Pudding, well chilled (Recipe follows.)
4 cups blueberries
2/3 cup cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

• Spread about one-third of the cake cubes in the bottom of a large trifle bowl (or any deep 3- to 4-quart bowl). Spread about one-third of the pudding over the cubes and top with one-quarter of the blueberries. Repeat twice, finishing with the third layer of pudding.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it holds soft peaks. Spread it over the top and garnish with the remaining blueberries. Refrigerate the trifle for at least 2 hours, or up to 24, before serving.

Rich Vanilla Pudding
8 Servings

¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
1½ cup cream
3 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

• Make a cornstarch and egg yolk slurry: Put the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl and whisk out any lumps. Slowly whisk in the cream, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the egg yolks. It is important that this mixture be as smooth as you can make it. (To be really sure, reach into the bowl and gently rub out any lumps with your fingers.).
• Warm the milk and open a vanilla bean: Warm the milk with the sugar over medium heat in a 3-quart saucepan. Meanwhile, if you are using the vanilla bean*, open and scrape it out into the pan. Whisk the mixture so the vanilla seeds are incorporated into the liquid. (It should looked speckled, like milk after an Oreo has been dunked in it repeatedly!) When the vanilla bean has been scraped out, drop the entire pod into the milk as well. Warm until bubbles form around the edge of the milk and the entire surface begins to vibrate. Remove the vanilla bean and discard it. Turn off the heat.
• Temper the slurry: Pour 1 cup of the hot milk into the bowl with the slurry. Whisk vigorously to combine. The mixture should come together smoothly, with no lumps. If you see any, add a little more liquid and whisk them out. Pour the combined mixture back into the pot slowly, counting to 10 as you do and whisking vigorously.
• Thicken the pudding: Turn the heat back on to medium. As the milk comes to a simmer, stir constantly but slowly with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan evenly so that the milk doesn’t scorch or form a thick skin on the bottom of the pan. In 2 to 5 minutes, the custard will come to a boil, with large bubbles that slowly pop up to the surface. Boil, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
• Flavor the pudding: Turn off the heat. (If you didn’t use a vanilla bean, stir in the vanilla extract now.)
• Chill the pudding: Immediately pour the hot custard into a shallow container. Place plastic wrap or buttered wax paper directly on the surface of the pudding (if you don’t like pudding skin). Put a lid on the dish and refrigerate it. This pudding is firm enough to be eaten warm after 30 minutes or so in the refrigerator.

*To scrape a vanilla bean, lay the bean flat on a cutting board and use a small, sharp pairing knife to make a slit down its entire length. Splay it open with your fingers over the pot of warming milk, and run the tip of a spoon (or the knife, carefully) down the length of the bean to thoroughly scrape out the paste of tiny seeds inside.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

What’s the best no-bake dessert you’ve ever made? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Bakeless Sweets.

And now, congratulations to Earen, whose comment on last week’s By the Book won a copy of Extra Virgin. Earen, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!

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