Apple Butter Hand Pies

September 18, 2011

<insert cliche sentiment about loving autumn here> Because Lord knows I do!

I have been in a cooking funk because I want to make Fall foods like apple pie and pumpkin soup, but it has been TOO WARM. Until this week, that is. It was a big week. My parents visited (hooray!) and we had a great time. Hey parents!

We had a picnic with friends and I made these delicious hand pies my friend Katherine introduced me to a few years ago. Sweet, tangy apple butter hides inside a cookie-like, crunchy, cream cheese-based crust. They were a huge hit.

Yesterday, we went to Oktoberfest. My friends Amy, Kristina, and Reed and I ran the Das Hustlehoff 5K–a race celebrating David Hasselhoff and Germans–where we won the costume competition. Here we are receiving our commemorative beer stein trophies.

I hope all of you are enjoying your September. And if you’re looking for a delicious fall treat, these apple butter hand pies are perfect. I might even call them wunderbar…

APPLE BUTTER HAND PIES (from Martha Stewart Living, October 1996)


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups apple butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer or an electric mixer for 5 minutes until fluffy. Add egg and beat until just combined.
  2. Beat cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt in a separate bowl,  then add to the cream-cheese mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined. Transfer dough onto a square of Saran wrap, and press dough into a 1-inch thick patty using our hands. Refrigerate at least one hour if using immediately, or place in freezer and keep up to one month if using later.
  3. Divide dough in half. Roll one half out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut circles out of the dough using a 4.5 inch biscuit cutter. Place circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Continue rolling, cutting, and chilling the dough until both halves of dough are used up.
  4. Remove dough circles from fridge and allow them to defrost until they just able to bend a bit (about 2-3 minutes). Place about 2 tablespoons apple butter onto one half of each circle of dough. Spread apple butter into a semicircle shape until it is about 1/2 inch from the edge. Be careful not to flatten out the apple butter completely. Brush a small bit of ice cold water around the edge of the dough, and fold it in half to make a semicircle. Press edges of hand pie together with your fingers of the back of a fork. Repeat process until all dough circles are sealed. remaining dough. Place hand pies back on parchment-lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove chilled hand pies from the fridge, brush them with a bit of cold water. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over pies. Place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool just a bit before serving.

Peach Custard Pie

August 12, 2011

We just came back from visiting Will’s family in South Carolina! It was so relaxing. I read 4 books (including The Hunger Games SO GOOD), stuffed myself with fried chicken, and, let’s be honest, watched a lot of reality television. And received this trivial pursuit question during a game with my sister-in-law, Brianna and her boyfriend. Q: What animal is produced when a bottle-nosed dolphin is crossed with a false killer whale. A: A wholphin. FOR REAL.

One spectacularly hot day, our friends Vickie and Mike invited us to their lakehouse.

We did this:

And this:

And a whole lot of this:

Will’s mom and sister, Lily, and I baked this pie, too. There are a good amount of steps, but the sweet peaches, creamy custard, and buttery crust are well worth the effort. You know what else is worth the effort? Driving down a country road for boiled peanuts and an ice cold Coke.

Happy August, everyone!

PEACH CUSTARD PIE (from Martha Stewart Living, June 2011)

Serves 8

Ingredients (Pate Brisee)

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar


2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces

1/3 to 2/3 cup ice water

Recipe (Pate Brisee)

Dump flour, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in  bowl, mix until combined. Cut butter into flour mixture using either a pastry cutter or 2 knives, until mixture looks like coarse meal. Slowly pour 1/3 cup ice water over flour/butter mixture, and stir in with a fork until dough holds together when pressed together with two fingers. Dough should be damp, but not wet or sticky. If dough is too dry, add more ice water by the tablespoon until dough is proper consistency.

Divide dough in half and pat into 2 disks. Wrap plastic wrap around in disk. Place in refrigerator until firm, (at least one hour and up to one day).

Ingredients (Pie)

4 medium ripe but firm peaches (about 1 1/3 pounds)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

Recipe (Pie)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle flour over surface and roll out pate brisee. Place dough onto a 9-inch pie plate, and trim crust so it has about an inch of dough hanging over the edge. Fold the trim under the edges and press it down using your fingers or the tines of a fork. Use a fork to prick holes in the bottom of the pie. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  2. Place a piece of parchment over the crust. Fill crust with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake for 20 minutes, take out of oven, and remove parchment and pie weights/beans/rice. Remove from oven; remove beans and parchment. Return crust to the oven and bake until the crust turns a golden brown color (about 11 more minutes).
  3. Make your filling: Boil a pot of water. Make an ice water bath. Slice an X into the bottom of every peach. Boil peaches for 1 minute and then dunk them in the ice-water bath. When cool enough to touch, peel and pit your peaches. Cut peaches into wedges but, if you’d like, leave one half peach in tact for the center of the pie.
  4. Place eggs, sugar, butter, flour, and salt and whisk until combined. Pour this mixture into pie crust. Place peach half in the center of the pie, cut side down, and surround it with wedges.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes. (Tent crust with a foil ring after 15 minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

My state no longer allows the selling of raw pistachios. They are now considered “unpasturized” (PLAYA WHAAAT?). So instead of the bright, green boarder of ground pistachios I envisioned on this tart, I created one that is mostly brown. Feh.

But it tasted good. It was a bit labor intensive to slice and arrange all those strawberries, and Lord knows I didn’t want to turn my oven on when it was 80 degrees outside, but this dessert was greatly appreciated by my friends. It is a light-tasting, springtime dessert. The brightness of the strawberries, the crunch of the toasted nuts, and the crisp puff pastry are just right for a springtime potluck. Winner.

STRAWBERRY PISTACHIO TART (from Everyday Food, May 2011)

Serves 12

I wouldn’t wait more than a few hours to eat this. My instincts tell me that it wouldn’t take long for the puff pastry to get soggy.


All purpose flour, for rolling

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios

2 tablespoons sugar

5 cups thinly sliced strawberries (about 1.5 lbs)

1/4 cup apricot jam, warmed


Preheat oven to 350. Cover work surface lightly with flour. Roll puff pastry into 12 by 16 inch. Line baking sheet with parchment. Move puff pastry to baking sheet and trim edges to make them neat*. Place in freezer until dough is firm (about 10 mins).

Prick pastry all over with a fork. Place another sheet of parchment paper and then another baking sheet on top of the pastry to stop if from puffing too much in the oven. Bake until its lightly golden in color (20-25 mins).

While the pastry bakes, put 1/4 cup pistachios and sugar in a food processor. Grind until they are a fine, sand-like consistency. Sprinkle this all other pastry.

Return pastry to oven and bake until the pastry and pistachios turn a rich gold color (15 to 17 mins). Remove pastry from oven.

Roughly chop the rest of the pistachios. Arrange strawberries on the pastry in an overlapping pattern. Brush berries and the boarder of the pastry with jam, then sprinkle chopped pistachios on the  boarder. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(To store tart, allow it to cool fully and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for up to one day).

I used turned the scraps into mini apricot chocolate pastries. I rolled them out, put a dab of leftover apricot jam and some dark chocolate in the center, folded them in half and pressed the edges together, brushed them with a beaten egg, sprinkled them with sugar, and baked them at 350 until they were browned. Deeelicious.

Peanut Butter Cup Tart

January 31, 2011

First thing’s first. I am borderline on whether I should blog on this Peanut Butter Cup Tart or not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s deliciousness is definitely not the problem. The problem is that the copyright on the book this recipe is from prohibits me from reproducing this recipe electronically. So I have to wonder if there is a point to blogging about something I can’t share with you all (at least over the internet. I’m happy to share a slice in person). It seems an awful lot like shameless bragging to me. However, I would like to use my blog to publicize the wonderful cookbook and chef this recipe came from. So I’m a little stuck, here, and I’d really appreciate feedback. Do you want me to blog about things I have made if I can’t share the recipe? Please comment on this post.

I don’t understand people who don’t have a sweet tooth. I have a MASSIVE sweet tooth. In particular, I have a chocolate tooth in the winter.

Spring, Summer, and Fall are perfect for crisps and pies. If the bounty of fresh fruit we get at my farmer’s market doesn’t make its way unadultered into my mouth, it practically stumbles into a baking dish and lathers itself in butter, oatmeal, and flour all on its own.

But winter… winter is time for chocolate. Winter is cold, and winter makes me want to spend my days indoors, baking. Winter is time not just for chocolate desserts, but for CHOCOLATE desserts. This Peanut Butter Cup Tart is a CHOCOLATE dessert.

The crust is a soft chocolate cookie. The middle is a mixture of peanut butter and white chocolate. The top is a rich, chocolate ganache. And the whole thing is topped off with a flurry of salt. Now that’s what I call dessert.

And this picture is what I call putting the foil too close to the top of the pie, so it makes an imprint on my otherwise perfect ganache. Gah, life is so hard.

There is only one possible accompaniment to a dessert like this.

Not only do I chill wine glasses, I chill MILK glasses. That is how very serious I am about chocolate desserts.


The book is Food & Wine’s Best of the Best: the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year chosen by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine (2004-2005). This recipe from from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow.

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

December 3, 2010

I know what you must be thinking. “Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for giving me a pumpkin pie recipe AFTER Thanksgiving.” I know, I know. But at my house we sometimes have pumpkin pie at Christmas, so consider it a Christmas dessert idea.

This is the best pumpkin pie I’ve made. It’s like normal pumpkin pie, except that you mix golden caramel in with the pumpkin and spices instead of sugar. The taste is sweet-but not too sweet-and slightly burnt. It is the perfect compliment to smooth and creamy pumpkin.

In other news, I had a great Thanksgiving with Will’s family. And, I had Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast three days in a row. Perhaps it was time to return to the daily grind and, you know, cereal.

During Thanksgiving week, we also made pumpkin cookies and buttermilk biscuit and spinach casserole. This is Will’s youngest sister, Lily, and his family’s 9 year old neighbor, Derek, making buttermilk biscuits. They turned out great. Lily and Derek both have a knack for this.

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

What I’m Reading:

CARAMEL PUMPKIN PIE (adapted from Caramel Pumpkin Pie from Gourmet, November 2006)

This pie is supposed to be baked in a 2 inch deep and 10 inch wide fluted metal quiche pan with removable bottom. I have no interest in purchasing a one-trick wonder like that for my kitchen, so I used a standard pie pan. However, I did not change any measurements. I simply cut off the excess pie dough and only filled the crust with as much filling as fit. It was my intenion to save the extra pie dough and make mini pies in a muffin tin, but the pie took longer than I thought it would and I ran out of time. If anyone calculates the measurements for a standard 9 inch pie pan, I’d love you to share.

You will need raw rice or pie weights to make this.


For pastry 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling; a scant 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream


Make dough:

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in processor) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.)

Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all of dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then fit into quiche pan and trim excess dough flush with rim of pan. (I still followed these directions with my standard pie pan, I just had excess dough to trim). Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake pie shell:

Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with pie weights. Put quiche pan on a baking sheet and bake pie shell until side is set and edge is pale golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until bottom is golden, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.

Make filling while shell cools:
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 3- to 3 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, washing down side of pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and gently swirling pan (do not stir), until mixture is a deep golden caramel, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to moderate and carefully add 1 cup cream (mixture will bubble vigorously), stirring until caramel is dissolved. Stir in remaining cup cream and bring just to a simmer.

Whisk together pumpkin purée, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in hot cream mixture, then add eggs, whisking until combined well. Pour filling (Or if you use a standard pie pan, as much filling that fits) into cooled crust and bake until puffed 1 1/2 inches from edge and center is just set, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. (Pie will continue to set as it cools.) Remove side of pan before serving.

We got these yellow cherry tomatoes in our CSA last week.

Pretty cute, huh? They were so sweet, and deserved nothing less than a spectacular presentation. I figured there must be some way to take my very favorite savory tart dough, which I use (probably overuse, actually) for my weekly quiches. I found lots of recipes for simple cherry tomato tarts on pate brisee, but I thought any cherry tomato tart would be greatly improved by a great big gob (please click on the word gob) of goat cheese.

Which it was. NOMS. Making this tart also afforded me the opportunity to express my anal retentive artistic tendencies by arranging the tomatoes in a visually appealing but not obviously intentional pattern.

Well, this was just great. I mean, really great. My only regret is that I did not parbake (to pop it in the oven for just a couple minutes without any filling, then take it out of the oven, place the fillings in, and continue with baking) the crust. It was just a tad bit soggy and I think parkbaking for just 3 or 5 minutes would have crisped things up nicely.

I guess regret is a pretty mild term, in this case. How can you regret this, really?

More on cherry tomatoes: Sweet Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes

ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO AND GOAT CHEESE TART (adapted from Food & Wine’s Cherry Tomato Tart with Basil)

Serves 4-6 as a side or appetizer

Added note: I’ve made this many times now, and parkbaking for just 3-5 minutes before cooking crisps things up nicely. Also, I wanted to note that the goat cheese also prevents the crust from getting soggy. It forms a layer between the tomatoes and the crust that the juice released from baking can’t penetrate.

OLIVE OIL DOUGH  (adapted from Swiss Chard Pie from Everyday Food)

1.25 cups flour (I like to use half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour)

1/4 cup cold water

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt


6 oz goat cheese

2 pints cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coarse ground salt & pepper

1/4 cup chopped basil


First, take the goat cheese out of the refrigerator and leave it on the counter for an hour or two to get soft and pliable. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, make the olive oil dough. Stir all olive oil dough ingredients with a fork to combine, then turn out onto a work surface and knead one minute. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature, 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, toss the cherry tomatoes with EVOO and coarse ground salt and pepper.

Julienne the basil and set aside, for now.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or 9-inch pie dish with butter. Roll out the dough and place into tart pan. Crumble goat cheese evenly over dough surface. Arrange tomatoes in tart. Bake in oven 25-40 minutes until crust is brown and tomatoes are blistered. After baking, sprinkle with basil. Enjoy.

Spinach Quiche

June 9, 2010

Oh, dear. I don’t know what you people are going to do with me. I promise, this is the last in my run of things baked in tarts. The strawberries, the spinach, and now MORE spinach. And all in a row too. Well, I promise, this is the last of my run (for now, anyway). It’s just that the marvelous thought of dinner in a pie crust never really occurred to me until Sunday and now I just can’t let it go. Especially since I forgot how phenomenal quiches are, hot, cold, room temperature. A true marvel of nature I’d say.

Well, like Will said, “Mmm. Pie for dinner. This is a good trend.” It kind of reminds me of a little healthy trick my Grandma Rose played on me when I was a kid. I would ask for more ice cream, but instead of ice cream, she would offer me a mashed up banana in an ice cream cone. And naively, I enjoyed this mashed up banana with the same gusto I’d use to enjoy actual ice cream. You can consume massive amounts of healthy things, (remember the 12 cups of spinach from last time?) when placed in a pie crust.

Hey, you know what else is awesome about pie for dinner? Using the leftover dough scraps for dessert! Mini hand pies. Oh, I know, the crust isn’t technically a dessert pie crust given the lack of sugar and butter. But with a quick roll out, a stuffing of jam and/or chocolate chips and/or shredded coconut, and a dusting of raw sugar, it makes for a GREAT end of a meal. Yep, pie for dinner and dessert. Twice in 2 hours. That’s right. Because around here, that’s just how we roll.

SPINACH QUICHE (by Deb from, previously adapted from Bon Appetit). The only thing I changed was using my Olive Oil Dough recipe instead of Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee

Serves 6-8


1/2 recipe Olive Oil Dough

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup half and half (or milk)
3 eggs
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup grated cheddar (gruyere works well, too)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
4 to 6 green onions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup finely diced red or white onion or shallots work as well)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Preheat oven to 425°. Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in half and half and eggs. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is set, about 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.