It’s Pie Heaven!

Pecan Pie

Would Thanksgiving be complete without the traditional pies–pumpkin, apple and, of course,   everyone’s favorite rich and flaky Southern confection, pecan pie?

Pie dough:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ t salt

2 t sugar

6 T cold butter cut into 1T pieces

2 T Crisco

3 – 5 T ice water

Pace flour, salt and sugar in food processor bowl.  Pulse to mix.  Place butter and Crisco around bowl and pulse until mixture resembles coarse corn meal.  Sprinkle 3 T ice water around bowl.  Pulse briefly.  If mixture has not begun to come together add 1 more T ice water. Mix again until a ball starts to form.  Stop processor. Take out mixture and pat into a round disk on top of a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap around disk and refrigerate for at least ½ hour.

Roll out dough and fit into a 9-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) or a pie tin.  If tart pan, make edges thick enough so they will not shrink or collapse when baked.  If pie tin, lap edge over ¾ inch, fold under and make a decorative edge.  Place tin in freezer while you make the filling.


2 ½ cups pecan halves

4 large eggs

½ C sugar

1 C dark corn syrup

½ C light corn syrup

1 t pure vanilla extract

whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coarsely chop 1 ¼ cups pecans; set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs and sugar.  Whisk to combine.  Add corn syrups and vanilla.  Whisk until well combined. Add chopped pecans, and stir.  Pour into tart shell.

Arrange remaining 1 ¼ cups pecan halves decoratively on top of tart and bake until crust is golden, filling is firm, and a cake tester inserted in center of tart comes out clean—about 50 minutes.  Cool completely before slicing.  Serve with whipped cream. (Photo by sweetpapika.)

Turkey and Pie, Food & Wine on Dating Symbol blog

Victor Basks in Pie Heaven

I don’t know about you, but my Mom never placed a pie on the window sill to cool. That probably wouldn’t have been a good thing to do in Brooklyn. However, she was – and is – an avid pie baker. And even if the intoxicating aromas of her pies didn’t waft through the neighborhood, they certainly did permeate the house, as well as our hearts, especially this time of year. They still do.

Stunning Pies, Food & Wine Section, Dating Symbol blog

Very little says “comfort food” the way a home-baked pie does. For me it evokes memories of holiday celebrations, special occasions or even cozy nights of copious cups of old fashioned, perked coffee and conversations around the kitchen table. And as the saying goes, “easy as pie” is fairly accurate. A pie, to some, feels somewhat intimidating to make. It’s not really. Like all good crafting, it takes some practice. Trial and error with the crust, mostly. But once you have a feel for it, you’ll be making all your favorites with almost no effort at all.

Peach pie a la mode, Food & Wine Section Dating Symbol blog

Favorites. Yes, everyone has their pie heaven. For me, it’s most assuredly the pumpkin pie. Something about the sugar and spice and everything custard and nice. I simply insist on this standard for Thanksgiving, at the very least. Whether it’s traditional or a spin off featuring praline pecans. Serve it to me solo, with a dollop of whipped heavy cream or a la mode. I’m always game for at least two slices.

Another one of my joys is the all American apple pie. I recounted a few blogs back my annual apple-picking trek to Upstate New York. Well, the majority of my harvest is always delivered to my Mom’s house. Then she works her magic, creating her famous pies, some two crusted, some topped with cinnamon laced crumbs. Everyone waits in mouthwatering anticipation for them, as they are gifted to family and friends with a loving note. And love is the operative word here, because when it comes to baking a pie, affection is always the key ingredient.

Blueberry Pie, Food & Wine Section Dating Symbol blog

So, are you a seasoned pie baking professional or a beginner? For the aficionados, please keep it up. You’re bringing such bliss and delight to all your guests – and even to the world – with your home- baked creations. There’s something so homestead about it all. And our society needs a little more of that spread around. To the pie baking rookie, I recommend starting with the basics. Apple, blueberry, pumpkin. Guess you can use a pre-made crust dough. They’re easy enough to find. But take it from me; they don’t taste the same as a kitchen original. And they usually use lard. Instead, get your hands on a good recipe (I recommend Phyllis Kirigan for guidance) and take a leap of faith. Whether you’re using shortening or butter, be sure that you keep things as cool as possible. Ice water for incorporating the crust is a must. And remember, a little moisture at a time. You can always add more water if a bit too crumbly and dry. Adding more flour to a sticky dough and then over kneading it can produce a tough crust. That doesn’t work for anybody.

OK, so get your pie recipe handy. And start to bake.

Pumpkin PIe, Food & WIne Section, Dating symbol blog


Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin,
Food Stylist
Blog syndicated at http:/

Pumpkin ‘n Kin

Tangy Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup -

Roasting the pumpkin for the soup encourages the natural sugars to caramelize and enriches its flavor creating a more complex soup.


1 medium pumpkin, about 4 pounds
Olive oil
1 T butter
2 slices bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup orange juice
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup crème fraiche, thinned with milk just until pourable
1 cup julienned roasted pumpkin
Roasted pumpkin seeds*


  1. To roast the pumpkin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half through stem end and then cut each half into several pieces.
  3. Remove strings. Reserve seeds for garnish.. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast in oven until tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes.
  5. Let cool and peel away skin.
  6. Julienne a cupful for garnish.
  7. Dice the remainder.
  8. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and onions and cook stirring occasionally until onions are soft and bacon is just turning golden.
  9. Add the pumpkin and stock and simmer until pumpkin falls apart, about 30 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes.
  10. In batches, puree soup in a food processor until smooth.
  11. Strain through a mesh sieve; add cream, orange juice and nutmeg.
  12. Reheat. Ladle into bowls and garnish with julienned pumpkin and
  13. toasted pumpkin seeds*.
  14. Drizzle on crème fraiche.

6 servings

*How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

1. Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you’ve removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried). Simmer seeds in salted water for 10 minutes. Pat dry thoroughly.

2. Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat.

3. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about
25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.

4. Let cool and store in an air-tight container. There is no need to
crack open to remove inner seed.

Photographer Bill Brady
Food Stylist
Blog syndicated at http:/

More on the subject from Victor:

Pumpkin ‘n Kin

You run into them everywhere this time of year. Bushels and crates of brightly colored pumpkins. Walk the city streets and corner fruit & vegetable stands display them like orange floodlights you can view from blocks away. Suburbanites adorn their homes – inside and out – with pumpkins of every size. More rural areas feature farmers’ markets with crates and crates of them. It’s pumpkin mania, I like to call it. But it doesn’t stop there. Along with pumpkins comes a mélange of their Winter squash kin. Some green and yellow speckled, some sporting the same bright orange color. Even our supermarkets offer a bounty of squash, pumpkins and even gourds to welcome the season. Great on the eye, but what about the stomach? You know me. I’m always thinking of my next meal

Well, the gourds aren’t edible. So they’re off the table. However, pumpkins and Winter squash make mighty good eats in my opinion. Let’s begin with pumpkin cuisine. I should mention that the oversized variety, although great for Jack-O-Lanterns, is not really recommended for cooking. Way too stringy. You’ll be looking for smaller pumpkins. Or even better, sugar pumpkins, which are small and deeply colored. That being said, there’s no end to the versatility this Fall fruit brings to your kitchen. Use the fleshy part, free from strings and seeds, and you’re ready to rock ‘n roll. Boiled or steamed, then mashed with lots of sweet butter and heavy cream. Baked or roasted and served with melting butter and a touch of cinnamon. Pureed into a chicken stock, with a kiss of nutmeg and offered in a pumpkin shell with a swirl of crème fraiche. Stuffed into ravioli and prepared with a simple brown butter-sage sauce. Sliced and sautéed in olive oil with garlic and finished off with a pinch of oregano and a splash of red wine vinegar (thanks for that one, Nonna.)

Muffins - Pumpkin Article

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Muffins

Sound yummy? There’s much more. A dark, moist pumpkin bread or muffin makes the perfect morning repast, especially with a smear of cream cheese. Of course, pumpkin pie is a consummate favorite in my home this time of year. So many recipes. I like mine in the traditional style, highly spiced with a flaky crust and placed in front of me with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. But pumpkin cheese cake and pumpkin flan are winners in my book as well

OK. So what about the Winter squash? Well, there are lots of varieties from which to choose. Butternut, acorn, turban, Hubbard, petit pan, delicata, buttercup and spaghetti squash are all favorites of mine. They’re fairly easy to find, and like their pumpkin cousin, are extremely multitalented. I like to mix several types, cubed and roasted with just a bit of olive oil. Colorful and so satisfying as a side to roasts. I also include them in stews, soups and casseroles. They add a nutty flavor and sweetness that always tastes like more when I serve them to friends and family. Or keep it simple. Take an acorn squash, cut it in half and bake until tender. Offer it with melted butter, even a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon. Comes in its own bowl and is fun to scoop out. Looks pretty on the plate, too.

Baked squash - Pumpkin Article

Baked Squash

Here’s something unique. Spaghetti squash is so called because when it’s cooked (microwaving actually works fine), you can scrape the inside flesh with a fork and produce spaghetti-like strands that are surprisingly al dente. A great substitute for pasta if you’re looking to cut down on carbs. Plate it up with a bit of marinara or al fredo sauce, and believe me, even my mother wouldn’t complain about this pasta-less wonder. Really delicious.

One more thing before I go. Pumpkin and Winter squash seeds, or pepitas as the Mexicans call them, are delicious snacks and quite easy to prepare. Just be sure that your seeds are free from any flesh or strings. Toss them with a very light coating of vegetable oil and salt, spread on a baking dish and roast at 350 F for 3-5 minutes or until they are slightly browned and fragrant. You may also add garlic powder, cayenne pepper or any other favorite seasoning before roasting. Everyone will love them.

That’s my take on pumpkins and their squash kin. Be sure to check out Phyllis’ recipe and create some of your own. Take advantage. They only roll around this time of year.

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Muffins

What is autumn without pumpkin?  I may be rushing the season but as soon as there is a chill in the air, I start thinking about all those winter vegetables just waiting to grace my table.  Autumn has always been my favorite season with its lush colors, brisk air, promise of my favorite holidays to come-Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention my birthday.  It’s the end of air-conditioning, the end of heat waves and time to bring on the pumpkin!

Here, to welcome in autumn, is a mouth-watering breakfast treat.  Actually, they’re pretty good just about any time.

Need 12-cup muffin tin, paper muffin cups


½ cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups flour, sifted

1 t baking soda

2 t pumpkin pie spice

¼ t salt

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar

½ cup buttermilk

4 T butter, melted and cooled

1 egg

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

½ chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Plump dried cranberries by covering with hot water for 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Mix together the flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a large bowl.  Combine white and brown sugar, buttermilk, butter, egg and pumpkin in another large bowl.  Whisk until incorporated.  Mix in the dry ingredients slowly until well incorporated, but don’t overmix.  Fold in pecans and cranberries.

Place medium-sized paper muffin cups into muffin pan.  Spoon batter into cups about ½ inch from rims.  Bake 20-25 minutes until tops feel firm but spring back to the touch.  Remove cups from pan and cool on a wire rack.  Makes 12 muffins.

Photographer Bill Brady
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell

Peerless Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving may be over this year, but the heady fragrances of the pies, turkey and sage dressing remain in one’s memory.  A day of hard core cooking and the baking of three pies are rewarded by the words, “This is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted.”  I must have done something special.  For one thing I use cream (not ultrapasteurized) and add a few flourishes.  I don’t use dark brown  sugar as the rusultant pie looks darker than I want, but the addition of a tablespoon of molasses gives it the most appetizing hue. Also, a small amount of a delectable Italian flavoring, fiori di sicilia, adds a citrusy counterpoint.  If you have a convection oven, use it.  The finished pie should not have a crack in it.  And even though you might say, “Picky, picky, picky,” don’t poke a hole in it with a toothpick to test for doneness and you will have an unblemished  velvety finish.  The prebaked pie crust will prevent a soggy crust.

Pie crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 t salt

1 T sugar

8 T unsweetened butter cut into small cubes

3 T vegetable shortening

4 T ice water

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in food processor to mix.  Add butter and shortening.  Mix briefly.  You should still see small bits of butter in mixture. Sprinkle around metal disk 3 T of the water. Pulse briefly.  Check to see if mixture holds together between fingers.  Add a little more if needed.  Pulse but don’t let ball form.  Empty mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Press out with heel of hand (frissage) and form into a flat disk.  wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour.  Roll out to a 1- inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie pan.  Crimp edges.  Place a buttered piece of aluminum foil in pan and weigh down with pie weights.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Take off foil and put back in oven for about 5 minutes until bottom of crust is dry but edges are not browned.  Cool.


¾ cup white granulated sugar

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

¼ t freshly ground nutmeg

¼ t ground cloves

1/8 t ground mace

1/2 t salt

3 large eggs

15 oz. pureed pumpkin

1 T molasses

½ t vanilla

1/8  t fiori di sicilia*

8 oz heavy cream

Mix sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, mace and salt in a small bowl.  Beat eggs with a fork in another bowl.  Place pumpkin in the mixing bowl of stand mixer.  Add spice mixture. Mix briefly.  Add eggs,  pumpkin, molasses, vanilla and  fiori di sicilia. Mix on low speed and gradually add cream.

Pour into prebaked crust and bake in lower third of oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then at 350 for about 45 minutes or until center of pie just barely jiggles.  To prevent edge from becoming too dark, cover with a strip of aluminum foil or a silicone edge ring.  Cool on a rack.  Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream and bask in the compliments you will get.

  • (optional) Fiori di sicilia is an Italian flavoring that adds a lovely citrusy taste and aroma.  It can be obtained from King Arthur Flour and other cake specialty shops.

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