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:/

An Apple a Day . . . in Any Way

The Unsinkable Apple Pie

Just to come clean here, this recipe was originally posted last spring when Bill and I were just beginning to collaborate.  We got such a great response we decided to repost the  recipe because it’s so uncommonly good.  For those of you who missed this the first time around, enjoy.   For those who have already read the recipe and feel slighted I promise to have a new recipe next week.  The recipe is followed by the musings of Victor who joined our team this past August.  I guarantee his commentary will send you on your way to the nearest orchard or fruit stand to get your hands on  your own mouth-watering apples.

The classic American pie often displays an empty space between the top crust and the apple filling because the apples sink considerably in the baking. Of course, there is the crumb topping, but my favorite part of a pie is a rich flaky crust. I have experimented and tweaked the classic recipe and, I believe, improved on it not only by eliminating that empty space by partially cooking down the apples to begin with and straining off excess juice, but also by using an instant tapioca thickener, 3 varieties of apples, candied ginger and Calvados. The tapioca perfectly thickens the filling leaving it neither runny nor dense. The variety of apples and the candied ginger add a complexity of taste and the Calvados gives it just the right kick.


Dough for bottom crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 T superfine sugar
1 t salt
4 T butter
4 T Crisco
1 egg yolk
ice water

Repeat ingredients for top crust.

3 Golden Delicious apples
3 Macoun apples
3 Granny Smith apples
¾ cup sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 pieces candied ginger, cut into a small dice
1 t cinnamon
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
2 T instant tapioca
¼ cup Calvados
2 T butter
egg wash of 1 beaten egg yolk
1 T turbinado (raw) sugar


For bottom crust, place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor with metal blade in place. Pulse just until mixed. Add butter and Crisco in 1-tablespoon pieces and egg yolk. Process until only pea size pieces of fat remain. Distribute 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture and process just until mixture holds together when pinched between fingers. Add a little more water if necessary. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour.
Repeat process for top crust. Better results are obtained if each crust is made separately.

While pie dough is chilling, make filling. Peel and core apples. Cut each quarter into 4 slices. As slices are placed in a bowl, add sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest from time to time and toss. Add candied ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon into a saucepan and cook stirring from time to time on moderate heat until apples reduce but are not cooked through. Mix in 2 tablespoons instant tapioca. Remove from heat and stir in Calvados. Let cool. Strain and save juice. Straining the juice is an important step to assure the firm filling you see in the photo.

Roll out bottom pie crust to a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim overhang. Spoon apple filling onto bottom crust, mounding in the center. Scatter 2 tablespoons butter cut into small bits onto filling. Roll out top crust to a 12-inch round, place over filling, trim overhang and crimp edges. Make 3 or 4 cuts in top crust to let steam out. Lightly brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle on turbinado sugar. Place pie on the middle shelf of a preheated baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes then turn down to 350 and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and thick juices are bubbling up. Cool on rack. Simmer the juice you have saved until thickened to a syrupy consistence. Serve pie with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream over which you have ladled 2 T of the apple syrup.
Generously serves six.

Assorted apples00025SHI Symbol blog,

An Apple a Day . . . in Any Way

by Victor Ribaudo

I love to go apple picking. I know what you’re thinking. What does this New York City boy know about plucking fruit from a tree? Well, you’d be surprised. Just about this time of year, we join a few of our closest friends and trek Upstate New York to a perfectly beautiful apple orchard and winery, appropriately clad in plaid and jeans.
After renting our apple picking gear, we head out to the orchard and, well, go a-pickin’.

After we’ve gathered our bushels of fruit, we shop a bit at the rustic country store to purchase our apple butter, apple pies and apple cakes – munching on apple cider donuts the whole time. It’s a perfectly enchanting day, and I look forward to it every year. I especially love the way the car smells of fragrant fruit after our journey home.

Apple Butter_00008 SHI Symbol blog,

Of course, you don’t have to pluck your own to enjoy the abundance of apples in local markets this autumn. Roadside produce stands and even supermarkets display truck loads of the finest. But what to choose?
When I was a kid, my mom always purchased Red or Golden Delicious. These are great. However, the number of apple varieties available now is simply mind boggling. I can’t describe all of them here, but I can tell you something about my favorites.

Let’s begin with the Cortland. I found this to be one of the crispest varieties. It also doesn’t brown quickly, so it works well in salads, such as a Waldorf. Granny Smiths are also wonderfully tart and crisp in salads. I must say, though, that the spicy perfume of the McIntosh is what really says autumn to me. I adore its tartness in apple pies, but you’ll enjoy it for out-of-hand munching, too. The Gala is also excellent for fresh eating – very firm, juicy and slightly tart. Really nice with cheese, crackers and wine. If you’re taking to the kitchen this fall, Empire and Rome apples are extremely high quality cooking and baking fruits, just the right sweetness and texture. The Jonagold is also perfect for pies and cakes, since its firm and juicy flesh stands up well to the heat of your oven.

Those are just some of my favorites. Now on to the apple goodies. Those baked or cooked creations I just can’t get enough of this time of year. The apple pie, of course, takes center stage. Just the right combination of apples, sugar and spices all enrobed in a buttery, flaky crust. Who can resist it? Served a la mode, or with melted cheddar cheese – any way you like, I’m game. I’m also in love with apple strudel. A traditional Viennese dessert, this oblong pastry enfolds flaky crust around an aromatic filling of apples and spices, studded with plump raisins. Just adore it!

FiresideOB00183 SHI Symbol Blog,

Need more? How about an apple crumble. Don’t you just love the way the texture of the crunchy crumbs contrasts with the steaming apple filling? Or apple fritters – battered apple slices fried to a golden goodness. Has to be great, right? Or apple cake, moist and nutty.
Whipped cream on the side a must here. Even a simple baked apple, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon. Luscious.
UptownPartyCranberrytart243 SHI Symbol blog,

You know, apples also pair well with savory foods. Mom often treats us to pork chops sautéed with apples and sauerkraut. It really is outstanding. I like to fry apples and onions in butter as a side dish. Especially nice with pork roast. I also use chopped apples in my holiday stuffings. They add the perfect sweet-tart note that complements sage and sausage so well. I’ve even been known to include thinly sliced apple strings in my stir fries. Really!

Sliced Sausage5064 SHI Symbol Blog,

OK, I’m an apple fanatic. But one thing’s for sure. Whether you’re plucking from a tree or picking at a stand, you need to get out there and bring home nature’s quintessential fall fruit. As for myself, I’m off to the orchard.

Victor Ribaudo

Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika
Food stylist Brian Preston Campbell
Blog syndicated at the

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