Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day Countdown - Prep Day 2 - Fill Pies

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I wish you all wonderful memories with your families and delicious phoods in your tummies.

The desserts on my table this year will be apple pie, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie.

Because I don't like to serve anything I haven't tested out myself, I made miniature versions of the pies with some set aside filling.

Apple Pie - Filling adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Crust recipe can be found here

Apple Filling

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks
3⁄4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


1. Stir together the apples, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice and vanilla.

2. Let stand, stirring once or twice, for 20 minutes.

3. Spoon the apples and all the juices from the bowl into the pie shell, mounding the fruit slightly.

4. Fill the pre-baked (15 minutes) pie shell and top the apples with slabs of butter.

5. Cover the pie with rolled out pie crust. Cut slits on the top crust for steam to exit.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until the crust gets golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie - filling adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree
1 cup packed (7 oz) dark brown sugar
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
4 large eggs


1. Combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves. Transfer to a medium saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constatnly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cream and milk, return to a simmer briefly, then remove from the heat.

2. Whisk the eggs and slowly add the hot pumpkin mixutre.

3. Pour the filling into the pre-baked (15 minutes) crust. Bake at 400 degrees until the filling is puffed and lightly cracked around the edges and the center jiggles slightly when shaken, about 25 minutes.

4. Let the pie cool on a wire rack until the filling has set, about 2 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and chopped into a 1/2-inch dice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpoe flour
3/4 cup full- or lowfat buttermilk


1. Pour 1 1/2 inches of water into a 3-quart stock part with a strainer basket suspended over it and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Place the steamed sweet potatoes in a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Mash them into a smooth puree with a fork or potato masher. Add the butter, lemon juice if using, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula after each addition.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a whisk, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until they’re a creamy lemon-yellow color, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir until the eggs are thoroughly incorporated and the filling is a consistent bright orange color. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. Add the buttermilk and again stir until smooth and even.

3. With a cleaned whisk (or electric hand mixer), whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a clean, dry bowl. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the sweet potato-buttermilk mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the prebaked crust and bake at 400 degrees on the middle rack of the oven until the center is firm and set, 35 to 40 minutes.

4. Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely on a rack. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey Day Countdown - Prep Day 1 - Pie Crusts

I've been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family since I was about 10 years old. At that time, I cooked everything except for the the turkey. The big bird seeemed intimidating so I just had my parents buy it pre-cooked. Back then, I would get up early in the morning the day of and wouldn't stop cooking and cleaning until half an hour before dinner was to be served. Oh, how lovely it was to have so much energy.

I cooked my first turkey my first year in college. Everyone was saying how easy it was, so I decided to give it a go. It was a success and I have been cooking the complete meal ever since. I have tried many techniques and I believe that I found a keeper. My next endeavor, a while from now, will be a deep fried turkey, saved for when I have enough guts and gizzards.

I have a friend who cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her family as well and she gave me a tip that never crossed my mind - pre-plan and prep work. Oh yeah! Why didn't I think of that? She explained what she was going to do three days ahead, two days ahead, and one day ahead - again, why didn't I think of that? I tried it one year, beginning a few days before turkey day and it worked out so beautifully. There was no stress or shall I say very little stress and I actually was able to take my time and enjoy the process. I also found myself having spare time to take a breather here and there. On the day of, all I had to do was assemble, minus cooking the bird. What a tip to be THANKFUL for. This year will be no different. I am pre-prepping everything, beginning with today - the pie crusts. Tomorrow I will fill the crusts and bake the pies. Wednesday will be left for chopping and dicing and brining. Thursday will be left for everything else.

I believe I will be making three pies this year - apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato. I try to incorporate new items every year, while keeping some of the traditional items. This year's winner is sweet potato. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pumpkin Goat Cheese Cheesecake

As promised, I have tried another daring recipe where the star is none other than pumpkin! I wanted to make this since I saw it . I knew that my sissy would love it and the goat cheese aspect especially intrigued me.
The one time I tried goat cheese was about seven years ago. It did not suit my palate at the time so I figured it is about time I give it another chance. I was pleasantly surprised this time around. It definitely gave the ordinary pumpkin cheesecake another dimension.
The crust wasn't so bad either. I ran out of graham crackers, but I saw that I had sugar cones in my excuse for a pantry and I figured it would be a great substititue. I was right. It made the crust hold together stronger than usual and gave it an unexpected delicious flavor and texture. I loved how the recipients of my tasters tried to guess the ingredient (secret's out).
I apologize for the lack of finish product didn't last long enough for its own shoot. What I have though, at the end of the post, is a photo directly from the website, just to give an idea.

Pumpkin Goat Cheese Cheesecake adapted from

3-5 sugar cones
cup(s) dark brown sugar
1 1/4
teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
1 1/4
teaspoon(s) ground ginger
teaspoon(s) fresh ground nutmeg
teaspoon(s) salt
cup(s) butter, melted
tablespoon(s) butter, melted, combine with above
ounce(s) goat cheese
1 1/2
cup(s) granulated sugar
package(s) (16 ounces) cream cheese
1 1/4
cup(s) pumpkin puree, solid pack
cup(s) sour cream
large eggs
1 1/2
teaspoon(s) vanilla extract


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Process the sugar cones, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together in a food processor. Stir in the butter and pat the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  2. Beat the goat cheese and sugar together using an electric mixer set on low speed. Add the cream cheese and beat for one more minute. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat on low speed for 20 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth. Transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan and bake in the middle of the oven until set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours until cake is completely set. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.