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Entries in pumpkin pie (5)


Balance with Pie

Every time I'm looking for a life metaphor, I turn to pie. Dessert pies, fruit pies, pizza pies, shepherd's pies...there's something about the filling and container — separate but harmoniously working together — that acts as a vehicle for me to understand where I'm going, where I've been and where I'm at.

And where I'm at feels a little cobbled together right now — kind of like this specific pumpkin pie I'm bringing to you today (in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving).

This pumpkin pie represents balance. Right now I feel like I'm performing some kind of balancing act. I'm sitting (metaphorically, yet again) on a fence. One foot is on one side of this fence, where exists my "old" or normal way of life. The other foot is dangling into new territory.

I'm scared of this new territory. I don't know what's down there. So, with this pie, I relied on something I knew that works. Something familiar: butter. I made a butter crust.

And then, for the filling, I threw caution and probiotic yogurt into the mix for the "new" me filling. Daring! And weird. And potentially gross and terrible. But, honestly, the result was delicious.

And so I sit here, eating my balance pie, thinking maybe this fence isn't such a bad place to be...for now.

Yes, I feel unstable and uncertain about my direction. But maybe I don't have to give up everything old (BUTTER!), but can take what works (BUTTER!) and bring it with me into whatever is waiting on the other side.

Now, if I could just get down....

Want some of your own balance pie? Here's how to make it. Feel free to improvise...that's what this is about.

For the Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar)

1 stick of butter

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp balsamic glace (optional)

For the Filling:

1 small roasted sugar pumpkin, yielding 2 cups of pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup plain kefir or drinkable yogurt 

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1/2 of the insides of a vanilla bean

2 tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)


For the crust:

In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. I like to cut the butter into pieces before I add it to the food processor. This allows it to blend more easily.

Pour this mixture into a large bowl and form a well in the center. Into this well, add the eggs, egg yolks, salt and balsamic glace.

A note on the balsamic glace: This is optional. I was looking for something to add a bit of sweetness, but also a touch of a bite. I also wanted something sticky. Glace is very thick - almost like molasses. In fact, molasses would be a good substitute if you don't have glace. You can make your own glace with balsamic vinegar. Just simmer 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar on your stove top until only 1/8 cup remains. Ta-da! Glace.

Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form it into a ball and wrap it up. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour before using.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

If using a sugar pumpkin, roast it in the oven. Heat your oven to 400°F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the guts and seeds. Hang on to the seeds to roast them later on if you like!

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the pumpkin halves, cut sides down on the sheet. Roast for about 35 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft and the skin starts to peel away.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool. Then peel away the stem and skin. Place the pumpkin meet in a large bowl and mash with a whisk.

Increase the heat of your oven to 450°F.

In a food processor or with a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin purée, spices, salt and mix thoroughly.

Add the kefir (or yogurt), rum, and vanilla and mix. If the filling seems too dense, you can add more yogurt 1/4 cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. It should look and feel like cake batter.


Roll out the refrigerated crust on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. If using mini pie tins, grease them with a little cooking spray. If you're using a large pie tin or spring form pan, line it with parchment paper.

Place the rolled out dough into your pie molds. Fill the molds to the top with pumpkin filling. If you have extra dough, feel free to cut them into shapes and place these shapes on the top of the filling.

Place the pie(s) in the oven and bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Sometimes this takes longer than 45 minutes. Don't panic.

Check on the pie every now and again. If the crust is getting too dark, place some foil around the edges to protect it from the heat. I usually have to do this, and it's not a problem.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Pumpkin pie is best when set, and in order for it to do that it needs to cool a bit.


Dutch Desserts Heal a Sprained Ankle

Let's talk about combinations. Some things just go together, for example:

Salt and pepper.

Chocolate and pretzels.

Maple syrup and bacon.

Milk and cereal.

Wine and cheese.

Coffee and donuts.

I could go on, but I'll add just two more: 

1. Trail runs and sprained ankles.

2. Mixed berries and the most unbelievable pie crust I have found to date.

I'd like to address these last two in particular.

To #1, I should perhaps add, "momentary lapse in sanity" and make it threesome. A few weeks ago, I decided to do a trail run at Muscoot Farms. This was not a good idea. But it was fall! It was a farm! There was a farmer's market with donuts (and, yes, coffee) awaiting at the finish line. I thought, hey, it's only five miles.

Five miles of the most treacherous terrain I've encountered on foot. It was one part steeple chase, 1 part train run and 1 part gauntlet. I fell three separate times. And then I stepped on a rock and twisted my ankle. I was (and am) very cranky about it.

To ease my mental and physical anguish, I bought pie from Dutch Desserts who were hawking their wares at the farmer's market following the run.

These pies looked amazing. They had mini and regular sizes, and the mini's were pretty hearty. They stood about three inches high (hooray for spring-form pans!), with a lattice crust top that enclosed different fruit, chocolate or pumpkin fillings.

I was immediately attracted by the mixed berry. It spoke to me. Its deep purple color put me into a trance. Which, considering I had just run up almost-vertical hills, was probably not too difficult. But still. A trance, I tell you. I purchased it and one of its raspberry peach siblings. 

Only the mixed berry survived the ride home to be photographed. Let me first discuss the crust. 

THICK. BUTTERY. Flaky...but not too. It didn't crumble when pressed with a fork (thank you, copious amounts of butter). And it wasn't dry. It was like a soft-baked cookie, nestling a dense, almost pudding-like terrine of fruit.

How dense? Pretty darn so. The fruit was packed in tight, resulting in a fruity compote with the consistency of Greek yogurt. I mean this as a good thing. As an added bonus, the fruit wasn't too sickly sweet. You could taste the actual berries. I would say of the two, the crust was the sweeter of the combination.

If you are no where near Muscoot Farms, you can purchase pies directly from Dutch Dessert's website here. And with all number of holidays approaching, I suggest you make haste and do it soon. Like now. Go one, get!

Just don't go racing around on any trails, you might sprain an ankle.


A Halloween Message from The Box

The Real Purpose of Pumpkins

History buffs will recall the Wars of the Roses, which occurred in the mid to late 1400’s.
Basically, these were a series of civil wars fought for control of the English throne.
Henry IVHenry VHenry VI

*(The above depict historically good ideas for jack-o-lantern faces)

  Certainly, the Wars of the Roses should not be confused the “War of the Roses” a rather dark 1989 comedy about a bitter divorce, starting Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Neither of these “wars” can hold a candle to the “Pumpkin Wars” that were waged in our home from many years.

For the past week, readers of this site have been subject to a variety of different pumpkin uses and concoctions. While interesting and entertaining (although I, personally, don't like the taste of pumpkin in anything, except pumpkin pie) pumpkins were really put on earth for a sole purpose…to be carved up in to Jack-O-Lanterns.  

When Elana was very young she, like most young children, was relatively easy to entertain. When Halloween came around, I carved the “traditional” pumpkin with triangular eyes and nose, and the typical half-moon pumpkin grin complete with a choice of either pointy or squared-off teeth.

A typical "Box" pumpkin creation.

 For many years in succession the “traditional pumpkin” was the standard by which all neighborhood pumpkins were judged, and was always well received by Elana.  This blissful state of pumpkin admiration continued until Elana entered her teen years and decided that the Box’s pumpkin was the equivalent of a pre-historic cave drawing.   Bhimbetka rock painting. Thus, Elana embarked on a serious of “artsy” pumpkin carvings primarily designed to demonstrate that my own carvings were, most likely, the creation of cro magnon man.   For more years than I care to remember, we were forced to endure any number of Elana’s fanciful renderings which she, somehow, figured out how to etch into a pumpkin.  

For example...

Needless to say, each successive Halloween mandated a comparison between the Box’s traditional work and Elana’s latest creation. That process became like comparing Mount Rushmore to the Guggenheim. Readers will not be surprised that, each year, Elana declared herself the winner of this contest. In fact, I am absolutely convinced that, on one occasion, she paid off little kids to comment on how great her pumpkin was while it sat next to mine on the front steps of our home. Not surprising, I am sure, for anyone that has competed against Elana including the hundreds of triathletes who have felt footsteps up their backs just milliseconds after an aggravated shout of “move it!”.  

NYC 2011

The Great Pumpkin War had a hiatus for a time while Elana lived in Southern California. As we all know, that is because, in Southern California, pumpkins are celebrated as a religious objects, and the seeds are ground up and smoked to ward off evil spirits whenever there is a mudslide, earthquake, or forest fire (which can be most days).   Readers must know, however, that there will be no armistice. The forces of good, traditional (triangular nose, eyes, etc.), pumpkin carving will triumph over artsy-fartsy dalliance again this year because a pumpkin is not an art canvas. A pumpkin is a pumpkin, is a pumpkin.  

Happy Halloween!

Elana's note: I never paid off those trick or treating kids. They recognized genius on their own. Even if it was on a pumpkin.



A Trio of Desserts at Dovetail

You know the saying, "Eat dessert first." The word "first" implies that you might need something (for example regular dinner) after because your dessert entree was not sufficient. Or not satisfying.

If this is the case, you have obviously been eating dessert first at the wrong establishments. Allow me to help you out with that.

I'm the type of eater that goes to a restaurant and immediately flips to the dessert menu. I want to see if I should plan my main meal around dessert.

Factors to consider include:

1. How hungry am I – if dessert looks really good, should I get an appetizer as well?

2. Who am I eating with? Are my co-diners likely to order dessert? Will I be able to steal some of theirs? Will they want to steal some of mine? (Back off, moochers!)

3. How much of the menu do I want to try — is it a new place, or somewhere I have been before?

4. How many of the desserts do I want to sample? Often more than one look appealing and if I can't count on anyone else to help me out with them, I must adjust my "real" dinner accordingly.

As you can see, there are many factors in play. Sometimes the desserts look so good you must give up on real dinner altogether and just go all in. For dessert.

Dovetail is just the restaurant for this kind of thing.

The above dessert is the Cinnamon Toast Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert translated as "cooked cream". It usually has a jello/pudding-like consistency with a creaminess that can't be beat.

In this case, the cream was accented by concord grapes, the teeniest cinnamon toast triangles, a smear of rich berry preserves and some fun foam. I really liked the foam. I'm not sure it tasted like anything, but it was cool. The rest of the dessert was fantastic - the cream was perfectly balanced by the intense flavor from the grapes, while the tiny toasts added a bit of crunch and spice.

Next up was the Frozen Pumpkin Pie. This was a deconstructed pie, as the various components of the "pie" were arranged linearly along a swash of cranberry reduction. It was a sight to behold, but not for long once my fork got a grip on its chocolatey accents (both from cracker pieces and moist, dark chunks of cake). The pumpkin scoop seemed like a combination of pie filling and ice cream as it had a heartier consistency than regular ice cream. Solid, pumpkiny and perfectly spiced. Cranberries and little marshmallow puffs accented the dish to give a blast of tang and sweetness.

The above was actually a little dessert "appetizer". I love it when I get dessert appetizers. Unexpected, pretty little treats. They make me feel special. Every girl wants to feel special, you know?

This little guy accomplished that with a dollop of celery sorbet atop cute cubes of yellow vanilla cake. I was a little obsessed with the celery sorbet. The celery flavor was so refreshing. Savory, but sweet at the same time, perhaps helped in that regard by the cake. Tiny, perfect, special.

There was also a Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflé that I could not photograph, as it left the table by way of fork-to-mouth so rapidly, a camera snap couldn't keep up.

A personal-sized ramekin of bittersweet chocolate was pierced gently with a knife by our server. Into this crevice was poured a fine caramel sauce of perfectly balanced sweetness. One small globe of chai ice cream was positioned on the perimeter, ripe for the dipping.

As you can see, there was no need for real dinner. This dessert dinner was more than enough. We left satisfied, happy, and very, very full. Of dessert.

Overall Dessert Eating Experience: The Dark Knight


Pumpkin Puree

I am trying to make use of every part of the pumpkin. And this next part - the pumpkin meat - is my favorite part.

Last week we roasted a wee little sugar pumpkin, remember?

That yielded some tasty-toasted pumpkin wedges. So let's start there.

What You Need:

Tasty-toasted roasted pumpkin wedges

water (about a cup)

a blender or food processor

What To Do:

Peel back the skin of the pumpkin and discard.

Chop the roasted pumpkin into chunks and pop them in the blender or food processor.

Add 1/4 cup of water to get things started and give it a whirl.

You may need a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as it processes.

If things are looking a touch chunky, add some more water. As I said, you may need to add as much as a cup, but add it a little at a time, so you don't end up with watery puree. No one wants a water-logged puree.

That's it!

Scoop it out of your mixing device, and store it in a giant Ziploc baggie. You can even store it in the freezer if you would like to save some for later.

The things you can do with pumpkin puree are endless and include:

Filling for ravioli

Pumpkin butter

Crostini topping

Face mask (kidding)

Dinner table weaponry (poised on a spoon with good aim....)


Ice Cream and semi freddo

Pie filling

So if you'll just bear with me over the next few weeks or so, I will try to go through all these. Or at least some of them. Feel free to vote for your favorite, and I will try and push those toward the front of the list!