The Pie Notes

A celebration of life with a touch of sweetness

Tag: cooking

Tales of the Toaster Oven

November 2nd already? 4 weeks of classes left?

I’m a happy college student.

And an even happier baker.

This is without a doubt my favorite time of year to be in the kitchen, for obvious reasons. Seasonal fruits, warm spices, and hot chocolate in heavy mugs add a little something special to the season.

Normally, I’d be baking at least two pies a week to satisfy my extremely demanding autumn sweet tooth.

Baking requires an oven, yes?

Here’s my problem. My oven doesn’t work.

How’s that for irony? Anna Claire without an oven. Just the thought makes me chuckle.

I discovered this soon after I moved to Auburn in August. I was having separation anxiety from baking, since it had been almost four days (gasp) without picking up a whisk, spoon, mixing bowl…anything.

I turned my pantry upside down searching for ingredients. “Cocoa powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?” I thought.

Then reality hit me square in the face. I have to actually purchase ingredients in order to bake.

But I was lazy back then. In the corner of my eye a box of brownie mix appeared. Although it was sinful and completely against everything in which I believe, I mindlessly picked it up. I was baking brownies that day. Period.

As I proceeded to crack eggs, measure water (It couldn’t even be milk, Betty Crocker?), and spread the batter into a pan, I noticed the “preheated” oven wasn’t so hot. I didn’t think much of it, since that thing was probably thrice as old as me. Patience. So I slid it on the rack with very high hopes and a very empty stomach. Thirty minutes was just enough time for me to finish up some Chemistry homework.

The time finally came.

I joyfully grabbed my mitts and opened the oven door, only to find a wet, unbaked pan of batter.

How was this torture happening to me.

What did I ever do to deserve this.

I’m not what you’d call a handy-woman, but I did know that a light was supposed to be on inside the chamber—a detail I failed to recognize thirty minutes earlier.

“Good bakers improvise,” I thought.

I reached above the refrigerator for the toaster oven, which had undoubtedly seen the days of World War II, or possibly as far back as the stock market crash. Which would explain why the heat setting on it doesn’t work. It’s basically off, or set at 450 degrees. But it was worth a shot.

I very optimistically gave it a shot.

Seven minutes later, in the midst of educating myself on chemical equations, I smelled something. And it wasn’t chocolatey brownies.

The smoke poured out of that toaster oven like a chimney in January.

Seven minutes is all it took for that dreadful appliance to turn my brownies into a smoking, burned rock. I believe I shed a tear. And then quickly left to buy cookies at the market.

Serves me right. That’s what I get for baking brownies from a box.

Since then, the toaster has been a bit more benign towards me. It’s never done my sister, Sarah, wrong though. She must have the magic touch with archaic appliances. Congratulations.

So now you know why I made a no-bake pie yesterday. Creativity is key.

And it’s also the reason I made this today:

Single slice with apple

A new show on Food Network, Heartland Table, inspired this recipe. Maple Butter Toast with Brie and Apples.

Are those angels I hear?

This is quite possibly the most delicious non-pie snack I’ve ever tasted.

Thankfully, I had a little company during my maple-butter experiment.

Meet Joey, my brother, Robert’s, basset hound.

one with joey

Joey likes Aunta Claire’s cooking.

sit

Sit, Joey.

sit more

Sit more.

good joey

That’s a good girl!

that was good

I’d venture to say that Joey approves of maple butter toast.

i love you aunta claire

I love you, Aunta Claire.

Gee, I love you, too, Joey.

If Miss Joey likes it, I’m sure you will, too.

Here’s how you make it:

Maple Butter Toast with Brie and Apples

Ingredients

½ cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons butter

Pinch of salt

8 thin slices bread (I used a baguette. Sourdough works, too. No pre-sliced bread!)

Spray oil for the plate

1 small disk of Brie cheese (or Camembert)

1 Granny Smith apple

Directions

Over medium heat, warm up a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron). When it’s pretty hot, pour in ¼ cup of maple syrup, 1 ½ tablespoons butter, and a pinch of salt. Let the butter melt, and add 4 slices of bread to the pan. Flip immediately, coating both sides with the maple syrup-butter mixture. Flip the slices frequently with a butter knife, making sure to absorb all of the mixture. When the bread begins to look toasty and lacquered (it doesn’t have to be hard, just shiny and toasted) remove from pan and place on an oiled plate to cool. This is when the bread will become nice and firm, just how we like it. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Cut a wedge of cheese and smear into the toast. Top with small dices of apple, if you’d like. I love the bit of tartness from the apple to cut the sweetness. I tried it with a Honeycrisp apple, but the flavor and texture gets a little lost in the cheese. Go with Granny Smith.

Serve immediately—great for entertaining!

Word Document:Maple Butter Toast with Brie and Apples

May I Say…

I’m glad to be here.

And I’m so very glad you’re reading this.

This crisp autumn day in Auburn has inspired me, bringing peace, focus, and contentment in my life. So what do we do when those three things are dwelling within us?

We make pie!

The no-bake version to be exact. “It just has to be pumpkin,” I told myself. But then my little chocolate conscience convinced me otherwise. I honestly felt like I was cheating on chocolate. That simply cannot happen.

So, I compromised with that naughty conscience.

Chocolate pumpkin pie.

But then, as I eagerly opened the door to go grocery shopping, I was caught by that wonderful breeze flowing through the house, softly picking up the ends of my hair (which would usually anger me–wind and my c-c-c-curly hair do not mix). I felt as if I was letting down the season as a whole. Chocolate pumpkin pie was simply not “fall-y” enough.

Chocolate pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust.

Voilà. You’re welcome, November.

My soul was finally at peace again.

Here’s the recipe. Now would be a good time to mention I name all my pies. Some funny, some heartfelt, some downright ridiculous.

No-Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Picture3

This pie shall be named The Pumpkins and Puns Pie.

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 ¾ cups gingersnap crumbs

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Whipped topping, for serving

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Seal several gingersnaps inside a large Ziploc bag. Grab a rolling pin. Think about anything negative in your life. It could be paying taxes, telemarketers, drivers who fail to use blinkers, etc. For me, it’s analytic trigonometry at 8 A.M. every morning. Think of your chosen frustration, and whack those crunchy cookies like there’s no tomorrow. And when you think you’re done, don’t stop. Fine crumbs are the goal.

Take several deep sighs of relief. Besides, taxes aren’t until next spring. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crumbs and dry ingredients. Now add that melted butter and stir. If the mixture isn’t holding together when you squeeze it, add a tiny bit of water at a time until you reach the right consistency.

Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch pie plate, pressing evenly to cover the bottom and sides. Don’t worry about perfection. Stick it in the freezer for around 10 minutes to let it relax. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until your house smells like gingersnap goodness. Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. This is incredibly easy.

Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor (I used a Ninja blender). Blend until smooth. Done. (Unless you prefer some more sugar after tasting it.) Just don’t forget about that whipped cream you’ll be topping it with.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust, and pop it in the fridge for 3 hours. Overnight would be good, too.

Before serving, top with the whipped cream and maybe a few gingersnap crumbles. Enjoy, and happy fall!

Filling adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Gingersnap crust adapted from Martha Stewart

Word Document:

No Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

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