pie

Buttery Pecan Pie + Announcements

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William and I have been away from the blog for several months now- but for good reason!

We have moved back to Alabama and into a new home. Going from a tiny, city apartment to a house with a yard is a wonderful lesson in time management! As anyone with a home of their own can attest to, there is always always always something that needs to be cleaned or fixed or mowed or paid for… this is what I get for wanting the ‘charm’ of an older home! While we absolutely love having our own home, we are perhaps missing our California maintenance man, Mario, a little too much! ūüôā

We are also just finishing a kitchen renovation (yay!). We spend so much time in our kitchen, we knew it would need a little makeover! For now, my vanity has been assuaged with the transition from dark oak cabinetry and yellow speckled counters to light greys and whites and a gorgeous, gigantic– errr, I mean functional– farmhouse sink!¬† Doesn’t the room look ten times larger??

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And last, but certainly not least, we recently welcomed our first child, a baby girl. Ava Marie is the most beautiful baby, the reason for many sleepless nights, and she is already brightening our days with her precious smile. She is the light of our lives, and we are so excited to one day share our joy of cooking with her!

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With so many changes it has been difficult to keep up with the blog. However, we are  cooking up a storm and have several new recipes to post.

Since moving back, for the first time in several years William and I had the pleasure of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family here in Alabama. We knew we had to bake something for the event, and because we have discovered a couple of prolific pecan trees in our backyard, we decided to gather, shell, toast them for a nice pecan pie.

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I found a recipe from one of my favorite cooking bloggers, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. This pie is amazing, but not the easiest dessert to put together. However, it was so much fun and, despite being time consuming, so delicious that we will definitely be making it again–perhaps for the upcoming winter holidays!

My biggest pet peeve about pecan pies is how cloyingly sweet they can be. It’s too much and often overwhelms the delicate, buttery flavor of the pecans themselves. There are several things about this recipe that I think make it better than the standard, toothache-inducing pecan pie.

First, the homemade crust. I always use salted butter and actually add a bit of extra salt in my homemade pie crusts. Perhaps this stems from my obsession with the play off of salty and sweet flavors. Perhaps it comes from my surefire belief that in the battle of salty vs sweet, salty always wins. Who knows! Regardless, the homemade crust provides the perfect salty and buttery complement to the sweetness of the filling, while also highlighting the buttery nuttiness of freshly toasted pecans!

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Second, the filling itself has two components: the typical gooey pecan pie filling as well as a layer of semisweet chocolate ganache. The filling is made with a British cane sugar syrup instead of super processed Caro syrup, and it develops a wonderful, burnt caramel flavor. The bitterness of the chocolate provides an additional foil, allowing relief from the sugar!

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Chocolate Pecan Pie
makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick salted butter
1/4 cup cold water

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for the filling
2 cups pecans
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup [can be found on Amazon, if not at Whole Foods]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon bourbon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs

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First, make the crust. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks. Use a pastry blender or food processor to combine the flour mixture with the butter until a mealy consistency is achieved. Add the water [about 60mL] and work the dough to form a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

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After the dough is done refrigerating, roll it out into a 13″ circle. Place it in a 9″ pie pan. Trim the edges and shape to your liking, or use the extra dough to decorate it! [I’m still getting the hang of making pretty, homemade pie crusts, but it’s a creative experience, so don’t expect Martha Stewart results the first time and just have fun with it!] Freeze the raw pie crust for 20 minutes.

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While the crust is freezing, toast your pecans. Spread them out on a pan. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF and bake them for 12 minutes, stirring often. When the pecans are done being toasted, place them in a large bowl to cool off and increase the oven temperature to 400¬įF in preparation to par-bake your pie crust!

Take the crust out of the freezer and cover it with buttered tin foil (butter side down! ūüėČ ). Place rice or pie weights on top of the tin foil to keep the crust from shrinking and losing its shape. Bake at 400¬įF for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven.

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Freeze the partially baked crust for 15 minutes. While the par-baked crust is freezing again, prep the chocolate ganache. In a small pot, over medium heat, combine the chocolate and heavy whipping cream until a smooth texture is achieved. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the crust and freeze for another 20 minutes.

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Now it is time to prepare the filling. Melt together the butter, dark brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt in a small pot (you’re welcome to re-use the one from the ganache). Let this mixture simmer for several minutes until it thins out and darkens in color. Next, add in the bourbon, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the toasted pecans and stir it all together! Let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring in the eggs. [You need the eggs to hold the filling together, but you don’t want them to curdle by stirring them into a mixture that’s too hot.] Once your filling is completed, remove the crust from the freezer and pour it over the chocolate layer of the pie.

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Bake the pie at 350¬įF for 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie should still look gooey, but it will set during cooling time.

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Pecan pie can be served at any temperature really, but this one is best served warmed or at room temperature so the chocolate is easy to eat. We were also able to refrigerate it and it was still delicious a week later! It needs no accompaniments, so you can skip the ice cream or whipped cream, if you like!

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Enjoy!

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Chocolate Mousse and Sea Salt Caramel Pie

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Post-fast, this was the perfect dish. It is the exact opposite of everything we have been eating for the past few months. This pie has a rich, chocolate mousse with the most luxurious texture. The caramel satisfies every craving with a lightly-salted sweetness. The crust is perfectly flaky and buttery. Overall, the entire dessert is the epitome of decadence, and it will delight your taste buds!

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But this pieРwith the mousse and the caramel and the perfect crustРit will not come without effort. The effort and time that I put into the process of preparing this dessert gave me a great opportunity to reflect on the fast and what it was like.

As a spiritual exercise, I must admit that the fast did nothing to make me want to read the Bible more or pray all the time. It did teach me a great lesson in lack. I learned what it’s like to¬†lack¬†choices. I learned what it means to not be able eat whatever you want every night. I had to worry very much about food costs, I had to worry about food content, and I had to worry about food consumption.

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As for cost, I could not overspend, even though I needed more organic and natural products. There was also a cost element involved in the time it took to plan each meal, go to the store, and prepare it. This was truly a lesson in how difficult it can be for some folks to find and afford healthy food options.

I was appalled at the grocery store price pyramid. Foods with high sugar content, high fat content, and fewer natural ingredients are usually pretty expensive, but they are often on sale (so they appear cheaper). On top of this, good, fresh produce (though often inexpensive) never goes on sale, and spoils faster (often leading to increased overall food costs). If you use coupons or sales to guide your buying habits, you will be eating solely canned, packaged foods.

It was extremely disappointing, but also a great chance to see how much I had to give up in order to be able to afford to eat organic and sugar-free: the time it takes to visit the market more often and actually prepare every single meal, combined with the added cost per meal of fresh ingredients. This lack of affordable and healthy options made it difficult for us to eat as much as we felt we needed, and I can hardly imagine how impossible it would be for people with a stricter budget.

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Perhaps one of the most upsetting things about going on the Daniel Fast was our crash course in food content. I remember one afternoon in particular. I came home from a long day at work and an extra trip to the grocery store, hell-bent on making this delicious and hearty soup for dinner. I was careful to make sure I bought everything we needed, including vegetable broth. On a whim, I decided to read the ingredient list on the broth box.¬†Ingredients: salt, modified palm oil,¬†monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast extract, sugar….. my heart sunk. In what universe does vegetable broth require¬†any of these ingredients?!¬†

I went through a range of emotions over the following week or so, but I settled on anger. I felt anger towards these companies, I felt lied to. I also felt that oh-so-familiar pang of lack. Maybe I was getting salt and oil and whatever else out of that vegetable broth, but that broth was lacking a key component: vegetables!

The major issue we ran into nine times out of ten was sugar. Companies today put sugar in everything, even when their product isn’t meant to be sweet. This was immensely frustrating for many reasons, but it also felt nutritionally lacking, and potentially harmful. Anyone with strict dietary restrictions that include something as ubiquitous as sugar has probably felt this frustration many times before, but this was my first experience truly understanding what it must be like to try and maintain a natural diet in today’s world.

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Because a fast (by its very definition) is a decrease in overall food intake, we also had to worry about food consumption. This was another great eye-opener for me. I am a foodie, and I am more than happy to admit that. I love eating, I could eat all day. I often eat more than I need to eat, and I don’t feel too bad about it as long as the food is tasty. Throughout the entire process of the Daniel Fast, our stomachs actually shrank.

We became accustomed to eating less food, less soda, and less calories. Post-fast, we have found that portion sizes at restaurants are way too large, and many recipes make enough food to feed a party of 12. We have had to adjust to this, and work on ordering/making less food so as to create less waste. It was a shocking realization, how little we need to thrive. While I am happy to again be eating leavened breads, cheese and eggs, I am finding it necessary to adjust my expectations. It is important to understand how little we really need, and to understand how much we typically waste in terms of food.

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Having said all of that, and interspersed it with pictures of a decadent dessert, I will admit that I still love good food! I love to indulge, and I love to experience my food. Sometimes I still eat too much, and I often still eat food that is not great for me.

Yet, I now understand food from a different perspective. I know what it feels like to lack food options. I know how biased our industrial food culture is, pushing people towards packaged, processed foods using coupons and cheap prices. I know how little food we really need, and how much we often over consume.

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This pie was made with a ton of effort, and a lot of love. It was made for a multitude of people too! It was shared and enjoyed– in moderation. It is decadent, but it is also an art.

It is art creating the perfect flaky crust out of flour and frozen butter, making sure to add in juuuuust the right amount of ice water to develop those thin layers. It is art sculpting an old-school mousse with no mixer, straining arm muscles and working as a team until the perfect peaks are visible.

Overall, I do think that the fast was an incredible and enlightening experience that allowed me to see food from a different perspective, but it also has allowed me to enjoy food in a different way, and I hope y’all enjoy this pie! It was made for sharing!

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Chocolate Mousse and Sea Salt Caramel Pie

serves as many as you like!

Ingredients

for the crust
2 sticks salted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6-8 tablespoons ice water
parchment paper, 9″ pie pan, pie weights (or dried beans/rice)

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for the caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

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for the mousse
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
3 eggs, separated
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon kahlua

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To start, the crust must be made. It is the foundation of any good pie, and a homemade crust makes a world of difference. The goal is to get the butter cold enough that it is spread into the flour in specks, and cooks into flaky layers. You need a good food processor for this.

First, chop the butter into cubes and freeze it for an hour. This may seem like a lot of down time, but it really does help create the texture you want in a good crust. I recommend making this pie on a day off or weekend, when you would otherwise be lounging around anyway!

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After the butter has chilled, remove it from the freezer. In a food processor, combine the flours, salt, and sugar, and mix them together. At this point you might need to work in batches, especially if you have a smaller model food processor like I do!

Add half of the butter to the flour mixture and pulse. You want to make sure that it gets pulverized and blended with the flour. I needed to wait a few minutes in between pulses in order to let the butter warm up a bit. This can be frustrating, but it will work, I promise!

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Add in the rest of the butter along with 1/4 cup of ice water, and continue to blend, until you have a thick, powdery substance. William calls this “butter flour” and he is exactly right! It should¬†not¬†be a paste really, it will be drier than you think!

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Once you have blended everything, add in more ice water, one tablespoon at a time. You are looking to create¬†the perfect¬†dough. It should appear crumbly at first (so do NOT add in too much water). If you’re really lucky, it will be speckled with golden butter flakes!! You can work with it in a small bowl at this point.

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After you have added in the correct amount of ice water, dump the crumbly “dough” onto a counter, protected by parchment paper. You want to use a¬†frisage¬†technique here. It’s a French method of pulling together pastry dough. This is a¬†very¬†delicate way of bringing the dough into a single mass, using only the heal of your hand.

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As you push down and continue to roll the dough together, it will slowly appear less crumbly.

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You will hopefully begin to see those butter flakes, and you can start to use the parchment paper to actually push the dough into a ball shape.

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I really only had to work with this pastry dough for a few minutes, and it is very important that the dough not be overworked. The less you work with it using your hands, the less likely the butter flakes are to melt off and disappear!

After the dough has been pulled together, place it back in the small bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.

Once the dough has chilled a bit, remove it from the refrigerator and place it back on the parchment paper counter. Using a floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough out into a circle. I find it most convenient to first make sure the dough is balled into a perfect sphere (this makes rolling it into a shape that vaguely resembles a circle much easier!). Place the dough over the edges of a buttered pie pan and gently fold it over. Be sure to press the dough out into the pan so that it forms to the shape of the pan itself.

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I then took scissors and trimmed the edges of the dough, to ensure that it would be somewhat presentable! This is by no means necessary and it will not hurt your pie if you leave it be!

Next, freeze the pie for 30 minutes. I know that the constant cooling is time consuming and boring, but I promise it will make for the best crust because it keeps the butter chilled!

After the pie is once again cold, cover it in parchment paper, weighed down by pie weights or dried rice.

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Bake in the oven at 350¬įF for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, taking off the pie weights and parchment paper. Now, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork. This whole process seems overly-complicated, but it helps the pie keep its shape and cook all the way through. (If you don’t trust me about the necessity of following these instructions, you can view the consequences for yourself here!)

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Bake the crust in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The rim should become a darker, golden brown and those layers should be visible. The center will look uncooked for the longest amount of time, and you want to leave the pie in as long as possible to get that cooked (without burning the edges).

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It probably will not become all the way cooked, but I did not want the edges to get too brown, so I opted to take mine out earlier rather than later. After this entire process is finished, place the crust in the fridge to cool down before starting on the caramel!

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The second “piece of the pie” is the caramel. This part seems really easy, but caramel is difficult to make. To be honest, I underestimated caramel and the end result here was not what I intended. I was looking for a clearer, darker caramel. Alas, I created an opaque, and saucy mess– but it is a delicious mess and it soaks into the crispy layers of the crust in the most perfect way!

This process isn’t too pretty, so I don’t have great pictures.

First, combine the sugar and water in a pot and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until all of the sugar dissolves, and a brownish color develops. (I had issues with massive bubbling-over, so especially if you own a gas stove I would recommend taking it slow and doing this entire process over low heat.)

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After a brown color has developed, take the pot off of the heat and fully stir in the cream. Let this cook for 1-2 minutes over low heat. Add in the butter and salt, and cook over medium-high heat to form bubbles. Continue stirring, and cook the mixture for a few more minutes or until it develops a deeper, brown color. Set it aside to cool for a minute or so before pouring onto the crust.

Once the caramel has cooled down a bit, pour it over the chilled crust and place it back in the refrigerator for about five hours to solidify. I know this seems like a long wait, but you can use some of this time to make the chocolate mousse by hand!

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The last step is to make the mousse!

In a pan over low heat, melt the chocolate into the butter. I recommend using a rubber spatula and stirring the pot often to prevent any burning. Every recipe says you must use a double boiler for this, but I have never had a problem putting the chocolate over direct heat as long as I watch it closely.

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After the chocolate and butter have melted, take the pot off of the heat and let it cool down.

In the meantime, separate the yolks and whites of 3 eggs into two bowls. Because we do not own an electric mixer of any kind, we make all our mousses by hand. If you are in the same boat, I would highly recommend finding people to help you whisk and freezing the whisking bowls for about half an hour before you use them! A frozen whisking bowl will help develop peaks faster so you can create air bubbles with less effort!

[side note: if you are using an electric mixer please watch carefully for peaks. this process will be easy peasy for you, and you could accidentally make butter!]

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Beat the egg yolks until you notice thick ribbons forming that stay together for a second or two. This should be after about 2-4 minutes of whisking. Combine the yolks with the chocolate, stirring constantly to avoid cooking the yolks. Add in the kahlua, and mix well.

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In a separate, frozen bowl, beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. This will take a while, but here is what they should look like when you’re done:

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In a third, frozen bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks. Again, this is a process and any helpers should be welcomed into the kitchen at this point!

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Now, fold together the chocolate, egg whites, and cream to create a luscious mousse!

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Be sure to fold everything together carefully, not mix, so as to preserve the fluffy texture.

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This mousse will get lighter in color as you stir, but it will still have a rich, dark chocolate flavor that offsets the sweetness of the caramel!

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Now, gently spread the mousse over the caramel and pie crust using a rubber spatula.

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Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 3 hours to 3 days. By the third day this pie will be divine. If you can wait that long, the caramel flavors will soak into the crust and solidify to create the most amazing combination! Note that the caramel will be thin and drip out almost like a sauce, especially if you consume it earlier!

After the pie has chilled sufficiently, slice it and sprinkle it with sea salt!

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Enjoy with friends and family and be thankful for the many blessings (and wonderful food) we have!

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Tomato Pie

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Tomato pie, or tomato tart, can be served as an entr√©e or as an appetizer. This is a great recipe that has Southern, Italian, and French influences. The concept of tomato pie is a favorite in the Deep South, but it’s main flavors (basil and garlic) are traditional Italian combinations. This particular recipe also uses a very basic, homemade French pastry dough for the crust, p√Ęte bris√©e.

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This is a great summer dish, it is fairly light and fresh tasting but the dough and cheese helps to make it more filling if you want it to be a full meal. We grow our own basil, and it helps to make the dish much cheaper, but even with the cost of purchasing basil it is surprisingly inexpensive for the amount of good food you’re getting out of it, and you will use a ton of the basil so there won’t be much left over from those giant packages they make you buy at the store (which always ends up going to waste just sitting in the refrigerator)!

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If you don’t want to put in the extra effort, you can also use a frozen dough. (I like Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells, and they work so so well for little individually portioned appetizers!)* If you’re make the appetizers version, cut the filling ingredients of this recipe in half, and you’ll be good to go!

This dish doesn’t freeze very well, but it can stay refrigerated for about a week and if you’re doling out entr√©e portions, it will feed about 6 people.

*Note: If you would like to make individual, appetizer portions or if you simply aren’t interested in making your own dough, I suggest using Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells. See the bottom of this post for details and pictures!

Tomato Pie

For the p√Ęte bris√©e:
12 tbs salted butter
2 tbs olive oil
6 tbs water
2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 slightly rounded cups of flour

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For the filling:
2lbs grape tomatoes
3 heaping tbs chopped, fresh basil
4 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of mozzarella or other Italian cheese mix
splash of olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

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Preheat the oven to 405¬įF (yes, 405¬į, I know that sounds weirdly specific but it will cook the dough perfectly so that it doesn’t brown too much but still gets that melt-in-your-mouth quality).¬† In a 9×13 cake pan place the butter (chopped by the tbs), olive oil, water, sugar, and salt. After the oven has preheated, place the pan on a middle rack and cook for about 15 minutes (until the butter is totally melted and a little brown on the edges).

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While the butter is melting in the oven, chop the tomatoes and the basil and mix them up in a large bowl. Mince the garlic and mix that in as well. Make sure that you keep watch over the butter in the oven, because it takes people all different kinds of time to chop things and you don’t want to brown the butter too much!

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Carefully remove the butter from the oven and add in the two cups of flour. The butter will be very hot and sputter a bit, so be careful not to burn yourself! Using a spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the flour with the butter mixture. It might take some time for the flour to soak in the butter, but be patient with it!

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With your hands, flatten out the dough into the pan. I know it doesn’t look like enough to cover this pan, but it spreads really well! Use the pads of your fingers to press the dough into the side. You want the pan to be covered completely, and on the bottom it should be fairly thin, but not so thin that you can see through to the dark pan. Then, take a fork and prick through the crust to allow it to vent while cooking.

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Place the pan in the oven, with no filling for ten minutes. While it is cooking, add the cheese and olive oil in with the tomato mixture. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Tomatoes are so delicious with salt, so don’t be too afraid to add tons of salt (you are making six servings of pie). Here, the ratio of the ingredients is really up to you. Test taste it along the way to make sure it has the balance of flavors that you like! The important thing is that, once you’re done, it has a fairly thick consistency. You don’t want anything too soupy or even too liquidy because the dough will get very soggy and won’t hold up when you try to serve it.

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After the first ten minutes of cooking the shell are up, take it out of the oven and spread the filling into it.

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Then, cook for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling completely warmed. We like to serve huge portions of this because people end up eating way more than they expect, and it’s delicious with milk!

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Enjoy!

 

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P.S. If you want to make neat individual portions, us this dough as a starter.

Tomato Pie

This makes six portions, and only requires about¬† 1/4 of the filling that the previous recipe calls for. Simply preheat the oven all the way to 425¬įF and place the pastry shells face up on a baking sheet.

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Next, bake them for 15-18 minutes.

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Using a knife, delicately cut out the tops and fill the shells with your tomato filling!

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Place the tops back on, and put them in the oven for another minute or two or until the cheese seems melted.

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Dinner guests love this kind of stuff and it is so so easy!

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie