Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blackberry Pie Bars

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Arnold Palmer Pie

For a barbecue, I was inspired by Nothing-in-the-House's sweet tea pie recipe. However, I wanted a less sugary custard with more lemon and a bracing tannic edge. My approach yielded a soft tart-and-sweet filling supported by a tender pie crust. It was delectable, and the flavors brought to mind the Arnold Palmer, that refreshing blend of iced tea and lemonade. 

for a 9 1/2-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch pan if you're willing to risk spillover




1 cup pastry flour
dash of salt
1 stick cold butter
tiny dash of apple cider vinegar
1 or 2 Tbsp ice water (I don't understand the difference between "ice water" and cold water from the refrigerator, but you could swirl ice around in a glass of water to make it even colder.)


1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
8 egg yolks
3/4 c. strong black tea, room temperature (I use 3 bags of Wegmans Irish Breakfast)
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cornmeal
dash of salt


First, brew the tea. Heat the water to the boiling point and pour it over the three tea bags. Let it sit so it can cool. You may want to brew yourself a cup to drink so you can muscle up for the crust.


Sift flour and salt into a bowl.

Cut in butter. (I do this by slicing it and then crumbling it in the flour with my bare hands until the flour is uniformly pebbly, but you can also freeze the butter and grate it.)

Add the vinegar and one tablespoon of the ice water. Mix with the dough and try to form the dough into a ball. If it's too dry and crumbly, add more ice water. Be careful! I tend to overdo this, and end up with a mushy, soggy lump that I have to pat with paper towels.

Wrap your lovely, pale yellow dough in plastic and pop it in the freezer. Let it sit there for at least 20 minutes, but preferably an hour or more (you can leave it in there for days or weeks--even months, if you're willing to eat pie that tastes like your freezer).

After the dough has endured enough freezing, take it out. Generously flour a large, clean surface (I use a silicon baking mat). Once the dough has softened a bit, roll it out, turning it over periodically and sprinkling flour on it so it doesn't get sticky. Try to form a large, flat circle. (I usually have to wait until the dough completely softens to achieve a shape that is 70 percent what I want.)

Press the dough into your pie pan, fluting the edges. (This is where I usually have to patchwork excess dough onto gaps in the crust.)

Stick the pan back in the freezer while you make the filling.  


Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a whisk, beat the sugar and the butter until creamy and pale.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking them in the batter after each addition.

Add tea, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk again. (I use a citrus squeezer to avoid pits.)

Add flour, cornmeal, and salt, and whisk until the mixture takes on a lively froth.

Take the pie crust out of the freezer and pour the filling in. 

VERY IMPORTANT: There is nothing stopping the contents of this pie from bubbling and spilling over except for the size of the pie pan and the grace of the pastry gods. Line the oven rack with aluminum foil to catch drippings unless you want a smoky oven you need to douse in baking soda like so. (Note that this was after I had lined the rack with foil! Sugary liquid evaporating in a hot oven is a dangerous thing.)

Place the pie in the oven and bake 45-50 minutes. The top will look slightly burnt and crackly, like creme brulee, and the pie will jiggle a little bit when shook.

Cool the pie on a rack until it is no longer a lethal pan of lava, then put it in the refrigerator for a few hours to let it set. I balanced the rack on some other food items and set the pie on the rack so that it could aerate further.


  • In case you missed it, this pie is so runny, you'll want to line your oven rack with aluminum foil to catch drippings. I realized that the filling was simply too much for my 9-inch pan when it kept spilling over during the first 15 minutes of baking. Not liking to waste anything, I scooped up the half-baked ooze and poured it back on the pie, resulting in the moon craters you see here.
  • On the bright side, the sweet goo spilling over the fluted edges of the pie constitutes an egg wash that enhances the flavor of the crust.
  • I baked this pie a scant hour or so before the barbecue, and it didn't have time to set properly. As a result, each slice was a runny emblem of the chef's procrastination. However, even in a mostly liquid form, the pie still drew oohs and aahs.
  • Even cooled for hours, the pie will never firm up into even key lime pie consistency. A slice will not win a beauty contest, but it will take over its neighbors on the plate like a sprawling pie warrior.
  • Even though the tea I brewed was strong, somehow, you don't really taste it in the pie, even after it sets for a few days. Emily noted this in her recipe, in which she used 2 tea bags. Some enterprising person will have to use 4 and let us know if you can taste it then. Don't get me wrong, though, the flavor of this pie is scrumptious--like a lemon lollipop. Perhaps the tea contributes to the overall umami.


3.5 stars--succulent and slightly troublesome, like a tempestuous starlet

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blackberry-Lime Bars

When I saw this recipe for blackberry blondies on the Baking Bites blog, I knew I had to make them, but I knew as well that I would not be content if they did not have a) some whole grains, lest they glide too lissomely down the palate, and b) a burst of lime to perk up the batter and give tang to the berries.

I tweaked the recipe twice. The first time, I cut the sugar a little, and added some lime zest and juice. The bars were fluffy, thick, and crackly on top, with a perfect appearance and mouthfeel. Despite their charms, however, I wanted to crank up the lime and crank down the sugar. The second attempt yielded a moist, succulent bar that packed a citrus punch that delighted all tasters, but at the expense of the crackly crust and chewy texture. 

Here is my best attempt at combining the two efforts. Play in this sandbox as you please: you can't go wrong with the flavors involved.

serves 12 normal or 6 gluttonous people (it is hard to eat just one piece)

meant for an 8 × 8 or 9 × 9 baking pan 


1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
shake of salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
slightly more than 1/2 cup white flour

1/2 cup oat flour (or other whole-grain flour)
1 1/2 to 2 cups blackberries

zest of one lime
juice of one lime


Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease the baking pan.

In a bowl, whisk butter and sugar until well-combined.

Beat in salt, egg, vanilla and almond extracts. 

Add zest and juice of lime.

Stir in flours and mix until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.

Fold in blackberries until they are evenly distributed.

Pour batter into baking pan and smooth gently.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until bars are set and golden-ish on top.

Place pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely before cutting. This makes 12 large bars or more smaller ones if you don't like your guests very much.


  • Using the juice of half a lime rather than one lime will yield a fluffier, chewier bar. 
  • If your lime is exceedingly juicy, you may want to add a tablespoon or two of flour to balance it out.
  • No matter what you do, these bars will be welcomed by all. The ingredients are so simple and the flavors so tantalizing, you can't go far wrong. 
  • White chocolate chips might be a nice addition. If you go for this, I'd cut the sugar down to 1/2 a cup.  


4 stars. They stay good for about a week if you keep them in an airtight container.