Monday, May 23, 2016

The Pies of Summer: North Carolina Beach Pie

There is an elaborate legend about this pie, recently featured on NPR. When I came across the story I knew I had to try it. The only thing is, I've been to the North Carolina shore and asked others who I know spend weeks there every summer, and nobody has ever seen this pie or heard this story. I'm tempted to call shenanigans.

Also, this pie was a bit cursed for me. The first time I separated the eggs and the added the egg whites to the mixture instead of the citrus juice. The next time I tried the crust was so loose I almost dumped the pie all over the floor and oven when I took it out, so that explains why this one looks so messy. In the end, this is rather like a key lime pie (made milder by mixing lemon and lime juice) with a saltine crust. The salty-tart-sweet is nice but it's not a pretty looking pie. The recipe below specifies not to turn the saltines into sand but the picture of the original recipe shows it that granulated. I'm not sure which I believe because crushing the crackers by hand makes the final result a bit messy.

Have you heard of Atlantic Beach Pie or North Carolina Beach Pie?

Recipe: Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

Makes one pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.

While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Low Carb English Muffins

When I first saw this recipe in Pinterest, I was pretty skeptical. But I went ahead and tried it one weekday morning and was pleasantly surprised! I made the recipe as is, but next time plan to double it yet cook it in three ramekins for slightly less time.... as is, it is quite deep, almost too high to toast if simply split in half.

However for those of us with few bread options in our lower carb eating, this is a great recipe to have on hand. I ate mine with peanut butter and sugar free jam but this would hold up to an egg sandwich nicely. That's what I plan to do with it this weekend!

Low Carb English Muffins
(as seen on!) 

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Spray the ramekin you are using with olive oil cooking spray or coconut oil spray.
  2. Add the almond butter and butter to the dish.
  3. Microwave for 30 seconds and mix until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl whisk the almond flour, salt and baking powder together.
  5. Pour the milk and egg to dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  6. Pour this mixture into the ramekin with the almond butter mixture and stir to combine well.
  7. Microwave 2 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool a few minutes before taking it out of the ramekin and slicing in half to toast.
  9. Toast until desired.
  10. Enjoy!

Monday, May 09, 2016

Tiger Nut Flour Brownies (grain-free, paleo, gluten-free)

I first encountered tiger nut flour at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe, where the person working the cash register told me that one of the bakers loves it for gluten-free baking. I hadn't heard of the ingredient before (it is apparently some kind of tuber) and it took me a while to find a compelling recipe for the flour. Some of the pictures I saw looked similar to my early almond flour experiments - flat and dry. Some recipes I saw seemed better, and they all had tapioca flour. Once I restocked my tapioca flour, I gave these ago.

These were a bit rubbery but I feel like the 25 minutes in the recipe I adapted was far too long. I took them out at 20 but probably should have checked at 15.... so I am not certain if that's the only issue or if it's the flours. Also either the tiger nut or the tapioca wasn't completely finely ground, so the brownies had a bit of an unexpected crunch. The batter was gorgeous - glossy and thick. The brownies themselves were definitely passable for people who rarely have brownies!

Tiger Nut Flour Brownies
(adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick or 8 tablespoons)*
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup tiger nut flour
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the butter, coconut sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Stir frequently until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat and cool until warm, at least 15 minutes. The mixture will appear gritty.
  3. Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring thoroughly after each one. The batter should be glossy and smooth. Add the tiger nut and tapioca flours and stir vigorously again until no floury bits remain.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for about 20(?) minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs but not covered in goo. Cool completely in the pan, then remove the brownies by lifting up the parchment, transfer them to a cutting board, slice, and serve. Store leftover brownies in the refrigerator for up to four days.
*I didn't have quite enough butter so I used 2 tbsp coconut oil and 6 tbsp butter. 

Monday, May 02, 2016

Frequently Made Recipes

Life has been so crazy I have not baked a thing all week! So I thought I'd just link to some recipes I make often. I'll be back next week with something new. I have saltines, condensed milk, and some lemons... any guesses?

The way we eat most days (lower sugar, lower carb)
Grain-free banana chocolate chip muffins
Fluffy Paleo Pancakes
Lower Carb Grain-free Scones
Gluten-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread - regular fall rotation!
Gluten-free oven apple pancake

Recipes for regular people or special days
Ratio pancakes - easy to make for one on a workday
Apple slab pie - seriously the best crust recipe ever
Pannukakku - this would get the award for the recipe I've converted others into making the most!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Armenian Lavash

A few weeks ago, we were watching The Amazing Race when teams had a chance to make lavash the traditional way during a stop in Armenia. I couldn't get it out of my head but didn't have bread flour, so my baking project had to wait until I bought some. This is a simple recipe with endless variations, but I waited until I had an afternoon where I could have back to back 30 minute periods to rest the dough and bake the lavash in batches. I used poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and z'atar.

I poked around for traditional recipes and found a video made by an Armenian woman, translated into English. The comments are interesting because most of them are people from other countries, angry that she has "claimed" lavash for Armenia. Surely there are similar flatbreads in many cultures. And even I have made lavash, back in 2008 for a Daring Bakers challenge. I made more of a cracker version, slightly thicker than typical lavash. Of course I didn't have a traditional clay oven deep in the ground like the women in Armenia do, but I heated the pan in the oven at a very high heat.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Berry Coconut Muffins

These are adapted from "Blueberries-and-Cream Mall Muffins" from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman, one of my go-to cookbooks I keep on the shelf in my kitchen. I'm not sure what malls are like where Marcy grew up, but I don't actually know what a mall muffin is. I used marionberries and coconut flakes, but thinking back, if I had used coconut milk in place of buttermilk and coconut oil in place of butter, these would have tasted more strongly of coconut. As they are, they are tender and sweet. This recipe makes a lot; for us I think 1/4 recipe is best. The recipe times are also intended for the jumbo muffin size; if you make regular muffins they won't need to bake as long. I went with 10 minutes at 425 and the remainder at 350.

Berry Coconut Muffins

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 large eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp each pure lemon and orange extract, optional
5 cups, approximately, all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups semi-frozen berries
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut or unsweetened dried coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 425 F. Arrange oven rack to middle position.

Generously spray 12-cup large or standard muffin pan or a 24-cup small muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and then line with paper muffin liners. Place pan on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

In a mixer bowl, blend sugar with oil and butter. Briskly add eggs, vanilla, and other extracts. Fold in 4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Blend somewhat before next blending in buttermilk and sour cream. Batter should be quite thick; if not, add a touch more flour. Gently fold in berries with a spatula, trying not to break them apart.

Using a large ice-cream scoop, scoop a very large amount of batter into prepared muffin cups, loading them as full as you can. Dust tops of muffins with a little sugar.

Bake 15 minutes at 425 F; then reduce oven temperature to 350 F and bake until muffins are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed with fingertips, about 12-16 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Pancakes at the End of the Lane

I recently reread one of the shorter books by Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The unnamed main character has returned to his childhood home after a death in the family (we are led to assume), and tells the story about the family living at the end of the lane. He ended up in their home several times during scary and confusing moments, and part of the "magic" of the three women included delicious, comforting food. I remember an apple custard type dessert being mentioned, and I remember these pancakes:
"Lettie cooked us pancakes on a big metal griddle, on the kitchen stove. They were paper-thin, and as each pancake was done Lettie would squeeze lemon onto it, and plop a blob of plum jam into the center, and roll it tightly, like a cigar."
I had always listened to the audio previously, so this was the first time I had seen the ephemeral material at the end. A short Q&A between Joe Hill and the author asked a very important question - do the pancakes described exist and what is the recipe? They do exist, and Neil shared the recipe. So of course I had to make them! While a bit squidgier than crepes I've made previously, and although I had to use blueberry jam after not finding plum, these made a delicious and comforting breakfast.

Pancakes at the End of the Lane

  • 1 cup of ordinary white flour
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk and water (a cup and a half of milk and a cup of water mixed)
  • 1 tablespoon of either vegetable oil or melted butter
Directions (slightly modified)
Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Crack the eggs in and whisk/fork the egg into the flour.

Slowly add the milk/water mixture, stirring as you go, until there are no lumps and you have a liquid the consistency of a not too thick cream. (I'm guessing you add the butter to the batter and use additional butter to grease the pan but it doesn't include this step.)

Put the mixture in the fridge overnight.

Grease or butter or oil a non-stick frying pan. Heat it until it’s really hot. (I used medium temp on my stove.)

Stir the mixture you just took from the fridge thoroughly because the flour will all be at the bottom. Get an even consistency.

Ladle some mixture into the pan, thinly covering the whole of the base of the pan. When the base is golden, flip it (or, if you are brave, toss it). Cook another 30 seconds on the other side.
Squeeze lemon juice lightly over the surface, sprinkle with granulated sugar, and plop a blob of jam in there before rolling up like a cigar.