Monday, March 23, 2015

French Silk Pie

I have a vague food memory from my childhood of going to a restaurant (probably The Chalet somewhere in Oregon) late at night with my family and being able to choose from what seemed like five hundred types of pie. I remember that after painstakingly considering every option, I chose French Silk Pie.  For years after, I would say that was my favorite type of pie, even though I don't think I had it again until working at a tearoom in Indiana.  At that tearoom, the idea of eating that pie made me nauseous (once you know how much butter is in each mouthful, it's a little hard to fathom.)

For Pi(e) Day I wanted to do something with the big block of chocolate I had on my counter from Trader Joes and ended up coming back to this very traditional French Silk Pie recipe on Traditional is not always bad! This is almost like how I remember it, but this nut press-in crust is far tastier than a normal pie crust would be.  I substituted hazelnuts for the pecans since that's what I had on hand, and people raved over the crust!

A few pointers for this pie and similar recipes - chill the crust in the freezer 30 minutes before baking and it will keep its shape. The butter for the filling MUST be at room temperature. Give it the time it needs, don't put it in the microwave but don't try to make it cold. On the other side of things, the melted chocolate must be completely cool to the touch. If not you will end up with a freckled pie instead of it fully incorporating with the butter. DO NOT SKIMP on the egg beating time. Yes the recipe says 5 minutes AFTER EACH EGG.  Do it.  And do not feed this pie to people of risky health (pregnant people, children, elderly) unless you use fully pasteurized eggs.

Jean Webster's French Silk Pie
Recipe credit:


For the Crust
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
  • 1/3 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Whipped cream, for serving
  • Chocolate curls, for serving
  1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate; set aside. Grind pecans in a food processor, or chop very finely with a knife. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pecans, sugar, and salt. Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press firmly into prepared pie plate. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  2. Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add melted chocolate and the vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed for five minutes after each addition. Pour filling into cooled pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  3. Just before serving, top pie with whipped cream, and decorate with chocolate curls. JennyBakes note: Cut in smaller pieces than usual pie. This is rich!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lemon Cream Tart

This is a very popular little tart on the internet. It was one of the recipes the TWD (Tuesdays With Dorie) group made together as they were baking their way through one of the best baking cookbooks ever, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  It was featured on SeriousEats. And then Dorie herself improved on the recipe after doing some experiments in her own kitchen, when she discovered that many home bakers were struggling to get the cream to the right temperature. And here it is again, one of the stars of this year's Pi(e) Day.

You will have to indulge me if you have seen this recipe before! Dorie Greenspan was given the recipe by Pierre Hermé. It is similar to a lemon curd in ingredients but the technique turns it into a silkier, creamy divine mixture.  It didn't set up as much as I would have liked for a tart, but I was using a coffee thermometer... I really need to go buy myself another candy thermometer, one that isn't bothered by whisking like this one was.  There is a definite chance my mixture didn't make it to 180 as instructed.

The flavor, on the other hand, is amazing. If you have ever used any bath products that are lemon-sugar scented, this tastes like that smells.  Sweet and tart and creamy, wow. One very thin co-worker ate two pieces of the tart in one setting- that's when I know something is good!  Personally I'd rather find an excuse to just eat this by the spoonful than put it into a tart shell - I think it would be fabulous in a spring trifle or in between light white cake layers.

The recipe is in several of the links above, so I won't post it this time around. Seriously, invest in Dorie's cookbooks because she has never steered me wrong.  I also used her standard shortcrust recipe without nuts, because I knew lemon should be the star of the show.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Only Pi(e) Day

This post was published on March (3) 14th, 2015, at 9:26 am, for what should be obvious reasons.

I had great plans for Pi(e) Day this year, being the Pi(e) Day of all Pi(e) Days. I was going to have Pi(e) Month! Okay maybe Pi(e) Week! Well maybe I'll make a few pies.  That actually happened on Pi(e) Day Eve Eve Eve.

You still have time to make a pi(e) - anything round will do! The recipes for these will be posted on the next few Mondays on my regular posting time.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Concept: Banana Split Pancakes

Back on Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday, aka Pancake Day, we had a day of ice. In South Carolina, ice means everything gets shut down and cancelled (and the ice in the picture is the thick layer on my outdoor furniture, not staged.) I spent half the day in web-based meetings, no real snow day for me, but I still had time to celebrate pancake day.

I don't exactly have a recipe for this because the pancake recipe I tried for this I ended up tweaking halfway through - it had no eggs, and I feel like that was a mistake in the recipe.  But the idea of it was good - banana bread pancakes!  So the pancakes themselves have pecans.

Then I added sliced strawberries, chocolate sauce (a melted ganache) and whipped cream.  Tasty! 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Mississippi Mud Bars

As part of my ongoing Around the USA baking project, I decided the time had come to make something from Mississippi. The opportunity came while reading The Sharpshooter Blues by Lewis Nordan, set on the Mississippi delta.  I have been exposed to some Southern writers I wouldn't have known otherwise through my participation in the On the Southern Literary Trail group in Goodreads. This was one of the picks for February.

Mississippi mud - the rich, goopy kind that happens when a river meets an ocean. Translated into a cake or a bar, you have to find something that oozes goo - so of course these have marshmallows.  These are very sweet, more sweet than chocolatey. I followed the recipe exactly.

Mississippi Mud Cake Recipe
from Southern Living, June 2004, via

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1 (10.5-ounce) bag miniature marshmallows
Chocolate frosting (see below)

Whisk together melted butter and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in flour and chopped pecans. Pour batter into a greased and floured 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; top warm cake evenly with marshmallows. Return to oven, and bake 5 minutes. Drizzle Chocolate Frosting over warm cake. Cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup milk 
1/4 cup butter, softened 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Beat all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.