Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pine Nut Pie AND How to Build a Pie (I)

I have been hesitant to try this pie... I know what pinenuts (pignoli s) taste like - and I know I like them - but once again I find myself asking, in a pie? I'd never heard of it except as one of the recipes listed in my Pie book. But this book has since gone over-due and was returned to the library this week, leaving me recipe-less. I did make a copy of the recipe... but heck if I can find it.

So here's the thing, I think I'm pretty clever, this is my 6th pie, I decided to take a gamble and make up the recipe using the experience I've gained, so far. It turned out SO well, I made it twice!

CHOCOLATE CHIP PINE NUT PIE  ingredients: 1 c 		chic chips 8 oz		pinenuts 3/4 c 	dark brown sugar 2 Tbsp 	sugar 1.5 tsp 	cardamom 1 tsp 	nutmeg 3 Tbsp 	heavy whipping cream 1 		eggs (room temp) 2 		egg whites  (room temp) 1 		tsp cream of tartar 1.5 tsp 	vanilla extract 8 Tbsp	butter (room temp)  1. preheat oven to 350 F & make sure pie shell is chilled (not frozen or room temp) in the fridge 2. mix together dry ingredients - without pine nuts, chocolate chips or spices - in a large bowl adding butter a Tbsp at a time and blending thoroughly & set aside 3. in a separate bowl beat eggs and blend wet ingredients  4. mix into large bowl wet ingredients and spices 5. add in pine nuts and chocolate chips distributing evenly 6. as soon as all nuts and chips have been added, pour filling into pie shell, raking in left overs evenly throughout the pie 7. Put pie in oven and bake for 50 minutes, rotating pie 180° halfway through 8. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before serving with coffee!

I started by picking out my filling and measuring out the basic ingredients to get an idea of much would make the desired amount of filling. I then went on to experiment with to iterations of the pine nut pie! Below is what I learned based on a little research and experience - but please feel free to contribute or correct me if I'm wrong.

With pies utilizing squash and fruit as the primary filling, it seemed between 1 1/2 - 2 cups of the primary ingredient is needed, then pureed or mixed with other things. I had to determine whether or not to blend the pignolis/pinenuts with something else or treat them like the "fruit" - since pine nuts are so soft, even when toasted, despite their strong flavor, I decided they were fine as the main ingredient rather than the main flavor within some other base (i.e. ginger flavor in the custard pie). I had an 8 oz bag of pinenuts which measured closely to 1 1/2 cups. I toasted them on a cookie sheet in the broiler on low for about 6 minutes and then watched to they reached the right "brown-ness".

To turn the nuts into a cream filling, I then considered which dry and wet ingredients to use.

I have basically only used two kinds of liquid in most of my pies: cream and eggs. I love cream, I will use it whenever I can. I am also a proponent for using it and whole milk rather than "low fat" alternatives and a quarter cup of heavy or light cream can go a long way to create thick, but fluid wet ingredient base. Egg thickens when cooked and mixes well at room temperature; but whole eggs can get quite dense, so consider using just egg whites or a mixture of the two (I used whites in the first iteration of the pie and just whole eggs in the second - it was too dense with the 2 yolks).
Other wet ingredients to consider: For many fruits, the addition of lemon is warranted; for many squash/winter pies, the addition of honey or molasses; and for yet many other kinds of pies and their saucy garnishes, corn syrup (but I'll let you in on a hint, most of the time you don't need it, BUT if you don't use it you will need to replace it with something of similar viscosity - like honey or an amount of water with boiled sugar).

Most of my favorite pies use between 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar to enhance the fruit; in the case of the cream-based pies, similar amounts of white sugar are used BUT often times if you've got good hardy filling (like several cups of a fruit or squash) you really don't need more than 1/2 a cup of sugar. You can also replace it with things like honey or chocolate chips - instead of an extra half a cup of sugar in the pine nut pie, I added chocolate chips!
Two tablespoons of flour goes a long way with giving your pie some density, but if you are trying to create a filling that is not so fruity and not so custardy - like a peanut butter filling - you are going to need closer to a cup of flour. You will also want to consider how you would lighten a dense, flour-based filling. I often use a teaspoon or two of cream of tartar (NOT to be confused with tartar sauce... which I once sent my husband to the store to get in a last minute pie baking frenzy...) - it has a similar effect as baking soda, especially in addition to egg whites.

I don't know if this belongs with wet or dry because it ought always to be added at room temperature which makes it sweat a bit. Generally you need 1/4 - 1/2 a cup in any given recipe (not including the crust) unless you venture away from the fruity/squashy/savory fillings, which call for more, and lean toward the sugary/custardy/creamy/sweet fillings, which call for less.

My favorites in pie: nutmeg, ginger, and, lately, cardamom! You usually don't need more than a teaspoon of any given spice, but I tend to like my baked goods robust so I generally add an extra dash or two. These are some other good pastry spices I selected from descriptions at

Cinnamon, ground. Use this warm, aromatic spice for holiday baking, as well as stews and curries.
Cloves, ground. A staple in holiday baking, especially gingersnaps.
Ginger, ground. Ground ginger has a more intense and astringent taste than fresh and is often more convenient. Ginger’s popularity has increased in the U.S. because of its supposed benefits to the digestive system.
Nutmeg, whole. Nutmeg's sweet, spicy flavor is great in savory and sweet dishes alike.
Allspice, whole. Tasting like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, this aromatic spice will complement both sweet and savory meals (particularly jerk dishes).
Chinese five-spice powder. Comprised of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan pepper, this powder is a staple in Chinese fare.
Star anise. A Chinese spice, star anise resembles a star shape. Ground, it’s the main ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder.
Vanilla beans. Beans should be dark, smooth (not dry), and plump. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a year and a half.
Cardamom, ground. Use in Indian dishes and some baked goods. It should look dark gray.
Caraway seeds. Give breads and cakes an earthy, nutty flavor.

1 comment:

meghanjanssen said...

Danica, you are my hero. I'm bookmarking this so I can reference it the next time I make any kind of pie.

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