Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Earl Grey Cream Pie in a Sugar Cookie Crust


I have an incredible love and appreciation for tea. Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed tea parties, from the beautiful porcelain china to the delicate and varied fragrant teas served within, from the flaky, buttery scones to the myriad of crustless sandwiches. Tea is more than just tea, it's an experience, or at least it can be if you're willing to put in a little extra effort.

In the past I have really enjoyed using tea as an ingredient in certain dishes, such as Tea Souffles and Earl Grey Tea Cookies. I'm equally pie-obsessed as I am tea-obsessed, so I jumped at the opportunity to recently whip up a pie inspired by Earl Grey tea served with sugar cookies, a perfect pairing.

Instead of starting out with a traditional flaky crust, this pie transforms the cookies themselves into the crust. I attempted to roll out the cookie dough instead of pressing it into the pie dish, but the dough was too soft, even after chilling, and it just fell apart. You can try your luck at rolling it out if you prefer, but I ended up just pressing the dough into the dish by hand. Also, beware of the baking times for the dough.

I often find that pie recipes don't call for enough baking time, and in my experience I always need to add more time. Your oven may differ, but I ended up baking my crust 15 minutes longer than the total amount the recipe suggests. The crust was baked through, but not dried out. A cookie crust will not brown as much as a regular pie crust, so be careful not to overbake. Cookies always firm up as they cool, even if they seem a bit soft when pulled from the oven.

The filling for this pie is the simple result of steeping Earl Grey tea in hot milk, and then using that milk to make a pastry cream. After the filling sets, the final touch is a cloud of lightly sweetened whipped cream piled high over the top.

A single bite of this Earl Grey Cream Pie combines the sweet, buttery, sugar cookie base with the beloved flavor of bergamot orange-infused tea in the Earl Grey filling, and a light and delicate whipped cream floating over the top. It's truly sublime for any tea/pie lover such as myself. I bet this would also be a fun idea to adapt into mini tartlets to serve as the sweet finish for an afternoon tea party!

Earl Grey Cream Pie in a Sugar Cookie Crust
Makes one (9-inch) pie
(Adapted from Teeny's Tour of Pie)

Sugar Cookie Crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 individual Earl Grey tea bags (or 3 teaspoons of loose Earl Grey tea in a tea bag tied with string or in a mesh tea ball/infuser)
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons packed cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg. Mix on medium speed until the egg is fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl again and add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until everything just comes together. Form the dough into a large ball, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

Press the dough into a 9-inch pie plate, making sure to press it evenly so it’s 1/4-inch thick all the way around and up the side. Prick the bottom and side with a fork and chill, unwrapped, in the freezer until it is frozen through, at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with a rack in the middle position. Take the crust directly from the freezer, line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and fill it with pie weights. Bake until the sides are set, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the weights and liner and bake an additional 5 minutes (I baked mine an additional 20 minutes instead of 5, until it was baked through and the edges were just starting to brown--5 minutes was not nearly enough time for a fully baked cookie crust). Let cool before making the filling.

For the filling, bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the tea bags to the hot milk. Set aside and let the tea steep for 30 minutes. Remove the three tea bags from the milk (which will have cooled). In a medium saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

Whisk the milk mixture into the egg and sugar mixture until there are no lumps. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a low simmer and begins to thicken about 8 minutes. Continue cooking, whisking constantly and being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching, until the mixture begins to boil, about 1 minute. Still whisking constantly, let it boil for a full minute, then immediately remove it from the heat. It will be thick like pudding.

Add the butter and whisk until it is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the Earl Grey cream into the prebaked crust and, while still hot, cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming on the top. Refrigerate the pie until the filling has set, at least 4 hours.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract until medium-stiff peaks form.

Before serving, remove the plastic wrap and top with the whipped cream. Serve cold.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Catskill Provisions & Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette


I recently caught up with an old friend who told me about her work with Catskill Provisions, an artisanal food and craft spirits company based in the Catskills of New York, specializing in small-batch products featuring local honey.

Homemade honey-apple cider vinaigrette with Catskill Provisions honey and apple cider

Its proprietor Claire Marin started the company after dabbling in beekeeping as a hobby. She was inspired by her experience, and decided to grow her love of beekeeping into a business centered around raw, small batch, hand-packed honey used in a variety of artisanal products such as apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, ketchup, chocolate truffles, pancake mix, and an award-winning honey rye whisky.

An ardent honey-lover from way back, I was very excited to get my hands on some of these products! Even though I live in New England, and not the Catskills, it still manages to feel like a very local experience, knowing that these small batch products have never seen the inside of a factory.

I tried out the raw wildflower spring honey (they also sell a fall honey), the raw wildflower creamed honey, and the aged NY state apple cider vinegar. The quality of these products is fantastic. Both of the honeys are nice and floral, the creamed honey with a spreadable consistency and the traditional honey with a deep amber hue. The vinegar has great flavor and doesn't taste overly acidic.

I sampled the creamed honey spread over Italian toast, and enjoyed every bite! I'm a fan of peanut butter and honey sandwiches (move aside, jelly!), and think the spreadable texture of this honey would be a great compliment to a peanut butter sandwich, with less chance of sticky drips!

I also sampled the spring honey and apple cider vinegar on their own, and decided to combine them into a light, slightly sweet vinaigrette to dress salad greens. I adapted my go-to vinaigrette recipe, which I typically make with pomegranate molasses to use this wildflower honey instead, yielding a sweeter result that is nicely offset by slightly bitter salad greens and an assertive blue cheese. Please note that a traditional vinaigrette uses a LOT more oil than I do for mine. I prefer a lighter, more acidic dressing, but you can amp up the oil if you desire.

This Champs Elysées greens mix at Trader Joe's jumped out at me immediately since I'm planning an upcoming trip to Paris, and was in a very French mood.

I paired it with the best blue cheese in the world, my personal favorite and a French staple, Roquefort. Its pungency helps offset some of the sweetness of the dressing. Candied pecans add crunch and nuttiness. All together, this salad is refreshing and well balanced. I even served my salad in 80-year-old antique plates from France (thanks, ancestors)!

I really enjoyed sampling products from Catskill Provisions, a female owned and operated company with honey at its core! You can purchase these items at specialty retailers and online.

Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup

2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a medium mixing bowl on top of a damp paper towel. This will keep the bowl from spinning when you whisk. Whisk together the garlic, honey, and vinegar in the bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while constantly whisking, occasionally pausing the oil and continuing to whisk to ensure the oil properly emulsifies with the vinegar mixture (if you prefer a less acidic vinaigrette, you can add more oil--the standard is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, but to me that's a bit much). Season with salt and pepper.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than free jars of honey and vinegar. My opinions are always my own.


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