I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! Thank you for taking the time to read our posts and click through to see our pictures.
Papa Bird and I were feeling a little unenthusiastic about Thanksgiving this year. Neither of us have family in town, and the traditional “story” about Native Americans welcoming the English immigrants to the first Thanksgiving felt at odds with the current state of our country. But we talked about making new traditions and celebrating what we do value.
We invited our sweet friends with a newborn over for a traditional meal at our house. At twelve pounds, the turkey was small enough to (just barely) fit on the rotisserie attachment of the grill. Thank goodness! However do you cook all the sides if there is a bird in the oven? Our friends made oven-roasted veggies and mashed potatoes with homemade creme fraiche, and even so, our oven was in full use throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Many thanks to Sarah and the girls’ “Tio Lou” for coming over, cooking, and sending us the pictures of us at the table. Papa Bird and I had seen their newbie at the hospital, but the Little Birds were thrilled to meet baby Mateo for the first time.
And there was pie. And pie crust cookies made by the girls. (Not pictured: chocolate mousse made by the girls, too.) I used my all-butter crust recipe and the “Real Pumpkin Pie” recipe from a few years ago with the following improvements: I used maple syrup instead of honey as the sweetener, which mixes easily without having to be warmed up. I also ended up using mostly cream and only a splash of milk, just because we had more cream than milk on hand.
And the day after Thanksgiving we put up our tree. Christmas and Hannukah, here we come! (Another photo courtesy the Moras, as I was covering a shift at the hospital Friday.)
It’s officially pumpkin season! San Diego weather may change its mind on a daily basis, but pumpkin everything gets the green light in my book! Today I’m sharing the recipe for a ginger-maple pumpkin custard topped with a pepita streusel. This creamy alternative to pumpkin pie is made extra gingery with both fresh and dried ginger, and sweetened with maple syrup.
The pumpkin custard is gluten-free, with no refined sugars, and no cans. Like in my pumpkin smash cake recipe, I won’t tell anyone if you speed the recipe up with canned pumpkin, but try a real pumpkin one time so you can taste the difference. I use whole cow milk, but you can substitute any milk alternative. This custard is adapted from the filling for the real pumpkin pie recipe. We topped it with real whipped cream (get the “real” food trend?) and a pepita (pumpkin seed) streusel. Find the streusel recipe here.
Prepping pie pumpkins
Bake in a water bath
Papa Bird and the little birds grew pumpkins this year from seeds saved from last year’s sugar pie pumpkins. Specialty Produce is also fully stocked with baking and decorative pumpkins.
Try the recipe today and you just might be eating this surprisingly healthy custard for dessert and breakfast. Or else pin the recipe to save and try later!
A creamy alternative to pumpkin pie, made extra gingery with both fresh and dried ginger, and sweetened with maple syrup. Gluten-free, no refined sugars, and no cans. I use whole cow milk, but you can substitute any milk alternative. Adapted from my "Real Pumpkin Pie" filling.
2 cups roasted and pureed pumpkin (1 sugar pie pumpkin or 1 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
½ cup maple syrup
1 cup whole milk
Prep pumpkin (see notes) or use canned (I won't tell anyone, but try a real pumpkin one time so you can taste the difference.)
Preheat oven to 350* F.
If you are using homemade pureed pumpkin, add the rest of the ingredients into your food processor or blender. Mix until combined.
Place six to eight custard dishes or ramekins inside of a large roasting pan. Fill the small dishes/ramekins with the pumpkin batter. Pour water into the large pan, being careful not to splash water into the custards. Fill the pan until the water level is even with the level of the batter in the small dishes. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center of the custards are "set."
Remove the custards from the water bath and cool on a wire rack.
Serve with streusel and/or whipped cream.
1. If starting from a fresh pumpkin: Use a "sugar pie pumpkin" or "pie pumpkin" and not a decorative jack-o-lantern type pumpkin. Preheat oven to 350* F. Wash the outside of the pumpkin well. Cut off the stem of the pumpkin, and then cut in half vertically. Remove the seeds and strings. Rinse and save the seeds for drying and replanting and/or roasting. Place the two halves of the pumpkins on a baking pan lined with a piece of foil that is twice as long as the pan. Fold the foil over the top of the pumpkins and bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or until soft. Allow pumpkins to cool (they can be refrigerated over night.) Peel off the skin, and any overly browned parts. Place the flesh of the pumpkin in a food processor or good blender and puree until smooth. Leave the pumpkin in the processor or blender, and add the rest of the custard ingredients. An average sized pumpkin makes about 2 cups of pureed pumpkin. A little more or a little less is fine. 2. Nutrition figures are for 8 servings. I made 6 large custards, and we felt full after half, so it could easily serve 12. I split the difference and calculated for 8. Nutrition is also for the custard as written, and does not include streusel or whip cream topping. 3. Streusel recipe here.
Serving size: 131 g Calories: 111 Fat: 3g Saturated fat: 1.2g Unsaturated fat: 1.8g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 18g Sugar: 14 g Sodium: 188mg Fiber: .8g Protein: 3.8g Cholesterol: 73mg
Summertime… What does it mean to you? For me, summer is never complete without a peach pie. This year I experimented with nectarines in place of peaches. We tried out a nectarine and blackberry pie with an all butter crust.
Nothing beats a ripe nectarine for snacking, standing over the sink, letting the juice drip down your hands. But baking? My interest was piqued when I heard they can be baked without peeling, which can be tedious when preparing peaches. The Little Birds and I picked up extra sweet Carmen Miranda nectarines from a local farm at Specialty Produce.
My four-and-a-half-year-old loves baking and she helped with every step. She even took this picture of me and the pie dough. Here I am shaping half of the dough into a disc before chilling it in the refrigerator for half an hour.
These nectarines were so sweet there was no need to add any sugar. In fact, I added a splash of lemon juice to try to cut the sweetness. Because they were ripe and juicy, I added a little tapioca flour to thicken up the filling. You could use flour or cornstarch, but I think they leave a starchy taste. This recipe has zero added sugar, unless you want an optional sprinkle of a pinch of turbinado sugar on the top crust.
We love eating sweet, fresh summer fruit simply. But a pie is one way to celebrate the fruit and make it the star.
Peach vs. Nectarine Pie?
And the verdict? These nectarines almost reminded me more of baked plums than baked peaches. I liked the bit of pink the skin gave the fruit, and didn’t mind the texture of the skin one bit. But as far as being easier to prep than peaches… I had a hard time cutting the nectarines off the pit. The don’t fall off the pit nicely like peach slices. Then I figured out the trick of cutting them squarely.
Here is another trick for you: if you brush a little bit of beaten egg white on to the bottom crust, it can help prevent a juicy filling from getting the bottom crust too soggy. Cracking an egg, beating the egg, and brushing it on are all great jobs for kids!
A lattice top is pretty classic for a peach or nectarine pie. I rolled out the second half of my crust recipe and used a ravioli cutter to slice strips with a fluted edge. Use the longer strips in the middle and the shorter pieces on the edges, and weave over and under. Can you tell in this photo where I messed up the pattern?
The extra bits of crust went to Little Bird to make her famous pie crust cookies. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream for dessert, or simply as is for a sorta healthy breakfast!
Prepare an all butter pie crust according to instructions, chill in the refrigerator while you prep the fruit.
Wash and cut the nectarines. Wash the berries. Toss with the tapioca powder and lemon juice. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350* F.
Roll out the first pie crust and gently place in the bottom of a 9" pie pan. Brush a thin layer of beaten egg white over the dough. Gently pile the fruit into the pan. Dot with little bits of butter.
Roll out the second pie crust, then cut into slices. Decorate the top, weaving over and under, until a lattice covers the top. Brush the top crust with a bit of milk and/or sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is browned and the fruit is tender. IMPORTANT (and hard): Let the pie sit for at least one hour before cutting.
This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)
My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.
But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”
As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.
A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
2 apples, cored and grated
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
6 eggs, separated
1¼ cups sugar
½ cup matzo meal
Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.
Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.
The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.
This post on a foolproof, flaky all butter pie crust is three years in the making. This is the recipe and method I’ve been using for almost ten years. My mom is a master pie baker, I think my lack of fear of pastry dough comes from her. She taught me to use half butter and half shortening, but I prefer all butter for taste, texture and health reasons. For most of my adult years I’ve been the designated pie baker at Thanksgiving, bringing various Pumpkin Pies and my favorite, Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie. I like baking, and letting someone else host the rest of the meal works for me.
So, ever notice how successful food bloggers post recipes well in advance of a holiday? (The reason is so that the post has time to get shared on Pinterest and Facebook.) I’m clearly not organized enough to be one of them, although I have aspirations. I tend to just bake/cook and take pictures if I can. Writing and posting happens when I have free time. We took pictures of making this butter pie crust three Thanksgivings ago! I actually started drafting this post in September, and I’m only remembering to share it today as my friend asked me for an all butter pie crust recipe last night. Today (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) is actually the perfect day to make pie crust. It will be just fine in the fridge. Little Bird and I are starting our pie dough today, so join us in real-time baking! This is also the perfect recipe for procrastinators as it is one of the few that doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling.
Tips for making a flaky butter pie crust:
The secret is really to have big chunks of butter suspended in the dough. They steam a little when they bake, making pockets in the pastry, which gives it the crunch and flake.
You don’t want the butter to ever melt, either from a hot kitchen, or warm hands. Fortunately freezing the butter this way really helps.
Don’t over handle the dough. If you mess up, just try to patch it back together with a little water. Don’t ever ball up the dough and roll it out again. Over-handling it like that makes it tough.
With this much butter in the recipe, the quality of your butter will be apparent. Use a good grass-fed or cultured butter if you can. And make sure it is unsalted!
There is no “perfect” in baking, and letting go a little helps. I’ve actually heard of pie baking being good therapy for anxiety. Maybe one day I’ll combine my private practice (psychotherapy) with baking in a workshop!
I really should do a video to show more of the rolling technique, but in the mean time, don’t worry about it being a perfect circle. If you historically struggle, make 1.5x the dough you need, so that it is bigger than what you need when you roll it out. Then use a knife to cut it into a circle! The scraps can be used for crust cookies or decorating.
The dough can be prepared the weekend before Thanksgiving. Make a round, 1.5″ thick disc of the dough. Wrap tightly in plastic and store in the fridge, up to 4-5 days. Can also be freezer for longer.
Pies taste the best when baked the day of. That way the bottom crust is still flaky. When stored in the fridge after baking, it can get tough or mushy. You can, however, roll out the dough the day before, put it in the bottom of the pie pan, cover in plastic and store, unbaked, in the fridge for a day or two. Then fill it and bake the day you want to serve it.
For more pie tips from Matt Gordon of Urban Solace, along with a Sweet Potato Pecan Pie recipe, click here.
Makes a double crust. For a single crust pie, such as pumpkin pie, freeze the other half for an easy pie crust in the future. From The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook via eggbeater.
2 Cups all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons sugar (optional, I usually omit)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces unsalted butter
ice water, to incorporate
Cut the butter evenly into small pieces, place on a plate in the freezer and chill for about 30 minutes. Put ice and cold water in a measuring cup and chill (you won't use it all, but might as well have it cold.)
Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer. When butter is frozen, use paddle attachment with mixer on the very lowest setting, and drop butter in a few pieces at a time. Stay close by. When the chunks of butter are slightly larger than pea size, dribble in the ice water until dough does not appear dry and JUST begins to come together.
Move the dough to a dry surface and push together with the heel of your hand. Try not to knead or overwork the dough, you want it to come together so you can roll it out. This dough can be used right away! This amount makes enough for a top and a bottom. If you are not going to use it right away, double wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a month.
Hi! I started Baby Birds Farm after the birth of my first daughter. I started sharing seasonal recipes featuring produce from our garden, eggs from our chicken, and homemade cheeses from our goat milk co-op. Fast forward a few years, another daughter, another business, and now we are just surviving and enjoying our busy life and food as much as we can. Join our journey of good food, farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego and healthy living!
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Abigail Burd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist, provides women's mental health in San Diego, CA. Specialities include managing anxiety and depression during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Learn more about my practice in Clairemont (San Diego) at AbigailBurdLCSW.com.