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.)
S’mores Baked Alaska is a recreation of a delicious dessert we have had several times at Waypoint Public in North Park. A meringue top is toasted, like a perfect campfire marshmallow, covering a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a crunchy graham cracker crust.
This recipe was also the perfect excuse to try out the blowtorch Papa Bird gave me for Christmas. Being a food blogger, cooking gadgets are always a good call for gifts. As usual, Little Bird helped out on every step, except maybe the blowtorching. The recipe is actually pretty easy. The crust is just graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, pressed into pans. You could make crumbs easily with a food processor, but giving a three-year-old license to whack anything is fun. It’s also a good emotional outlet, as I learned during a school social work internship.
I thought about making something more like homemade marshmallows for the top (like this David Liebowitz pie), and thought I had gelatin leftover from the last time I made pumpkin cheesecake with cranberry gelee, but I was out. I might try marshmallow next time, if I’m feeling ambitious, but a simple meringue totally worked. We topped it like the restaurant with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs. Yum!!
Our whole family has always enjoyed Waypoint Public. It is one of the few places with an indoor play area. That’s not McDonald’s. But an actual restaurant with tasty food. In fact, their executive chef, Amanda Baumgarten, was a contestant on Top Chef. Tip: They have a back room for private events. We hosted my sister’s baby shower there in December. All of the staff were very accommodating.
This a recreation of a dessert from Waypoint Public restaurant in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, CA.
8 graham crackers
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
3 egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional but helps hold peaks)
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350*F. Place 8 graham crackers in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and seal. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers until they are broken into uniform crumbs. See video above. (Or pulse in a food processor.) Place ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl with the melted butter. (Reserve the rest of the crumbs for decorating.) Stir the crumbs and butter until combined and then press into three four-inch tart pans or ramekins. Put the mini pans on a baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes. Allow to cool completely, but leave on the baking sheet.
Place a scoop of ice cream in each cooled crust. Leave a rim of crust around the edge uncovered. This will allow the meringue to completely surround the ice cream and make a good seal with the crust. Place the baking sheet and pans in the freezer to chill a bit while you make the meringue.
Separate the eggs and place in a clean bowl of a mixer with the vanilla and cream of tartar. Using a wire whisk attachment, beat until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar a little at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.
Pipe or spoon the egg white mixture over the ice cream, making sure you bring it all the way down to the edge of the pie. Using a kitchen blowtorch, carefully toast the outside of the meringue.
Decorate with a little chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs and eat right away.
While learning about the Mama’s Kitchen Pie in the Sky fundraiser, I had the opportunity to watch Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace and Sea and Smoke demonstrate his recipe for Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. He gave me permission to share the recipe below. Chef Gordon also dropped lots of pie knowledge and tips during the demonstration. Fortunately, I took furious notes and share his best tricks and tips for making pie here.
Don’t forget that you can save yourself the time and trouble of baking by having Chef Gordon and other top San Diego restaurants and bakeries make a pie for you. Purchasing a pie for $25 will provide over 8 healthy meals to neighbors in need. That’s a win-win-win. You can also donate a pie to clients as well.
Chef matt Gordon’s advanced Pie making Tips
A cold kitchen and cold hands are best for pastry. The butter should never melt. The chef said that he sometimes goes into their walk-in refrigerator on hot days. Interestingly, he shared that the best pastry chefs often have naturally cold hands.
Use parchment paper between the dough and your rolling pin to roll out the dough more easily.
Adding egg yolks to the dough (as this recipe does) is called an “enriched” recipe. It is great for wet batters (such as pumpkin pie and pecan pie) when you don’t want to pre bake the crust. Although this recipe calls for brushing the crust with egg white before putting the filling in, he says it isn’t necessary for an enriched crust.
Citrus zest adds great flavor to any baked goods, such as this crust.
Wet finger can band aid together a tear in the crust. As you want to handle the dough as little as possible, never ball it up to roll out a second time.
Many home cooks have spices in the cupboards for ages. Fresh spices make a huge difference. (I love grating fresh nutmeg with a microplane.)
Use raw pecans. (I had always wondered which was better for pie!)
Setting the oven to 325ºF (instead of hotter) can prevent over browning the crust. You can use a bit of foil, too. (I use a pie shield.)
Don’t use the fan if you have a convection oven. A conventional oven is actually better.
Mama’s Kitchen is a San Diego charity that provides free meals to adults and children affected by HIV/AIDS and cancer. As I do, they believe FOOD is LOVE. One of their biggest annual fundraisers also happens to be the biggest bake sale on the West Coast and features one of my favorite obsessions: pies! Each professionally baked pie you purchase provides over 8 healthy meals delivered to neighbors in need. This year Mama’s Kitchen delivered their 7 millionth meal. Seven million, can you believe it?
About Mama’s Kitchen
Mama’s Kitchen started with one woman, cooking for her neighbors. The organization was founded in 1990 when volunteers from the AIDS Assistance Fund discovered that many of their clients were becoming too ill to take care of themselves. They realized that a reliable home meal delivery service was needed to ensure that these individuals would continue to receive nutritious, life-sustaining food. In 2004, Mama’s Pantry was opened to provide HIV/AIDS-positive individuals who are able to prepare meals the opportunity to supplement their nutritional needs. Today, the community-driven organization has expanded its service to San Diegans affected by AIDS or cancer that are vulnerable to hunger. Mama’s Kitchen provides three meals a day, for every day of the year, free of charge, to approximately 350 men, women, and children in San Diego County. Learn more and make a donation at www.mamaskitchen.org.
Pie in the Sky
Mama’s Kitchen’s annual Pie in the Sky bake sale is one of their largest annual fundraisers. All proceeds directly fund thousands of free, hot and nutritious Mama’s Kitchen meals, which help ensure that no one living with AIDS or cancer will go hungry in the San Diego community. Hundreds of volunteers will take to the streets to sell the pies to friends, family and co-workers. Many of San Diego’s top pastry chefs, caterers, and bakeries such as Urban Solace, Sea and Smoke, Sycuan, Sea World, Behind the Scenes Catering and more will donate traditional Thanksgiving pies for this annual Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale. Pies will be available for pick-up the day before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at more than 20 convenient Wells Fargo Bank branch locations throughout San Diego County and at Mama’s Kitchen in City Heights. You can purchase a pie through my personal page, or set one up yourself.
Photo credit for above photos: Mama’s Kitchen
If you are interested in picking up a chef-made pie and helping a good cause, the Pie in a Sky bakesale is a win-win. Interested in baking your own pie or live outside of San Diego? You can purchase a pie for a Mama’s client and then try one of these recipes:
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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My Day Job
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.