Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Mary’s Bluegrass Pie

dscf76471I haven’t slept well for the past several nights for two reasons. First, my 84-year-old aunt Mary, and the author of this recipe, is in the hospital. She is pretty sick with a bout of pneumonia and could potentially be in the hospital during what was always one of her favorite days to celebrate, The Kentucky Derby. It’s sad to see someone I care about weaken and grow sick, especially someone who gave of herself tirelessly for her family and in her work as an RN. Let’s hope she recovers and can return home.

I also haven’t slept because in my previous post I told you I was going to bake some pies to take to a Derby party and then I carelessly left you hanging – no recipe for the pies. So, in Mary’s honor, and in order that you have a recipe for pie, I give you this family recipe for “Mary’s Bluegrass Pie”. (I could get into a legal battle if I called this by it’s real name.) My sister in Baltimore swears by this recipe when she hosts her Derby parties.

If you want to get a little more fussy you can make small tartlets (or as Mary would say – piettes.) Press a small ball of unbaked pie dough into the cups of mini-muffin pans to form a crust. Then spoon a small amount of the filling into the mini-crusts. By that method the yield is about 48 piettes. Or you can make two 9-inch pies as described below.

Makes two 9-inch pies 

Two 9-inch pie crusts, unbaked
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup chocolate morsels (gotta love the old recipes and their wording. This means chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 9-inch pie pans with the prepared pie dough. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to blend well. Be sure your butter is sufficiently cooled so it doesn’t melt the chocolate morsels. Pour into the crusts. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pies are set in the middle and the crust is golden brown. (The smaller piettes bake for about 20 minutes.)


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Moist Carrot Cake


Make one 13 x 9 x 2-inch cake

Carrot cake conjures up images of a small restaurant with mismatched chairs, rickety tables, and thick white coffee mugs. (Sounds like my kitchen table, now that I think about it. One of my sisters describes this as the “beat all to hell” -style of decorating. I digress.)

This cake is so homey. moist, and earthy. I just love it, so let’s have a group hug. My recipe uses golden raisins and applesauce. If desired you can substitute 1 cup of coconut for the raisins, and 1 cup drained, crushed pineapple for the applesauce.

2 cups all-purpose flour or 2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour, or grease and flour the pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the carrots, nuts, raisins, and applesauce. Fold in the flour mixture until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and using the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula spread evenly. Bake for about 50 minutes until the center of the cake springs back slightly when pressed in the center with two fingertips. Cool completely in the pan. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. ( OK, one more group hug.)

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I’m proud to present, for the very first time, One Pan Blondie. This nutty companion to our brunette favorite – One Pan Brownies –  is the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea.

Makes one 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1  1/2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk to blend well and set aside. 

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the brown sugar until well combined. Let cool to the touch. Stir in the eggs, milk, and vanilla until well blended. Using a rubber spatula fold in the flour mixture, chocolate chips, and nuts. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be sure not to overbake. Cool on a rack. Have one or two before they’re gone. Just like the brownies, these don’t last long at my house.

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Double Ginger Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies


Again, a thankful nod to Bob, my favorite brother-in-law baker. He baked these cookies a few years ago and brought them to our family Christmas gathering. I loved the flavor and texture, not to mention the extra bits of crystallized ginger mixed into the dough. On another note, this recipe uses canola oil and no butter for those of you who may be looking for a butter-free cookie. The use of oil also makes the mixing much easier – all you need is a bowl and a spoon.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup canola oil

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup dark molasses

1 whole egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 egg white, lightly beaten and set aside, for garnish

about 1/2 cup coarse sugar crystals, for garnish 


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl stir together with a whisk flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl stir together the oil, brown sugar, and molasses until well blended. Add the whole egg and continue stirring until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture and the chopped ginger.

With a small cookie scoop or dampened hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Brush each ball lightly with egg white and roll in the sugar to lightly coat. Place the balls of dough 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the tops of the cookies are set and crackled, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes and then transfer to wire cooling racks to completely cool. The cookies firm as they cool. To store, place in an airtight container with a piece of wax paper between the layers of cookies.


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Sugar Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen rolled and cut sugar cookies (depends on the size of the cutter)

Big Note: This dough needs about 2 hours in the refrigerator to chill, so plan accordingly

dscf5492I give my brother-in-law Bob all the credit for introducing me to this recipe. The cookies made with this dough are crisp, buttery, and sweet. I find the dough easy to roll and re-roll. We always use confectioners’ sugar for dusting the countertop before rolling, and then cut the dough with our favorite shaped cutters.  The confectioners’ sugar works beautifully to prevent the dough from sticking to the countertop, prevents adding more flour to the dough which can make the dough tough, and of course the sugar adds a rich, sweetness to the outer surface of the cookies.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the coutertop

Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir together several times with a whisk to thoroughly blend. Set aside. With a mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until light in color and fluffy in texture.  Add the egg and milk and contine beating to combine well. On low speed, or using a strong wooden spoon, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter. Remove the dough from the bowl in 3 parts and wrap each 1/3 of dough in plastic wrap and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil, release side up.Generously rub the countertop or area where you will roll the dough with confectioners’ sugar.  Take 1 disc of dough out of the refrigerator.  Roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Move the dough around and check underneath to be sure it isn’t sticking.  Cut into desired shapes and sprinkle with colored sugar or other sprinkly decorations if desired.  Place at least 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 7 to 9  minutes or until cookies just start to turn brown around the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.  Serve as is or frost as desired.  If there are any left, store in an airtight container for up to one week.

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The Baking Begins

My holiday kitchen is officially open. Our Fraser Fur, fresh from Fries Brothers, stands bare waiting for its decorations. Behind me, the pantry overflows with nuts, spices, chocolate, flour, sugar, and sprinkles. Then there’s our refrigerator giving its all to keep the butter, eggs, and nog chilled. As we make our way through the next few weeks I’ll share favorite holiday recipes, many like these Smoky Spiced Nuts I make only once a year. That once a year is now.

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Shameless Plug

I guess since this is my blog I can write about any darn thing I want to. It’s hard though. I grew up in a large, estrogen-dominated family where drawing attention to ourselves was not encouraged. Walk in line. Follow the pack.

I’ll break from my upbringing for a moment to shout out about a recent accomplishment of mine and of my friend Shirley Corriher (and her dear husband, Arch). We worked tirelessly this summer finishing BakeWise, a highly anticipated baking companion to Shirley’s first cookbook CookWise. Shirley as the author, Arch as her live-in editor and nitpicker, and lil’ ole me as their freelance editor (for Scribner – thanks Beth Wareham!) did everything humanly possible to whip the manuscript into shape before turning it over to our precise copy editor, Suzanna Fass. Next, we poured over every word in the designed pages making sure that what we wanted said was in fact, well, said.

My editing work (all via telephone) with the Corrihers was a pleasure. What a sweet honor to help Shirley release BakeWise the world. Now I need to get myself down to Atlanta to celebrate at their favorite eatin’ spot. “Great day in the morning, BakeWise is out!”

BakeWises official publication date is Tuesday, October 28th. I’ll be in Chicago but, despite the forecast for chilly rain and wind, I can hardly wait to make a mad dash into a bookstore to view a copy of BakeWise “on the shelf”. I have a bound copy right here on my desk. I’ve seen it already – cover to cover, inside, outside and upside down, and it’s a beautiful thing. But, until I see the fruits of our labor sitting among other cookbooks it’s still a little hard to believe.

Amazon is shipping copies of BakeWise. If nothing else, visit Amazon and read the reviews. Next time you’re in a bookstore pick up a copy. Look at the fabulous photographs. Flip through the pages. Read a recipe or two. Can you smell the brownies?

OK, enough of that. Time to get back in line. I’ll return again and talk about something other than myself, and my friend Shirley.

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