Dad’s Ice Box Pie

For as long as I could remember, my father’s favorite desserts in the world have been Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and ice box cake. When I was little, I always pictured “ice box cake” as being some kind of deliciousness you’d pull out of your freezer to snack on, but it turns out that ice box cake, or at least our family’s version of it, is nothing more than graham crackers, vanilla and chocolate pudding from the box, and bananas layered together. The “ice box” part of it comes from the storage of the dessert. If it sits in the fridge overnight, the crackers soak up the pudding and become soft and cake-like. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest desserts you could make, and it’s extremely lovely to come home to after a long day at school or work.

When I started learning more about desserts, I figured out a more grown-up way to make my papa bear’s favorite dish. I began by substituting the graham crackers for a graham cracker pie crust, turning it into a pie rather than a cake. Turns out, it’s much easier to eat (too much of) this way.

I replaced the classic Jell-O pudding mix with a chocolate pudding that doesn’t come from a box, and instead of vanilla pudding, I added whipped cream. Who really likes vanilla pudding anyway? The creme de la creme of the old school dessert is the sliced bananas, and by keeping those in the pie, I turned an easy treat into something that could impress people. Well, it impressed my dad anyway. I always top the pie with Reese’s-either chopped peanut butter cups or the pieces-because, like me, my pops is in love with peanut butter and chocolate, but shaved chocolate, additional sliced bananas, or nothing but pure and simple whipped cream are also fabulous toppings.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • Graham cracker pie crust
  • Two slightly green bananas (they’ll ripen once they’re in the pie)
  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Chocolate mousse or chocolate pudding (recipe below)
  • Toppings of choice-Reese’s Pieces or Peanut Butter Cups, sliced bananas, shaved chocolate

For the Chocolate Filling

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

How to Do It

  1. Whip the heavy cream and 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar at high-speed until it holds soft peaks, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Make the chocolate filling. Create a double boiler by placing a small saucepan half-filled with water on high heat on the stove top. Allow it to come to a boil, and then turn the heat down slightly so it remains simmering. Place a metal, heat-safe bowl on top of the pot, and add the chopped chocolate and butter to the bowl. Whisk continuously until the chocolate and butter have melted completely, and remove the bowl from the heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. When the bowl is cool enough to handle, quickly whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk continuously until the yolks have blended completely.
  4. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites and the remaining 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar on high-speed until the mixture holds stiff peaks, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir a few tablespoons of the egg white mixture into the chocolate, and then fold the remaining mixture gently into the chocolate using a rubber spatula. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture gently just until the white streaks disappear. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  6. After the filling has cooled, fill the graham cracker crust 3/4 of the way full with the chocolate. Slice the bananas in thin slices and line every inch of the chocolate with bananas.
  7. Top with whipped cream and additional toppings, and serve immediately. If you don’t plan on serving (or eating) the pie immediately, hold off on putting the whipped cream on.

 Recipe for chocolate mousse from Today Food.

Tip: Be sure to use organic, pasteurized eggs in this recipe because you’re basically serving them raw. The high temperature of the chocolate/butter mixture only does so much to cook the yolks so protect yourself! Also, be sure to eat the pie within a day or two. This really shouldn’t be a problem…

Not So Boring Apple Pie

I wouldn’t quite use the word “loathe”, but I have a very strong dislike for apple pie. I know it’s all-American and traditional, but I think it’s the most God-awful-boring dessert ever created. I can only imagine that it has survived as long as it has because of how traditional it is. Of course, that’s only my opinion. My favorite chef in my old culinary program once said that “just because you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good”. Point taken. If you like apple pie, I’m not sure what you see in it, but let’s just agree to disagree.

With the onset of the holidays this year, I was excited to demonstrate my skills for my family and my boyfriend’s family. This was going to be my first major holiday with my boyfriend and his family, and I wanted to show them that their son was well-fed at home in CT. I had far too many ideas for what was ultimately going to serve a handful of people. So I narrowed it down between a caramel pecan cheesecake or a pumpkin (you always need something pumpkin at Thanksgiving) cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. I was pumped…until my boyfriend’s mom called and asked that I make just one dessert…

…an apple pie. Ugh. It’s really hard to be selective with a recipe for something you don’t really like in the first place but you still want to impress people with. What could I do? I headed over to my new favorite recipe resource, King Arthur Flour, and found the recipe below. It’s still apple, but it’s less boring and less traditional. I can’t say that I’m overly excited about it the way I am about pumpkin or chocolate recipes, but I did receive several compliments on it. Then again, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t good…

Cranberry Apple Pie

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 9-inch pie

For the Crust (Assuming you don’t cheat)

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and more to grease the pan
  • 1/2 cup or one stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 6 to 9 Tbsp ice water
  • One 9-inch pie plate
  • Rolling pin

For the Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 orange juice
  • 6 Tbsp chopped pecans
  • 3 large, firm, tart apples (Granny Smith is always great for pies) peeled, cored, and sliced evenly
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

How to Do It

  1. Begin by preparing the crust. Whisk together the flours, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. If you have access to a pastry blender, use it to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles cornmeal. If you do not have access to a pastry blender, you can use your fingertips.
  2. Toss the cubes of butter into the mixture to coat. Continue to cut them in until the largest pieces are the size of a dime, but be careful not to overwork the dough.
  3. Gradually incorporate small amounts of the ice water over the mixture until the dough is just moist enough to hold together. Round the dough into a ball and split in half. Wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them for 30 minutes or more before rolling out. This will give the dough an opportunity to rest so the gluten in the flours isn’t overworked.
  4. Prepare the filling by cooking the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, flour, and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer and thicken slightly. Remove the mixture from heat, and allow it to cool before filling the pie.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and lightly grease the pie plate. Remove the wrapped dough from the refrigerator, and prepare a lightly floured flat surface to roll it out. Roll out half the dough to fit into the base of the pie plate. Trim off any excess dishes, and spread half the pecans over the bottom of the dough. Neatly layer the apple slices over the pecans, and top the apples with butter pieces and cinnamon.
  6. Cover the apples with the cooled cranberry mixture, and top it with the remainder of the chopped pecans. Roll out the other half of the dough, and prepare a lattice crust. You can do this by slicing equally sized strips of dough with a pastry knife (or other small sharp knife) and placing them in a checkerboard pattern across the top of your pie. Use a few drops of water or eggwash (see below) to seal the the strips to the bottom crust.  
  7. Bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Check the pie after 20 minutes and cover with foil or pie shield if necessary to keep the filling from spilling over the edges. Cool before slicing and serving, and for a little added treat, top with whipped cream. Cheat with the can if necessary-you worked hard enough on the pie!

Recipe from King Arthur Flour.

Tip: Whenever you roll out pie dough, always roll from the middle outwards. Rotate your body rather than rotating the dough to get to all the edges, and move in a clockwise fashion. This will keep your shape even and your dough flat without thinning it out too much. It will also keep your dough from getting overworked.

Extra Tip: When you’re ready to transfer your dough to a pie plate, lightly flour your rolling-pin, and roll the dough in half with the rolling-pin acting as the divider. Carefully pick up the dough with the pin (this should look like a towel hanging flat over a shower rod), and lay it out over the pie plate from the bottom edge to the top. It will be easier to tuck the dough and line the plate evenly.

Extra, Extra Tip: Want that glistening top for your pie? Create an eggwash by whisking a whole egg and a small amount of milk or water in a small dish. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin coat on the top and the edges of your pie, and sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar over the top. The egg wash will give the pie a golden sheen, and it will help your edges stay sealed. The sugar just looks pretty and tastes lovely.

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