Dark Chocolate ‘Mud’ Pie with an Espresso Crust

 I think I was onto my career path early, and it might have started with making mud pies. The real mud pies with mud, not like the one you see above.   In many ways it was just a small step from one to the other. I was very precise when I made mud pies. They could not be without decoration and finesse. I would gather jar lids, old aluminum pie tins, twigs, small leaves, dandelions and little berries from the woods before beginning…my first version of “mise en place”. Filling the lids and pie tins with mud after a rain, I would smooth the tops and gently press leaves and twigs into the tops artfully. The hardest part was waiting for them to dry. Not that I could actually eat them, but I wanted to see how pretty they looked all dried and hard with little pieces of nature sticking up randomly from the tops. Sometimes I would sprinkle the tops with small gravel or powdery dirt or white fluffy dandelion heads.  It’s not really hard to figure out how I got from there to here is it?

My favorite desert is a mud-dark chocolate meringue pie. One that is not overly sugary,  one with a nice thick layer of browned meringue and one with a crust that doesn’t get soggy within a few hours. I think this pie is it, finally, an edible mud pie!

The extra, extra here is the espresso powder dusted over the crust before being filled and baked. The other extra something, something is that the filling ingredients are all mixed in a blender. How easy is that?

You can flute edges of the crusts or not. Make them fancy or plain. Whatever you like.

Bake until a few tiny cracks start to show on the surface. The center is just a big jiggly. Time for meringue, or if that is not your thing…then whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, or maybe dandelion heads?  These pies are good for a few days if they last that long.

  This is a pie that makes a good gift for your fellow chocolate loving friends and family. I have made 4 of these in the same number of days and have given most away….most, but not all!

Eat with coffee, with milk, on a plate or out of the pan…anyway you like it..enjoy.

Sources:

Dark Chocolate Mud Pie with Espresso Crust

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for two pies:

  • 1 box of refrigerator pie dough (2 to the box)
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups canned evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 stick/1/2 cup butter, melted

Meringue for two pies + other toppings:

  • 6 egg whites (freeze the yolks and add to the next cake you bake)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Alternatively you can use store bought meringue powder following directions on the package. If you don’t care for meringue top with whipped cream. Un-topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is yummy as well.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Remove refrigerator pie dough rounds from the refrigerator and let sit for about 15 minutes to warm up a bit. This makes them easy to handle. Roll each one out on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon espresso powder. Smear around to edges with your fingers. Fit each dough round into a regular size pie pan, not deep dish pressing into bottom and sides.  Turn edges under and flute or turn under and press down with the tines of a fork.
  3. Whisk together the 3/4 cup cocoa powder and 2 cups granulated sugar.
  4. Put 4 eggs, 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract into a blender. Add in the cocoa powder-sugar mixture and blend well. Add in 1 stick melted butter. Blend well again. Pour filling equally into each pie shell. I put both pie pans on a sheet pan as it makes it easier to move and just in case of spillage no oven to clean!
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Quickly turn pan around and bake another 15 minutes. The pies should be puffy and just a bit jiggly or wiggly in the middle. They may even start to have some small cracks in the surface, but that’s okay. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. They will sink and set up as they cool.
  6. If you are adding a meringue top: Turn oven heat to 450 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat 6 egg whites, 2/3 cup sugar and 2 teaspoon cornstarch mixture until stiff peaks form. Spread over pies touching the crust all around and bake until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes.   These pies are ready to cut and eat if you like your pie warm. I let ours cool completely before eating. You can keep chilled for a few days.

http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com         http://www.foodonfifth.com

 

 

 

Fresh Cranberry-Pear-Orange Relish E.A.T #40

I must confess I have a weakness for that (kinda gross) jellied cranberry sauce in the can. I am sure it has to do with childhood Holiday memories nested deep in my brain.  On the other hand, I really love this cranberry relish that is quick, easy and fresh. It is a little bit sweet, a little bit tart and very special with a baked ham or a roasted chicken or turkey, not to mention roasted vegetables.. All you need is a food processor and about 10 minutes. It will keep in the fridge for a few days in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid so it is an excellent make-ahead.

There really isn’t any need for an official recipe, but I put a quick one at the end just in case.

About 2 cups of fresh cranberries,  2 firm but ripe pears, 1 orange including the peel and a 1/2 cup raw or turbinado sugar are the 4 ingredients needed. All chopped in a processor, jarred and chilled. It really is “easy-as-this”. What a nice jar of this would be for a food-lover on your Holiday List!

Fresh Cranberry, Pear and Orange Relish

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • 2  firm, but ripe pears, cored
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup raw or turbinado sugar

Directions:

  1. Medium chop cranberries in a food processor. Scrape into a mixing bowl.
  2. Puree pears and add to mixing bowl.
  3. Medium to finely chop orange wedges and add to mixing bowl.
  4. Add sugar and stir ingredients together. Taste and adjust sugar if needed.
  5. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 4-5 days.

Note: For gift-giving, add a ribbon or tag with the date made and ingredients in a pretty jar. How easy is that?

Teresa Blackburn.       http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

 

 

Dreamy, Creamy Roasted Carrot-Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

 

Soups are year round at our table, but particular soups start showing up around November when there are no fresh vegetables to be had at the farmer’s markets but plenty of fall and winter squash, fat carrots and papery onions. This trifecta had been languishing in my kitchen for over a week waiting for inspiration which manifested itself in this simple, but elegant and easy-to-make creamy soup.  Healthy ingredients oven roasted,  unsweetened coconut milk instead of cream, and spicy with the addition of Berbere seasoning and dried French thyme makes for one great winter soup.

Carrots, squash and onions drizzled with olive oil and generously seasoned with black pepper….

…oven roasted for 15 minutes and then pureed with other ingredients….

… becomes a lovely pot of soup. Add a few interesting, textural toppings and enjoy.

Sources…because sometimes it’s nice to share:

Dreamy, Creamy Roasted Carrot-Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (5-6 cups)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
  • 2 cups low fat or no fat chicken broth + 2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon Berbere seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon French or other dried thyme
  • Garnish: shredded coconut, roasted and salted pipits, pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • Suggested: serve with a baguette cut into slices, top with gruyere cheese and toasted

Directions:

  1. Turn oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread carrot, squash and onion chunks out and drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until carrots are softened.
  2. Scrape roasted vegetables into a soup pot and add the 2 cups chicken broth and water. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. Stir often. Remove from heat and let cool a few 10 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, puree ingredients in a blender or food processor and add back to the pot over medium low heat.
  4. Stir in coconut milk. Add Bebere seasoning and dried French thyme. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking adding more salt and pepper if desired.
  5. Serve hot topped with garnishes if you prefer with gruyere toast alongside.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

We all need a little “Skillet Love”….Cornbread

Cornbread can fall into many categories….the good, the bad, dry or moist, sweet or not, yellow or white.  This recipe for “Black Skillet Cornbread”, from the new cook book “Skillet Love” by New York Times Best Selling Cookbook author Anne Byrn, published by Grand Central Publishing, is in my opinion, simply “the best cornbread” I have ever eaten. I always hesitate to declare anything “the best” as that concept is full of conflict in that my best might not be yours. I take exception to my rule and challenge you to make it and see if you agree or not. The recipe itself is part of the deliciousness, but the key “ingredient” is the cast iron skillet in which it is cooked.

Cover photography by Danielle Atkins Photography.

 “Skillet Love” has more than 150 recipes, from “steak to cake” all baked, charred, roasted, fried, grilled and browned in a 12 inch seasoned cast iron skillet. Did you know that you can quickly make a pound cake in cast iron? How about the crispiest crust pizza ever? A whole roasted hen along with vegetables? These recipes, the history of cast iron cookware, how to season a new cast iron skillet as well as how to keep your old one in great shape is all to be found between the pages of this delightful book. Beautiful photography by Danielle Atkins, lively prop styling by Jessie Pickren and the food styling by me and Anne.

All book photography by Danielle Atkins Photography.

When asked what is my go-to cooking pan, I always reply it is my much loved and cared for cast iron skillet that belonged to my Grandmother on my Mother’s side who I never met. It is old and shiny black with a beautifully seasoned finish. It has moved along with me in life, it has pleased me when life was not so pleasing and has cooked many tasty upside down cakes and crispy breads, never failing to satisfy. It is just a cast iron skillet, a material object, but it has a life of stories within. I have added many cast iron pieces to my collection of pots and pans over the years. Some of my favorites come from Lodge Cast Iron which is made right here in Tennessee. Lodge was the perfect skillet for this most perfect of cornbreads.

The “sizzle” is the key to success when baking cornbread. Placing the skillet, with oil, in a cold oven then turning it to 450 degrees and leaving the skillet until it is very, very hot and the oil is “shimmering” before adding the batter is how to get the crusty goodness.  Be patient. This can take a few minutes, which is when you can gather and measure out your ingredients. Maybe have a sip of wine or a cup of tea. Just be patient…see that sizzle?

A couple of things before we get to the recipe. Good cornmeal is also a key to making good cornbread. There are so many varieties on the market that it can be confusing when shopping. White, yellow, stone ground, rough, smooth, self rising or plain? I used Anne’s favorite cornmeal from “The Old Mill”. Their white self rising cornmeal can be bought from their online shop. It is stone ground, silky and grainy at the same time and makes a great skillet of cornbread as you can see.

This is how we ate it yesterday…a hot bowl of tomato soup topped with shredded Gruyere.

If you live in Tennessee you cannot get much more local than this cookbook. The author, the photographer, the prop stylist and I all live in Nashville. Lodge Cast iron is made in South Pittsburgh, TN. The Old Mill cornmeal is ground in Pigeon Forge, TN. Bon Appetit.

Black Skillet Cornbread

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease or veg oil
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup veg oil
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons water (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add bacon grease or veg oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the cornmeal and flour. Stir in the oil and buttermilk until smooth. If batter is too thick, thin it with the water.
  3. When oven comes to temperature, remove the skillet and pour in the batter. It should sizzle. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cornbread is deeply browned, 12 to 17 minutes.
  4. If need be, run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cornbread out onto a cutting board, bottom-side up. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut into wedges.

Recipe used with permission, from the cookbook “Skillet Love” by Anne Byrn.

 

A Clafoutis with Pears

The name of this extremely easy dessert can be mystifying when first encountered….As in, what the hell is that? Clafoutis, pronounced “kla-foo-tees”, is French and manifique! Clafoutis are traditionally made with cherries, which was how I made my very first version many years ago. I have also made them using summer berries, plums and winter tart apples. No matter what fruit you choose, you will hardly ever make an easier and more loved dessert..

I do hope if you make it you will let me know how you like it. With this post I shall bid adieu to my trio of Fall pear posts. Bon Appetit.

A Clafoutis with Pears

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons very soft butter
  • 3 ripe, but firm pears, thinly sliced
  • 1  1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Smear a 10 inch cast iron skillet all over with softened butter.
  2. In a blender mix together the milk, 1/3 cup of the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt and flour  on high speed until smooth with no lumps.  Pour batter into the prepared skillet.
  3. Top batter with all the pear slices. They will sink down into the batter for the most part. Sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is puffy and golden brown.
  4. Serve warm or room temperature with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Clafoutis are also delicious cold and will keep for days chilled when sliced and removed from skillet.

(Recipe adapted from the New York Times recipe by Julia Moskin “Julia Child’s Berry Clafoutis” on line.)

Teresa Blackburn.        www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Hello October Pear, Ricotta, Honey and Almond Toast E.A.T #39

 

Weather Report – Nashville Tennessee, October 1, 2019, 5:33pm, 100 degrees.

This very quick fall pear treat, unless you call using a toaster cooking, could just as easily be eaten for breakfast, lunch or a snack. It’s just so good and uses very little energy.  You will no doubt come up with your own variations using other fruit without breaking a sweat.

A loaf of good crusty bread, sliced and toasted. Topped with a smear of ricotta cheese or mascarpone and  thin pear slices, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of sea salt or sugar and almonds are all you need.

Stay cool in all ways.

September Honey-Balsamic Roasted Pears and Climate Change

It is still extremely hot here in Nashville..call it Climate Change. You would pretty much have to be living under a bushel basket to not have caught on to this. It’s science, it’s real and it’s with us right now. Think about it, read about it, talk amongst your family and friends about it. If you know a farmer or two, ask them what they think. How is climate change affecting them?

While I was making this very simple dessert, I was thinking about the future and food. These pears are as good as any I have ever tasted. Will they always be readily available? Will they be “special” and only for a select group of people in the future? I do not have the answer, but I do know that good, healthy, fresh foods can nourish both the body and mind.  A delicious pear is one of those things.

No peeling necessary! Cut in half and the center scooped out with a melon-baller and then drizzled with raw sugar, lemon-flavored olive oil and honey-balsamic vinegar…ready for the oven.

15 minutes later…roasted and caramelized and ready to eat. Quick and easy….now turn off that oven…it’s hot out there!

You can find more easy pear recipes here: Aromatic Roasted Pears and Plums with Star Anise, Vanilla, Balsamic and Maple Syrup E.A.T #34 ;  Cream Baked Cardamom-Vanilla Bean Pears and Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake + Kitchen Tools #1

Honey-Balsamic Roasted Pears

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 firm, but ripe pears, cut in half and core scooped out
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup citrus flavored olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey-balsamic vinegar (you can make your own by whisking together honey and balsamic vinegar until emulsified)
  • Ice Cream for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Roast pear halves, cut side up, for 12-15 minutes or until caramelized and a little charred on the edges. Remove from oven. Let cool in pan for a few minutes.
  3. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzle any “pan drippings” over dessert.

Note: I choose pears with the stems still attached when I find them. I like how the stems look so much.

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     foodonfifth.com