paprika peach pie

Dear Howard,

Another pie! This time, the crust surprised us by being incredibly flaky like puff pastry. Was it the wide lattice? Was it because I added more liquid to the dough than the previous pie? Was it the addition of Demerara sugar? We’ll never know because I’m never consistent! Sorry, but at least each pie we have is a surprise.

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Paprika Peach Pie
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes one 9-inch pie (double crust)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cube the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  2. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  3. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  4. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  5. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  6. Take one of the discs out to roll out to make the pie shell. Keep refrigerated as you prepare the pie filling.

Pie Filling
Filling recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

2½ pounds peaches (5 cups, which is about 7 peaches)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch
1 tablespoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

  1. First thing to note, I omitted the Old Fashion bitters from the original recipe.
  2. Peel the peaches, they’re best when ripe. I made this pie twice and the first time, the peaches were still a bit too firm. Then cut the peaches into cubes or slices (I prefer cubes for pie fillings).
  3. In a bowl, add the peaches, lemon juice, sugar, brown sugar, paprika, white pepper, allspice, ginger, and salt. Let it macerate for an hour.
  4. Remove majority of the excess juice and save about a quarter cup. Add in the potato starch and mix to thicken the filling.

Pie Assembly Time

Unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoon flour
1 large egg, whisked
Brown Demerara sugar

  1. This is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 425°F, make sure to position the oven racks to the bottom and center positions. Butter the pie pan and chill in the fridge.
  2. Dust a flat surface and rolling pin with flour (about a tablespoon). Roll the dough out to about an 11 or 12-inch circle to create the pie shell. Let the excess dough hang off the edge.
  3. Pour the filling in the pie shell and refrigerate.
  4. Dust the surface and rolling pin with flour again (the remaining tablespoon). Cut into strips or shapes depending on your design. Place on top of the filling in the pie shell.
  5. To make the border, roll in all the excess dough hanging off the edge. You’ll soon have a nice thick circumference that can be crimped into a wave. Refrigerate the pie if the oven is still not at the right temperature.
  6. Once your oven indicates that it’s ready, take the pie out of the fridge. Scramble the egg in a small bowl and brush it over the dough. Careful not to draw out any of the peach filling out if your lattice top has huge gaps.
  7. Then sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top, it should stick to the egg wash.
  8. Place the pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and move the pie on the baking sheet to the center oven rack. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The pie is ready when the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
  10. Take the pie out and let it cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

This is one showstopping pie. I love these unexpected sweet and savoury pie combinations!

Sincerely,
Syl

PS: #NotSponsored I just really love this cookbook! The dough is so easy to use and all the recipes have been delicious.

strawberry balsamic pie

Dear Howard,

I finally joined the Food52 Baking Club on facebook. Why? Because they were using The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book for the month of July and it’s a cookbook that we actually own! It was so nice to see a forum where everyone was baking from the same recipes and sharing success stories and handing out tips where things didn’t work.

With all the strawberries in stores these days, I wanted to give the Strawberry Balsamic Pie a try. I was intrigued by the combination of sweet strawberries with tart balsamic vinegar, plus the book says it’s one of their most popular pies in the shop.

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Strawberry Balsamic Pie
All-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes one 9-inch pie (double crust)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

  1. You can make the pie dough by hand, but I like to use my trusty food processor for its speed. Plus, it evenly distributes the butter into small specks among the flour.
  2. Add the sugar and salt into the food processor. Then cut up the cold butter and scatter them around the bowl. Pour in the flour and then pulse until the mixture is grainy and sandy looking.
  3. In a measuring cup, pour in the apple cider vinegar and cold water.
  4. Turn on the food processor again and through the opening, add 10 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and water mixture.
  5. The dough should come together nicely and feel a little (a tiny bit) tacky or sticky. I prefer the dough this way because additional flour gets added during the rolling process.
  6. Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  7. Take one of the discs out to roll out to make the pie shell. Keep refrigerated as you prepare the pie filling.

03_StrawberryBalsamicPie

Pie Filling
Filling recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

¼ cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pounds fresh strawberries, diced (5 to 6 cups)
1 small ambrosia apple
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¾ packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 grinds fresh black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

  1. First thing to note, I omitted the Angostura bitters and ground arrowroot (used cornstarch instead) from the original recipe.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar over the diced strawberries and let it macerate at room temperature. I left it out for 2 hours.
  3. Peel the apple and then grate it it. Drain the strawberries from their excess juices and combine with the shredded apples. Mix in the balsamic vinegar.
  4. In another bowl, mix the ¼ cup of sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, black pepper, and salt together. Add this sugar mixture to the strawberry and apples. Pour it into the pie shell. Refrigerate as you work on the lattice top.

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Pie Assembly Time

Unsalted butter
1 large egg, whisked
Brown Demerara sugar (I didn’t have, so my photos are missing this)

  1. This is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 425°F, make sure to position the oven racks to the bottom and center positions. Butter the pie pan and chill in the fridge.
  2. Again, dust a flat surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out and cut them into strips or whatever shaped design you’d like.
  3. To make the border, roll in all the excess dough hanging off the edge. You’ll soon have a nice thick circumference that can be crimped into a wave. Again, if the dough starts to feel warm, pop it back in the fridge, especially if your oven hasn’t finished preheating yet!
  4. Once your oven indicates that it’s ready, take the pie out of the fridge. Scramble the egg in a small bowl and brush it over the dough. Careful not to draw out any of the strawberry filling if your lattice top has huge gaps.
  5. Then sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top, it should stick to the egg wash.
  6. Place the pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and move the pie on the baking sheet to the center oven rack. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The pie is ready when the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
  8. Take the pie out and let it cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

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Despite letting the strawberries sit for two hours, a bunch of juice bubbled out of this pie. Luckily the border was high enough that nothing spilled onto the baking sheet or oven. This smelled so good, it was really hard waiting the couple of hours for the pie to cool and set.

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It was of course worth the wait. I served it without mentioning the balsamic to see if anyone would pick up on it. It’s pretty subtle, but I think I like this sweet and savoury combination because it doesn’t scream balsamic vinegar. Looking forward to the next strawberry season when I can buy bushel of strawberries for this pie!

Sincerely,
Syl

shakshouka

Dear Laura,

Oh geez, I thought I had published this letter. How many months has it been now? We’re in the sweltering heat of the long weekend when I made this shakshouka after that winter storm at your place. And now, you’re making it again with homemade bread and fresh herbs from your garden for brunch this weekend. Regardless, thank you for introducing my newbie taste-buds to this delicious dish.

Shakshouka (North African-Style)
Recipe from Serious Eats
Makes enough to serve 4-6.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
Salt and pepper
Large handful minced cilantro, parsley, or a mix
4-6 eggs (depends on how many eggs each person wants)
Feta cheese (crumbled) and crusty bread (toasted), for serving

  1. Choose your vessel, we’ve made it in both a cast iron skillet and a straight-side sauté pan. Heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering. Then add the onion, red pepper, and chili and cook until they’re browned and starting to char.
  2. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let the dish simmer for about 10 minutes. Seriously, if you can make pasta sauce, you can make this sauce.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in half the cilantro or parsley.
  4. Egg time! Using a large spoon and make little wells in the sauce. Break an egg into the well and cover the edges with a little bit of sauce so that it’s partially submerged. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, work around the perimeter of the pan. Simmer until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny.
  5. Take it off the heat to serve and garnish with the remaining cilantro, parsley, and feta cheese.

Shakshuka

Love how easy and hearty this is!

Sincerely,
Syl

banana leaf mural

Dear Laura and Richard,

You know, when most people offer to paint a mural in your newly renovated home, rarely do people take on the offer. But I’m so glad you’re both so trusting and adventurous (I believe Howard called it “brave”) because now we can brush aside the naysayers.

Banana Leaves Mural

Thanks for laying down the tape and prepping the wall for me to doodle on. And thank you for finding me a relatively easy design and colour scheme of one.

Banana Leaves Mural

Equipment

Painter’s Tape
Pencil
Molotow ONE4ALL Acrylic Paint Markers in 4 mm, Mister Green
Molotow ONE4ALL Acrylic Paint Markers in 15 mm, Mister Green
Molotow ONE4ALL Acrylic 30ml Refill in Mister Green
⅛ inch or ¼ inch paintbrush
Paint holder
Ladder

  1. Apply painter’s tape on the ceiling, adjacent walls, and over the floor or floor trims. Also around any shelves, sink, toilet paper holders, light fixtures, mirrors, or windows.
  2. Draw a light outline in pencil of the banana leaves.
  3. Trace the outline with the 15 mm paint marker. Go over it a few times to make it as thick as you like.
  4. Then, use the 4 mm paint marker to draw in the leaf details. These are simply straight-ish horizontal lines.
  5. Pour out the refill paint into the paint holder and touch up the lines with the paintbrush.

Banana Leaves Mural

How weird is it that I summed up 7 hours of work in 5 steps? Except, I’m sorry that the paint still got past the painter’s tape and it required you to repaint some places white.

Banana Leaves Mural

Thanks for pitching in and giving me snack breaks. I love that this was a group project and we all got to exercise the creative part of our brains. I also won’t forget the delicious shakshuka, homemade bread, crispy potatoes, smoothie, Bún bò Huế, and Daim cake.

Banana Leaves Mural

Stay tuned for my next post where I try to recreate the shakshuka!

Banana Leaves Mural

I hope you like the finished wall, I can’t wait to come back and tag it!

Sincerely,
Syl

matcha dusted fudge brownies

Dear Sam,

Huzzah! It feels like Easter was many moons ago as I am very late in writing this post. I was like, who could I write this to? and you popped into my mind because you finally gave in and had chocolate just because I made these. To that, I am humbled and I also commend you on going 39 days without chocolate. That’s not an easy task. Even just today, I was poking around my kitchen looking for something chocolate to nibble on. I eventually gave in and opened my second box of Daim cake. And just to be clear, I would have made them again after Easter so you could have some!

These brownies are so addictive, but it was seeing a photo of the glossy and crinkly top that drew me into the recipe in the first place. Stella Parks is a dessert genius. If she’s reading this, I would love to know how to swirl the matcha onto the top (and just the top) of the brownie. Would it still achieve that glossy film?

Glossy Fudge Brownies
Recipe adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
Makes enough to fill a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1⅓ cup cocoa powder
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for dark chocolate bars, chopped)
2¼ cup white suguar
¼ cup brown sugar
1¾ teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extra
(The original recipe also calls for instant espresso powder here, but it’s optional, and I didn’t have any.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan with foil so that the bottom and sides are covered.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. I dabbed a little of the melted butter with a brush to grease the foil in the pan. Increase the heat to medium and let the butter simmer until the butter is golden yellow and silent (there’s a lot of hissing and popping during the process).
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.
  5. Using a stand mixer, whisk the white sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla extract. Run it on medium-high until the mixture is thick and fluffy (about 8 minutes).
  6. Reduce the stand mixer speed to low and pour in the warm chocolate-butter mixture. Once it’s combined and you don’t see anymore streaks, add in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Mix on low until the batter comes together. Be careful not to over mix here. Use a spatula to help fold if you think the stand mixer might be too heavy handed.
  7. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for about 25 minutes. The brownies should have a glossy film and still be soft to the touch.
  8. Here’s the hard part, wait. Let it sit and cool. It’ll be too gooey to slice if you don’t wait.
  9. Gently tug and lift the foil out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares (or triangles). Store in an airtight container with wax paper between each layer. It’ll last for a week in room temperature. I also froze some to be mixed in with ice cream sundaes in the future.

Chocolate Brownies

Stirring the melted butter and chocolate together.

Chocolate Brownies

Sifting the flour and cocoa powder!

Chocolate Brownies

Pour that luxurious batter into the baking pan.

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Finally, it’s cool and ready to be sliced.

Chocolate Brownies

Oh my gosh, look at the center where it’s nice and dark. This is one moist and delicious brownie.

Liza, if you’re reading this, it’s time to look away.

Chocolate Brownies

Dusted some matcha powder on the top of my brownie square.

Chocolate Brownies

Yaasss! So ready to dig in.

Chocolate Brownies

The first bite, get in my belly!

Chocolate Brownies

Time for a second bite.

Sincerely,
Syl