I was thrilled to be the Daring Bakers host for June and I chose to challenge my fellow bakers with not one, not two, not three, but four scrumptious dessert pies! They had the choice of making one or more and I am happy to report that quite a few bakers made all four! It was fun to introduce some new recipes to people’s baking repertoires as well as revisiting some old favourites.
The challenge pies were Momofuku Milk Bar’s (in)famous Crack Pie; a rich, smooth and utterly indulgent French Chocolate and caramel tart; and two slightly healthier but no less delicious options, an Italian Crostata di Marmellata and a traditional Grandma-style Double crust apple pie.
This is a super-long post because I’ll give the recipes here, but you can also download the .pdf file for the recipes with step-by-step pictures. The link’s at the bottom.
A thick, chewy crust filled with an outrageously sweet gooey filling, it’s a wicked sugar-rush. You’ll want small servings!
Preparation time: 20 + 20 minutes
Baking time: 18 + 50 minutes
Cooling time: 1 hour + 2 hours, approx.
Chilling time: overnight
Oat Cookie Crust
9 tbsp / 1 stick + 1 tbsp / 4 1⁄2oz / 125g unsalted butter, room temperature, divided (6 & 3 tbsp; 85g & 40g)
5 1/2 tbsp (packed) / 2 1⁄2oz / 70g light brown sugar, divided (4 & 11⁄2 tbsp; 50g & 20g)
2 tbsp / 1oz / 30g white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp / 2 3⁄4oz/ 80g old- fashioned oats
1/2 cup / 2 1⁄2oz / 70g all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup / 6oz / 170g white sugar
1/2 cup (packed) / 3 1⁄2oz / 100g light brown sugar
1 tbsp dry milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup / 1 stick / 4oz / 115g unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tbsp / 100ml heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 13x9x2 inch/33x22x5cm metal baking pan with parchment (baking) paper. Lightly spray or butter a 9 inch/22cm diameter glass or ceramic pie dish.
Combine 6 tablespoons (85 gm) of the softened butter, 4 tablespoons (50 gm) of the brown sugar and the white sugar in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add egg and beat until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.
Dump oat mixture into prepared baking pan and press out evenly to edges of pan.
Bake until light golden, 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to wire rack and cool cookie completely, about an hour.
Using your fingertips, crumble the cookie a into large bowl – there should be no identifiable pieces of cookie remaining. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 gm) butter and 1-1/2 tablespoons (20 gm) brown sugar. Rub in with your fingertips until the mixture is moist and sticks together when pressed between your fingers.
Transfer cookie crust mixture to pie dish. Using your fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish (about 1 inch/2.5cm up the sides if your pie dish is deep). If your pie dish is shallow, place it on a baking sheet in case of overflow.
Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
Add melted butter and whisk until blended.
Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.
Pour filling into crust.
Bake 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble up). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3. Continue to bake until filling is brown on top and set around edges but center still jiggles slightly, about 20 minutes longer.
Cool pie completely in pie dish on wire rack. Chill uncovered overnight.
Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into thin wedges and serve cold.
Chocolate and caramel tart brings together two of my very favourite sweet flavours, but the pie itself is not overbearingly sweet. It is, however, rich and smooth and amazingly good! A buttery crust, a layer of creamy caramel and a layer of rich chocolate mousse. Swoon!
Active time: 1 hour altogether
Baking time: 35 minutes altogether
Cooling time: approx. 2 hours altogether
1 large egg yolk
5 tbsp / 2 1⁄2oz / 70g granulated or powdered sugar, as you prefer
1 3⁄4 cups / 8 3⁄4 oz / 250g all-purpose flour
9 tbsp / 1 stick + 1 tbsp / 4 1⁄2oz / 125g cold butter, diced
3 tbsp + 1 tsp / 50ml cold water
For the caramel
7 tbsp / 3 1⁄2 oz / 100g granulated sugar
7 tbsp / 100ml whole cream, hot
For the chocolate mousse
2 large eggs
7 tbsp / 100ml whole milk
1/3 cup / 2 1⁄2 oz / 75g powdered sugar (optional)
13 tbsp / 200ml whole cream
7 oz / 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 9″/24cm or 10″/26cm tart pan, ideally a fluted metal one with a removable bottom.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar together with a teaspoon of the water until pale and fluffy. Set aside.
Sift the flour and salt together into a mound on a work surface.
Scatter the diced butter over the top of the flour. Quickly toss the butter in the flour so it’s all coated, then, using your fingers, rub it in until it resembles breadcrumbs. Keep repeating the operation until it has the consistency of sand.
Gather the flour mixture into a mound and make a well in the center.
Pour the egg mixture and the rest of the water into the well. Working quickly, incorporate the wet ingredients into the flour, first with your fingertips then with a bench scraper until just mixed but not brought together.
Gently gather dough together into a rough ball between your palms. If it stays together, it is sufficiently moist. If it doesn’t stay together, add a touch more water and repeat the process.
Using the palm of your hand, push away from you to smear the dough across the work surface, gather it up and repeat until it comes together into a smooth, soft ball. You aren’t kneading, you are using the smearing action to bind the elements of the dough without developing the gluten in the flour. The dough ball shouldn’t spring back when pressed.
Lightly flour your work surface and lightly roll the dough out to about 3mm thick in a circle to fit your pan. Press the dough gently into the pan, prick all over the bottom with a fork.
Line the tart pan with baking paper and fill with dry beans or pie weights and bake until set, around 9 minutes. Remove pie weights and paper and bake another 6 minutes, until dry.
Remove the pastry from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Leave the oven on.
Spread the sugar evenly across the bottom of a small, heavy-based, non- coated saucepan (it needs to be metallic so you can see the color). Heat over a medium-low heat without stirring until the sugar starts to melt and becomes liquid around the edges. Once about a quarter of it has melted, gently stir continuously with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula until it turns a deep amber color, a few minutes depending on how high the heat is.
Remove from heat and very slowly and carefully pour all (100ml) of the hot cream into the caramel, stirring continuously – it will splutter and steam so be very careful as it is extremely hot. The cream needs to hot and poured very slowly, otherwise the caramel will seize. Keep stirring until it stops bubbling and is well combined then set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together with the milk (and powdered sugar, if using).
In a small heavy-based saucepan, bring all (200ml) of the cream to a boil.
Remove cream from heat and add the broken chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is smooth. Let cool a few minutes.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg and milk mixture and stir gently with a spatula to obtain a smooth cream.
Spread the cooled caramel in the bottom of the cooked tart shell.
Gently pour the chocolate cream over the caramel so you don’t disturb it.
Place the tart into the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling has set but is still wobbly in the center.
Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. If using a tart pan with removable bottom, unmold before serving.
Crostata di marmellata
Crostate are a traditional Italian sweet treat, most often filled with jam, preserved or fresh fruit, or nut-based fillings such as almond or hazelnut paste, or they can be filled with pastry cream, citrus curd or numerous other delights. The recipe I’m giving here is for a simple Crostata di marmellata, filled with home-made strawberry preserves.
Active time: 1 hour altogether
Baking time: 30 minutes altogether
Chilling and resting: 2 hours altogether
Cooling time: 3 hours altogether
Note: You need about 2 cups (500 ml) (680 gm) (24 oz) of
jam for the filling. This should make about as much as you need, depending on the juice content of the strawberries, but you can use more or less filling without a problem.
18oz / 500 g strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
250g 2:1 gelling sugar (or 500g of 1:1 gelling sugar, or as much white sugar (1 to 2 cups) as desired + pectin according to manufacturer’s quantities)
3 tbsp / 45ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pasta Frolla (basic Italian pie pastry)
2/3 cup / 5 1/3oz / 150g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup / 2 2/3 oz / 75g sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 medium lemon
1 2/3 cups / 8oz / 225g all-purpose (plain) flour
Note: This will make more than you need. Store leftover glaze in a jar in the fridge and reheat before using. It should keep indefinitely.
1⁄4 cup / 2 2/3 oz / 60ml / 75g apricot jam
1-2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Stir everything together in a heavy-based saucepan and heat slowly over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
When the strawberries have released their juice and the mixture comes to a boil, allow to boil for the time given in the gelling sugar/pectin manufacturer’s directions.
Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
Can be made ahead and refrigerated, covered, for up to a week until needed.
Using a paddle attachment on a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer or whisk, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 – 5 minutes. The amount of time you cream the butter will affect the final dough – longer means lighter which in turn means a softer, more fragile dough which is less easy to work, but I prefer the texture of the cooked pastry this way because it’s lighter too. If you want to do a more intricate lattice, I’d recommend a shorter creaming time so you have a firmer dough.
Add the egg, vanilla and lemon zest, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together but remains soft, about 1 minute using a stand or electric mixer or a wooden spoon if mixing by hand. Don’t over-mix.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
When getting ready to bake, rest dough at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Lightly grease a shallow 9″/24cm metal pie dish.
On either a piece of parchment or a lightly floured surface, roll 2/3 of the dough (I weighed my dough and 2/3 was about 12oz/340g) out to a circle to generously line the pie dish. I prefer to use parchment with a circle traced on it so I can roll it as quickly as possible, before the dough gets too soft to handle, then use the parchment to transfer it to the dish.
Transfer the dough to the pie dish, press in gently and roll the edges to form a good surface for attaching the lattice later. Prick all over the bottom with a fork.
Refrigerate the dough-lined pie dish for 30 minutes to reduce shrinkage during baking.
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4..
Line pastry with parchment and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake until set, around 15 minutes.
Remove the weights and parchment and allow to cool. If using a springform or loose based pie dish, remove the side of the pan.
Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
Roll the remaining dough to fit the pie dish and cut it into roughly half inch/1.5cm-wide strips.
Spread the filling over the par-baked crust.
Arrange the strips of dough in a lattice over the filling (see links below for some how-to guides – you can do an intricate intertwined lattice or a very simple overlay one like I’ve done), trim as needed and lightly pinch the ends onto the rolled edge of the bottom crust.
Place pie dish on a baking sheet and place in center of oven. Bake until lattice is golden, around 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.
Heat the jam and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Alternatively, you can heat it on medium-high in a bowl in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve if it’s chunky.
While glaze and pie are both still warm, brush over lattice crust.
Allow pie to cool completely before serving.
Double crust apple pie is a true classic throughout many parts of the world. With a light flaky crust encasing a luscious warmly spiced filling, it’s a pie that really needs no further introduction.
Active time: 45 minutes altogether
Baking time: 50 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
2/3 cup / 5 1/3oz / 150g unsalted butter
1 3⁄4 cups / 8 2/3oz / 250g all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3-8 tablespoons / 45-120ml cold water
1 to 1 1⁄2 kg / 2 1⁄4 to 3 1/3lb apples (depending on the depth of your pie dish)
1 cup lightly packed / 7oz / 200g light brown sugar (more or less to taste)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves, nutmeg and/or ginger (optional)
1 – 2 tsp white sugar for sprinkling (optional)
either 1 egg beaten with 1/2 tsp water or 1 tbsp milk
Weigh/measure out the correct amount of butter, wrap it in foil and freeze it for at least 30 minutes.
Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter directly over the flour in the bowl. Hold the butter by the foil to avoid warming it up too much and work as quickly as possible. Using a table fork, toss the grated butter in the flour until it’s all coated.
Alternatively, finely chop the butter and rub in with your fingertips, working quickly to avoid warming it. This is best left to those lucky folk with cool hands!
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of cold water over the mixture and mix together with the fork. Add more water, spoon by spoon, as needed – it will depend on temperature, humidity and a million other factors, but the finished dough should be moist and starting to come together, but not wet. I used 7 tablespoons (105 ml). Use your fingertips to test if it’s sticking together.
Finish by using your hands to quickly bring the dough together into a ball. Just press, don’t knead.
Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to hot 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 . Lightly grease a deep 9″/24cm ceramic or metal pie dish. Note that a dish this size results in quite a thin top crust – if you want a sturdier top which cuts more cleanly, then you should use a smaller dish so you don’t need to roll it out so thinly.
Take 2/3 of the pastry dough (I weighed my dough and 2/3 was about 12oz/340g) and roll out to fit pie dish, right up to the rim. Line the pie dish with it, prick all over the bottom with a fork and set aside.
Peel, quarter, core and slice the apples and place in a bowl. How tightly you can pack them into the pie depends on how thinly they are sliced – I like them chunky, but you will get a firmer filling if they are very thin.
Sprinkle the brown sugar and spice(s) over the apples and toss well to coat.
Pack the apples tightly into the lined pie dish. The filling can come up above the rim of the dish in a mound.
Roll out the remaining pastry dough to fit over the apples.
With a wet finger, moisten the edge of the pastry in the dish. Place the dough lid on the pie and press the edges together. Trim the edges as necessary and crimp the seam closed with your fingers or the back of a fork.
With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut three vents in the top of the dough. You can either cut leaf- shaped vents and use the pieces you removed to fashion decorative leaves, or you can cut straight vents and use any pastry trimmings to fashion decorations as desired. Moisten the back of the decorations with a wet finger and gently press onto the top of the pie.
Glaze the top of the pie with a beaten egg or milk, then sprinkle the top with a little white sugar.
Place pie dish on a baking sheet and put it into the center of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 30 minutes. The top should be light golden brown.
Serve hot, warm or cold.
Storage & Freezing Instructions
Crack pie will keep well in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for 5 days. You can freeze it, well wrapped in plastic, for one month. Defrost in the fridge.
Chocolate and caramel tart will keep in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for 3 days. It is unsuitable for freezing. The pastry can be made a day ahead.
Crostata di marmellata and Double crust apple pie will both keep well in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for 5 days, although the crust will soften. The baked pies can be frozen, well wrapped in plastic, for one month. Defrost at room temperature or in a slow oven. The pastry for both can be made a day ahead.
Lattice photo step-by-step guide
Pâte sablée step-by-step pictures
and a video of the pâte sablée process
David Lebovitz has some great tips and pictures on making caramel here
A somewhat limited but still useful list of apple varieties and their uses
Crack pie: Bon Appetit
Chocolate and caramel tart: Pastry from chefsimon, filling adapted from Valéry Drouet’s “Chocolat”
Crostata di marmellata: adapted from Carol Field’s “The Italian Baker”
Double crust apple pie: adapted from Baking Bible: From the oven to the table
Daring Bakers blog checking lines: Blog-checking lines: Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!
Download the printable .pdf file here. Please note that I think the .pdf might contain a couple of conversion errors (the maths hurts my head!), so please verify them yourself if you’re not using metric.