Life of Pies (and a cake)

New Thanksgiving Favorites: Quince and Chersonskya Pies

I became obsessed with quince a couple years ago and have been making variations of quince pie ever since.  They’re like a cross between a pear and an apple–and they’re better than either.  We only get them at McClendon’s and One Windmill Farm a few weeks every November.  They keep a while, so if you find them BUY THEM ALL!!!  I can say that, because Pat got me a dozen or so last week.  Try McLendon’s tomorrow (early) at the Town and Country Farmers’ Market–he may have them again.  They’re perfect for baking.  They have to be cooked (what a great excuse for pie) and never get mushy or too soft . They’re just the right degree of sweet–and they smell wonderful.   I like braeburn apples for pies, but these are way better.  A combination of apples and quince is wonderful, too.

Quince goes really well with honey.  I love this quince pie recipe from

I tried a variation of this last week.  I put a container of fresh cranberries in the pan with the quince until they were just tender.  I also put streusel on top so I didn’t have to use a top crust.  My sister-in-law told me to use vodka for a flaky pie crust, but I didn’t bother looking it up to find out that you only use vodka for half the liquid.  Maybe she meant you just drink the vodka while you’re baking.  Anyway, my crust sucked.  I had to press it into the pan because I couldn’t roll it out.  But nobody won’t eat pie crust–no matter how badly done, and the filling was so extremely wonderful, we didn’t care.  I decided to make it again today–this time with a proper crust.

If you want to try the cranberry pie with apples and only a little quince, try this one from Apt. 2B Baking Co.

Here’s the vodka dough recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  Don’t freak out about the wet dough–it firms up in the fridge and makes a really easy-to-work-with crust.

My new favorite thing is chersonskya squash.  Maya of Maya’s Farm pointed to it when I asked for a good squash, but I didn’t know what it was called until I read I read about it on one of my favorite blogs, Growing Up in the Garden.  I made a pie filling with it last night–best thing ever.  I’ll be making at least two Thanksgiving pies from this.  I’ll do one from a sugar pumpkin, too, but really, these things blow the competition out of the water.


. . . And a Cake

Our Boy Scout Troop had its annual cake auction last week and I wanted to make something fall-ish.  I decided on a Buche de Noel, except without the whole Noel thing.

The key to making a good yule log is to not make it look like a giant turd.  After searching the internet (and viewing countless grotesque logs), I found a few great recipes to make it work.

I started (duh) by watching a couple videos from Martha Stewart (this one on rolled cakes, too) and Oprah.

I looked at a few good recipes at King Arthur Flour, Sprinkle Bakes and Gastronomer’s Guide.  These gave me the basics and some good ideas.

Then I found an easy filling and icing, here, at Frontier Co-op.  I added a teaspoon or two of espresso powder to the filling and it turned out great.  I used Straus cream (in the cool glass bottle), and I think it made a difference.

Baking, filling and icing the buche de noel were pretty easy.  You just have to remember to sprinkle your cake with powdered sugar and turn it out on a tea towel while it’s still really warm.  Then you sprinkle the other side with powdered sugar and roll it up in the tea towel.  You can use wax paper instead of the powdered sugar on the second side.  If you don’t roll it up when it’s hot, though, it’ll break.

When it’s cooled for an hour or so, unroll it and spread on your filling (whipped cream, powdered sugar and whatever else you want).  You want to leave 1/2 inch on the edges so it doesn’t spill over.  I found this especially important on the edge that forms the seam after it’s rolled. You don’t want it all sticky and gross.

The fun part was decorating it.  I didn’t have time to make gum paste fall leaves, so I just bought them at ABC Cake Decorating.  You can buy little presses, gum paste and drying racks there, too.  The ladies there know everything, so I often go in with no clue about what I’m doing and just ask for directions and supplies.  If you haven’t been here, you need to go–they have many,  many things you don’t know you need.

A buche de Noel has to have meringue mushrooms, so I made those faithfully.  I used meringue powder from ABC, because I don’t like using raw eggs for bake sales.  This Martha Stewart recipe was easy and the swiss meringue was really good.  I loved that she made delicate little gills on the undersides of the mushrooms.

Then I made little marzipan acorns.  They were super-cute and apparently delicious, because Walter ate 6 of them.  Finally, I took a little ball of marzipan and decorated it with almond slivers to make a pine cone.  Trader Joe’s Honey Roasted almond slivers are a  pretty color and less breakable than regular almond slivers, so they worked well.

My friend, Hali, made her cake with the TJs almond slivers (and dried pineapple), too.  It was my favorite cake of the night:

My mom ended up winning my cake–big shocker.  My mother in law got a really cute one with sugar flames on top and gave it to the boys.  We ate it before we could take a picture.  We had a great time, though.  I’m always game for a bake-off.

I enjoyed making the buche de Noel so much, in fact, I’m going to try doing this one for Christmas:

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Baking!


2 Comments on “Life of Pies (and a cake)”

  1. df says:

    I consider myself a proper baker and I’ve tried some challenging things in my time (when I’m up to it), but your Buche de Noel and what you went through for it just exhausted me. It looks super (love the bark scoring, very nicely done!). That owl cake is adorable!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s