Mini Atlantic Beach Pies

Living a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean now has gotten me thinking about beach town culture. The locals around these parts are very set in their ways when the sun is shining and you haven’t seen a thermometer drop past 80 degrees in a week. They get up when the sun rises, slather on a healthy coating of sport sunblock, then set up shop at the beach until the sun goes down. And once the sun goes down, if they’ve planned correctly, they’ll have a bonfire on that very same beach. Lather, rinse, repeat.

They’re fueled by frozen lemonades and hot dogs, and vow to be olympic-level good at beach volleyball and sailing everyday until their feet hit the pavement and reality sets in. Every minute is water, sand, and sun, and it’s all incredibly new to me. Sure, in the town I grew up in, in the Midwest, we were lucky enough to live right by the Lake with beautiful beaches and our own fair share of summertime rituals, but it’s just not the same. In the Midwest, fairs and festivals are the name of the game, and stuffing yourself to the very brim with authentic foods of many cultures is how you play to win. But not here. Here, ne’er a pretty Summer day is squandered indoors, and every moment a bull is taken by the horns and ridden all the way to where life begins and ends: the beach. I’ll tell you what, it’ll certainly take a little getting used to (first things first, I’ll have to order a vat of SPF 70 off Amazon), but I plan to be alll about that life one day. Provided there are snacks. And the weather stays between 75 and 79 degrees, as I am prone to fits of hot weather-related complaining.

Can you believe that Summer is unofficially officially over?? Three months just whizzed past. If the humidity hadn’t had its way with my hair from May to present day, I could almost tell you that it never happened at all. And while I’m more than delighted to welcome in my favorite season, Fall, with as many apple cider doughnuts, hay rides, pie baking, and cardigans and flannel as my lil’ heart can take, I’m also a sucker for goodbyes. Why, it wasn’t a mere seven months ago that I was tightly bundled up in a heavy winter coat, greedily bathing my face in the glow of a sun that only gave a whisper of warmth. And the days were short and dark, and I wished for Summer with every breath I took. But you can never appreciate or miss something until it’s gone, so it’s time for Summer to TTFN so I can remember what it was like to love it once more. To give it a proper adieu, I chose to make my favorite dessert: pie, in miniature form because who doesn’t love a PERSONAL PIE, with a little wink and nod to my new-ish new home. Hello, Atlantic Beach Pie.

At its core, this Atlantic Beach Pie is the baby of a Key Lime pie and a Lemon Meringue pie. It has both lemon and lime juice, a saltine cracker crust, and delicious, over-the-top, fluffy and puffy meringue; if so you choose to whip up a batch and use it. (P.S. You’ll have so many egg whites leftover. Make the meringue.)

There are many, many things that I love about these baby Atlantic Beach pies. For starters, the saltine cracker crust, a detour from the usual graham cracker crust found in basic Key Lime and Lemon Ice Box pies, reminds me of the beach, and transports me to those sunny sand-filled days everyone from my neighbor to the bank teller are always raving about. I love the freshness and brightness that the just-squeezed citrus juices bring to the table. The pies are so fragrant that even a quick whiff of one in passing can wake me right up. And most of all, these are pies that I can not only give to those friends and loved ones who absolutely adore citrus desserts, but also to those friends who *GASP* aren’t dessert people. They’re sweetened by a few tablespoons of sugar in the crust, and the sweetened condensed milk, and that’s it. There’s enough sweetness to keep your sweet-tooth happy, but overly-sweet they are not. It’s a win-win for every party, and I can go to bed at night knowing that even the most savory-oriented people can compromise every once in a while. Plus, and I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: WHO DOESN”T LOVE PERSONAL PIES? They’re just too cute to resist.

In conclusion, now is the time to raise our forks to a lovely, hot, and humid summer by digging into petite summer-tastic citrusy pies, and reminiscing about the good times. Cheers, Summer ’16. It’s been real.

 

Now, pass me that can of pumpkin, would ya? We’ve got work to do.

 

MINI ATLANTIC BEACH PIES

Makes 4 6-inch pies (these are the ones I use from WS!) 

What You’ll Need:

For the crust:

  • About 2 1/2 sleeves of salted saltine crackers, or about 120 crackers
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the pies:

  • Two 14-ounce cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 egg yolks (save the whites to make a tasty meringue!)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Lime zest, for garnish

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Take out two baking sheets, set them aside.

Finely hand-crush the saltine crackers in a large bowl, but be careful not to crush them so much that they become cracker dust. Add the sugar and stir to mix. Next, add the butter and knead it in until the cracker crumbs come together like a dough. Take out your four mini pie plates, then press the dough evenly into each. (Note: You may end up with more pie dough than pie plates to press it into, and that’s perfectly fine. Better to have too much than not enough when it comes to mini pies!)

Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, or freeze for 10-12. Once your pies have chilled, place two on each baking sheet and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the crusts have gotten nice and golden brown. Let them cool slightly.

While your pie crusts are cooling, it’s time to make the filling. Start off by beating the egg yolks into the milk until everything is completely combined. Next, add the citrus juice. At first, the  juice may sit right on the top and make your custard look very thin and watery. It is very, VERY important that you stick with it and carefully stir it (it tends to splash all around at first) until all of your ingredients are completely combined. You’ll start to see it thicken to a normal consistency again, just give it a little time.

Once your custard has come together, pour it into each pie plate, making sure to avoid overfilling them. Carefully set your pie plates (if you haven’t already) back on their baking sheets, then bake the pies for 16 minutes until the filling has set.

Let your pies cool on cooling racks for 15-20 minutes, then pop them into the fridge to chill completely (they must be absolutely cold in order to be sliced.)

When you’re ready to serve, top each with a lovely meringue using your leftover egg whites (here’s a great tutorial from The Kitchn!), or freshly whipped cream, then top with a lemon or lime wedge, citrus zest, or coarse sea salt as a garnish.

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Food52

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Blackberry Cobbler

blackberry cobbler 1

Hi, we’re embracing seasonality now. It was a GREAT week at the market for produce, and to celebrate, I decided to put a bunch of sugar and fruit into a bowl together, then throw it in a pan. Maybe it’s a pie. Most definitely, it’s a cobbler.

I’d never made cobbler before this, but I’ve eaten plenty. Most notably was an unbelievable peach cobbler with the most heavenly blend of spices the world has ever seen. I’m STILL trying to figure it out ten years later, and of course the excellent baker who introduced me to the best peach cobbler ever, is nowhere to be found. Inspired by this, and also still on my “variations of pie” kick, I decided to embrace the beautiful blackberries practically screaming at me to take them home, and cook them at high temperatures. So into the basket they went.

blackberry cobbler2

My favorite thing about cobblers is how unbelievably easy they are to make. Honestly, so easy. Your filling gets mixed with a few ingredients, and then you let it rest covered for 15 minutes. Then, you make a biscuit mixture using just a few ingredients. Once everything is done, and you’ve buttered your pan, you spoon in your filling, then  your mixture on top, pour (CAREFULLY! It spills!) a couple tablespoons of melted butter on top to give it that beautiful brown color, and you pop it in the oven. Perhaps the only complicated part of the recipe, and I mean comparatively speaking, is that you must keep up with the baking time because your cobbler will bake at two different temperatures before it’s finished. The hardest part? This is pretty important: you must, and I mean you MUST let your cobbler cool completely. I know, I know, it’ll be hard, but you’ve just got to. Your filling needs time to set, and really solidify its flavors. Letting it cool will be like the caterpillar finally emerging from its cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. The pie is a butterfly. Give it time to look and taste beautiful.

blackberrycobbler3

We must also take a brief moment to not only talk about the topping, but to really appreciate it. It’s not crumbly like you may be accustomed to. It’s more like a biscuit, and therefore sooo much better. If you’ve ever enjoyed freshly baked biscuits with a generous smearing of freshly made jam, then this cobbler is for you. It’s buttery, it’s flaky, it’s DELICIOUS. It’s soft, and SO GOOD with that sweet-but-not-too-sweet blackberry filling. It all just works. And honestly, if you ask me, this cobbler show-stopper is even better the next day.

Hey, don’t you have a cobbler to make?

 

BLACKBERRY COBBLER

What You’ll Need:

FILLING:

  • 4 1/2 half-pints of blackberries (6 ounces each)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TOPPING

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

First Things First:

-Butter a 9-inch pie pan really well. Set aside

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Okay, Now Let’s Make the Filling:

-Combine the blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, flour, and ground cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Carefully stir together until all the dry ingredients are well-mixed, and the berries are well-coated.

-Cover with cling wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.

That’s Done. Shall We Make the Topping?

-Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda,  and fine sea salt in a medium-sized bowl.

-Using a pastry cutter, fork, or even your hands ( I’ve been using my hands a lot more lately!) quickly cut the butter cubes into the mixture until it is crumbly, and you’ve got pieces that are pea-sixzed or smaller.

-Make a well in the center of your mixture. Slowly pour the buttermilk into the center, and use a large spoon to gently mix it all together until all the dry ingredients are just combined. Your topping will look very wet at this point, but that’s just what we want.

-This is a good time to melt the extra 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.

Now Let’s Put it all Together! 

-Spoon your blackberry mixture evenly into the prepared pie pan.

-Using a large spoon, dollop about three tablespoons of the biscuit mixture into mounds all around the surface of your blackberry mixture. This doesn’t have to be an exact science (Goodness knows mine did not completely turn out the same size), just make sure your mounds of biscuit topping have been evenly distributed all across the top; we want everyone to get plenty of topping on their plates!

-Carefully pour your melted butter all across the top of your biscuit topping so that you’ll get a nice, even brown color when it bakes. Be EXTRA CAREFUL because that melted butter is sneaky and will slide right off of the pie and onto the countertop. It’s not fun to clean up.

-Bake your pie at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F for an additional 30 minutes.

-Cool for at LEAST 1 hour, though I think the longer you let it cool and rest, the better.

Serve with either your favorite vanilla ice cream, or some delicious homemade whipped cream. ENJOY.

 

SOURCE: A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies