Oat Bars with Homemade Preserves

Our friend Shoko from San Francisco is a renaissance woman—whether it’s her day job  championing music with the San Francisco Symphony or her avocational expertise in the art of cooking and the science of baking—Shoko is a fabulous resource.

So, you can imagine my delight when I received Shoko’s homemade Meyer-lemon marmalade and Peach butter!  These treats made the most intriguing fillings imaginable for my crumbly, buttery oat bars—adapted from the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated.



1 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 ½ cups rolled oats proceed for about ten seconds in a food processor
⅓ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
teaspoon Kosher salt
teaspoon vanilla
¼teaspoon baking soda
½ cup finely chopped almonds
12 tablespoons butter fresh from the refrigerator — cut into 12 pieces
cup preserves of your choosing.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking pan (whatever you have around that’s smaller than 9X12—a square pan is better) with Pam and fold two sheets of foil (one in either direction) and spray them as well.

2. In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, briefly mix flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, salt, and nuts until combined. Add the butter one piece at a time until the mixture is crumbly and readily presses together.  Add vanilla.

3. Press 2/3 of mixture into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes. Take out the hot bottom crust and spread the preserves over it, and cover the preserves with the remaining mixture.  (Press it lightly, but don’t burn your hands!) Bake until golden—about 30 minutes, rotating pan after 12 minutes or so. Cool completely on a wire rack—about two hours should suffice to give the bars time to coalesce.



Red’s Gluten-Free “Cracked Pottery” Cookies

At this time of year, it’s difficult not to catalog at least one cookie recipe.  This cookie is adapted from the cinnamon cookies in the seminal how-to book, “Martha Stewart’s Christmas.” Re-reading the recipe after all these years, I was surprised to see that this late-1980’s almond-based cookie was—likely unintentionally—nearly gluten-free. Made with almond-flour and copious cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mace, the simple addition of gluten-free flour for rolling was all that was needed. Our Norwich Terrier, Red, was very helpful this year.



  1. 3 Cups Blanched Almond Flour
  2. 4 Egg Whites
  3. 2 cups sugar + 1/2 cup sugar reserved for rolling
  4. 3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
  5. 1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
  6. 1 teaspoon Ground mace
  7. 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  8. 1 whole, Grated Nutmeg
  9. 1 Cup All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour

For the glaze

1 Cup Confectioners Sugar + 4 Tablespoons of Water


  1. Whisk together almond flour, spices and salt
  2. Beat the egg whites to soft-peak stage, then add sugar slowly until you have a thick, marshmallow-y mixture
  3. Combine the egg-white and almond flour mixtureimg_34061
  4. Pack the dough in plastic wrap, and let it sit—at least overnight. img_34091
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  6. Combine the cup of flour and 1/2 cup sugar, and generously cover your rolling surface.
  7. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll out each to 1/4-inch thickness, cut into desired shapes, and allow to come to room temperature.img_34131
  8. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. When the cookies are hot out of the oven, coat them with the confectioner’s sugar/water mixture to create the “cracked pottery” look!


Apple Butter Hand Pies

I am always amazed at the variety of new and interesting apples that seem to appear every Fall.  This year, a real stunner was the wine crisp apple—a deep and complexly flavored apple, seemingly inspired by the unstoppable honey-crisp apple.  I created a decadent apple butter that contains five pounds of apples and a full cup of real maple syrup.  These delectable hand pies are sweet, tart, spicy and typically autumnal. The apple butter is incredibly easy to make in a slow-cooker overnight, and the smell that will greet you in the morning is sublime.



  1. Perfect Pie Crust
  2. 5 pounds of peeled and cored apples of your choosing—make sure there are enough baking apples to keep interest, flavor and structure.  I love Cortlands.
  3. 1 cup real maple syrup
  4. 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  5. 2 cinnamon sticks
  6. 2 dried star anise
  7. Freshly-squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  8. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  9. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  10. 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  11. 3/4 fresh nutmeg, grated
  12. Pinch of kosher salt

For The Top

3 Tablespoons sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Egg beaten with half and half or heavy cream



  1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and set on high.  Cook for 1.5–2.5 hours or until bubbling.
  2. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise—cook with the lid cracked on medium for 12 + hours until the mixture is dense and dark brown.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool.  Once cooled, place in a gallon freezer bag and place in the freezer for 20–40 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Meanwhile, roll out the dough in equal parts powered sugar and flour, and cut circles with a biscuit cutter.  I tend to like a larger, 4” cutter, but for these, an even larger biscuit cutter will work.
  6. Snip the edge of the gallon plastic bag pipe the mixture generously in the middle of each rolled-out disc, fold over, seal with a slightly damp fork and slice breathing holes in the top.  Put them in the refrigerator, and let them firm up for 10–15 minutes.
  7. Cover with egg wash and cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the sheets in the oven, and bake another 10–12 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Cool the pies to room temperature in a wire rack, and serve!


Sweet potato pie

The perfect recipe for Thanksgiving!

Unlike its silky-smooth cousin, the pumpkin pie, this rustic pie is dense and earthy.  Mind you—it is flavored generously with butter, cream and spices, but it retains an identifiably rustic texture. The preparation technique I have devised only requires you to turn on the oven once—the sweet potatoes bake while the crust is being rolled out and frozen, the crust is then pre-baked while the filling is being prepared, and the pie goes in the oven.  None of this has to be done the accuracy of a precision drill team, but the flow from baked potato to baked pie is convenient and ultimately efficient.  Lest we be “botanically incorrect,” decorative sweet potato leaves provide the inspiration for a lovely pasty garnish.


1 Recipe Perfect Pie Crust
2 medium sweet potatoes
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 eggs, plus one yolk beaten
2 Tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
½ fresh nutmeg, grated
½ teaspoon cardamom
¾ teaspoon table salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper and bake until fork tender—at least an hour.
  3. About 30 minutes into the baking, spray a pie dish with Pam, roll out the crust, fit it over the dish, crimp the edges, and poke the bottom with the tines of a fork.
  4. Place the crust in the freezer and chill for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Take the sweet potatoes out the oven and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes.
  6. Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees.
  7. Place aluminum foil with pie weights on top of the crust and bake for 15 minutes, remove the pie weights and bake an additional 10 minutes
  8. While the crust is baking, combine the cream, buttermilk, eggs, yolk, and rum and a glass bowl or measuring cup.
  9. Melt the butter of a medium flame in a non-stick pan and combine the spices in the hot butter, allowing them to “bloom.”img_27621
  10. Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to pick up, peel them and place them in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for 1–2 minutes.
  11. Add the brown sugar and butter and mix for another 20 seconds.
  12. Add the cream mixture and beat for another 15 seconds.
  13. Fulling combine the mixture with a rubber spatula until homogeneous in color.
  14. Pour into the hot crust and bake for about 40 minutes—until the pie is the color of dark rum and edges are a deep golden brown.
  15. Let fully cool on a wire rack—at least a 4 hours.
  16. Optional garnish—use leftover pie dough (or another disc of unrolled dough if you really want to be extravagant.)  Cut the dough into leaf shapes and bake for about 10–13 minutes after you take the pie out of the oven.




A very special guest post / Italian Kale Pie (TORTA DI CAVOLO NERO)

Nick Malgieri is a baking legend.


He is an author, teacher, and all-around authority on baking.


I first saw Nick’s skill in action on Martha Stewart’s program some years ago making that most beguiling pastry, strudel.


I have been lucky enough follow—and chat with—Nick on Facebook, where he continues to provide delightful recipes, tips, and photos. Having him contribute to this blog is a honor beyond description!

His Italian Kale Pie couldn’t be timed more perfectly.  Farmers’ markets will have heaps of this glorious winter vegetable for savory months to come!

Italian Kale Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie, about 8 servings

One 9-inch cake pan, 2 inches deep, lined with Olive Oil Dough (below), using two thirds of the dough for the bottom crust and the remaining dough for the top


Fine sea salt

1 1/2 pounds kale, leaves separated from lower and interior stems, washed, and drained (if you find kale that has long, thick stems, start with 2 pounds)

2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 cup, about 4 ounces, finely chopped white or yellow onion

1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano

  1. Bring a large pan of water to a boil and salt it. Add the kale and return to a boil. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, pressing the kale against the colander, cool, and coarsely chop.
  2. Combine the pancetta and oil in a large pan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the pancetta has colored but is still soft, about 2 or 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate covered with paper towels to drain.
  3. Add the onion to the pan and cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 10 minutes, stir in the garlic, cook for a few seconds, and then stir in the kale. Heat through and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Let cool.
  4. Set a rack at the lowest level in the oven and preheat to 400°F.
  5. To finish the filling, whisk the ricotta and eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the parsley and grated cheese. Fold in the kale mixture and the pancetta.
  6. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and spread evenly. Roll the remaining dough for the top crust and use a pattern to cut it to a 9-inch disk Fold the dough at the side of the pan down over the filling and place the disk of dough on the filling and folded dough. Cut several vent holes in the top of the pie and brush with oil.
  7. Set the pie in the oven and lower the temperature to 375°F. Bake until the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Cool the pie on a rack and serve at room temperature.

Olive Oil Dough

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs

  1. Use a fork to stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the oil and eggs. Use the fork to beat the eggs and oil together, then gradually draw in the dry ingredients a little at a time until the dough starts to hold together.
  3. Scrape the contents of the bowl to a lightly floured work surface (it’s okay if there are still some dry bits) and fold the dough over on itself 4 or 5 times, gently kneading it smooth. Kneading too much might make the oil separate from the dough.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and keep it at a cool room temperature if you’re using within a few hours; refrigerate for longer storage.







Peach pie is a summer staple—the very thought of it recalls farm stands and open-air markets where the summer’s bounty is on full display.  Many peach pies are bland, too sweet and gummy.  This recipe capitalizes on the naturally sweet and tart flavors of peaches by adding cognac and lemon juice, respectively. For lattice work, check out tips from my friend Christopher’s expert post.


1 Recipe Perfect Pie Crust
6–7 fresh peaches, skinned, pitted, cut into slices, then in half
1 lemon, halved
¾ cups brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 scant handful of chopped crystalized ginger, chopped
Splash of cognac
3–4 Tablespoons Tapioca
3 Tablespoons unsalted butters cut into small pieces

On top:

1 Egg beaten with a splash of milk, cream or half and half
Turbinado sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and place the peaches in for approximately 30 seconds.
  1. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a large bowl of ice water—the skins will magically fall off when you peel and slice them.
  2. Add the peaches, lemon juice, sugar, tapioca (or whatever thickener you use), liqueur, and salt and thoroughly combine with a spatula. Let the combination sit for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Spray the bottom of a pie dish with Pam
  4. Roll out the bottom layer of crust, fit it over the pie dish and lightly form it to the shape of the dish
  5. Place the filling in the bottom crust and dot with butter
  6. Roll out the top crust and lay on top of the bottom crust, crimp the edges to your liking and make sure the top
  7. Brush the top of the pie crust with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Bake on a cookie sheet on the middle rack at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 and 30–40 minutes or until juices are bubbling.
  9. Let fully cool on a wire rack—at least a couple of hours.

Apple-Apricot Pie

img_2367Whether feasting upon your farmer’s market’s bounty of apples on a chilly Saturday or scouring lonely, but lovely, tart apples leftover from the Fall season, my Aunt Suzy’s apple-apricot pie puts apples to their best use. Aunt Suzy’s mother-in-law, was a second-generation Canadian, who came from a Russian-Jewish family with many wonderful old-country recipes.  This luscious pie is a reflection of creating a beautiful dessert out of several ingredients.  Her mother put up applesauce and apricot preserves, and she made up this pie.  I added some lemon juice, apple butter and cognac to keep the apples from browning.

The filling is delicate and not very sweet—a perfect compliment to the sweet and rich apricot and pecan topping.  Swiss “Hero” brand apricot preserves works beautifully.

1 recipe perfect pie crust
1 cup cinnamon applesauce—homemade of a jar store bought
1/2 cup apple butter—try my recipe for homemade!
4 yellow delicious apples and 3 tart cooking apples THINLY sliced
A few splashes of apple brandy or cognac
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 teas. freshly grated nutmeg
1 teas. vanilla, and finally
1 T. flour
4 pats of real butter
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1 jar apricot jam



  1. Preheat the oven the 375 degrees and place a cookie sheet in the cool oven—putting the cold pie on the hot cookies sheet will help keep the bottom from getting soggy on this moist pie;
  2. Thinly slice the apples and gently stir with lemon juice and brandy;
  3. Stir apples, apple sauce, apple butter, nutmeg, vanilla and flour, pour into pie shell, add pats of butter, and the full top crust; bake at 375 for about 45–50 minutes.  (Stick a knife into your vent holes to test softness of filling.)
  4.  While pie is cooking in a small sauce pan put a whole jar of apricot preserves and heat until melted, but not a hard boil, on med. low.  This takes about 4–5 minutes.
  5. Combine the glaze with the chopped pecans, and, when the pie is done, pour this apricot glaze immediately over the hot pie.  Cool at least 1 hour before eating.


Coconut Cream Handpies

I love coconut cream pie and thought it would be a wonderful year-round hand pie filling. Coconut flavor is rich, sweet, mellow—and difficult to capture. Even coconut oil and coconut milk can be faintly flavored.  I found that toasting the coconut before making the filling and adding almond extract great enhanced the coconut flavor.  Not unlike the way coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate.  If that’s not enough coconut for you, try the coconut-rum glaze!




  1. Recipe Perfect Pie Crust. — Made with amaretto-flavored vodka.
  2. 14-oz bag shredded sweetened coconut
  3. 1 Egg and 4 egg yolks
  4. 2 Cups half and half
  5. 3/4 Cup confectioners sugar
  6. Pinch of kosher salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Glaze:

Confectioners sugar, Cream of coconut, and Coconut-flavored rum.



  1. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet, place in the oven, and preheat to 375 degrees, stirring several times and removing when the coconut starts to brown—at about the 350-degree mark.
  2. Combine the coconut, eggs, half and half, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a nonstick saucepan and heat to 180 degrees, stirring continually with a rubber spatula. [180 degrees is that magic, pastry-cream-making number where everything comes together in a custard-like consistency.]
  3. Stir in the almond and vanilla extract s and allow mixture to come to room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, roll out the dough in equal parts powered sugar and flour, and cut circles with a biscuit cutter.  I tend to like a larger, 4” cutter, but whatever floats your boat!
  5. Place the cooled coconut cream in a gallon plastic bag or pastry bag and pipe the mixture generously in the middle of each rolled-out disc, fold over, seal with a fork and slice breathing holes in the top.  Put them in the refrigerator, and let them firm up for 10–15 minutes.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the sheets in the oven, and bake another 20–25 minutes or until golden—underbaking can make the coconut taste a bit raw.
  7. If you are using the glaze, simply stir together a cup of confectioner’s sugar, about a tablespoon of cream of coconut, and add coconut rum until the glaze is viscous and brush the cooling pies.
  8. Cool the pies to room temperature in a wire rack, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve!



Handpies 101—My Hungermamma guest post

This week, it’s my turn to be a guest author!—for the Hungermama, AKA Bethie Hungerford, a talented musician, cook, active mother, blogger, and American expat living in the UK.   dsc_00021

Bethie asked me to contribute a hand pie recipe, and I couldn’t resist!  These are a hit with co-workers and are perhaps the best party food imaginable.  Moreover, they are incredibly easy to make.

I began with a classic pumpkin filling—autumnally delicious, but appropriate all year round if you ask me. Stay tuned for more filings, glazes and transportable pie wonders!

Try them out!

Friends with Recipes: Hand Pies!



809e83dde5480a7ff886078fe23f070f_400x400Clark Neily is a renaissance man.  He is my colleague at the Institute for Justice where he runs the Center for Judicial Engagement, he is a busy father of two, he is a black-belt martial artist, and—last but not least—he is a champion pie baker!  Today, he will be sharing his famous Pear Crumble Pie.


Take it away, Clark!:

If you’re like most people, chances are you never thought of making a pear pie. But you really should. Pears have a wonderful, delicate flavor that, when enhanced with small amounts of lemon zest and restrained use of seasonings, creates a delicate, fruity perfume in the mouth that is wholly unlike the familiar cinnamon punch of a traditional apple pie. Add the sweetness and slightly crunch texture of the crumble topping and you have what many people agree is the best pie they have ever eaten. Here’s how to make it.

Pear Crumble Pie


5 cups peeled fresh pears, cut into bite-sized chunks (I prefer d’anjou pears; firm, not ripe)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace

Single perfect pie crust

Crumble top:

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 tbsp brown sugar


Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.

In large bowl, sprinkle pear chunks with lemon juice. In small bowl combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp flour, and lemon zest. Add sugar-flour-lemon-zest mixture to pear chunks and toss to coat. Fill pastry-lined pie plate with pear-mixture.  IMG_3281

In medium bowl combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2-3tbsp brown sugar (to taste), and cut in butter til mixture makes coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over pears.


Bake In 375 degree oven for approx 50 mins, until fruit is bubbling and crumble is just beginning to brown.