The Perfect Summer Party Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits

strawberry biscuit shortcake

For this Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Foodie and I squeezed in some fun (around work :P) with our family and friends. For one of these occasions we wanted to bring a recipe I’ve been dying to make ever since I saw it while scrolling past my instagram feed: Strawberry Shortcake with Biscuits! Unfortunately I did not have time to actually *make* the biscuits, but I did pick up grocery-store biscuits, strawberries, and whipped cream so I could still make these delicious summer desserts. What better way to celebrate the “start” of summer than strawberry shortcakes?!

I realize that it is by no means a universal expectation to show up to a party with a host gift, but for some reason I’ve adopted this approach over the course of adulthood. I’ve certainly walked into parties with your standard wine/liquor/beer contribution, but I’m sure it is no surprise that my preference is always to bring food. Sometimes it’s my super addictive molasses, ginger cookies (so easy you can bake a batch in under an hour while you also shower, do hair, and apply makeup); sometimes it is my deviled eggs (inexpensive, easy, and they are always the first appetizer to disappear). But whenever I deviate from those options, I think about a few essential questions before choosing my party food gift.

1) What season is it?

Considering the season helps me determine ingredients that I will use for my food gift, certainly, but also the type of party food. For instance, if a party falls during the super-short fresh rhubarb season, nothing would stop me from making a pie or crisp. If it is a winter party, I’d be more likely to bring a heavy/hot recipe or a spiced dessert. The season also helps because you’ll want to think of whether the party will likely be outside in the sun/heat (then nix the deviled eggs or mayonnaise potato/chicken salads) or if it will be inside.

2) How will it be assembled and served?

Ideally you’re bringing a food gift that requires little to no assembly. Unless you’ve worked it out with your host ahead of time, sometimes it is a burden to show up with a complicated recipe that needs preparation, on-site cooking/baking, or requires a bunch of extra kitchen tools that your host wasn’t counting on. Does it require a lot of counter-top space to prep/assemble? Does it require fridge space? Will you need to use the stove/oven? Do you need to plug it in (for a crockpot or hot beverage)? Does it require a special serving utensil or platter/bowl? If you are still determined to bring something that requires assembly/prep, then I recommend a) giving your host some notice, b) prepping as much as you can ahead of time, and c) bringing any kitchen tools you’ll need to pull it off. I’m more likely to do this with friends I know very well. Last December, I brought the fixings for moscow mules. Ahead of time: measure the vodka, squeeze the limes, and bring a serving pitcher/bowl, and then all you need is a bottle opener to add the ginger beer at the party itself.

strawberry shortcake biscuits

We happen to live next to the amazing Wegmans grocery, so of course the biscuits were ahhh-mazing. I cut them in half, topped them with sliced strawberries that I let sit with some sugar (to get a little strawberry syrup going) and topped with whipped cream. This dessert could not be easier or more delicious. If you can slice strawberries and sprinkle sugar, you can make this. Some day we’ll make the biscuits by hand so you can see how easy that is as well, but for now, keep this party food or potluck idea as an option for your next summer party.

summer potluck dessert

For transport, we just packed the biscuits, sugared strawberries, and whipped cream in a insulated bag with an ice pack (for the whipped cream). At the party, I kept the whipped cream in the fridge until we were ready for shortcakes. This works better for smaller parties because you should eat them right after you assemble them – otherwise the syrupy strawberries will soak into the biscuit and  the whipped cream will flatten.

These are also good options for when you are hosting a summer party. You can make each component ahead of time and assemble when everyone is ready for dessert. The tartness of the berries and creaminess of the whipped cream cuts through the sweetness of the added sugar and the buttery biscuit rounds the whole thing out. It is both light and indulgent!

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Gingerbread Cookies w/ Royal Frosting

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Mr. Foodie and I are hosting an Oktoberfest party soon, and we’re gearing up by testing out recipes like our soft pretzels. In years past I’ve wanted to try a gingerbread recipe, but always felt intimidated by it (compared to my ginger molasses cookies or the American Gingerbread, it is time consuming). But this year I found a relatively easy recipe for gingerbread cookies and the royal frosting that one uses to decorate them. I found Gingerbread very interesting as I was rolling it out – not quite cookie, not quite bread in terms of consistency. I could see clearly how easy it would be to over work the dough and end up with those cardboard-like gingerbread cookies we know so well.

To my delight, they turned out well. Holding their shape on the outside, soft in the center, with a rather mild ginger spice flavor. I might amp that up a bit in the next batch to counter balance the rather sweet frosting. By themselves they are ugly looking, but tasty -reminiscent of fresh shortbread with a tingle of ginger and molasses.

Preparing the dough is similar to making a cake: cream sugar and butter together, alternate dry and wet ingredients, mix until it comes together. Then it becomes more bread-like: rest the dough in plastic wrap, roll it out on a floured board, cut the shapes and bake (thankfully, it is a short baking time of 8-10 minutes unlike a bread dough). Rolling it out was the hardest part. It cracked at the edges and it was difficult to reroll the scraps if you wanted to squeeze out a few more cookies. Even so, the cookies baked without spreading, keeping their shape while staying soft inside.

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The frosting was a dream to prepare – three egg whites and vanilla extract whipped to a froth, add four cups of powdered sugar slowly until combined, whip fast until glossy, stiff peaks form. I did some cookies with the unwhipped, more liquid version of the frosting (the kind we let children decorate holiday cookies with) and I piped the whipped version. I probably could have whipped it a bit longer to be thicker for piping, but it did okay holding the shapes I piped. This frosting will harden on the cookie over time, making it easier to stack them or put them in containers. For the next batch, I will probably flavor the frosting with a little citrus extract (maybe orange to go well with the ginger/cinnamon) and dye some of the frosting for a little Oktoberfest drama!

As the original recipe suggests, I think this would make a fine dough for gingerbread house parts as well because of the stiffness of the exterior and how it bakes into shape. Or an alternative to sugar cookies for decorating!

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Disneyland’s Gingerbread Recipe by Jessica McConnel

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup water

 

Cream together brown sugar and softened butter until blended. Add molasses and blend until combined. Add the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time alternating with the 1/2 cup of water. Blend until dough forms. Turn out and press into a disc, then cover with plastic and let rest in the fridge for an hour. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out the cookies and put them on lined baking sheet, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a rack completely before frosting.

Alton Brown’s Royal Frosting 

Whip three egg whites together with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until frothy. Slowly add sugar while whipping slowly until combined. Increase speed of whipping until glossy stiff peaks form. Put into a piping bag and pipe onto cooled cookies.

 

Do you have a favorite gingerbread recipe? Or perhaps some suggestions for gingerbread frosting? Feel free to share with us.

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Historical Baking: Gingerbread from American Cake

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One of our wedding shower gifts was this amazing American Cake cookbook given to me by my awesome bridesmaid Becca. I have quite a collection of cookbooks now thanks to my generous family and friends. I definitely have a high bar for cookbooks – I want narrative, drama, personal stories! And of course great recipes. What rocks about American Cake is the history the book presents of cake in American culture. The author, Anne Byrn, writes about cakes in a chronological order, updating some early American recipes to make it easy for a modern cook to replicate. Each recipe contains more little side bars with interesting historical facts or chef’s notes. It is a pleasure to look at, to read, and to cook from.

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Most everyone who has eaten my food has tasted my ginger molasses cookies at some point (the recipe for which I still owe you), so I naturally gravitated toward the American Gingerbread recipe in the first chapter. According to Anne, this recipe is the second of seven versions of gingerbread provided by Amelia Simmons who wrote the first American cookbook in 1796. This version is not the kind of gingerbread you roll out and cut for cookies or press into a mold; this gingerbread is more cake-like which I found immensely intriguing. My ginger-molasses cookie is also softer and more cake-like than normal ginger cookies.

And just like my version of ginger cookies, this cake was amazingly easy to pull together. The only advance prep is softening the butter to room temperature and dissolving the baking soda (which I have a huge appreciation for after reading Anne’s historical account of how it revolutionized baking) in water.

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Pretty-kitty was dying for a taste

Anne suggests blending the first few ingredients with a wooden spoon to, I suppose, mimic the way it was made in early America. I, however, used the stand mixer which worked out perfectly. 35 minutes at 375 and a 20 minute rest = one delicious gingerbread-cake. By itself the cooked molasses flavor is a bit strong, but Anne suggests serving each slice with a bit of cream poured over it. Since all we have is French Vanilla (for coffee!), that is what we used. The combination was heavenly. It was soft and spongey, spicey and warm. The cream softened the strong flavors and turned this treat into a comfort dish.

This would make a freaking delicious breakfast pastry, afternoon tea-snack, or dessert. Winter’s coming! And this dish is worth every minute.

No. 2 Gingerbread (American Gingerbread) by Anne Byrn

1 tsp baking soda

1 Cup boiling water

1 Cup molasses

2 large eggs

1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 Cup white sugar

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

Butter a 8″ x 9″ baking pan and preheat the oven to 375. Boil 1 Cup of water and dissolve the baking soda inside it. Set aside.

(This is a deviation from Anne’s directions) Put softened butter, molasses, eggs, sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice into the stand mixer and mix together on low until combined (scrape sides if necessary). Then add in the baking soda water and mix on low for a full minute.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let rest on cooling rack for 20 minutes. Serve with a bit of cream if you like.

A FL Keys Farewell Treat: Key Lime Pie

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It is perhaps fitting that the last thing I make in my beloved Keys this year is a Key Lime Pie. I didn’t plan it that way. I just thought that after 9 weeks it was time to test this iconic dish, so I grabbed the shockingly few ingredients required to make it and set forth, only half paying attention as the mixture was whipping away, while we began packing. You see, dear readers, Mr. Foodie and I are moving back to VA in the coming days. Back to our small, but pretty little condo and our friends and family. I am torn between sadness and excitement because I will miss so much about living here. The water most of all. But I am also looking forward to so much back home. Seeing my loved ones. Cooking in my kitchen. Shopping at a grocery store with more than one kind of fresh herb for sale at a time.

I’m almost finished reading As Always Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto and I’m struck with how resilient Julia was through all the moving and the major disappointments she faced with her cookbook, and by her dedication to her work nonetheless. Her letters to Avis do not, perhaps, reflect those nights she woke up sobbing with anxiety and despair, but these two friends were as open with each other as they could be separated by so much distance. As I stood over our two long, large plastic bins trying to get all my kitchen equipment to fit properly, I was reminded of Julia and it fortified me. This will be our fourth two-day car ride this year. We’re both looking forward to returning home. And yet, I’m so glad we came here because it gave me this blog. I have always wanted to have one like this, but a nagging voice always said it was a waste of time. I had more important things to do. Moving here gave me the excuse – “our family and friends will know what we’ve been up to lately.” And it helped me fill some lonely hours. It inspired us to try new adventures. It forced us out of the house to meet new people and eat good food. It made me fall in love all over again with Mr. Foodie.

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I won’t let it go, even though I will cease to be a resident of the fl keys. I’m having too much fun! And all I can think about is how many cool places and good eats I want to share with you from my hometown. And all the recipes I still owe you. And all the new things I have yet to try. With that I will give you the recipe for this beautiful Key Lime Pie that I made. I was proud beyond measure with the texture of the custard – firm, but light. And the flavor! Tart, but creamy and made whole by buttery graham cracker and sweet whipped cream. Victoria Shearer provides an excellent history of key lime pie in her book, but I’ll just briefly say that this pie evolved here because of how few fresh ingredients it required – canned condensed milk for instance -and of course because of the abundance of key limes that grow here.

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Key Lime Pie

Crust (we bought a baked crust from the grocery store, but I might make my own next time for a better texture)

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together crust ingredients and press into a pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. In a stand mixer bowl, combine filling ingredients and whisk on medium for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Once the pie shell is cool, pour the filling into the pie shell. Tap if necessary to even it out. Bake in 350 oven for 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours (I let mine sit overnight). Garnish with whipped cream (we used store-bought, but homemade is soooo much better) and a lime wedge if desired (note: if you put whipped cream on the pie, it will dissolve after a few minutes, so make sure you wait until ready to serve to do this).

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We’ll be on the move and unpacking in the next few days, but you will still be able to find us here cooking and blogging about our new food adventures. Have you made key lime pie before? Did you play with this basic recipe? If so, how?

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Ina Garten’s (Sort-of) Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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One of my library finds was Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead. I am not ashamed to say that Ina was one of the first Food Network chefs to suck me into the world of cooking and baking. I’m not sure what I pictured a cooking show being like before watching hers, but to me, her entire lifestyle and approach to entertaining made me want to do a happy dance. As someone who cringes a little when I see the price for even slightly nice chocolate, some of her recipes come off as too extravagant for my bank account, but I pride myself on adapting a lot of her recipes to cost less and take fewer pans/bowls/utensils (*some* of us do not have an entire staff to clean up after us, Ina – but #cookinggoals).

I especially love her attitude about dessert. She can definitely whip up a cake or pie or other sweet thing with the best of them, but she often says “just put out some cheese and fruit” or “cookies and coffee.” I, too, rarely go “all out” to make a special dessert if I’ve been slaving away at a nice dinner. I either buy a pie/cake/tart or I make cookies. And often my grandmother’s ginger-molasses cookies (the recipe for which I swear is coming soon) because they take so few ingredients, I can make them from start to finish in an hour, and everyone just LOVES them. So I was pleased beyond measure to see a new cookie recipe in Ina’s cookbook and one that speaks to my desire for salty-sweet treats: Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies. These delectable little ladies have everything I love in them – the bitter-sweet chocolate, the light kiss of salt, the tart tang of dried cranberries, and the coziness of oats – is there anything better than oats in a cookie? We might be in the minority here, but oatmeal cookies are Mr.Foodie and I’s favorite kind.

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The only problem, as you can probably tell from the photos, is I did not wait to soften the butter before mixing it in. Thus the characteristic “melted edges” you see there. Honestly I rarely use butter in cookies because I prefer the more cake-like texture that shortening gives a cookie (and I don’t have to wait for shortening to soften!), but I wanted to replicate Ina’s cookies exactly. And she is definitely on to something – the buttery, oaty flavor of the cookie dough is extremely tasty, if a little rich. Despite my blunder, they are very delicious. Because I have ample amounts of all the ingredients left over, I’m planning to make them again – this time either softening the butter ahead of time or trying out shortening in its place to see how that fares. I’ll give you an update later in the week. Until then, enjoy the recipe Ina’s Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies:

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1¼ cups old-fashioned oats, such as Quaker
¾ pound bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, chopped in chunks
¾ cup dried cranberries
Fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl again.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix in the oats. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Don’t overbeat it! With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate and cranberries until the dough is well mixed. With a 1¾-inch ice cream scoop (or two spoons), scoop round balls of dough onto the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you prefer cookies thin and crisp, bake them straight from the mixing bowl. If you prefer them chewy in the middle and crisp outside, chill the balls of dough.

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PB & C (Cranberry) Chocolate Cookies

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Last night I stared at the half-bag of peanut butter chips thinking of all the things I could use them for. Drizzled on a scone? Melted in a fudge? Baked into a brownie? The wonderful versatility of these chips is only part of the reason I picked them up (the other part is Mr. Foodie and I like having something we can just pick at – a small pinch after dinner when we don’t want a proper dessert, a spoonful for a snack, etc.). I finally settled on an adapted version of Karen Rose’s Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies because a) who doesn’t love a chocolate cookie on occasion? and b) it didn’t require brown sugar which is perpetually missing from my pantry.

I say “adapted” because I found myself without vanilla extract again, so I used maple syrup. I also added cranberries along with the PB chips because I love the color combo and I wanted to break up the ultra-sweetness of chocolate and PB with the tart berries – good choice on my part! It was like have a PB & J and Chocolate sandwich – yum!

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The batter was addictive, but the finish product was, indeed, chewy – with creamy-salty pockets of peanut butter chips and tangy round dabs of tart cranberry. The chocolate cookie itself was sublime. It carried a deep, dark chocolate flavor which is my chocolate preference and paired perfectly with the strong flavors of the chips and berries. I will admit to the challenge I faced with baking time. I made these cookies slightly larger than I usually do and I had trouble discerning when they were ready because of the darkness of the dough (so much easier to see little crisp brown edges on a blonde dough!), but I succeeded by nudging the edges of the cookie with the spatula to see if they were stiff. Perfection! Though I love them warm from the oven, they are also delicious this morning with our coffee.

Often when I’m cooking or baking I use the opportunity to experiment on the “side” – for example I set aside two scoops of dough last night before putting in the chips and berries so I could add chili pepper to it instead. First, I LOVE pepper and chocolate as a flavor combination. I take my hot chocolate with cayenne, for instance. Second, I find this method less stressful than baking an entire batch of cookies with my tweaks and finding they didn’t work at all – less devastating and wasteful to be honest. Do you ever do that? Set a little aside to play?

My chili-chocolate came out too similarly to the rest of the batch – in other words I needed a LOT more chili to taste the heat I was going for. Noted for next time.

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Get In My Belly: Peach Pie w/ Fontina Cheese

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Yesterday was National Peach Pie day! I could not let this momentous occasion go by without a fitting tribute. I’ve been making pies (mostly with my grandmother) all my life. Even today (as she approaches 80 years old) she whips up a pie when one of her great-grand-children comes to visit. Rhubarb is my favorite. I grew up loving all things fruit. My grandpa was and still is a major fruit lover. Most of my childhood memories with him involve eating fruit. He would take the short paring knife and (cutting towards himself which was a no-no) he would hand me a piece, then eat a piece, and so on. I, who would rather eat fruit and cheese for dessert, feel like a love of fruit pies is a logical extension of my desire for not-so-sweet desserts and fruit in general.

Although my grandma prefers to work with ready-made pie dough (who doesn’t?!), I like to make my own using the food processor (thanks be to the gods who came up with this kitchen appliance). When she does make her own crusts, however, she employs her secret weapon – the weapon that makes ALL her baked goods better than everyone else’s and that is shortening. The ideal situation is to use a combination of shortening and butter. I wouldn’t say I’m a crust expert by now, but I can pull together two decent looking crusts that both hold the pie together well and taste buttery/feel flaky, so I call that a win!

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For the filling I adapted a recipe from allrecipes for “Old-Fashioned” Peach Pie. Essentially you cut up and skin 5 peaches, squeeze some lemon juice over them, add flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt to them, mix together until the baking ingredients are incorporated and the flour is no longer white. Pour into the pie crust, top with the second crust, and bake at 425 for 10 min, 350 for 30 (the recipe says 450, but I decided to do 425 instead and it turned out wonderfully).

Except, I also added *my* secret weapon: Fontina cheese! Whereas many pie recipes call for you to dot the filling with butter, I elect to add cheese to my pies. This might make some of you start – a slice of cheddar next to an apple pie is one thing, but cheese inside the pie? Yes. I didn’t know that such things were possible until a long-time friend of mine introduced me to the show Pushing Daisies when we were roommates. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the central character is a pie maker and his love interest incorporates cheese into their recipes. My friend ate so much pie while we were watching that show! Since then I’ve used Gruyere with apple pie (recipe forthcoming now that I’m back on the pie-making wagon) and now Fontina and peach pie. In the apple pie, I put the cheese into the crust and sprinkle some over the filling. For the peach, since I had limited cheese (only the little packets from our grocery store, which, as I’ve said, is going through a renovation), I diced it finely and sprinkled it over the filling so it would melt into the pie itself. It is like having a whole cheese platter at a fancy restaurant in one bite! The sweet/tartness of the fruit plays pleasantly with the creamy, slightly salty cheese and together they dance with the buttery, flaky crust. It is definitely a party in your mouth.

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Adapted Old-Fashioned Peach Pie Recipe

2 Pie Crusts

5-6 Peaches, skinned and cut into wedges

2 T lemon juice (you might want to add a little more if you like your pies more tart)

1/2 C Flour

1 C Sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2-3 oz Fontina cheese, diced or shredded (I would have added more if I had it)

1 egg beaten w/ a few drops of water

1-2 teaspoons sugar

Set oven to 425 (his recipe says 450, but I set mine lower). Mix filling ingredients except cheese, pour into bottom pie crust. Dot top with cheese. Add second crust and crimp edges with fork tines. Brush top crust with egg wash and sprinkle sugar. Cut four inch-long vents in the pie crust to let steam escape. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, lower heat to 350 and bake for 30 more minutes or until crust is golden and pie filling is bubbling.

Have you ever used cheese to make pie? I’d LOVE to hear your ideas because this is only the beginning – stay tuned for more cheesy, fruity deliciousness to come.

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