Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Do you know how old your cinnamon is?" - Restaurant Mom Tries Baking

Okay, I'm not a cook... that's why I'm Restaurant Mom, not Chef Mom or Baker Mom. But, for Thanksgiving this year, instead of picking up one apple and one pumpkin pie from Publix and bringing them to my parent's house, I decided to make two pies instead. I somehow was inspired when I saw the recipes for Vanilla-Walnut Pie and Mile High Ginger Pie in the Orlando Sentinel's Food section last Wednesday. One was a no-bake recipe (hey, how can I mess that up?) and the other one didn't look too scary and used common ingredients. So, I perused my cupboard to see what ingredients I had. Vanilla extract - check, sugar - check, ground ginger - check (I use it a lot in stir fries), cinnamon - check. Hmmm, this looks like an old bottle of cinnamon. In fact, I don't think I've seen this brand of spices lately. Maybe I'll check the expiration date. Any guesses out there? Okay, get this... October 1998. Yes! 1998! Which means, this little bottle of cinnamon actually made the move with us from Miami to Orlando six years ago! Since I didn't think I should add what is probably now just brown dust to my pie, I added cinnamon to my shopping list. I'm scared to look at the expiration dates of the rest of my spices. Maybe next month.

So, I made the pies tonight! And they look good! The Vanilla-Walnut Pie looks like a pecan pie (but with walnuts) on top of a cheesecake. And the Ginger Pie looks good too! I changed a few things, for instance, I don't think I want to add the whipped topping and almonds on top of the Ginger Pie, it looks pretty good as it is and that will make it too... um... fluffy. For the Vanilla-Walnut Pie, I used a frozen pie crust instead of a refrigerated pie crust, because, well, the refrigerated pie crust looked scary to make. It required rolling out and "flute"-ing the edges which I know I would have messed up. The frozen one came ready to go, just needed to thaw first. Of course, the proof will be in the tasting -- so I'll update this post tomorrow with the tasting results! If you want to make these pies, I posted the recipes below.
Updated 11/23/06: Okay, here are the tasting results from Thanksgiving. The Mile High Ginger Pie was an "eh". Creamy, yes, but kind of tasteless. No one could really taste the ginger. I thought it could have passed for an egg nog pie as well, that's how "unknown" the flavor of the pie was. The Vanilla-Walnut Pie, though, I thought was a winner. Grandma thought it just tasted like walnuts but I thought it had a good taste - similar to pecan pie. The cheesecake at the bottom broke up the sweetness a bit so it wasn't too sickly sweet. I'm going to try making the Vanilla-Walnut Pie again for my department's potluck holiday lunch.

Mile High Ginger Pie
Yield: 8 servings.

1⁄4 cup caramel dessert topping
1 prepared vanilla cookie crust
2 cups half-and-half
2 (31⁄2-ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
1⁄4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Spread caramel topping in crust.
2. Pour half-and-half into bowl. Add pudding mixes, ginger and cinnamon. Whisk 2 minutes or until blended. Mixture will be thick. Let stand 5 minutes.
3. Stir in 1 1⁄2 cups of whipped topping. Spoon into crust.
4. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight to set. Top with remaining whipped topping before serving. Garnish with nuts.

Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 386, Fat: 18g, Carbohydrates: 52g, Sodium: 439mg, Protein: 4g, Fiber: 1g

Vanilla-Walnut Pie
Yield: 10 servings.

1 refrigerated pie crust
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups walnut pieces, toasted

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare crust as directed on package for one crust pie using 9-inch pie plate.
2. Beat cream cheese, 1 egg, 1⁄4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread in crust. Bake 15 minutes.
3. Beat 2 eggs and remaining sugar with whisk until smooth. Add corn syrup, butter, 3 teaspoons vanilla and salt. Sprinkle nuts over baked cream-cheese layer. Slowly pour corn-syrup mixture over nuts.
4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until set in center. Cool on wire rack.

Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 510, Fat: 34g, Carbohydrates: 43g, Cholesterol: 99mg, Sodium: 285mg, Protein: 8g

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