Tag Archives: oats

48 Homemade Breakfast Cereals

I like variety. Sure, sometimes during the week I can get on a kick and eat the same thing every night for dinner (hellooo, lima beans, I’m lookin’ at you), but I also really appreciate mixing it up every now and then.

That’s why a few months ago when I decided I wanted some breakfast cereal, I went to the store and bought about 8 different boxes of the stuff. Each morning needed to have its own flavor — as long as the nutrition facts were acceptable. What? Don’t look at me like that. Sure, I may be the same girl who posted the Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake, but I do try to eat reasonably during the week!

The store-bought cereal was okay. At least, I thought it was okay at the time. But then something happened — I had one of those thunderous BIG IDEAS.

It all started when I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Not So Humble Pie, and saw her (you’re not going to believe it) S’mores Candy Bar. I know. Insane.

The premise of her post was that she didn’t understand the excitement over this new company that makes customizable candy bars, since it’s so easy to make them at home. Having been excited about the customizable candy bar company, I felt admonished. And inspired.

Because even more than I had been excited about customizable candy bars, I was excited about customizable cereal. There’s this company on the web (I won’t link to them, since I’m about to tell you it’s silly to pay for their product) that allows you to choose all the ingredients you want in your own personal box of cereal — and even lets you pick a name for your new creation! Too fun!

BUT. I realized when I read Mrs. Humble’s candy bar post that it didn’t make any sense to pay for one kind of customized cereal (that was just like going to the grocery store), or even for eight kinds of customized cereal . . . what would really make sense is to make your own fully customizable cereal buffet — one that would allow you to have a different flavor every day if you wanted to!

A dream was born. I scrounged up recipes for homemade granola and nutty bran flakes (I’ll gush about these in a minute). And as if to emphasize that making homemade cereal was indeed my destiny, the folks at Oh! Nuts emailed to ask if I’d like to review some of their products. Uh, YES, NUT PEOPLE, YOU READ MY MIND. Pounds of nuts and dried fruits later, I was in the cereal-makin’ biz.

If you’re about to post a comment calling me a hippie for making my own bran flakes, hold it right there. This recipe is super easy, super cool, and super rewarding. You feel like a superhero (who makes their own cereal?! I MAKE MY OWN CEREAL! I AM CEREAL WOMAN!), you know exactly what healthy ingredients went into said cereal, and — this is the best part — you have bran flakes that don’t taste like a cardboard box. Every time I opened the jar they were stored in, I got a whiff of delicious nuttiness. They had texture! They had taste! Yes!

The granola is the flavor that really carries the cereal, though. I chose a Double Coconut Granola from Opera Girl Cooks that I’d heard a ton about. Once it cooled, it lived up to the hype — buttery, slightly sweet, coconutty, with a hint of salt to really amp it up.

Once you’ve made some flakes and granola, the fun starts. Possible add-ins are endless: dried fruits, fresh fruits, toasted nuts (do make sure to toast them — MUCH more flavor), seeds, chocolate chips, peanut butter or cinnamon chips, candy, marshmallows . . . be creative! Add a little, add a lot.

My favorite bowl was a straight-up combination of all my options: bran flakes, double coconut granola, dried cherries, dried blueberries, cinnamon pecans, and toasted walnuts. If you have just 2 dried fruits and two nut options along with your flakes and granola, you’ll have 48 possible breakfast cereal varieties — that’s a lot of options!

The Oh! Nuts products were a success in terms of taste — the blueberries had a pronounced, wonderful blueberry flavor, and the cinnamon pecans were so addictive that I almost ate my stash before I got my cereal made! The sour cherries did have an odd, slightly fishy flavor (I know, weird), but I still enjoyed eating them. Maybe a flavor compound of the cherries came out that isn’t as pronounced when they’re not dried?

To be honest, including the price of shipping, I probably wouldn’t spend the extra money to buy regular nuts or fruit from Oh! Nuts, but would just head to the grocery store. That being said, for specialty items or rare nuts/fruits/candies, they’re the place to go. The selection is huge, and the products are high quality.

If you, like me, love a big ol’ bowl of hearty, nutty, earthy, crunchy, chewy, flavorful, delicious breakfast cereal — and one that can change with whatever mood you’re in — I hope you’ll make your own personal cereal buffet! Or perhaps fix a cereal buffet in pretty jars as a gift for a friend. Even better, have a breakfast party: set up a cereal buffet for family and friends where each person can make their own cereal combination, perhaps supplemented with juice and muffins on the side. Have fun!

Oh, by the way, I did have to branch out a little in homage to my original inspiration. How about some S’mores Cereal?

Below you’ll find the recipes for granola and nutty bran flakes. I even included nutritional info so you can make healthy breakfast choices! Round up some of your favorite add-ins and place all the components in separate jars for storage. Enjoy!

Homemade Nutty Bran Flakes



Recipe by: Adapted from Mr. Breakfast
Yields: about 3-4 servings (NOTE: Feel free to double this recipe! I wish I had.)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup almond flour (or other finely ground nuts)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add milk and water. Stir to mix well. The resulting mixture will be a very wet “dough” (so wet, you can hardly call it a dough). Cut two sheets of parchment paper to fit two baking sheets, and set one sheet of parchment paper on the counter where you’ll be rolling — you won’t be able to transfer it without this!

Glop half of the “dough” out onto the sheet of parchment paper and flatten it by hand. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and “roll” it out (your rolling pin will almost just be smooshing it out into place) EXTREMELY THIN, almost transparent in some places. It will look like a giant bran flake — super fun!

Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the parchment carefully to a baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes, but check often after just 5, because such a thin dough can easily burn. You’re looking for a thin, leathery cracker that is crunchy at the edges. When it’s done, remove it and allow it to cool completely. While it cools, repeat the process with the other half of the dough.

After both giant bran flakes have finished their first bake, reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Tear the first, cooled bran flake into regular bran flake-sized pieces (about 3/4 of an inch), spreading them out on the parchment-covered baking sheet.

Bake at the reduced temperature for 20 minutes, flipping and stirring the flakes around every 5 minutes. Repeat process with the second cooled, giant bran flake. Then allow all bran flakes to cool completely. Store well in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Nutritional Info: Serving size: about 1/4 of total yield Calories: 146.3, Fat: 5g, Sodium: 185mg, Carbs: 24.5g, Fiber: 6g, Sugars: 8g, Protein: 5.5g


Now that I’ve shared my favorites with you, I’m anxious to know: What sort of breakfast cereal would you make for yourself? PiƱa colada cereal with toasted coconut and dried pineapple? Cherry crumble cereal with dried cherries and cinnamon granola? A luscious combo of dates, coconut, and chocolate chips?

Double Coconut Granola



Recipe by: Adapted from Opera Girl Cooks
Yields: 3 cups of granola (NOTE: Double if you’d like more for snacking, because you’re gonna love this stuff)

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 scant cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup clover honey
1/6 cup virgin coconut oil (half of a 1/3 cup measure)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used almond because I was out of vanilla)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
optional: I toasted another 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut to add in for sweetness, but that was before I’d tasted the cooled batch. It’s probably unnecessary.

Directions:
Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine oats and shredded coconut in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt until just simmering.

Pour honey mixture over the oat mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Spread this mixture out over a large sheet pan, place in oven, and bake for 10 minutes before stirring the granola. Repeat 10 minute baking time, followed by stirring, until granola is well-toasted (takes about 4 cycles, or about 40 minutes).

Cool the granola on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally. When cooled, you can store granola in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or at room temperature for two.

Nutritional Info: Serving size: 70 grams (about 1/2 cup) Calories: 233, Fat: 12g, Sodium: 122mg, Carbs: 32g, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 8g, Protein: 4.5g (NOTE: I’d use half a serving if I were combining the granola with bran flakes in my cereal)

Other delicious breakfast ideas floating around the internet right now: Beer Waffles with Cinnamon Cardamom Apples, S’mores Oatmeal, Oatmeal Pancakes, Pecan Sticky Buns, and of course, from yours truly, Carrot Cake Waffles.

Note: I received the above mentioned products from Oh! Nuts free of charge for review.

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Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Icing

It was hard to get my baking accomplished this weekend, but if I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I just spent the weekend with 8 of the sweetest 6th graders on the planet. My church holds a youth conference each year called Disciple Now. Students travel to the homes of generous church members to spend two days worshiping God, studying His Word, and having fun. I was a family group leader, responsible for leading the gals through Bible studies and refereeing the occasional pillow fight.

My short time with those bright, silly, beautiful, brilliant young ladies was so rewarding — partly because at first, it didn’t feel like it was going very well. They were exhausted Friday when we arrived home after worship, and were in no state for the Bible study we had planned. Sleepiness, pointed watch-checking, and delirium ensued. I lay in bed that night and reiterated the prayer I’d prayed upon arriving at the event earlier in the afternoon: Lord, I know Your strength is made perfect in my weakness, and right now, I’m feeling very weak! Please come make this work for Your glory.

The next day, I spoke with other group leaders who had experienced that very same moment of brokenness late Friday night. My Bible study leader revealed that she had woken up at 3 am that morning with the urge to pray for us. I’m so thankful for her prayers and the faithfulness of God — because the fantastic time spent with the girls Saturday was not my doing, but His! Apart from wheelbarrow relay races, crabwalking, screaming contests, an obstacle course, and a whole lot of giggling, we had an amazing discussion of what it means to live a “backwards life” for Christ (here is a site where you can download a free copy of the devotional book we worked through on this topic). The girls revealed their hearts — friends they were praying for, their struggles in faith. At one point, we made a list of daring ways to share the gospel (“good news”) of Christ with our loved ones.

I’m adding one to my own personal list — posting the good news on Willow Bird Baking! You are all on my list of “loved ones”! You may not be a believer, but I challenge you to read and consider this message either way, in the spirit of allowing me to share something that’s important to my heart.

The central message of Christianity is this simple truth: we are all sinners, separated from God by our sins. We cannot remedy this by ourselves, but God so loved us that He sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die in our place — paying the price for sin. Jesus was then resurrected to triumph over sin and death. If we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus did this for us, we accept His free gift of what Christians call “salvation”: salvation from the price of sin, and an eternal relationship with God, who is a wonderful Father.

If this is the first time you’ve heard or understood what Christ did for you, will you take a moment right now and tell Him you’re accepting His gift? If you’re already a believer, will you take a moment and thank Him again? Lastly, if you’re reading this right now and have questions, please leave me a comment with your email address.

Okay, I know you’re ogling the pictures of the amazing Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Icing and wondering . . . how does Christ relate to Oatmeal Cake? Well, my jam-packed weekend resulted in a rushed baking session on Sunday. I needed a quick and simple recipe that I could make while bleary due to sleep deprivation. I cut calories during the week to splurge on the weekends, so I also wanted a recipe that could be easily devoured before Monday morning. This cake more than fit the bill — especially the easily devoured part!

This recipe is heavenly, y’all (pun intended)! The cake is incredibly moist and delicate, with a mesmerizing blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and oats. The broiled icing is insane: toasted coconut and pecans bound by a gooey almost-caramely mixture created by the broiled butter and brown sugar. On my Recipe Index, small hearts denote Willow Bird Baking favorites — the recipes I’m over the moon about. This hearty, filling cake has more than earned its heart!

One of the best parts is that it truly is a quick and easy recipe as well. The icing is spread on while the cake is warm, meaning that the entire recipe can be easily accomplished within an hour (not including cooling time). If I got through the entire process without a hitch while half-asleep, caffeinated, sore, and frazzled, it should be a breeze for you! Happy eating!

Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Icing



Recipe by: America’s Test Kitchen*
Yields: one 8-inch square cake (about 9 pieces)

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup (3 ounces) quick-cooking oats (see note)
3/4 cup water , room temperature
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Broiled Icing Ingredients:
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) pecans, chopped

Directions:
1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut two 16-inch lengths aluminum foil and fold both lengthwise to 5-inch widths. Spray 8- by 8-inch metal baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Create a foil sling for the pan: cut two 16-inch lengths of foil and fold them to widths of 5 inches each. Fit foil pieces into baking dish, one overlapping the other, pushing them into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. This creates a sling that will help you remove the cake after baking and cooling. Spray foil lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine oats and water in medium bowl and let sit until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. In another medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.

3. In bowl of standing mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until combined and mixture has consistency of damp sand, 2 to 4 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula halfway through mixing. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Add flour mixture in 2 additions and mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add soaked oats and mix until combined, about 15 seconds.

4. Give batter final stir with rubber spatula to make sure thoroughly combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan and lightly tap against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles; smooth surface with spatula. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes (careful: mine only took 28 minutes), rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool slightly in pan, at least 10 minutes.

5. FOR THE BROILED ICING: While cake cools, adjust oven rack about 9 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. In medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, melted butter, and milk together; stir in coconut and pecans. Spread mixture evenly over warm cake. Broil until topping is bubbling and golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

6. Let cake cool in pan 1 hour. Following illustration 2, transfer cake to serving platter, then discard foil. Cut cake into squares and serve.

*ATK’s notes: Do not use old-fashioned or instant oats for this recipe. Be sure to use a metal baking dish; glass pans are not recommended when broiling. If you have a drawer-style broiler (underneath the oven), position the rack as far as possible from the broiler element and monitor the icing carefully as it cooks in step 5. A vertical sawing motion with a serrated knife works best for cutting through the crunchy icing and tender crumb.




Enjoy!

P.S. Reader comment: “Seriously this is the best cake I have ever baked or eaten. […] I cannot thank you enough for posting this. It is seriously amazing!” Hurray! GO MAKE THIS CAKE!


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Vegan Pumpkin Nut Bread

Babies have an uncanny ability to make you silly. We’ve all experienced the strange, instantaneous transformation: you’re walking along, the picture of respectability, when you spot bright eyes and baby CHEEKS! It’s always the cheeks that really push you over the edge. Suddenly, you’re cooing, peekabooing, vroooooming airplane spoons . . . anything for a smile, or best of all, a baby giggle!

My friend Amelia knows all too well what one will do for a baby. Her little Rowan (now 6 months old) wasn’t tolerating dairy very well, so mama had to give it up! No tall glasses of milk, no cheesy pizzas, no gooey lasagnas — and worst of all, hubby was still able to chow down! I’m going to be honest (with apologies to vegans out there): I would not be a fan of a dairy-free lifestyle. I enjoy meat, but I’d be much quicker to give it up than my beloved cheese, butter, and milk! Amelia’s a champ, though; with nary a complaint, she’s gone almost completely dairy-free for months. She deserves a mommy medal, but perhaps she’d settle for a loaf of vegan pumpkin bread?

I first spotted this beauty on Joy the Baker awhile back, when Joy admitted to sometimes searching for vegan recipes just because she’s out of butter or eggs. I love the honesty, not to mention the resourcefulness. A girl after my own heart. Gotta have sweets and gotta avoid the mid-recipe grocery store run.

This pumpkin bread was nice and moist, with a deep caramel-esque flavor from the brown sugar and maple. I added oats for more heartiness. One loaf went to Amelia, and Mike and I kept one for breakfasting. We defiled our loaf by slathering it with butter (more apologies to the vegans!), but it’d be delicious spread with cream cheese (oh wait! sorry vegans!), peanut butter, pumpkin, maple syrup, vegan margarine, mud . . . it’s just good! Just spread it with something creamy and suited to your dietary leanings, and consume!

I will say that it wasn’t as grand, in my tastebuds’ opinions, as regular old pumpkin quick bread. I think I prefer a brighter pumpkin spice flavor to the depth of the maple and brown sugar combo in this recipe. Nevertheless, if you’re out of eggs, following a vegan lifestyle, or simply avoiding dairy for a cute little imp of a babe, this is a nice, hearty option. We have the last bit of our loaf sitting in our freezer waiting for Saturday morning breakfast!

Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread



Recipe by: Joy the Baker, slightly adapted by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 2 loaves

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour, or use only all-purpose flour)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup oats

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in. Fold in most of the chopped walnuts and oats, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the batter once in the pan.

Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with a few walnut pieces. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm. To freeze, double wrap in plastic wrap and then wrap in foil.


Enjoy!


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Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

The students have all closed their novels and packed up their supplies for Thanksgiving Break, so it’s time for me to take a deep breath and relax — until the baking begins tomorrow, of course! Because I enjoyed reading Jillicious‘s list of things she’s thankful for this year, here are a few of my own:

  1. Jesus, who made the greatest sacrifice for me.
  2. My family — they’re crazy, wonderful, and so supportive.
  3. Mike, who has never disliked anything I’ve ever cooked, whether overseasoned, underseasoned, burnt, or weird.
  4. Cake.
  5. Friends, for joining me in ridiculous escapades.
  6. My students, who make me laugh every day and (usually) make me feel like I’m making a difference through my teaching.
  7. Writing.
  8. Byrd and Squirt, my poodle and red-eared slider. One is fluffy and hyper, the other is scaly and . . . frowny; nevertheless, they’re both the sweetest pets anyone could ask for, and have made my little apartment a home.
  9. My snuggie. Shut up; it’s comfortable!
  10. Food, which is one language through which history, family, culture, and emotion has been communicated to me. I love joining the conversation.

On that note, here are some dishes that have warmed the pages of Willow Bird Baking in the past months that would be lovely on your Thanksgiving dinner table. May you enjoy the sharing of mirth, love, and calories with your family this year!



Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple — Add some variety to your Thanksgiving pie choices! Everyone gets to choose their own flavor. The pumpkin and peach pies are especially scrumptious.





Jack-O’-Lantern Whoopie Pies — These cakey cookies are hearty, moist, spicy, and addictive. Whoopie pies should be part of every family’s Thanksgiving tradition.







Peach Crisp Pie — Delicious, gooey peaches and crispy oats fill a tender, flaky crust. This is my favorite pie of all time!





Best Ever Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Easy Caramel Frosting and Spiced Apples — This moist, dense, finely-crumbed cake is heavenly with or without some spicy cinnamon apples on the side. “Best Ever” is not an exaggeration!



Chocolate Tart — Tired of pumpkin? If you’re a chocolate lover, this tart is a must-eat. Rich, indulgent chocolate fills the buttery tart crust, and a pile of freshly whipped cream accompanies each bite. This post also includes a bright and tangy Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart.


Overnight Yeast Rolls — These fluffy, delicious, buttery yeast rolls are part of my family’s annual Thanksgiving tradition. When I realized I was old enough to make them myself (and at any time of year, too), it was one ecstatic day in the kitchen!


Cardamom Pumpkin Macarons — Having an elegant Thanksgiving? These gluten-free cookies combine cardamom with traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin. Macarons are the perfect bite: crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside.



Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake — Looking for a big, beautiful cake to adorn your Thanksgiving table? Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake is brimming with hunks of pineapple, carrot, walnut, and raisin. With cream cheese frosting slathered on in a thick layer, it’s an elegant and decadent Thanksgiving dessert.

Green Chile TURKEY Enchiladas — Okay, these don’t quite fit on the Thanksgiving dinner table, but maybe you find yourself wondering what to do with all your juicy turkey leftovers? These Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas can be transformed into turkey-filled treats, and what a great way to spice up leftovers. The recipe is so seductive, yet very simple — it won’t take up all of your Black Friday!


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Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple

As the days adopt a chill and the pretty trees behind my apartment lazily lose their leaves, I’m embracing what’s to come. I’ve already begun lighting my Balsam and Cedar candles, poking about for pumpkin recipes, and crunching happily down sidewalks strewn with crisp leaves. I’m trying to get in the autumn spirit, and it was with that mindset that I sat down this week to hunt for delicious recipes. My Sunday school class is having a potluck tomorrow, and I wanted something bite-sized and special to contribute.

Whenever I’m pondering what to bake, I struggle between two very disparate urges. On one hand, I love baked goods that are cute. You know, those cupcakes that look like burgers, cake balls shaped like random animals, cakes decorated to resemble inanimate objects. On the other hand, I grow more in tune with each passing week to the fact that I’m pinching salt, molding dough, tossing flour, and in short, creating things with my hands. In keeping with that, I love baked goods that are simple, rustic, and emphatically homemade. Marrying these two desires is sometimes difficult, but this weekend, I think I found the perfect solution (just in time for the Sunday school potluck): miniature pies. Itty bitty Pumpkin Pies, Peach Crisp Pies, and Sour Cream Apple Pies, to be precise.

These tiny pies are so sweet and cute and charming . . . that I’m almost suspicious. Remember diminutive, pigtailed Rhoda from the classic 1956 horror film The Bad Seed?

She was ostensibly the picture of perfection, but in actuality, she was going around killing neighborhood children, old ladies, and her family’s dimwitted handyman. I can just see her roller skating down the sidewalk with a basket of these perfect pies. She used to ask her parents, “What will you give me for a basket of kisses?” and they’d respond nauseatingly, “A basket of hugs.” But who wants a basket of hugs when you could have a basket of pies?

Murderous allusions notwithstanding, these particular perfect treats are not too good to be true. Unlike dear Rhoda, they are every bit as sweet and delectable as they appear.

The Mini Peach Crisp Pies were exact taste replicas of their full-size cousin. I chopped fresh, juicy peaches and mixed them with brown sugar, granulated sugar, and oats. This simple combination yields an unexpectedly bright fall flavor with a satisfying, gooey, oaty texture. I’m glad I have more of these waiting in my fridge. I don’t know if my Sunday school class will get to sample these!

The Sour Cream Apple Pies had a nostalgic appeal. When I was little, my mom made a buttery, tangy dessert she called, simply, Apple Kuchen. It was easy to assemble — a yellow cake mix base topped with apple pie filling and sour cream. I’ll have to post that recipe sometime, since it was my first introduction to the apples and sour cream together. That combination is still a favorite of mine today. These mini-pies didn’t quite live up to my expectations, though; the flavor was very mild and left me wishing for more spice. The recipe I used didn’t call for a single bit of cinnamon or nutmeg, and though I snuck in a few shakes of the cinnamon jar, it still needed some work. I have to hand you a grain of salt to take with my criticism, though, since I’m devouring these little apple parcels lustily. The sweet apple flavor is certainly still appealing.

Last but not least, the Pumpkin Pies were my absolute favorite. Spicy, custardy pumpkin inside a buttery, flaky crust, all topped with either a pretty pecan or a dollop of homemade whipped cream (okay, or both!). Want to know the best part? They were by far the easiest mini-pie to assemble — so easy that I’m making them one of my go-to desserts. Just like the Plum and Cream Mini Tortes Mike and I loved so much, these little pies pay out much more joy and deliciousness than they cost in labor.



I can’t wait for you to try these miniature pies and share your thoughts with me! How else are you going to try three or four different flavors of pie all on one plate? If you’d rather not indulge your do-too-muchitis, though, why not choose just one flavor to bake? Pop a pan of the easy pumpkin pies in the oven all by themselves for a simple treat. Whether you bake one flavor or all of them, I hope you’re thrilled with the sweet results.

Miniature Pies: Pumpkin, Sour Cream Apple, and Peach Crisp


Recipe By:

Digs Magazine (pumpkin pie filling)
Not Martha (fruit pie inspiration)
Epicurious (apple pie filling, adapted)
-Willow Bird Baking (peach crisp filling)

Yields: About 48 mini-muffin sized pies, depending on proportions
Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold butter flavored vegetable shortening*
3/4 cup cold butter, chopped
6-8 tablespoons cold water
*I tried shortening for this recipe, but prefer lard!

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
6 oz. evaporated milk
1.5 eggs*
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
*For half an egg – lightly beat one egg, then measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Peach Crisp Filling Ingredients:
3 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 cup oats
pinch salt

Sour Cream Apple Filling Ingredients:
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large eggs
1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large Granny Smith apples

Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg
a little water

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or flavoring of your choice)


Directions:

Make the crust: Pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add chunks of shortening and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another 2 tablespoons of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes while preparing your filling.

Make desired fillings: While dough is chilling, make desired fillings.

  1. Pumpkin: Combine the sugars, cinnamon and ginger in a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and stir in the pumpkin; add the evaporated milk and mix well. Refrigerate if you aren’t using it right away.
  2. Peach Crisp: Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Sour Cream Apple: Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, and flour until the mixture is smooth. Add the apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin, and stir the filling until it is combined well. Note: I added a teaspoon of cinnamon and wish I’d added some nutmeg, too.

Prepare the bottom crust: Take one of the disks of dough and pinch off walnut-sized balls. Place a ball in each well of an ungreased mini-muffin pan. Using your fingers, work the dough up the sides of each well (and create a little lip of dough rising over the edge for fruit pies). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For fruit pies: Fill each well with desired fruit filling. Pinch off a piece of dough and flatten it or roll it out thin on a sheet of parchment paper. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out a top crust. Place the top crust on one of the wells, folding the bottom crust lip over with the edge of the top crust and crimping the edges shut. You can use a toothpick to decorate the edges. Repeat for all of the mini-pies. Cut a crisscross vent in the center of each pie. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the tops of the pies. Bake pies at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, checking often. If the pies appear to be getting too brown, cover the whole pan with aluminum foil. Remove and let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring mini-pies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For pumpkin pies: Pour pumpkin pie filling into each prepared well. Bake pies for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling set. Remove and sprinkle chopped toasted pecans on top OR decorate with a pretty toasted pecan half. Let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring mini-pies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve mini-pies with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. To make homemade whipped cream, mix all ingredients together until soft peaks are obtained.

Notes: The fruit pie filling portions above are most likely out of proportion. I made extra peach and apple to freeze. The pumpkin filling recipe above has been halved from the original, because I made the original amount and ended up with way too much.

To store Pumpkin and Sour Cream Apple Mini-Pies, refrigerate in an airtight container.


Preparing my apple pie filling and baking the pies.



Pumpkin pies baking and cooling off.



All packed up and ready to go to Sunday school!



Happy Eating!

P.S. Nominate your favorite food blogs for the 2009 Foodbuzz Blog Awards by September 30th!

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Peach Crisp Pie

I have two options here. Option 1: I could throw up a picture of the gooey, hearty peach pie I just made and nonchalantly describe the process. I could pretend that making the flaky crust was a cinch, my kitchen stayed miraculously spotless throughout the effortless endeavor, and oh, by the way, my apron matches the bow in my carefully coiffed hair. Or option 2: I could tell the truth.

I’m an honest woman. The truth is, today was a disaster. A disaster that did end in the aforementioned gooey, hearty peach pie (thank God), but a disaster nonetheless. First of all, I was not planning on making a pie, but pie pockets.

It all started when Heidi over at Heidi Bakes posted these scrumptious looking Apple Hand Pies. Those little pie pockets caused all the trouble! They were so beautiful! And so PERSONAL — if I were talking to my 6th graders, who are practicing analogies, I’d say that cupcakes are to cakes what pie pockets are to pies. I had to make them! All of a sudden, I went a liiiittle bit insane (no really, ask Mike about my late night pie pocket instant messages) about the possibilities.

Here’s just a BRIEF list of all the possible pie pockets that ran through my head:

  • broccoli, cheese, and ham pie pockets
  • raspberry pie pockets
  • apple cranberry pie pockets
  • cherry pie pockets
  • strawberry cherry pie pockets
  • banana, oat, and nut pie pockets with gooey brown sugar, butter, streusel
  • blueberry pie pockets
  • NUTELLA pie pockets
  • pizza pie pockets
  • tomato, mozzarella, and basil pesto pie pockets
  • barbecue and apple pie pockets
  • peach and blueberry pie pockets
  • peach cobbler pockets
  • Philly cheesesteak pie pockets
  • beef burgundy pie pockets
  • coconut cream pie pockets

So what’s the problem? All of that sounds great (in fact, I’m getting excited all over again, which is pretty incredible considering the day I’ve had). Well, the problem is my chronic do-too-muchitis. I can’t just make some cookies; I have to make three types of cookies, decorate them according to each recipient’s favorite color, and tie them up in individualized bows. I can’t just bake a cake; I have to turn it into cupcakes, add three different types of filling, and oh yeah, try one batch with cake flour as an experiment. Get the idea? Alas, my do-too-muchitis struck again. No hyperbole this time around: I couldn’t pick ONE flavor of pie pockets to bake today. I had to pick FOUR flavors (two savory, two sweet) of pie pockets to bake, knowing full well that I’d never made a pie crust before in my life (Oh, I didn’t mention that part yet? That’s right. Never.)

I had done my homework. I’ve been reading about crusts for weeks. For months. I bought my myriad ingredients and dedicated last night to my mise-en-place. Look how pretty!


Pie Pocket Mise-en-Place

And I made my crust. Pretty simple, I thought, though perhaps a bit crumbly. Oh well. Into some plastic wrap and then into the refrigerator it went. This morning, I woke up early to do a quick assembly of each pie pocket before baking — easy as pie, right? — only to find that a bit crumbly was actually falling apart crumbly. Those that didn’t crumble to pieces before baking certainly did so after.


The picture no respectable food blogger would show: failpies!

All of you professional pie crusters know what I did wrong: I was stingy with my water. But since Julie Powell’s meltdowns in the movie Julie & Julia hit a little too close to home for me, I’ve been trying to take my mother’s advice. She told me once before a major baking project, “You just have to have a sense of humor about things that go wrong.” I also took Beth Moore’s advice and yielded to the right passion — delighting in the Lord instead of giving way to anger. In short, I channeled every known resource for avoiding a kitchen meltdown, and changed gears.

I would conquer the pie crust! And I would not waste one of my most exciting pie pocket fillings: peaches covered in gooey brown sugar and oats. So I dusted myself off (quite literally) and made another batch of pie dough. Shoving my do-too-muchitis aside, I made ONE LOVELY PIE, and boy, was that enough! I was still fighting my sullen mood until I took the first magical bite, and suddenly, all the baking was worth it. The crust? Perfect, tender, flaky, buttery. The filling? An indulgent cinnamon-and-spice herald of the coming fall. When topped with a mound of homemade whipped cream, I feel comfortable saying this is the best pie I’ve ever eaten. So after a long day of dough crises, recipe detours, and outrageous piles of dirty dishes, I’m proud to have ended up with a Peach Crisp Pie.

Oh, and to soothe my wounds a bit, I used the pie dough trimmings to make one last attempt at a pie pocket and was finally successful! Now that I’ve learned my dough lesson, count on seeing a pie pocket post in the future. Until then, I hope you’ll sit back, watch the leaves change, and eat some pie.

Peach Crisp Pie


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking (crust adapted from Crisco; help from here)
Yields: One 9-inch, two crust pie


Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold lard (non-hydrogenated if available)*
3/4 cup cold butter, chopped
6-8 tablespoons cold water
*you can substitute vegetable shortening here if you wish, but I highly recommend the lard!

Filling Ingredients:
5-6 peaches, peeled and quartered
1/2-3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup oats
pinch salt

Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or flavoring of your choice)


Directions:
Pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add scoops of lard and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another 2 tablespoons of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes while preparing your filling.

For filling, mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll one disk of dough out to around 2 inches larger than your pie plate and transfer it, situating it in the plate. Trim the excess flush with the edge of the pie plate. Fill the pastry covered plate with filling. Roll the other disk out to about 1 inch larger than your pie plate. Situate it over the filling, tucking the edges of the top dough behind the edge of the bottom dough and crimping the edges. Use excess dough to add dough cutouts to top of pie if desired (I made some fall leaves).

In a small bowl, beat cream and egg yolk together for egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface of the top pie crust (can sprinkle lightly with sugar if you desire). Cut vents in the top crust. Shield crimped edges of pie with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes before turning the heat down to 350 degrees F and baking 30-35 minutes longer. For the last 15 minutes, remove foil shielding. Allow pie to cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. To make homemade whipped cream, mix all ingredients together until soft peaks are obtained.





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