Monday, March 7, 2011

No Day Like Pie Day

Originally posted 11/22/10

Good morning!  It’s pie day, and I am pretty sure there is no better day!  Today, I have two dessert recipes to share with you, and they are so good!!  I have a recipe for the best pumpkin pie ever (seriously, I’m not just bragging, it really is) and a knock-off of a certain coffee place’s cranberry bars.  You know the bars….they are only out at the holidays, and they are crazy good?  Yep, I came up with my own version and they are so yummy.  I’m going to cut the chit-chat and get right to it today….
I make my pumpkin pie in a 13x9 pan, so it is really more a pumpkin bar then a pie. Step 1:  To make the crust, I used “gingerbread” grahams.  I found them at the Wal-Mart, but if you aren’t lucky enough to have a super duper Wal-Mart by you, feel free to use regular graham crackers, just throw in a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.  I also used butter and brown sugar. 
I threw the crackers into my food processor until they were nice and crumby.  If you don’t have a food processor, put them in a food storage bad and beat the nonsense out of them.  Mix in the softened butter and brown sugar until it is the texture of coarse sand and will hold together.  I pressed the crust into a 13x9 pan, making sure to go up the sides.  I baked the crust at 375 degrees for 7 minutes.
Step 2:  The filling is pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, maple extract and a pinch of salt.  No, I didn’t puree my own pumpkin.  I actually wouldn’t even know where to begin to do that, and why would I, when the good people at Libby’s did it for me.  The maple syrup and pecans will be used later…..
In a mixing bowl, I mixed together the pumpkin, spice, maple extract, salt, eggs and sweetened condensed milk.  Once it was smooth, I poured it into the baked crust.  I baked the pie/bars at 350 for about 55 minutes, or until set. 
Notice I didn’t use vanilla extract.  I really feel that the maple extract is what sets this apart.  Maple lends itself so well to pumpkin…..I feel they are so much better together then pumpkin and vanilla.
Step 3: While the pie was baking, I put maple syrup into a sauce pan and simmered it until it was thickened and reduced.
I stirred chopped pecans into the thickened syrup.  I serve this on the side when I serve the pie.  Some people just don’t like nuts…..me, for example so I give people the option….I’m a giver;)
Once the pie is cooled, I cut it into squares.  Besides the nutty syrup, I also top this pie with cinnamon whipped cream.  I whip heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Then I add 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon.  I continue whipping the cream until it thick and creamy.  This pie is seriously the best pumpkin pie you will ever eat.  You have to try it!

Does everyone know what I am talking about when I say I making “a certain coffee places cranberry bars?”  I don’t want to name names….Their name contains another word that can mean happy?  Ok, good.  Now you can make them all year ‘round and not have to wait for the Christmas season, and I they will definitely be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table.
There are a few steps to making these bars.  The first step is the bar itself.  I used butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, flour, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.
I creamed together the brown sugar and softened butter with a hand mixer.  I added in the eggs, vanilla, salt and ginger.  This just takes a couple of minutes.
I slowly mixed in the flour.  This will be a thick batter.
I stirred in the dried cranberries and chocolate chips, that I had to pry out of Paisley’s deceptively strong hands.  Then I poured (or rather placed-this is thick!) the batter into a 13x9 pan that I had lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.  I baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick came out clean when inserted.
Step 2 is to make the frosting.  It is a basic cream cheese frosting.  I used butter, cream cheese, orange extract and powdered sugar.  You can use a canned cream cheese frosting with a bit of orange extract if you are pressed for time.  I won’t tell.
The butter and cream cheese need to be pretty soft so that they will mix together smoothly.  Once they are smooth, slowly add the powdered sugar until you have the consistency you like.  Don’t forget the extract!!
After the bars are cooled I frosted them.  Then I put white chocolate chips in the microwave to melt for 45 seconds and stirred until smooth.  I drizzled this over the frosted bars.  I also threw on some more dried cranberries.  The chocolate will firm up pretty quickly and they are ready to be served!
Mmmmmmmm-so good!  This would also be a great homemade gift for the holidays.  I really do hope you try one of these recipes for Thanksgiving.  Save room for dessert!

Best Ever Pumpkin Pie
3 cups gingerbread graham cracker crumbs (3 sleeves)
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ sticks of butter, melted
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon maple extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar until you have the texture of coarse sand.  Press into a 13x9 pan, making sure to go up the sides.  Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 7 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, beat together pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, spice, extract and salt.  Pour into baked shell.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until set.

Simmer syrup until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.  Stir in chopped pecans.

Top pie with maple pecans and cinnamon whipped cream.

Cranberry Bars
2 sticks butter plus ½ stick, softened
1 ¼ brown sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch salt
1 ½ cups flour
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 12 ounce bag white chocolate chips
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon orange extract
3 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat together 2 sticks butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt and mix well.  Slowly add in flour.  Once the batter is smooth, stir in ¾ cup dried cranberries and 6 ounces chocolate chips.  Pour into a 13/9 that has been lined with foil and greased.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Cream together ½ stick butter and 4 ounces cream cheese.  Add orange extract.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar.  Frost cooled cake.

In a microwave safe dish, melt 6 ounces white chocolate chips.  This will take about 45 seconds.  Stir until smooth and drizzle over frosted bars.  Top with the rest of the dried cranberries.

Remove bars from the pan using the edges of the foil.  Cut into bars to serve.

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