Sweet Vanilla Cream Pie

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Matthew’s mom (Chris Tessnear) loves vanilla pie. For years, her mom (Matthew’s grandma, Vember Quinn) made it for her on special occasions. She said she had never quite gotten vanilla pie like her mom’s anywhere else.

Until now.

While searching through vanilla-inspired recipes on Pinterest, we came across a semi-complicated recipe for vanilla bean cream pie. It looked delicious and I thought it could be simplified by cutting out the process of scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean to use during cooking, especially since vanilla extract was also in the recipe. So I removed the vanilla bean (which also made the recipe cheaper and easier to make with common pantry items) and substituted entirely with vanilla extract. The resulting recipe was just as vanilla-sweet and creamy as I’m sure the original was. I also simplified some of the recipe instructions, to where now, this is another of my easiest pies to make, only requiring a small bowl and a pot worth of cookware, a few simple ingredients, and a little time.

Matthew’s mom says this pie is the best she’s had since her mom’s pie, and is in fact, just as good. That’s high praise from a lady who can cook as well as my mother-in-law can! We hope you give this pie a try. We know you’ll love it just as much as we do!

P.S. You could also make the pie’s filling and enjoy it as pudding, without a shell or any additional baking. It would be delicious as a homemade, cooked vanilla pudding! And there are no eggs in the recipe, which I love, because you don’t have to worry about any undercooking. Easy peasy! Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

9 inch pie crust (baked and cooled)

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp. butter

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping: 2 tbsp. melted butter; 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

1. Pre-bake the pie shell on 350 for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and no longer doughy in appearance.

2. Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and put to the side.

3. In a nonstick pan, melt the 4 tbsp. of butter on medium heat. Add the heavy cream, milk and vanilla.

4. Add the dry ingredients (cornstarch/sugar mixture) to the pot slowly and stir with a whisk constantly until the pudding thickens (about 10 minutes).

5. Remove from heat and pour the pudding into the prepared pie crust.

6. Drizzle with the 2 tbsp. of melted butter (I usually melt it in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup) and sprinkle the cinnamon on top evenly.

7. Put the pie in the oven on broil just until the butter starts to bubble. Keep a check on it; this will only take a few minutes.

8. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Slice and delight!

Serves: about 8

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Foodie Travels: Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream, Angier, N.C.

f4daf9ed20558c50ec3c10eeb341907eIf you haven’t yet discovered Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream in the North Carolina community of Angier (between Raleigh and Fayetteville), you’re missing out. Dozens of flavors await you, including some very creative options that you likely wouldn’t expect.

My first experience with Sunni Sky’s came about a dozen years ago while visiting a friend at nearby Campbell University. A group of us drove along the country roads of central North Carolina and over to the ice cream shop, where I had my first taste of pumpkin pie ice cream. And, boy, was it good!

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Photo: Sunni Sky’s Facebook page

That’s a pretty tame flavor compared to one of the shop’s most adventurous selections. How about ice cream with hot peppers and other sizzling ingredients? That’s the aptly named cold sweat, and it’s so fire-like that you can expect to sign a waiver if you want to consume a serving. The flavor is so “hot” that it’s garnered attention near and far for Sunni Sky’s.

Sunni Sky’s draws customers by the droves in the spring and summer months, so don’t expect to have this place all to yourself, especially on the busiest days. But while there’s not much standing room inside when the counter’s full, there are options to sit outside, or you can roll down the windows and take a seat in your car in the parking lot.

v67DMubcwVWAnzJMtqWmg_UQtkYpRC7VSx47f-gWCTcWhat makes an ice cream shop a winner for you? Maybe it’s the reasonable prices, the flavor selection, the consistency of the treat, or the small-town, family-friendly atmosphere. Or perhaps you like the opportunity to try as many flavors as you like to decide what you want to purchase. You’ll find all of those at Sunni Sky’s, which the owner named after his two children, Sunni and Skylar.

Take cash with you to Sunni Sky’s, and prepare your tastebuds. You’re in for quite an ice cream ride!

 

Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream

8617 State Highway 55, Angier, N.C.

Simply Sweet Homemade Doughnuts

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I’ve been craving doughnuts lately. Several local doughnut shops have fed my desire for sweet, fried dough, but I’ve been wanting to try to make our own doughnuts at home. The new CBS comedy “Superior Donuts,” a show about a longtime Chicago doughnut maker and his innovative new assistant, has further fueled my intense yearning to create our own baked treats at home. But I didn’t want to deal with a complicated or time-consuming recipe. After all, I’m not much of a baker. Molly fills that role in our house.

So I went online searching for doughnut recipes. Many use yeast, and I didn’t want to go that route. Others use shortening, and I’m not a fan of working with that ingredient. It’s more the consistency I have an issue with. (Though Molly’s biscuits are delicious!)

After some browsing, I finally found a recipe on cooks.com, a recipe search site, that seemed to meet my criteria of simple ingredients, easy process. We tried it out on a weeknight, and I’ll just say that we were extremely pleased with the results. You’ll have to read our comments below the recipe to get the full verdict!

Ingredients

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

2 ½ tbsp butter

3 eggs

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

Cooking oil (your choice of kind)

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Steps

  1. In a medium or large mixing bowl combine sugar and butter. Blend in eggs. Add milk and mix all together.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Gradually add liquid mixture to flour mixture, beating vigorously. (It is possible to hand-mix/beat with a whisk or large spoon, but it is probably easiest to use a mechanical mixer.)
  4. Flour a work surface generously. Knead mixed dough on surface and add flour to all sides to keep from sticking.
  5. Roll out dough about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Use a solid-edge cup or other circular item (we used a solid plastic drinking cup) to cut out doughnuts. Be sure to flour the edge of the cutting surface to keep from sticking. Use a small utensil (we used an apple corer) to cut out holes in the middle of doughnut, if desired.
  7. Fry in deep, hot oil, beginning at a medium-high heat on stovetop. We used a large pot for frying. And we used a metal slotted spoon to slide doughnuts easily into the hot oil.
  8. When doughnuts rise to top, turn only once. We used kitchen tongs to turn and remove the doughnuts from the oil.
  9. Drain doughnuts on absorbent paper.
  10. You can top these doughnuts with powdered sugar, make a glaze, cover in a chocolate sauce or spread, or enjoy them plain.

Yield: We got 22 doughnuts out of this recipe, sized by the cup we used to cut out the dough.

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Molly’s Take: Warm, fluffy, soft doughnuts with a hint of sweetness and a hearty helping of old-fashioned flavor. Matthew has been dying to make doughnuts at home, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make this homemade recipe! It does take prep and time, but the end result is a truly delicious, homemade confection well worth the wait. I covered half my first doughnut with powdered sugar, and the other half with Nutella. I don’t need to tell you how amazing this combination was. Mm!

Matthew’s Take: These doughnuts only took about an hour total to make, from gathering the ingredients in our kitchen to mixing the dough to frying and cooling. In addition to the simplicity, the recipe creates a soft, slightly sweet doughnut that I would describe as a cross between a solid cake doughnut and an “old-fashioned” doughnut. The recipe doesn’t produce a light Krispy Kreme-type confection for all you KK-only fans out there, but it’s a delicious doughnut. I’d be curious to see how slightly modifying the recipe would impact the flavor and the consistency. But, honestly, for a first batch, these turned out amazing, and as Molly said, our house smelled like a doughnut factory!

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Foodie Travels: Scratch Bakery, Durham, N.C.

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Molly and I are always excited to find a fresh local bakery. When that bakery serves up several kinds of homemade pie, it’s even better.
During a quick stop in Durham, N.C., we visited Scratch, one of those local places that feels almost like it’s set in a different location than it actually is. Scratch offers outdoor seating that has the cafe-style feeling of a European city plaza. But it also provides the desserts and brunch items recognizable in American dining venues.
We went to Scratch for pie, and on the day we visited, the offerings included chocolate, lemon chess, buttermilk sugar, sweet potato, rhubarb and more.
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While all of the options we sampled were delicious, and we sampled about everything but my least favorite flavor of rhubarb, the buttermilk sugar was the most unique. It had a creamy yet light, sweet, buttermilk-flavored filling, with a crunchy layer of sugar right on the crust.
The crust. It was the most flaky, pastry-like crust I’ve had in recent memory on any pie. And pie is our typical dessert of choice anywhere we can eat it, at home or on the road.
Scratch also serves up brunch items like the popular avocado toast and traditional breakfast sandwiches, as well as other pastries, coffees and drinks, and lunch menu choices.
If you visit, don’t expect to park right outside. The section of Orange Street is set up to be a pedestrian walkway. But you can find a variety of half-hour, hour and two-hour parking throughout downtown.
Scratch Bakery
111 W. Orange St., Durham, N.C.
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Foodie Travels: Sunny’s Donuts, Gaffney, S.C.

Pay careful attention as you near the intersection of Granard, Logan and Yale streets in Gaffney, S.C. You don’t want to miss this.

It looks like a convenience store and gas station, and it is. But Sunny’s Quik Stop offers so much more on one corner of the shop.

Look for the blue and orange-yellow sign that announces “Sunny’s Donuts.” It’s flanked on each side by “Voted Best Donut Shop in South Carolina” signs. And you know you’re in South Carolina because one of those signs offers University of South Carolina Gamecocks colors and the other Clemson University Tigers colors.

Most importantly, inside you’ll find a donut display case that offers a plethora of tasty treats. There’s everything from basic donuts to bear claws to peach fritters and more. If I had to liken the donuts to something familiar for everyone, I’d say they’re more Dunkin’ than Krispy Kreme. But don’t let that deter you if you have a hard allegiance to a brand and product. This place is special, and with all of the establishments you’ll find on #FoodieScore it’s all about the one-of-a-kind angle.

The shop and its owners have a unique story behind them. You can read more about that here.

There is a convenience store in the other part of the building, but the Donut wing is what makes this a destination more than just a stop on the highway.

Many of the treats you choose will provide more than you’re able to eat in one sitting. So bring the family or a group of friends, prepare to take some home and go ahead and make plans to come back when you get to Gaffney.

Unique donut shops and bakeries are commonplace in big cities, but they’re somewhat of a rare breed these days in some small towns in the South. Don’t pass this one.

Sunny’s Donuts

720 S. Granard St., Gaffney, S.C.

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Creamy Peanut Butter Custard Pie

After receiving some extra peanut butter from a relative, I decided the obvious thing to do was find a new recipe to use it! In a First United Methodist of Stanley (N.C.) cookbook, I found the perfect one: Peanut Butter Custard. Even better, the recipe had been submitted by Matthew’s mom, Chris Tessnear! It is by far one of the easiest pies I’ve ever had the pleasure of baking, and it is unique and delicious in taste.

Ingredients

4 eggs

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups milk (lukewarm)

Deep dish pie shell

Whipped cream

Directions

1. Mix all ingredients in a blender (or use a hand mixer) and pour into the pie shell. Be careful to mix thoroughly, because the peanut butter will try to stick to the bottom of the bowl.

2. Bake at 400 for 40 minutes or until set. (I also suggest putting a pie crust shield on about halfway through to prevent crust burning. It worked fantastically for me!)


Molly’s take: Add a dollop of whipped cream to a warm slice of this peanut buttery pie and you have arrived in heaven. The pie is not too sweet and perfect with just a little garnishing. It baked easily and I had no trouble telling if it was done. The timing was perfect. The recipe is easy, requires only one bowl, and once you’ve mixed it together, it’s ready to bake. I do recommend pie crust shields, as my oven often burns pie crusts (on the edges) if I’m not careful. Try this pie if you like peanut butter, custard pies, or just want a different sweet treat for dessert. 🙂

Matthew’s take: Perhaps the most unique and pleasing part of this pie for me was its level of sweetness. It wasn’t rich like the chocolatey pies of the world, but it also wasn’t a sweetless, savory pie option. No, it baked perfectly right in between. The mixture of ingredients combine to keep you from being too heavy on the peanut butter taste, too. With this pie, you get less of the inside of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup and more of a smooth, slightly nutty custard. This is definitely one I would recommend to someone who likes desserts but isn’t a big fan of chocolate or heavy sweet treats.

Foodie Travels: Davis Donut House, Forest City, N.C.

The often-circular sweet treat always comes filled with debate. Is it doughnut or donut? In our part of the world, is it Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’? Is it cake or glazed? Is it plain or filled with a cream?

At one of my favorite local shops off West Main Street in Forest City, N.C., the answers to all of those questions are simple.

It’s Donut.

It’s Davis, instead of Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’.

And it’s any variety you like, including delicious cinnamon rolls, bear claws, iced, cream-filleds and crullers, all baked fresh every day and available until they sell out.

Sprinkles

The star of the show at Davis is quite possibly the orange twist, a treat rarely seen at most donut shops, chain and unique. The slightly orangey, icing-coated twist of dough has, along with other favorites from the large glass donut counter at Davis, delighted Rutherford County residents for decades. It was among the favorite Davis items of my grandfather, who first took me to Davis when I was a young boy.

Back then, the shop was on a side street right along the main stretch of town in Forest City. The location was ideal, but the seating was almost nonexistent as I remember it. Davis has since moved west along Main Street headed toward Spindale and, while it’s a bit farther from our home than it used to be, it offers more display space for donuts and seating for customers to enjoy confections, coffee and more.

The individual treats are very inexpensive and satisfyingly filling, but you may want to be sure you have a little extra money with you on your visit. You can take home a square white box filled with any variety of Davis Donut specialties you like. And if you plan on telling your friends about the place, you should probably have an example to share with them.

Davis Donut House

652 West Main St., Forest City, N.C. (Update October 2017: And now served in multiple locations in western North Carolina!)

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Delightfully Simple Amish Oatmeal Pie

Some recipes are complicated. Others can fit entirely in an iPhone screenshot. My new favorite pie in the world is of the latter variety. An old-fashioned recipe from the Amish, it features oatmeal (the inexpensive type you buy in a round tube at the store) as its star player. The pie itself is reminiscent of pecan, but less gooey and sticky, perhaps because of the milk it includes. This makes the base of the pie a delicious mix between pecan-pie-gooey-goodness and custardy-smooth delight.

Without further ado, the Amish Oatmeal.

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Ingredients: 

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. butter, melted

2/3 cup oats

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk until combined.
  2. Pour into an unbaked pie shell (be sure to prick holes in the shell with a fork for ventilation).
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until the pie is cooked through. (My oven usually requires 55 minutes. But surprisingly, it usually doesn’t over-brown the edges.)
  4. Enjoy thoroughly.

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Matthew’s take: My tastebuds recognize two kinds of pies: fruit pies and non-fruit pies. This pie is, hands down, my favorite non-fruit pie, even ahead of pecan pie, chocolate pies, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, and all other custard pies that I love. It has the sweet filling, and the crackle and texture on top, of a pecan pie…without the nuts! Buying pecans costs more, and it adds an element (the nuts) that some people don’t prefer or can’t ingest due to allergies. The other great thing about this pie: it’s sweet without being way too sweet, which caters to people (like my mom and dad) who don’t like their desserts to be too rich and indulgent. This pie’s wonder will surprise you, and as soon as the final slice is gone, you’ll want to bake another.

Molly’s take: This pie is my new absolute favorite to make. No fussy, annoying, sticky pecan pie mess. (I have a love-hate relationship with baking pecan pies. Sometimes they’re great; other times, they won’t set up for what seems like hours. Then, you get a crispy crust and too-hard pecans on the top. But enough complaining.) The Amish Oatmeal Pie is easy, darn easy, and it has a melt-in-your-mouth taste that will scrumptiously satisfy your sweet tooth. Everyone who tries it is bound to like it. If they don’t, there’s somethin’ wrong with ’em!

10-Minute Super-Sweet Bananas Foster Dessert

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Banana Pudding is a legendary dessert favorite in the South. But it’s not the only sweet way to serve up bananas. In fact, there’s an even better way to plate bananas for dessert, especially for those of you who aren’t big fans of fruit in your sweet dishes.

Bananas Foster truly takes about 10 minutes to make, and it offers you flexibility to make it your own way. Alcohol, for example, is a big part of Bananas Foster for many, but it was an unnecessary ingredient for our house.

Whether you add rum to yours or not, Bananas Foster, like other caramelized fruit dishes, provides a glimpse into the science of cooking. As you heat your sauce in the pan, you truly see the sugars coming out as the ingredients mix.

Here are the ingredients you will need to make your Bananas Foster for four people:

2 under-ripe bananas

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or cinnamon sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

pinch of salt

four scoops of vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Slice your bananas into thin pieces.
  2. Heat your burner on medium heat. In a pan on the heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir to mix your ingredients and thoroughly combine all of them. Turn your heat up to high and continue to stir. You will see the sugary mixture almost pulsing in the pan.
  3. When you mix your ingredients well, add your sliced bananas to the pan, and thoroughly coat the bananas in the sauce. Don’t stop stirring to make sure that your mixture does not have time to solidify, stick or burn in the pan.
  4. Scoop vanilla ice cream into four separate bowls. Use a spatula or spoon to scoop your bananas and sauce onto your ice cream. Serve quickly before the ice cream melts.

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Molly’s Take: I’m not a huge fruit dessert person, but this simple recipe blew me away. The sweet, caramel-coated bananas literally melted in my mouth and the vanilla bean ice cream proved a creamy, delightful companion to the occasional caramel crunch. I loved this and I’m the person who usually picks the bananas out of her banana pudding. It’s quite easy, quite simple and definitely something you can – and should – try. For me, a caramel or vanilla or simple sugar dessert is always my favorite. Add this to the list of favorites for the Tessnear household.

Matthew’s Take: If you’ve been reading the blog faithfully, you’ll know that I enjoy caramelizing fruit. This is a different way to do it because it includes more than the natural and juicy sugars in a peach or blueberry. You don’t get juices in a banana, so you make your own sweet sauce to complement the banana flavor. You get a very sweet banana dessert that outdistances banana pudding in decadence. You also get the best of both worlds: You feel like you’re eating healthy because you’re eating fruit, but you also feel like you’re getting something incredibly rich because of the sugary coating that tops your ice cream. This take on Bananas Foster gets an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease and an A for cost. If you already keep the pantry ingredients in your home, then all you need to do is pick up bananas and ice cream at the grocery store.

Light, Sweet & Creamy Egg Custard Pie

If you search for an egg custard pie recipe on Pinterest, you’ll have a hard time finding a good, old-fashioned recipe that includes a crust. When I first searched for a recipe, years before Pinterest was a thing, online recipes were mostly just egg custards. There was no pie shell – you know, the part that makes it a pie. I had a hard time, but I finally found this recipe.

It’s one I’ve stuck with for years, because it turns out delicious every time. It won’t be cakey and it won’t look bubbly on top; it’ll be a smooth, creamy custard inside a perfectly baked pie shell. And! I’ll also share a few tricks to fix two problems that I’ve ran into with custard pies before. Those are: burnt pie crust on the top, and pie crust getting soggy on the bottom/not staying on the bottom where it should be. (I’ve had an egg custard once where the pie crust melded with the pie, floating up during baking. You don’t want that.) Here we go!

Ingredients:

1 deep dish pie crust

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups milk

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 egg white (for brushing the crust)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Beat the eggs in a small container, then mix eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla well. Slowly blend in milk. If it looks a little frothy, like in the photo below, that’s okay! photo 3
  3. Brush the inside of the pie shell with one egg white – this prevents the pie filling and the shell from melding together and either getting a) soggy or b) mixed together like a messy cobbler.
  4. photo 2Pour into the pie shell. You will definitely want a deep dish shell, because this old-timey recipe makes a lot of pie filling! And those “regular” pie shells have certainly gotten smaller over the years. Sprinkle the top with a little nutmeg.photo 1 (2)
  5. Bake for at least 45 minutes, then cover it with a sheet of tin foil. Then, continue to check the pie at intervals of 15 minutes. The tin foil is the trick to keep the top crust from burning. (As you can see in the photo below, I didn’t do this early enough, but it did stop the crust from getting any darker.)

So when is the pie done? It’s tough to tell with an egg custard. Most people tell you to shake it, but an egg custard will always will be wiggly. Here’s my method: with a towel or oven mitt, pick up the pie on the right side and tilt it slightly to the left. If the entire middle of the pie moves to the edge and looks like it’s going to pour right out of the pie – it’s not done. But – if the middle is holding together and the pie has been cooking for more than an hour, it’s done. Here’s what it should look like. 🙂

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Molly’s take: I hadn’t made an egg custard in a while, so I was nervous about making it as part of an anniversary gift for my husband’s parents. When it came out of the oven (finally!) and we tried a small slice to make sure it tasted right, it was absolutely delightful. My only regret is not making two so we could have eaten the other one! Is this pie easy? Sure, it’s easy to mix up the ingredients and put it in the oven. But it takes a while to make a good egg custard pie. Remember, you’re cooking a lot of eggs and milk into something relatively solid. And you have to put tin foil on the pie to keep it from burning. And you have to check it often. But the end result is absolutely worth it. Now it’s time for me to go make another one…

Matthew’s take: The egg custard is a pie I’ve rarely seen among others at church and other social gatherings over the years. But the egg custard pie is a long-standing tradition in the Tessnear family. It goes back at least as far as my dad’s grandmother on his mother’s side. I grew up eating my mother’s egg custard pies, and this edition was as creamy and tasty as any egg custard pie I’ve ever eaten. Don’t expect to fill up your stomach with an egg custard pie slice. Egg custard is not about quantity. It’s about consistency and taste. The lightness of it makes it a great dessert option following a heavy and filling meal. I give the egg custard pie an A+ for taste, but I would warn you that it’s not the easiest pie to make if you’re not patient, and it will never be the prettiest pie you’ve ever seen from a bright colors standpoint. But you’ll love this pie if you enjoy light desserts and trying a recipe you rarely find on the table.