Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter Pie

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter PieTo take one look at this blog, you’d think it was focused solely on desserts these days. Recent posts have included, cider donut shortcakes, cookie butter buckeyes, chocolate cake with burnt oranges – Mom, I promise we’re eating real food, too! Just last week we had escarole and white bean soup one night and Bear made chicken, sweet potato, and kale enchiladas the next. It’s fall, though, and with it comes the push for food that comforts and that wows a holiday crowd. Which is what we have here – a real showstopper of a dessert for either Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving if that’s more your speed, as it is mine) or the winter holidays: Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter Pie!

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter PieWhaaaaaat? You didn’t know Trader Joe’s has updated its year-round classic cookie spread and infused it with the official flavor of Fall, pumpkin spice? Let me save you any question that this might not be the most perfect marriage – it is on par with love of Beyoncé and Jay-Z. If you’ve never had cookie butter – or speculoos spread, as it’s called in most of the world outside of the U.S. – it’s ground, spiced graham cookies that are crushed and blended to form a thick peanut-butter-like paste. My personal favorite part of speculoos spread, or cookie butter, are the little tiny crystals of undissolved cookie throughout – it takes any apple slice, waffle, or PB&J to another level.

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter PieWhen I saw this Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, I figured we’d just eat it as is, spread on whatever vehicle selected to get it into our mouths fast enough. “Maybe,” I said to a skeptical-of-all-things-trendy Bear, “we can blend it into a smoothie with bananas!” But once home, I found myself thinking of something seasonal to do with it. It is pumpkin spice, after all, and we’re coming up on holidays where you might need to bring a dessert to a party. Sure, you could bring a traditional pumpkin pie – they’re delicious – but you could also bring a Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter Pie that tastes like the old standard and gingerbread cheesecake had a baby. I vote for the latter!

While this certainly isn’t my prettiest pie crust (don’t be like me and forget to chill your pie dough before you bake it), it hardly even matters when you have a filling this good. Cream cheese adds a velvety-ness to the mix and a slight tang, while freshly blended and barely sweetened whipped cream lightens things up to a beautiful not-quite-airy, but mousse-like texture. If you’re looking for a little something different in a Fall dessert, try this pie – it’s creamy and dense, easy to make-ahead (pop it in the fridge or freezer), and a delectable new version of a Fall classic.

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie

1 fully-baked pie crust, cooled completely
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1-1/3 cup of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter
1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
1-1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/4 cup of granulated sugar

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream and the granulated sugar and whip until peaks form; the peaks should stand on their own when the beaters are removed. Refrigerate the whipped cream while you prepare the next step. In a larger bowl, use a hand-mixer to combine the cream cheese and the pumpkin spice cookie butter. Once combined, slowly add in the cup of confectioner’s sugar and blend completely.

Remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and fold two-thirds of it into the cookie butter mixture. Be gentle so that some of the air of the whipped cream is left behind and aerates the pie filling. Once combined, pour the mixture into the pie crust and allow to set for at least 2 hours before serving. You can use the remaining whipped cream to top the pie or serve on the side. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days.

This pie can be made up to two days in advance if kept in the refrigerator and can also be frozen two weeks prior to when you might need it. To make 2 days ahead, fill the pie crust, but do not add the whipped cream. Wrap tightly with foil and keep cold in the back of your refrigerator. Prior to serving, make fresh whipped cream for top. If freezing, fill the pie crust and skip the whipped cream on top. Wrap the pie tightly in plastic wrap and then again in heavy-duty aluminum foil to keep out frost – the double layer of protection is a must. Defrost on the counter for an hour before serving and make fresh whipped cream to top.

No-Bake Double Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustForgive my few weeks of absence, dear friends! I was off on a whirlwind of travel that brought me home to New Jersey to see family and then up to the North Shore of Minnesota for a cabin getaway. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably caught some of the photos. I’m back now and ready to take on summer with its bounty and its leisure in order to turn out some exciting content for you. Up first is this fantastic recipe from my grandmother, Hilda.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustIn the depths of summer, no one wants to turn on their oven, but almost everyone wants to still eat pie, right? The solution? No-bake fruit pies! They’re completely easy, homey, and taste just as delicious as their brethren who spend time baking in the oven. While blueberry is my personal favorite – and the one my grandmother makes for our family the most –  you could substitute peaches, strawberries, and combinations of all kinds of summer fruits in this. You may have to adapt the amount of fruit to switch it up, but play around and see; there’s no such thing as being grumpy over extra pie filling!

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustWhile traditionally, I’ve made her no-bake blueberry pie in a standard, flaky pie crust, I noticed her original recipe called for a gingerbread crust, which somehow got lost over the years. Visiting family in New Jersey a few weeks ago, I came across a box of Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins and thought, “Hey! Gingersnaps would work and would be even better than gingerbread!” And so it was.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustFor many of us, Anna’s are synonymous with Ikea because they’re sold there in such abundance. They’re thin and sweet with just the right amount of spicy ginger flavor and, you know what? They pair *so* deliciously with blueberries; cinnamon, ginger, and berries are natural friends. Of course, if you can’t find Anna’s, any gingersnap will do, just make sure you’re getting gingersnaps and not gingerbread, as I’m predicting the latter would be too soft and moist for this application. You want your cookies to be full of crunch and snap so that your crust holds up to the lusciousness of the berries and cream.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustThe filling comes together nice and quickly in this recipe and because you only cook one half of the berries, and then add in the remaining off the stove, the pie has the fantastic combination of textures from both the disintegrated, now jam-like, berries and the bright burst of ones just warmed through. It is so juicy, sweet and delicious and makes for a gorgeous, seasonal dessert.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustWhen the pie has cooled, I like to top it with a thick layer of fresh whipped cream, but ice cream, or even vanilla yogurt, will also do just fine. This is a great way to have dessert despite a summer swelter and make something that looks, and tastes, like a true labor of love.
No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust
No-Bake Double Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust
Yields one 9″ pie

1-1/2 cups of gingersnap crumbs, about one 5.25oz box of Anna’s (you can also use 2 boxes of Anna’s and omit the graham entirely)
1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of butter, melted
3 pints of blueberries, divided in half
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of water
Pinch of salt

In a food processor, pulse gingersnaps until you have 1-1/2 cups of crumbs, set aside. Repeat with graham crackers until you have 1/2 cup. Melt one stick of butter in the microwave. In a bowl, combine both sets of crumbs and melted butter thoroughly. Pour mixture into a 9″ pie plate and, starting at the bottom, in the middle, begin pressing the crumbs into the pan to form the base and sides of the pie. Be sure to press crust into the bend between the base and the sides of the pan and then press the crumb up the sides. Place crust in refrigerator to firm up.

In a mixing bowl, add 1-1/2 pints of blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and salt, and combine. Add fruit mixture to a 3-quart pot and heat mixture, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Once boiling, allow to do so for 2 minutes, stirring constantly now until it thickens some and many of the berries pop and split open. Remove from heat and immediately add in the remaining 1-1/2 pints of blueberries and stir together gently.

Remove pie crust from fridge and gently spoon in fruit mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until completely cold and firm. Top with fresh whipped cream if desired.

Coconut Custard Pie

Coconut custard pie is one of those desserts that, for me, always sounded delicious in theory, but still never made it’s way onto my “to make” list. I’ve passed over it for so many other kinds of pies, all while heralding coconut as one of my all time favorite flavors. I remember going to the grocery store with my mother when I was a kid and always begging her to buy a coconut to bring home. On the occasions when she would indulge me, I’d present it to my father as if it were the Hope Diamond, giddy at my conquest. My dad loved coconut, too, and we held a secret delight in sharing the water we’d caught from it in a glass while my mother looked on wincing at the cloudy liquid. I guess the joke is on her now that coconut water is the new greek yogurt among health food nerds and hipsters!

What kept me from making coconut custard pie, though, and what I imagine is the road block for even the most accomplished cooks is the simple word, “custard.” It strikes fear in the hearts of so many because of it’s known volatility. Fail to temper the mixtures when combining and you have scrambled eggs. Cook it too far and it’s paste; too little and it’s runny and raw-tasting. When done right, custard owns the show, as far as I’m concerned. The best ice cream, puddings, pies, and pastries, all require it. You can tell just by looking at it’s rich yellow color and it’s pillowy creaminess that it is one of those foods that just taste naturally good in its simplicity. Simplicity of ingredients, that is, not method.

But, wait! What is this? Coconut custard pie that turns to custard in the oven and doesn’t require crossing your fingers over the stove? Mama like! I found this recipe when I was home visiting my family, stuck between the pages of an old cookbook. It was scrawled on an index card in a hand we didn’t recognize, but it look well-loved and like someone had made it a number of times given the stains and the faded print. Making it just felt right. And it didn’t disappoint.

This coconut custard pie is more coconut than custard, but still retains that pure densely dairy flavor of the latter. The taste of coconut here is fairly delicate, as you soak sweetened coconut in milk for several hours and then mix into some dry ingredients and eggs. Going the extra steps of whipping some cream and toasting some extra coconut to put on top is worth the effort in that it adds a nuttier, deeper coconut flavor because of the browned shreds, a nice textured crunch, and a freshness from the cream.

I also learned a really useful tip from this recipe that I’ve never come across before. The recipe has you “seal” the bottom pie crust, before you pour in the custard, with a foamy egg white brushed over the bottom, sides, and edge of the dough. Allowed to sit for a few minutes this way, the egg white forms a barrier between the pie dough and the custard, allowing it to brown and not become soggy because of the liquid-laden filling. Genius! Goodbye to my nemesis, the pasty-bottomed pie and hello to a welcomed addition to my dessert arsenal!

Coconut Custard Pie:
Makes 1 9-inch pie

1 pie dough; homemade or store bought will do
1 cup of whole milk
1-1/4 cups of coconut, divided
1 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of flour
3 Eggs, divided
1 teaspoon of vanilla

3-6 hours prior to assembling the pie, add 1 cup of coconut to the milk, stir and allow to soak in the refrigerator for several hours. When ready to prepare the pie, preheat the oven to 375°. Roll pie dough out into a glass pie plate. Crack two eggs into a bowl and one egg yolk, adding the third egg white to it’s own bowl. Whisk the lone egg white until it is foamy and brush the pie dough – bottom, sides, and edge – with the egg white, creating a seal. Allow to set while creating filling. In a separate bowl combine sugar, flour, a pinch of salt, and set aside. Beat the 2 eggs and the extra yolk in their bowl and slowly add the coconut milk mixture with vanilla. Combine thoroughly. Slowly add wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Fill the pie and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool and set up.

In a small, dry frying pan, add 1/4 cup of shredded, sweetened coconut and toast gently over medium heat until lightly browned. Top pie with whipped cream and toasted coconut and serve.