In an effort to force myself to actually make some recipes from the cookbooks I buy (instead of watching them collect dust on the coffee table), I’m committing to a once-monthly blog post I’ll call “Cook The Book.” Not to be confused with my other monthly “If I Liked It, Then I Should Have Put A  Ring [Binder] On It” posts, these dishes may not necessarily be ones I’ve made again and again (yet). This is just my effort to try out some cookbook recipes and share the results with you.
I’ve already well, well-documented my love for Martha Stewart’s Cookies and Cupcakes books. Were you worried I didn’t have the third in the trifecta, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts? Um, of course I have it. But I actually only have it because I wanted to complete the series. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of pies. Never have been. Couple that with the fact that there was nearly a decade of my life where I couldn’t stand the thought of bacon, and I’ve been called “un-American” more than a few times.
I love Ammurikah, but not enough to love pie. However, I may have unfairly written off all pies. The main thing I don’t like about pies is cooked fruit. I really hate cooked fruit. Ugh, that texture. I love fresh fruit, but when it’s cooked? Mostly count me out for that (with a few exceptions, once in awhile, like my Mulberry Crumble). However, there’s whole categories of pie that don’t include cooked fruit (french silk, fresh strawberry pie, lemon meringue), and I’m OK with those. So, I like some pies, and now I’m good with bacon, too. Ammurikah!
I’ve tried 3 pies from Martha’s book. One was bad, one was just OK, one was great. Let’s get to it:
Coffee Cream Pie – Coffee + Kahlua + Chocolate? Sounded like the perfect dessert for after Christmas dinner. However, virtually nothing about this pie really worked. I followed the instructions exactly as written, and the custard just never set up – even after sitting in the fridge for two full days! I realized the situation Christmas morning, and tried to save the thing byfreezing it. That obviously made it “set” in a way, but the texture certainly left something to be desired. I blame Martha for the custard. Then, even though I know better, I made fresh whipped cream and topped the pie with it Christmas morning before we left for the in-law’s house. Well, obviously, 10 hours later when we went to eat it, the whipped cream had deflated into a runny mess. That was my fault. This whole thing was a runny hot mess! It tasted alright, I guess, but ummmm yeah, I won’t be making this again.
Chocolate Pear Tart – Here, I set aside my “cooked fruit” aversion, only because this tart was so visually stunning. Well, at least the photo in Martha’s book was (click the title of this recipe to be taken to Martha’s photo. Then compare it to mine, and laugh. I’m laughing too). I made this for Valentine’s Day this past year. We’re usually stay-at-home V-day people, so Jeff uses it a chance to cook a special dinner that involves steak, scallops, or something else we don’t eat at home very often. I was in charge of dessert, and thought this would be perfect because it’s chocolate, but not too rich or decadent. The texture and flavor kind of reminded me of a flat chocolate cake with pears baked into it (which is exactly what this is). Nothing amazing. I probably won’t make this one again, either.
So, what HAS gone right for me out of this book? Behold:
Strawberry Icebox Pie – Strawberry Pie is my dad’s favorite dessert. I have such vivid food memories of eating it growing up in southeastern Michigan. It’s one of the few fruit pies I really love, because of one important detail: the strawberries aren’t cooked! They’re basically just sliced and surrounded by something I refer to as strawberry “goo.” My mom always made the pie using this goo – it was a strawberry-flavored gel substance sold in a plastic pouch, always right near the fresh strawberries in the grocery store, when they were in season. I’m not sure if it’s a regional Midwest thing, or what. Well, when I first moved to the Detroit area (just 75 miles from my hometown), I wanted to make a strawberry pie when my Dad came to visit, and was disappointed to discover that I couldn’t find the “goo” anywhere! Stores up here just didn’t sell it! I was all set to start a petition for goo at my local store, when I discovered that Martha’s book had this recipe that basically tells you how to make your own goo. It was surprisingly simple, and tasted great! This recipe was a huge hit, and I’ll make it again and again. How can you go wrong with graham cracker crust, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and homemade goo?
- Martha Stewart’s Cookies: Iced Hermits, Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwiches, Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing, Chocolate-Ginger Brownies, Pecan Tassies, Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches
- Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Creme Brulee
- Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes: Chocolate-Salted Caramel Cupcakes, Stout Cupcakes, Triple-Citrus Cupcakes, Blueberries and Cream Cupcakes, Streusel Cupcakes, Raspberry Marble Cheesecakes, Chocolate-Mint Cupcakes, Mocha Cupcakes, Strawberry Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes, Mint-Filled Brownie Cupcakes
- Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts: Coffee Cream Pie, Chocolate Pear Tart, Strawberry Icebox Pie
- Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen: Sweet Corn & Wild Mushroom Soup
- Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi: Asparagus Mimosa, Very Full Tart
- Tyler’s Ultimate: Chocolate Banana Bread