Thursday, December 5, 2013

Great Gift Idea for Cooks/Bakers/Foodies -- National Pie Baking Champion's New Cookbook PERFECT PIES & MORE by Nationally Bestselling Author, Michele Stuart -- Includes 3 Recipes from Cookbook (Review)

Disclosure:  I was sent a review copy by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views shared are mine and mine alone.  

"With twenty-six blue ribbons to her name, National Pie Baking Champion Michele Stuart has charmed America’s sweet tooth, filling kitchens with the scents of her nutty, fruity, and creamy pies from her two Connecticut pie shops. Following the success of her first cookbook, Perfect Pies, Stuart is back with PERFECT PIES & MORE: All New Pies, Cookies, Bars, and Cakes From America’s Pie-Baking Champion (Ballantine Books Hardcover, on sale October 22, 2013)—a whole new batch of heavenly recipes. In addition to dozens of brand-new fruit, nut, cream, and party pies, you can now have the recipes for her delicious cookies, bars, brownies, tea cakes, and spoon desserts at home as well! Both novice and expert bakers will find their new dessert staples, all shared with Stuart’s friendly and easy-going instructions.
In PERFECT PIES & MORE, you will find nearly 100 delicious recipes, including: 
  • Crusts & Toppings—The perfect recipes to top off your baked delicacies, from a Coconut Crumb Topping, to Marshmallow Fluff Cream, and the perfect Hot Fudge Sauce.
  • Fruit Pies—Take advantage of your fresh, seasonal fruit with fun takes on the classics like Apple Caramel Crunch Pie, Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumb Pie, and Pear-Ginger Pie.
  • Cream Pies—New favorites include Dreamy Nutella Banana Pie and Graham Cracker Cream Fluff Pie.
  • Nut Pies—For sweet with just a hint of savory crunch, recipes include Almond Joy Pie and Raisin Chocolate Walnut Brownie Pie.
  • Whimsical Pies—Pies for a special occasion, including Birthday Cake Surprise “Pie,” Cannoli Party Dip Pie, and Star-Spangled Flag Pie.
  • Cookies & Bars—Great recipes for a party, or just for your cookie jar! With tons of fun treats like Lemon Crunch Bars, Oatmeal Lace Cookies, Chocolate Walnut Biscotti, and Snickerdoodle Cookies.
  • Tea cakes—The perfect pairings for your morning tea, or anytime! Recipes include Applesauce cake, Blueberry-Lemon Tea Cake, and Maple Pecan Cake.
  • Spoon desserts—When you need just a spoonful of something sweet, favorites like Peach-Blueberry Cobbler and Old-Fashioned Baked Rice Pudding will hit the spot.
Purchase a copy of this cookbook now for only $19.62 from Amazon -

My Thoughts:

I can't have a holiday gift guide, without including some amazing cookbooks. Like I have shared in the past, one of my favorite things to do, when I have free time, is spend time in the kitchen cooking up family recipes, or baking up sweet treats for everyone to enjoy.  And, now with my daughters getting older, they love to roll up their sleeves and help me out -- even if it is just to lick the bowl or taste test. :-)  

I don't know about you, but when the fall/winter months roll around, I love being in the kitchen and baking.  Not only does having the oven on heat up the house, but all the tasty treats I make always leave a nice smell throughout the house, that you can't help but want to breath in and enjoy.  And, this past Thanksgiving, I took full opportunity of having family and friends here visiting, to get into the kitchen and make some of their favorite side dishes and desserts, as well as try out some recipes I have recently stumbled upon and marked to try.  Front and center on the counter was the National Pie Baking Champion's new cookbook PERFECT PIES & MORE.  Even though I had received this cookbook a few weeks prior, I hadn't had a chance to try out any of the recipes until the holiday.

You could tell that I liked this cookbook, which I read cover to cover a few times, as most of the pages were marked with sticky notes, as a reminder to the different recipes. :-)  Seeing that I was playing host to 20 guests for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make sure I offered an assortment of desserts for both kids and adults to enjoy.  I ended up making, in addition to my Grandma's famous apple pie and blueberry buckle, the following recipes from the National Pie Baking Champion's new cookbook PERFECT PIES & MORE -- 

Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies

These are one of my go-to cookies to curb those cravings for some gooey chocolate goodness. I prefer these cookies laced with white chocolate chips, but if you like your chocolate straight up, you can substitute the white chocolate in this recipe with semi­sweet chocolate chips. Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies are hard to resist when they’re fresh out of the oven, but do your best to save some for those not fortunate enough to be by the oven when done baking!

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

Level: Easy

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1⁄2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter

4 eggs

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

11⁄2 cups white chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and  set aside.
2.In a double boiler over  medium-high heat,  melt  the  semisweet chocolate chips, stirring constantly so  that  they  melt  evenly. Once they  are  completely smooth and melted, remove  the  chocolate  from the  heat  and  set it aside  while  you prepare the batter. 
3.Using  an  electric mixer set on  medium speed, cream the  brown sugar and  but­ter. Once creamed, add  the eggs, 1 at a time,  beating after each  addition, until they are  well incorporated.
4.Pour the  melted chocolate into the  bowl of the  mixer and mix on medium speed.  In a small bowl, combine the flour and  baking  soda. With the  mixer  on low speed, slowly add  the  flour  mixture to the  bowl of the  mixer,  a little at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing so that all of the ingredients  are  incorporated. 5. Add the  white chocolate chips  and  walnuts,  mixing  until they  are  evenly spread  throughout the  batter. Measure  the  dough out  in  table- spoons and place them  2 inches apart  on the lined baking sheet.
6.Place the  baking  sheet  in the  oven and  bake the  cookies  for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. If you choose,  you may bake 2 sheets of cookies at a time, 1 on the upper rack and  1 on the lower. When cooking  2 sheets simultaneously, switch racks and rotate  the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. 7.Allow the cookies to cool before removing  them from the baking sheet and placing  them  on a wire cooling  rack. 

*Double  Chocolate Walnut Cookies can be stored  in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 

Photo Credit: Ben Fink Photograph

Recipe Source: Perfect Pies & More by Michelle Stuart


Pumpkin Meringue Pie

This pie melds dense pumpkin filling with a light and fluffy meringue topping and the meringue mingles wonderfully with the filling’s cinnamon and nutmeg spices. If you have some extra time to spare, I strongly recommend making this pie with fresh pumpkin; it makes all the difference between a tasty dessert and a true culinary ex­perience! For instructions on how to process your own pumpkins, see page 51. (If you aren’t a huge fan of meringue, you can make this pumpkin pie without the me­ringue and still have an amazing, more traditional pumpkin pie. Having said that, I do urge you to try this version at least once.)

Makes one 9-inch pie, 6 to 8 slices

Level: Moderate (Difficult—but worth it!—if you choose to puree your own pumpkin)


1 recipe Traditional Pastry Piecrust dough for a 9-inch single-crust pie

1⁄4 cup heavy cream (to glaze the crimped pie edges)


1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree

2 eggs, beaten

1⁄2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

11⁄2 cups heavy cream

1 recipe Classic Meringue

1.  Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2.  To prepare the pie shell, on a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll out half the disk of dough with a rolling pin until it forms a 10-inch circle. Wrap the remaining half of the dough tightly in plastic wrap and reserve it in the refrigerator for future use for up to 5 days. Fold the circle in half, place it in a 9-inch pie plate so that the edges of the circle drop over the rim, and unfold the dough to completely cover the pie plate. Using your thumb and index finger, crimp the edges of the pie shell. Brush the edges of the pie shell with heavy cream to create a perfect, golden brown finish. Set the pie shell to the side while you make the filling.

3.  To prepare the pumpkin filling, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, combine the pumpkin puree and eggs. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Mix the ingredients together, scraping the bowl several times. Add the heavy cream and mix once again, until all of the ingredients are thoroughly com­bined. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the unbaked pie shell.

4.  To bake, place the pie plate on the lined baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake it for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is firm in the middle but still soft to the touch. Transfer the pie plate to a wire cooling rack and allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours.

5.  When the pie has finished cooling, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the me­ringue on top of the pumpkin pie, forming a mound of meringue in the middle of the pie. Use a spatula to pat and lift the meringue across the top of the pie, forming peaks. Take care to spread the meringue all the way out to the edges of the crust.

6.  To brown the meringue, place the pie on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the desired brownness has been achieved. If you have a kitchen torch, you can also use this method as an alternative, but be careful to spread the flame evenly across the entire surface to achieve a uniform look.

**Pumpkin Meringue Pie is best served the same day and can be stored in the re­frigerator for up to 2 days.

Photo Credit: Ben Fink Photograph

Recipe Source: Perfect Pies & More by Michelle Stuart

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie, 6 to 8 slices

Level: Moderate


1 prebaked 9-inch Traditional Pastry Piecrust shell

Raspberry Puree

2 cups fresh raspberries

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

White Chocolate Cream Filling

3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 ounces white chocolate chips

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1 cup Whipped Cream

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

  1/4 cup white chocolate shavings

1.  To make the raspberry puree, in a medium saucepan off of the heat, combine the raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the puree thickens. Remove the puree from the heat and allow it to cool.

2.  Begin making the white chocolate cream filling while the raspberry puree cools. In a medium saucepan off of the heat, whisk together all of the sugar, the corn-starch, and the salt. Whisk in the egg yolks and milk. Place the saucepan over me-dium heat and cook, whisking nonstop, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Once the mixture thickens, keeping the saucepan over the heat, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the white chocolate chips, one third at a time, and continue to whisk until the white chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Add the vanilla. Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

3.  After 10 minutes, spoon the raspberry puree into a piping bag and pipe the puree into circles. You will make a small circle in the center of the pie, then pro-gressively larger ones as you move closer to the edge of the pie. Using a butter knife, begin at the center of the pie and drag the knife outward toward the edge. Repeat this every 1 inch or so as you move around the pie, to create a web effect. 
4. Place the pie in the refrigerator to chill and set for at least 2 hours. To serve, place dollops of whipped cream around the edges of the pie. Place a raspberry on top of each dollop. Sprinkle white chocolate shavings over the top of the pie.

**White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Pie should be served cold. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Photo Credit: Ben Fink Photograph

Recipe Source: Perfect Pies & More by Michelle Stuart

They were all a hit, as the plates were brought to the kitchen at the end of the night without even a trace of a morsel or crumb. :-)  I can't wait until Christmas, as I will be back in the kitchen to try my hand at a few more recipes from the National Pie Baking Champion's new cookbook PERFECT PIES & MORE, including the following:

  • Raisin Chocolate Walnut Brownie Pie
  • Anise Biscotti (I have been making my Grandma's recipe, but love trying out others)
  • Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Cookies
  • Apple Pockets
Yum!  I am getting hungry just thinking about these and other recipes from this new cookbook that caught my eye.  If you love to bake or collect cookbooks like I do, then you will want to make a point to pick up the National Pie Baking Champion's new cookbook PERFECT PIES & MORE, or ask Santa to leave a copy under the tree.   If I were you, I would pick it up prior to Christmas, so that you can try out the three recipes I shared above, as well as the other tasty pies, cookies, bars and cakes, that make up this 240 page cookbook.  Don't let the small size of the cookbook fool you, as it is chock full of recipes for both novice and expert bakers, that will become instant hits with your family and friends.  

Disclosure:  I was sent a review copy by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views shared are mine and mine alone.

1 comment :

  1. Wow this cookbook looks and sounds great that pumpkin pie is so beautiful thanks for sharing this one I know a couple people who would love this.
    heather [email protected]