Blog - biscuits and such
southern food blog
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Tarheel Pie

Growing up, my grandmother made a chocolate chess pie.  It is essentially a chocolate pie.  It’s so rich you’ll have a hard time finishing just a sliver of a slice.  The last time I made a chocolate pie (my friends Emilie and Laura were having a chocolate party) only a third of it got eaten, which left Dan and I with most of a pie.  Which is not good for the wedding diet, let me tell you.

Anyhoo, the Tarheel Pie is a variation of the chocolate chess pie.  Essentially, it’s a chocolate pie with pecans in it.  I first saw the pecan addition on the back of a postcard.  Either way I assume it’s still a chocolate chess pie, but Tarheel Pie just seems so much more… well, authentic to the Tarheel State.  And you know that if nothing else, I’m true to the products of the Old North State.  Politics aside.  And 90% of their basketball teams I could do without.  Okay, mostly just the food.

This pie is about as complicated as a pecan pie.  There are more ingredients, so the extra complication really comes in the shopping.  It’s so easy… if you didn’t make your own pie crust you could be done with this in five minutes.  And this is another one of those pies that people will be mystified by, you get all of the credit for making something delicious from scratch, and really only a minimal amount of work.

Tarheel Pie

1 cup chocolate chips

1 stick melted butter

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

Pie dough (bottom only, recipe here)

Pour hot butter over chocolate chips and stir until fully incorporated.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and add to chocolate. Pour into pie shell.

Bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes.

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Pecan Pie

I would like to preface any and all interactions that you and I have with pecans by mentioning that I pronounce them the phonetic way, as is traditional in the south.  So when you’re reading these recipes and your eyes skim over this understated word, think “pea-can.”  Any other pronunciation is just silly.

Speaking of pronunciations.  So Dan is from Pennsylvania, a place where there are a’plenty of towns and rivers and bridges with Native American names (or Western interpretations of Native American words) that I just cannot wrap my tongue around.  I’m not insinuating it’s a southern thing.  I was told by a friend a few years back that it’s because I was raised to read words phonetically, as opposed to blending the words, sounding out each letter.  Take for instance, the Washington State town of Puyallup.  Now when I see the word Puyallup, I break it down into what ends up coming out of my mouth as “Poo-y’all-up.”  I have been informed that this is not the way they in Puyallup prefer to have it pronounced.  No, it is actually something that sounds like “puh-wallup.”  I digress.

Pecan pie is gloriously simple to make.  For a pie with such a complex taste, it almost feels like cheating.  There is a small amount of whisking, a little measuring, some crunching, and a lot of salivating as it bakes, but really, there’s nothing to it.  I like to make pecan pie with a little brown sugar in the crust.  As well as a little cinnamon.  I think that a slightly cinnamon crust on pies like pecan and chocolate chess that don’t have cinnamon in the filling give it a little extra oomph.  Also, if you wanted to add a bit of chocolate to this, make it something like an inverse chocolate chess pie, it’d be delicious.

Pea-can Pie

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 1/2 cup chopped (or crushed) pecans

Pie crust (bottom only- see recipe here)

Melt butter and set aside to cool.  Beat eggs, then add sugar, syrup, and butter.  Whisk together.  Incorporate pecans.

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

(you feel like a con artist, don’t you?  maybe like it’s semi-homemade?  well set aside the guilt sandra lee, this is 100% you and you don’t have to let on how easy it was)

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Pear Gruyere Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

As I’ve mentioned before, I just adore Pushing Daisies.  Too bad the average television consumer seems to prefer shows about slutty Atlanta housewives to anything with substance.  Anyway, my favorite soon too be cancelled drama features a pie shop, and it seems every episode I watch I am more and more inspired to make pie.  Which is good since pies are already my favorite thing to make.


Last season, one of the characters, Chuck, made a few pies with gruyere baked into the crusts.  I’ve experimented with baking cheese into the crust, but when I was trying to think how I could schnazz up my pear pie, I was inspired to bake cheese into the pie as well.  What I mean is, putting cheese not only in the crust, but also in the filling.  To compliment this slightly cheesy pear delight, I made homemade vanilla ice cream with just a dash of ginger.


This is really a wonderful pie.  Apples this time of year are not worth it, but pears are just perfection.  And I’m just such a sucker for hot pie served with cold, fresh ice cream.  The cheese in the crust is subtle and rich, and the cheese in the filling adds a creaminess and a punch to the flavor of the pear that really accentuates the fruit.  In addition to the cheese, I also baked honey, cinnamon, and ginger into the crust.


As for the ice cream, I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker that is so… well so cool.  The recipe is from Seasoned in the South, a book of recipes from Chapel Hill’s (amazing) restaurant Crooks Corner.  Homemade ice cream is easy to make, and if you have a machine, why pay for it?  Come summer I’ll share some sorbet recipes (inspired by another amazing eatery in DC, Dolcezza).  One day I’ll figure out how to make Ben & Jerry’s “The Gobfather,” which is the ice cream that single-handedly got me through having mono.  I’ll probably gain a few hundred pounds, but each one will be, as my grandmother says, delightful.


Pear Gruyere Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


5 pears

1/2 stick of butter

2/3 cup sugar

Dash of ginger

Dash of cinnamon

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 egg

4 tsp honey (2 for filling, 2 for topping)

1/3 cup shredded gruyere cheese, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling

Pie crust (recipe here)

Peel and chop your pears in to bite size pieces.  Melt butter in saute pan.  Add in pears, sugar, and spices.  Let simmer for twenty minutes or so, until pears are very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in flour, remove from heat.  Set aside and allow to return to room temperature.

Prepare your dough.  Stir honey and cheese into your filling.  Spoon filling into dough, and place the top crust over the filling, pinching the edges.  Whisk together honey and egg.  Brush onto the top of the pie crust.

Bake at 375* for 45 minutes

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Source: Crooks Corner

8 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 split vanilla bean

3/4 stick butter

Dash of ginger

Separate eggs and whisk with sugar.  Bring one cup of heavy cream and the milk almost to a boil, with the vanilla bean.  As soon as it’s scalded, remove from heat.  Put in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (or a double boiler) and stir constantly until it begins to thicken and steam a little, around ten minutes.

Lower the heat and stir in a quarter of the butter.  Remove from heat and stir the rest of the butter in, a little bit at a time.  Make sure the butter is completely absorbed and melted.  Add the rest of the cream.  Make sure to remove the vanilla bean, and sift or strain for any lumps.  Chill the custard for an hour in the refrigerator.

Churn in the ice cream maker until it is solid, then freeze until you intend to serve it.  Serving it right out of the ice cream maker is an option, but frankly it’s a little mushier than you want it.  Firming it up in the freezer ensures that you serve more than just vanilla mush.

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