Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aunt Bettye’s Brown Sugar Pie

Day 44

Truth be told, I’m a real pushover for all things nostalgic, whether personal or vicarious. Like most people, I become misty-eyed whenever I remember something special in my past, but I also find myself wistful while reading emotionally charged stories of days gone by. In that same vein, I think, today’s recipe lends itself to whatever brand of nostalgia you prefer. Its simplicity is refreshing, and your taste buds are sure to thank you.

It’s also special to share that this recipe is not my own. My Aunt Bettye—one of the best bakers I’ll ever know—very kindly shared her Brown Sugar Pie with me a few weeks ago. Having her culinary guidance and some of her treasured recipes in my personal repertoire is
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013
something for which I am ever so grateful. As I understand it, the Brown Sugar Pie is a veritable classic in her family that has been passed down from generation to generation. How fortunate that she gave me permission to share it here. 

When I made it, I was immediately reminded of my grandmother’s recipe for Poor Man’s Pie, which is essentially the same filling, except that oatmeal is added. I think I like Aunt Bettye’s Brown Sugar Pie best, though, because of how delicate and absolutely delicious it is. The texture and flavor bring to mind pecan pie, but the brown sugar’s prominent role really allows the molasses flavor to shine. 

Interestingly, the timing was perfect for my trying this recipe. I was right in the middle of a poignant novel about two World War II wives who were pen pals while their husbands fought overseas. The women shared their fears and joys, discussed the rationing of food stateside, and even traded shortcut recipes that made the most of the food shortages. If you are an avid reader and you enjoy compelling, heartfelt, and vivid novels that stir your nostalgic tendencies, please read I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. You’ll surely be glad you did. And, while you’re reading, try Aunt Bettye’s incredibly tasty Brown Sugar Pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You’ll be taken back to a simpler time, even if you didn’t experience it. 

Thanks, Aunt Bettye, for sharing this incredible pie recipe! 

Aunt Bettye’s Brown Sugar Pie

2 (8-inch) pie crusts
1 box (1 lb.) dark brown sugar
6 eggs
7 tbs. melted butter or margarine
1 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together. Divide evenly and pour into two piecrusts. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until set. Allow to cool before serving. Freezes well. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stovetop Coq au Vin

Day 43

If you have ever tried real coq au vin, you know that its flavor cannot be matched. The succulent slow-cooked chicken with wine and mushrooms is as pleasing as any comfort food out there. 

I  love making coq au vin, but I often decide to have it just moments before I actually need to serve it. That often happens when we find ourselves immersed in our busy lives.So, for those of us who sometimes plan on a meal at the last minute but want the gourmet quality
Copyright, Doug Kapustin  Photography, 2013
 of a dish like chicken in wine sauce, I’ve modified a coq au vin recipe. And, when I say “modified”, I really mean it. This recipe is reminiscent of coq au vin flavors, but it’s very different in presentation. 

This dinner is wonderful served with roasted asparagus and rice or potatoes. 

Bon App├ętit!

Stovetop Coq au Vin

For the chicken: 
5 chicken breasts, each pounded evenly to ½ -inch thickness. 
3 cups baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 large white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup capers
½ stick butter (4 tbs.)
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup Burgundy wine
½ cup fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium-high. Make a dry-rub for the chicken of thyme, salt, and pepper, then coat chicken thoroughly. Brown chicken breasts on each side. Add onions and garlic, and reduce heat to medium-low. Add ½ cup Burgundy wine and cover. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the sauce. (*See recipe below.) 

Add mushrooms and capers to the chicken, then pour gravy over entire mixture. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. 

Serve immediately over rice, potatoes, or egg noodles. 

*For the sauce: 
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 dash pepper
2 (10 1/2 ounce) cans condensed beef broth 
1/2 cup Burgundy wine

 Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour, salt and pepper to make a smooth mixture. Gradually add beef broth and Burgundy wine, stirring until mixture is smooth and free from lumps.

Bring gravy to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tate’s Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Day 42
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013

Let’s start August with the perfect cookie recipe, straight from the outstanding Tate’s Bakeshop cookbook! There’s nothing better than these bite-sized cookies with a hot cup of coffee or tea, especially if you make them to take to work on a humdrum Monday morning. You’ll be the office favorite of the week, for sure.

And, what’s even better is that they are very easy to make.


Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies


For the cookies
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups finely chopped pecans

For the filling
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tsp. vegetable oil


Make the cookies
1. Heat the chocolate in a microwave-safe medium bowl on Medium (50% power), stirring at 30-second intervals, until fully melted and smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until tepid, but still fluid.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer set on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. One at a time, beat in the egg yolks, followed by the tepid chocolate and the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture, just until combined. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
3. Position the oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
4. Using a heaping teaspoon for each, roll the dough into 78 marble-sized balls, putting them in a baking pan or platter. (If you wish, you can cover the balls with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until foamy. One at a time, dip each ball in the whites, roll in the pecans, and arrange 11/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate the remaining balls until ready to bake. Using your thumb (or, if you have long fingernails, the end of a wooden spoon), press an indentation into the center of each cookie.
5. Bake, rotating the positions of the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies look set, about 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven, and, using your thumb (or the end of the wooden spoon), re- form the center indentation in each cookie. Return to the oven and continue baking until the cookies are crisp, about 10 minutes more. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling racks and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining balls, egg whites, and pecans, on cooled baking sheets.
Make the filling:
6. Heat the chocolate and oil together in a microwave-safe bowl on Medium (50% power), stirring at 30-second intervals, until fully melted and smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until tepid but still fluid.
7. Using a teaspoon, fill the indentations with the chocolate mixture. Let stand until the chocolate sets (you can refrigerate them to speed things up).

(Recipe borrowed from Tate’s Bakeshop- Baking for Friends, pages 117-118; also accessible at )