Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas (I baked you a pie)

There was no plan to take December off from blogging. It just sort of happened. With so much going on this month (and no posts stockpiled for the winter), something had to give as they say. Blogging was it.

Even during a non-major holiday time of year I don't understand how other bloggers can keep the pace they do. It's enough to make my head spin. It's something that I occasionally struggle with... keeping up. I think the trick is not to. After all, it's my blog, my life, my pace... so this month I took a break. 

In addition to all the regular cooking, cleaning, mending, and tending that goes on around here, I've been getting the house ready for Christmas and visiting family, Hubs has been re-doing the guest bath, I've done a bit of holiday baking, but mostly... lots of gift-planning and making (we do homemade gifts for Christmas). We're exhausted, but in a really really good way. It's a feeling you just can't get from shopping.
From Me To You
I have a gift for you too. My signature pie. If there's one dessert that I've made more than any other over my lifetime (thus far anyway), it's my St. John's Organic Walnut & Drunken-Raisin Pie. Well... I've probably made chocolate chip cookies a lot more often than this pie, but are cookies really dessert? I see them as more of a snack. Anyway, this pie is stuffed with walnuts and studded with raisins that were soaked in bourbon overnight (turning them into little flavor-bombs). I've made it dozens of times for dozens of pot-lucks and holidays and there's never any left over. It's my go-to pie. And now it's going to you.

No longer will those within the sound of my voice (or the gas in my car) be dependent on my baking whims or the contents of my pantry... I give you my recipe, and wish you joy and happiness this Christmas and all throughout the coming years.

As For The Name...
Back when Hubs and I got married, the church we were attending had a grove of walnuts on its property and every year volunteers from the congregation would painstakingly gather, clean, smash, and pick through pounds upon pounds of walnuts, then bag them to sell as a fund-raiser for the pre-school. I started making this pie back then with those homegrown organic walnuts, and though I now have to buy my walnuts at the store, it will always remind me of the time, the place, and the wonderful people. How nice to know that it's all just a pie crust away...

St. John's Organic Walnut & Drunken-Raisin Pie
Adapted from page 256 of Help! My Apartment Has A Kitchen by Kevin & Nancy Mills (1996)

1  9-inch unbaked pie crust (see notes)
3  large eggs
1  cup brown rice syrup
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2  cup sugar
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4  teaspoon salt
2  tablespoons butter
1-1/3 cups chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup bourbon (optional)
1  tablespoon flour

1.  If using the bourbon: Put the raisins in a small jar and pour the bourbon over them. Put the lid on the jar and soak the raisins overnight (or longer), turning and gently shaking the jar occasionally. Drain well before using, pressing to get any remaining liquid out.*

2.  Line a 9-inch pie pan with the crust, smoothing and pressing it into 
place (don't stretch it). Fold under and/or trim off any excess dough then crimp the edges to make them fancy looking. Put in the fridge while you prep the filling. 

3.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

4.  In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, syrup, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Cut the butter into little pieces and mix well with a fork. Don't worry if the filling looks lumpy at this point. Set aside.

5.  Stir the walnuts and the raisins together in a large bowl, then sprinkle the flour over them and mix thoroughly so they're all coated with the flour (this prevents clumping). Add the filling mixture to the nuts/raisins. Stir together thoroughly and immediately pour into the prepared pie crust. 

6.  Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350°F and bake for another 30 
minutes, or until the pie begins to brown. 

7.  Remove from the oven 
and cool on a rack. Serve the pie when it has cooled completely. It is also good cold and will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple days.
Notes: I usually use Martha Stewart's Pâte Sucrée (sweet) or Pâte Brisée (basic) pie crust recipe, but a good ready-made refrigerated pie dough (like at Trader Joe's) is perfectly fine too. This pie is just as good without the bourbon, or even without the raisins. If you are going the raisin-route, make sure you use golden raisins. Oh yeah, and don't forget the whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to serve with it.  

*Don't toss the bourbon that the raisins were soaking in! (Like you would do that anyway.) It's now raisin-infused bourbon. Yum! Add it to your coffee, add it to your whipped cream, add it to your sweet potatoes, etc. I'm sure you'll think of something.
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  1. Hi, Stephanie. You commented above me over at "Such Pretty Things." :)

    That pie is beautiful--just lovely. And now I will be poking around your blog for awhile. :)

    Happy to meet you,


  2. @Val: Thanks for the nice compliment on the pie and thanks for stopping by (I didn't plan on that rhyming). You just made my day! Cheers!


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