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chocolate molten cake, cranberry orange galette, flourless chocolate torte, foolproof pie dough

Last Christmas I Gave You My Tart

I know that we all get so caught up in making the perfect Turkey, or Prime Rib, or Beef Wellington for the center of our Holiday Meal, that sometimes we have to make sacrifices due to time restrictions and end up just getting store bought pies from Costco. Dessert, though not the main focus of the meal, is the last chance a host has to make a final and lasting meal impression. The perfect send-off.. The finality the to gastronomic bliss that bears your signature! Make it count!

I'm including Cortney's Foolproof Pie Dough not just because it's amazing, but because it's LIFE-CHANGING!  You see, I don't like pie - well, I do... kind of. I like pie, but I don't like crust.  Crust is one of those things to me that has to be perfect - light and flaky, but needs to hold its shape when cut.  For only a couple ingredients, pie dough can make or break the dessert - completely! 

You see, way way back in 2002-2003, I was a private chef on a yacht in the Caribbean.  Over Christmas and New Year's that year, we went to and docked at St. Barth's for a week or two - fantastic little French island if you've never been.  Anyway, on my time off, I was walking around the little town area by where we docked and there was this lovely little French bistro by the water.   I went in and sat down and had the best piece of Quiche I'd ever had.  It wasn't the filling that made it - truth be told, I'm not a fan of goat cheese, but the crust.   Holy smokes!  15 years later I can remember it like it was yesterday, but sadly I cannot taste it anymore.  It was life changing in a bittersweet sort of way.  A.) I couldn't believe something that tasted that perfect could be made by mere mortals, and B.) It ruined me from pie forever.  I asked the chef for his secret and he told it me was filtered and boiled salt water which he collected from the crystal clear waters off St. Barth's daily.  Discouraged, I left the bistro kicking rocks because I knew that at 22, my love affair with pie was over.  Nothing would ever be able to come anywhere close to the miracle that was that quiche - because of that pie dough.  I can count on one hand how many pieces of pie I've had since, before I met Cortney - and they have all been disappointing, mediocre, inferior let downs.  The crust is the method of conveyance for the filling to get from the plate to la bouche - it introduces the filling because it's the first thing and last thing you taste (obviously as the bottom of the crust will hit your tongue first - and the edge last)!  It cannot be sloppy or limp, or too firm, it has to have the perfect bite!  And has to be made with lots of love.  Then I met Cortney.  One of the first things we talked about food wise was pie dough.  I had made such a big deal out of it that she was very hesitant to make a pie for me.  And then one day this year she did (well, not for me per se, she was testing a recipe) and OMG!  I felt for a second like that restaurant critic at the end of Ratatouille that had been made the Ratatouille that took him back to his childhood.  As I sat there on the couch and ate my pieces of pie <-- yes, again plural - I told you last week not to judge me.  Almost like sticking a seashell to your ear and hearing the ocean, I imagined myself sitting in that little French bistro, near the water in St. Barth's, enjoying my spinach quiche. And I couldn't see it, but I'm 300% sure the look on my face told Cortney all she needed to know about how I felt about her crust.   

I know a lot of people enjoy pie for the holidays, and in the spirit of that, I feel obliged to include her amazing, foolproof, one-of-a-kind pie dough recipe guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning of sweet tooths (sweet teeths? -are these silly pluralizations doing anything for you) this holiday season! 

Along with the best pie crust ever, I am also including some of my other favorites that somehow seem to make an appearance every holiday season!  The galette takes a little time but it's more than totally worth it (its a great recipe to make with little ones.) And the two chocolate recipes are so completely and totally easy it's mind-blowing! 

Cortney's Foolproof Pie Dough

• 1 1/3 cup flour

• 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

• ½ teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup lard, very cold

• 2-4 tablespoons ice water, as needed

• 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl. Using a scoop, drop small scoops of lard into flour mixture, shaking slightly periodically to make sure lard doesn’t clump. If lard starts to get warm, pop in freezer for 10 minutes.

2. Using a pastry cutter, knives or your hands, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pieces.

3. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar and work in gently until a dough has formed. If needed, add one tablespoon of water at a time until desired texture forms. Do NOT use all of the water if you do not need it. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

4. Shape into a ball, and place on floured work surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is large enough to lay across your pie plate. Gently work the dough into the pie dish, shape crust as desired, and cut off any overlaying pie dough. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Recipe is for single crust – double recipe for a double crust.

Rustic Blood Orange and Cranberry Galette

• 4 oz butter, unsalted

• 8 oz, all purpose flour

• 3 oz, ice cold water

• ½ tsp. salt


• 2 blood oranges, sliced in thin rounds, any seeds removed

• 2 c. water

• 2 c. sugar


• 1 c. fresh cranberries

• ¼ c. toasted walnuts

• 3 T. white sugar

• 1 T. packed brown sugar

• ¼ tsp. ground ginger

• 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

• ½ T. cornstarch

• 1 tsp. orange juice

• ½ tsp vanilla extract

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

For the Crust:

Cut the butter down into chunks, measure out the flour, and measure out the water. Place all separately in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Take out of the freezer and combine the flour and butter and make a rectangle on a wide wooden cutting board. Sprinkle the salt over the butter flour mixture and then slowly pour the water over. Using a rolling pin, start in the middle of the flour mixture, and work the rolling pin away from you, gently crushing the butter into the flour. When the end is reached, start back at the middle and roll toward you. Fold half the dough over itself, and using a bench cutter, cut large chunks into the dough, and then form a rectangle and roll the dough again using the same method as above. Fold the dough over itself again. Using the bench cutter, bring the dough together in to a rectangular log, wrap with saran wrap, and refrigerate 2 – 24 hours. * Your hands should never touch the dough throughout this entire process.

For the Candied Oranges:

In a large non reactive saucepan, combine the 2 cups of water and the 2 cups of sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and add the orange slices. Cook the oranges for 15 minutes on a rolling simmer and then turn off the heat and let the oranges rest in the pan until they have cooled slightly, 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to drain and come to room temperature 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

For the Cranberry Mixture:

In a large bowl, mix together the white and brown sugar, ginger, cardamom, cornstarch, vanilla, and orange juice; combine well. Next, add in the cranberries and walnuts and toss well to coat evenly.

To assemble:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and gently roll out the dough out so it is 2 inches larger than the cast iron pan. Gently transfer the dough to the cast iron pan, and then make a circle of candied orange slices in the bottom, leaving 1 ½ inch gap to the edge of the pan. (not all orange slices will be used) Next,Spoon the cranberry mixture over the orange slices to make a mound, making sure to maintain the gap to the edge of the pan. Now, gently fold the crust over the orange cranberry mound, folding in the edges every inch or two. When the edges are all folded in, brush some of the beaten egg around the top of the crust, using a pastry brush, and then grate piloncillo (your own desired amount) on top of the crust. Bake on the very bottom shelf of a preheated 375 degree over 40-50 minutes, or until the crust has browned nice and evenly. Remove from the oven and and serve immediately.

Flourless Chocolate Torte

• 8 oz dark chocolate couverture

• 4 oz. milk chocolate couverture

• 1/2 lb. butter, cut into pieces

• 6 eggs

Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a double boiler. Incorporate the eggs one at a time, stirring each egg in completely before the next addition. Line a 8” square baking pan with parchment paper and pour mixture into pan and cover w/ aluminum foil. Bake in a water bath at 350 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes. The torte should still be a big jiggly in the middle (think cheesecake or crème brulee). Take cover off and let cool at room temperature. Cut as desired.

* Pro-Tip: cut the torte cold and let it come to room temperature before serving!

Chocolate Molten Cakes

• 4 oz butter

• 3 oz semi sweet chocolate (62%)

• 3 oz bittersweet chocolate (70-75%)

• 2 egg yolks

• 2 whole eggs

• ¼ c. sugar

• ½ tsp ginger

• 2.5 T. flour

(butter and sugar to rim inside of ramekins)

1. Preheat over to 450. Get 5 ramekins and generously butter the insides. Then coat the insides with sugar in the raw, Set aside.

2. Place the butter and both sugars in a bowl over a double boiler. Heat until chocolate and butter is just melted. You don’t want to go over 100 degrees. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar until they are a pale yellow. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg/sugar mixture and stir to combine. Then add the flour and ginger and give one final couple of stirs to make sure every thing is incorporated, but do not over whip. Fill the ramekins until they are 2/3 full and bake for 10-12 minutes. Check them at 10 minutes though, they should be just over 1/3 set. Bring out of oven, wait for 1 minute, then invert the ramekins onto a plate. The cakes should pop right out.