Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Learning how to make a graham cracker pie crust will open the door to making all sorts of tempting dessert pies including the Chocolate Fudge Pie pictured above.

Most people learning how to cook are totally terrified at the thought of making a pie crust. This graham cracker crust may well change your mind! It is about 1,000 times easier to make than making and rolling out a pie crust made of dough. (For the more adventurous beginner cooks, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for links on making a pie crust made of dough from scratch)

(For my international readers, graham crackers are readily available in the USA. I am not sure what the equivalent ingredient would be elsewhere. If anyone can recommend a plain, sweet cracker that is used in your country for a crumb crust, I would appreciate you adding it to the comments!)

You may be asking, “why should I bother making it myself?” You can buy a pre-made graham cracker pie crust, usually in two different sizes; 9-inch or a package of minis.

The answer is that the taste and texture of a home-made graham cracker crust is far superior to that of the pre-made variety. Plus, it just looks better presenting a dessert in a proper pie dish rather than a tin-foil pan!

Making the crust yourself is not complicated at all. It only takes three ingredients – butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs.

(An alternative to the butter and sugar would be to use 3 Tablespoons of canola oil and 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup.)

There are usually three packets of crackers each in a box. Each packet contains 9 crackers, and when crushed, will equal 1 and 1/4 cups of cracker crumbs.

To crush the crackers into crumbs, put the crackers in a zip-lock bag and, with a heavy can, start crushing.

Or just buy a box of the crumbs and ….

measure out 1 and 1/4 cups of crumbs.

In the USA, butter comes in sticks.

(One stick has 8 Tablespoons, which equals 1/2 cup or 4 ounces or 113 grams.)

Put 5 Tablespoons of butter into a med-large microwave safe mixing bowl.

Melt the butter. This will take about 1 minute, depending on your microwave.

Add the crumbs to the bowl along with 1/4 cup of sugar.

Using a fork, mix these ingredients together.

It should be all blended, but still crumbly.

Put the crumbs into a 9-inch pie dish and press them in place with your fingers…..

or a one-cup measuring cup.

When making a frozen or refrigerated pie filling, put the crust in the refrigerator to chill while making the filling. The crust should chill for about 10 minutes before adding the filling.

It is not necessary to bake the crust, unless your recipe specifically says to do so. But, baking the crust will give it a wonderful taste and a crispier texture.

To bake a graham cracker pie crust, preheat the oven to 350 degree oven and bake the crust for 8 minutes.

Cool the crust completely before adding the filling.

A tart pan with a removable bottom is also a great option instead of using a pie dish.

If you have never seen a pan with a removable bottom it really does look odd. Press the crumbs into the pan the same way you would a regular pie dish.

When it comes time to serve from a pie made in a tart pan, place the tart on a large can.

The ring drops down…

And the pie is ready to serve!

Cheers!

P.S.

Here are some great pie crust links:

Pie Crusts – Ready Made – tips from startcooking.com

Food Wishes recipe video on Easy Homemade Pie Crust

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust

The Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten’s video on making a pie crust

Simply Recipes – Lattice Top Pie Crust

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Chocolate Bark

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
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To make chocolate bark — a sweet, tasty snack or dessert – you just melt chocolate, mix in some extra ingredients and spread it out in a pan to harden. It’s simplicity itself, but there’s lots of opportunity to be creative!

I’m making mine with white chocolate chips, Spanish peanuts and dried cranberries. I like the salty sweet combination of the nuts with the cranberries and white chocolate.

You can also use pretzels, chopped apricots, candied ginger, cashews, pecans, and lots of other ingredients. Many, many things go well with melted chocolate! Choose your ingredients to mix up the textures and the colors.

For the chocolate, you can use chocolate chips or a chocolate bar, using white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate or a swirled combination of all three. If you are using a bar of chocolate, chop it into small pieces so it will melt more evenly.

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In a medium size, microwave safe,mixing bowl, slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave. Start melting the chocolate chips on high for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Then zap them in 15 second increments until the chocolate is melted.

Chocolate chips don’t really change their shape until you mix them with a spoon or spatula. Be sure not to zap them past the melting point. 12 ounces of chocolate chips in my microwave took 2 minutes and 15 seconds to melt.

2 Cups of add-ins to 12 ounces of chocolate is the perfect ratio! I’m actually adding only 2/3 cup of the cranberries into the mixture and the remainder I’m going to be sprinkling on top.

Gently mix everything together.

Now, line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan with wax paper or parchment paper.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and spread it evenly out over the bottom of the pan. (Hang onto the wax paper when you are doing this!)

Sprinkle on the remaining cranberries.

Put the bark in the refrigerator to harden. This should take 1-2 hours.

Once set, lift the bark out of the pan and peel off the wax paper.

You could use a knife to cut it into pieces.

But it’s more fun to break it apart with your hands into uneven chunks.

Serve it as is, or wrap it up to give away as a gift!

If there are any leftovers, store them in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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Bread Pudding

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Bread Pudding is home cooking at its best! Chances are, you already have on hand almost all the ingredients you will need to make bread pudding: sugar, milk, bread, butter, and eggs.

Add four more ingredients – cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and raisins – and you’ve got the fixings for a wonderful dessert that everyone is going to love!

It takes just a few simple steps to make bread pudding:

  1. Cube 4 slices of hearty bread and put it in a baking dish
  2. Combine eggs, milk, sugar and spices in a bowl
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the bread
  4. Make a bread, butter, sugar and cinnamon topping
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes

Let’s startcooking!

Step 1 – Prepare the Bread

Spray a 1-and-1/2-quart baking (or casserole) dish with non-stick cooking spray. I’m using an 8x8x2 inch square baking dish.

The recipe calls for 6 ounces, in total, of hearty white bread – 4 ounces for the base and 2 ounces for the topping. (That’s about 6-to-8 slices of bread.)

With a knife, cut four ounces of the bread into cubes and put the cubed bread into the prepared dish.

Sprinkle on 1/3 cup of raisins. Set this dish aside for the moment.

Step 2 – Make the Egg Custard

Put in to a large mixing bowl:

  • 2 eggs, plus one egg yolk*
  • 2 1/4 cups of whole milk
  • 6 Tablespoons of sugar (that’s 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons of butter, melted in the microwave

*(For a quick review on How to Crack and Separate Eggs – click here.)

Mix everything together.

Step 3 – Combine the Bread and the Egg Custard

Pour the egg custard over the cubed bread.

With the back of a spoon, gently press the bread into the egg custard.

Let the bread pudding rest at room temperature on the counter-top, for 30 minutes. It will look like the picture below after 30 minutes.

Step 4 – Make the Bread Topping

While the pudding is resting, make the bread topping:

There are two ways to prepare the bread topping. One way is with cubed bread…..

…and the other way is with slices of bread.

I will demonstrate both ways, but I personally prefer the topping made with the slices of bread. They both taste the same but I like the crispier texture of the sliced topping. Try both approaches, and then you can decide which you prefer!

For the sliced topping, combine (in a small bowl) 1 Tablespoon of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Spread soft butter on the bread and sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar. Cut the bread into four pieces and….

…place it on top of the pudding.

As it cooks, it develops a nice crispy, toasted top.

*****

If you prefer a cubed topping, cube the remaining 2 ounces of bread and put it in a bowl. Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar…

…and 1 Tablespoon of the butter, which needs to get melted first!

Toss these ingredients together with a fork.

Add the cubes to the pudding.

As it bakes, the topping develops a lovely golden color.

Step 5 – Bake the Bread Pudding

Bake the Bread Pudding in a preheated 325º F degree oven for 50-to-55 minutes.

(325º F = 165º C = gas mark 3-very moderate)

The custard should be puffed and jiggle when you wiggle the dish.

If you want an even crispier cubed or sliced topping, you could put the cooked bread pudding under the broiler for just a few minutes. (As long as the baking dish you are using is safe to put under the broiler. Pyrex dishes are not broiler safe and could possibly explode from the intense heat of the broiler!)

Let the pudding sit for 20 minutes before serving it. It will not be quite as puffed as when you took it out of the oven, but it won’t burn your mouth either!

Bread pudding should be eaten while still warm. If there are any leftovers, store it in the refrigerator. By the next day the, it will have deflated quite a bit and have developed a much heavier texture – quite different from when you first baked it.

Bread Pudding is perfect plain, but you can add all sorts of toppings – including whipped cream, butterscotch, caramel, chocolate, or bourbon sauce.

Enjoy!

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