The Nanny Project : Rhea's Sugar Pie

The Nanny Project.

What is that?

It's an idea I came up with over two years ago. An idea to showcase recipes belonging to the women we call Nanny, or Nana, or Grandma (or whichever name we may have for them).

It's about tried and true recipes. Dishes that, the moment we take a taste, make us weak with nostalgia to be held by our grandmothers - smell their perfume one more time.

It's about women of generations gone by. Women whose lives we may know very little about.

And about how recipes are threads that tie us to the past.

I've posted about grandmother's a few times now. Here, here and my favourite, here.

Since the last time I posted a grandmother's recipe, I've pitched The Nanny Project as a cookbook idea to two different publishers, and both were excited by the notion. One wanted to sign a contract immediately after meeting, however, something big has come up that has pulled my focus (pun intended - more details to follow).

And so, for now, I'll continue to post these tried and true, tested-on-generations, grandma's recipes as I come across them.

The recipe for Rhea's Sugar Pie comes to me from a somewhat lengthy family connection. Rhea Marinier was my dad's wife Wanda's, sister Ruby's, husband Denis' mother.

Got it?

I don't know much about Rhea other than she lived in Quebec and that Ruby said she was a great lady, funny and she loved life.

Sounds like my kind of woman.

Yesterday, when I made Rhea's recipe, was the first time I've had Sugar Pie and if you're wondering, yes it's DAMN SWEET but it's oh so good. And how on earth can you resist the name? I knew it had to be next on my roster of posts when I couldn't stop singing this song -

Rhea's Sugar Pie

single unbaked pie shell, homemade or store-bought

2 C brown sugar

1.5 Tbsp flour

1 can evaporated milk

5 Tbsp butter (75g)

1 egg

0.5 tsp vanilla

- mix all and put in unbaked pie crust - bake 30-35 minutes

That's it for directions so I'm going to take it one step further and supplement the original steps with the steps I found helpful.

- preheat oven to 350º

- in a large bowl, whisk brown sugar and flour to combine and break up lumps in brown sugar

- whisk in evaporated milk

- whisk in egg and vanilla

- melt butter and whisk in

- pour filling into pie crust and bake 30-35 minutes - pie is done when it puffs slightly and has a slight jiggle in the middle - remove from oven and cool

- optional - top slices with whipped cream and a little sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon or cocoa

'Better Than Pumpkin' Pie Filling (aka Butternut Squash Pie Filling)

Just LOOK at the picture above. My pastry is golden and tastes really good (I use this crust recipe by Ina Garten - it's terrific) but my crusts are almost always a little raggedy. I've long accepted the fact that I will never make a perfect-looking, beautifully braided pie crust, and I'm totally fine with that because, isn't it often the case - the most perfect-looking things usually have zero flavour

In that way I guess, pies are kind of like people.

Some are sweet, some are savoury. Some are tough, some are soft and flaky. Some are overflowing with warm gooeyness, some are near-empty shells. I could go on but I think you probably get the picture.

And so, my pie crust is golden, crusty, and uneven. Inside it is just the right amount of sweet, creamy, warm, spicy filling. It's also a little cracked on top.

My pie is a perfect-looking reflection of me.

Butternut Squash Pie Filling (and yes, I really do think it's better than pumpkin)

1 medium-sized butternut squash

2 eggs

1/2 C sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp each of pumpkin pie spice and ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 C heavy cream

1 Tbsp vanilla

- prepare and pre-bake your favourite pie crust - as I mentioned above, I use this recipe by Ina Garten

- preheat oven to 350º - pierce skin of squash all over with a fork or the tip of a small paring knife - place the squash in the microwave and cook for 6 minutes - the pierced spots will weep a bit of water - that's totally normal - carefully remove the squash from the microwave (it may be hot to the touch) - line a baking sheet with parchment paper - cut the squash into 4 segments - place segments on the baking sheet, skin side up, and bake for 1 hour - remove from oven and cool slightly until you can comfortably touch with your hands - scoop stringy guts and seeds out of squash and discard - peel skin away and discard (most should peel right off but you may need to use a small sharp knife to coax some of it off - place all peeled squash into a large bowl or your food processor

- if using a large bowl, mash the squash until smooth - if using a food processor, pulse the squash until smooth - add eggs, sugar, flour, spices, kosher salt, heavy cream and vanilla to squash - mix by hand or pulse in processor to combine - pour the filling into your pre-baked pie crust and bake 20-25 minutes*

*I baked my pie for 30 minutes. Apparently, this is why mine cracked a bit - when the eggs are overcooked in a pie filling, it causes cracking - next time I will check my pie at 20 minutes and then keep my eye on it - the filling is thick so it's a bit hard to tell when it's set. At 20 minutes, eggs should be pretty much cooked and safe to eat so use your judgement.

Saskatoon Berry Crostatas

You may remember my BFF Angela sent me a care package from Manitoba a while back. Tucked inside the box, along with some gorgeous creamed honey, Manitoba maple syrup and a bag of hemp hearts, was a can of Saskatoon Berry pie filling.

Yesterday afternoon, when I was checking on my Vin d'Orange, I saw the can of pie filling sitting on the pantry shelf and decided to make Crostatas.

From Wikipedia: 'Similar to the French galette, an (Italian) crostata is a rustic free-form version of an open fruit tart that may also be baked in a pie plate.'

I know fresh fruit, or even frozen fruit, is better than canned, and I would definitely love to try fresh Saskatoon berries, but for now, the canned pie filling would have to do.

I highly recommend Ina Garten's Crostata dough recipe. I've been making it for a few years now and it always turns out beautifully - I just change the filling based on current season, craving or inspiration.

To make a nice clean circle, I roll out small balls of dough, flip a cereal bowl upside down, then use a sharp knife to cut around the edge of the bowl.

After my dough circles are cut, I dollop a generous amount of pie filling in the middle of each circle and start folding in the edges of the dough all the way around the outside. When all of the crostata edges are folded, I dip my finger in egg white and rub the white over the exposed crust of each crostata and then, I sprinkle the crusts with coarse white sugar.

To me, the canned Saskatoon Berry pie filling kind of tasted like a cross between cherry pie and blueberry pie - all in all not a bad thing - but I'm hoping once I finally make it out west to visit my BFF, I'll get to try the real deal!

What about you? Have you ever had Saskatoon berries?

Coconut Macaroon Pie Crust with Pink Grapefruit Aperol Filling

I have a spiral bound notebook that I use for jotting down to-do lists, recipe ideas and notes of inspiration. Last summer, I wrote the names of the four seasons at the top of four separate blank pages. When I brainstorm blog post ideas, I write down the ideas on the season-page I think is the best fit. Having these seasonal lists means I can plan my blog posts ahead and, means I won't forget any potentially good ideas.

It's my very basic version of an editorial calendar.

One of the ideas written on my 'spring' page is 'Macaroon Crust with Lemon'. I'm sure Coconut Macaroon Pie Crust has been done before, but the idea hit me like a lightning bolt - why can't I press sticky coconut macaroon cookie dough into a pie tin, bake it until golden and then fill it with something delicious?

Turns out you can. I tried it this Easter weekend and it worked like a charm.

I used this recipe for the coconut macaroon crust. I didn't bother blending my ingredients in the food processor because I wanted my crust to look a little ragged - I wanted it to look like shredded coconut. Also, the recipe calls for adding vanilla extract to the dry ingredients. I thought the vanilla and coconut might clump together so I came up with a solution:

As for the pie filling - I used this recipe. I used the juice of 1 large pink grapefruit, the zest of the same grapefruit, plus the juice of 1 lemon. I also added 1/4 Cup of Aperol and used milk instead of water to give the filling a creamier look. When I stirred the Aperol into the filling and it turned a heavenly peach colour I knew I was on the right track. Sweet, bitter, crunchy and coconutty, the pie turned out to be something I'd make again and again. The beauty of the crust is you can fill it with anything you want - citrus curd, stewed fruit or chocolate cream are some ideas that sound pretty fantastic to me.

The thing is, if I hadn't stopped to write 'Coconut Macaroon Pie Crust' down in my notebook, I probably would have forgotten all about. Having seasonal lists to refer to is a good system that works for me but it also makes me wonder - How do other bloggers decide what to make/feature on their blogs and what tricks do they use to stay organized? If you have any tips or comments I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Easter :)