Monday, April 02, 2007

Experimental Baking: My Favorite Pie, Plus a Pie in Bar Form

This is not the first time that I have waxed poetic about the genius that is the Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme Pie, nor will it be the last, I am sure. It is simply my favorite pie in the whole world, combining all of my favorite, (read: the most decadent) fillings. However, we have neither a Baker's Square nor a Village Inn restaurant in my part of the world. So it falls to me to figure out how to make one at home. I have tried before with some small measure of success. My initial experiments in the past involved first baking the shell along with half a pecan pie recipe, then top it with half a cheesecake's worth of filling and bake it again (covering the edges with foil to prevent overbrowning), and then after cooling it all the way, adding half of a French Silk pie filling on top, and then whipped cream, of course. That worked pretty well, but I recently found a copycat recipe online which was billed as "Baker's Square Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme Pie"--the exact item that I was trying to replicate. Plus, it was a no-bake creation, so I thought I should give it a whirl. First, you blind bake the crust. Yes, you could use a graham cracker crust, but I much prefer it with a regular pastry crust. Use a roll-out crust if you can't be bothered to make a real one. Then you make a caramel filling on the stove top and add chopped, toasted pecans.

Next, you make the French Silk layer and spread that on top.

Then finally, you add a whipped cream cheese topping, and decorate as you desire (I just threw on some grated bittersweet chocolate because I was only making it for me). And here's a (bad) picture of the final product.

It turned out well enough, I suppose. My roomie enjoyed it, and my officemate at work raved. I thought it was good, too, and we polished it off in record time. Indeed, it would grace an Easter table very well, bringing accolades from your dinner guests, to be sure. But it just wasn't exactly what I had in mind. First of all, I would cut the caramel pecan layer by as much as half. I enjoy caramel, but I don't want that to dominate the flavor--or texture--of the pie. Furthermore, though you can use melted storebought caramels for the base (or maybe even jarred caramel sauce, for that matter), but I have become spoiled by homemade caramel! It's really not hard to make, and I believe that it would make a world of difference in flavor. Also, I don't wish a fluffy, whipped cream cheese topping on the pie; I want a dense, cream cheese filling, more like a proper cheesecake. And it really has to go in the middle layer, as in the authentic restaurant version. Then I think I'll return to my trusty French Silk recipe from the Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook for the top layer, followed by real whipped cream and not Cool Whip as this recipe dictates. In short (too late!), I will have to keep experimenting with this pie to develop the "perfect" formula. And, dear readers, if anyone knows of another version of this recipe that you recommend, please advise. Thanks!

"Baker’s Square" Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme Pie

one deep-dish pie shell

Caramel-Pecan Layer:
7 oz. caramels (unwrapped)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (not not too finely)

Put caramels, butter and whipping cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until caramels and butter melt (use a whisk for this). Remove from heat and stir until completely smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour into (blind-)baked pie shell. Refrigerate, covered, for several hours until firm.

French Silk Layer:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat sugar with butter in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate; stir in vanilla extract. Mix well; spread on top of cool, firm caramel layer. Chill until ready to add cream cheese layer.

Cream Cheese Layer:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk or half-and-half
1 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping (I used lightly-sweetened whipped cream instead)

Mix cream cheese, milk and sugar in large bowl with wire whisk until smooth. Gently stir in whipped tipping. Carefully spread over chocolate mixture.

Decorative Topping:
2 cups whipping cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
a few caramels, melted
1 square of chocolate, melted

Using pastry bag (or sandwich-type bag with corner snipped off), “pipe” one continuous line of whipped cream around edge of cream cheese mixture, next to crust. Next, put dollops of whipped cream all over pie (circle shape , about 1 inch across– again, using pastry bag). Place pecan halves on top of several of the dollops of whipped cream. Drizzle lightly with caramel and chocolate. (if you’re in a hurry – you can use caramel and chocolate ice cream toppings – it tastes fine with them).

My second experiment this week involved something I made for my trivia night (and it must have worked, because we won for the first time after a bit of a dry spell and an agonizing defeat by only one point last week--YEAH!). I have an excellent recipe that I have made several times before simply entitled Date Squares. It's another trustworthy recipe from Martha Kostyra (say what you will about her daughter, Big Martha can bake and never anything too fussy). But this time, since I had some chopped dried apricots that needed to be used up (left over from the Hanukkah rugelach, if you can believe!), I thought I might make the bars with apricots instead, especially since my teammate, Tom, loves apricot desserts--particularly ones that aren't too sweet. It worked pretty well, although the apricots were juicier after stewing than the dates usually are. It was almost like apricot pie or crumble, but in bar form that you could pick up and eat with your hands. Well, okay, the bars in the middle darn near required a plate and fork, but the outside edges were entirely portable! But I would have to surmise that the people enjoyed them. Though I gave one to our waitress, we only had four on our team last night, and I brought home a mere four out of the sixteen bars that the recipe makes! The next time I make these (and they're easy-peasy), I might try yet another fruit filling. Cyd wants blueberry, and my teammates, Jen and June, want blackberry and cherry, respectively. So noted. And of course, nothing precludes you from making them with dates, as God and Martha Kostyra intended! ;-)

Apricot Pie Squares
(Source: adapted from

Crumb Mixture:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (I used rolled oats=more texture)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*I also added a sprinkle of cinnamon and a half a sprinkle of allspice.

Apricot Filling:
2 cups dried apricots, finely diced
1 cup water (I added more to cover, which may explain why my apricots were so juicy--maybe YOURS are!)
1 pinch salt
zest and juice of 1 lemon

*I also added a split vanilla bean to the pot. And if I had been making this for someone other than Tom, I might have added some sugar (probably, brown sugar) to this mix. Some may not find it sweet enough for their liking. But taste it and decide for yourself.

Place chopped apricots in a saucepan with water, salt, and lemon zest and juice, and vanilla bean (if using). Cook over medium heat until apricots are soft, 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool before using.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees;. Butter an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and spices (if using any). Add butter, and blend with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer two-thirds of the crumb mixture into prepared pan, and press into bottom and up sides (using the back of a dry measuring cup helps with this). Spread apricot filling over the bottom layer of the dough. Cover with remaining crumb mixture.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Invert onto a plate, then back onto a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to one week, if they last that long!


Randi said...

Those pie bars look really good. I'm going to make those next weekend. Remind me will ya? So many recipes, so little time.

Ronnie said...

Not sure of you were still looking for another recipe but here was another one for a caramel pecan silk supreme pie.