Pies + Tarts

Perfect Pie Crust Plus 5 Expert Crust Tips

By | Baking + Desserts, DIY, Holidays + Seasons, Pies + Tarts, Thanksgiving | 3 Comments

Perfect Pie Crust is flaky, tender and most of all tastes great! You want it to taste so good, the filling is second thought! Follow this easy recipe to find out how to do just that.

Perfect pie crust can sometimes be intimidating. But it shouldn’t be. It’s as simple as getting some cold butter mixed into flour with a bit of cold water in the right proportions, in the right way. Piece of cake. I mean pie!


Below are 5 Crust Tips that will help you make perfect pie crust–and then take a look at this little video on how to make it in the food processor. You’ll see I try to work quickly and not handle the dough much. Warm hands can melt the butter in the dough and make it tough. This one recipe makes 2 single crusts and you can see how I bring the dough together and divide it in half. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

These 5 tips for perfect pie crust might just change your life.

1  Start with chilled ingredients
Refrigerating everything—yes, even the flour—is key to creating tender, pliable dough. Warm ingredients make tough crust because they bind too quickly with the gluten in the flour.

2  Use shortening and butter
Shortening provides flakiness while butter adds flavor; combining the two gets you the best of both worlds.

3  Add water carefully
Too much water makes the crust tough. But don’t try to play it safe and be stingy. The crust will crack and fall apart without enough liquid. Be sure to have a light hand so you don’t over mix the dough.

4  Crumble-proof your crust
Do this by using a tenderizer such as salt, vinegar, vodka or lemon juice. Each provides a different hint of flavor.

5  Roll the right way
Lightly flour your work surface, then roll dough from the center outward to create a circle. Lift and move the dough frequently as you work so it doesn’t stick to the surface. Avoid stretching it: stretched dough shrinks during baking.



Perfect Piecrust + 5 Crust Tips

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 single crusts

Perfect Piecrust + 5 Crust Tips


  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 12 tbsp (1½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup chilled shortening
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • ½ cup very cold water


  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and half the butter. Pulse 8 to 10 times or until mixture is coarse crumbs and some of the butter is pea-size. (Alternately, combine in a bowl using a pastry blender or a fork.)
  2. In a measuring cup, combine vinegar with ½ cup cold water. Add the remaining butter to the food processor, and while pulsing processor, drizzle in just enough water mixture to form dough, 5 to 8 tbsp. (Dough may be slightly dry but will hold together when you pinch it.)
  3. Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to bring the dough together in one ball. Halve dough, wrap each half in plastic wrap and press into disks. Chill 1 hr or until ready to use. May be kept refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months.
  4. To pre-bake crust, roll into a 12- to 13-inch circle and gently transfer to pie plate. Trim edges (or decorate as desired) and chill or freeze until very cold. Line cold crust with a double thickness of foil or line with parchment. Fill with pie weights or dry beans and bake at 375ºF until edges are just golden, 12 min. Remove foil or parchment and weights; bake another 10 to 12 min until cooked through. Let cool before filling.
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Recipe by Tara Bench
Photography Kate Mathis
Food Styling Sara Neumeier
Prop Styling Megan Hedgepeth

Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust

By | Baking + Desserts, Holidays + Seasons, Pies + Tarts, Thanksgiving | No Comments

Cheesecake is the new pie.
If you don’t believe it, just make this Spiced Cheesecake for Thanksgiving dessert and see who pays attention to the pie!
Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust
Just look at that impressive situation! It begged to be shot with velvet, like a fancy painting.

There’s fresh ginger in the chocolaty crust as well as in the filling. Traditional spices like ground ginger and cinnamon also lace the rich, cream cheese filling. It’s also no-fail. The crust gets pressed into the pan and that little touch of oil in the crust mixture keeps it slightly soft so it doesn’t shatter to crumbs with every bite. The filling is blended up in one bowl and poured into the crust and baked. The parchment circle on the bottom allows the cheesecake to slide right off the pan bottom onto a serving platter.

Raise both hands in the air because YOU JUST WON!

Happy baking my friends!

Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Yield: Serves 16

Calories per serving: 685

Fat per serving: 53 g

Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust


  • 12 oz (53 cookies) chocolate wafer cookies, such as Nabisco Famous
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 4 8-oz pkg cream cheese
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2½ tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
  • Chocolate curls


  1. Heat oven to 400°F with rack in the lower third. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment; set aside.
  2. In a food processor crush chocolate cookies and sugar until mixture is fine crumbs. Stir together oil, butter and grated ginger and drizzle into mixture, pulsing until combined. Press mixture into the pan so crust is about ⅜ inch thick on the bottom and all the way up the sides (you may have a little extra). Set crust aside.
  3. In a mixer beat together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and grated ginger until there are no lumps. Mix in the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing in completely and scraping sides of bowl as needed between each addition, until completely combined.
  4. Place springform pan on a foil-lined baking sheet and pour filling into crust. Bake for 20 min, then reduce heat to 200°F. Loosely cover cheesecake with greased foil and cook until center is just slightly wobbly and cake is set, about 1 hr 10 min more. Cool on a wire rack completely, then chill 4 hr or overnight.
  5. Whip cream and confectioners' sugar to firm peaks and swirl on top of cheesecake; sprinkle with chocolate curls.
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Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust
Recipe by Tara Bench
Photography by Seth Smoot
Food Styling Sara Neumeier
Prop Styling Michelle Wong
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Nov 2012,

Pumpkin Cream Pie

By | Baking + Desserts, Holidays + Seasons, Pies + Tarts, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

I don’t looooove pumpkin pie. I’m one of those. I think it’s a texture flan-and-pumpkin-pie-are-the-same-to-me kind of thing.

But I love cream pies and pumpkin. It’s rich pumpkin pudding in my favorite pie crust, classed up with shards of pepita brittle. Gorgeous!

Pumpkin Cream Pie

This pie is delicious! It might win you the pie contest this year! Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Cream Pie

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Yield: Serves 8

I gave a traditional dessert a twist by using a sweet and spicy pudding.


  • 1 single crust of Perfect Piecrust [link this] prebaked in a 9-inch pie plate
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsulfered molasses
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp confectioners' sugar


  1. In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch and half-and-half. Place over medium-high heat and stir until sugar is just dissolved, about 2 min. Whisk in egg yolks, pumpkin pie spice, salt, molasses and pumpkin purée. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly to prevent clumping, until pudding thickens and just boils, 10 to 15 min. Remove from heat. Place pan in a bowl of ice and water and stir occasionally until custard cools.
  2. Remove from ice bath, dry pan bottom and transfer custard to prepared crust. Smooth surface and cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing wrap onto surface of pudding; refrigerate 3 hr or overnight.
  3. In another heavy saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water over medium-high heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove spoon and brush inside edge of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove remaining sugar crystals, then swirl pan occasionally until sugar begins to caramelize. When caramel is medium amber in color, pour onto parchment in a thin layer and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Let cool completely and break into shards.
  4. Whip cream and confectioners' sugar until firm peaks form and spread onto chilled pie. Garnish with pumpkin-seed brittle.
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No-bake Cheesecake Tart

By | Baking + Desserts, Fruit, Holidays + Seasons, Pies + Tarts, Uncategorized | No Comments

No No No-bake!

No-bake cheesecake has got to be one of my favorite things. You get all the creaminess of cheesecake, in a fraction of the time. Also it makes people happy. Ha! Love that.

I have to admit I bake the crust for just a few minutes. The heat helps hold it together by melting the tiny bits of sugar with the butter and crumbs, giving it a tasty, toasty flavor. But this baking thing can be done while you pull out the other ingredients, whip up the filling and lick the beaters.

No-bake Cheesecake Tart




No-bake Cheesecake Tart

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 10 to 12

No-bake Cheesecake Tart

I like using graham crackers or vanilla wafers for the crust, but gingersnaps are also tasty.


  • 2 cups (8 oz) very finely crushed cookie crumbs
  • 3 tbsp plus 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 pkg (12 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries, or raspberries
  • Honey, optional


  1. Heat oven to 375ºF. For the crust, stir together cookie crumbs, 3 tbsp sugar and butter until completely combined. Press mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom and place on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until crust is fragrant and just golden, 10 to 12 min; let cool.
  2. For the filling, combine cream cheese, lemon juice and 2/3 cup sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip cream and vanilla to soft peaks, then gently stir into cream cheese mixture until completely combined. Transfer filling into cooled crust, loosely cover and chill 3 hr or up to a day.
  3. To serve, remove the tart ring and slide a spatula under tart to release it from the pan base. Transfer tart to a serving platter and scatter berries on top. Brush berries with heated honey if desired.


Make this gluten free! Just swap in gluten free shortbread cookies or animal crackers for the regular cookie crumbs. Easy!

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No-bake Cheesecake Tart


Recipe and food styling: Tara Bench
Originally appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal magazine Aug 2010
Photography: Yunhee Kim
Prop Styling: Deborah Williams