Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dutch Oven Bean and Cocoa Pie

While I was working on my upcoming book, which is all about cooking with food storage ingredients, I came across this idea of using beans as the substance for a custard pie. The thought struck me so oddly. “A bean pie? What on earth are they thinking?”

But then, I thought about the recipe that I’d heard of using mashed dark beans in brownies to lessen the oil content. My wife had made them a long time ago, and they were delicious. The “beaniness” didn’t come through, and it had a very smooth feeling on my palate.

So, why not in a pie?

I mean, really, it’s the same idea for a pumpkin pie.  You make a custard with eggs and sugar and use pumpkin puree for the texture. You just use different spices, right? So, I decided to give it a try.

But, as I was making it, I was careful not to tell my family what I was doing. If it flopped, I wanted to preserve plausible deniability!

10” Dutch oven

8-10 coals below
12-14 coals above

For the Crust, see: http://www.marksblackpot.com/2014/12/how-to-make-dutch-oven-pie-crust.html

The Filling:

2 heaping cup mashed, cooked beans

2½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2 Tbsp cocoa powder

mint leaves for garnish

I tackled this pie in three steps:  First, the beans, second, the crust, and finally, the rest of the filling.

There are a few ways you could approach the beans. One is to just bust open a couple of cans of refried beans (neutral ones, without any additional flavorings, like garlic, etc...). Another approach would be to open up a couple of cans of beans. If you do this, I would recommend using a couple of different kinds, just to make for a more complete protein.

The third approach is what I did, because, of course, I like more work. Duh. I mixed a half bag of dried black beans and a half bag of dried kidney beans into a bowl with a lot of water and let them soak overnight. Then, using the same 10” Dutch oven, and about 15 coals underneath, I simmered the beans until they were very soft (that took about a couple of hours).

In any case, once you’ve got some soft beans, you have to mash them. I tried this interesting device that looks like a saucepan with a smashing wedge on the inside attached to a crank. It didn’t work. Maybe the holes on the bottom were too small, but it just didn’t do it. So, I pulled all the beans back out, and used a potato masher. If you do this, use one with a flat surface and holes instead of one with wavy heavy wire. It will mash better. You could use a slotted spoon, too.

Or, of course, you could use a blender. But, who wants to do that? That’s too easy!

Then, I made the pie crust in the 10” Dutch oven according to the instructions on that other page, listed above. I didn’t parbake it this time, but next time I probably will.

So, at this point, I had the pie crust ready, the beans smooshed and ready, and some coals were lit and heating up. It was time to make pie!

I started by smooshing the sugar, the molasses, and the butter together, creaming them up.  If you want to, you can just use brown sugar, but I like adding my own molasses, because I can make it darker and richer if I want to. I creamed them all together until it started to get a bit fluffy, as tiny air bubbles started to incorporate into the mixture.

I added the eggs and blended that in as well as the other flavorings. Finally, I folded in the beans. Once they were folded in, I stirred it all pretty aggressively to make sure that it was all incorporated.

I poured the mix into the waiting pie crust in the 10” Dutch oven, and set it on the coals. I baked it, covered, for about 45 minutes or so. I’ve found that I don’t trust the toothpick method when testing the doneness of pies. It works OK for cakes, but there have been times when the toothpick has come up clean and it’s still runny in the middle. I look for jiggle and touch for resistance instead of toothpicking. Make sure, also, that you turn the Dutch oven and rotate the lid every 15 minutes or so of baking, so you don’t have hot spots burning parts of your pie. Also, with a long cook time like that, you’ll want to have a side fire going so you can replenish your coals as needed.

When it was all done, I took it off the coals, and let it cool with the lid off. I like to serve it right out of the Dutch, but if you’re going to lift it, make sure that it has cooled, so the crust is fully set.

I was really pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the pie. My wife said she was amazed, and my kids liked it, too. Who knew beans could be dessert?

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

Dutch Oven Pecan Date Pie

I’ve always loved pecan pie, but I’ve never made it, and I had no idea how. But then, I figured, I’d just do what I always do, that being to look up some recipes and blend the coolest ideas into one.  I also talked with my dear sister, who gave me some really good ideas as well. Her biggest idea was to add the dates. She said that it gives some substance to the custard, even though they essentially dissolve in the cooking process.

She also suggested I try the dark syrup, rather than the light.

Both ideas were spot on, and turned into the best pecan pie I think I have ever eaten.

I also learned from one big mistake: Don’t buy pecans in the shell. I like to cook from scratch as much as possible, and sometimes that leads me to do some pretty stupid things. Like staying up past 12:30 am shelling enough pecans to make a pie the night before. Not only was I exhausted, but my fingers were cramped. Don’t be like me. Buy them shelled. Your hands will thank you.

10” Dutch Oven

8-10 coals below
14-16 coals above


1 1/4 c Shortening
3 c Flour
1 Tbsp Vinegar
5 Tbsp Water
1 egg

1/2 lbs dried beans to weigh down the crust while parbaking


1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (or about half the orange)
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs
1/2-1 cup pitted and dried dates, coarsely chopped
2 cups pecan halves (1/2 pound)

For the process of making the pie crust, I’ll refer you to the previous post, at http://www.marksblackpot.com/2014/12/how-to-make-dutch-oven-pie-crust.html , to follow. I would strongly recommend doing the parbaking. I did it this time, and it made a big difference, because the crust didn’t soak up so much of the liquid of the filling. It was much more flaky.

Then, I melted the butter over the coals left after the parbaking of the crust. I added the brown sugar and I whisked it all together until it was melted and smooth. Then, I took that off the heat and added in the corn syrup, stirring as I went. I then added in the rest of the ingredients, except the eggs, the dates, and the pecan halves.

The filling mixture was still quite hot at this point, so I was nervous about dumping the eggs right in and having them curdle or scramble right away. So, I decided to temper them. I broke them into a separate bowl and whisked them to break them up and blend them smooth. Then, while whisking with one hand, I added tablespoonfuls of the mixture to the eggs with the other. The idea is to bring the temperature of the eggs up gradually, so they don’t cook right away. Finally, tablespoon after tablespoon, it felt like they were warm and I poured the whole thing back into the mix.

Then, I added the dates and the pecans.

Finally, all of that was poured into the crust that was still in the 10” Dutch oven.

I put the lid on, and set it on fresh coals, as indicated above, and baked it for about an hour, or until it was clear that the filling was set to the center.  I let it cool. completely.

This time, I chose to serve it from the Dutch, rather than try to lift it out. The crust, however, was quite durable and probably would have easily survived the lift. The whole pie was incredible, especially with whipped topping! My sister was definitely right about the dates.

More pies to come!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Make a Dutch Oven Pie Crust

I’m not a big pie baker.  Not because I don’t like them, of course, but because it takes a lot of work to really do it right, and I’m still learning all of that process. Still, I love the results! I’ve made apple pies, pumpkin pies, and, most recently, a pecan pie.

One thing I’ve noticed, as I’m baking, is that the crust is pretty much the same process in each pie I bake. So, I’m thinking I should write that process out in it’s own blog entry, and then I can reference it in all of my pie recipes.

I used to make my pies in my 12” Dutch oven, but over time, I discovered that the 10” is better. The 12” is usually too much pie, and some ends up being spoiled. So, 10” from now on.

Also, some people will bake their pies in pie tins, set inside a Dutch oven. That does make it easier to craft, and easier to lift out.  However, current IDOS cookoff rules prohibit using any internal cooking devices like pans or trivets inside the Dutch ovens. Plus, I really like just baking right in the Dutch oven.  I also like to serve it right from the Dutch, too, so I’m not required to lift it out whole and complete. If you want to do that, it’s not tough if you do the right trick.

But first, let’s make the crust!

10” Dutch Oven

8-10 coals below
14-16 coals above

1 1/4 c Shortening
3 c Flour
1 Tbsp Vinegar
5 Tbsp Water (chilled in ice)
1 egg

I start simply by adding all of the ingredients into a large bowl. You can use butter or margarine, I’m told, instead of shortening, but those had other liquids in them, and they can make for less flaky crusts. I’ve always used All Purpose flour, because that’s what I’ve always had on hand. You can use pastry flour if you want. It will have less protein, and so, less gluten.

I use a pastry cutter to mix the ingredients together. Blend them all, but don’t knead, since you don’t want to build any gluten in the flour. Also, working it less with my hands keeps it cool, so the fats don’t melt.

Once it’s mixed, I put it between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper and begin rolling. At this point, I’m not preparing it for the oven, but rather creating layers, so it can be rolled out quite thick.  I dust it with just a little flour, and fold it in half, and then in quarters. Then, I roll it out again. A little more flour, a folding, and another rolling. I do that process 3-4 times, creating layers in the stack.  Then, I leave it in a clump, wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge to chill for a half hour or so.

In the meantime, I prepare the Dutch oven. I’ll spray it with oil, lightly.  Then, if I want to lift the pie out of the Dutch oven when it’s done, I’ll prepare the lifting mechanism. I’ll cut two big squares of parchment. I fold these into two long strips, and lay them across the bottom of the Dutch oven, folded up the sides, and over the edges. Then I cut a circle of parchment (you can use the lid as a template, and cut it just a little smaller) and lay that in the dutch oven, over the crossed strips of folded parchment.  It should look like this:

Then, it’s time to roll out the dough. I take it out of the fridge, and break off about 2/3 of it. I put it in between parchment or waxed paper sheets. I roll it out pretty thin, and cut it just smaller than the Dutch oven lid. I carefully lift the circle and the lower paper sheet and lightly fold it in half, with the paper on the inside. I set this down into the Dutch oven, then unfold the other half. Finally, I peel off the paper. It’s tricky to position the dough after it’s placed, so it’s good to be careful as it’s going in.

Then, I take all of the leftover around the circle, and the extra that I broke away earlier, and I roll that out, in a long rectangle. I cut that into strips, about an inch to an inch and a quarter wide, and about a foot long.

Each of these strips are lifted up and placed around the inside side of the dutch oven. I press them together and also press into the “corner” where the bottom of the Dutch oven rises up into the wall. Presto! The crust is in place. Then, take a fork and poke holes in the bottom and the sides, to vent the steam.

In most cases, it’s now ready for the filling! Make the pie happen! (One tip I heard when making fruit pies is to spread softened butter over the interior of the pie to keep the crust from soaking up much of the liquid in the filling.)

If my pie has a top crust, I’ll roll out another amount of dough and cut another circle about the size of the lid. using the same technique I lift it onto the filling and position it, unfolding it, onto the top of the pie. I’ll pinch the sides and the top crust together in a decorative way and cut stylish vent holes in the top (usually 3-4) so the steam can release and keep the crust from tenting.

Then, I’ll brush the top of the crust with a little milk and sprinkle some more sugar over the surface. This helps make a nice sweet glaze.

Now, in certain circumstances, it’s a good idea to parbake the bottom crust (also known as “prebaking” or “blind baking”). If you’re doing some kind of custard pie, or a particularly wet fruit pie, or if the filling itself will not be baked (like a cream or mousse pie). This will help set the flakiness and crispness of the crust before the wet ingredients are baked. I can’t think of a pie that might use a prebaked base with a top crust.

Light some coals (probably just before you start rolling out the dough), and let them get white-edged.  Pour some dried beans into the bottom of the crust, spreading them up the sides as well. This will help hold the crust down and prevent bubbling. Put the Dutch oven out on the coals, as listed above and let it bake. Now, in a conventional kitchen, in a preheated oven, a prebake will typically take about 10 minutes. In a Dutch oven, you have to heat up the iron, so a partial bake should be about 20-25 minutes. If it’s a cream pie, or something that won’t be baked, I’ll fully bake it, about 30-35 minutes, until the sides are brown.

When it’s done, I take it off the coals and let it cool some. When I can handle it, I’ll scoop out the beans with a spoon, or my fingers, and then let it cool just a little more.

At that point, the bottom crust is ready for pie!

Then, when the pie is all filled, baked, and cooled, you can lift the pie out of the Dutch oven using the strips of parchment. It usually works best if there are two lifters, each person lifting two ends, but I've done it successfully by myself.

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.


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