Baking in Jars

peanut butter jar pie

Being a pastry chef and working in a tight, efficient kitchen of a very busy restaurant means I must possess Ina Garten-esque organizational skills, nurture a sophisticated palate that runs the gamut between savory and sweet and, most importantly, be a neat freak. Not your run-of-the-mill-dust-around-the-mixer type, but an obsessed clean-as-you-go neat freak. Once my kitchen is clean, I’m prepared for culinary combat with my savory buddies (chefs) in my quest for absolute freshness and artistic composition.

For years, I’ve battled with storage issues of the culinary kind. Often sharing space in the walk-in cooler with steaming trays of shrimp, my savory counterparts show no mercy when I rant about how the meringue on my pies will taste of garlic and the chocolate whipped cream will have a smoky flavor due to cooling hunks of smoked pork products.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Then an aha moment occurred. Why not serve my yummy pies in jars? Number one, they would be way too cute and number two, they’d be covered and protected from all the delicious yet unwelcome flavors and aromas floating around. I’m not talking pies squished into a jar, but actually constructed in jars.

Here’s what I do:

- I start off by making pie dough, but instead of lining a pie pan, I bake the dough on a sheet pan until it's golden brown, allow it to cool, then break it up into large pieces.

- Next, I decide on the filling. Will it be tart lemon curd, fudgy chocolate cream or coconut custard? Once that decision is made, I hit the ground running.

- The jar decision comes next. Use whatever you like, just make sure you have jar lids. You can do mini 4 oz. jars or 6-8 oz. jars. It's totally up to you. I collect antique jars and am especially fond of old ball jars.

- What kind of topping? Marshmallow cream, whipped cream and Italian meringue are just a few of my faves. I love pairing peanut butter filling with fluffy marshmallow cream and then layering it with chunks of toffee pieces and peanut brittle. Yum.

- Streusel? It's not a necessity, but if you want to add another pie-like element, it’s the bomb. Choose a recipe that you love and bake it on a lined sheet pan. Cool and crumble it over an apple compote filling.

- Last step? Remember to have fun and be creative.

Pie in a jar is a great alternative to an ordinary pie and never needs to be sliced. You can’t ever go wrong with portable food.

Hedy Goldsmith, a 2012 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is the executive pastry chef for the Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants including Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman, and Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami. Now in her third season of Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets , Hedy has appeared on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and lauded in The New York Times , People , Wine Spectator , Bon Appétit , The Huffington Post and Food & Wine magazine. Hedy’s first cookbook, Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors (Clarkson Potter / Publishers), will be released October 2.

Photo courtesy of The Genuine Hospitality Group

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