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Currant Pie Wins!

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You may remember that I wrote that I would try the red currants I grew in two recipes. Here’s the tart fruit on the plant. The fruit grows as multiple currants on a tiny stem.

I made two recipes, Currant Pie from an old-fashioned cookbook, and Red Currant Muffins from a muffins cookbook. We had a taste testing—and the pie won, 3 to 1! One taster said of the muffins, “Wonderful, moist, packed with flavor.” Several tasted the muffins first, then the pie, and commented that, "The muffins were good...but, oh, the pie!”

The currants do have a tiny seed, and some folks thought it was less noticeable with the chewy pie crust.  So, here’s the scoop on both recipes.

The tasting going on--both of these photos taken by Debra Dobbins of The Daily Sentinel:

              Vickie Pletcher enjoying the muffins!

                                    Which to try first?


The pie—
It isn’t a standard pie. I used an alternative crust; then the fruit is combined with egg, flour and sugar for the filling. The crust and fruit are baked. Lastly, the pie is topped with meringue. 

The filling is rich, the crust textured and chewy. Although the pie is sweet, there’s a good measure of the currant’s flavor and tartness. The thin light merinque tops it off. I am delighted with it!

The muffins—
The muffins were moist and flavorful. Very light and delicate. A bit tart. Change the flavor by serving it sliced in a bowl, while still warm, with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Or serve sliced over a bowl of plain yogurt.

If you like, you may substitute blueberries (and perhaps use less sugar ) and have a similar muffin when no currants are available.

Recipes ;

Currant Pie

 Alternative Crust - from Shelly at Culinary Corner, and she credits the Crossroads Health Club Newsletter for the recipe. It has no shortening in it.

   1 cup oatmeal
   ¼ cup whole wheat flour
   ¼ cup almond flour in original recipe. I substituted 2 Tablespoons oat flour and 2 Tablesp. rice flour
   2 Tablesp. brown sugar
   3 Tablesp. canola oil (I used safflower)
   1 Tablesp. water

Mix together – treat like graham cracker crust, press into pie pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes for shell, which is what I did. (For cream pies bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until brown.)


Currant Pie (the filling) – I started with the recipe from The Settlement Cook Book, Treasured Recipes of Six Decades, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1965, pp. 326 -327     (The book a gift from Janice Strong over two decades ago!!)
I changed quantities and cut back on the sugar. Here’s what I used:

   2 ¼ cup fresh, ripe currants
   1 ¾ cup sugar
   ½ cup unbleached flour
   2 Tables. water
   3 egg yolks

Mix currants with sugar and flour, add water and the slightly beaten egg yolks. Pour into a 9 inch pie pan lined with the above Alternative Crust. Bake at 350 degrees until filling is set, about 45 minutes or so. While pie is still warm, top with Merinque Topping

Merinque Topping - same cookbook, p. 325, which I modified slightly as follows
   2 egg whites, at room temperature
   ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
   3 ½ Tablespoons sugar

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until frothy with hand mixer. Beat sugar in gradually, a little at a time. Continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy, and sugar is dissolved. The egg whites should hold a soft to moderate peak. Spread the merinque over the pie. Use fork tongs to lift the merinque to many tiny peaks (the peaks brown first and give the pie a pretty look). Bake at 400 degrees just for a few minutes until the peaks are lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it as it browns quickly.


Red Currant Muffins – from Muffins by Francesca DiPaolo, Adams Media Corp., 2000, p. 91, modified

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter as directed below and let it cool. Place the eggs still in the shell in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature. If you keep your whole grain flour in the refrigerator or freezer, measure it and place in mixing bowl to allow it to come to room temperature.

Prepare the pan by spreading a layer of oil (I used safflower) over each muffin tin. Using a plastic glass with about the same diameter as a muffin indentation, draw 12 circles using the glass as a guide on wax paper (I use the blade of scissors to score the paper as I draw around the glass). Cut out circles and place one in each muffin indentation (they don’t have to fit exactly).

In a medium bowl blend well:
   2 large or 3 medium eggs
   ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
   1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (or 1 ½ teas. Store bought)
   ¼ cup milk

In a large bowl whisk together:
   ½ cup whole wheat flour
   1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unbleached flour
   2 Tablespoons oat flour
   ½ cup sugar
   2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
   ½ teaspoon baking soda
   1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon

Other ingredients:
   1 ½ cup fresh red currants
   ½ cup fresh currants, mashed with a fork
   Additional 1 – 2 Tablesp. sugar

Combine the first two mixtures just enough to blend. Fold in the currants (whole and mashed ones). Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tin. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the muffins by going around them first with a table knife. Cool on a wire rack. Remove waxed paper from bottoms. Enjoy warm or cooled.  Store covered if not used in a few hours.

Delicious just as they are. May be served over a bowl of plain yogurt for breakfast or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.


One last currant tip – Annie from Hotchkiss tells me she freezes them on a cookie sheet, then puts them in ziplock bags. She adds a handful to pie cherries when making cherry pies for an additional tart flavor treat.


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