OK, so what are they? According to Wikipedia, a bean pie is a "sweet custard pie whose filling consists of mashed beans—usually navy beans—sugar, butter, milk, and spices." But beyond that, where do these pies come from? While the bean pies are associated with soul food cuisine, a very interesting wrinkle is that they are also associated with the Nation of Islam movement: its leader, Elijah Muhammad, encouraged their consumption in lieu of richer foods associated with African American cuisine, and the followers of his community commonly sell bean pies as part of their fund-raising efforts. And as trybeanpie.com says,
"The Navy Bean Pie is a nearly century old recipe that originated in the Holy
City of Mecca.
The Bean Pie was introduced in America around 1930 in the community known as Black Bottom Detroit, the Black community. It was originally formulated as a healthy alternative for sweet potato pie."
First we tried the "Original" bean pie. The texture was on par with that of a pumpkin pie, slightly custardy and not overly sweet; surprisingly, the beans did not lend any grittiness to the chewing process--had we not known that these were bean pies, we might not have known what they were (but of course, that would not have stopped us from continuing to eat it). We ate ours plain, but bet it would attain a few degrees of additional deliciousness if paired with vanilla ice cream or a thick layer of whipped cream.
No doubt about it, it was a dark Monday this week, what with the financial crisis and all-time stock market lows. Needing a bit of reprieve, we took to the road to clear our minds and get some sweet relief by way of sugary carbohydrates. Heading a mere 45 minutes out of Seattle, it was if we'd escaped these urban worries: with a pastoral backdrop including ponies, cows, farms and mountains, we set to tasting some delicious baked goods. Without consciously seeking it out, we ended up gravitating toward doughnuts on most of the trip. But in retrospect, doesn't it make sense? After all, when you split it in half, sharing a doughnut is like sharing a smile. Here's a recap of our adventure:
Luckily for us, before we pulled away we spied the word "PANADERIA" across the street; while we don't speak Spanish, we know that this vital word means deliciousness awaits. Though it was a dimly lit grocery filled will all sorts of Mexican groceries and sundries, they had a surprisingly full case of Conchas, pan dulce, and other hispanic specialties. The concha, while perhaps not the best we've ever tasted, certainly did soften the blow of our first stop being closed. La Talpita, 118 W. Main St, Monroe, WA.
At this point, if you'll allow, we'd like to give a shout-out to one place for savory fare, just because its very presence astounds us: Old School BBQ, a roadside barbecue joint housed in an old school bus. As if that wasn't cool enough? It's right next to the Reptile Museum (at which, in case you were wondering, you can get espresso too). If that doesn't sound like a recipe for complete awesomeness, we don't know what does. Read about one foodie's experience at Old School BBQ here. We couldn't find the address or phone number, so we'll include the contact info for the Reptile Museum: 22715 State Route 2, Monroe, WA - (360) 805-5300.
Today we received a sweet and completely unexpected gift in the mail from our favorite domestic goddess, Bakerella: mouthwatering red velvet cake truffles...decorated to look like our own Cakespy mascot, L'il Cuppie! Seems that Mlle. Bakerella must have enjoyed her Iron Cupcake prize, a custom piece depicting her exciting segment a few months ago on the Martha Stewart Show:
Of course you also might like to see her sweet review of our friendship and the project here!
But what happens when apples are scarce or prohibitively expensive, as during the rations of World War II?
You do another all-American thing: find a quick fix! During those war years, that fix was making a mock "apple" pie filled with a slurry of (inexpensive) Ritz crackers, sugar syrup and lemon rind. Ready to throw up in your mouth a little? Well, hold it in, because while not as good as "real" apple pie, it's strangely passable if you close your eyes and think really hard about apples while chewing.
And when we made this pie recently, we decided to go a little further on the mock concept. In celebration of what seems to be a New England-centered (or does it perhaps root from the Midwest?) preference for eating pie with a wedge of sharp cheddar, we made our mock pie using cheese-sandwich Ritz crackers. Here's a shot of it in progress (before adding the sugar syrup and top crust):
Ritz Mock Apple Pie (from backofthebox.com)
The classic pie, featuring Ritz crackers baked in a golden crust,
is perfect for the holidays.
Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie
36 RITZ Crackers, coarsely broken (about 1 3/4 cups crumbs) --we used the mini cheese-filled sandwich crackers
1 3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Place
cracker crumbs in prepared crust; set aside.
2. Heat water, sugar and cream of tartar to a boil in saucepan
over high heat; simmer for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and peel;
3. Pour syrup over cracker crumbs. Dot with margarine or butter;
sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out remaining pastry; place over pie.
Trim, seal and flute edges. Slit top crust to allow steam to escape.
4. Bake at 425 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is crisp
and golden. Cool completely.
Makes 10 servings
Preparation Time: 45 mins.
Cook Time: 30 mins.
Cooling Time: 3 hrs.
Total Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.
It's never too early to get started--get your Christmas greeting cards at cakespyshop.com!
Where in the world is the closest bakery? Contribute by adding your favorites to the Cakespy Bakery Map on Google! We're slowly but surely updating it with places we've visited. If we did this right (fingers crossed) anyone can contribute!
Wanna be the big cheese? Deck yourself out with the cheesecake head.
"Cupcakes" a more popular search term than "financial crisis"...maybe that's what got us into this mess?
A reason to go vegan: PETA urges Ben & Jerry's to use human milk.
Sandwich Cookie Smackdown: Not Martha does a taste test with Oreos, Hydrox and Newman-O's.
Recently, a website called Very Good Taste started something of an internet fire with a list called "The Omnivore's Hundred", which listed 100 foods which "every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life." We liked the idea, and inspired by the vegan variation on Hannah Kaminsky's site, we thought--why not make our own Sweet 100!? Like the original, our list includes "fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food"--but in our universe, it's all sweet! (In case any of them are foreign to you, links to pictures and recipes are included; also, for any vegans, feel free to go through the list assuming it's a vegan counterpart). How many have you tried? If you'd like, feel free to follow the same guidelines:
At Cakespy, we're constantly impressed with the leaps and bounds being made in the world of vegan baking. What was once a category of brick-dense, vaguely healthy-tasting fare has really come a long way, what with groundbreaking cookbooks and recipes by the likes of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Hannah Kaminsky, and inspiring sites like Have Cake Will Travel, Veggie Girl and Walking the Vegan Line. Whether going dairy-free for ethical or health reasons (or both), there's a stunning array of baked goods out there which will satisfy nonvegan appetites as well. And for residents of San Francisco, there's a huge reason to get excited about vegan baked goods: Melissa Elliott, who many of you know as Melisser from her blog, The Urban Housewife, has started a wholesale (check out retail locations here) and special order baking business called Sugar Beat Sweets, which focuses on providing locally sourced, organic, vegan baked goods. Swoon. Here's what she has to say about the new business:
Cakespy: First off, we hear that some refer to you as "San Francisco's Sexiest Vegan". (OK, by "some" we mean ourselves, though we, like, know everyone else is thinking it too). What is your response to this?
Sugar Beat Sweets: Ooh geez, well.. thank you? I can think of some damn sexy vegans out there (Morrissey, Joaquin Phoenix, Chrissie Hynde, my husband!), so I'm honored to even be considered in the ranks.
CS: You've been active in the food community through your blog, The Urban Housewife for a while now--what made you want to take the step toward opening your own retail/wholesale business?
SBS: It's no secret, I love to bake. I've always taken pleasure in baking for others & I found myself disillusioned with my career, daydreaming about being in a kitchen instead. I started making custom cakes for people & a local cafe while I weighed my options, then decided to go for it. Additionally, I wasn't happy with the lack of vegan dessert options in San Francisco. I wanted to give local vegans more choices & show people in general that vegan baked goods can be high quality, artisan treats that anyone can enjoy.
CS: How has running a commercial bakery as opposed to baking from your own kitchen changed your attitude toward baking?
SBS: I'm not sure my attitude towards baking has changed. I still want to produce desserts that you'd never know were vegan with a focus on high quality, organic, & local ingredients. I just have to approach things a bit differently, as I'm now working in large scale with the recipes I've developed & I don't get to eat the results!
CS: It looks like you're primarily offering cupcakes and cakes for the moment. Do you or will you be offering any other choices?
SBS: I'm considering expanding my offerings in the future. For festivals & events, I'll have whoopie pies & other goodies, but the main focus is cupcakes & cakes right now.
CS: In our experience, a lot of non-vegans approach vegan baked goods warily, or with the attitude that they won't like them because they're "different". Do you have any response to this?
SBS: There's definitely a stigma attached to vegan baked goods. People seem to think it's going to taste "healthy", be dry & flavorless, or have tofu & sprouts hidden in it. While the vegan baked goods of 10+ years ago may have left a bit to be desired, now there's plenty of sweets & treats that taste just like their dairy counterparts, but without the use of animal products! We've come a long way, baby! Just look at "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, I know a lot of non- vegans who own & love the book. I see a lot of cupcake blogs singing its praises.
CS: On your site, your cakes are listed as being frosted with "buttercream". But it's all vegan--what is vegan buttercream?
SBS: Well, "butter-substitute-cream" doesn't sound so hot! I use a soybean oil based butter substitute that functions just like butter, so you have the same fluffy frosting that everyone else is making, without the cholesterol!
CS: Are there any developments or products you'd love to see in the world of vegan baking?
SBS: Easy to make marshmallows, meringue, & angel food cake would be nice. That being said, the vegan world has made leaps & bounds, especially in recent years, so I don't feel deprived in any way, shape, or form. There's amazing, motivated vegan chefs & foodies who are working to develop vegan versions of just about any treat you can think of, so I have faith that we'll have all those things shortly. In fact, I know of a few people on the verge of all three of those things!
CS: What sites, books, restaurants/cafes or people keep you inspired?
SBS: I read a lot of vegan blogs, there's so many great ones out there, people are really working to get veganism to the masses & they're making mouthwatering food, so it's always inspiring. I browse Flickr a bit & the typical cupcake compilation sites to see what's new & hot in the baking world. Cakespy is on my blog feed & is always teaching me about new pastries! (Cakespy Note: We did not bribe Melisser in any way to say that. Like, seriously.) I love Bake & Destroy, of course! Natalie is a dreamboat & her hoodie is in my daily wardrobe. Restaurants using local produce, organic ingredients, & vegan fine dining spots inspire me, like Millennium in San Francisco & Candle 79 in New York City. Basically, people who are passionate about what they are doing, especially those who are doing what's best for the animals & the world!
CS: You're based in San Francisco, and you know how we're interested in regional specialties. What are some of the best in your area--i.e, the things you can only find there, or that you miss when you're away?
SBS: Sourdough bread! I love a good loaf of freshly baked bread with a crusty exterior & tender center. In all my travels, I buy the local bread & I'm always wishing I was eating San Francisco Sourdough instead!
CS: What's next?
SBS: Well, one never knows, but my current plan is to keep blogging at theUrbanHousewife.com, churning out Sugar Beat Sweets artisan cupcakes & cakes for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area, & maybe doing some more video segments, like the one I did for Everyday Dish! I feel very blessed to have a fun & ever changing life, so I'm willing to see where it takes me!
Or, find them at these retail locations:
Rainbow Grocery- 1745 Folsom @ 14th Street / Other Avenues- 3930 Judah Street @ 44th Avenue / Real Food Co.- 2140 Polk @ Broadway / Urban Bread- 3901 18th St @ Sanchez / Mojo Bicycle Cafe- 639-A Divisadero St @ Hayes / Harvest Urban Market- 191 8th St @ Howard
Even if you're not in the area, enjoy the photos here and keep up with Melisser's adventures via theurbanhousewife.com!