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What's Cooking? - Posted November 24, 2017 10:11 a.m.
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Photos by Shannon Richardson

Sweet Traditions

Traditions, by definition, ought to stay the same from year to year. From the arrangement of the stockings to the ingredients in Aunt Martha’s dressing, there are times when change is simply unnecessary. But dessert is a little more flexible. As long as a few of the old standbys are available after the Christmas meal – pecan pie, pumpkin pie, maybe apple pie –most family members are willing to try something new.

We asked Dianna Donathan, owner of the wonderful The Windy Cow Cafe and Dessert Bar in Wildorado, to suggest a few “next-level” Christmas desserts. A few recipes, like her pumpkin pie with a crunchy gingersnap crust or pumpkin swirl cheesecake, add a fresh twist to familiar tastes. Others, like her eggnog pie and cool, chocolaty peppermint pie, introduce a lighter dessert that pairs well with an otherwise heavy, rich holiday meal.

In other words, enjoy the turkey and trimmings. But be sure to save room for dessert.


Pecan Pie
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups corn syrup
4 eggs
¼ cup unsalted butter
Unbaked pie shell

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix ingredients together and pour into pie shell. Bake on hot cookie sheet until filling is set, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Makes 1 (10-inch) pie


Holiday Eggnog Pie
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups eggnog
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 (9-inch) prepared, unbaked pie crust

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar and flour together in mixing bowl. Beat in eggnog, eggs and vanilla to make smooth mixture. Stir in butter. Pour into prepared pie crust and decorate with extra crust leaves, if desired. Bake on hot cookie sheet until custard is set, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool before serving.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


Pear and Cranberry Slab Pie
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
½ cup ice water
4 firm Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¾-inch wedges
1 ½ cups frozen cranberries
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup old-fashion oats
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup cold butter

In food processor combine 2 ½ cups flour with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle ice water over mixture and pulse in 1-second bursts until dough just comes together. Turn dough onto work surface, gather any crumbs, and pat into 2 squares – use one square now and reserve the second square for another pie. Wrap squares in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. On floured work surface, roll out 1 piece dough to 12-inch square. Slide dough onto large sheet of parchment paper, then slide onto baking sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes. In large bowl toss pears with cranberries, ginger, ½ teaspoon salt and remaining sugar and flour. Spread fruit evenly on dough square on baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch border. Make crumble: combine brown sugar, oats and flour in bowl. Work butter in with pastry cutter. Sprinkle over pie. Bake pie for 50 minutes, until golden and pears are tender; rotate halfway through baking. Let cool. Cut pie into squares and serve.

Makes 1 slab pie


Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie

Crust:
12 ounces gingersnap cookies (approximately 45 to 50)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Pumpkin custard filling:
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make crust: In food processor pulse together gingersnap cookies and brown sugar until coarse crumbs form. Add ginger and cinnamon and pulse once or twice to combine. Pour in melted butter and pulse until combined. Spoon crumbs into ungreased, 9-inch pie pan, or 2 (7 ½-inch) tart pans (with removable bottoms). Use fingers to gently divide mixture into even layer on bottom and sides of pan. Follow with flat bottom of measuring cup or glass to firmly pack crust into pan. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make custard. Heat pumpkin, sugars, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and spices in large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until mixture begins to sputter. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until smooth and glossy. Remove from heat and slowly stir in condensed milk, whisking until completely combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, whisking until completely combined after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour filling into pie shell. Bake on hot cookie sheet for 30 minutes, until edges of filling are just starting to set. Turn oven down to 325 degrees, and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes, until filling is mostly set (center will be slightly jiggly). Cover crust only with aluminum foil or pie crust shield, if crust begins to brown too quickly. Filling may bubble and puff up slightly as it cooks. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 to 3 hours until completely set. Pie filling will continue cooking from residual heat. Garnish with crust leaves or whipped cream and serve. Will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


Peppermint Pie
8 ounces soft peppermint candy, crushed (weigh and then crush)
½ cup whipping cream, plus 1 ½ cups whipping cream, whipped
¼ cup cold water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 prepared chocolate cookie crust

Soften gelatin in water; set aside. Pour ½ cup whipping cream in small saucepan with candy and cook over low heat until candy melts. Add gelatin; mix well. Let cool and fold in whipped cream. Pour into crust. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with additional candy and whipped cream.

Makes 1 (8-inch) pie


Apple Pie
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
Prepared pie crust, plus prepared top crust

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine first seven ingredients; toss to coat. Fill prepared crust with apple mixture, cover with second sheet of dough, and crimp edges together. Cut slits in top of dough to allow steam to escape. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake on hot cookie sheet for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (do not remove pie from oven), and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Makes 1 (10-inch) pie


Chocolate Cream Pie
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Prepared pie crust
Chocolate sprinkles or curls
Whipped cream

Place ingredients into stainless steel pot; whisk well. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches full boil. Boil 1 minute and remove from heat. Let cool and fill pie crust of your choice. Garnish with chocolate sprinkles or curls and whipped cream.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
25 gingersnap cookies, finely crushed
½ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix gingersnap crumbs, pecans and butter; press firmly onto bottom and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Beat cream cheese, ¾ cup sugar, and vanilla with mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition, just until blended. Remove 1 ½ cups batter; place in small bowl. Stir remaining sugar, pumpkin and spices into remaining batter. Spoon half of pumpkin batter into springform pan, top with spoonfuls of half of reserved batter. Repeat layers. Cut through batters with knife to achieve marble effect. Bake 55 minutes, or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with whipped cream. Cut into 16 slices and serve.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cheesecake

Meet the Cook: Dianna Donathan of Windy Cow Cafe and Dessert Bar


For years, Wildorado residents and travelers along I-40 would enter Jesse’s Cafe for its down-home cooking and wonderful pies. Dianna Donathan’s first job was working as a waitress at Jesse’s. Her grandmother, a local chicken farmer, even provided eggs to the iconic restaurant. But eventually the owners sold the business, and the building that once housed Jesse’s saw a lengthy string of unsuccessful ventures in its wake. For a time, even the upscale Randy’s of Wildorado even occupied the building.

A few years ago, Donathan learned the old roadside cafe was headed for the auction block. “It was just sitting there,” she says. “I hated to see that happen.”

By that time, Donathan had raised three daughters and was passionate about cooking and baking from scratch. Several years earlier, she had co-owned a coffee shop in Wimberley, Texas, where she baked and sold cinnamon rolls, muffins, puff pastries, and more. Her husband, Kenny – who works as a construction manager in the wind and solar industries – had entered a season that often took him away from home. Their daughters were grown.

Donathan decided the time was right to resurrect the old cafe.

Naming the new venture The Windy Cow Cafe and Dessert Bar after the turbines and feedlots that dominated the Wildorado landscape – “one of my granddaughters came up with it,” she says – Donathan opened nearly three years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She maintains a steady clientele of local farmers, ranchers, utility and wind-farm workers, and hungry tourists traveling I-40.

All are drawn to what Donathan describes as a simple recipe for success: “What has kept us going, by far, is the good food,” she says. From the coleslaw and pinto beans to the old-fashioned cherry pies she bakes, everything at Windy Cow is made from scratch. She uses fresh squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and jalapeños grown in a garden. She serves hand-pressed, charbroiled hamburgers on locally made Snowhite buns. She hand-cuts fries and prepares two kinds of tartar sauce to accompany her hand-breaded catfish. And she’s picky about presentation. “It takes effort to make sure everything is consistent, because it’s not something we pull out of a bag or out of the freezer,” she says.

This month, she’s busy not only serving at the cafe, but baking for customers who order entire pies for their home holiday meals. “We have a standard dessert menu here, but I will pretty much make anything,” she says, from favorites like pecan and pumpkin pie to special requests. “If you want a rhubarb pie, I can make it. I have one lady who ordered 13 different desserts for Thanksgiving because everyone at her table had their own favorites,” she says. Donathan will take orders through Dec. 20.

Her own family traditions are, well, traditional. “My dad raised cattle, so we had beef all the time except for holidays. Then it was chicken and turkey,” she says. Her father, Lavern Schenk, is 88 and still makes homemade bread and helps prepare the turkey. Good food runs in the family.

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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