cherry pie: gluten-free with flakey, butter crust


cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via

When we made plans to visit our friends for dinner the other night, I wanted to bring something special that I knew they would enjoy. I remember them mentioning how much they love cherry pie. I also knew that for the last couple of years, my friends’ husband has been avoiding all gluten products, as a health-conscious choice.

I can totally understand and respect the need and even the desire to avoid certain ingredients, and decided to give myself a baking-challenge: bake a totally gluten-free pie, with from-scratch crust. It’s what I did and as promised, if it worked out really nicely, I would share the recipe.

First, I’ll share my gluten-free pie crust recipe, that can be used for any and every pie you make.  From there, I’ll share my recipe for my from-scratch cherry pie filling, that I’ve been making for my family and friends to enjoy, for the last 10 years or so.

gluten-free and all-butter pie crust. Recipe via


Mili’s Sweets Gluten-Free Pie Crust Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 and 1/2 cups gluten-free, all purpose flour (I used Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend, all purpose, gluten-free flour)

2 sticks salted butter (1 cup, cold)

1/3, plus 2 tablespoons cold water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Tools: pie tin, pastry cutter, parchment paper or silpat mat, bowl, standing mixer, rolling pin

for egg wash (optional): 1 egg white, whisked and applied with a kitchen-safe brush


gluten-free and all-butter pie crust. Recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do:

Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Place the butter in the bowl and and use your pastry cutter to push into the butter, cutting it into small, pea-sized pieces.

Place this mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer, and place the standard paddle attachment. Add the water and mix at medium speed until the dough completely lifts from the bowl.

Use your hands to form the dough into a ball.

gluten-free and all-butter pie crust. Recipe via

Place the dough onto a silpat mat or parchment paper that has been dusted with the gluten-free flour.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough flat, until it’s smooth and about 1/4″ high.

Using the mat or paper, invert the rolled-out dough into your pie pan.

The dough is very similar to shortbread so it’s elastic and super easy to work with. You can fill in any spaces or mistakes with your hands and like magic, it comes together beautifully.

Once your pie pan is prepared with the dough, set it aside. Form another ball with the remaining scraps of dough and re-roll out the rest, that will be used for the top of your pie.

If you like to use an egg wash, for a golden-brown finish to the crust, simply take one egg white and whisk it in a small bowl. Use a kitchen safe brush to apply it onto the inside and all around the crust. It would be best if you do this just before pouring in the prepared pie filling.

Now it’s time to prepare the cherry pie filling. This is so delicious and is definitely amazing in other desserts besides pies. For example, it is over-the-top served with vanilla bean ice cream, used as a filling for cupcakes or as a topping for cheesecake. The list goes on and on. . . (I hope you really enjoy this and tell me if you do make this pie.  This recipe, like all of my recipes that I share with you on my blog, is a personal  treasure.)

Mili’s Sweets Cherry Pie Filling Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

6-7 cups (or about three, 12oz. bags) of dark, sweet pitted cherries.

1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons all purpose flour (When making gluten-free pie, I substitute with Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons salted butter (added after pie has been filled)

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via


Here’s what you’ll do:

Please note that you can find dark, sweet, pitted cherries in the frozen fruit section of your local grocery store. There are also organic varieties. If you have the tools and the time and can pit the many fresh cherries needed for a single pie, then I am amazed! I love the fresh-frozen option and you’ll find that there are better brands than others. I honestly do not want to pit fresh cherries, in fear that I might leave a pit or two in a pie.

Over medium heat, place all of the ingredients (except for the butter) into a large saucepan, including: 6-7 cups of cherries, sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt and water.

Stir to dissolve the sugar. More water will created in the pan as the cherries start to cook. I typically use my wooden spoon to do all of the mixing for fruit pies. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once you see small bubbles forming around the edge of the pan, it’s time to continue stirring. From start to finish, it will take a total of 30 minutes to cook the cherries down to a nice thickness, perfect for pie filling.

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via


Once it’s done, pour the hot prepared filling into the prepared pie crust. Now is the time that you’ll add the two tablespoons of butter. Make little pats and place the pieces all around the top.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Next, you’ll cover the pie with the remaining dough. You’ll notice that the dough is delicate, compared to dough that uses shortening. It will make it a little more challenging to lift strips for a lattice. You should have enough remaining dough to either cover the top completely, or to make a lattice.

Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash and if you wish, sprinkle the top of the entire pie with granulated sugar.

I placed the pie in a cookie sheet, in case some filling decided to seep out during baking (which usually happens). It helps to keep the oven clean.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool before serving.

Some people (like my husband) prefer a cold pie. If that’s what you like too, then cover with plastic wrap and serve when you are ready. Vanilla bean ice cream makes the perfect pair with this dessert. I prefer to eat pie without any sides.


cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via

I topped the pie with a fake-lattice design, by simply leaving the top strands at the top, without weaving them over and under the bottom pieces. No one noticed, but of course I did. After tasting the pie, I didn’t care either. The crust is light, flakey and absolutely divine. It takes the pie to a whole other level. No one would even care or notice that it’s gluten-free. It’s that good!


Gayle Chase - July 21, 2014 - 6:30 am

You have wonderful pastries. - July 21, 2014 - 8:06 am

Thank you Gayle! xox

plum dahlia and lilies

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via

I was honored when Alyssa and Sopek (family) asked me to cater and set the dessert table for their spring wedding. They wanted to keep it simple and weren’t sure about having a cake so I made it happen for them as a gift.

I love working with fresh flowers when decorating cakes and I was so happy to use plum dahlia and lillies for the first time. They were so beautiful and stunning against the ivory butter cream.

What always happens when I cater a wedding that I’m invited to is, I have to miss the actual ceremony. There’s no way around it. Luckily, my husband was there to fill me in on the details as I worked in the open courtyard they had reserved, across from the Natural History Museum at Balboa Park.

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via

The weather was perfect that day and I was able to set the desserts in the shade, which is always the way to go if in an outdoor venue.

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via milissweets.comI made a simple cupcake menu, to match the colors and font-style of their wedding invitation. Initially I planned on folding the cards so that they could face upright. However, the breeze wouldn’t allow it, so I compromised and placed the menu cards under the mini cupcake pedestals.

Guests enjoyed cupcakes in Bananas Foster, Raspberry Truffle, Mocha Chip, Salted Chocolate Caramel, Perfectly Pineapple and Creme Brulee.

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via

I never allow for any waste if I have extra flowers on-hand. The bride and groom decided not to have floral arrangements made for the dessert table, so I made use of my glass cylinders and placed a small amount of water to have a pretty arrangements on either end of the table.

This was a joy and a labor of love!


celebrating my beautiful mother

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

There’s no one like my mother. No one who knows me more, whom could ever love me the way that she loves me. No one has sacrificed more for me. Her example is one of the main reasons why I am who I am. It took me a while and a lot of growing up, to truly understand her life and the love that she has given.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

This is a woman who deserves to be celebrated! She always puts everyone first and never-ever wants to burden anyone with her personal needs or for any extra attention. She’s just amazing. She feels so loved and well-cared for as it is, so every day is a blessing . . . no need to make a fuss.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

My brother and I were about to change all of that. For her 70th, we wanted to make a fuss and threw her a beautiful birthday party. A whole year has passed, and she is still thanking us and cannot believe that it was all for her!

I invited mostly family and a few of her friends to lunch at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Lakeside. Owner, Maria DiGiovanni, has been friends with my family for so many years, and her food is so delicious – just like the food that we loved at big family gatherings when I was a child. I wanted the food to be authentic and something that my family could really enjoy.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

Of course, I would take care of dessert. However, the floral arrangements were the first thing on my mind. I wanted to honor my mother with beautiful flowers everywhere. “Abudanza” came to mind. I set an appointment with my dear friend Karen at Franco’s Flowers and with my own vases, she made my dreams come true.

I had more gorgeous blossoms in Double-Star Lilies, Dahlia, Peonies, Carnations and Roses in pale pinks and ivory, placed in individual water tubes to decorate the bottom of her elevated birthday cake.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via“Pineapple-Coconut Paradise” is her favorite cake that I make. It’s a vanilla custard cake, (that I named “Vanilla Italia”) with fresh pineapple sauce soaked in. It’s filled with a layer of Italian custard and vanilla butter cream. It’s covered with whipped cream and lots of toasted coconut. She is diabetic but once a year, she is “bad” and has a slice of this dessert.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

Besides the cake, the centerpiece of the dessert table was a mural I made with special photos from her life. There was also a small white bird at the center. The invitation and decor was all about a little vintage bird, so I added lace and used birdcages and mason jars throughout the party setting.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

It takes a special maturity (a true gift if you can receive it in-time) to understand that your loved ones are really not all about you. At the beginning of this post, “me” was mentioned several times. That’s really how I felt through childhood – that my mom was all mine. God made her just for me. It wasn’t until I was about 18, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that I even began to realize how significant, rich and special her life was before I ever arrived and continued to be every day thereafter. I wanted to learn all about her life and  the best fact was, that it really wasn’t about me at all. I am just some seasoning in her beautiful life.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

I had a lot of vintage, handmade table linens and used them throughout the party as well. This was a special  table I set for guests, toward the entry. I wanted them to arrive, drop off their gift, and write her a well-wish or  love note. I placed additional old photographs to view and the framed tribute that I wrote for her:

70 Years of Maria Rosaria

Inside the five-foot frame that holds this beautiful woman,

is God-given strength and courage to move mountains.

On July 12, 1943, she was pronounced dead at birth,

as the seventh child of her family. Her mother saved her life.

At the age of 13, she followed her father’s dream of coming to America.

She entered the 6th grade, not speaking a word of English.

As a high school student, she had to become the woman of the house.

She takes pride in her impeccable work ethic.

She gives all that she has, and all of her personal time to

her faith, her family and to the poor.

She was a single-mother and raised two children.

While in hardship, she worked odd jobs to be sure

her children attended Catholic school.

She overcame poverty.

She always maintained her generosity.

She has worked for Mercy/Scripps Hospital a total of 34 years.

She survived cancer.

She collects rosaries.

She misses her mother every day.

Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are her heroes.

She lives for the kisses she receives from her grandchildren.

We adore you, Maria Rosaria!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

This was the pretty birdcage arrangement placed at the gift/tribute table.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

I made very simple party favors. I packaged clear rock candies on a stick, with a Shabby-Chic-labeled thank you note. It was super simple and I had enough so that every guest (including children) could take one home.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.comEveryone loved the dessert table! Every single sweet vanished and guests took the time to come up and look at the mural. I made cupcakes in Double Dutch, Lemonade, Orange Dream and Tiramisu, chocolate chip cookies and I provided fresh apricots and cherries for the diabetics in our group.

The very best part of the entire day was when my mom blew out her candles. I wish I had a better camera on-hand that day, but despite the low-quality, you have to see the joy from the children and the look on my mom’s face – this moment was priceless!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

The children helped to place all 70 candles on the cake. As soon as they were lit, I had to move fast to present it to her! Thank goodness my hair was back because that was a serious flame! The children and their joy really helped to make this moment so incredibly special.

This was a day my family and especially my mom, will never forget. She’ll be 71 next weekend and I can’t wait to celebrate her sweetness and her heart of gold, all over again.

xox, Mili

french-toast brulee

orange french toast brulee, recipe via milissweets.comThis is the ultimate, special occasion breakfast-dessert, and the best breakfast that I make for my family. You’re going to love French-Toast Brulee! If you don’t have a kitchen torch to “brulee,” no worries. The basic recipe, minus the torching is still super easy and tastes amazing as-is.

I remember the moment when french toast entered my list of “the best things I’ve ever eaten.” I was in my early 20s, and traveled often to Manhattan for my job. I was staying at the Soho Grand and across the street is this quaint Argentenian cafe that serves breakfast called Novecento. I ordered the french toast and it blew my mind! It was so good, that I’d never forget it and I’d never make french toast the same again.

It was full of flavor, never dry and topped with fruit. It wasn’t torched but it really inspired me to always use fruit juice as the main component for the dipping batter and for the topping. (By the way, I haven’t thought about the restaurant’s name in 15+ years but for some reason, the name stuck. Plus, I have a memory like an elephant.)

french-toast brulee, recipe via milissweets.comI’m going to share a couple different ways to make my “French Toast Brulee” recipe, but there are so many more ways to make this ultimate dessert over the top, by substituting different juices and toppings, based on my recipe. I switch this up all the time! With this post, I’m sharing my “Orange Brulee” and “Peach Brulee” flavors.

peach french-toast brulee, recipe via

Mili’s Sweets French-Toast Brulee Recipe

Here’s what  you’ll need:

3 eggs

1 cup fruit juice or nectar

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

zest of a whole fruit (when using citrus)

artisan bread, cut into 1/2″ slices

for brulee topping: kitchen torch and granulated sugar

french-toast brulee, recipe via milissweets.comHere’s what you’ll do:

First, I’ll share with you how I make it all the time, with orange juice, or “Orange Brulee.” With this recipe, and when using citrus fruits, I recommend adding fresh zest of the fruit. For this flavor, I use the zest of one large orange, and keep all of the other ingredients the same.

french-toast brulee, recipe via

I’ve been getting my hands on the absolutely gorgeous eggs from my friend’s hens. Leticia and I came to the conclusion that I cannot have my own chickens and I was OK with that. Now, I just want to support her big ‘ol coop of 50, free range birds. There truly is something special about farm-fresh eggs!

Now, take three eggs and whisk them in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients listed, and whisk together. Here’s what it will look like, if you decided to add the cinnamon.

french-toast brulee, recipe via

Slice your bread. For the Orange Brulee, I used Ciabatta. Take a skillet or pan and heat to medium. If you’re using a non-stick pan, you won’t need to grease the pan. However, I like to use about a teaspoon of salted butter, and melt it in, before adding the bread.

Dip each side of the sliced bread, into the dipping-batter. Once the pan is hot, add all slices that will fit at one time. When you see golden crust around the bottom, flip. They should be golden and with all of the egg cooked through. I flip mine twice on each side, to be sure they are done. They cook quickly so don’t keep them on one side for too long.

french-toast brulee, recipe via

Once they are done, transfer the cooked bread onto a cookie sheet or baking pan. It’s almost time to have fun with your torch. Spread about a teaspoon of granulated sugar onto each piece of cooked French Toast. Torch each piece quickly, to burn the sugar. Plate and serve.

french-toast brulee, recipe via

Some people can’t wait to even get their pieces on a plate! It’s fine and fun to let kids be kids, but I’m not always talking about the kids. xox

french-toast brulee, recipe via

Remember my post for peach cobbler, when I canned the extra fresh-cooked peaches and reserved nectar? I couldn’t forget about them and turned this left-over into something special with this recipe.

french-toast brulee, recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do for “Peach Brulee” French Toast:

For this flavor, I used what I had on-hand, both wheat and classic sourdough, sliced into 1/2″ pieces. I’ll only use artisan breads for french toast, because I prefer the texture.

french-toast brulee, recipe via

You’ll need to have the cooked peaches on-hand. After making the peach cobbler from scratch, I had a small mason jar filled with cooked peaches and the nectar in the fridge. I took the one cup of nectar that I needed for the dipping-batter and saved the rest to make a peach nectar reduction that I used in place of maple syrup.

french toast brulee, recipe via milissweets.comI recommend heating the peaches before serving. Not everyone likes the cooked peaches, which will be a little softer since making them fresh for the peach cobbler, as they marinated in the nectar. However, everyone will love the peach nectar reduction, and it only takes a few minutes to pull-off.

If you want to switch up this recipe, I recommend using different juices and nectars to make flavors like passion fruit, apricot, lemon-poppyseed and bananas foster.

Take care and enjoy!

xox, Mili

pink-&-pretty clothesline shower

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

I am surrounded by many very special and beautiful women – most of them are mothers and many around me are expecting or having babies this year. It’s so wonderful!

My friend Stephanie was in for a treat for her baby shower. I was encouraged to do whatever I wished to celebrate the arrival of her sweet baby girl, her family’s fourth child. (By the way, the baby’s due date has passed, so she’ll make her arrival any day or moment now!)

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

It was selfish of me, but I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to shop for baby clothes, so I had the dessert table theme revolve around a backdrop of a clothesline with sweet little things in pinks and whites.

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

Stephanie is just like my son, in that she is allergic to nuts. The last thing she wants to do is worry about an allergic reaction while pregnant and at her shower. Because of this and for many more reasons, I was happy to do this for her! She’s a big fan of my sweets and decided to go with a selection of mini cupcakes in Red Velvet, Cookies & Cream and Double Dutch, mini servings of Creme Brulee, and cookies in Oatmeal Raisin and one of my personal-favorite cookies: Sunbutter.

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

It was also a joy to work on all of the floral for the shower, including two large arrangements for the dessert table and ten small, mason jar arrangements for the tables.

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

I used the flowers to tie other feminine colors, besides pink. The lilac-colored, pom-flowers are Gomphera. They are my favorite of the bunch. I also used some light lavender and white Trachelium filler, pink Spray Roses and light pink and creamy ivory Lisianthus. I thought they looked so beautiful together!

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

Arranging flowers is as definite hobby and on my list of favorite ways to be creative. I’d love to be more skilled at it. It’s so relaxing and fun.I like to arrange flowers with my daughter too. She helped me with the small table arrangements.

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

The only decoration on the desserts were pretty sprinkles, to match some of the colors in the floral arrangements. When I’m choosing sprinkles, I like to go with one common shape or feel. This time, I went with sugar pearls and nonpareils.

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

I used the same combination of sprinkles for the shower gifts: individual Vanilla Velvet cupcakes.

Funny story about these. . . They were so pretty all lined up, until they were ruined by the sun and heat of the day. Yep. All that work, time and love down the drain. I should have taken an “epic fail” or “after” photo to giggle at later, but I just couldn’t bring myself to doing it.The cupcakes didn’t go to waste but I admit I was totally disappointed. Sometimes these things happen, and especially with food and outdoor events. I’m just glad that it was a gift. I would have felt even worse, if someone besides myself had paid for them!

pink & pretty clothesline baby shower - via

Live, learn and love – it’s what I want to do every day that I’m given.