Sunday, December 29, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
I'm continuing my autumn pie-mania with a savory turn today: the Cornish pasty. I know, I know, it's past unofficial pie season and we're now in cookie season! But this pie lover thinks it should always be pie season. I also hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as I did. We got to spend it with our families, which is a treat when you've spent as many Thanksgivings working in a newsroom as I have. And I started out stressed, thinking about all the things I could cook and bake and how to make everything perfect. Then I loosened up. My pumpkin pie looked imperfect. I helped Mom make the meal instead of interfering with the planning or trying to take over. I shrugged when the the table wasn't styled like a magazine spread. Because the whole family was together, and it was a darned good meal. A plentiful one. My dad suddenly bought lobsters, of all things, Thanksgiving morning. My brother went out and bought Italian cookies and a ricotta pie. "Gee, you think we have enough?" I asked them. And then we feasted.
Besides scaling them down, I adjusted the filling. The recipe doesn't call for cooking it before the pies go into the oven, but I figured beef and vegetables steamed in a crust can't taste as good as the pan-seared and sauteed variety. I put that to the test by making them two ways, and I was right. The uncooked filling was bland (though Joe was happy to polish those pies off), but the cooked filling was aromatic and full of flavor. The recipe, from Jamie Oliver's Great Britain, also included zucchini and butternut squash in the filling. I kept the ingredients closer to that of a traditional beef stew, and I didn't want watery squash or the trouble of dicing hard butternut anyway. Swap in whatever you like -- the recipe suggests peas, fava beans, or asparagus in spring.
I won't lie -- these are kind of a production. But worth it! Don't attempt the whole thing in one day. Make the dough one or two days ahead, the filling one day ahead or the day of. Give yourself time to roll and re-roll the dough and assemble the pasties. They can be fully assembled, frozen, and baked later. When done, reward yourself with a beer and a couple pasties. They'll make a great holiday party starter, or a hearty winter lunch.
Monday, November 25, 2013
You might be asking, another pie?? But it's pie season, and this one is so good! This is not just any apple pie, but one with homemade salted caramel stirred into the filling, and additional caramel poured on top when served. The big apple slices hold their shape and juiciness, and the caramel makes the filling wonderfully saucy.
This pie is also different because I finally decided to test-drive a recipe for a yogurt-butter crust, and I can report that it is super flaky and easy to roll out. It wasn't so easy to assemble. For the first time I used a handheld pastry blender like the recipe called for, rather than my food processor. I've concluded that I'm lazy and prefer the machine, plus I feel like the machine works the dough less. And we all know that working the dough less ensures tender pastry. Also, while the yogurt works as a tenderizer, there simply wasn't enough moisture to bring the dough together. I added about a quarter-cup extra water along with another teaspoon of yogurt. I could chalk this up to the awfully dry conditions at home during fall and winter. But continuing to work in the extra liquid made me afraid I was overworking the dough. The pastry still came out tender, but next time I'll go the lazy route and use the machine.
Looking for other Thanksgiving dessert ideas? Here's a few:
Thursday, November 14, 2013
I've been on a pie-baking frenzy this fall, and I don't think I've run out of steam yet! The latest is this Pear Custard Tart. Bartlett pears are poached with vanilla bean and orange peel, then layered in a buttery crust and soaked in a vanilla custard before being baked and topped with toasted almonds. It sounds amazing, and yet the result is understated. The first day I found it plain and was a bit disappointed, but on the second day the flavors had developed -- the pears had more of a presence and the custard and almonds complemented them well.
I'm chalking the difference up to using pears that could have been more ripe, and not including the brandy the recipe called for. We rarely have hard stuff in the house, but this simple tart could use something to punch it up. I would definitely make it again, using riper pears and the brandy. The tart doesn't have loud flavors: no chocolate, cinnamon, clove, or cayenne. Still, it's gorgeous, elegant, and tasty (at least on the second day), and would make a light but showy finish to a Thanksgiving feast.
|Some of the premade pies ready to go in my oven. I labeled the parchment to keep track of which pie was which.|
There was lots of pie-eating involved on my part. It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it! Check out the review: http://b.globe.com/193xDC1
Thursday, November 7, 2013
It's getting downright cold here. Sadly, I know this is nothing compared to the next few months. Feeling my face hurt in 8-degree cold and shoveling in knee-deep snow are among my least-favorite things. To warm up, I've been baking up a storm and making lots of soups and stews. This Three-Bean & Corn Chili from Flour bakery's second cookbook will be making lots of appearances over the next few months. It's full of cannellini beans, black beans, chickpeas, corn, sweet potato, and carrots. Pimenton, or smoked Spanish paprika, gives it an unexpected smokiness and depth. And to mix it up, I used ancho chile powder when the recipe called for chili powder.
I didn't think Joe would like this, expecting his reaction to be along the lines of: "Where's the beef?" But we loved it. I'll be making beef chili at some point also, because we love our red meat. But this bean chili is hearty without weighing you down, and has got loads of flavor. It's also super-healthy and low in the calorie department, both good things as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach. If you're vegetarian or vegan, this will be a welcome addition to your repertoire (minus the cheese if you're the latter, of course). Stay warm, friends!
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Dorie Greenspan's Pumpkin Pie/Tart has been my favorite for years, and I have to have it every fall. Sometimes it graces our table on Thanksgiving. I love it cold straight from the fridge, but my mom likes to warm her slice in the oven for a few minutes. I think it's perfect -- creamy and mellow, the spices fragrant but not too sharp. I brought one of these tarts in to work last weekend, and one co-worker called it "sublime." Another said it was "really fockin' tasty."
If I have one complaint, it's that there's always too much filling unless you bake it in a deep-dish pie pan. But because I like the fancy-schmancy look, I divided the filling between a round tart and a rectangular tart. If you do this, you'll need to double the recipe for the dough, and you'll have dough left over. Shape it into decorative leaves like I did here. Or roll out the leftover dough, cut it into strips, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake. Whichever way you make the tart/pie, I think there should always be a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I have a zillion apples to get through after apple picking. There's something about fall that makes you bypass even the farmers markets and head for the orchards to pick your own. Is it the gorgeous foliage views, the hay rides, the cider doughnuts? When we first arrived, the aroma of cider doughnuts was intoxicating, and they tasted just as good as they smelled. With doughnuts in our bellies, we picked more apples than we needed. And I knew the purpose most of them were meant for: pies. With that in mind, the bulk of our apples were Golden Delicious and Mutsu, which hold their shape well when baked.
I was looking for a new way to do apple pie -- I've done traditional double crust, tarts, turnovers, hand pies, and crostatas. The recipe I chose involved simmering the apples with some Red Devoe pears in a bath of melted butter and vanilla bean, and they were baked into the pie topped with a walnut lattice crust. Apple, pear, butter, and vanilla bean combined are truly heavenly, and the chunky pieces of fruit were juicy. Except... the bottom crust was soggy and the recipe called for an unusual lattice that came with no instructions: the strips were wide with no spaces between them. I've made several lattice pies before so I wrangled one, but it was fussy. So I set about re-creating the recipe.
Enter this tart. It's shallower than a pie and has a lot less fruit, so no soggy bottom crust. No tricky lattice dough to contend with, and no walnuts to blend into it. I kept the blend of pears and apples, sprinkling them with vanilla sugar and dotting the whole thing with cold butter. Much easier and faster than the pie, which was a production. I might cut the fruit thicker next time because I did miss the big, juicy chunks from the pie. It also didn't have as much vanilla-butter sauciness as the pie, but tarts are generally drier like that. Don't substitute that vanilla bean with extract! Go ahead and splurge on a bean, because it makes a world of difference. Now I've just got to work my way through about a bushel more of apples!
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Wow. I thought I'd like these cookies, but I didn't think they would be quite that good. I've had these walnut cookie molds for four years now, and they sat wrapped in their plastic packaging until this week. I don't know why it took me so long to try them out. Of course it's not the molds that make the cookie great, but the recipe. When filled with chocolate ganache, the flavor is reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie with walnuts. As good as that is, I prefer them unfilled because they actually taste close to pecan pie, with that deep brown sugar and nutty flavor.
|Top-left: Shnooky with our current cat, Gandalf the Grey. Bottom-left: Shnooky (left) with his big brother, Baby.|
Before I go further, I wanted to dedicate this post to my beloved cat Shnooky, whom we lost three weeks ago. I've been feeling down and a little lost without him, and we'd been together for one-third of my life. He was as kooky as his name, and he made me laugh a lot. He was "little buddy" and "sweet pea" to me, and he loved sunbeams and charging squirrels and birds outside the window with his "battle cry." I even miss him walking all over me, demanding to be fed, as I slept in the mornings. We feel sad to have lost two cats in two years, but we try to remember them with smiles instead of tears.
Back to the less-sad subject of cookies. Don't have walnut molds and don't want to buy them? You don't need to. After I filled all 50 molds, I used a cookie scoop to make 3 more mounds, and they baked up on the cookie sheet just fine. I can't tell you about the experience of filling those with ganache, because we ate them first. Take note, though, that you can't use those cookie scoops (even the "teaspoon-sized" ones) to fill the walnut molds; those will give you too much dough. Use the teaspoon in your measuring spoon set. I would have preferred the ease of a spring-loaded scoop. I also thought I would include these in our Christmas cookie baskets this year, but they appear too fragile to hold up in the mail. Still, they would make a lovely gift hand-delivered for the holidays. Or just good for eating on any old afternoon.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Fancy That, a Walpole vintage rental shop, just opened its tearoom in May. Read my verdict in today's Globe South in The Boston Globe: http://b.globe.com/175PueM
Thursday, September 12, 2013
I just love peach pie, and I've been intending to try my hand at making a slab pie for some time. I was planning my desk's annual Labor Day indoor cookout (gotta find some way to shake up holidays at work), and I wanted a summery dessert that would feed a crowd. A slab pie is essentially a sheet pan pie, made bigger and flatter so it will feed many and takes less time to make. So the thinking goes.
I found it just as laborious as making a traditional pie, and kind of a pain. It started out well when I rolled out the bottom crust easily despite the big dimensions the recipe called for. But then when I rolled out the top crust the dough started tearing, and I started grumbling. And by the time I sliced all the peaches and then assembled the whole thing, I was tired. Why does anyone assume a slab pie will be easier? It's a huge, double-crust pie. I've made easier tarts and crostatas. I did like the combination of raspberries with peaches. The sides and corners were nice and flaky, but the bottom crust in the middle was unfortunately soft. The slab pie wasn't bad, it just didn't blow me away.
I liked these much better. I used the leftover dough another day to make hand pies filled with berry jam and Greek cream cheese. I just winged it, but they came out great. I'm still holding out hope for doing one more summery peach pie, but I better act fast -- apples and pumpkins are already threatening to take over!
Looking for more peach goodness? Try White Peach and Prosecco Gelatina, Lattice-top Peach Pie, Peach-Vanilla Bean Cobbler with Sugar Crunch Lattice, or Peach and Plum Crumble.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I've been doing quite a bit of home cooking since I got home from my trip a few days ago, and these Turkey Burgers with Tomato-Onion Jam are the latest. But can I tell you how I ate like a king last week? I had such a great time at the Asian American Journalists Association's annual convention in New York City. I caught up with so many old friends, made some great new connections, and got some ideas to think about. I've never stayed at a hotel in my hometown before, and I figured if I'm going to eat out, I'm going to eat out.
|Top row: Bouchon sweets and Havana Central shrimp mofongo. Bottom row: Pie Face hand pies and Ippudo ramen.|
When I got home, I was faced once again with my surplus of garden tomatoes. I had bookmarked the turkey burgers to try, and thought the tomato-onion jam would be a great use for my little orange tomatoes. The recipe calls for plum tomatoes, but these tiny tomatoes worked just as well. It will look like they've released way too much water, but that will evaporate by the last few minutes of cooking. It's like ketchup meets caramelized onions, but chunkier, fresher, and naturally sweeter. I'll be making more jars of this stuff as my garden gives us tomatoes faster than we can eat them.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
As promised from last time, here are the Chocolate Hazelnut Melting Moments. Chocolate-hazelnut cookies sandwich a creamy chocolate-hazelnut filling. I'm not sure how these are hazelnut variations of Melting Moments, which I made previously. The recipes aren't similar, and this hazelnut recipe lacks the cornstarch or Bird's custard powder that you often see in Melting Moments recipes. The taste and consistency are different, though wonderful in their own way. They're chocolate and hazelnut, so how could they not be? They just deserve their own name.
The dough can be a little fussy to work with. Once the dough starts to get melty and tear, and the rounds don't hold their shape when handled, toss the remaining dough into the freezer, parchment sheets and all, to firm up before cutting again. It's a little labor intensive, but they are well worth it.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Melting Moments: The name is corny, but the sandwiched cookie is divine. When my friend Bryanna was clearing her apartment for her big move to New York, she offered me a book of afternoon tea recipes. Everything looked good, but the Melting Moments caught my attention immediately. They're crisp yet light-textured cookies filled with buttercream. I had made them months ago with another recipe, which used Bird's custard powder and added jam on top of the buttercream. I like this recipe better, which uses cornstarch and vanilla instead so there wasn't the subtle chalky taste or texture I got from the Bird's. I made some other minor tweaks and added the jam to this version also. Trust me, jam plus buttercream induces satisfied groans. Thanks, Bry! Maybe I'll make these next time you're in town.
Also, if you're a fan of chocolate and hazelnut together, check back here in a few days for the Hazelnut Melting Moments I also made from this book!
I'm catching up on following all your posts. It's been a busy summer, especially with the visit of family. I had fun grilling and chilling with my dad, even if we disagree on how long it takes to cook meat on the grill and how harmful char is. It's all good -- by a certain age and with living in different states, you overlook the little stuff and enjoy your time together. And Sis and I had been waiting all summer for a beach outing together. She brought her little one, who would run around yelling, "Auntie, where arrre yoou? A-yi, where arrre yoou?" In these pictures Audrey is hanging with Grandpa, her best friend. In the one on the left, she's using one of her favorite expressions, "Wooo-ooow!" while she watches the waves.
And my garden has been rewarding me with tomatoes! There's loads of these little Sun Sugar tomatoes, some big heirloom Brandywine tomatoes, cherry peppers, and the occasional strawberry. On the right is a sauce I made from the yellow tomatoes, and a salsa behind it from the Brandywines and cherry peppers. I've been hitting up the farmers market for blueberries, summer squash, and fragrant peaches with the fuzz still on them. I'm trying, as usual, to milk every moment out of summer before it gets too cold for my favorite produce, beaches, and barbeques.
Anyway, the review in today's paper is for The Farmer's Daughter, a farm-to-table breakfast and lunch place in Easton. It's been eagerly anticipated in the town, as my friend Isabelle told me when we went for brunch. It's fresher and more imaginative than the standard regional diner with eggs and greasy breakfast meats. And all the produce comes from a farm just up the street. Read the review at http://b.globe.com/14MBUf4
And in July I wrote about Molly Moo's, an ice cream parlor in Quincy where the owner likes to play with his food. There you'll find ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cannoli, and ice cream cake pops.
Read the review at http://b.globe.com/1330Eim
Friday, July 26, 2013
On a recent visit to the farmers market I got beautiful blueberries, and was wondering what to do with them (besides popping them in my mouth) when I remembered I wanted to try making this buckle. Upon tasting it, my baker friend at work called this "the best blueberry buckle I've ever had."
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook calls it a blueberry cornmeal butter cake, and describes it as the place where a blueberry buckle meets Southern cornbread. If you don't like cornbread, don't be put off. I'm not a fan of the squidgy, gritty squares that come on the side of plates in restaurants either, but this is different. The texture is more of a background note, and lends itself well to wonderfully crisp edges. The buckle is moist and lightly sweet, and the blueberries picked the morning of the market gave it a wonderful, summery flavor. Make it soon while blueberries are in season, and before summer slips away.
I did have one issue with the recipe, and that was the weight measurements. Given the choice between volume and weights, I always pick the latter. Using a scale is more precise, I never lose count of cups or tablespoons, and I don't have to break out said cups. But the buckle was still very liquid in the middle after 35 minutes. A few minutes more didn't help, and it was still not fully set after sitting in the oven with the heat turned off. On my second try I used only volume measurements, but also weighed them as I went, out of curiosity -- some of the grams were way off from what the recipe stated. So, lesson learned: use only volume measurements for this recipe, and I've given only those below.
On a minor note, the streusel topping came out dry and sandy. I wanted nice, big, buttery pebbles that have more crunch and stay on the top like this crumble, so I increased the butter and tweaked the method.
Looking for additional blueberry goodness? Check out my Blueberry Roulade.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Ang Sarap, and chose this childhood favorite when Raymund invited me over. Can I say how thrilled I was at his invitation? I'm constantly impressed by the range of cuisines Raymund makes and posts, not to mention the volume of them. Too often I see Asian recipes lumped in one category, their distinctive characteristics muddled together. But Raymund brings us his native Filipino dishes, along with Vietnamese and Japanese recipes, and cuisines beyond Asia. Ever wondered about Kiwi cuisine? Raymund's got a recipe.
To find out the difference between fen si and mei fun, and to get the recipe for Chinese Glass Noodles with Shrimp, visit Ang Sarap. You'll probably wind up staying there for a while, checking out all Raymund's cooking.
To find out the difference between fen si and mei fun, and to get the recipe for Chinese Glass Noodles with Shrimp, visit Ang Sarap. You'll probably wind up staying there for a while, checking out all Raymund's cooking.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I've made a couple discoveries: 1) I don't like whiskey. 2) Whiskey-spiked whipped cream is the bomb.
I adapted Joe's grandmother's Irish Bread & Butter Pudding for my book club's Irish tea-themed event last week. I'd had it many times made by his mom, and it's the ultimate comfort food. Perhaps the main way Irish Bread & Butter Pudding differs from other bread puddings is that the bread is buttered before being soaked with the custard and baked. But I wanted to update the recipe a little. For a fancier teatime look I made the pudding in this quiche dish instead of the ordinary 9x13-inch pan. I also lightened up quantities of butter and eggs, and both endeavors called for messing with all the proportions. I used my co-workers as guinea pigs for the first batch, which I can now admit was a bit soggy. I don't think they noticed, though, because it was the whiskey-spiked whipped cream that got all the attention. "Did you say whiskey??" Yes, and go light on the whipped cream, at least until deadline.
That was my other update: I soaked the raisins in whiskey, and then spiked the whipped cream with some. I love how the cream smooths out the edges of the hard stuff. This is not your grandma's bread pudding. Or at least not Grandma O'Neil's, though her whiskey-free original is still awesome. I also brush some apricot jam on at the end for added sweetness and color. And the proportions of round two worked out with the approval of Joe, who said it tasted authentic, in the family sense.
I got compliments on the pudding at book club, and my friends shared my co-workers' enthusiasm for the whiskey cream. They even dolloped it on top of scones. Add some Irish tea, beer, colcannon, haddock chowder, soda bread, shortbread, and Irish fiddling, and we had the makings of a lovely afternoon.
|The gracious hosting and gorgeous decor were courtesy of Rebecca of A Love Letter to Rome. The amazing Mrs. Hot Potato baked the lower two tiers of Lemon; Chocolate, Almond & Toffee; and Parmesan Thyme Cheddar Chive Shortbread.|
Sunday, June 9, 2013
I was excited to find a Peruvian restaurant south of Boston! Read the review to find out what I thought. And pardon the photos -- the photographer assignment fell through, so they fell back on my cellphone photos.
Read the review: http://b.globe.com/11s4ptE
It has also been a good eats week, since my girlfriends came up for a visit, one of them all the way from Germany. They asked to visit The Bloomy Rind, the cheese shop I reviewed last year, and we took the food to the beach for a picnic.
It was like an eating adventure: we got kale & chorizo salad, and farro salad, and sampled other delicious fare like fresh pea guacamole and a romesco. Our sandwiches included a bacon & brie, Mediterranean vegetables with hummus and feta, and a Cubano. We got several cheeses, and finished with Vermont goat milk caramels. Other good eats of the week included getting Indian with my friends, and an Irish-themed party with a different set of friends (I'll save that for another post).
Of course all the food we've eaten together over the years hasn't been so refined as that from the cheese shop. We did go to college together -- 'nuff said, right? What do you eat when you get together with old friends?
Friday, May 31, 2013
One day, on an impulse, I bought a small bag of culinary lavender. Then I wondered what to do with it. I had always associated lavender with soap and potpourri, and imagined lavender ice cream or lavender baked goods would taste soapy. I'm glad to report this shortbread is not at all soapy. I'd call it herbal and lightly floral, and I wasn't prepared for the glowing reaction it got. See, I liked the cookies well enough, but I was dreaming of chocolate ice cream, or summery peach cobbler. And I didn't want a load of buttery shortbread around the house, so I brought the cookies to work. Their unusual flavor combination, cute teapot shapes, and pretty sprigs got plenty of attention, and lots of compliments.
|Squares of shortbread dough flecked with rosemary and lavender. Press some rosemary sprigs into some|
of the shortbread for a decorative touch. Then everything gets a dusting of sugar.
The shortbread is sandy and buttery, and accented with honey along with the lavender and rosemary. Make sure you use dried culinary lavender; the leaves in the sachet that scents your drawer might have chemicals on them. I adapted this recipe from Epicurious to include the lavender. I also altered the method to make lots of cutout cookies that would hold their shape when handled, as opposed to two simple rounds scored into triangles.
These are perfect for a fancy tea, but since the temperature hit 90 yesterday I made a strawberry oolong iced tea steeped with lavender. For a bit of color, splash in about a teaspoon of cranberry juice. Pour over ice, cool down, and have a cookie.