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!