Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Flakey All Butter Pie Crust

For years I happily made my pie crusts using only Crisco, oblivious to the lack of flavor, happy with how easy it was to work with and how flakey and tender it was. I was afraid that if I used butter my crusts would be tough. Then I found "Cook's Illustrated" magazine's recipe for pie crust that used a combination of butter and vegetable shortening, i.e. Crisco, and it was better tasting and still easy to make and flakey. Last year I decided that I was ready to move to an all butter crust and tried a couple of recipes. I was discouraged though, because they were tough. The flavor was definitely better, but I just didn't seem to have the knack of making pie crust even after all those years of practice with the Crisco training wheels. I went back to making the combined butter and Crisco crusts. Then Susan Karon sent me a link to the blog "Chez Pim" and Pim's all butter pie crust. Pim's inspiration was a recipe from Judy Rodger's "Zuni Cafe Cookbook". I have looked at a local bookstore for the cookbook, but they didn't have it and the library has been closed for over a week and so I couldn't find the original recipe. I changed Pim's ingredients a bit, but I used her technique. Making a crust using this recipe is easy as pie. The flour measurement is given by weight and volume. I weighed my flour. You will need a pastry scraper and a brush.
Thank you Susan for sending me the link that helped me over my all butter hurdle.

A Truly Flakey Tender All Butter Pie Crust
enough for one double crust or two single crust pies

250 grams/2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
225 grams/8 oz/ 1 cup cold unsalted butter
60 ml/1/4 cup ice water

Whisk the dry ingredients together and then dump them on your work surface. Cut the butter into large slices and place it on the flour.

Toss the butter and flour together so that the butter is coated with flour.
With the heal of one hand push on the butter and with the scraper toss flour onto the butter. You will be sliding your hand as you push onto the butter, working flour into the butter. You will keep pushing on the butter with your hand and flipping and tossing the flour with the scraper and then as they mix, flour and butter, onto your heap on the counter.

The butter will become thin flakes and when there are more buttery flakes than loose flour, stop. If some of your flakes are really big you may break them up a bit.

Make a well in the middle of your floury heap and pour the ice water into it. Quickly mix in the water with your finger tips. When the water is evenly mixed into the dough, scrape up the dough and fold it in half over itself. Do this until it holds together, pat it into a round, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface liberally, put the dough onto it, and flour the dough liberally also. Roll the dough into a longish rectangle.

Brush off the excess flour with the brush and then fold the dough into thirds on top of itself like you are folding a letter. The dough will crack and maybe break, but don't worry about it.

Flour your work surface and the dough and turn the dough 90º. Repeat the rolling into a rectangle and the folding, brushing before you fold.

Do this a total of 3 times. Refrigerate during the process if the day is hot and your dough is getting warm. The dough will become smooth and pliable.

Roll the dough one last time into a smaller rectangle and cut it in half.

Pat each half into a circle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to make your pie. You're done. Congratulations!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Butternut squash and white truffle oil mac and cheese

This recipe came about when Chris and I were in Richmond, VA and saw this intriguing sounding macaroni and cheese on the menu of a restaurant we went to. We decided to order something else, but come home and make it for ourselves. It's delicious. I use sharp cheddar for the recipe, but that's a personal preference.
  1. Slice half a butternut squash into 1/3" slices and cut so they are about bite size. Saute them lightly in olive oil with some sage and water. Set aside when done.
  2. Optional: take some slightly stale sourdough bread and make breadcrumbs. We keep the breadcrumbs separate from the macaroni and cheese until right before serving, as we realize if you sprinkle them on top of the dish, the next day they will not be crisp anymore.
  3. Grate 8oz of cheddar cheese. Set aside.
  4. Melt 3tbsp butter in a pot, stir in 3tbsp flour, and whisk over low heat for 3 minutes. Keep whisking and add (little by little) 2.5 cups of milk. Keep whisking until the sauce is about the thickness of cream. Salt to taste. Raise the heat to medium and stir continuously until the sauce begins to simmer. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes (stir occasionally). Turn the heat off and gradually stir in the cheese until it is fully incorporated.
  5. Boil al dente some pasta, I like to use cavatappi.
  6. Butter the dish and add in the pasta, butternut squash and cheese sauce. Mix all together and sprinkle a teaspoon of white truffle oil over the macaroni and cheese. Too much truffle oil will overwhelm the dish.
  7. Place in the oven at 400 Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool for five minutes, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the individual servings.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick lunch on a foggy summer day

I had been cold all morning and needed something warm on this chilly day, something other than a sandwich. Plus there was the fact that we had no bread. A salad is not warming and a toasted cheese sandwich was impossible. I have goat cheese that needs to be used, cherry tomatoes in the garden, basil in a glass on the counter and I always have pasta. I thought back to a recipe I vaguely remembered and entered ingredients into google. I came up with a basic plan and the photo shows the result. It was good, warm, and quick and easy enough to have for lunch.
Chèvre and Cherry Tomato Pasta
serves 1
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove of garlic. finely chopped
small handful of basil leaves, sliced
fresh goat cheese
some extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
a couple of pinches piment d'esplette, enough dry pasta, any shape, to serve one. I used linguine

Boil salted water to cook the pasta. While waiting for the water to boil and then for the pasta to cook, place tomatoes, garlic, and basel in a pasta bowl. Pour over a small amount of olive oil. This can be done as long as an hour before cooking the pasta. Crumble some goat cheese over the tomato mixture. When the pasta is cooked, drain, saving some of the water. Immediately add the pasta to the tomato mixture and toss. The cheese will melt to coat the pasta. Add some of the reserved pasta water to make the sauce formed by the melted cheese the consistency you like. Salt and pepper to taste. Add piment d'esplette to taste.
This is very rich and I ended up with more than I could possibly eat for lunch. The big eater in our household happily finished it even though he doesn't like chèvre.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Clam Chowder

A friend of mine unfortunately had to have a tooth pulled and wasn't able to have anything but soft food that she didn't have to chew. I made her a pot of this clam chowder which is a variation of the recipe from the first Sunset " Best Recipes" cookbook.

Clam Chowder
6 slices of the best bacon you can find. Mine was from the Corralitos Market
A little more than a pound of potatoes, la ratte or Yukon gold, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 cans clams
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups whole milk
Fresh thyme
Salt pepper

Cut the bacons into lardons and brown over medium heat in a large pot. Remove bacon from the pot and add onions to the fat. Cook until almost translucent. If there isn't enough fat from the bacon to cook the onions, add a tablespoon of butter to the pot. Add potatoes and thyme. Stir and cook for a few minutes longer. Add liquid from the clams. If there isn't enough to almost cover the onions and potatoes, add water until almost covered. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Melt the butter, 3 to 4 T, add the flour, and cook until bubbly. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cup milk and cook until thickened. Add the thickened milk to the potatoes. Stir in the clams and bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. If too thick, add more milk until the chowder is the consistency you like.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maple-Honey Granola

This granola has become part of my favorite breakfast. I have it sprinkled over yogurt mixed with fruit, using whatever is in season. Often it is berries, but this morning I had the granola with a fantastic peach. Great fruit and yogurt with this granola on top tastes like a decadent dessert. The recipe calls for dried fruit, but lately I have been leaving it out because of the fresh fruit. Tory gave me the original recipe and I am very grateful that she did. She found it in Cooking Light magazine.
The original recipe calls for spraying the pan with cooking spray, but I put a Silpat silicon sheet in the pan. The Silpat works really well for this and also works well for roasting vegetables.

Maple-Honey Granola
4 cups thick cut oats
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup grade B maple syrup (I find it at Trader Joe's)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup hot water
2 tblsp canola oil
1 cup minced dried apricots, optional (use Blenheim if possible)
1 cup raisins, optional
Preheat oven to 325°
Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.
Combine maple syrup, honey, and hot water in a glass measuring cup and stir to mix. Place in a small pan with salt and oil and bring to a boil. Pour over oat mixture and stir to coat. Spread on a jelly-roll baking sheet covered with a Silpat sheet or that has been coated with cooking spray or coated lightly with oil. Bake at 325º for 35 or 40 minutes, until golden and crunchy, stirring every 10 minutes. I place a little on the counter to cool for a minute and then taste it to make sure it is the texture I like. Stir in raisins and apricots. Cool completely and then store in an airtight container.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Apricot Honey Tart

This tart is a slightly altered version of a tart in "Patricia Well's at Home in Provence". The hardest part is finding apricots that have flavor to make it with. Other than that, it couldn't be easier. Though it is definitely best the day it is made, it is still tasty 2 or 3 days after baking. It looks like it came from a patisserie or so I was told by the folks I made it for.

Apricot Honey Tart
serves 8
equipment: 9" pan with removable bottom
Crust: unsalted butter for preparing the pan
8 tblsp (4 oz; 120 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tblsp (180 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
Filling: 1/2 cup (12.5 cl) crème fraîche
1 lg egg, lightly beaten
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp raw full-flavored honey, such as lavender
1 tblsp flour
2 tblsp finely ground unblanched almonds
about 1 1/2 lbs (750 g) fresh apricots, pitted and halved (do not peel)
powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375° (190° C; gas mark 5)
Butter the bottom and sides of the pan and set aside.
Crust: In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, salt, and flour and stir to combine. Do not let the dough form a ball. transfer the dough to the pan and evenly press it onto the bottom and sides. If you don't have a fluted pan (and I didn't) just press it an inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust until the dough is slightly puffy and set, about 12 to 15 mins. Sprinkle the almonds on the crust. This will keep the crust from becoming soggy.
Filling: Combine the crème fraîche, egg, vanilla, and honey, whisking to blend. Whisk in the flour. Pour into the crust. Starting just inside the edge of the crust, overlap the halved apricots, cut side up, at a slight angle. Make 2 or 3 rings, working toward the center. Fill the center with the remaining apricots. Place the tart in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brow, 50 to 60 mins. the apricots will shrivel slightly. Place on a rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vanilla Apricot Jam.

In the fall of 2007 we shared a wonderful roomy house with 3 other couples in the Tarn, a region in the southwest of France. I bought a jar of homemade apricot jam in a patisserie. The jam was flavored with vanilla beans and it was the best apricot jam I had ever tasted. When apricot season rolled around the next spring I decided to try making some vanilla bean apricot jam. This is the recipe I ended up with after searching French websites.

Vanilla Bean Apricot Jam

3 lbs ripe apricots 
2 vanilla beans
juice of 1 lemon (I use Meyer lemons)
5 cups fine white sugar

Remove the pits from the apricots and chop them coarsely. Place the apricots in a heavy non-reactive pan with the vanilla pods cut into halves.
Sprinkle the apricots with the sugar and lemon juice. Mix and let macerate overnight, ideally 24 hours. Stir once in a while.
The next day, remove the vanilla pods and fruit from the pan. Bring the juices to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Put the fruit back into the pan with the seeds from the vanilla pods and continue to cook for 30 minutes, minimum. At this point test to see whether the jam is ready by placing a tbsp on a cold saucer. (The saucer should have been in a freezer until it is well chilled.) Run your finger through the jam on the saucer. If the mark from your finger stays, the jam is ready. It the jam fills in the mark, continue to cook it. When the jam is ready, pour it into sterilized jars and seal them. Turn them upside down and let them cool. Once they are cool, turn them right side up.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Almost Flourless Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

This recipe is from Fran Gage's "The New American Olive Oil". This cake is much lighter than a cake made with a similar recipe that uses butter. The chocolate flavor is not as intense as a butter version. This cake is delicious and works well when you don't want a heavy dessert.

Almost Flourless Chocolate Cake (olive oil chocolate cake)
7 oz. 70% Chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup delicate extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sugar, divided
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature, separated
2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
powdered sugar for dusting
whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle position.
Line the bottom of a 9 by 3 inch round cake pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides.
Melt the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl over simmering water and whisk until smooth.
Add the olive oil, whisking in a steady stream. Whisk in 2/3 cup of the sugar, the egg yolks, and then the flour and salt.
Beat the egg whites at medium speed with a mixer until they start to foam. Add about a third of the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Beat until the whites are opaque, then add another third of the sugar. When the whites begin to increase in volume and become firmer, add the rest of the sugar and turn the mixer speed to high. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.
Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two additions.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the cake is puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. It will deflate.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto a plate and peel off the paper.
Lightly dust the top with powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Apple Cake

I am enjoying using Dorie Greenspan's latest cookbook, "Around My French Table", and last night I made "Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake" with one small change. The recipe calls for rum and I substituted bourbon. Oh, and I slightly bumped up the salt. The cake was super easy and delicious, not very sweet, and has more apple than batter.
Apple Cake
3/4 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
~1/8 tsp salt
4 lg apples peeled and cut into 1"-2" chunks, you can use 4 different kinds
2 lg eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tblsp bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 tblsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Center a rack and preheat oven to 350. Generously butter an 8" springform pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
Beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Add sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in bourbon and vanilla. Then whisk in 1/2 flour, then 1/2 butter, then the rest of the flour and lastly the rest of the butter. Fold in apples with a spatula. Put the mix into the pan and level with the spatula. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until top is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes and then run a knife around the sides of the cake. Remove the sides of the pan and let the cake cool. The bottom of the pan may be removed after the cake has cooled almost to room temperature.
Dorie says to place the cake pan on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicone baking mat before baking the cake, and I guess that is because the batter may leak from the pan. I covered the pan bottom on the outside with foil before I put the batter in it. There was no leakage and so next time I would not worry with the baking sheet. It could affect the browning of the cake bottom though.
I used a combination of mutsu and pippin apples and they were tasty. My only apple tip would be to use a good baking apple, which is pretty obvious.