Time for pie! A collection of pies for Thanksgiving.

img_7235Each holiday seems to have a specific dessert associated with it.  For me, Easter always brings visions of coconut cakes smothered in shredded coconut, Christmas calls out for cookies of all kinds and Thanksgiving is the day that pies are front and center of the dessert table.  No pie is more synonymous with Thanksgiving than Pumpkin Pie and with the current proliferation of all things pumpkin spice, I have decided not to include it in this small collection of recipes and instead, focus on a few others that are guaranteed crowd pleasers!

Right about the time of the onslaught of pumpkin spice laden goods, apples come into season.  While just about every pumpkin pie is based on a creamy, custard based filling recipe, apple pies are much more flexible.  Pumpkin is pumpkin but each variety of apple has its own characteristics and by simply switching out varieties, you can completely change the flavor of the filling.  Personally, I prefer to blend apple varieties to create a full flavored pie that has plenty of juice to keep the pie from being dry and enough heft in the slices to prevent them all from falling apart while they bake.

img_7243The skins of an apple contain pectin, which will make wonderful sauce or jelly, but is tough and chewy once baked, so be sure to peel and slice the apples as you make the filling.  Do not worry about the browning that might occur because the sugar and spice will camouflage the color.

img_7244For this pie, I chose Rome, Cortland and Golden Delicious.  Each one had flesh of a slightly different color.  The yellow hue of the Golden Delicious apples made the slices resemble rutabegas!  The Cortlands were a bit green and the Romes were bright white.  The texture and flavor of each was also different and ranged from crispy and tart to soft and sweet with a lovely scent.  If you aren’t sure of what varieties are suitable for pie, this comprehensive chart from Pick Your Own will be very helpful.

img_7250With my kitchen packed up for the move, my options were limited and I decided to skip the top crust and just go with a streusel topping.  That dome of apples looks a bit ridiculous but the truth is that the apples used for pies always juice out and collapse a bit in the baking.  For this monster, I had two and a half pounds of apple slices in the fillings-something I do not recommend for a 9″ crust!  For a pie that size, don’t go over two pounds.

One other thing I would like to mention, if you are intimidated by the idea of making your own crust or simply do not have the time or desire, don’t make one-buy one!  Usually, I mix up a large batch of dough divide it into the portion, roll out what I need for the pie I am baking and then freeze the leftovers.  This way, I always have a stash of dough to pull from the freezer any time I want to bake a pie.  Because we are in the process of a long distance move, I have run through my stash and had to purchase a crust for this pie.

img_7258A spicy crumb topping is a quick way to dress up a pie and to add a little crunch to the texture along with flavor.  It is also a lot easier to handle than a top crust which makes it the perfect solution if you are not keen on working with pie dough.  The recipe included  with this post is one of my favorite crumb toppings and it works just as well on cobblers, crisps, muffins and coffee cakes as it does on this pie so be sure to keep it handy!

img_7257Crumb Topped Apple Pie

makes one 9 inch pie, serving 8-10

2 pounds fresh apple slices-any variety suitable for baking

8 ounces brown sugar

2 tablespoons of apple (or pumpkin) pie spice or you can blend your own spices by combining 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 cup all purpose flour or 2 tablespoons corn starch if you prefer starch to flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  On a sturdy baking sheet that will not warp and buckle in the oven, place a sheet of parchment paper and give it a spritz of grease.  Toss the apple slices with the sugar, spices and flour and pour it into the crust.  Cover it with the crumb topping, pressing it down lightly to pack it and to prevent it from falling off.  Put the pie onto the prepared baking pan and bake the pie until the juices are bubbling and have thickened, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Allow the pie to cool until room temp so that the juices set and it will be much easier to slice.

My Favorite Crumb Topping

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup dark brown sugar (honestly, can be light or white, I just prefer dark)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple/pumpkin pie spice blend

1/8 teaspoon baking soda, optional-using it will make the crumbs lighter, omitting it will keep them crunchy

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To call this a collection, I must include other recipes and these are two of my absolute favorite pies!  Rather than print the recipes here, I am including the links to my food52.com page;  Masala Spiced Pear Pie with a lattice top and Roasted Butternut-Maple Pie with Smoked Pecans

img_4740For the adventurous bakers, this gem from my days as the pastry chef of the Loveless Cafe, a Goo Goo Cluster Marshmallow pie is an unbaked pie but it does require making the crust, a ganache and a cooked marshmallow filling.  While a little time consuming, it is well worth the effort if you are a marshmallow fan, the recipe is also posted on my food52.com page and can be found here.  If you can’t find Goo Goo Clusters, visit the website and stock up or search for a store that sells them near you!

peach and blueberry deep-dish galette

IMG_6497Summer fruit pies are one of my favorite things.  When the fruit season is at its peak, freshly picked, ripe and juicy, fruits just about beg to be baked into a pie.   With a dozen peaches and a basket of blueberries in the house, I couldn’t resist the temptation and I baked a pie, a whole 9″ pie just for the two of us!

IMG_6494Of course, I also used homemade pie dough.  Before you start panicking, before you go on about how you just cannot roll out pie dough, let me tell you that you can, you absolutely can!!!  First, make the dough ahead of time and chill it for at least an hour.  Take it out of the fridge and let it soften until it is pliable but not sticky or squishy.  Now do you see all of the flour on my table?  That’s the secret, cool dough, lots of flour and short strokes with the rolling pin.  Lift the dough and turn it as you go, spread out more flour on the table if it sticks, don’t worry you can brush it off before you put it into a greased dish.  Make sure the circle of dough has an overhang of at least 2 inches to make the pleats like I have in the photo.  Start by taking one small section and folding it in over the fruit but leave the center open.  Section by section, fold the dough in towards the middle of the dish, creating the pleats until you get to the last section.  Lift the first pleat up and carefully tuck the last one into place and lay the first one back down.  Then brush it with some egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar before baking.

IMG_6507To get a deep, even color, just use one temperature in the oven.  Many recipes tell you to start high and drop it down low but I think one temperature is better.  It prevents that “OH I FORGOT TO TURN DOWN THE OVEN” disaster and also prevents uneven coloring.  My pies only bake at 350F.

IMG_6523For this pie, I chose peaches and blueberries but you could easily switch out the blueberries for raspberries or blackberries and if you are lucky to have rhubarb on hand, it would be lovely too!  Sweeten the pie according to taste but you will want at least half a cup of sugar, and if you use rhubarb, you will have to increase the sugar.

 

IMG_6531Peach-Blueberry Deep Dish Galette

1-1/4 pounds fresh peaches, 5-6 medium sized peaches

1 basket of blueberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 vanilla bean, scraped-seeds only

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

zest of 1 small lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

pie dough for a two crust pie

1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water

cinnamon sugar

 

IMG_6537 (1)Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and spices into a bowl and rub them together.  Peel and slice the peaches, you need a pound of them-the extra weight is for the skin and pits you remove.  Add the peaches and blueberries to the sugar with the lemon juice and toss them to coat them.  Place the rolled out pie dough into a greased 9″ pie plate.  Scrape the mixture into the pie crust and fold as directed above.  Place the pie plate on a sheet pan and bake until the juices are bubbling in the center and the crust is a deep caramel color, about 1 hour.  Allow it to cool for a few hours before cutting so the fruit can set up a bit.  We enjoyed it like this but a generous scoop of ice cream would also be nice!

tartine’s country bread; a lesson in bread making

IMG_5912On my last birthday, my husband gave me a copy of the Tartine Bread book.  We were out on a rainy Saturday, wandering through the shops in Merchant Square and I had a chance to look through a copy of the book.  The cover shot, the dark loaf with the blistered crust…Yes, it was bread lust at first glance.  However, I suspect my husband was also lusting over that loaf of bread and now that I have made the Country Bread, I am sure of it!

Like so many of the popular books on bread available, this one relies strictly on techniques created by the author and many aspects of the methods used seem at odds with traditional bread making.  Most notably, the lack of extensive kneading to build structure and instead, the use of an autolyse so the flour can expand and absorb the water and a longer bulk rising to allow the gluten to develop slowly.  Now, to be perfectly honest, the first section of the book consists of only one actual bread recipe with sub-recipes that rely on the basic recipe with various additions, but to really understand the technique, you must master the Country Bread.  The entire collection of bread recipes in the book rely on the methods outlined in that very first recipe!

What I love most about the Country Bread recipe, simplicity.  Especially the equipment list.  First of all, you must have a scale that measures in grams.  The rest of the list includes a thermometer, bowl, plastic bowl scraper, a bench knife and an oven proof dutch oven or covered casserole dish.  The recipe is worked in percentages, called baker’s percentages and the weights are all in grams.   The good news is that weighing it all out in grams guarantees consistency.

IMG_5863The only step I did not follow was creating a starter to leaven the bread because I have a starter that I grew from grapes that were growing in the Demonstration Garden that I worked in when I lived in Tennessee.  The starter has been in use since 2009 and when we moved in 2014, it was one of the things I was most worried about losing!  We had a 12 hour drive, stopped multiple times for the dog and for the night in the middle of that drive, the entire time the starter was tucked in a cooler with some ice.  It made the trip like a champ and nearly 2 years later, I am still using it.

The starter is fed and allowed to develop overnight.  If you read the recipe, you will be given many bits of information to help you along and I find that very helpful when using a new recipe.  The instructions tell you to measure out the warm water, add the starter to it, and if it floats, it is fully developed and ready to go.  As you can see in the photo above, my starter is floating in the water.

IMG_5871There are two schools of thought on adding salt to flour dough.  One says add it to the dough as you add the flour, one calls for holding it back and adding it later because it can affect the structure of the dough.  At Tartine, they hold the salt and a small amount of water back and add them after the initial mixing and resting period.  The salt is sprinkled over the dough, water is poured on and using your hand, you squeeze and squish and work the dough onto itself to mix it all in.

IMG_5873As the dough develops during the bulk fermentation, bubbles form around the sides of the bowl.  Rather than dumping it onto a table and forcibly kneading it, the dough is “turned” in the bowl every thirty minutes for three hours.

IMG_5875Using a wet hand, the dough is pulled up from the bottom of the bowl and stretched across itself, turning it.  This is done 2-3 times each half hour, each time is called a “turn” and it is all the kneading the dough will get.

IMG_5879As the dough develops and rises, it gets softer and lighter and you need to take care not to press the air out in the process of turning the dough.

IMG_5883When it is ready, dumped onto a table and cut in half.  A minimal amount of flour is used to help with shaping.  The folding and shaping is probably the most complicated step and it is completed with one hand and a bench knife.  Lifting and stretching the dough across it’s center, it is carefully shaped so that it is not deflated.

IMG_5891After shaping, it is allowed to rise in a cloth lined bowl which has been floured.

IMG_5893The loaves rise for about 3 hours and because most of us do not have two dutch ovens or even the ability to bake with two of them simultaneously, you will want to hold one back by placing it in the fridge for a while.

IMG_5895Once the oven and the dutch oven are heated properly, flour the surface of the dough (do not forget this step-it will not come out of the pan if you do!) and turn it into the hot pan.  Using a lame or a very sharp blade, score the dough, cover it and place it in the oven.  Twenty minutes covered, twenty minutes uncovered and it will be ready to take from the oven.

IMG_5896IMG_5900IMG_5903Beautifully colored, perfectly blistered.  Let it cool completely before cutting into the loaf.

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To see the recipe, please consider purchasing a copy of the book Tartine or at the very least, borrowing it from a library.  There are many great videos of the author as well as other bakers making bread using the technique described in the book and they are worth watching so consider looking them up.  The Country Bread recipe is available, reprinted with permission on the New York Times website.

chocolate chiffon bundt cake with drunken caramel; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Winter is once again showing us just who is in control.  Not only is it laughing at us, winter is flipping us the bird, repeatedly.  While I shouldn’t complain too loudly, it’s not like I live in the Boston area (sorry sis!), but as I sit here typing this, the weather forecast is calling for up to 15″ of snow to fall in the next 24 hours.  My complaint isn’t that it will snow but that 15″ is three times our average annual snowfall of 5 inches!

With the temperatures well below freezing with the wind chill, I was glad to be in my kitchen baking a chocolate cake.  And if there is one thing I am sure we can all agree on, chocolate cake fixes just about everything, especially if you serve it with a generous drizzle of drunken caramel sauce!  The cake, as the recipe is written in Baking with Julia, is supposed to be served with fresh raspberries soaked in liqueur and rich creme anglaise sauce that gets bruleed with a torch.  Well, I did not have raspberries or a torch and I did not want to make the creme anglaise sauce because it is just too rich for me.  But I did think a drizzle of caramel sauce would be nice and then I saw the bottle of Pennington’s and I couldn’t help myself…
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The cake itself is a typical chiffon cake; spongy and light and completely dependent upon the cocoa powder for flavor.  Because the cocoa powder is practically the sole component of the flavor profile, I suggest you use a high quality cocoa powder, I used Valrhona cocoa powder because I wanted that chocolate punch I knew Valrhona would give to the cake.  If I had used a cocoa powder typically found in the grocery store, I might have gotten decent results but the lack of raspberries and the creme anglaise would have been really obvious and I am not sure that a few dollops of my drunken caramel would have worked as well.  That caramel sauce packs a punch especially with the use of Pennington’s.  If you are not familiar with Pennington’s, let me tell you that you should get your hands on a bottle if you can.  It is distilled in Nashville and they use real strawberry flavor-not the fake stuff so it tastes like ripe juicy berries, the perfect companion for a chocolate cake.
IMG_3069Drunken Caramel Sauce

makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cinnamon stick

1″ piece of a vanilla bean, split open

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 cup booze-dark rum, bourbon, or whiskey (I highly recommend Pennington’s Strawberry Rye Whiskey)

Pour the cream into a small pot with the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean (the seeds scraped out and added to the pot) and the butter and place it over very low heat to warm it.  Place the sugar and corn syrup in a deep, heavy bottom pot with 1/4 cup of water.  Bring the pot to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to melt the sugar.  Wash the sides of the pot with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming.  Allow the sugar to boil until it turns amber in color.  Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour in the warm cream mixture, stirring to combine.  It will boil up violently so take caution when stirring.  Return the pot to the stove over low heat and stir gently to dissolve the caramelized sugar at the bottom and sides of the pot.  Do not boil the mixture, just stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is combined.  Remove from the heat again and carefully stir in the booze.  Pour the caramel through a mesh strainer remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod and into a heat proof serving pitcher or a bowl.  Allow it to cool to about 100 degrees before serving, store in the fridge and reheat as needed.

To see how the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers did with this recipe, check out the “LYL” page on the website.  If you would like to join us as we bake our way through Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi, get your hands on the books and get to work-the more the merrier!

Country White bread; the learning curve

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Recently, I picked up a copy of Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery.  If you aren’t familiar with the book or the bakery, it is a Los Angeles area landmark and a the breads are the type that most home bakers only dream of making.  The focus of the book is to start and maintain your own sourdough culture and to use it to make bread using the recipes that follow.  Sounds simple but I will warn you, there is not much room for creativity; the procedures and recipes need to be followed closely if you want the loaf to resemble those sold in the bakery.

Another note, this book is not for the beginner and to get the most out of it, you really should have some idea of bread baking.  That said, I will suggest that if you have had some experience (at home, in a restaurant or a bakery) and you want to take it a step further, pick up a copy of this book and start at the very beginning.  This is one of the few books that I feel you really must read all the information that comes before the recipes and then, read it again a few more times.  Yes folks, this is more like a textbook and a workbook rolled into a collection of recipes.

Personally, making artisan breads leavened with a natural yeast culture is another of those skills I have always wanted to develop but even though I am a pastry chef and I bake for a living, I have never pursued bread baking as a career.  Having had some time to spend in my new kitchen, I decided to take my own sourdough culture out of the fridge and try it in one of the recipes.  Because there is a need for exact measurements and conditions, I took a cup of my starter and began the process of feeding it as the book instructs.   And to test it, I started with the Country White bread, the very first recipe in the book. 
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Nancy instructs you “not to do a thing until you read the recipe carefully and calculate the times involved” and that is just the beginning.  This recipe is 14 pages long.  Suddenly, I was intimidated and the reasons I have never sought out a job baking bread for a living were staring me in the face.  Never the less, I did as told and read, reread and then read the recipe again.  Once I had written out my bread schedule, I got to work on making my first loaf, a two-day bread baking experience.


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There are so many steps, resting periods and so forth that I would be in danger of plagiarizing the book if I typed it out here so let me suggest that if you want to try making a loaf, get a copy of the book.  Truly this book is a worthwhile reference on bread making and it deserves a space on the shelf of serious bread bakers.  For a first attempt, I think the bread turned out pretty good and if I judge it by the amount my husband ate that first day, I would say it was a successful attempt.  Was it perfect?  Absolutely not.  Somehow, I added too much flour to the dough and I will say that the way the instructions for mixing by machine are written, they tell you to add the flour, meaning all(measured with a scale-not by the cup) of it at once.  It isn’t until several sentences later that it suggests holding some back to adjust the consistency.  Too late.  My dough was a little stiffer than it should have been and it made the machine kneading process impossible-I could hear my 6 quart Kitchen Aid struggling and switched to kneading by hand.  This was not an easy task and I kneaded the dough quite a bit longer than called for.

Just as the instructions are involved, so are the ingredients called for throughout the book.  A quick glance at a few recipes had me wondering where I could find rye chops and food grade lye near my home.  Then I looked at the equipment needed, I really need to find some english muffin rings or tuna cans that can be opened on both ends…This will be a learning experience, a slow one and one I plan to enjoy, one loaf at a time.
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