Friday, September 30, 2011

baking sweet memories with my daughters, part 2: crumb topped apple pie, #43 of 52

in my previous post, i baked a tart with my daughter alix; a sort of all growed up/movin out on my own party for the two of us.  this week, i was given the opportunity to do the same with my daughter devon.  you see, she too has moved out and is now in california where she will be attending school.  it was important to me to take the time to teach each of them a little about baking with the hope that they will take this new skill and use it to make their lives a little sweeter.  and in devon's case, it was a chance to pass a baton;  apple pie is my father in laws favorite pie and since she is now living with my in laws, it is something that she can make for him.

no matter what, i enjoyed every minute of baking with my daughters and cannot wait for the next chance to do so.  for now, i am adjusting to an empty nest and a husband who works all different shifts; in other words, i am spending a lot of time by myself.  it may be a little quiet here but it gives me a chance to do all the things that a book release requires.  my book was released the first week of september and it has been a little hectic.  since the book is out there, i decided to use my recipe for apple pie as this weeks challenge.

miss devon peeling and slicing 5 granny smith apples

tossing the apples with the spices and cornstarch

we got a little crazy and used a 7" pie plate and piled the apples in a tall dome

the pie was topped off with the crumbs and into the oven she went.  the height of the pie made a slight increase in the baking time.  it was tasty served warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream-perfection!

arkansas sweetly spiced apple crumb pie
serves 6-8

1(9”) pie shell, unbaked
6 cups sliced apples, any variety suitable for baking
3/4cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1/2teaspoon nutmeg
1/2teaspoon cardamom
1/4teaspoon cloves
1-cup crumb topping, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a sturdy baking sheet and line it with foil or parchment paper and grease that as well.  Place the pie shell on the baking sheet and set it aside.  In a bowl, rub the brown sugar, starch and spices together until blended.  Add the apples and toss them to coat them.  Dump the apple mix into the pie shell; scrape any sugar mix and juices into the bowl as well.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie leaving about a 1-1/2” border around the edge-as the apples bake, they will sink and the entire top will have crumbs.  If you put the crumbs close to the edges, they may run out with any of the juices that boil over and then you may not have much topping near the edges.  Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the crumb topping is lightly browned all over.  Allow it to set before cutting, although this will be tough to do, who can resist warm apple pie? 

Crumb topping
Makes about 1-1/3 cups

1/2cup all purpose flour
1/2cup rolled oats
1/3cup dark brown sugar
1/2teaspoon cinnamon
1/8teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and slightly cold
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them gently to break up the sugar but take care not to break the oats.  Add the butter and use your hands to gently rub the ingredients together to make small clumps.  Your final result should be a free flowing mixture with some lumps that will clump together when squeezed in your hand.  This can be done in the food processor with the pulse button, a quick time saving method, but will result in the oats being cut.  It can also be done in a stand mixer with the flat beater, which is the method we use in the cafe.

so get in that kitchen and bake some sweet memories with someone you love-send me a photo and i will post it here!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

baking sweet memories with my daughters, part 1: chocolate pecan tart, pie #42 of 52

it has always been a hope of mine that my two daughters will embrace the art of home made food.  to me, a well made meal is an event and when shared with family, there isn't much out there that can top it. over the years, both of my girls have shown a desire to bake, mostly cookies with the occasional cake thrown in.  but with all of these pies i have been baking, i have wanted to spend an afternoon baking a pie with each of them.  this last week, i finally got that wish.  alix was home for a visit and to help her sister get packed for the big move west and i took advantage of the time to bake a tart with alix.  when asked what kind of pie she would like to make, she chose chocolate pecan-you can't go wrong with chocolate and when you add pecans, it's even better!

we quickly mixed up a batch of tart dough using the food processor and alix pressed it into the pan with her fingers-no rolling pin required!  be sure to use a tart pan with a removable bottom to make cutting serving the easy.

using my foolproof method for partially baking a tart/pie shell, alix lined the shell with a large coffee filter and filled it full of marbles-my choice of pie weights.

while the tart shell baked, we mixed up the filling.  for a smooth filling every time, it is important that the ingredients are combined in the proper order.  otherwise, the custard separates in the oven and it the chocolate will float to the top.  to emulsify the filling, the brown sugar is whisked with the melted butter and chocolate mixture, the cinnamon and vanilla.  then the eggs are whisked in one at a time.  the final addition is the corn syrup.  be sure to scrape that bowl as you go.
alix whisking in the corn syrup-gotta love the action shots!

toast the pecans if you like and then chop them up and fill the shell with them.

pour the custard over the chopped nuts

decorate it with pecan halves

baked to fudgy perfection!  let it cool completely before removing it from the pan or it may crumble

chocolate pecan tart
serves 8

for the tart shell, use half of the recipe for tart dough from pie #39.  freeze the second half for another time and partially bake the tart shell at 325 for 20-25 minutes.  the dough should no longer look glossy and it will not have begun to color.  remove the weights and proceed with the recipe.

1 cup pecan pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
3/4 cup corn syrup
pecan halves to decorate the tart, at least 1 cup
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the pecan pieces on a baking tray until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  place the pecans in the partially baked tart shell.  melt the butter and the chocolate together by placing them in a microwave safe bowl and using the lowest power setting.  place the brown sugar in a mixing bowl with the vanilla and cinnamon.  whisk in the melted chocolate and butter.  whisk in the eggs, one at a time.  be sure to scrape the bowl between additions.  finally, whisk in the corn syrup and pour the custard into the prepared tart shell.  carefully arrange the pecan halves on the top of the tart.  bake until it puffs up and is almost set in the center, about 30-35 minutes.  allow the tart to cool completely before removing it from the pan or cutting.

as always, if you bake one, send me a photo and i will post it here.  may the power of pecans be with

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

they're all growed up

lately, my posts have been a bit sporadic and i apologize to all of you who follow this blog.  you may recall me mentioning my book-the actual purpose for starting this blog (once it was finished, i moved on to pies) and the publication of that book.  well, it's out there and doing well.  it is fun to look it up on amazon and see the ranking-i frequently find it in the top 3 for pies along with martha stewart's pie book.  curious?   look here and scroll down to see the ranking.  some of the media events for the book have made my schedule a little tight and that is only part of the reason for my late posts.

the real reason i have not been keeping up is that suddenly, my nest is empty.  we have two wonderful daughters and this past summer, both of them graduated; one from college and one from high school.  it has been a summer full of family and parties and i have enjoyed every minute and every opportunity to see extended family from out of state.  there was tons of food and lots of baking and plenty of good wine to wash it down.  but now that our first has moved and settled in atlanta, our second is preparing to fly west; she leaves today.  and as every parent will tell you, you work so hard to get them ready for all that life will throw at them but when the time comes, letting them field the balls is the hardest thing you will ever do.  so with a little motherly worry, i will let her go.  the good thing is that she won't be totally on her own, she will be with her grandparents.

on our last day together (until she comes home again in about 8 weeks), we did things that she likes to do.  her favorite thing-eat cupcakes!  we went to the cupcake collection and had our fill.

the cupcake collection
the cupcake collection is located in the germantown neighborhood of north nashville in an old victorian house that has been renovated to accommodate a busy bakery.  the staff is friendly and will answer your questions cheerfully.  best part-the cupcakes are only $1.50 each.  let that sink in a minute.  i fully expected to pay about $3 each and was a bit surprised.  then i realized that is why we waited in line-people come from all around the area to buy them at this price.  but the best part is that they are actually baked from scratch-music to a pastry chefs ears!!!  i've been to several cupcake shops and one used mixes-they were awful, one used tall towers of frosting to make the cupcakes seem gigantic and they were nothing special.  so when i tasted these-i was totally impressed and completely sold.  from now on, when it's cupcakes, it's the cupcake collection or make them myself!

my daughter and the loot-she picked out 6 different flavors to try

and i hadn't even gotten the car out of park before she dove in and ate her cookies and cream cupcake.  at one point, she let out the familiar "no way!"  when i inquired, she told me the middle was filled with frosting too-what more does a teenage girl need?

so having fed her dessert first, i then took her to lunch and then home to bake a pie.  yes a pie.  last week, our older daughter was home and i baked a pie with her as well.  so my next two posts will be about baking pies with my daughters. for now, here's more about the fabulous cupcakes.
so, i know what i like-carrot cake.  i very rarely get a piece of it so when i saw the cupcakes, i had to have one.  we also came home with a wedding cake, chocolate, red velvet and strawberry.

as you can see, they use real ingredients-those are carrots and raisins.  and what looked like not enough frosting was actually more than i needed-but don't think for a minute that i didn't enjoy the freshly mixed cream cheese if you're in the neighborhood, check them out and if not, make some and share them with your kids(if you have them).  trust me time flies and before you know it, you will be watching them fly away...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

a taste of fall: pear frangipane tart, pie #41 of 52

while i am sad to see summer come to a close, i am looking forward to the arrival of fall produce.  as much as i love visiting the farmers market in summer, i find the trips downtown in the fall almost magical.  the sight of so many apples and hard squashes...the thoughts of applesauce and butters and pies...mmmmmm, that's all i can say about it.  while it is still very warm, with many days still 80+, it is no longer too hot to make baking impossible.  the arrival of pears from colder climates made a pear tart irresistible.

not all pears make nice tarts.  the best ones are those with a slightly soft texture that hold their shape when baked.  for this reason, i generally use d'anjou pears that are a tad under ripe.  for this tart, i had to choose between bartlett and bosc-neither being a favorite of mine.  i went with firm, under ripe bartletts so that they would not turn to mush when i poached them.  poaching is important for this type of tart-it prevents discoloration and ensures that the pears are soft when the tart filling is completely baked.  it also prevents the pears from releasing excessive amounts of juices onto the top of the filling and that enables the filling to bake properly.  the poaching liquid includes wine and the beauty of this tart is that you could use any type of wine and alter the taste of the pears to your liking.  i used marsala because that is what was convenient but you could easily use chardonnay, sauternes, port, champagne or any other white  wine.  however, there is no reason that you couldn't use a mild, fruity red and give the pears a pink tint. 

freshly poached and ready to be sliced. after removing the pears, place the pot of liquid back on the stove over low heat.  the poaching liquid is reduced down to 1 cup and used as a syrup to drizzle over the slices as you serve them.

the tart shell must be prebaked first.  then, mix up the frangipane filling, spread it into the tart shell and layer the sliced pears around the top in a spiral.

once the tart has been baked and allowed to cool completely, remove it from the pan and cut it into wedges.  drizzle it with the syrup and you have an elegant fall dessert.

pear frangipane tart
serves 8-10

tart dough
half batch of tart dough from pie #39, second piece can be frozen for future use.  place the dough into a greased tart pan with a removable bottom.  with your fingers, carefully distribute the dough around the bottom and sides by pressing it and pushing it into place so that it is an even thickness throughout (no rolling pin required!!!).   place the shell on a sturdy baking pan.  line the shell with a coffee filter or parchment paper, fill with weights and prebake it at 325 degrees until the dough no longer looks shiny and appears opaque when you lift up the paper/weights, about 25-30 minutes.

poached pears
3-4 pears, peeled, halved with cores removed
3 cups water
1 cup wine
1/2 vanilla bean
1 star anise pod
3 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon, squeezed-juice and fruit both added to the mix
1/2 cup sugar
combine the ingredients in a large pot.  over medium low heat, simmer the pears until they are soft but not yet mushy, about 20 minutes.  remove the pears to a dish to cool.  remove all of the aromatic ingredients from the liquid and return the pot to the stove over medium low heat.  allow the syrup to reduce and concentrate to just 1 cup.  chill the syrup

frangipane filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces almond paste
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup all purpose flour
in a mixing bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and the sugar until light and fluffy.  add the egg and mix to incorporate.  sift the flour into the batter and mix just to incorporate.  

assembling and baking the tart
remove the weights from the tart shell and spread the frangipane filling evenly in the shell.  cut the pears into 1/4" thick slices and using the photo above for reference, carefully arrange them in a spiral around the top of the filling.  bake in an oven preheated to 350 until the filling sets, approximately 50-55 minutes.  brush a small amount of the syrup over the tart while it is still hot to give it a shine and allow it to cool completely before removing it from the pan.  cut into wedges and serve it with a drizzle of the syrup.  if you would like to really indulge yourself and those you are serving this too,  serve it with some vanilla or buttermilk ice cream.

as always, bake one and send me a photo, i promise to post it here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

scuppernongs, a native american fruit-pie #40 of 52

i can remember the first time i heard someone talk about scuppernongs-i thought they were nuts.  just say the name out loud and you may understand.  it hardly sounds like something that anyone should be eating.  years later, the trend towards native plants and foods makes this recipe somewhat relevant.  the scuppernong,  a bronze muscadine, is the only native grape found in north america and are easy to grow.

all muscadines have thick skins.  you need to separate the pulpy insides from the skins by squeezing them.  the skins are then simmered until soft and the pulp is then run through a food mill to remove the large seeds which are inedible(they aren't poisonous but are a little like gravel if you end up with them in your mouth).  the recipe can be made with either the red or green (also called bronze) muscadines but remember, only the green ones are called scuppernongs.  the flavor is a bit musky in comparison to grapes  and they will take on other flavors easily so be careful not to overdo it when adding additional ingredients to the pie.  since there aren't too many options for using the fruits, this recipe is a lot like everyone you will find online and that is about as good as it gets.

scuppernong pie
1 (9") pie serving 8

enough pie dough for a double  crust pie
1 quart scuppernongs
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
egg wash and crystal sugar, if desired

separate the skins from the pulp of the fruit.  place the skins in a sauce pan with the water and simmer until tender, can take as long as 30 minutes.  allow the skins and the liquid to cool before using.  run the pulp through a food mill to remove the seeds-this can also be done by hand; just pick out and discard the seeds.  combine the sugar with the starch and zest.  in a bowl, combine the skins, the cooking liquid, the pulp and the sugar mix and stir.  preheat the oven to 350.  roll out the bottom crust, line the pie plate with   it and pour in the filling.  roll out the top crust and cut a hole in the center to vent the steam.  brush some egg wash around the edge of the bottom crust, place the top crust on with the hole centered and seal the edges.  flute the edges if desired, brush egg wash over the top and sprinkle crystal sugar over the top of the pie.  bake until boiling in the center, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  allow it to cool completely and set before cutting.

and there you  have it, scuppernong pie.  will i make it again, don't know but i would like to try making some scuppernong jam and perhaps i may even try to grow some.  and as always, if you bake it, send me a photo, i will post it here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

plum galette, pie #39 of 52

what a dreary day-we needed the rain and i am happy it has finally arrived but does it have to be so dark and grey too?  enough of the whining, this pie can brighten your rainy day without a lot of work.  galettes are a quick and easy pie because they aren't supposed to look perfect.  it is a great go to recipe when you need a dessert that seems a little more elegant than usual without the hassle of classically prepared pastries.

plums bake up quick too but this can be made with peaches, apples, berries or pears.  make the dough from scratch using the recipe below but freeze half of it for another day and use it to make a tart or more galettes.

plum galette
serves 4

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold milk

Place the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl and blend to combine.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In a food processor this will be accomplished by pulsing the mixture.  Add the egg yolks and the milk and mix until the dough combines and forms a smooth dough.  Divide the dough in two pieces, shape into 4” disks, freeze one for later and chill the other before using.

plum filling
4 black plums
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 of a vanilla bean-seeds only, pod reserved for another use
halve the plums, remove the pit and cut into thin wedges.  in a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and rub them together with your fingers until completely mixed.  toss the plums with the sugar mix and allow them to macerate while you roll out the dough.

preheat the oven to 350.  cut one disk of dough into 4 equal pieces.  shape each piece into a round disk and roll them out to 7-1/2 inch circles.  place the dough circles onto sheet pans lined with parchment 
paper.  arrange the pears in a circle on top of each round of dough leaving a 1" border around the edge.  fold the edges up over the top of the plums to form a loose and free formed pie.  drizzle a spoonful of the collected juices over the center of each galette.  if desired, brush the edges with some water and sprinkle with additional sugar, but you can leave it plain as i did too.  bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden around the top and the juices are bubbly.  allow them to rest on the pan for 10-15 minutes before serving and if you want to really go all out, serve them with some vanilla ice cream.

as always, bake one and send me a photo, i will post it here.  now if you will excuse me, i am going to go and find some other song to play incessantly in my head-the carpenter's(rainy days and mondays) are killing

Thursday, September 1, 2011

summer berry pie, #38 of 52 pies

in what is quickly becoming a never ending game of catch-up, i am trying to get all of the pies posted...wish me luck, please!!!

on that note, i also found myself trying to keep the pie simple.  that is not hard to do when berries are in season.  a quick trip to the store and i had plenty of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries to make a pie that was as delicious as it was easy to prepare.  by not stressing over the crust and just folding it in towards the center, the result was similar to a rustic galette but with a lot more fruit.  one more note, if you find yourself with frozen berries (whether you picked them or bought them), go ahead and use them in this recipe.  measure the fruit while it is still frozen and then let it thaw before using it-frozen fruit will drastically increase the necessary baking time and can mean a burned crust.

summer berry pie
1 (9") pie serving 8

pie dough for a single (9") pie shell
2 cups blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons rosewater
crystal sugar
preheat the oven to 350.  roll out the pie crust so that is it about 1-1/2 to 2 inches larger than needed to line the pie plate.  place the crust into the plate and allow the excess to hang over the edge.  combine the berries in a bowl.  in a separate bowl, rub the sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest together with your fingers and completely combine them.  toss the berries with the sugar mixture taking care not to mash them and then scrape the filling into the pie shell.  gently lift the excess dough up and drape it on top of the fruit pleating it as needed to make it fit.  sprinkle crystal sugar over the pie crust and bake until it is bubbly in the center, about an hour and 15 minutes.

as most berry pies are, this will be runny while it is hot.  be sure to let it cool to room temp before trying to cut it.  and as always, bake one and send me a photo i will post it here.