Concord Grape Pie

September 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Posted in pies & tarts, sweet things | 16 Comments
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concord grape pie

Last Saturday, my CSA workshift rolled around (cuz you know, apparently CSAs are socialist).  To tell the truth, I was kind of dreading standing there for three hours early on a weekend morning, but as it turned out, the weather was great and I got the job I wsa hoping for.  I got to weigh out the coveted concord grapes that were last week’s fruit share.  Actually I got to dole out both grapes and advice.  Pretty much everyone who came through asked what to do with them.  How about eat them…juice them…jam them…pie them?!?!  Being the grape mistress also meant I got first dibs on leftovers when we cleaned up.  I took home a few extra stems…enough in total to make both concord grape jam and a little pie of my own.

Concord grapes are like the grapiest grapes there are.  They’re the grapes that “grape-flavored” things imitate.  And they are the most dreamy shade of purpley blue.  When I recommended to my fellow CSA-ers that they make a pie, most of them looked at me like I had two heads.  I guess a grape pie does sound a little weird, but it is so, so delicious.  Jammy and sweet and purple.

Now that I’ve talked up these grapes, here’s the bad news.  They have seeds.  Hard seeds that are unpleasant to eat, and IMO must be removed.  Making a pie from them is a labor of love, but I’m willing to put in the time to de-seed.  I don’t mind so much turning on the radio and zoning out with a little kitchen prep.  Anyway, it is a once a year treat, and the time spent makes every bite taste that much better.

concord grape pie

Concord Grape Pie- makes a 9-inch pie
heavily adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit (September 2008)

Steph’s Note: If concords aren’t available where you live, or you’d like a more year-round, less labor-intensive alternative, see the original recipe (which uses seedless red grapes).

8 cups stemmed concord grapes (about 2 1/2 pounds), rinsed well and patted dry
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
squeeze of lemon juice
double-crust recipe of your favorite flaky pastry dough (I used Dorie’s), divided into two disks and well-chilled
1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
1 T turbinado or granulated sugar

-Slice grapes in half and remove the seeds.  Transfer grapes (and their skins, which tend to easily slip off–don’t worry about it) to large sieve set over large bowl.  Drain off grape liquid, saving 2 tablespoons.

-Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt in another large bowl to blend.  Mix in drained grapes, reserved juice and squeeze of lemon juice.

-Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Roll out one disk of dough on floured surface to a 13-inch round; transfer to pie dish.  Brush dough edge with egg glaze.  Fill with grape mixture.  Roll out the second disk of dough to a 12-inch round.  Top pie with dough; trim overhang to 1/2 inch.  Roll edge under and crimp.  Brush top of pie with glaze; sprinkle with raw sugar.  Cut several slits  in top crust to allow steam to escape.  Chill the pie until your oven is fully heated.

-Bake pie until golden and juices bubble thickly, 60 to 70 minutes, slipping a baking sheet under the pie plate at the halfway point.  Cool the pie on a rack to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.  You should think about having vanilla ice cream on hand.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

September 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 14 Comments
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nectarine upside-down chiffon cake

It’s Fridays with Dorie for me this week with  Mary Bergin’s fabulous Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake.  I made, and ate, this cake a couple of weekends ago.  Then I was so excited to go Montreal for Labor Day weekend, I didn’t post.  We came home and I still didn’t post, because I’ve been too busy looking at Montreal real estate websites and daydreaming about living there!!

This recipe is in a section in the book called “Everyday Delights” but I think it’s pretty fancy.  It’s not just a standard-issue tinned fruit upside-down cake.  Underneath the glistening fresh nectarines is a light chiffon cake bisected by a layer of crispy almond streusel. It’s a bit of work to pull off, but I thought it was worth every bite.  And really, the streusel could be skipped to save a step…it would be just as good, I think.

I had good success with this chiffon.  I was a little worried when I saw the batter almost totally filled my springform, and it did mushroom up in the oven.  But nothing overflowed, thank goodness.  If you are worried, I’d suggest taking out a couple scoops and making them into cupcakes or something.  It was kinda hard to tell if the cake was done, and I think I left it in the oven a few extra miinutes.  When making chiffons, the cake pans are often ungreased so the batter can really climb up the sides.  I’ve learned to (gingerly!) run a thin knife around the edges of the pans about five to ten minutes after the cakes have come out of the oven.  This helps the cakes to not tear away from the sides as they start to cool, which I think can cause them to sink a bit.

nectarine upside-down chiffon cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Marlise’s The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan’s The Little French Bakery.  There’s also a video of Julia and Mary baking this together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Peach Butter

August 31, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in breakfast things, jams & preserves, sweet things | 6 Comments
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peach butter

We’re at the point in the summer (the end of it, I mean), when I’m freaking out a little about the prospect of a winter full of rutabagas and turnips.  My reaction to this, apparently, is to stash little jars of summery things on the top shelf of my fridge.

I made this peach butter recipe last year, and then promptly ate up without a word to you about it.  So I just made it again.  It’s thicker and more intense than jam.  It’s not only what’s in it (peaches!) that makes it delicious, but also what’s not– no spices and not too much sugar.  I think it’s what crumpets were made for..

More summer stonefruit you should put in jars:  apricots, plums, nectarines (and plums, again).  Happy weekend!

Peach Butter– makes about four cups
from Smitten Kitchen

Steph’s Note:  This can be “properly” canned if you want to store it longer-term.  See the original recipe for tips on that process.

4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) peaches
1 cup (237 ml) water
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
juice of one lemon

-If you are not using a food mill: Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. Slip off the peels.

-Cut your peaches in half and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters (8 chunks from each peach). Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly. If you have a food mill, run them through it to puree them and remove the skins.  Use a disk with smaller holes if you want a smoother puree.  If you don’t have a food mill — i.e. you already peeled your peaches — you can puree in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender.

-Return the peaches to the pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end, as it thickens up and the fruit masses risk scorching on the bottom of the pot.

-There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolve into the pot, it is done. Some people use cold or frozen plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple of minutes, it is done. Others use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear train when scraped across the bottom.

-Spoon the peach butter into clean jars (you can sterilize the jars and lids first with boiling water, if you are so inclined), leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top.  Close the jars and let the jam cool to room temperature.  Store the butter in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Ice Cream Cake with a Thin Mints Crust

August 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, ice creams & frozen, simple cakes | 6 Comments
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ice cream cake with a thin mints crust

Why must bikini season and ice cream season be one and the same?

It was my husband’s birthday last weekend.  Like a good, caring wife, I made him an unbaked cake using all prepared ingredients.  Sounds kind of mean when I put it that way, but it started when an unopened box of Girl Scout Cookies from God know when (they don’t expire, right??) was found in the cupboard, and he requested an ice cream cake with a Thin Mints crust.  That sounded pretty simple compared to some past requests, so I was happy to oblige.  I used a nice (but store-bought) chocolate gelato, and redeemed myself a bit by stirring together a little ganache for the top.  Colored sprinkles, a candle and a secret wish made it a birthday cake.

ice cream cake with a thin mints crust
Ice Cream Cake with a Thin Mints Crust makes an 8- or 9-inch cake

Steph’s Notes:  I made a half recipe in a 6-inch springform, using one sleeve of Thin Mints (minus two cookies), 1 tbsp of butter and one pint of ice cream.

1 box Thin Mints cookies (should you want to set 4 or five cookies aside for snacks or decoration, that’s fine)
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 pints of ice cream
stuff to decorate!

-Line the base of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with a circle of greased parchment.

-In a food processor, blitz the cookies and melted butter until mixture is coarse crumbs. Firmly press cookie crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.  You can give it a little lip, or leave it flat.  Pop in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

-Slightly soften your ice cream on the counter for several  minutes.  Using a scoop, evenly distribute the ice cream around the crust and then smooth it all out with a small offset spatula.

-Freeze your cake for at least a few hours or overnight, until well-set.  Decorate and pop off the side of the pan (temper it for a few minutes or run a warm offset around the edge if it’s difficult to remove).  Slice using a warm knife.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Crunchy Summer Fruit Galette

August 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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crunchy summer fruit galette

This week it’s Thursday with Dorie.  Oops, someone didn’t pay attention…my bad.  Anyway, here is Flo Braker’s Crunchy Berry Galette, made instead with peaches and red currants from my CSA.  A galette is a freeform pie.  I make little individual ones everyday at the shop where I work, but we call them crostatas, cuz we’re Italian like that.

This galette has an unusal dough…it’s not a flaky pie pastry.  It gets it’s crunch from cornmeal and softness from sour cream.  The dough is seriously sticky, but I rolled and formed it directly on the parchment I used for baking, so I didn’t really have issues with it.  I added a tiny spoon of cornstarch to the filling just to tighten it up a bit.  I still had a little leaky juice, but no major explosion.  This was small, perfect for two with ice cream.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read  Lisa’s Tomato Thymes in the Kitchen and Garden and Andrea’s The Kitchen Lioness.  It’s also here.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Blueberry-Nectarine Pie

July 31, 2012 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 17 Comments
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blueberry-nectarine pie

Yeah, I know that just a couple of weeks ago I declared crisp to be the new pie.  And now here I am with an old school pie.  A big pie, too…not my normal half-sizer, but a full nine-inch pie.  A pie that I can eat while I watch the Olympics– ha!  Leslie Mackie’s Blueberry-Nectarine Pie is actually a favorite recipe.  I’ve made this pie several times in summers past and it’s always great.  I really love nectarines, even more than peaches, I think.

There are a couple of wacky instructions in the recipe that I don’t go by.  First, it says to assemble the pie in a one-inch tall nine-inch cake pan.  That’s weird…why not use a pie pan?  I do.  Then it says to cool the pie for 30 minutes before cutting.  Trust me, it needs to cool much longer than that if you don’t want your filling to pour out when you slice it.  I always try to bake my pies in the morning, so that by dinner time, they are well-set.

By the way, I spent last week on the West Coast, mainly visiting my family in Seattle.  I had my mother take me to Mackie’s Macrina Bakery in SODO one afternoon.  I didn’t see this pie there, but the breads are amazing.

blueberry-nectarine pie

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read  Hilary’s Manchego’s Kitchen and Liz’s That Skinny Chick Can Bake.  It’s also here.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Sour Cherry and Pistachio Crisp

July 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, sweet things | 9 Comments
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sour cherry and pistachio crisp

Cherry season is preciously short, and, where I live, it’s right now.  It’s probably nearing the end of the road for them, actually, as all things fruity seem to appearing and disappearing early this summer (due to the 60° winter we had, no doubt).  I’m going to the greenmarket tomorrow to find more tart red jewels before they go bye-bye till next year.

I’m deciding these days that I find crisps to be as satisfying as pie, but with a lot less effort.  Perhaps that makes them slightly more satisfying?  Sounds lazy, but prepping cherries is a labour of love as it is (and usually leads to a t-shirt covered in red speckles) so I’m happy not to also deal with the clean-up involved in making crust.  Soft fruit with a crispy topping of oats and brown sugar is hard to beat anyway.  I’m also digging this combination of sour cherries and pistachios, but some roughly chopped almonds would be a fine stand-in if you don’t have the pistachios on hand.

sour cherry and pistachio crisp

Sour Cherry and Pistachio Crisp- serves 8
adapted from marthastewart.com

Steph’s Notes:  I made a half recipe in a smaller baking dish.  It took less time to bake than the full recipe did, about 35 minutes in total, and I turned the oven down to 325°F for the last 10 minutes to keep my topping from getting too brown.

1 3/4 pounds pitted fresh or frozen sour cherries
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch (increase to 2 1/2 tsp if you like your filling a little more tight)
pinch of ground cinnamon

-Preheat oven to 375°F.  If using frozen cherries, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature until cherries have thawed almost completely but still hold their shape, about 30 minutes.  Drain off any accumulated liquid.  If you are using fresh cherries, just stem and pit them and you are good to go.

-Whisk together the pistachios, flour, oats, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.  Put butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy…this is not hard to do by hand with a wooden spoon, if you choose.  Stir pistachio mixture into butter mixture until just combined.  Work mixture through your fingers until it forms coarse crumbs ranging in size from small peas to gum balls.  Chill topping in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  You can even make the topping the day before and hold it in the fridge.

-Stir together cherries, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the cornstarch, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.  Transfer cherry mixture to an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over cherry mixture.  Bake until topping turns golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes to 1 hour, turning at the half-way point.  If you notice that your topping is browning too quickly, turn the heat down to 325°F for the remainder of the baking time.  Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour before serving.  A little ice cream on top is a fine idea.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Hazelnut Biscotti

July 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 16 Comments
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hazelnut biscotti

I’m not supposed to be home writing this post right now, but the last three days we’ve had power outages at work and closed up shop early.  Hard to work in a food business when your refrigeration is down.  I feel bad for the store owners because it’s truly a mess and they lose sales when this stuff happens, but it’s a little bonus time off for me.  Time off means time for a cookie break with Alice Medrich’s Hazelnut Biscotti!

These super-crunchy biscotti are the perfect little something on the side of a plate.  Good with coffee (naturally), ice cream or fruit.  The recipe calls for skin-on hazelnuts and has kind of a kooky method for removing the skins (just watch this video…ick).  I went a far more straight-forward route– I bought pre-blanched nuts!  I just toasted them as directed before proceeding with the dough.  A tip that worked well for many of us this week is to lightly wet your hands before shaping the dough into logs.  This helps neatly deal with the stickiness.  And I recommend slicing the cookies pretty thin after the first bake, because after the second, the cookies are so crisp that a fat cookie would be hard to bite down on.  They have proven to be good keepers, even with the heat and humidity we’ve had here this past week. 

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Jodi’s Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina’s Baking and Boys.  There’s also a video of Alice and Julia making the biscotti together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!  I kept mine pretty plain and simple, but I’m sure there are lots of fun substitutions and biscotti variations this week.

Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake

July 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 7 Comments
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boozy berry-topped tres leches

It’s kind of hard to fire up the oven in the middle of a heat wave, especially when you don’t have A/C in the kitchen.  But I’m willing to get started early in the day if I know that by the end of it I’ll have a piece of cool, chilled tres leches cake on my plate.  It pairs so well with seasonal fruit, that this really is a great summer cake, if you have a place to keep it cold.

I did another tres leches cake here before with a baking group.  I wasn’t crazy about that one…it was dense and heavy, for which I blamed the creamed butter mixing method.  I like this separated egg method much better.  It makes a cake that’s light and spongy and just sucks up all tres of the leches you pour on top.  I’m amazed that a cake can absorb such a ridiculously huge amount of liquid, but it does.

I made this with strawberries, which have now come and gone from the Greenmarket, but the raspberries and blueberries that are around now would be just as tasty…and very Fourth of July appropriate, I think.

Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake- makes a 9×13-inch cake
adapted from a recipe in Fine Cooking, Issue 117 by Fany Gerson

Steph’s Notes:  If you don’t want the booze, just leave it out of the cake and topping for a “regular” tres leches.  Of course, you can leave off the fruit as well.  You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead. 

for the cake
unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the soaking liquid
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt
1 tbs gin, tequila, rum or orange liqueur

for the topping
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tbs gin, tequila, rum or orange liqueur
2 tbs confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups summer berries (one type or a mix)

Bake the cake:

-Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

-Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan.  Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

-Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

-Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

-Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more.  Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula.  Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

-Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

-Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake: In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the booze and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup. With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake: In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the booze, sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to over-beat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake. Spoon the berries over the whipped cream and serve.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: French Strawberry Cake

June 19, 2012 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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french strawberry cake

Flo Braker‘s French Strawberry Cake is the perfect thing for right now, right here.  Strawberries are all over the NYC greenmarkets (and my CSA), so a summer strawberry cake of some sort was bound to be in order even if we hadn’t picked this for TWD

This is a lovely simple cake…no fancy buttercreams or anything.  Just some lightly sweetened whipped cream and mashed strawberries filling a whole egg sponge cake.  The cake is called a genoise in the book, but it’s the only genoise I’ve ever made that doesn’t heat the eggs in the process.  The recipe calls for making one tall cake and splitting it into three layers.  I made just a half recipe and I thought my little six-inch cake really only needed to be cut into two.  This type of sponge cake can be a little dry on its own, but the whipped cream and macerated berries add the moisture that is needed.  I think it became even tastier the second day.  I can see this being great with raspberry smoosh, too, if you are feeling more English than French (Victoria sponge, anyone)?.

french strawberry cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read  Sophia’s, Sophia’s Sweets and Allison’s Sleep Love Think Dine.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

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