Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some times I forget

Certain things are hard to make, even if they sound simple.

Like Turkey, for example. I've never made one, I probably never will, but I am sure glad other people have it figured out.

Talk about delicious. Red Chili and Honey glazed Thanksgiving Turkey... yes please. I never really understood why people say this but, seriously, gobble gobble. 

While my contribution consisted of...

You guessed it, pie.  The other thing I've recently learned is harder to make than expected is fudge....

And so feeling creative last night I made pumpkin fudge. Twice... and I will probably have to make it a third time to really get it right...

Maybe it isn't actually that hard, but my advice to you when it comes to fudge- don't well fudge it. I tried to resist saying that, really I tried, but it was just too obvious.

Bad puns aside, in all seriousness, use a thermometer- a candy thermometer that reads above 230.  Also, once you get your sugar up to a boil, turn it down to medium low. Since you don't want to over stir the sugar, you also don't want to burn it- which will happen if you don't turn down the stove. I promise. Then you will be left with a hot, sticky, burnt lump of pumpkin and sugar.  Not as much fun as fudge.

So happy confectioning everyone. There is a first time for everything!

Pumpkin Fudge 
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
dash nutmeg
dash cloves
dash ginger
dash salt
dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, but I used pecans, as they seemed relevant to the whole pumpkin, thanksgiving theme.)

Bring sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt, spices, and cornstarch to a boil. Reduce to medium low heat and continue to cook until 236 degrees or the mixture "soft balls" in cold water. Meaning, as far as I understand, clumps into a soft ball rather than completely disintegrating in the water.  It's a fine line, if you don't cook the sugar enough you mixture won't harden and will remain sticky and granular. But, if you over cook, the sugar will burn and you won't want to eat it.

Remove from heat, add butter and nuts and stir until incorporated.  Pour into buttered or parchment lined pan and let cool.

Cut into pieces and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I may be falling...

for Huckleberries.

Seriously, west coast, just when I begin to curse you for your rain and your perpetual grayness- I remember the five pound bag of Huckleberries in my freezer.  Hands off though, these berries are few and far between, and I refuse to reveal my source.

These berries are tart and with a simple filling of lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch-- perfect for pie. In fact, they may be made for it.

Don't let it fool you though- as sweet as it is in pie, these berries have a dangerous side as well. Make sure you add enough cornstarch because if you dont....

Then you may have to explain why you look like you've been murdered, but why you are smiling walking down the street carrying a pie.

But it's a pie worth sharing, especially when you get dinner out of it.

Hence a new tradition, thus far dubbed Lambleberry 

Lamb for pie.  Genius.

Happy Turkey- Day everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

There was just enough time

Last night I didn't have to work, so I made pie.  Applesauce pie.

While that's been the norm for me as of late, I am happy to report that even now that I am getting paid to make pies all day - well all night- I still want to make them at home.

A few weeks ago I received a package from Amazon, in which came a textbook thick book tittled Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie.  While I am not really a recipe follower when it comes to pie, specifically pie fillings of the fruit variety, I figured with 300 recipes there was bound to be something with apples that jumped out at me.  And somewhere around page 350 I found a recipe for  Cider Apple Pie.

The idea being, if you cook down your apples you can incapsulate more apples between your double crust. Thus-- ensuring a delightfully appleicous pie.

But, me being me, and being picky about my apple pies I of course decided to throw in my own touch. Give it a little panache if you will...

I am calling it Apple's Saucy Pie.  Granny Smith Apples, Maple Sugar, and Bourbon.

The trick is to pre cook the apples in Apple Cider and Bourbon (of course), chill them, and then bake them as you would normally.

It's a little mushy a little crunchy, sweet but not too much so.  This is definitely a pie that needs to rest. If you are a warm Apple Pie kinda person, lets this rest at least 2 hours, and then rewarm it up if need be.

Happy almost Turkey Day.  It's my favorite day of the year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What we take with us

As a kid I took piano lessons for six years, partially because I was forced to, but mostly for the peanut butter cookies.  Yes, I learned to play Pachel Bel Cannon and Beatles songs, and am grateful that I could still plunk along to something if I so desired, but music was never really my creative outlet.  One I think I am tone deaf and two I much prefer peanut butter cookies...

So despite the fact that I too will most likely make my future kids play the piano some day -- the only residual benefit of six years of weekly afternoon piano lessons is this peanut butter cookie recipe from my piano teacher herself.  Of course, I've made some tweaks to accommodate my more recent obsession with salty sweet desserts. Classic peanut butter cookies meet salt. Say hello...

These cookies are salty. Seriously. Also they are chewy and gigantic and are good with or without milk chocolate. A glass of milk is probably a must though, if you really want to do it right.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Lisa Reeve's of Lyme, NH
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp bourbon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup salted creamy peanut butter (don't get the no stir kind, the more oil the better)

2 cups flour (pastry or all purpose)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tablespoon plus a pinch of kosher salt ( if you aren't using a larger flake salt use less)

Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter stirring between each addition.  In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt. Beat dry ingredients into wet slowly.  Dough will be sticky so use an ice cream scoop (about 1/4 cup capacity) to scoop cookies on to sheet.  Cookies will spread so I suggest not baking more than 5 to a sheet.
Bake 15 minutes at 350. Cookies will look underdone, but will finishing cooking as they cool on the pan.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am so happy to have found you....

The other night I went to Sitka and Spruce for an impromptu dinner.  Nestled in the back of the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill, this is the type of restaurant that will make your heart melt.  It will also, incidentally, make your belly very very happy as well.

It's a strange feeling when you walk into a place, a place you've never been, and you feel like you are home.  That is what Sitka is. It's homey, eclectic, and rustic, in the most understated and elegant of ways.
With a communal dinning table that extends directly out of the kitchen, seriously talk about open kitchen, and a spread of tarts, olives, and crockery waiting at the ready- you truly feel as if you are sitting at  your mothers', your friends', your grandmothers' kitchen table.   Now if only I knew more people who could cook like that...

I know this is a baking blog and I don't often weigh in on the savory, but after a meal like that, I feel I am obliged to throw my hat in the ring. And don't worry, it all ends with dessert.

We started with raw tremiti olives, while we poured over the extensive wine list. Incidentally, I never knew most olives can't be served raw, but that's just another perk of dinning with chef friends.  The olives were exactly what you want in an olive. Meaty, salty, and for me, not too over powering.

Next, smoked silver salmon with lentils, beets, and crispy leeks. Despite, the disappointing fact that the lentils didn't make it to our plate, this dish was delicious. I can only imagine the lentils would have made it perfect.  Although none of us realized the absence of lentils until after we had moved on to the next course- so maybe the perfectly smoked salmon and fresh beets didn't need a thing.

We then tried the steamed winter squash with house made yogurt, dukkah spice and salted lemon.  The squash was steamed skin on and maintained a great flavor and texture. The yogurt was mild, and the dukkah was a little too caraway heavy for me, but the slated lemon- seriously salt and lemon may just be all you need to squash anyways.

Finally, the duck. Duck. Duck. It's worth saying three times. I don't have that much experience with duck, from a culinary perspective, but I am now officially it's biggest fan.  Well, maybe fan isn't the right word because I am now going to want to eat them all the time, but hey, delicious is delicious. We asked our server to have the kitchen pick between the lamb and the duck, and while, the service was all in all a little underwhelming, the kitchen made a great call.

Sitka's spiced duck with poached quince and button chanterelles was the perfect protein to round out our meal. The duck was juicy, gamey, and amazingly tender.  Quince, may quite possibly be my new favorite fruit, paired phenomenally with the rich duck, adding just the right amount of tart flavor and crisp texture.  The chanterelles added a nice crisp bite to the dish.  But seriously, duck and quince... come on.  I may have mentioned it before, but as a more recent carnivore, I have no idea how I survived six years without eating meat.  I've said it before and I will say it again, my life is infinitely better.  I am a convert, and things like roasted duck breast, aren't making me regret my decision in the slightest.

Now, on to my favorite part....

When I go out to eat I consider dessert as my research. Therefore, barring some freak occurrence, I never skip it. Seriously never and let's be honest I don't really understand people who do.  So for research's sake, we split the house made mignardises and the gateau basque with poached pumpkins.  The mignardises were average, the chocolate chip cookie a little flat and greasy and the almond biscotti, while flavorful, was a little too crispy for my liking. I appreciate meringues, but usually just in concept, however if we didn't have the tart to get to I could have eaten a million of the dates- sweet, chewy, with a perfect salty nutty crunch.  But, since I am putting all my dessert opinions on the line here, dates aren't really dessert- they're just not.

This is why I order two desserts.

Gateau basque has recently become one of my favorite desserts. Although it holds the name of a cake (gateau) it's really more pie or tart than cake.  The crust often made from almond flour is nutty and eggy, and the filling usually consisting of a pastry cream and some sort of fruit preserves- is the perfect rustic, tangy, creamy, and simultaneously rich and light dessert.  As far as I am concerned, this is definitely one for team pie though.

So without knowing what I was getting into I decided I would give it a go.

It's all about the crust. Yolky, lemony, buttery, and nutty it is the perfect complement to a simple pastry cream center.  You don't get a recipe this time because this particular cake is still a work in progress, but I'll say I was happy with the crust and not so much with my filling.

I am sure there are a number of reasons but when it comes down to pastry creams and whipped creams I am at a loss. I am getting better, working through the tips of the trade that people have generously offered, but it's definitely an experiment.  I need help.  I haven't quite reached the dollop-able consistency that the gateau basque needs, or rather-- that it demands.

Still, it looks pretty tasty.

All in all I am glad to have found Sitka

Get ready.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Machiavelli was wrong...

Or else he didn't know how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

There are some people you just want to bake cookies for. And when you do. Make these

This post could also be tittled: the post in which I give chocolate chip cookies their long awaited centerfold.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

it must be fate...

Last night at work I had a sudden craving for banana bread. Lucky for me, this  gem appeared in my inbox this morning....

It must be fate.

Plus, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to bust out the vintage neon green bundt pan I bought at a thrift store the other day. My obsession is getting a little out of control...

Lemon Olive Oil Banana Cake
adapted from 101 Cook Books 

1 cup All purpose Flour 
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour 
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (I used maple) 
1/3 cup olive oil 
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (3 bananas) 
1 cup course chopped bittersweet chocolate 
1/2 cup dark brown sugar 
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
6 teaspoons lemon juice 

Preheat oven to 350 and grease pan. Set aside. Whisk together flours, sugar, salt, baking soda, and chocolate, set aside. Mix olive oil, mashed bananas, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and lemon zest. Fold in dry ingredients and transfer into greased pan. Bake untile golden brown, the original recipe recommended 50 minutes but I found 40-45 was more accurate. You don't want to loose the moisture of this cake.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack and let completely cool.  Prepare glaze (whisk all ingredients together until smooth). Once bread is cool pour glaze on top of cake. Glaze will thicken and harden.