Month: May 2012

Pie 101 – Derby Pie

Pie 101 – Derby Pie

“Derby” Pie or  Pecan-Chocolate-Bourbon Pie.  Can you say decadent?

When someone needs something baked, I do it if I can.  If I have the time.  Not everyone bakes.  I love to bake and need an excuse now that there are only two of us in the house.  If I bake for an event, I somehow always manage to make enough so that we can share a sample or even have a tiny sweetness for ourselves.  (If it’s pie, it’s usually for Dave; I eat a bite, that’s it.  He loves pie too much for me to eat much.)

(Aside:  After I saw how many people read my basic Pie 101 post, I thought I’d begin a series (quite intermittent) on pies.  I hope  you like them.  Anywho, read on.)

Dave’s baby pie in a 4″ ramekin.  He was so relieved.

My friend Roberta likes to give Kentucky Derby parties and her pie baker was a no-show.  I was happy to have an afternoon in the kitchen, though I had never before baked Derby Pie.  I had baked many a pecan pie (the easiest pie to make except for custard and, by the way, pecan pie is a kind of custard pie as it contains eggs and melted butter) and this didn’t look much different–once I figured out what it was.  And while it wasn’t terribly different, it sure tasted differently.   Think of pecans.  Then think of what they taste like sweetened up a little.  Add chocolate.  Bourbon.  You have the picture.  And oh, how lovely this would be for Thanksgiving.

I don’t know from bourbon, but this is what I bought.

But to begin with,  I  couldn’t locate a recipe in any one of my many cookbooks.   A bit embarrassing.  But not much.

This is my cookbook corner.  That’s not all of them, of course.   And no Derby Pie. Hmph.

I thought it was odd that there was no “Derby Pie” even in any of my baking books; I have a few baking books!  Back to the computer to discover that “Derby Pie” –or the term itself– is patented and can only be baked by the Kern family in Louisville, Kentucky.  In other words, they have a monopoly on it.  Once I knew exactly what Derby Pie was, I began to look on other sites for a recipe.  I found dozens –some too simple and some too complicated– and settled on one (below) from examiner.com, a site I wrote for for a few years.  It looked like a recipe I could easily triple or quadruple, which was my day’s goal.

Warming the eggs in warm water since I forgot to take them out the night before.  Room temperature eggs are needed for baking.  I left them about 10 minutes.  Warm eggs crack easier and are less likely to leave bits of shell in your bowl.
Collecting the pie plates.  I keep a couple in my kitchen and the rest downstairs. I use pie plates for a lot of cooking.  They’re perfect for anything in the microwave (vegetables, leftovers) and I bake biscuits in them because you can take the Pyrex plate to the table and the biscuits stay warm.  I almost always use glass pie plates for even baking and for seeing the crust when checking to see if the pie is done.  Do not ever use disposable aluminum pie plates; they’re just too shallow and lightweight.
Toasting all the pecans at once on a half sheet pan.  I like to buy pecans in the fall from Georgia growers.  Often churches sell pecans for fundraisers.  Buy enough for the year then and freeze them.  I make a lot of spicy pecans for Christmas and also at other times of the year for nibbles with wine. (below)

Here I’ve mixed them with other nuts for gift giving or cookie trays.  Recipe here.

For photos of the making dough portion, turn back to my Pie 101 (Step-by-Step) or use your own favorite.  My own dough recipe–scroll down.  Do not use a sweetened dough here.

Dough in all four pie plates, including the baby pie for Dave.
Mixing each pie’s ingredients separately to make sure each pie has enough of everything.
Carefully filling the shells so that I don’t spill the filling onto the pie dough.  Some people do this on the oven rack.
This one is baked in a deep dish stoneware plate from Pampered Chef.  Emile Henry also makes a good deep dish plate.

Glass Pyrex plate

Side view of deep dish pie.

The baby.  You can bake pie in about anything that’s oven proof.  Apilco (French porcelain–excellent dishes for everyday and any day) makes large coffee cups that are oven-proof–as does Corning Ware.

The whole gang all done.    Enough for a Kentucky Derby Party.    How about Thanksgiving?

derby pie

  • Recipe for 10-inch Single Crust Pie Crust  (see below for my crust recipe or use your own)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted (and cooled or it’ll cook your eggs)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup Karo light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs  (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla  (I like Nielson-Massey vanilla; some prefer Penzey’s.)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (You see -above- I used Jim Beam.  You may know more and choose better.)
  • 3/4 cup gourmet chocolate chips (I use Guiradelli or Guittard; Callebaut is lovely, but pricey and hard to locate.*)
  • 1 1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, shelled and chopped in half if desired

 How To Make Kentucky Derby Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roll crust according to my directions in the Best Ever Pie Crust Recipe, or use Alyce’s crust below,  or use a store bought pre-baked pie crust, line a 10-inch deep dish pie pan with the dough, and flute the edges as desired.
  • In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed with whisk attachment, whip butter, sugars, corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and bourbon together until frothy.
  • Remove bowl from mixer, and fold in chocolate chips and pecans or walnuts. Blend well.
  • Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until set.
  • Serve warm, or cool completely before serving with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Yields 8-10 slices.   Derby  Pie Recipe courtesy Donna Diegel, Examiner.com

*You can also choose an excellent semi or bittersweet baking chocolate like Valrhona or Callebaut and chop your own chocolate if you like.  BTW, I sometimes order Valrhona chocolate from amazon.com though it is sometimes available at Whole Foods or better grocery stores.)

Alyce’s Pie Dough Recipe:

Pâte Brisée-— Made in a Cuisinart — This is the dough I use most often.
                                                        for each 10″ pie shell 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1/4#  unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 8 pieces (1 stick) 
1/4 cup ice water (measure 1/4 cup water into a 1 cup measuring cup half full of ice)

Place flour and salt in the work bowl of the food processor fitted with steel blade.  Pulse a couple of times to distribute salt.  Add cold butter and pulse briefly several times until butter is worked into flour in several different sizes (1/4″ – 1/2″).  With machine running, slowly pour water through feed tube until dough begins to come together.  Stop machine and carefully remove dough from work bowl.  Working quickly to avoid melting the butter within the dough, form into a ball and then flatten into a disc.  Roll out and fill immediately (see above) or chill, well-wrapped,  1 hour or up to two days ahead. 

Sing a new song; bake a new pie,
Alyce

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #49 – Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #49 – Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski

bbq chicken pizza from the happy gnome, st. paul, minnesota

Actually, this is Alyce’s BBQ Chicken Pizza!

 As a girl who loves to take pictures of food (it only started out with wanting to write about it), I don’t know how I missed being involved in Foodspotting, a website and way of life devoted to not just sharing the names of good restaurants (with our now ubiquitous and often ambiguous reviews), but to sharing the best dishes at those restaurants.  Oddly enough, in the whirl around the net, I guess I had signed up on Foodspotting, but never got around to actually participating.   So, in order to write my post for our group-blogging of Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food   (#49, Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski, ) this week,  I had to go on the Foodspotter’s website and see what it was all about.



Because I’m watching my weight carefully just now, and because I LOVE IT, I decided to put in “St. Paul” and “pizza”  to see what would come up.  (Any reason for a night “off” from the diet.) Give it a whirl for yourself.  Put in your favorite place and your favorite meal and see what pops up.  See if you agree.  See if you’d like to add YOUR favorite meal in town or if you’ll make the decision to go to that restaurant and try that dish?   And why not?

One funny thing:  I was not looking for The Happy Gnome, which is one of my favorite restaurants in St. Paul.  I live smack in the middle of the city (in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood) and we have tons of choices.  I adore our neighborhood pub, 1/2 block down from our house (The Groveland Tap) where we stop for a drink or meet friends for a burger and I’m always thrilled to go to Cafe 128 for a perfectly-paired dinner or a wine-tasting over on Cleveland near the University of St. Thomas, where I’ve done some graduate work in music.

In good weather, I sometimes sit outside with coffee to write here.   Dave tasted 40 beers here and won a shirt. He’s starting over now to build his wardrobe.


The back room at Cafe 128–wine tastings and special dinners are here.  Make sure to get a reservation. 

But the Happy Gnome is another place entirely.  It’s kind of between The Tap and Cafe 128, though not physically.  (They’re all within a couple of mile of one another.)   It’s maybe a cross between the two, though it’s called a “gastro pub.”  There’s a wonderful, well-appointed bar with perfect music (saying a lot for me), but also the food is thoughtful, well-prepared, tasty, in season, seasoned beautifully (no salt or pepper on the table), is priced fairly, and is served by people happy in their work.   The wine list is even and balanced and there’s a good by-the-glass list. They’ll tell you if a bottle’s been open too long.   It’s a spot for happy hour, a special dinner, or Sunday brunch.  But it’s not, as far as I knew, a place for pizza.  So I was surprised to see pizza on Foodspotting for The Happy Gnome.  Pleasantly surprised and ready for the challenge. Here’s the Happy Gnome dinner menu.  Just so you can see.

The Happy Gnome Firehouse Room. The restaurant’s in an old firehouse.

 And here’s the photo (below) of their BBQ Chicken Pizza from the Foodspotting website, which I’m thinking is an item found on the menu occasionally.  I’m guessing they switch out their pizza choice.  Right now, Duck Pizza  (yes) is the option.  Whatever, I was happy to create a recipe and make my own.  I got on fb and asked BBQ Chicken Peeps to speak up about what went on BBQ Chicken Pizza, which I’ve never eaten.  I used their input to develop my bbq pizza.

Happy Gnome BBQ Chicken Pizza –Photo from Foodspotting, where photos needn’t be perfect.


 If you’re not a home pizza maker, try this anyway.  It’s made on an oiled rimmed cookie sheet (no stone or pizza paddle needed) that is heated for 10 minutes before you build the pizza on it and is not difficult to accomplish.  (I first baked with this simpler method making Tyler Florence’s Pizza Margherita recipe and have since used it to teach very inexperienced cooks how to make homemade pizza.)  Not knowing what BBQ chicken pizza was supposed to taste like made me a good tester, I think.  And I liked it.  I wouldn’t eat it weekly, but it’s spicy with a note of sweetness and chewy with lots of crispness and not gooey with cheese.  I did, however, use three kinds:  cheddar, blue, and pepper jack.  It occurred to me it might make a good appetizer or a drinks snack for a crowd (Super Bowl?) if cut into very small pieces; it’s rich.    Here’s the recipe I worked out:

alyce’s bbq chicken pizza
                                             serves 4 generously
 ingredients needed:

  • pizza dough (recipe link below)   Prep and rise = 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce (recipe below or use your own)–some for pizza and some for dipping
  • 2-3 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 cup shredded or chopped cheese–I used a mixture of Extra-sharp Cheddar, Blue, and Pepper Jack
  •  1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil (for dough, for oiling sheet pan, and for cooking the onion)
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

directions:

1.  Make Tyler Florence’s pizza dough.  It must rise 1 – 1 1/2 hours until doubled.  (Alternately, buy pizza dough from your favorite pizzeria.)  Makes enough for two.  If you’d like to keep the second piece of dough for another time, divide the dough before it rises and freeze one half well-wrapped in plastic-wrap and then placed in a freezer bag.  Freeze for no more than a month or so.



2.  Meantime,  roast 2 chicken breasts with skin on the bone:  Preheat oven to 350.   Place breasts on a baking sheet and brush chicken with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Bake about 45 minutes and set to cool for a few minutes.   Remove skin, debone, and shred the chicken.   You should have 2-3 cups of chicken after shredding.  Place in refrigerator until dough has risen and BBQ sauce is done.
3.  While the chicken roasts, make my favorite (or your favorite) BBQ sauce.  You’ll need 1- 1 1/2 cups for the pizza and a little extra for dipping at the table.  This will make much more, so use it for summer grilling!   Here’s the best BBQ sauce I know:

1 1/2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup chili sauce
3/4 cup wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup A-1 sauce
1/4 cup prepared mustard
3/4 cup brown sugar
1T celery seeds (I love these, but left the out for the pizza)
2T Worcestershire sauce
1T soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 dash Tabasco sauce  (or more to taste)

Combine all in a large sauce pan, stir, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and reserve until dough is risen.  (Keeps well for several weeks in the refrigerator and is great for ribs or brisket, too.)  Sauce recipe courtesy BYTES : COLORADO’S FAMILY-FRIENDLY COOKBOOK. 

3.  Chop or shred 1/2 cup each:  extra-sharp Cheddar, Blue, and Pepper Jack cheese.  Set aside.
4.  Saute or carmelize (if you have the time)  1 large red onion, thinly sliced, in 1 T olive oil.  Remove from heat.
5.  Chop 1/4 cup fresh cilantro and reserve.
6.  When dough has doubled in size, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place jellyroll pan (or half sheet pan) in oven to heat for about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and drizzle, then brush, bottom of pan with olive oil.  
7.    While pan heats, stretch the pizza dough into a rectangle  just a bit bigger than the bottom of the jellyroll pan.  Yes, you’ll need to be the pizza man here.  No flipping up in the air required, but holding it up in the air (like you’re holding a shirt to see if there’s stains on it) and repeating on all four sides will work.  Keep at it; you’re a novice (or not).  It’ll get there.
8.  Place the stretched dough carefully onto the hot pan and press dough up sides of pan if possible.
9.  Spoon about a cup of BBQ sauce evenly over the dough.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and stir about a tablespoon of sauce into it.  Spread the chicken evenly on top of the sauce and sprinkle with the reserved onions.
10.  Sprinkle the cheeses  evenly over the chicken and onions and  top with the chopped cilantro.  Dust with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
11.  Bake about 15 minutes until bubbly and crust is browned to your liking.
12.  Let sit 2 minutes or so before slicing.  Serve with a couple tablespoons of BBQ sauce for dipping the crust.

     a little bit about  Soraya Darabi, Alexa Andrzejewski

Alexa first came up with the idea for Foodspotting because she couldn’t find good Okonomiyaki in San Francisco. Before launching Foodspotting in 2010, Alexa was a User Experience Designer for Adaptive Path where she helped clients ranging from startups to established companies reimagine products from the ground up.

Soraya Darabi loves food, travel, photography and emerging technology, so naturally she was one of the earliest foodspotting devotees, before becoming an advisor to the company and now a co-founder. She previously worked for Epicurious.com and drop.io, but most notably The New York Times where she successfully launched the social-media presences of The Times.
courtesy foodspotting.com

~~

I share this blogging journey with a fun group of foodies; read up!  We’re almost at the end of a phenomenal trip.
 

Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie – Most Lovely Things, Jeanette – Healthy Living
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table
Kathy – Bakeaway with Me, Martha – Simple Nourished Living, Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sara – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

If you like this, you might also like:

  Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust

Sing a new song right after you bake pizza,
Alyce

Strawberry Shortcake for Memorial Day

Strawberry Shortcake for Memorial Day

 When it’s my friend Sue’s birthday, or at least if I can find one, I send her a birthday card with strawberries on it.  Sometimes I can’t find one.  Sue loves strawberries and so when I knew she was coming for our Mother’s Day cook-out, I knew what the dessert was going to be.   It’ll be just perfect for Memorial Day, too, though I’ll be busy making carrot cake sheet cakes for a graduation party.  (Carrot cake was one of my first posts as a blogger.  Things, luckily, have really improved!  If all goes well, I’ll take some better photographs than I did three years ago.)

Taking vanilla bean out with my kids’ Mickey Mouse spoon.

I only make Strawberry Shortcake once or twice a year, so I try and make it light, layered with lots of ripe fruit, full of textural and temperature contrasts, and touched just enough by two kinds sweet cream–frozen and fresh whipped.  It’s a celebration  of the start of summer, though if we’re lucky, we have strawberries coming for a good part of summer in Minnesota.

For the best Strawberry Shortcake, you need each ingredient to be fresh and/or the best you can find or make.  So for this dessert, I made the shortcakes as well as homemade vanilla ice cream. (Baby spoon used at right still in drawer and my kids are 25 and 34.  We’ve moved 20 times since the oldest was a baby, so it’s been through at least 20 kitchens.  Geez.)    Ripe strawberries (some mashed) and just-whipped cream, of course.   My other tiny, but critical element is a gentle smear of raspberry jam on each half of the sliced sweet biscuits we use for shortcakes.   This recipe makes enough for 8 with a few shortcakes leftover for breakfast the next day. (Slice them, spread with butter, slip under the broiler and serve with jam and lots of hot coffee.)
 

Try this:

 strawberry shortcake with homemade shortcakes and 
            ice cream  serves 8 

8 freshly baked and cooled shortcakes, each sliced in half (recipe below)
1/2 cup best quality raspberry jam, room temperature
2 qts ripe strawberries, stemmed and sliced.  Mash about 1/4 of the berries with a tablespoon of sugar
             and mix the rest of the berries into the sugared ones.
1 1/2 qts homemade vanilla ice cream*

1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1/4 tsp vanilla and a pinch of sugar

 To assemble...for each shortcake in a deep individual serving bowl or plate:

  1. Spread the two halves of the shortcake gently with a little raspberry jam, using about half a tablespoon for each half.  Place one half (jammed side up) in the bottom of bowl or plate and top with sliced strawberries.  
  2. Dollop in a little whipped cream on top of the berries and place the second half jammed shortcake on top.  Spoon on more strawberries and top with whipped cream.
  3. Garnish with a couple strawberry slices.
  4. Add a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream to the side of the cake and berries or on top, if you wish.
  5. Strawberry shortcake is good with a cup of coffee.

 *I made Jeni’s Ugandan Vanilla Ice Cream.  You can make any kind you’d like or even buy some best quality vanilla if you don’t have time to make it.  This recipe from epicurious.com is similar to Jeni’s, though Jeni’s has no eggs.

 My ice cream:

Chilling the ice cream mixture.

All frozen and ready for you in about 25 minutes.

And the shortcakes:

Making the shortcakes, which are like a sweet biscuit.
Shortcakes cooling on the rack.  Don’t want them too brown.

 Recipe for Shortcakes from Fanny Farmer’s Baking Book, by Marion Cunningham:

fluffy shortcakes makes 16

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 3 T sugar
  • 8 T butter
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • 1/3 c milk or cream,  plus droplets if needed  

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Get out 2 8 or 9″ round cake pans or a large baking sheet, but do not grease.

  Combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir ad toss them together with a fork or wire whisk. Cut the butter into bits and add it to the dry ingredients.  Then, using two knives or a pasty blender (I do this in the food processor.), or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture of fine, irregular crumbs that resemble fresh bread crumbs.  Add the beaten egg and the milk all at once, and stir with a fork until the mixture just holds together.
    Turn out (it will probably be sticky) onto a smooth, well-floured surface, and knead 12-14 times.  Pat into a rectangle 1/2″ thick.  Cut the dough into squares or rectangles, using a knife, or into rounds with a 2″ cookie cutter.  Place the biscuits touching each other in the cake pans or on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15\to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned.

two-dog kitchen and around the hood or other stuff I’m cooking:

 

I had fun making an eggplant risotto (lots of tomatoes and basil) and a little red-winey salad for dinner the other night.   I like cooking risotto when I’m not making five other things to go with it.  (I typically do asparagus risotto with filets for a celebration dinner, for example.)   With a nod to the food world’s discussion of how long it takes to make certain dishes, I’m with the group who wants to know, “Can we be honest about how long it takes to make risotto?”  My F&W recipe says 25-30 minutes, but the rice is still crunchy then and the broth isn’t all used.  Closer to 40 minutes was right, I think.  I find that I can do a few other things in the kitchen and stir periodically, I’m not chained that risotto pot.  Neither can I go cut some peonies or trail behind my husband down the stairs to the tv either.  I haven’t yet tried the oven version that was in Oprah’s magazine a couple of months ago.  This will be a lovely dish later in the summer when all these ingredients, including fresh basil, are in good supply at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. Now that I think of it, there’s a microwave risotto in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook that’s really good.   It’s actually called “Spinach and Rice,”  I think.  (That, after all these years,  is still my go-to microwave section — thanks to Marion Cunningham.) Lovely for summer–no heat.

 Bleeding Hearts (I have pink and white) and Pansies…  
I’ll decorate the sheet carrot cake next weekend with the edible pansies.

One of these girls lays eggs so big they don’t fit in the carton!  (Top right corner)

I got more eggs from Cathy’s ladies this week. (Cathy’s a friend and fine pianist whose family owns a terrific coffee business, Velasquez Family Coffee, in St. Paul)  I usually save them for an omelet dinner, poached eggs on grilled cheese tomatoes:

or
Poached eggs on grilled asparagus and mushrooms with hot balsamic vinaigrette
or even Dave’s favorite, Porridged Eggs (on my dinnerplace blog)

 and I did make an omelet, but I also spread my wings and beat some up to use in making some fried chicken out of the Olives cookbook (the recipe is actually for cornish hens; I subbed boneless chicken thighs and served them with a spicy black bean-ham salad.)  This chicken is worth the price of the book.

Tucker sneaking around the cookbook corner.  Red stool @ counter = my kitchen table!

Hey, Mom!  Time to eat yet?

These are my youngest peonies planted in the shade on the west side.  Must be moved to sun.  I have some on the south side that are literally on the ground because they’re so big and I don’t have a peony cage for them.

  
If you liked this, I think you’d like my Fresh Berry Cake--.  Take the components separately to a Memorial Day Picnic. Make it with a one-layer butter cake sliced in half, or buy a Sara Lee (or bakery) pound cake, slice it horizontally, and serve a rectangular version.  Time for berries!  Recipe for Fresh Berry Cake courtesy Aida Mollenkamp, whose recipes–every one–have been delicious and spot-on.

The other thing I get to do this week is make a BBQ Chicken Pizza for our 50 Women Game-Changers (Gourmet Live); this week–almost the end–is Foodspotting.  I really love making pizza, though I don’t do it often.  (My son Sean makes the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and I’m embarrassed to think how much pizza I’ve eaten.  And in how many countries!)

A little guilty admission: I recently moved my computer to the basement temporarily and find I’m blogging while I watch Morning Joe, one of the few tv shows to which I’m addicted.  So as Joe holds forth and Mika never gets to say her piece, the blog gets written.   Thanks, guys.

Sing a new song,
Alyce
50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #48 – Cat Cora’s Grapefruit Margarita

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #48 – Cat Cora’s Grapefruit Margarita

Grapefruit Margarita by Cat Cora

On the journey with fellow food bloggers through Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, we’re heading on fast toward the finish line with number 48, Cat Cora (b 1968.)  Each week, we feature one special woman who has made an impact on what goes on the table when we sit down to eat.  Some we’ve know well; others have been new to some of us.  If you’re interested in the celebrity food world, you’ve heard of this week’s Cat Cora (Iron Chef, Around the World in 80 Plates), who hailed from Jackson, Mississippi where she was raised in a Greek restaurant family.  Soon after college she found her way to New York and the CIA for culinary school.   Training further in first-class kitchens in France and New York, she finally found her way to California where she now lives with her partner and four sons.  

Order Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist
In addition to cookbooks, restaurants, a line of food, wine, and cookware, as well as the tv shows (click here for her You Tube Channel), Cat is also involved in a variety of causes… 
Outside of the kitchen, Cat is known for her philanthropy. She is President and Founder of Chefs for Humanity, an organization that originated in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster. Modeled after Doctors Without Borders, the not-for-profit gathers the culinary community together to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency, educational and hunger-related causes. Recognizing Cat’s altruistic determination in the food world, UNICEF named her a nutritional spokesperson to help raise awareness for humanitarian crises around the world.

In June 2010, Cat joined First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Chefs Move To Schools campaign in an effort to provide nutritional guidance and education from professional chefs to schools nationwide. Cat is presently working on adopting an elementary school near her home in Santa Barbara, CA.  (courtesy catcora.com)

Want more info about Cat and her recipes?  Check out her website here . 
Follow Cat on twitter here.

But first, mix up this heat-beating  grapefruit cocktail as a trial run for your Memorial Day cook-out.  I am not much of a spirits drinker (as a foodie I’m into wine–it goes with food!), but I do drink the occasional  finger of island Scotch come January in St. Paul, a shot of Asbach-Uralt if I’m stuffed up with a cold, or the ubiquitous summer margarita on the patio.  You could say I’m a  medicinal drinker!   I  do like the idea of something different with a nod toward healthy (has grapefruit, right?) and so had my husband and friend Jim whip these up for us to try last weekend.  That’s right, I didn’t even make these babies; I’m fessing up.  I don’t grill outdoors and I don’t make cocktails; I don’t want to learn.  I do make great sangria and will make you some if you come to dinner in the summertime.  So there.  Try these:

cat cora’s straight up grapefruit margaritas  makes 4 cocktails

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (from about 2 large grapefruit)
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbs superfine sugar (plus extra for rim)
  • 4 cups crushed ice

Directions

Run a lime wedge over the rim of each glass and dip in superfine sugar. Shake all ingredients together in martini shaker, strain out the ice, carefully divide the margarita mixture among four glasses and serve. 

Taster’s Notes:  I thought these a tad sweet for my taste and would increase the lime juice next time.  Otherwise–a beautiful, refreshing start to our Mother’s Day cookout.  We also made a non-alcoholic version with grenadine and grapefruit juice.

~
I blog, on this project, with a tasty group of writers.  Read up:

Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie – Most Lovely Things, Jeanette – Healthy Living
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table
Kathy – Bakeaway with Me, Martha – Simple Nourished Living, Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sara – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

   
If you liked this, you might like my Greek Chicken Salad to go along with the margarita!

Mother’s Day Dessert

two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
Making the shortcakes–I did the ice cream, too.  May blog the whole thing!
Baked a glazed Korobuta ham–Bourbon-Orange Glazed— Wednesday for my choir’s last rehearsal.  Berkshire pork is worth the price and this is my new go-to recipe (Fine Cooking) for big groups or holiday ham.

You see where they are–getting the tablecloth full of dog hair!
Allium in my west garden–everything is way ahead of schedule.

 Egg Salad on my Dinner Place Blog (Cooking for One) this week :
                “An Egg with a Few Greens for Supper”

Sing a new song,

Alyce
Lemon Split Pea Soup with Peppered Sour Cream

Lemon Split Pea Soup with Peppered Sour Cream

 

Split pea is an old love, but I never make it the same way twice.   What’s cool about this version is a. the lick of lemon up against the spicy notes and b. texture layers– i.e. crunchy, seedy tortilla chips and smooth sour cream on top of the soup, which is about halfway pureed. 

Legume soups are healthy and inexpensive, but I’m mostly drawn to them because they’re tasty, homey, and filling.  I adore the look, smell, and feel of a big pot of bean soup bubbling away on the stove nearly anytime.  Split pea is about the quickest in the group, though lentils are right up there.
About an hour, especially if you use the food processor for chopping, you’ve got super soup.  I’ve made them while camping, using a Coleman stove.  They’re so simple and accepting of different ingredients that as long as you have the dried beans in the pantry and a few staples like onions, carrots, and celery, you’ve got soup.  Add-ins might be zucchini, jalapeno, or leftover asparagus; toppings might be minced cucumber or grated Parmesan or oyster crackers.  A bit of crunchy bacon on top could replace ham hocks or chopped ham in the soup.  No meat at all, made with vegetable stock, and it’s great for a vegan meal.  Versatile is the word for these soups.   Make a big pot, freeze individual portions (Tupperware makes freezer-microwave safe containers), and you have lunch.

The day I made this, I called a friend at 10 and said, “Come for lunch at 12.”  I started the soup at 11 and, well, it was a good thing she was a little late.  I was still pureeing at 12:10, but that might have been because I was doing ten other things in the middle…  Honest, it’s pretty quick for soup.  I think Dave ate nearly three bowls and the friend two.  While not in the habit of wine at lunch except while on vacation or for tasting, we did each have a half-glass of California Chardonnay with this and thought it a fine sip.  I think, with the heat in this soup (and I like several sorts of heat at once), an off-dry Oregon or German Riesling would be a good match as well.    Try this:

lemon split pea soup with peppered sour cream
                   8 servings

  • 2T olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small red potatoes chopped (with peel)
  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1/2 tsp each dried thyme, marjoram, crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp each freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt
  • 1 qt each vegetable and chicken stock
  • 2 cups water or 1 cup water and 1 cup white wine
  • 4-6 drops hot sauce
  • 2T fresh lemon juice 

Toppings:  1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt mixed with freshly ground black pepper
                   Tortilla chips with seeds

In an 8-qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes.  Dust with a bit of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, five minutes or so.  Add everything else except the lemon juice.  Stir and raise heat to high.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer.  Cook until peas and  vegetables are tender, about an hour.  Add lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor.  If you’d like a chunkier soup, leave it as is or crush briefly with a potato masher. Serve hot with seeded tortilla chips and a dollop of peppered sour cream for toppings.


Cook’s Note:  If you’d like a crock-pot version, try this on my Dinner Place blog (Cooking for One.)  I did say I liked to make split pea soup.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

R for Rhubarb

This post now featured on Rachel Rappaport’s PIE FAIR LADY blog!  
Thanks, Rachel.  Bake pie! 

I don’t know why you want to make pie and searched for Pie 101.  Me-oh-my.  You love pie? (I adore the movie “Michael”)  Someone you love loves pie, maybe?  You want to make beautiful things and don’t paint–right.  You want to bring pie to Thanksgiving dinner:  “Oh, I’ll bring the pie,” would be fun to say. You’d like to celebrate Pi Day in a more meaningful way.    Making pie, or wanting to make or eat pie, is sort of a passion.  It’s not anything like, “I think I’ll scramble eggs and make toast because I’m hungry.”  Or even “Let’s make a pot of vegetable soup; it’s cold outside and sounds good.”   I mean, no one really needs pie.  People, do, however, desire (is not too strong a word) pie and are sort of sometimes heart-starved and/or breathless for it.  Think of the look on your uncle’s (aunt, cousin, boyfriend, co-worker, super) when words like, “coconut cream” or “strawberry-rhubarb” cross their lips.  Or the rush through a potluck meal if a pie sits alone, waiting, down at the end of the counter in the kitchen.    Is it fond memories of  your aunt’s pumpkin from Thanksgiving of 1967 or your best friend’s apple (from her own tree) in 2009?  Is it the crappy diner crust on a short, slim piece of pecan late one night after a restaurant shift when you had to have something sweet and that’s all there was?

If, by chance you’re looking for gluten-free pie dough, please just go to Gluten-Free Girl…a great blog; here’s one post on pie dough there.

I’m just guessing that usually there’s a lot of love goes into pie.  Making it is not an endeavor one embarks on lightly.  Like weeding the flower bed out back or picking up a gallon of milk at the store.  It’s kind of a devoted, warm-fuzzy, all around commitment.  Bake with a band on sort of thing.  (Being both a cook and musician gives me license for such sentences.)

Whatever reason brings  you to pie, I hope this little (not really so little) tutorial will be of help.  It contains the story of my own pie-making, a photo-essay on making the rhubarb pie (including crust), and the recipes/basic info you’ll need to make it all happen.  FYI:  This long pie post is truly a work in progress.

No fear.  Pie is near.

How I Came to Pie:

Kathy’s Apple Pie

When I was newly married in the mid-seventies, pie-making was already an art not necessarily pursued by the typical home cook.   Oh, of course there was pie.  But it might have been made with a frozen crust from the grocery store or a tube of pie dough you bought prepared but not yet rolled out.  It could have come from any one of a bunch of great bakeries; there are fewer of those now.  Many pies appeared with graham cracker crusts and then you could even buy those pre-made.  To put a point on it, I didn’t know another 20 year old who was baking pies.

In those days, it was the cool thing to take the easy way out with food.  Women were leaving the kitchen and going to work.  They didn’t want to be  tied down to cooking or baking all day and reveled in ready-made products or short-cut techniques.   Think cake and pudding mixes and frozen vegetables, Stouffers’ frozen meals.  Maybe we were the Jetsons’ or the Space Program Generation and somehow perhaps thought cooking food was about to be passe; it would soon appear magically behind Door #3.

Crostatas

But I knew people who baked pie.  My mom, for instance (though she might pull out a frozen crust once in a while herself late in life) and Dave’s Aunt Kathryn–the Morgan pie-baker.   In college, the wife of our department head (the late, beautiful Cindy Izzo), made pie when we ended up there one snowed-out Thanksgiving when we couldn’t get home.   I think each family sort of depended on one person to be in charge of pie.  Often it was someone who was simply willing.  I also had a couple of friends (older than me) who baked beautiful pies.  I really wanted to be one of  those people and so I began.  “Oh!  You make pie?”  Learning to bake  pies goes slowly as most cooks don’t make them often.  We wait for holidays and then wonder why our pies are lopsided.  If you want to bake pie, bake one more often than at holiday time.

 

Coffee Cup Pie for One
Pumpkin Pie

My own early attempts didn’t look too bad or sad (or maybe they did), but were under baked. (Lesson One:  Bake pies in a clear glass pie plate so you can see that the bottom crust is done.)   To say that my husband loves pie is an understatement and I kept trying.  I learned to throw a piece of aluminum foil on top if it browned too much or to put a collar of aluminum foil around the pie from the beginning.  Finally, I began pies at a high temperature and lowered them to a moderate one after 15 minutes so that the pie got done but didn’t burn.  I learned to underbake pumpkin pie just a teense so that it barely shivered when moved and only a few moist crumbs stuck to the knife when I tested it.  Custard should be creamy, not jelloey or like rubber.  I discovered fruit pies maybe needed a few more minutes so that the filling really was making a run for it through the slits in the top crust and the crust had some nice brown to it here and there.  No soft pallid pies for me.

Over the nearly forty years of pie baking, I’ve made everything from banana cream to sweet potato to apple crostatas to pear tarts to quiches.  I’ve made big pies and little pies and even coffee cup pies.  Most of the pies pictured are on the blog; you can search them if you’re interested; most have links.

 
Sour Cream Crumble Apple Pie

“Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?  Can she bake a cherry pie, charming Billy?”
Or What to do with a pie that falls off a shelf, crashes and burns…  Make Cherry Pie Parfait, of course!
Very fast Kiwi Tart .  Crust is made by pouring hot pastry cream on an ultra thin gingersnap cookie !
Turkey Pot Pie from Thanksgiving Leftovers
Strawberry-Hazelnut Shortbread Tart
Derby Pie
Helen’s Cherry Pie (intact)
Pie Crust Cookies (Trimmed-extra- pie dough twisted, fried, and rolled in cinnamon sugar)

 

Betty White’s Mexican Quiche

 These days I am often working on dishes, meals, or recipes for foods that are in season or are being featured at farmer’s market.  The past couple of weeks, rhubarb’s been popping up, and last year I wrote up the recipe for farmer’s market rhubarb pie  for Dinner Place and for Examiner.com.   Not only that, but I had then finally photographed (and my photos are not all that great) the process for making pie dough.    This year, a fellow blogger wrote to me, “I wish I could make crust like that!”  When I went to this blog, there was no long how-to post on pie-making to send her!  And since this blog is much more the all-purpose cooking and baking blog, I began working on this lengthy post, which I will continue to revise and add to.  But, whatever– I just want you to begin baking pies.  I’ve taught any number of people to make a pie crust (and how to put the whole thing together) right in all of my tiny kitchens where I sometimes nearly had to roll pie dough up the wall.  The filling is easier for most people.  Try my methods a few times; don’t give up after once or twice and become one of those who whine, “I just can’t make pie crust.”

If someone asks, I promise I’ll swear I never said this…but if you just can’t make pie dough (and I don’t think there’s anyone who can’t), please buy a refrigerated pie crust –not frozen–at the supermarket or ask a friend to make you a few for a birthday gift each year.  Making pie, however you do it, is really a worthwhile experience.  Even for people like me, who prefer piece of incredible chocolate cake.  There, I said it.

We have a lot of chances to make pie.  Take one!

Whatever you bake, have a light heart about it and your pastry will take it’s cue from you.  Be gentle with it (and yourself)  and get it to do what you want as quickly as possible–the goal is to get it into the oven as cold as possible.  Your warm hands, while perfect for many things, are not its friend.  Keep some fun music on (remember “cook with a band on?”)  and keep everyone else out of the kitchen so you can concentrate.  If you  have a veteran pie-baker friend or partner in the house, tell them exactly what kind of help you need if you haven’t asked them to be your wing man.

But not to worry how things look or turn out…  Nothing is perfect, particularly not pie.  (It’ll get eaten no matter.  Ice cream, or better yet whipped cream, hides a plethora of sins.)  Think of the Amish quilters who intentionally sew one imperfect patch into every quilt because only God is perfect.  Keep baking and your pie-making will improve much like your piano playing, typing, hammering a nail, or baby-handling did as you went along.  I include pictures of all sorts of imperfect pies and crusts; it’s just how it rolls.   Happy Pie!

Time to get your pie on…

rhubarb pie…step by step photos  (scroll down for recipes)

  This dough is made in a Cuisinart food processor.
  See recipes below for information on making by hand.

   Hint #1   Start in the morning or very early afternoon when you have a lot of time; it takes time to make/ bake pie and it takes even more time to cool. Hot pie is a mess.  Also, in the summer, when great fruit is plentiful, it’s hot.  Dame, get up and bake your pies early in the morning.  Like 5a.m. mid-summer.) 

We begin here:  Flour, salt, sugar-if using-, and butter mixed in the food processor work bowl –fitted with steel blade– and pulsed until pea-sized and smaller and larger pieces exist in the mixture.  This is called “cutting in the butter.”  It keeps the crust crispy to have pieces of fat in the dough.

 

Iced water added. Processed until just coming together or just starting to come together.  Don’t overwork the dough.  When you pinch a bit between your thumb and index finger, it should stay together.

 

Meantime, or ahead,  chop the rhubarb into about 1/2″ pieces, place in a bowl and stir together with sugar, flour, and salt.  Set aside.

Hint #2  Make mostly in season, but also a little out of season pie.  Rhubarb in the spring, blueberries in early summer, apple in the fall…Buy extra fruit when it’s beautiful and cheap; freeze enough for a couple of  pies you’ll enjoy at the holidays or mid-winter.  Picture a February evening and a hot blueberry pie cooling on the counter.

Take dough out of bowl, divide in half.  Put half in frig and press other half between 2 sheets of waxed paper.  Some people use plastic wrap.  You can also chill it all for an hour (or up to two days) and pull it out later.  Many people like chilled dough.  Freezing is another option.  (See below for rolling dough using flour on the board/counter.)

 

Roll out from center, going around the dough like the hands on a clock, lifting dough and paper occasionally, until more than big enough for pie plate. Put plate upside down on crust to measure.  Extra pie dough is no problem; make pie dough cookies or a baby pie.

 

Flip dough over and roll quickly-once!-with rolling pin to release dough from waxed paper.

 

Gently peel that side’s paper off.

 

Turn dough over onto pie plate and carefully pull the other sheet of paper off.

 

Gently press dough down into pie plate as evenly as possible so no air pockets exis  Edges should hang over.

 

Alternate method:  Dust counter, dough and pin well with flour and roll your dough out from the center.  Lift and move the circle of dough up from the floured board several times while rolling in order to prevent the dough sticking to the board.  You may have to sprinkle a bit more flour on the board, dough or pin each time you move the dough.

 

Into the pan, trim with a small sharp knife or kitchen scissors so that you have 1″ of dough beyond the edge of the pie plate.   Crimp (pinch) edges quickly; you don’t want to heat the dough with your fingers any more than you must.

 

Fill with rhubarb mixture and dot with butter.  The butter and the flour in the rhubarb will create the thickener.  Now for the top crust…

Hint #3:  Don’t skimp on the amount of fruit or filling for your pie.   Fruit particularly will cook down and, once baked/cooled, the finished pie won’t be nearly as tall as when you first put it together.  If you’re going to go to all the trouble of baking pie, fill that baby up.  (Custard pies will rise  while baking and then settle back down a bit when cooled. For custard pies only: place your unfilled pie crust in the pie plate on a baking sheet that is already in the oven with the oven rack just barely pulled out; fill it there to avoid spilling and then gently push the rack into the oven and close the oven door.)

Take that top or second piece of rolled-out dough and loosely roll it around your rolling pin.   
Alternate method:
Fold dough carefully and gently first in half and then into quarters.

 

Lift it on to  the pie, being careful of placement so you don’t have to do it twice. If you’ve folded the crust, place it on the lower left quarter of the pie with the corner right at the center of the filling so that you can gently unfold it to cover all of the filling.  It needn’t be perfectly round!

 

There, it’s on and covered and just needs trimming.

 

Trim evenly with sharp knife or scissors. (I like to make pie crust cookies out of extra dough.)

 

Seal or crimp edges quickly; don’t over work dough.
You can use your index finger or thumb to press down into the edge every 1/3″ or so or use the tines of a fork pressed down all around the edge of the crust.  If you don’t seal the pie, filling may run out toward the end of baking.
Below:  Don’t forget to make slits in the top of the pie so the heat can escape.  I’m a bit artistic-ha!- and put quite a few.

 

Place on a rimmed baking sheet (not your favorite cookie sheet) in case of boil overs.

 

It’s done when it’s browned and bubbling through slits. Glass pie plates help you see if it’s done.

 

So close and yet so far away.  This must cool nearly completely or you’ll cut it and have a sea of filling all over.

 

I love pie.  A little ice cream wouldn’t hurt.  See how the filling stays put in the pie because it cooled completely before I cut it?

Hint #4  The amount of sugar you need for your pie is not static.*  If your fruit is very ripe and sweet, you’ll need less.  I like a sweet-tart rhubarb pie; some recipes call for 2 cups of sugar.  Mine has 3/4 cup and even less if you choose a sweetened pie dough like Dorie Greenspan’s “Good for Anything” dough.


Here’s the rhubarb at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.  Trim and dispose of leaves carefully; they’re full of oxalic acid and are poisonous.

rhubarb pie

Coming home in my basket

alyce’s recipe

  • 2- 9″ pie crusts, purchased or homemade *
  • 5 cups rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1/2″ pieces (leaves are toxic)
  • 3/4 c white sugar  If you sweeten your crust, use 1/2 cup sugar.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small dice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together rhubarb, sugar, flour, and salt.
  3. Place one pie crust in a 9″ pie pan (preferably glass).
  4. Gently spoon rhubarb mixture into crust.
  5. Dot rhubarb with butter evenly.
  6. Place second crust on top.  Trim edges evenly around the pie pan. Crimp, pinch, or press down with fork tines the edges of the crust to seal the pie.  (If you have a lot of leftover crust, twist each small piece, fry it up in hot canola oil and roll in cinnamon sugar.  Eat pie crust cookies while warm.)
  7. With a sharp, thin knife, cut vents into the top crust to allow steam to escape from filling.  You can make a favorite design (smiley face, your daughter’s first initial, etc.) or just make 4-6 arrows or wide “v”s spaced evenly.  If you’d like, you can gild the lily by sprinkling the top crust with a dusting of white sugar or by brushing on a whisked together mixture of an egg yolk and a tablespoon of heavy cream or milk.
  8. Bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet  at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and cook another 45 minutes or so until crust is golden and rhubarb is bubbling through the slits.  If crust is browning too quickly, cover lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil or cut 4″ wide pieces of foil and wrap them around the edges of the pie.  You’ll need 2-3 pieces.
  9. Cool completely on rack before cutting.  (or the filling will run all over)
  10. A fruit pie can remain stored and covered well at room temperature for a day or two.  If not using within two days, refrigerate.  If you must freeze, I recommend freezing your rhubarb, not the pie.  See below.  (In a hot, humid climate? Cool completely, wrap, and refrigerate from the get-go.)

{printable recipe for rhubarb pie}

Pie Dough…about it:

Pie Dough Recipes:

I often use an old recipe (below) from the small manual that came with my first Cuisinart in the early ’80s maybe.  It’s a pâte brisée (paht bree-say) dough, which is typically for a French tart (add a little sugar) or quiche.  I particularly like it for custard pies (including pumpkin pie), pies made with a blind crust (i.e. a cream pie that’s filled after the crust is baked), or quiches.  This is a “short” crust (more crumbly than flaky–as in “shortbread”) and quite dense, which helps to keep the crust crisp versus soggy within a day or so.  It is also an all-butter crust in a baking age where vegetable shortening is sometimes frowned upon as a processed and somewhat unhealthy ingredient.  

Shortening?  Lard??  How about no crust at all?

I will say this about shortening:  I do not  pretend to know the ins and outs of the health side of shortening (my can now says “no trans fats”), though it has come to replace lard in baking for many people. (Though not all.)  I do know two things about shortening:  it makes a flaky crust and it makes a crust that holds up well to a fruit pie.  We also do not eat many pies.  It’s not as if you’ll consume shortening, or even lard, daily.    You can make all shortening (Crisco, for example) crust or you can make a part butter, part shortening crust as does Dorie Greenspan (“Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough”), who has written several baking books, as well as a first class blog.  If you do use shortening (it’s cheaper and some people really like it better or simply must avoid dairy), make sure you chill it thoroughly or even stick it in the freezer for a while. Cold fat is the key, though baking pies in the middle of life (nursing babies, re-writing a proposal, doing the wash) can leave you baking a pie with room-temperature dough. (It bakes.  It eats. And there’s usually not time enough to begin again.  Just go on.)

I have never baked a pie with lard (rendered pork fat), so I don’t have much to say about it.  I can say that there are amongst us veteran pie-bakers (one of my dearest friends) who would  not use anything else for their flaky crust. In the course of cooking history, I just guess bakers have used fats from many sources–usually the most easily (closest and/or cheapest source) available.  Witness my mom who kept bacon grease in a tightly closed tin and used it to cook all kinds of things, particularly eggs.  (Never for pie that I remember–though it might not be bad in a pot pie.)  Oddly enough, I remember that tin sitting on the counter and not in the refrigerator.  Butter has always been a choice and expensive ingredient, especially when you had to milk the cow, allow the cream to separate, and make the butter yourself.  Pies use a lot of fat, which adds considerably to the cost of the finished product.  Hence a history of using less-expensive fat.

If you cannot eat all the fat involved in a pie crust, many pies can be made with just one crust, which will also cut a lot of calories,  or no crust at all.  Quiche, too, can often be made with no crust.  Grease pans well for crustless pies. 

Here’s a little pie (pumpkin) I bake in individual ramekins with no crust at all.  It can be made in the oven or microwave (1 minute)  It’s actually just custard, right?  You can really do a whole pumpkin pie in a 9″ pie pan without crust.  This one has a dollop of creme fraiche on top, as well as an extra sprinkle of Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon.

Pie storage:  Invite friends and eat it up! Pie is best the day it’s made. 

Any pie made with a filling including eggs and  milk must be stored in the refrigerator if not consumed on the day it’s eaten.  Do not pay attention to pumpkin pies that sit for a week on the shelf at Sam’s.  If your pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving is made on Wednesday night, store it in the garage where it’s cold-if you live “up north”  or refrigerate it. Take it out a couple of hours before to dinner so that you eat it at room temperature, which is how you want to consume custard pies.   If you make it early Thanksgiving morning (as do I–custard pies are best the day they’re made), it’s fine on the table until Thursday night.  When you eat it for breakfast Friday morning, it had better be cold.

A fruit pie (made with a butter or a shortening crust) can sit out covered on the counter for a day or two with no harm and is, in fact, tastier than if you chill it.  It’s not something you want to refrigerate; think of refrigerated bread.   However,  use your own good sense…if it’s in the nineties and you want to keep that fruit pie three or four days, refrigerate it, too, or you’ll have moldy pie. 

About sizes of pies and pie plates:

Just about any pie can be made in any size pie plate or pie pan, as some bakers say.  Typically pies are 8″, 9″, or 10″ in diameter; tarts are about 9″.  There are are also 4″ individual pies and 3″ -or smaller- – individual tart pans.   But the standard size these days is 9″.  In fact, it’s hard to find recipes that detail pie recipes for different size pies, but that information is still available in old cookbooks and might be out there on the net.  It’s just as difficult to find something like an 8″ pie plate, but you can still find them in pie shops, antique shops, and places like Goodwill or the Arc.  It’s well worth the time to hunt out several sizes of pie plates because you might not always have enough ingredients for two 10″ pies, for example, but you might have enough for one 10″ and one 8″ or one baby pie. You can also pull out a ramekin or an oven-safe small bowl (or other oven-safe container) and make your pie.

Pâte Brisée— Made in a Cuisinart — This is the dough I use most often.
                                                        for each 10″ pie shell 

1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1/4#  unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 8 pieces (1 stick) 
1/4 cup ice water (measure 1/4 cup water into a 1 cup measuring cup half full of ice)

Place flour and salt in the work bowl of the food processor fitted with steel blade.  Pulse a couple of times to distribute salt.  Add cold butter and pulse briefly several times until butter is worked into flour in several different sizes (1/4″ – 1/2″).  With machine running, slowly pour water through feed tube until dough begins to come together.  Stop machine and carefully remove dough from work bowl.  Working quickly to avoid melting the butter within the dough, form into a ball and then flatten into a disc.  Roll out and fill immediately (see above) or chill, well-wrapped,  1 hour or up to two days ahead.

You can also make this dough up to two months ahead and store it in the freezer.  If you store it rolled out in the pie plate (Pyrex or metal pans are freezer safe.), you can just make your pie and bake it with a frozen crust. 

If you do not have a Cuisinart, make this pie with a pastry cutter (here’s another video) or two knives.   Recipe courtesy CUISINART.

Several other pie dough recipes can be found here.

Smitten Kitchen’s take on Cook’s Illustrated fool-proof crust with vodka here. 

Baking Books for Pie:

I  typically recommend general baking books for pie like out-of-print (but still available) The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham or Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan,  though there are certainly entire tomes donated to pies and pastries.  Unless you’ve mastered basic techniques and are ready to move on, these books should provide plenty of recipes.   I, for years, made pie from my Betty Crocker Cookbook  (early ’70s) and found it really useful, particularly when I wanted to bake pies of different sizes.

If you’d like a book devoted to pies and tarts, try The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum , Pie and Tart from Williams-Sonoma, or Martha Stewart’s  Pies and Tarts, the 2011 version.  An oldie, but goodie, is Bernard Clayton, Jr.’s The Complete Book of Pastry Sweet and Savory, which is out of print, but still available.  My copy, purchased in l985, has this inscription:

l985! Bought myself!  Mostly to learn Danish technique.

This book contains everything from pie to quiche/tarts to puff pastry to pizza to Danish.

One specialized book I’m quite fond of is Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan.  There are super desserts from Parisian patisseries and the Whole Lemon Tart is tops and fairly simple.  It’s also a, “Paris, Take Me Away” book if you’re unable to make the trip and taste the pastries yourself.  Ah, Paris!   (Sigh.)  New in the lineup for pie books is Pie it Forward by Gesine Bullock-Prado (just published in April of 2012), and while I haven’t read it, it looks like a book that includes lots of excellent pie information – including a recipe for pizza pie.

Pie Blogs

There are a lot of baking blogs, but I haven’t seen one that’s just about making pies until now.  Try Rachel Rappaport’s Pie Fair Lady; she features pie from all kinds of people…including me!   When I first wrote this post, there weren’t any blogs devoted solely to pie-baking. There were blogs ABOUT PIE–as in finding it, buying it, where are you getting any…..:  The baking blogs at the top of the heap of flour can be found here. 

I also like Rose Levy Beranbaum’s blog, though it deals with lots of baking info, not just pie; read it here.

*My Nastiest True Pie Story
 
My much-loved father-in-law loves lemon pie (especially lemon meringue) and my much-loved mother-in-law always tried to make it for him–just like his mother did.  She’d try and try and it’d never come out.  You know this kind of story, right?  One time, she asked Grandma Morgan, “What’s your lemon filling recipe?”  The answer was lemon pudding mix.  Ok, so that’d bake; that was fine.  She did that.  All’s well, huh?  But, no; it wasn’t.  The pie was always too sweet, as was any lemon meringue pie my my mother-in-law came up against. “Too sweet.”  “Too sweet.”  “Too sweet.”  And so on.  For years and years.  Ye gods and little fishes.

One year, I think it was 1999, I just heard enough of “Too sweet.”  My in-laws came to visit and I baked the most beautiful lemon meringue pie that ever was baked.  I’m not kidding; it was stunning.  It could have won awards.  (I’m not a contest person, though–too much fear of failure, I think!)  But there was one thing about this pie:  there was barely any sugar at all in it.  I mean, like almost none.  This is something you maybe could get away with if you had terribly sweet fruit or something, but not with LEMON.  My sweet sister-in-law took the first great big bite and froze with it in her mouth.  Her eyes came up to mine and I put my finger in front of my mouth, “Shh.”  She ate no more.  But my mother-in-law started in on hers and ate it all without a word.  Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I said, “How was that pie?  Not too sweet?”  The answer was (and I’m honest here), “No, it was great!”  Needless to say, no one but her ate that pie.  She had it all to herself.

I can’t believe I did that, but I did.  You can ask Dave.

So tell me your pie stories?


Sing a new song as you bake with a-band-on,
Alyce

All photographs copyright Alyce Morgan.  Please ask for permission before using.

Parts of this post were originally posted on my blog Dinner Place (Cooking for One) 6-2-11.
This post last updated 11-6-12.
50 Women Game-Changers – #47 – Zarela Martinez’ Savory Cornbread

50 Women Game-Changers – #47 – Zarela Martinez’ Savory Cornbread

From my childhood on, cooking meant sharing and security and a way of “speaking” to people.  When I grew up I found that cooking grew also to be a means of celebrating and honoring those who would eat meals that I’d carefully prepared from scratch. Over the years as I lived and thought and learned, cooking grew even more to embrace nearly every aspect of culture and human relationships. I have been lucky to make my career as chef, consultant, and businesswoman a never-ending source of joy and fulfillment.”

                                                                                                              –Zarela Martinez

Each week for the last forty-six, a food-loving group of bloggers has been studying, choosing a recipe, cooking, photographing, and writing  about one very special food expert off the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women-Game Changers in Food.    I jumped on this yummy trolley last January at stop number 32, but a good number of these scribes started right from the beginning.   We’re near the end of the line, but this week we’re featuring number forty-seven, Mexican chef, author, teacher, philanthropist, and NYC restauranteur-caterer Zarela Martinez.

Born on a northern Mexico ranch, Zarela moved to the U.S. in the ’70’s, and to make a few bucks, began catering.  Soon she was at culinary school, studying with Paul Prudhomme, and working at Cafe Marimba in NYC!  Her famed, but currently closed, restaurant, Zarela, came next and taught more than one generation of New Yorkers about just how fine true Mexican cuisine could be, as well as providing training ground for her son, chef Aaron Sanchez.

 Here, Zarela teaches us how to roast poblanos (used in her cornbread recipe-below) and gives us her “Creamy Rice Casserole” recipe.

Lots of gorgeous recipes from Zarela out there, but I hit on Savory Cornbread for this week.  The recipe sounded perfect…lot of fresh corn, great cheese, gluten-free, but something somewhere just didn’t happen exactly as I expected.   While the bread was tasty (though quite rich), I struggled to get it done.  I baked it an extra tweny minutes and it was still underdone–more like spoon bread, which may be exactly what it was supposed to be like.  We simply enjoyed it just like that.  One thing, I did bake it in a metal 9×13 pan in the hopes of obtaining a crispy crust and if I tried it again, I’d put it in the recommended glass Pyrex casserole dish. While full of butter and cheese, the roasted peppers did shine through and provided a touch of heat usually missing from American Corn Bread recipes.  I think it would be great with a fish taco salad or a bowl of spicy chili.  Scroll down past my puppies and try it:

Gabby and Tuck waiting for mom to get done cooking.  Geez Louise, it’s walk time.

savory cornbread — Chefs Aaron Sánchez and Zarela Martínez (courtesy NY Magazine)

Ingredients

3 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups rice flour (use Goya’s, not rice flour from Chinatown) I used King Arthur’s Gluten-Free flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and diced
Cornstarch 

Instructions

Grind the corn by pulsing batches in the food processor until coarsely crushed but not puréed. Set aside.

Corn ground in food processor

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat in the eggs one by one until incorporated.

 Sift the dry ingredients, and add to the creamed mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed until combined. Fold the ground corn into the batter, followed by the cheese and chiles.

I could not find Goya rice flour and subbed King Arthur…

Weighing the cheese before grating.

Butter a 13-by-9-inch Pyrex baking dish, and lightly dust with cornstarch. Pour in the mixture and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (2007)   

(Published 2007)
I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit

If you liked this, you might like my Irish Soda Bread (with Potato Soup)

 
And, also, on Dinner Place (Cooking for One) this week is Alyce’s Killer Guac to take to the Mother’s Day Cookout:
 
Cook with a-band-on,
Alyce
Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Welcome spring!

If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
  4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

2T olive oil, divided
2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
2 oz baby spinach leaves
Aleppo pepper to taste
2T fresh parsley, chopped

  1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
  2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
  4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
  5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #46 – Gael Greene – Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #46 – Gael Greene – Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

“Do you sing, too?” I asked, tickling his tweed elbow.

I have a good friend who is fond of this phrase:  “She was born with the words, ‘Please peel me a grape,’ on her lips.”   That could very well have been said about spicy bon vivant Gael Greene (1933-  ), this week’s  number 46 on Gourmet Live’s List of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food.  Greene, the 40-year New York Magazine restaurant critic and columnist, novelist, and philanthropist from Detroit, is best known for her erotic encounters with food, as well as with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley.   Want details?  It’s all (probably not) chronicled in Greene’s memoir, the infamous Insatiable : Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess (Grand Central, 2007.)  And while I promise I’m not telling tales out of school, you can listen to her own description of Presley as appetizer here.

Lest we consider the ground-breaking critic light-weight or even shallow,  life-long achiever  Greene (still writing, appearing on “Top Chef,” and tweeting as I blog)  has also spent a sizable portion of her adult life making sure New York’s elderly poor had food come weekends and holidays: 

Marcia Stein: Citymeals began in 1981 when Gael Greene and Jim Beard, the founders, read that homebound elderly New Yorkers only got meals from the city Monday through Friday, and not on holidays. They were going very long periods of time without food. Especially over the holidays: at times when other people were over-eating, these people were alone and starving.

Gael and Jim called their friends in the industry; Gael called the city government and wrote about it. She was just as good at describing their situation as she is at describing food, and it made people aware. Checks started coming in, but you can’t just send a check to the government or the Department for the Aging. We had to create an organization that was a not-for-profit so we could receive the checks we were getting. So Citymeals started as a public/private partnership with the city’s meal delivery program.

We started feeding 6,000 homebound elderly, but the number has grown over time. Now we are feeding 18,000 every weekend and holiday.

We receive about 50,000 contributions a year to Citymeals. It’s a cause that New Yorkers have embraced. Six dollars a day can save a person’s life.

Read the entire interview with Marcia Stein, Executive Director of Citymeals-on-Wheels on starchefs.com

But after you get your fill reading and listening — more by scrolling down– do a little cooking with Gael and try her

Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon  serves 4

  • 6 ears corn
  • 4 cups water (reserve water after the corn has cooked)
  • 2 tsp olive oil for vegetables
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced                                        
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Clam broth, to taste
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 6 large sea scallops, quartered       
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper  
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro or basil
  • Cook corn in four cups of water. Remove corn, strain water of corn silk, and reserve cooking water.
    Cut kernels from cobs and reserve the corn. Return cobs to cooking water, simmer till water reduces   to half. Then remove cobs and reserve water.
    Scrape cobs with dull knife to extract all the corn milk and reserve this liquid.
    Sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeño in olive oil in nonstick skillet. Don’t let them brown.
    Add reserved corn kernels and corn milk to vegetables, then toss and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Puree half of this mix in a blender or food processor.
    Add puree and remaining corn-vegetable mix to reduced corn water. Then add lime juice and clam broth, to taste.
    Cook bacon until crisp, drain, and cut into ribbons.
    Sauté scallop quarters quickly in bacon fat till slightly browned. Don’t overcook.
    Reheat soup. Add scallops and bacon to mixture in the corn water. Season with ground pepper and salt, to taste. Add more lime or clam juice if necessary.
    Serve in bowls with minced cilantro or basil sprinkled on top

    A little bacon garnish might not go amiss.  A nice grind of black pepper, too.

    While this soup is perfectly suited to late summer when the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, I managed to snare a few fresh? ears from our local grocer, who had Fed-exxed a little out of Florida.  If you can’t find any corn,  I think you could use vegetable broth (along with the clam broth) and frozen (cooked) corn kernels.  You won’t have the same soup, but I think it would be tasty.  Corn cooking tip here, though I just bring the water to boil, drop the corn in, let it come up to a boil again, and cover it for 10 minutes or so.  The other great way is to microwave it or grill it right in the husks.  Easy and maybe the tastiest version, but not possible for this recipe.

    I did pepper and sugar – 1/2 tsp each- the corn-cooking water for this soup.  Oh, summer…hurry up!

    My best sous and lunchtime taste tester.

    At first taste, my excellent taster wondered what all the shouting was about.  By the second taste, he was hooked.  The subtle heat left a gentle warm buzz in the mouth and the corn and scallops provided good contrast in texture.   I had one small bowl leftover that I ran over to Paul, the owner of our two-doors down wine and beer shop,  The Wine Thief and Ale Jail.  Love living in the city do I.

    The Wine Thief and The Ale Jail

     I chose this recipe because I adored the idea of a mostly healthy  (ok, there’s bacon) seafood soup that used only 6 scallops for four servings.  I calculated about five bucks per serving, which is a less-expensive way to splurge on a little scallop action.   The soup sounded like a luscious and light warm-weather meal that could easily be made outdoors utilizing a grill with a side burner.  It might also serve as a small first-course offering for a special dinner.  I liked a sip of a great big California Chardonnay with this soup.

    Here’ s a review one cook left on epicurious fyi:
    I followed this recipe exactly. I was surprised that the color was not as bright as I had expected (sort of a dull yellow), and the texture was, well, corny. Pureeing the corn mixture did not make it creamy at all, as I could still feel the fibers of the corn kernels in my mouth. I decided to puree all of it, and then strain it, which yielded a something I would describe as a corn broth, great for poaching fish in or serving in shot glasses with some crispy shallots or scallops right on top. 

    by A Cook from Miami Beach, Fl on 07/10/06

    Fyi I pureed three-quarters of the corn.

    Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/reviews/Corn-Soup-with-Sauteed-Scallops-and-Bacon-234219#ixzz1tok3W1g5

    Want more Gael Greene?
    • Read  epicurious.com
    • Check out a NYT article about Gael here.
    • Visit Gael’s personal website, Insatiable Critic, here.
    • Follow Gael on twitter for a daily hoot.
    **
    If you liked this, you might also like my one-pan meal:
    I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit
    Cook with a – band – on,
    Alyce
    Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

    Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

    Looks like Mother’s Day!

    I hope you’re looking for a cake to make for your Mom for Mother’s Day.  If you are, you’re sooo wonderful.  What mom wouldn’t love someone who baked a great-looking and yummy cake like this?   I made it to take to a friend’s for Easter and took it unassembled as I wanted it as fresh as it could be. 

    Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

     

    But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for mom or anyone.
    If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will or see a funky antique shop, keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

    Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.

    courtesy Sara Lee Desserts

    Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

    Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

    • For the cake:*

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

    • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

    • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

    • 1 cup granulated sugar

    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

    • 1/2 cup whole milk

    *Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

    • For the filling:

    • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

    • 1 cup heavy cream

    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    To assemble:

    • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake.
    INSTRUCTIONS
    For the cake:
    1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
    2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
    3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
    4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.

    For the filling:

    1. Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    To assemble: *

    1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.
    If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.
    Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna.  Have mercy.  I could double in size eating that stuff.
    Need a great idea for Mother’s Day? 
          Send Mom an ecard and give to Share our Strength:  No Kid Hungry here.

    Sing a new song and bake/make an easy cake,

    Alyce