Apple-Pecan Pie

When fall finally arrives (not sure it’s here yet), it’s time to bake again — and by November, it’s time to think of baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I am anything in life, I am a pie baker. I’m not a county fair blue ribbon winner, but I’m something better — I’m the person folks like to see walking into their house or the church potluck with a pie basket on her arm. It wasn’t always that way, but pie baking is a progressive art or one that is a lifelong undertaking. I began with pies that didn’t taste badly, but were pale and puny at best and were luckily called out by older, experienced pie bakers in the mid-70’s. (“You could have left that in the oven a while longer.”) Even now, hundreds and hundreds of pies later, there’s the occasional crust that won’t hold together, for example, and gets ceremoniously dumped straight into the garbage can. It doesn’t faze me anymore, but pies continue to be educational as long as you’re willing to bake them. If you don’t bake one for a while and then assume you’ll be fine, that pie may or may not bake into something worth eating with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

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Fourth of July Desserts: My Berry Best

Homemade Frozen Yogurt with Strawberries and Blueberries

It came without warning. All of a sudden it was the end of June. It was nearly the 4th of July. Dave and I were both off by about a week and had no idea why. This man’s birthday is July 3 and yesterday he said to me, when I asked about a birthday dinner reservation, “What? Is my birthday this weekend??” Why, yes it is!

In the meantime, I’d been working on a risotto post for the blog. Having a fun old time making the risotto, finding the dishes, taking the photos, writing the text and recipe and so on. Except I had nothing for the immediate holiday. Necessity is the mother of disaster sometimes, but hopefully not here. (Watch this space for the risotto love coming up next week or maybe even the week after.)

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Tomato-Chickpea Salad

If the goal of feeding folks in the summer is to keep the cooking and the heat at a minimum, I’m in. As my friend Jodie says, “I turn into a troll when the temperature gets above 65 degrees F.” Even it it’s not terribly hot outdoors — or is, in fact, lovely — my house seems to turn into a hot box on June 1 every year. Of course that’s just one reason Americans grill (the contemporary version of the separate summer kitchen) and eat outdoors anytime we can. The other is we’re inordinately attached to kicking back for three months every year. Or we say we are anyway.

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THANKSGIVING BAKING FAVORITES FROM MORE TIME AT THE TABLE

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 More Time’s Apple-Pear-Cranberry Pie 

More Time’s Thanksgiving Basics and Organization

More Time’s Thanksgiving Starters, Soups, and Sides

More Time’s Vegan and Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Buffet

More Time’s Cranberry Thanksgiving or How to Get the Kids Involved

Baking at Thanksgiving. It’s a big deal to some people and a late afternoon stop at the grocery for others. Perhaps because often folks are cooks OR they’re bakers and rarely both. The pumpkin pie may have all the memories the turkey never garnered and the homemade yeast rolls and butter just might be why your grandson shows up.  On the other hand, it could be all about the dressing, gravy or even the ham at your house where no one looks twice at dessert. I once brought turkey and dressing to a summer potluck, where a close friend refused to eat a bite. When I asked why, she said, “You didn’t make gravy. I don’t eat dressing without gravy.” She truly had some serious food traditions and it’s not unusual.  Listen to your friends and family talk about Thanksgiving and you’ll see.

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Peach-Blueberry Pie

As the bittersweet arrival of the last of the northwest blueberries coincides with the happy coming of the first glorious Colorado peaches, the two together feel exactly like a match made in heaven in my kitchen on a beautiful cool morning.  With just a smidge over 5 cups of beginning-to-pucker and wilt Oregon blueberries in the fridge, I had not quite enough for a 9-inch pie. A case of peaches sat wafting their keen aroma from the mudroom, so I followed my nose out there and snagged a couple of not-too-ripe beauties to peel and slice for the bottom of the pie, filling that empty extra inch of space. The buttery sweetness from the berry mixture on top would provide plenty of juicy goodness for the still somewhat tangy peaches.  Making something with peaches that aren’t quite ripe or up-to-snuff?  Add a pinch of ground mace to increase their flavor.

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Pie 101–Fresh Strawberry Pie for Memorial Day

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2 places left in the SUMMER SOUPS-NO COOKING! Cooking Class at Mountain High (formerly Shouse)  on Thursday, June 18, 2015:  5-8pm.  Come learn how to be cool in the kitchen!  Click above on CURRENT CLASSES for sign-up info. Can’t wait to cook with you.

Without going into nasty details, I’ve been sick on and off for over a month.  I’d just get over one misery only to encounter another. One I’m sure I brought on all by myself, another arrived via Dave and work (everyone’s had this), and the last was maybe bit of a rerun of it all because why in the world would I want a week in which I was well?  Continue reading

Sour Cream-Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel-What to Do on a Snowy Day

%0A EASY FRENCH 3-COURSE MEAL FOR VALENTINE’S DAY AT HOME:  2-HOUR COOKING CLASS @  SHOUSE APPLIANCE  THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5:  5-7PM.  INTRODUCTORY OFFER 2 FOR 1.  $50.00 for two students–includes food, recipes and ideas for wine pairing. Email me or leave me a message. Can’t wait to cook with you!  Ok, now on to the pie…

I make this apple pie for special people. Special times. I make it when I have a little extra time to think and bake.  It’s not simple. I can never remember exactly how to make it. I have two recipes and I never use either one.  I use a combination of the two with my own little caveats including a crust I’ve come up with over the years. I think I might have actually documented it now.  Make it and let me know. Continue reading

Pie 101-Cherry (Helen’s Cherry Pie- Constructed, Deconstructed and Reconstructed)

 

“Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?  Can she bake a cherry pie, charming Billy?”

She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother….  is poor Billy’s lament.  She can, however, bake a cherry pie quick as a cat can blink an eye!  (Click on above link to hear the song; guitar chords included.)

I was just minding my own business.  I had stuck the hot cherry pie on a rack on an empty shelf in a kitchen cupboard.  A good place to cool pie if you have two golden retrievers. (I made four different pies for Thanksgiving; everyone deserves their favorite once a year.  I’m convinced.  Cherry is my sister Helen’s favorite.   Hence “Helen’s Cherry Pie.”  Also my loved “niece,” Kathy’s.)

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38 Power Foods, Week 18 — Citrus — Step-by-Step Pear or Apple Crostata (Pie 101)

Scroll down for recipe.

Come fall, I make crostatas regularly.  They’re beautiful, terribly good to eat, and generally make folks quite happy.  A free-form fruit pie (often made with homemade jam in Italy), they’re easier to make than traditional American pie and are show-stoppers when you have friends to dinner.  I’ve blogged the crostatas before, and have taught them several times for the Italian classes I’ve done at home.  But I didn’t think of them in terms of citrus until our Power Foods list came up this week.  While citrus (lemon particularly) is a huge part of my cooking, I think about it less in terms of baking.   

  For instance:  I rarely make a green salad without squeezing a lemon over it.  Either I have lemon and oil, lemon alone, or lemon before a vinaigrette.  Whatever choice I make, lemon, as an acid, is always followed by salt and pepper on my salads because salt dissolves best in acid.  For that reason, if I’m making a vinaigrette, I always put the salt in the acid — whether citrus or vinegar– before adding the oil. 


  Secondly, there’s little to perk up a piece of chicken, a steak, or a lamb chop like a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Of course you like lemon on fish, right?  Why not red meat or poultry?

Another thing: I love lemon juice in chili.  I stuff my roasting chicken with big pieces of orange and a cut-up onion or sometimes roast a lemon in the bottom of the pan for the sauce.  I use one citrus or another to keep my cut fruit from browning.  There are so many ways I use citrus, I can’t count or write them.  I buy lemons by the bagful, but rarely go to the store without also buying limes.  Because I don’t eat oranges or grapefruit for breakfast, I buy those only when I’m cooking or baking with them.

These fresh fruit fall crostatas, too, would be very much less without the citrus.  I make several kinds of crostatas, but these two, apple and pear, have orange and lemon zest respectively.  You could switch them out and use orange with the pear and lemon with the apple; I’m sure it would be lovely.

Citrus is, of course, loaded with vitamin C,  provides fiber, folate, lycopene, potassium and other vitamins and minerals.   (More below.)  Yes, it’s great food…  But for me…it’s all about the flavor when I use it for cooking.

A picture story…followed by the recipe.  Bake peace!
                        (Interested in traditional pie?  Read my PIE 101 post here.)

First, the apple version:

Option a (below) for moving pastry from board/counter to the baking sheet

Apple close-up–ready to eat!

 
Option b (below) for moving pastry from board/counter to baking sheet

And, then the pear photos:


Baked pear crostata close-up; I liked the pear best.
The pastry recipe for this comes from Ina Garten, who, I am pretty sure got it from  Joanne Killeen and George Germon in CUCINA SIMPATICA; ROBUST TRATTORIA COOKING and maybe a few other places!  Just a little detective work of mine.  Despite the provenance, it’s a tasty tidbit for fall when the fall fruit is divine   As neither one of them made pear, I feel I’ve contributed to the development of the recipe and hopefully to the happiness of your tummies.  This is tres easy, and if you’re afraid of pastry, this is a great start.  There’s no form-fitting into pie pans or making a crust look “P” for perfect.  This is a free-form, rustic pie baked on parchment paper on a baking sheet.  If it spills over or runs through, it’s just crusty-gooey and even better.  Don’t hesitate.  Pretty for Thanksgiving, too.  Oh, in France, this is a galette.
 
 Here’s how I did it:
Here is the apple at left and the pear at right.



LEMON SCENTED PEAR-ALMOND CROSTATA
4 large or 6 regular servings for each crostata
Parchment paper needed for baking
pastry:  (makes 2-freeze one for later or make 2)
  • 2 c white, unbleached flour
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2# (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 c ice water

In the food processor, fitted with the knife blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture is the size of peas.  Slowly add iced water through the feed tube until dough begins to come together. 

Remove carefully from processor and divide in half.  Press each into a disc.  Wrap one in foil and freeze it.  Refrigerate the other for an hour is best, but you can roll it right away if you must.  Dust the counter very well indeed with flour and roll the disc, using a rolling pin, into an 11″ circle. 

Place on parchment lined baking sheet until you have the fruit ready.  (Check out the pics above where I give you two options for getting the pastry from the counter to the pans.)  You can  a. fold it up gently and  quick like a bunny pick it up, and centering it over the baking sheet, place it carefully down and unfold it or, b. loosely roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and move the rolling pin over above the baking sheet, lowering it and loosening the pastry down flat onto the pan.   

This is not easy to describe; I apologize for lack of prowess as a technical writer!

Filling
1-11/4# pears (Seckel or Bosc or a mixture), peeled, cored and cut into 1″ chunks
1-2t grated lemon rind
1/4 c sliced almonds
1/4 c ea flour and sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t cinnamon
4T unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 450 and place rack at center.

In a large bowl, mix cut-up pears with lemon rind and most of the almonds, reserving 1T or so for the top of the crostata.
 In the food processor, make a crumb topping for the crostata by pulsing together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter until crumbly.  Remove the blade from the processor bowl, and, using fingers, pinch together the crumbs until they hold together.  
Place pear-lemon mixture onto the pastry, leaving 1 1/2 inches around the edges.  Crumble topping on the pears evenly and sprinkle with the last of the almonds.  Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the fruit, gently pleating the dough at the corners.  You’ll be leaving most of the fruit covered by only the crumbly topping; the pastry just comes up around the edges of this pie.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake 25-30 minutes (use the longer time above 5,000 feet) until golden brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before sliding pie off the paper onto wire rack to cool completely.
Will hold at room temperature a day or so and in the refrigerator for several days, though it is best fresh.
Note:  If you’d like to make an apple crostata with the other crust, it’s made almost like the above pie, but you’ll need 1 1/2 # (3-4 large Granny Smith) apples, 1 t orange peel and no nuts unless you choose to add some one your own.  If you do, toasted walnuts might be best.  This is Ina’s method!
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More info on citrus nutrition HERE.
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I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty citrus this week at these sites: 

 
Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
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Want to join us?  We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

Sing a new song,
Alyce