Saturday, September 03, 2016

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese and Almond Shortbread Crust

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

As the New Yorker informed us all last month, figs are pretty goth. The fruit, which is actually an inverted flower, has developed a symbiotic relationship with a tiny insect known as a fig wasp. The female wasp pollinates the fig, lays her eggs, and then gets trapped inside, and dies; the fig eventually breaks down her carcass into protein.

This new knowledge just adds to the cloud of mystery that for me, surrounds the fig. Of course, growing up in the midwest, we didn't have much access to fresh figs-- the only variety I knew came dried from the bulk bins at the co-op or stuffed in a Newton. The first real fig I ever had came from the market in Aix-en-Provence, France when I studied abroad there my junior year of college. A visit to the center market, lined with tables of a Mediterranean bounty of dates and Italian plums, pistachios and grapes,  honey and olives, and the plump purple figs striped with narrow flecks of green. The farmer, whose sing-song list of her wares, rang out clearly in her thick Provençal accent above the market din, offered me a sample and my first bite was otherworldly. I felt like I was eating something from another planet, the fruit bursting with its pink alien brain insides, and succulent, floral flavor.  Later when I moved to North Carolina for grad school, figs became more familiar, but never lost their subtle mystery. Year later, on the first date of a rekindling romance, my counterpart called to tell me he'd be a bit late; he was picking me figs.

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

Here in West Virginia, I fortuitously got myself employed by an organization with an office fig tree. Since I started there last November, I've been eyeing the tree every time I enter the building, anticipating the moment when I can pull one of the tree and plop it in my mouth. Early last month, I overeagerly jumped the gun a bit, picking some that were a little too green, but luckily they ripened in the fridge. 

This tart was conceived out of the first real fig harvest, though splitting the share with my coworkers, I didn't quite have enough figs for a full tart. This proved advantageous though, from both a decorative and flavor standpoint, and I ended up with a veritable fruit salad atop this goat cheese tart. It turns out that an artful arrangement of fruit also gives you a lot of bang for your buck, in terms of oohs and ahs and... well... some Instagram likes. This style of tart, with fresh fruit atop a cheese or custard filling is also highly adaptable to season; top the goat cheese interior with whatever fruit you have on hand, and time of the year, and it should serve you well.

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese and Almond Shortbread Crust

Makes one 11-inch tart (though a 9-inch tart is pictured)

For the crust:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup almond meal (make your own by grinding almonds in the food processor)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
10 Tablespoons (1 stick +2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon ice water

For the filling:
8 ounces fresh chèvre
8 ounces mascarpone
4 large eggs
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
Zest of 1 orange

For the topping:
Assortment of fresh fruits, such as figs, plums, raspberries and blackberries, about 1 cup each.

For the crust:
1. Combine flour, almond meal, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add cold butter chunks to the almond mixture and process until mix is the size of small peas. Add egg yolks, extracts, and ice water and pulse just until dough begins to form. Remove pastry dough from the food processor and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour and up to 1 day.

2. After dough has chilled, lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 11-inch tart pan. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper and transfer to the tart pan, forming the crust up the sides (dough will be crumbly, so you may have to piece it together). Fold dough over the sides to ensure that the tart will have a strong edge. Prick all over the bottom with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

For the filling: 
1. Preheat over to 350. Blend chèvre, mascarpone, eggs, and 2/3 cup of sugar. Zest the orange and combine with the 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Combine the chèvre & orange mixtures until smooth. 

2. Pour the mixture into the tart shell, place on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is set. Let the tart cool on a cooling rack.

For the topping & assembly:
1. Just before serving, artfully arrange fruit on top of the tart (you may want to slice some fruits, such as figs and plums).

2. Serve immediately and enjoy! Leftovers can keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, but I'm not sure you'll have many.

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

Related recipes:
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Fig-Pistachio Tarte Tatin
Fresh Fig Tartlets with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Syrup
Pear and Cardamom-Fig Pie

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Ronni Lundy's Tomato Pie

Ronni Lundy's Tomato Pie | Nothing in the House

A few months ago, I finally bought Ronni Lundy's mountain South cooking staple Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken, after hearing its praises sung for years.  My friend Lora always said that when she first met her husband, she knew he was a keeper, because he had the cookbook on his shelf. I'm not sure what took me so long to acquire it, but I have a lot of catching up to do, just as Ronni is about to release another highly touted book, Victuals, due out at the end of the month.

Faced with a glut of heirloom tomatoes, as one often is in the month of August, I went looking for a new tomato pie recipe, and reached first for Shuck Beans. The recipe, as Ronni says, is a traditional version of the Southern restaurant favorite stewed tomatoes, and as I say, is not to be confused with pizza, Philly/South New Jersey tomato pie, or for that matter, sweet green tomato pie. It bakes up easily with a simple top crust, and is an ideal side dish for a summer dinner on the porch.

Tomato Pie
Adapted from Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken by Ronni Lundy

For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup buttermilk

For the filling:
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
3 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes and juice, peeled and chopped (1 large 28 1/2 oz. can tomatoes also works)
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt, then use fingers to work in the 2 Tablespoons of butter. Pour buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir until well blended but still damp. Turn out onto a floured board and roll into an 11-inch circle (or the size of your large cast-iron skillet). Cut into strips about an inch wide for the lattice top.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the Tablespoon of butter into a skillet. Add onions and cook until softened. Meanwhile, drain juice from the tomatoes and add milk to the juice. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and spices into the tomato juice and milk mixture until well blended.  Pour into skillet and turn heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

3. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Lay the strips of dough over the top of the tomato mixture, weaving to make a lattice, if desired. The tomato mixture will bubble up through the strips to flavor them.

4. Place skillet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the dough is golden-brown. Enjoy as a side dish, perhaps with a salad and chicken or fish.

Related recipes:
Heirloom Tomato Hand Pies with Bacon, Cheddar, and Thai Basil Jalapenos
Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie
Savory Heirloom Tomato-Ricotta Galette
Tomato, Bacon and Jalapeno Pie

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust | Nothing in the House

This May, my family all came home to Indiana to celebrate my grandmother's 85th birthday. We were sitting around the dining room table, swapping stories when my uncle Brett told us why he can no longer eat peaches:

It was summer, in rural northern Indiana, and my uncle, who was in high school, was broke. He and his friend went looking for odd jobs, and Don Eberly, the local apple orchardist and retired school bus driver (who I've written about previously here), said that he'd pay Brett and his friend to drive up to an orchard in Michigan, pick up a haul of peaches, and bring them back. Desperate for cash, they agreed, spending the last of their money on gas for the trip, north of Grand Rapids. On the way home, the back of their truck filled with peach crates, they were starving, but had no money left for food. So they hauled a crate into the cab, set it between them, and ate peaches all the way home, throwing pit after pit out of the open windows. When they got back, they got their money, but were completely sick on peaches, and to this day Brett is nauseated by the taste and smell of them.

I'm glad I've never had such an experience. To me, there's nothing like a fresh peach in the summer time. It's almost unbelievable that something so sweet and juicy is even real. I actually think I favor fresh peaches over baked, but this galette recipe allows the slices to still maintain their integrity, avoiding the goopy, gelatinous mess that you find in some peach pies when the steam captured by a double crust breaks down the fruit. You can use the standard Nothing in the House pie crust recipe for this-- it'll be flakier-- but this is more of a biscuit crust, with the added texture of the almond meal pairing well with the sweet stone fruit.

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust | Nothing in the House

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust

For the crust:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the filling:
7-8 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used bourbon barrel-aged)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Turbinado sugar (for dusting)
1 large beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon whole milk or cream (for egg wash)

1. For the crust In a large bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter cubes using a pastry cutter or knife and fork until texture resembles cornmeal and peas. Stir in the buttermilk with a wooden spoon. Mix until dough comes together, but is not overly mixed (it should be a little shaggy). Form into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap the disc tightly with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. 

2. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients until homogenous. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

3. Roll out crust in a large circle or oval on a piece of parchment and transfer crust with parchment to a large baking sheet. Ladle peach filling onto rolled crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold up the pastry over the edges of the filling, leaving most of the peaches uncovered. 

4. Place galette in freezer for 20-30 minutes while the oven preheats. Once chilled, remove galette from fridge and brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Bake tart in the middle rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and pastry is golden brown. Let the tart cool completely. Serve just warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust | Nothing in the House

Related recipes:
Apricot Galette with Cornmeal Crust
"Old Fashioned" Cherry Galette
Peach-Pecan Pie
Peach Pie with a Sweet Basil Glaze
Peach-Sorghum Pandowdy with Cornmeal Biscuits
Surry County Peach Sonker with Dip
White Nectarine Frangipane Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Cherry Buttermilk Gelato with Honey Cornmeal Cones

Cherry Buttermilk Gelato with Honey Cornmeal Cones | Nothing in the House

Sometime last year I picked up a Cuisinart ice cream maker at a thrift store, thus launching my foray into frozen dessert experimentation. My favorite result to date is the Pickled Strawberry Ice Cream I made for "piescream sandwiches" last June, but the main hold-up preventing me from using the ice cream maker with more frequency is the time it takes to prepare a full-on custard ice cream-- often when I get the urge for a frozen treat, I want it then and now. So I've been seeking quicker recipes I can whip up within an hour. This "gelato" recipe via Food52 is a quick, no-cook affair, and can be easily adapted to whatever ingredients you have on hand. Originally made with strawberries, buttermilk, and sour cream, I used the sweet cherries, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt I already had in the fridge.

My pizzelle maker is another one of those kitchen trinkets I like to put to use in creative ways. Back in January, my friends and I used it to make fortune cookies to pair with my friend Mike's homemade carrot/lemongrass and green tea/kombucha ice creams made for our Chinese New Year feast. This time, I adapted a Bees Knees recipe to make Honey Cornmeal Mini Cones, spiked with a dash of bourbon. If you don't want to shape them into cones (folding them right out of the oven requires a bit of a burned finger commitment), you can keep them in a round cookie shape and use them as a garnish in the ice cream dish.

Cherry Buttermilk Gelato | Nothing in the House

Cherry Buttermilk Gelato
Adapted from Food52

Makes 1 quart

4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (depending on your sweetness preference)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
1/3 cup Greek yogurt (original recipe calls for sour cream, which makes it fattier and richer)

1. Purée the pitted cherries and sugar in a food processor or blender until smooth.

2. Add the salt, buttermilk, and yogurt and blend until combined.

3. Pour the blend into an ice cream maker and process according to the ice cream maker's instructions. Once churned, chill in the freezer until ready to eat. Serve with honey cornmeal ice cream cones (see recipe below).

Honey Cornmeal Cones | Nothing in the House

Honey Cornmeal Ice Cream Cones
Adapted from Bees Knees Recipes

Makes about 10 mini cones or cookies

1 large egg
1 egg white
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bourbon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal (Bloody Butcher cornmeal recommended!)

1. Heat pizzelle or waffle cone maker.

2. In a saucepan, melt the honey with the 2 Tablespoons of butter and set aside.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, egg white, sugar, and bourbon. Stir in the salt and half of the flour, then mix in the melted honey butter. Beat in the rest of the flour and the cornmeal until smooth.

4. Scoop 1 1/2 Tablespoons batter into each side of the pizzelle maker and bake for about 1 minute. Remove cookie and immediately shape around your fingers or a spoon handle. You may want to wear gloves as the pizzelles will be quite hot.

Cherry Buttermilk Gelato with Honey Cornmeal Cones | Nothing in the House

Related recipes:

Pickled Strawberry Piescream Sandwiches
Sour Cherry Pie
Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

Lately, I've been thinking about loss and home. Not as separate thematic entities, but rather the Venn diagram overlap of the two. These thoughts have been prompted by my move to a new state and region that has also experienced great loss-- economic, cultural, environmental and where connection to home and place is so prominent and visceral. Maybe it's because I grew up in the Midwest, or have lived so many other places, but aside from a dew special places from my childhood, that deep tie to place and state and region is mostly foreign to me. On a recent trip home for my grandma Georgette's 85th birthday, though, I was confronted by my own personal feelings on "home loss" and nostalgia, for a place I can't really return to. 

My parents and my mother's siblings and their spouses, my brother and his girlfriend, and other extended family, all gathered at my grandma's home, a mostly-retiree condo community that she moved to after my grandfather died. Their house which she moved from sat on 20 acres of woods and pasture in North Liberty, deep in Indiana farm country. My grandparents were a part of that community, but also were a little different, evidenced by their unusual home built on land between cornfields on a country road. My grandfather, a painter, lithographer, and the former art director for Studebaker, designed and built their angular, energy-efficient mid-century modern dwelling, which was tiered with balconies, decks, and the outdoor back "secret stairs" that I liked to take upon my arrival to "surprise" my grandmother who was undoubtedly waiting to greet me at the kitchen window. Their porches and yard were peppered with abstract sculptures, like the sundial "dinosaur" that stood in the center of my grandmother's flower bed, and my grandfather studio, housing his lithograph press, stood just on the other side of the driveway en route to the fishing pond. 

In Southern culture, literature in particular, there's a lot of talk about "the home place." That concept doesn't appear in the Midwest so much, maybe because so many Midwesterners were migrants with a home place elsewhere-- the south, east, or another country altogether. But that weird house on Riley Road was my home place, where extended family would gather for holidays and big Sunday meals every week of my childhood, and where my brother and I were free to roam, a thrill for us inner-city kids.

It's somewhat tangential but relevant, I think, to share that my family had actually been displaced from our original home place-- land I never knew when it was ours, but was the home of my great-grandparents, grandparents, mother and her siblings. That previous property, where my grandfather had also build a house of his own design, was taken away by the state via eminent domain for the creation of a state park that the government had hoped would bring in crucial tourist dollars. It never really did, and I have to wonder if that has something to do with the displacement of the many families who lived there and stayed in the community-- families who were also still obligated  to pay the park entrance fee to walk to land that still bears no sign that it was once theirs. Maybe I've absorbed some bitterness about it. Though that doesn't subtract from the connection I felt and still feel to the familial home I knew, it adds another inherited layer to my own sense of loss, and I imagine that feeling is even sharper for my mom and her siblings.

One of the things I remember clearly from the home place I knew were the rhubarb plants that lined my grandma's raised bed. They were the biggest rhubarb plants I've ever seen, their toxic leaves almost Jurassic, served as ample shade for the two grey cats, Blue and Pinkie, and were last-minute hiding places for our hide 'n' go seek games at dusk. The edible stalks were bright red and thick-- making the pallid and limp green and pink stalks I sometimes get at the grocery store seem like an entirely different species. 

The day before my grandma's birthday party, my mom, aunts, uncle, and I had lunch at Georgette's (or as my dad and uncles call her, "Big Gette") house. We made cold cut sandwiches, and after we were done, my grandma apologetically brought a store-bought rhubarb crisp to the table, saying it was store bought because she couldn't find any rhubarb at the store, adding that she's never found any as good as the rhubarb she used to grow on Riley Rd. When she served it, my mom and aunt refused a slice, but my uncle, now a Floridian who doesn't come across much rhubarb anymore obliged, and as a ever-rhubarb fan with an ample sweet tooth, I did too. 

I don't blame or judge my grandma for buying a store-bought rhubarb crisp. Rather, I applaud her for, after long last, allowing someone else to do some work for her- at 85, a mother of 5, and a grandmother of 5,  and the family matriarch, she definitely deserves it. The crisp wasn't bad, but it didn't taste anything like rhubarb, the cloying taste of sugar and over-use of preservatives and thickener completely masking any of that biting tartness we were after. But as we sat there chewing, here in a house that despite its cookie-cutie exterior exudes the magic of my grandmother, I realized that what I was tasting was the taste of home and loss, and it was much too sweet. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette
Adapted from Food & Wine

Nothing in the House pie crust
2 cups (1 pint) strawberries, sliced thick
1 pound rhubarb stalks, cut into pieces
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar, depending on your tartness preference
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of your favorite bitters (I used black cardamom bitters; or substitute vanilla extract)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 Tablespoons whole milk
Turbinado sugar

1. Prepare Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions here. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out into a 13-14 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper or a Silpat. Put the rolled crust and parchment/Silpat on a cookie sheet and return it to the fridge while you prepare the filling. 

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together sliced strawberries, rhubarb pieces, sugar, flour, lemon juice and bitters (or vanilla extract). 

3. Remove rolled crust from fridge and spread the fruit filling over the pastry, leaving a 2-inch edge. Fold the edge over the filling, pleating at the corners. Dot the filling with butter pieces. Brush crust with milk and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. 

4. Place the galette in the oven and bake on the middle rack for 1 hour or until fruit is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown. Let cool before slicing into wedges and serving with vanilla ice cream. 

Related recipes:
4 & 20 Blackbirds' Rhubarb Pie
Rhubarb Meringue Tart with Pecan Shortbread Crust
Rhubarb Tart
Simple Rhubarb Tart
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb and Wine-Soaked Fig Rustic Tart

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Black Bottom Lemon Pie

Black Bottom Lemon Pie | Nothing in the House

I first came across this recipe in a copy of the 1932 Woodward and Lothrop Cookbook and Kitchen Guide for the Busy Woman in the library of Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring, Maryland, where I was doing fieldwork at the time. The cookbook, written by Mabel Claire, was of local publication, as Woodward and Lathrop was a Washington, D.C. department store, first opening in 1887. The implication of the subtitle, according to author of The American History Cookbook Mark Zanger, was that these recipes were for the woman who worked outside of the home, kept no garden, nor had much stockpiled in the way of stored, preserved food. She was likely a city-dweller, and was also living in the midst of the Great Depression. Hence, this collection offers recipes that are generally quick and thrifty, calling for a modest number of ingredients and none too fancy. The cookbook does make up for this frugality by offering innovative recipes, as evidenced in the lemon-chocolate pairing in this Black Bottom Lemon Pie.

The classic Black Bottom Pie features a chocolate bottom layer, covered with vanilla custard, and sometimes topped with whipped cream. This version is said to have originated in southern California, first appearing in print in the 1928 Los Angeles Times. I couldn't find much about the origins of Black Bottom Pie with a lemon layer, but four years later, Mabel Claire included it in her cookbook, calling it a "New taste thrill-- chocolate in lemon meringue pie. It's a gourmet treat." Today, the pie has been popularized by Emily and Melissa Elsen of 4 and 20 Blackbirds, who offer it in their Brooklyn shop and include a recipe in their cookbook.

Here, I stuck closely to Claire's version, adding some cornstarch to thicken the yellow custard, and including more specific directions-- particularly for blind baking and refrigeration (the original did not call for it). What I certainly kept, and what may be the most ingenious part of the recipe is the lattice meringue, a style I've never found elsewhere.

Black Bottom Lemon Pie | Nothing in the House

Black Bottom Lemon Pie
Adapted from The Woodward and Lothrop Cookbook and Kitchen Guide for the Busy Woman

2 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon peel 
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

For the crust:
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Prick crust with fork all over the bottom. Place pie pan in the freezer for 1 hour to set before baking. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Remove crust from freezer, line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake crust for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove paper and weights and brush with egg wash. Return crust to oven and bake for 5-8 more minutes more or until fully baked, puffed, and golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.

For the filling:
1. Melt chocolate over hot water in the top of a double boiler.  Spread evenly over the bottom of the baked and cooled pie shell and set aside.

2. In the top of a double boiler, beat egg yolks until thick. Add lemon juice and water, mixing well to combine. Stir in lemon peel, 1/2 cup of sugar, and cornstarch. Cook over hot (not boiling) water, stirring constantly until thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from water and heat and let cool.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until frothy. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar gradually, beating constantly until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold half of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture until combined and pour over chocolate bottom in pie shell.

4. Spoon remaining egg white mixture into pastry tube and make a lattice design on top of the lemon filling.

5. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned. Let cool to room temperature and chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!

Related recipes:
Black Bottom Pie
Lemon Chess Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie Cake
Levon Helm's Lemon Icebox Pie

Friday, April 22, 2016

Katharine Hepburn Brownie Pie

There's a photo of me from the fourth grade: I have my hair curled (it was then in its pre-pubescent stick straight stage) and piled high on top of my head. I'm wearing a blue blazer and turtleneck, and holding a wooden tennis racquet, with over-sized sunglasses completing the look. The occasion was a class biography project in which we were to impersonate one of our heroes and I, in case you haven't guessed from my surely obvious costuming, was Katharine Hepburn.

At some point prior I had graduated from Shirley Temple movies to those of Hepburn and Grant, Hepburn and Tracy, Hepburn, Hepburn, Hepburn. This little obsession was perhaps prompted by my mother and grandmother, who presented Kate as the feisty, whip smart, and athletic alternative to the other silver screen starlets my classmates were ogling over (likely via a certain "classic movie" issue of the very '90s pre-teen rag, American Girl).

Me as Katharine Hepburn, 4th grade
I admired Katharine for all of those reasons my elders saw her as an alternative role model. As a nerdy tomboy, I identified with Kate's Bringing up Baby shenanigans, leopard in tow, her cunning smarts that bested Spencer Tracy in Desk Set, and her take no guff attitude in Pat and Mike. I also just found her hilarious. Subsequently, I devoured her autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life, with abandon, and upon learning that as a child, she lived as a boy for the summer, with her parent's buy-in, considered doing the same. Six or so years later, then a sophomore in high school, I got in a heated argument with my honors English teacher who insisted that Katharine and that other Hepburn, Audrey, were sisters. I told her she was wrong, exclaiming, " I know for a fact-- I've read Me!," "So have I," she countered. Well, someone was lying and it wasn't me. 

Later in college, my older friend Ben who worked at Houghton Mifflin for his first job out of school, sent a spare copy of Ruth Reichl's bright yellow Gourmet Cookbook to my group house in Ann Arbor. The first recipe I discovered and ever made from there was Katharine Hepburn's brownies, sourced allegedly from the Hepburn family by a friend of food writer Laurie Colwin's. I've worn that page (688) out, so much that the cookbook now opens directly to it.

The recipe makes the best brownies-- fudgy and dense, they're the only ones I ever make. They're also incredibly simple-- fitting I think, for Kate-- a woman who appreciated luxuries, no doubt, but wouldn't let her get to carried away about them, always tempering her approach with that stubborn blue-blooded New England practicality.

Here, I have Hepburn's brownies the pie treatment, altering the recipe just slightly (I reduced the sugar by 1/4th of a cup) and using it as the filling in a pie crust. It's a Chocolate Chess Pie, essentially, but the richest one you ever had. The added salt and bite of the crust balances that out a bit, and of that, I think Kate would approve.

Katharine Hepburn Brownie Pie

Nothing in the house pie crust, halved
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use. 

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter with chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla, beating until well mixed. Stir in flour and salt just until combined.

3. Pour filling into chilled pie crust and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool, then serve just warm or at room temperature. 

Related recipes:
Berger Cookie Pie
Chocolate Almond Cake
Chocolate Chess Pie
Cranberry Chocolate Chess Pie