Friday, July 31, 2015
1st slice. I love making homemade bagels and Peter Reinhart's recipe via Smitten Kitchen has never failed me. I generally stick to the classics-- sesame seed, poppy seed, salt, and everything-- but tend to go wild with different flavored butters and cream cheeses.
2nd slice. I shared my Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie recipe and some Green Tomato Pie history in the Washington Post Express this week. Find the recipe here and article here.
3rd slice. If you're making pimento cheese, you're going to need some mayo. Chefs share their penchant for Duke's Mayonnaise, accompanied with illustrations by my friend Emily Wallace, in Garden & Gun.
The tasty crumbs. SAVEUR recently profiled Indiana Sugar Cream Pie. Find Hoosier Mama's recipe here.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
But until I actually sat down to research the history behind angostura, it remained something of a mystery-- a curious concoction with an oversized label and exotic name. As I know now, some of that secrecy has been purposely maintained by the company. What we do know, though, is that Angostura bitters are named after the village in Venezuela where they were invented in 1824 by the German doctor Johann Siegert. They were first dubbed Dr. Siegert's Aromatic Bitters and were initially intended as an alleviative for stomach ailments and seasickness. Imported by Britain in 1830; the Royal Navy liked to mix it with gin creating the popular nautically-inclined drink "pink gin."
In 1875, Siegert's sons moved the company to Trinidad, where it still resides, and in 1904 they changed the name to Angostura. The ill-fitting label is legendarily due to the fact that the two brothers did not discuss bottle and label sizes prior to affixing one to the other, but they decided to keep it as a trademark. The recipe however, remains highly protected-- part of the reason the Angostura shortage caused such a hubbub a few years ago.
Lately, in addition to my drinks, I've been using Angostura and other bitters in my baked goods-- a trick I learned from the 4 and 20 Blackbirds Cookbook. The flavor is subtle, once baked, but it contributes a little complexity and aromatics to the filling. I added a dash of it along with some bourbon barrel-aged vanilla to this cherry galette, and gave it the "old-fashioned" name for the pairing of those with sweet cherries. Like most cherry desserts, this is perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
"Old Fashioned" Cherry Galette
For the cornmeal crust (or use Nothing in the House pie crust, halved):
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used this Whole Grain Kentucky Heirloom Cornmeal)
1/2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 sticks COLD unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into slices
1 large beaten egg, cold
1/4 cup ice-cold water
1/2 Tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar (I keep mine in the fridge)
For the filling:
3-4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
3-4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (depending on sweetness of the fruit)
1 teaspoon angostura bitters
1 teaspoon bourbon or vanilla extract (I used vanilla aged in bourbon barrels)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar for dusting
1 large beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon whole milk for egg wash
1. For the crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork and knife, cut in the butter. You want to make sure butter chunks remain, as that's what makes the crust flaky.
2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the COLD liquid ingredients (Using cold liquids ensures that your butter will not melt--another crucial detail for a flaky crust).
3. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until dough comes together, but is not overly mixed (it should be a little shaggy). Form into a ball, cut in half, and flatten each half into a disc. Wrap discs tightly with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
4. While crust is filling, prepare filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine pitted cherries, sugar, bitters, bourbon, and lemon juice. Remove one dough disc and leave other in fridge or freezer for another use. Roll out one crust disc on a piece of parchment and transfer rolled crust and parchment to a large baking sheet.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Ladle cherry filling onto rolled crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of Turbinado sugar over the apricots, then fold up the pastry over the edges of the filling, leaving most of the cherries uncovered.
6. 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.
Apricot Galette with Cornmeal Crust
"Old-Fashioned" Peach Blackberry Pie
Sour Cherry Pie
Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel
Monday, July 13, 2015
Blueberry pie has long had a place on 4th of July menus. It's an American classic, for one, particularly in the North. A recipe appears in Fannie Farmer's 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (though strangely calling for six de-seeded green grapes to improve flavor) and is the state dessert of Maine (though wild low-bush berries are the standby there).
The timing also aligns-- the little blue berries (or blue bellies as I called them when I was little) generally ripen shortly after the first day of summer. Food Timeline's 4th of July Food History, blueberry pie is prescribed on Good Housekeeping's suggested menus of both 1949 and 1955, in the latter to be served with "Spiced Sour Cream and Hot Coffee (instant)."
This year a deep-dish blueberry skillet pie found its way onto my 4th of July table. I spent the weekend on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland with my friends Elizabeth, Grant, and Chickpea the dog. Along with the pie, our Independence Day menu consisted of homemade pizza, American beer (some fancy, some cheap), and homemade coffee ice cream. We enjoyed it on the balcony amidst a 360 fireworks display while Chickpea took cover under the bed.
Nothing in the House pie crust
6 cups fresh blueberries, washed and de-stemmed
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Splash of lemon juice
1 egg (you can use remainder from crust) + 1 Tablespoon whole milk or cream for egg wash
Turbinado sugar (for dusting)
1. Prepare Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. After chilling the dough for at least 1 hour, roll out half of the crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan or a greased 9-inch skillet. Place pan and unrolled crust back into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine berries, cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt. Stir together to combine.
3. Pour the filling into the pie crust and arrange so that its mounded slightly in the center. Sprinkle on the lemon juice.
4. Roll out the remaining pie crust and cut and arrange into a lattice or crust design of your choice. Seal and crimp edges. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
5. Bake pie on a baking sheet (this is to catch any drips) and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. Lower heat to 350 degrees F and bake 40-45 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout. Once baked, let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Blueberry Basil Jam
Blueberry Hand Pies
Blueberry Icebox Pie
Thursday, July 02, 2015
I'm not always the most patriotic person. Lately I've been pretty heartbroken and confused about the state of our country and it's hard to feel like we've really made progress in dismantling institutionalized racism and injustice. But there have also been real sparks of hope: Marriage equality. Bree Newsome. Obama's "Amazing Grace."
Sometimes food-- not to mention food blogging (and about pies no less)--in the context of all of this can feel trivial and frivolous. But food can also be that glimmer of hope, a reminder of our culture and people power. It's sustenance to ground us in place, a reason to gather, something for the hands and body to do while the mind is reeling.
This fourth of July will be a space to think about it all-- the contradictions, the tragedies, the successes. A good time to catch up on some reading and writing, share some food with friends, celebrate the progress we've made as a country and think about what's next.
Here's a round-up of some berry pies and desserts from this blog and other favorites for your holiday gatherings. I'm not sure what I'll whip up this weekend, but I'm planning to let the berries lead the way.
Blueberry Hand Pies
Blueberry Icebox Pie
Blueberry Shortcakes with Whipped Cream Cheese
Plum and Blueberry Galette
Raspberries & Blackberries
Lime & Raspberry Italian Meringue Pie
Peach Blackberry Cobbler
Peach Blackberry Pie
Wild Blackberry Lemon-Goat Cheese Tart
Pickled Strawberry Piescream Sandwiches
Strawberry Creme Tart
Strawberry & Fresh Cheese Tart
Strawberry Icebox Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Berry & Apricot Galettes with Saffron
Campfire Skillet Crisp
Currant Syrup, Switchel, and Gooseberry-Black Cap Pie
Monday, June 08, 2015
I'm going to try to keep the exposition to a minimum, here, as there is exposition enough in this multi-step recipe. But before I let you get to it, I do have some credit to give for this most genius concept you're about to receive...
The classic definition of folklore as a study and discipline holds up the value of face-to-face interaction-- stories or fiddle tunes or traditional recipes being shared between people in real time. In the age of the internet, though that has been expanded-- you can learn a ballad note-for-note off of Youtube, pick up an old recipe via a blog (ahem), share a story on your Facebook page. Face-to-face interaction is still preferred in the field, generally, but the notion that you can learn and share cultural traditions, information, and knowledge via digital forms is now widely accepted.
I too value the person-to-person relationship, but I've also gained a lot from online communities, particularly in the world of food. I've connected with people like Tara of Smoke Signals Baking, who I'd heard about in real life from mutual friends, but our real life meeting was brought about by our Instagram friendship. A few months ago my friend Jess and I met Camille of Wayward Spark, talking ecstatically about the food and farming worlds over bowls of ramen one brisk spring evening. Another connection, most pertinent to this post, is to Austin, Texas baker Trisha Beezup. I'm not sure how I actually found her, but I was swiftly inspired by her innovative and fanciful pie creations-- namely, piescream sandwiches. She's done a few variations: handpies stuffed with ancho brownie filling surrounding the ice cream, pie crust cinnamon rolls sandwiched with a salted caramel ice cream drizzled in chocolate, and strawberry basil crumb pie mixed into buttermilk ice cream. I mean seriously?!
Pickled StrawberriesFrom Short Stack Editions' Strawberries by Susan Spungen
Makes 1 pint
1/2 cup regular rice wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 sprigs mint
2 1/4 cups (about 1/2 pound) fresh strawberries, hulled
1 glass 16 oz. canning jar and lid, sanitized and dry
1. Place vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, vanilla bean and 1/2 cup of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until sugar and salt dissolve, then remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm.
2. Meanwhile place mint sprigs in a pint canning jar. Cut a shallow x into the hulled end of each strawberry and place in the jar. Once vinegar mixture is lukewarm, pour into jar over strawberries. Seal, let cool completely, and place in the fridge overnight (since I was planning to keep them in the fridge and use eminently, I didn't seal them via water bath canning, but you could if you wanted them to be shelf-stable). Pickles will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Pie Crust Cookies
Makes about 18 3-inch cookies (9 piescream sandwiches)
Nothing in the House pie crust recipe, halved
1 beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has chilled for at least 1 hour, roll out on a clean floured surface to about 1/8-inch and cut into circles (mine were 3-inches in diameter). Place pie crust rounds on parchment-lined cookie sheet 1-inch apart, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
2. Place cookies in freezer for 15 minutes until hard, then place on middle rack of preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
Pickled Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from Melissa Clark via New York Times Cooking
Makes about 1 pint
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 large egg yolks
Pint pickled strawberries
1. Place heavy cream, sugar, and salt in a small pot and simmer over low hear until salt and sugar completely dissolve, approximately 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in about one-third of the hot cream into egg yolks. Then immediately whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the rest of the cream.
3. Return pot to medium-low heat and gently cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, and let cool to room temperature before covering and chilling at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Once chilled, churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturers’ instructions. While churning, strain pickled strawberries from their vinegar liquid (reserve vinegar for drinking; you've essentially made a shrub). When ice cream base begins to set, stir in pickled strawberries (if your berries are large, you may want to halve or quarter them. I kept mine whole as they were quite small). Continue to churn until completely set, then transfer to freezer and freeze for at least 4 hours before assembling piescream sandwiches.
Pickled Strawberry Piescream Sandwiches
Inspired by Trisha Beezup
Makes about 9, 3-inch sandwiches
Pie Crust Cookies (see above)
Pickled Strawberry Ice Cream (see above)
1. Once ice cream is set and pie crust cookies are cool, scoop a generous scoop of ice cream onto pie crust cookie and sandwich with another cookie.
2. Place in freezer and let set for 1 hour before serving. This will make the whole shebang a much less messy eating experience, but I understand if you can't wait that long... ENJOY!
Cornmeal Whoopie Pies with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream
Oatmeal Cream Pies
Strawberry Crème Tart
Strawberry Icebox Pie
Friday, June 05, 2015
When I do have the time through, I'm compelled to go about the aspects of posting in a more deliberate way, trying a new photo set-up, filling gaps in my recipe catalog so I'm covering the classics, but also writing about more unusual regional and historical recipes. These are pies and other desserts that may have faded with the rise and fall of baking trends, or are in desperate need of recontextualization as their story and the people attached has become glossed over, simplified, or stereotyped. This is something that happens often with southern and other rural recipes.
I've also committed myself to shooting more film again-- for the blog and just in general. I've been really inspired by the past couple of rolls I shot on my dad's old Nikon F. The camera and the macro lens just capture light in a way that digital can never achieve with it's more flattened, even algorithm. Zeke compared it to analog tape, and that sounds right-- with film, what's in focus is completely clear, ringing out over the more gestural, fuzzy background.
I spent Memorial Day weekend at home-- a good three days to catch up on things, make a lot of food, take a lot of photos, and even work in a trip to the pool with friends. The weekend prior, Zeke and I picked 13 pounds of strawberries at Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove, North Carolina-- an organic, biodynamic U-pick patch with the sweetest, most flavorful berries I've ever tasted. I went a little crazy processing them-- pickling, freezing, baking, infusing them in vodka and putting them in ice cream (some details of such coming to the blog). A coworker also gifted me some rhubarb, so a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie was most definitely in order.
I browsed a number of recipes, settling on Nancie McDermott's from her crucial resource Southern Pies, due to it's higher ratio of rhubarb to strawberries. I'm a huge fan of rhubarb, and in my book, the best berry-rhubarb pies don't mask the rhubarb flavor, but enhance it. The strawberries were so sweet so I cut back on the sugar, and were small enough to leave them whole. This was hands down one of the best pies I've ever made, the flavor so brilliantly forward, the filling so red.
Adapted from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies
Nothing in the House pie crust
3/4 cup-1 cup granulated sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups hulled strawberries (mine were small so I kept them whole, but if large, cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 large egg, beaten + 1 Tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash
Turbinado sugar, for dusting
1. Prepare pie crust as per the directions here. Refrigerate dough for approximately 1 hour. Once chilled, roll out 1/2 of pie crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan. Return crust to the fridge while you prepare the lattice & filling.
2. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt, using a whisk or fork. Add rhubarb, strawberries, and stir together gently with a wooden spoon. Pour mixture into pie crust.
3. To make the lattice: Roll out remaining dough into a long rectangle. Using a ruler as a guide, use a knife or pastry wheel to cut strips of equal width for the lattice top. Lay strips parallel across the pie and fold back every other strip. Weave the same number of strips perpendicular to the first strips, alternating over and under. Trim strips so that they leave a 1-inch overhang. Fold bottom crust over the lattice and tuck the excess under. Seal and flute edges decoratively.
4. Brush lattice with egg wash and dust with Turbinado sugar. Place pie on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown, 45-50 minutes more.
5. Place pie on cooling wrack and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
4 & 20 Blackbirds' Rhubarb Pie
Rhubarb Meringue Tart with Pecan Shortbread Crust
Simple Rhubarb Tart
Strawberry Apricot Pie
Strawberry Crème Tart
Strawberry Icebox Pie
Monday, May 25, 2015
It was a thrill and such an honor to be among the 265 contributors to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets-- a new resource compendium from Oxford University Press. Many of those involved are among my food writer heroines, not to mention Darra Goldstein (!) the founding editor of Gastronomica and a personal role model in how she's been successful in two seemingly disparate (but certainly connected) fields-- academia and food + cookbook writing.
While "pie" was already taken, I was assigned Oreos, Nutella, and cotton candy-- fun topics to research and write about. Perhaps the most interesting factoid I discovered is that Nutella was not necessarily invented for the kismet that is the chocolate-hazelnut combination, but out of reasons of economy-- a thriftiness dating back to the Napoleonic Wars when Napoleon issued Continental Blockade. That caused the price of chocolate to skyrocket, so Italian chocolatiers began pairing it with chopped hazelnuts, which were abundant in the area, to stretch the supply. A similar rationing occurred during WWII, when Pietro Ferrero turned to the combination. Originally called pasta gianduja after the classic Piedmontese carnival character, it was renamed Nutella in 1964.
As for Oreos, the mystery involving the name is of note-- Nabisco invented it, but even the company itself does not cite a definitive story. Some sources speculate it derives from the French word for gold, or-- plausible, as the cookie's name was printed in gold lettering on the original package. Others, somewhat less convincingly postulate Oreo comes from the Greek oros, meaning mountain, claiming that the original cookies were mound-shaped. Whatever the history, I will say it was fun to do some "research" in the grocery store cookie aisle, scouting new Oreo varieties-- Birthday Cake, Banana Split Crème, and the Limited Edition Ice Cream Rainbow Shure Bert! among them.
Cotton candy was somewhat new territory for me, as I wasn't allowed to have the stuff when I was a kid, so have no real reference point or nostalgic leanings for it. Nonetheless, it has a fascinating history dating back to the 16th century, when its precursor, spun sugar, was used as adornment for sweet meats as well as sculptural desserts. Ironically (or maybe not so, as overconsumption of any confection would surely bring in the patients), cotton candy as we know it today was invented by two dentists, one in Nashville, and another in New Orleans.
As a whole Sugar and Sweets is a magnificent tome, filling 900 pages of detailed reference material on all things sweet, from sugar addiction to Iranian zalabiya, sweetness from the perspective of animals (turns out cats sadly don't experience the taste of sweet), music, religion, and sexual innuendo, Kara Walker to Lemonheads. It's an indispensable resource for any baker, food writer, historian, or just someone with a sweet tooth. It's certainly going to be my first reference stop when investigating any baked goods from here on out.
Nutella Icebox Pie
Speculoos Icebox Pie