Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cranberry Pie

Cranberries, along with Concord grapes and blueberries, are fruits uniquely native to North America. Native Americans harvested the tart red berries in what is now Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon, where they ate them fresh and used them in cooking and baking, as well as in dyes and poultices. Early settlers to North America began cultivating cranberries as well, and their production continues to be an important part of the culture and economy in the regions in which they grow.

In 1983, Mary Hufford and a team of other folklorists worked on a American Folklife Center (AFC) project which documented the "interplay of natural and cultural resources in the agricultural regions, woodlands, and wetlands," in the Pinelands of Southern New Jersey. Their fieldwork focused particularly on the laborlore, foodways, and traditional culture surrounding the area's cranberry production in the area-- one of the last places to harvest the berries by hand.

As part of that project, the AFC produced the booklet Cranberries (pictured in the top photo), including photos, background information, and recipes collected from consultants in the area. The recipes, shared by women home cooks, feature dishes ranging from Cranberry-Mincemeat Sweet Sour Bread to Cranberry Wine. This Thanksgiving, I adapted Helen Zimmer's recipe for Cranberry Pie, adding just a little zest and spice. I searched the AFC archive to see if I could find out a little more about Ms. Zimmer-- I didn't turn up much (though did come across this related song), but I'd say this pie enough is quite a thing to be known for.

Cranberry Pie
Adapted from Helen Zimmer via Cranberries: Pinelands Folklife Project

Nothing in the House pie crust
1 quart cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup maple syrup (you can also use molasses, sorghum, or any other sweet syrup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon heavy 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. Place pan and unrolled crust back into the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together cranberries and maple syrup and set aside. In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together sugar, cornstarch, and orange zest, then add it to the cranberry mixture. Pour the filling into the chilled pie shell.

3. Remove the remaining crust from the fridge and roll it out on a clean, floured surface. Cut any crust designs desired. Dot cranberry filling with butter, then place top crust on top, fluting the edges decoratively.

4. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Place pie on a baking sheet, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling. Let cool and enjoy just warm with a dollop of maple whipped cream.

Related recipes:
Cranberry Chess Pie
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Cranberry Hand Pies
Cranberry-Lime Galette
Cranberry Sage Pie

Monday, December 08, 2014

Nothing in the House X Elizabeth Graeber Pie Tea Towels

Back in 2012, Elizabeth Graeber and I decided to collaborate on something. It took us a while to figure out what-- a calendar? a zine? recipe cards?-- until we settled on an illustrated pie cookbook featuring a recipe for every month. Since putting out (and selling out of!) Pie. A Hand Drawn Almanac we've collaborated in many other ways, but among the original ideas in our first brainstorming session were hand drawn tea towels.

This year, we're circling back to that and have made 2 two towels, illustrated by Elizabeth, in two different designs. One, in multi-color is of the Nothing in the House pie crust recipe, and the other, in a red-orange and white, illuminates different pie tools, similar to the end pages of the pie almanac.

Both tea towels are printed on an off-white linen-cotton canvas, measure approximately 19'' X 26.5,'' and are made in the U.S. and sewn by us. They're now available, made-to-order via Elizabeth's Etsy shop.

While we *hope* to have them to you in time for the holidays, we can't guarantee it, as towels are printed and made-to-order. We'll try our darndest, though!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Pea & Corn Cookies

Inspiration for these cookies come from a a few different sources. In the spring of last year I wrote a series for the Southern Foodways Alliance on southern women pastry chefs. One of the first chefs I interviewed was Christina Tosi, known for her whimsical sugary creations at Momofuku Milk Bar. I was familiar with her crack pie and cereal milk soft serve, but didn't realize she was a southern gal. She said, "to me, Southern food is all about heart, flavor, nurture, resourcefulness, history, and roots." That sentiment is embodied in her Corn Cookies, which she called the "sleeper" hit of the Milk Bar, but  that has become a personal favorite.

I've experimented with a few variations of the cookie. This summer when I was in Kentucky, I came across this wholegrain heirloom cornmeal, produced by Salamander Springs Farm. It's from a version of Daymon Morgan's Kentucky Butcher Corn, which produces red, blue, purple, orange, and white kernels. As a result, the cornmeal is variegated, with a purplish hue, and let me tell you it bakes like a DREAM. The cornbread I made from it was the best I've ever made, light and fine (and I don't think it's just because I was using Ronni Lundy's great recipe).

I tried the cornmeal in Tosi's Corn Cookies, and it's magic. I just pulse the cornmeal in the food processor so that the texture becomes finer, and then I use it in place of the corn flour. It results in a little it of a grainier & less golden cookie than the Momofuku original, but I don't mind a bit.

So the corn cookie is one thing, but a PEA cookie, you might ask? I know, I know--it's a little weird. But hear me out. Back in October, some friends from out of town were visiting and having heard me and others (like Bon Appetit) rave about Rose's Luxury, they were itching to go. We waited in line the requisite 1.5 hours (really not that bad) on Saturday evening and sat down in the first seating. As you might expect, the entire dinner was fabulous with such an air of comfort and pleasantness and yes, a little bit o' luxury, but really did it for me was in the final blow by way of THE PEA CAKE. When we asked what it was, our server told us it was a yellow cake with peas in it (we imagined peas mixed in throughout, like chocolate in a chocolate chip cookie), but when it came out, it was bright green, served with a mint curd, pea shoots, borage, and candied pistachios. It tasted like SPRING and literally sent shivers down my spine.

Ever since then, I've been wanting to put peas in my sweet baked goods. I found a similar green pea cake recipe. But I got to thinking...would a pea cookie work? After I confirmed my hunch that green pea flour is actually "a thing." I ordered some from Bob's Red Mill, along with some freeze-dried peas, and gave it a go. The result is maybe not on a Rose's Luxury level (not much is), but these Pea Cookies are a soft and sweet, not to mention unusually fresh-tasting and brilliantly colored little tea treat. As a childhood pea-hater, I wish I'd been offered these as an option.

Pea & Corn Cookies
Adapted from Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar

(Recipe given for Pea Cookies, Corn Cookie variation in parenthesis or here)

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill green pea flour (for corn cookies use corn flour or fine ground cornmeal)
2/3 cup freeze dried pea powder (to make, pulverize freeze dried peas-- or corn for corn cookies-- like "Just Peas" from the Just Tomatoes brand, in a blender)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and beat for 7-8 minutes.

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, green pea flour (or corn flour for corn cookies), pea powder (or corn powder), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Using a 2 3/4oz. ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measure, portion out the dough on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat (I used the bottom of a ball jar for this). Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake the cookies at room temperature--they will not bake properly.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4-inches apart on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan. Bake for 15 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. They should be a little brown on the edges but still bright green (or yellow) in the center-- give them an extra minute if not.

5. Cool the cookies completely on sheet pans before transferring to a plate or airtight container for storage.  At room temp, they will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer they will keep for 1 month.

Related recipes:
Lemon-Lavender Meringue Pie Cookies
Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Pie Ideas

As usual,  I'll be making a game-time decision on my Thanksgiving pie selections. In general, though I tend to go for at least one classic pick and one new, experimental, or non-traditional option. It will be hard to top last year's Cranberry Chess Pie, which has since become a new favorite, inspiring many variations with other fruits. If you're also still pondering what pies to make, here's a few suggestions for your Thanksgiving table-- both savory and sweet. If this list doesn't do it for ya, check out the Recipe Index, as well as past guides from 2013 and 2012.

Pumpkin & Sweet Potato
Drunken Pumpkin Bourbon Pie with Mascarpone Cream
Pumpkin & Chai Spice Nut Butter Pie
Sweet Potato Pie with Cornmeal Crust (pictured top left)
Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie

Fall Fruits
Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Apple Slump (not really a pie, but so what, who cares?!)
Cranberry Chess Pie (a new favorite, pictured top right)
Cranberry Hand Pies
Cranberry-Sage Pie
Persimmon Pie

Chocolate & Nuts
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie
Chocolate Chess Pie
Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar (pictured bottom right)
Samoa Pie

Custard & Cheese
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Pumpkin-Ginger Cheesecake Pie
Salty Honey Pie

Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladière
Colcannon Pie
Gordy's Cherry Pepper Spread Galette
Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies (pictured bottom left)

As always, I'd love to hear what you're baking this holiday, whether from this list or not. Have fun and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sweet Potato Pie with Cornmeal Crust

This past August I took a road trip down to Asheville, NC for the Transfigurations II Music Festival, which celebrated 10 years of Harvest Records-- the great independent shop in West Asheville. What really sealed the deal for the trip was that I would finally get to meet and see my pen pal (and fellow pie lover) Michael Hurley play, but there were some other fine reasons as well-- seeing a mess of my current favorite bands, spending time with some dear friends, and meeting Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking

It turned out that Tara and her partner Joe were going to the festival too, and we ran into each other in the food lines there on late Saturday afternoon. Between band sets, we chatted briefly and made plans for me to visit the bakery on my way home Monday morning. 

Smoke Signals, just outside of Marshall, NC, was basically right on my way, just a short drive along some winding mountain roads off of Highway 40. I pulled up to the driveway, greeted by the bright blue door of the bakery, and found Tara in her breezy kitchen, listening to jazz and (surprise, surprise), tending to two beautifully decorated apple pies in the oven. 

While we waited for the pies to cool, Tara gave me a tour of the bakery with its outdoor wood-fired oven. It's where she prepares all of her pies, breads, pizzas, and other baked goods for the bakery, markets, and Saturday pizza nights, and where she's been leading wildly successful pie classes (judging from the photos and sold-out status) this fall.

Back in the house, Tara served us both pie slices with a dollop of yogurt and we took it and our mugs of coffee out on the porch to gab. We found that there was so much to talk about, so many complicated ideas to unpack on topics we've both been working around and through-- creativity, labor, feminism, small business, life trajectories. It was both familiar and exciting, though even after a couple of hours of chatting, it felt like we'd only just scratched the surface. But that's a good way to feel after a visit with a friend, whether new or old. It means there's more to come.

Tara's approach, to both life and baking. Is simple yet smart. Hearty, yet whimsical. Practical, yet beautiful, adorned. Both spiritual and grounded. Take a look at her pie crusts and you'll know what I mean. Same goes for her pie recipes. This Sweet Potato Pie with Cornmeal Crust has no real surprises, doesn't stray too far from the classic. Yet its twists are rather visionary: coconut milk instead of sweetened condensed with a dash of whole grain cornmeal in the crust to complement the silky smooth filling. While I haven't yet tried my friend April McGreger's recipes from her new Savor the South book Sweet Potatoes (next on my list), I'd say this is the best sweet potato pie filling I've ever had.

 Sweet Potato Pie with Cornmeal Crust
Adapted only slightly from Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking via Food & Wine

For the cornmeal crust:
1 1/4 cups pastry flour
1/4 cup fine cornmeal (I used Salamander Springs Kentucky heirloom cornmeal)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 stick + 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/3 cup ice water

For the filling:
3 cups (2 3/4 lbs.) sweet potatoes
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For finishing/serving:
1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon heavy cream, whole milk, or water
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling 
Unsweetened whipped cream 

For the crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse pastry flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal and peas. Sprinkle the water on top and pulse until the dough just begins to come together. Scrape the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface, gather up the crumbs and pat the dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 13-inch circle, a little under 1/4 inch thick. Place dough into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Trim the overhang to 1-inch and fold under itself. Crimp crust decoratively and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Reserve any remaining dough for crust designs, if desired.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the lower rack of the oven, about 20 minutes, until crust is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

For the filling:
1. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork and place them on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour until tender. Let cool completely, then peel and coarsely mash. Measure out 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes & reserve the rest for another use.

2. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, combine butter with the granulated sugar and purée until smooth. Add the 3 cups of sweet potatoes and purée until very smooth. With the machine still on, add the eggs one at a time until each is incorporated. Add coconut milk, ginger, salt, and cloves, and pulse until no streaks remain.

3. Scrape the filling into the cooled pie crust. Add any decorative crust pieces, sealing with the egg wash. Brush entire crust with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the filling is just set but still slightly jiggly in the center; cover the crust with strips of foil if it becomes too dark. Let the pie cool completely, then cut into wedges and serve with unsweetened whipped cream (add a dash of bourbon to it for a kick!). 

Related posts:
Decorative Crust with Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking
Pumpkin and Chai Spice Nut Butter Pie
Sweet Potato Pentagram Pie
Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Growing up it was an annual fall tradition to make the trip to Eberly's Orchard, near my grandparents' house in North Liberty, Indiana. Don Eberly was my mother's school bus driver, and ran an orchard and cider mill on his family farm. I have such fond memories of walking into the barn and watching the apples go up a long conveyor belt to be pressed into cider that would come out fresh from the spout and into tiny Dixie cups for sampling. While no orchard can quite compare to the one of my childhood nostalgia, I consider it a necessary autumn ritual to make a trip to a nearby orchard with friends.

While Eberly's didn't have doughnuts that I can recall (I'd likely remember if they did), I got used to them as orchard treat from my time in Michigan and Vermont. When I moved to North Carolina, I was shocked that I couldn't find apple cider donuts anywhere, so I started making my own. In the past few years, they've become a staple for backyard shows, brunches, and Halloween parties. 

I use smitten kitchen's recipe, adapted only slightly, the main difference being that I like to add a little cardamom to my dough and to the sugar coating. Getting the hang of frying can be tricky at first if you've never tried it-- don't be afraid to sample the first few to make sure you're hitting the sweet spot of a little crisp on the outside while still soft and cakey on the inside. 

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 1/2 dozen, depending on size

1 cup apple cider
3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon cinnamon + 1 1⁄2 Tablespoon additional for topping
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar + 1 cup additional for topping
2 large eggs
1⁄2 c. buttermilk
A lot of veggie oil for frying

1. Pour apple cider into a medium-sized saucepan, and over medium heat, bring cider to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low so the cider is gently simmering. Let simmer about 30 minutes until it has reduced to about 1⁄4 c. set aside and let cool.

2. In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients except for sugar and extra cinnamon and set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, beating after each addition. Once the mixture is well-combined, reduce the speed to low and add the reduced apple cider and buttermilk, beating until just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough is well-combined, smooth, and begins to come together in a ball.

4. On a cookie sheet lined with floured parchment paper, roll out the dough to about 1⁄2-inches thick. Move the dough and paper to a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Once the dough has firmed up in the freezer, remove and cut with a doughnut cutter (or ball jar and a shot glass). Place the doughnuts onto another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Once you’ve cut all the doughnuts, place them in the fridge for about 20 minutes while you prepare your oil.

5. Now before we get to any hot grease situation, make sure you are wearing closed-toed shoes and are properly clothed—hot oil can be dangerous so be careful!  Using a pot or pan with tall sides, pour in enough veggie oil to reach a depth of approximately 3-inches. Put a candy thermometer in the side of the pan and slowly heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.

6. Meanwhile, prepare your post fry set-up: stack a few layers of paper towels on a plate for doughnut blotting. Mix the 1 cup sugar and 1 1⁄2 Tablespoon cinnamon (I like to add a pinch of cardamom too) together in a wide shallow bowl and set aside.

7. Now you're ready to fry. Add a few doughnuts at a time (3-4) to the hot oil and fry until they turn golden brown (this may take some testing and sampling), approximately 1 minute. Flip the doughnuts over and fry the other side for about 30 seconds-1 minute. Use a metal slotted spoon to remove the doughnuts from the grease and blot them on the paper towels. Then dip them into the cinnamon-sugar. 

8. Though tempting to eat right away (and you should definitely eat them while fresh and warm) try stringing the doughnuts using a sturdy rope or twine and tie them up, like a hammock, between two trees or posts. Challenge your pals to eat them from the string, no hands. Just a way to make a party that already has doughnuts, even better.

Related recipes:
Apple Galette
Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Apple Slump
Cardamom Doughnut Muffins

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies

It feels a little disingenuous to post this without divulging that that when I made these savory pocket pies, I wasn't able to eat them.

For the past two weeks, I've been doing a detox/cleanse guided by my friend Michelle, a naturopath in Detroit. I'd been interested in doing something of the sort-- prompted by a lethargic feeling after weeks of travel with some overly-indulgent food choices as well as a cycle of bad migraines. I was interested in cleansing, but also in potentially identifying and/or eliminating some migraine triggers. I saw that Michelle was offering a guided detox and asked it I could participate from afar. I especially liked that  it offered the support of a doctor and a participant community-- even a remote one-- and I think it made me more likely to follow through and stick with it over the two weeks.

The detox worked similarly to a food elimination diet, cutting out food items that are inflamatory and/or a common source of sensitivities. That meant, roughly, no wheat, coffee, dairy, soy, sugar, alcohol, peanuts, corn, nightshades, oranges & grapefruit, and processed foods and meant a lot of fruits and vegetables, grains like quinoa and brown rice, nuts, coconut or almond milk, green tea, grass-fed meat, fermented foods, and water.

It was much easier than I imagined and I adhered to it pretty strictly, though did allow myself a glass of red wine on one or two occasions (1 being the evening after I finished moving). After I broke by caffeine/coffee addiction, which resulted in a few minor headaches, I felt really good, healthy, and energetic throughout.

I'm still in the process of adding foods back in and testing sensitivities. I know right now that I'm planning to cut out a lot of dairy, particularly heavy creams, soft cheeses, etc.--this was a sensitivity I was already fairly aware of, but the detox helped me to really see what an effect it has on my digestion, mental awareness, and general well being. I don't think I have other serious sensitivities, which I'm thankful for, but feel more conscious now of the effect that an excess of wheat and sugar has on my body as a whole, and in general am very appreciative of the consciousness and self-care approach that the detox has brought to my eating habits.

Like any time restrictions are set on creative process, I really enjoyed the way the cleanse injected some new energy and innovation into my daily cooking. Working within the detox's constraints, actually allowed me to transcend my cooking comfort zone and "same old" recipe mode, and try out some new things-- namely crispy chickpeas, quinoa-carrot-cabbage soup, and a variety of green smoothies.

That being said, I'm also excited to return to the world that includes Pear, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies. Quite versatile, these can serve as a breakfast, lunch (with a side salad accompaniment), or a dinner appetizer or side. I relied on friends to be taste testers and they gave it a thumbs up. Feel free to substitute the pears for apples, and the gruyère and rosemary with other cheeses and herbs.

Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies
Makes 8-10 depending on size

Nothing in the House Pie Crust
3/4 lb. (about 3) Bosch pears, cut into small wedges
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup gruyère, grated
1 Tblsp. fresh rosemary
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 beaten egg + 1 tsp. milk/cream for an egg wash.

1. Prepare Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. Once chilled, roll out dough onto a floured surface and cut into circles of equal size (mine are about 6-inches). Place cut circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add 1 Tblsp. olive oil and sliced onions to a cast iron skillet and place over medium heat. Stir to coat onions with olive oil. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onions with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 25-30 more minuted until onions are caramelized. 

3. Place onions in a medium sized-bowl and add pears, gruyère, rosemary, and salt & pepper to taste. Remove cut dough from fridge and add a scoop of filling to one side of every cut circle. Brush edges of dough with cold water and fold the other half of the dough over the filling to form a crescent shape. Using a fork, poke a steam vent in the top and press the edges to seal.

4. Brush hand pies with egg wash and sprinkle with flake sea salt, if desired. Bake hand pies on parchment-lined baking sheet for 35-40 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Crust will be golden brown when done. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Serve still warm.

Related recipes:
Ham, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Galette with Fried Egg
Heirloom Tomato Pies with Bacon, Cheddar & Thai Basil Jalapenos
Pear Tarte Tatin
Savory Apple Tart with Caramelized Onion, Gruyère & Sage