Thursday, April 10, 2014

Samoa Pie & Elizabeth Graeber at Wild Hand Workspace

Elizabeth, Morgan, and I had so much fun with last month's collaboration/excuse to hang out (which is really the best kind of collaboration) that we decided to turn it into a monthly affair. April's edition was kind of a no-brainer, as Elizabeth was already planning to have an art show at Morgan and her friend Victoria's studio, Wild Hand Workspace. I jumped on board by contributing baked goods for the opening last week.

Inspired by Miss Moss' fashion and food pairings, I wanted to make some food items that were inspired by Elizabeth's art, whether in shape, color, form, or topic. Her tiger painting and another tiger pillow (which served as the show's poster) reminded me of the Samoa Pie I'd seen in Allison Kave's inspirational new pie cookbook First Prize Pies. A wildly creative collection of show-stopping recipes with at least one pie for every week of the year, I recommend picking up a copy and baking your way through the book. That's what I plan to do at least.

The Samoa Pie is, as you might imagine, a take on the Samoa Girl Scout Cookie or as they're called where I'm from Caramel deLites (for more on the regional name variations, read this incredible piece of investigative journalism on the subject). Like the cookie, it has a shortbread base, coated with caramel, coconut and chocolate. I love that this recipe uses coconut cream in the caramel, which adds an extra coco-nuty kick. Do make sure to refrigerate the coconut milk before you plan to make the pie--I forgot to plan ahead and had to delay my caramel making a bit.

Samoa Pie
Adapted only slightly from First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (15-20 cookies)
2-4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 can (14-oz) full fat coconut milk, refrigerated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted shredded coconut

For the topping:
1/4 cup toasted shredded coconut
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the crust:
1. Pulse the cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Pour in the butter gradually and pulse between pours until the mixture it the texture of wet sand. Firmly press the crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan. Chill the crust in the fridge or freezer while preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden, then remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the filling:
1. In a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Cook over medium-high heat, moving the pan around occasionally, until the caramel has turned a dark amber and reached 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer (for me this took about 15 minutes). Keep a close eye at this stage and the caramel can burn very quickly.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately start to whisk the butter into the caramel. Be very careful here as the caramel will bubble violently and release a lot of hot steam. Open the chilled can of coconut milk and spoon off the thick, white coconut cream from the top (save the remaining water for smoothies!). Whisk the coconut cream into the caramel until it is fully dissolved, then add the vanilla and salt. Stir in the toasted coconut flakes and pour the filling into the pre-baked pie shell.

3. Refrigerate the pie, uncovered, for at least 1 hour, until the surface of the pie is set. Sprinkle the toasted coconut flakes over the surface of the pie. 

For the topping:
1. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside. Heat the cream until scalded and then pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then whisk until glossy and no chocolate chunks remain. Using a fork or whisk (I found a whisk to work best), drizzle the ganache over the surface of the pie in a crosshatch pattern, then sprinkle the toasted coconut flakes on top. Return the pie, uncovered, to the fridge to fully set for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Serve the pie just chilled or at room temperature (it can begin to melt if it gets too warm). 

Along with the Samoa Pie, I also made Coconut Caramel & Chocolate Tarts (with leftover pie filling), Grapefruit Meringue Tarts, and Yossy Arefi's Mini Black and White Cookies, which you can find the recipe for on Food52. I didn't plan it this way, but Morgan noticed that they paired perfectly with Elizabeth's zebra painting, a companion piece to the tiger. Maybe someday we'll create a whole baked goods & painting safari experience!

I'm forever enamoured with Elizabeth's work but it was so stunning to see her paintings and zines and pins and totes displayed across an entire wall of the light-filled Wild Hand Workspace. Thanks to Elizabeth for all the fun and fanciful art and to Morgan and Victoria for hosting such a lovely spring evening of art and friends and snacks and (somewhat dangerously) strong homebrewed saison via Grizzly Beer. Make sure to check out Panda Head Blog & Elizabeth's tumblr for more on the show-- and also BYT who featured it on their site with beautiful photos by Rachel Cumberbatch.

Related recipes:
Dark Chocolate & Vanilla-Bourbon Salted Caramel Pie
Floriole's Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart
Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Pie

Photos by Morgan Hungerford West

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Satsuma Orange Galette with a Cream Cheese Crust & Inspiration

I've been thinking lately about the function of a recipe-- how it is inherently a teaching text. That seems obvious, but I think it's something I often forget. How these thoughts translate to my own purposes is:
1) In how I interact with a recipe and consider the type of recipe I like to follow and 2) In how I can best write recipes in a way that not only teaches the reader how to make the thing that the recipe is in fact describing, but that also allows the reader how to have their own agency. I don't want my recipes to be so proscriptive that a reader doesn't feel like they can stray from it, improvise, or use their own variation. Because ideally, they will make it their own. To take that one step further, I've been considering how a recipe--or at least one in the form we think of it--could become unnecessary--where a text or combination of text and image might not be proscriptive at all but rather inspirational. It's like the difference between a traditional classical music score and something by John Cage or Pauline Oliveros or Christian Wolff where there is a range of variability allowed for, welcomed even, in each performance of the piece.

I'm not entirely sure what that all means for my recipe writing and for this blog, but it's something I'd like to experiment with more here and elsewhere. It feels exciting--a way to bring more experimentation and creativity to my own baking and the baking of others. Now I'm in a sense going to forgo all of what I just said and give you a pretty standard recipe, but with the side note that hopes to allow for some inventiveness and imagination.

Galettes are one of my favorite things to make because of all the possibilities they can inspire. They can be as simple as pastry, fresh fruit, and a sprinkling of sugar, or involve multiple ingredients and processes. This particular time I was called to the leaf-on satsuma oranges at the grocery store (I know I'm hitting the tail end of citrus season here, but spring was late so I'm using that as my excuse). But I've made galettes in all sorts of varieties--sweet and savory. For savory dishes they are a great way to combine multiple ingredients but for dessert galettes, I usually like to stick with one type of very fresh fruit. It's a great way to showcase what's in season and let the fruit itself shine. You can also try different crusts--I've used my standard pie crust recipes but also rye crusts, buckwheat crusts, cream cheese crusts (like I use here) and more.

Here are a few galettes I've made in the past, along with a new recipe for a Satsuma Orange Galette with a Cream Cheese Crust (which is a variation on this Blood Orange Galette I made long ago). Hopefully they'll provide a little inspiration for your own kitchen improvisation, or as my friend Mandy calls it "free jazz baking."

Savory Galettes
Gordy's Cherry Pepper Spread Galette
Ham, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Galette with Fried Egg
Heirloom Tomato-Ricotta Galette
Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette
Tri-color Potato, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese & Rosemary Galette

Sweet Galettes
Apple Galette
Cranberry-Lime Galette
Plum & Orange Flower Custard Galette
Simple Rhubarb Tart
Strawberry Rhubarb and Wine-Soaked Fig Rustic Tart

Satsuma Orange Galette with a Cream Cheese Crust 

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting 

1/4 cup plus 2 Tblsp. raw Turbinado sugar 
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tblsp. salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
4 Tblsp. cream cheese
3 Tblsp. ice water

6-8 oranges
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 Tblsp. of water


1. Whisk 1 cup of flour with 2 Tblsp. sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the 4 Tblsp. of cold butter in sliced pieces and cream cheese and cut into flour mixture with a knife and fork or pastry cutter. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and combine until pastry can be formed into a disk. Wrap pastry in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. 

2. On a floured work surface, roll out pastry to an 11-in. round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith with a knife. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise and remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, along section lines. You will need 1 cup of sections.

4. Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 Tblsp. of sugar over the oranges. Thinly slice the remaining 1 Tblsp. of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 Tblsp. of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-in. border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tblsp. of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

5. Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Let the tart cool completely. Serve with salted butter caramel sauce, if so desired. Recipe here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie

I first made this Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie when I was in grad school at the University of North Carolina. My friend Emily Wallace (the other Emily Elizabeth) was writing her Master's thesis on the history of pimento cheese and we wanted to combine our two food loves into one dish for a potluck at our professor Marcie Cohen Ferris' class.

I wasn't too familiar with pimento cheese until I moved to North Carolina. I'd had casual encounters with the stuff--at potlucks and in tubs at the grocery store--but without context, the mixture of cheddar cheese, pimentos, and mayonnaise just seemed like a sad deconstructed cheese ball to this Midwesterner. But I came to the Piedmont at just the right time for some pimento cheese schooling. Not only was the iconic sandwich spread becoming a trend across the U.S., appearing in everything from cheesecake to jalapeno poppers, but my fellow Emily Elizabeth was deeply entrenched in a study of pimento cheese's cultural history--which happened to hit upon some of my own research interests like women's domestic creativity and entrepreneurship.

According to Emily in this Indy Week article, pimento cheese was considered a dainty treat across the nation at the turn of the 20th century. Finger sandwiches made with the spread were a delicacy, particularly because the Spanish-imported pimentos were expensive and hard to come by. By 1915, Kraft had processed the spread and farmers began to grow their own pimentos stateside. 

In the Piedmont of North and South Carolina, textile mills offered lunches from dope carts, which sold sandwiches with various spreads, including pimento cheese. Soon small companies, often with women at the helm, supplied the food carts with sandwiches. Wallace says, "These women used food as a means to escape the drudgery of home or other unwanted employment, such as a textile mill. And pimento cheese—food that was considered part of a women's domestic domain—was a window not only into work but also business ownership, financial independence, and creativity in ways that were nonthreatening to gender roles of the time."

Now I eat my pimento cheese, whether as a sandwich, on my grits, or in a pie, with pride, knowing that it traces back to a long line of enterprising women, sure, but also because it tastes damn good. This pie recipe came to us from our friend April McGreger of Farmer's Daughter Brand Pickles and Preserves. She adapted it from The Southern Foodways Alliance's Community Cookbook. Though best with fresh tomatoes, it's become a Pi(e) Day staple and was included in this article on Pi(e) Day and female friendship that my friend Lora Smith and I wrote for Ronni Lundy's Zenchilada

Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie
Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook via April McGreger

Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
20 oz. tomatoes (canned whole San Marzanos or fresh)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups prepared pimento cheese
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh ground pepper

For the crust:
1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Place pie plate in fridge for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Once you've let the pie crust chill, prick crust with a fork all over the bottom. Line crust with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove weights, reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let crust cool completely and leave oven on for the tomatoes.

For the filling:
1. Drain the tomatoes (if using canned--and keep the juice for Bloody Marys!) and dice them into 1-inch pieces. In a medium bowl combine the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and half of the olive oil. Toss with your hands until all the tomatoes have a little oil on them. Pour the remaining half of the olive oil onto a sheet pan, rubbing with your hands to coat the bottom of the pan. Spread the tomatoes on the pan in a single layer. Roast the tomatoes in the oven about 15 minutes or until they dry up a little and start to shrivel slightly.

2. Fill the bottom of the pie crust with the tomato mixture. Spread the prepared pimento cheese over the tomatoes. In a small bowl, toss bread or Ritz cracker crumbs with melted butter, garlic, parmesan cheese and pepper, and sprinkle over the top of the pie.

3. Place pie in oven 10-15 minutes, just enough to warm and brown the crumb top. Remove from oven and serve slightly warm.

I've been making Stephanie of 3191's recipe for Pimento Cheese for a few years now--it's become a New Year's Eve tradition (served with Sweet Potato Biscuits) that my family now requests. But I wanted to include Emily Wallace's grandmother recipe--which is also delicious and shows some of the variation in style. Of course in North & South Carolina you're pretty much required to make it with Duke's mayonnaise--if you do make it with Hellmann's or another sweet mayo, I might not include the sugar.

Pimento Cheese
Adapted from Charlotte Heavner Wallace's (Emily Wallace's grandmother) recipe

1 lb. sharp cheddar (Charlotte used red-rind hoop cheese)
1 4-oz. jar pimentos, diced
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise (Duke's recommended)
1/2 teaspoon mustard
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
Dash vinegary hot sauce, like Cholula or Tapatio

1. Grate cheese into a medium-sized bowl and add entire contents of pimento jar. Mix with a wooden spoon. Add other ingredients and stir to combine. Taste and add any more of the above ingredients according to your preference.

Related recipes:
Phoebe Lawless' Rustic Cheese Pie
Savory Heirloom Tomato-Ricotta Galette
Tomato, Bacon & Jalapeno Pie

Last photo by Mackenzie Smith from Pi(e) Day 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pi(e) Day 2014!

In the field of folklore, one way in which we define the traditional arts is as a community-based expression. We're interested in those cultural materials and happenings that arise out of a group of people and are upheld by a community. That could be anything from fiddle and banjo tunes to the labor lore of food service workers to the specific style of a group of graffiti artists. 

I think of pie too as a community-based expression, and like most (but not all) traditional art forms, they are best shared face-to-face, among people gathering together in community. You can lean almost everything there is to know about baking from a book or the internet, but the times when you're sharing it, talking about it, experiencing it with others is when the real learning happens. When you can taste the difference between a lard and butter crust, see how someone else cuts their lemons for their Shaker Lemon Pie, or hear their expression when they tell the story of how they invented a new recipe when they forgot to add a main ingredient--that's where it's at.

This is why I like celebrating Pi(e) Day. For me it's an event where this type of sharing can happen informally, even if it's just in the form of some friends sitting down eating together. And of course an excuse to party with pie ain't so bad either.

This year was the 3rd straight year of a DC Pi(e) Day and the 6th annual for me (find posts from past Pi(e) Days here). On Friday, my friend Mackenzie Smith (who made the sweet Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies video!) came down from Brooklyn and hung out in the kitchen, taking these beautiful photos and some video (more on the video soon) while I baked (she also made an amazing caramel for the Apple Pie). In the early evening my friends Roy and Aviva of The Keezletown Strutters showed up with their instruments and a Shaker Lemon Pie in hand, and serenaded Mack and I while we put the finishing touches on the desserts and set up for the party.

Friends arrived continuously throughout the evening, bringing pies and drinks and more instruments. I lost count of the pie count, but the table was overflowing with Tamale Pie and Onion Pie and Quiche, Blueberry and Coconut and Chess. I made eight pies and some tartlets--Pimento Cheese Tomato Pie (a Pi(e) Day favorite), Coconut Custard Pie + Tartlets, a Lazy Lemon Tart, Tarheel Pie, S'more Pie, Grapefruit Pie (a version of this Atlantic Beach Pie), Buttermilk Chamomile Pie, and an Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze in birthday boy Lars' Prillaman's name.

The Keezletown Strutters played their heartening & spirited breed of Missouri and Arkansas fiddle tunes, songs, and blues in wonderful two-part harmony (which inspired some waltzing), and we wrapped up the evening with a few living room square dances.

Thanks so much to all the bakers and guests for baking and sharing and dancing, and big thanks to Mackenzie Smith for her beautiful documentation of the evening, and The Keezletown Strutters for their wonderful music. Pi(e) Day 2015 (3.1415...!) may be a year away, but more pie parties are just around the corner.

Photos by Mackenzie Smith

Monday, March 24, 2014

Johnisha's Pistachio Blood Orange Tart

I had the luck of meeting Johnisha Levi at the LongHouse Scholars Program last summer. Johnisha is a lawyer-turned-pastry chef and her beautiful writing--from a hilarious ode to our Kitchen Aid toaster in the form of a "Rollercoaster of Love" parody to a thoughtful musing on kitchen gadgets and the loss of the tactile experience of cooking--would often bring the other scholars and the rest of the staff to tears and fits of laughter when she read aloud in our living room workshop sessions. She's worked for America's Test Kitchen and now is the Assistant Editor with The Weiser Kitchen. I'm very excited to share some of Johnisha's writing and recipe for these Pistachio Blood Orange Tarts, which just might provide sufficient succor for this (hopefully) last bout of snow we're due to get. You can follow more of Johnisha's work at The Weiser Kitchen and at @johnishalev.

I think I speak for everyone, from Atlanta to Boston, when I say that this winter, we’re all a little snow fatigued. (And yes, it is technically spring, but I’m not so sure that winter is done with us although we are more than done with winter.) On unforgivingly frigid days filled with rounds of snow shoveling (and without the benefit of stay-at-home snow days in New England), I can think of nothing more cheering to eat than a blood orange—its mottled skin concealing pulp the color of a deep crimson sunset. The striking hue of a blood orange is due to anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments that accumulate in response to plunging nighttime temperatures in growing regions of the Mediterranean. So I guess some good things can come of the cold . . .

The last few months, I’ve noticed chefs in Boston using blood oranges in every course from starters to desserts, as well as mixologists employing blood orange liqueur and syrups in the craftiest of cocktails. A salad combination of blood oranges and pistachio got me thinking about a way to bring these ingredients together in pastry.

I started with a pistachio pate sucrée, my adaptation of a go-to tart dough recipe. (The original Pierre Hermé recipe uses almond meal, but pistachios have always been my favorite, so I tweaked the recipe accordingly.) Blood orange curd folded into a stabilized whipped cream makes for a just-firm-enough-to-slice yet creamy tart filling. I add the orange zest before cooking the curd because it gives the curd a more robust flavor and a slight bitterness that I enjoy, but I prefer to strain it out for a silkier end texture.

To further tie together the components and to create some color contrast, I add some sliced blood oranges and a sprinkling of pistachio meal on top of the filling as garnish. Because the flesh of blood oranges is so stunning, I carefully shave away the skin and the pith, and slice crosswise to create wagon wheels spaced slightly apart. This allows the pale orange tart filling to peek through. If you like, you could instead buy additional blood oranges to cover the entire surface with blood orange suprêmes.

A word on tart size. I prefer to use a 7-inch tart pan because it is perfect in a two-party household that consumes rich desserts in petite portions, but feel free to adjust the recipe for a 9-inch tart.  The crust recipe below makes more than enough tart dough for a larger dessert. Just scale the curd and stabilized cream recipes up accordingly—a 1.5 recipe should work nicely with perhaps a little left over to lick the spoon. 

Pistachio Blood Orange Tart

Crust adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme’ // Blood Orange Cream Filling adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere and The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

For the crust:
(Note:  This recipe makes enough dough for 3 to 4, 7-inch tart shells. To get the best result, make the full recipe and freeze the rest of the dough for future tarts. Or make more than one tart at a time.)

10 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
¾ cup pistachio meal
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 ¼ cups (16.25 ounces) all-purpose flour

For the blood orange cream tart filling and garnish:
7 strained tablespoons of blood orange juice (from 2 blood oranges)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest from 2 blood oranges
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
½ cup chilled heavy cream
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 ounces melted white chocolate (optional)

For  garnish:
2 blood oranges  
pistachio meal or finely chopped pistachios

To make the crust:
1) In a food processor, pulse the butter until it is creamy, light in color, and free of lumps. Pulse in the sugar and salt until thoroughly blended. Next, pulse in the pistachio meal, followed by the eggs with the vanilla, ensuring that all ingredients are uniformly incorporated before proceeding. Add the flour last, processing just until the dough begins to come together in a ball. Divide into 3 to 4 portions, flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate to harden before rolling. You can also freeze this dough until ready to use. Just allow 30 to 45 minutes to bring to room temperature. (Note: You can make this dough in a stand mixer instead, making sure to keep the mixture on the lowest speed for the very last step when you incorporate the flour, so as not to overwork the dough and toughen it).

2) Because this dough is very delicate, I recommend rolling it out between sheets of plastic wrap. That way, you have to use minimal  flour (thereby avoiding toughening it) and you can more easily transfer it in order to line the tart shell. If the dough splits while you are lining the tart shell, no need to fear—just press it back together.  Once the tart shell is lined, freeze the dough before baking. This helps it hold its shape.

3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the tart pan with foil, carefully pressing it into the corners of the tart pan before filling it with rice, beans, or pie weights. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until the crust is set and lightly colored. Remove the foil and pie weights, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes until the crust is slightly golden around the edges. Transfer the pie shell to a wire rack to cool completely before removing from the tart shell and filling. (Note: the time I provide is for baking the shell straight from the freezer).

To make the blood orange cream:
1) In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the egg, yolks, and sugar, and whisk to combine. Next, add the blood orange juice, lemon juice,  and zest to the saucepan and whisk to combine. Last, add the butter to the saucepan. Over low heat, stir continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches 180 degrees F. Do not let the mixture boil. If you notice any steam starting to rise from the pan, briefly remove it from the heat while continuing to stir. Immediately strain into a heatproof bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cool.

2) When the curd is completely cooled, make the stabilized whipped cream. In a small heatproof container, sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the cold water. Allow the gelatin to sit, or bloom, for five minutes. Heat the gelatin and water over a water bath, or carefully within a microwave, until the gelatin granules are completely dissolved. Set aside.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the chilled cream and powdered sugar. On medium speed, beat the cream with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Stop the mixture and check the gelatin. It should still be dissolved and slightly warm to the touch. If it isn’t, carefully reheat. While the cream is beating on medium low, quickly add the gelatin, whipping just to incorporate. (If you over whip, the cream will become grainy.). Fold the curd into the stabilized cream.

Note: If you find that the small volume of cream is difficult to whip in your stand mixer because the cream does not reach far enough up the bowl, you can either whip by hand, or double the recipe and then just use half of the resulting stabilized cream in the tart filling.

To assemble the tart:
 1) Using an offset spatula, smear the bottom of the shell with a thin layer of the melted white chocolate. (This is an optional step, and if using the white chocolate, the layer should be thin enough to see through so that it doesn’t become too challenging to break through the tart shell as you eat.) Fill the tart shell with the blood orange cream and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. When ready to serve, carefully remove the skin and pith from two blood oranges. Slice them crosswise to create wagon wheels to garnish the top of the tart as desired. You can glaze the fruit on top with apricot jammed thinned with water if you wish the fruit to appear fresh for more than a day. Finish with a dusting of chopped pistachios or pistachio meal. 

Related recipes:

Photos, words and recipe by Johnisha Levi. Thank you, Johnisha!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Friday Pie Slice: First Week of Spring Edition

1st slice. We celebrated Pi(e) Day in great style last Friday, with a plentiful pie potluck, live music from The Keezletown Strutters, and some living room dancing. More on that soon, but for now, peep Elizabeth's sketch from the evening.

2nd slice. St. Patrick's Day has come and gone (and hopefully the snow with it), but Colcannon Pie remains. Thanks Food52 for including it in their 8 Food Blog Links We Love last week.

3rd slice. My professor and mentor Marcie Cohen Ferris is in the lastest issue of Guernica and has important things to say on the legacy of Southern food and the importance of studying foodways. Recommended weekend reading.

The tasty crumbs. My new favorite nerdy food/folklore/anthropology/macabre blog is Nourishing Death, which explores the "relationship between food and death in rituals, culture, religion, and society." Go get you some funeral biscuits.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lemon-Lavender Meringue Pie Cookies

It's mid-March and I'm looking out to icicles dripping from my roof and the sounds of the neighbor kids having a snow ball fight on their snow day. Signs of spring have been showing themselves--I've spotted crocuses about town, rhubarb is claiming its place at grocery stores and farmers' markets, and spring cookbook review copies have started to appear on my doorstep-- but they've so far been slow and sparse. 

We had so much fun working on our Design*Sponge piece that Morgan and Elizabeth and I vowed to do more collaborations. All feeling the onslaught of the cold, we wanted to do something floral and springy, that might inspire daffodils and bike rides and short sleeves, if only in our minds.

I've been keen on lavender-lemon combinations, and a recipe for Tiny Lemon Meringue Pie Cookies from April Carter's beautiful book trEATs: Delicious Food Gifts To Make At Home (more on the book soon) had recently caught my eye. Morgan added a cocktail of Hendrick's gin, grapefruit juice, and rosewater, which we dubbed The Petal Pusher, and Elizabeth contributed a bright and sunny handpainted table runner. What could beckon spring better than that trio?

For The Petal Pusher recipe, visit Morgan's Panda Head Blog here and to learn how to make your own hand painted table runner, check out the tutorial on Elizabeth's tumblr. For the cookie recipe, read on!

I adapted April Carter's recipe by making the cookies a little bigger (mostly because I didn't have a smaller cookie cutter) and adding lavender buds to the dough. April calls for using Instant Royal Icing Sugar, which I had to go to a specialty cake shop to get, but you could also just make it from scratch. I didn't make my icing stiff enough to begin with, which is why the icing is a little more globby than "meringue peaked," but it still tasted good!

Lemon-Lavender Meringue Pie Cookies
Adapted from TrEATs by April Carter

Makes 2 dozen

For the cookies:
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 large egg yolks
grated zest of 2 small lemons
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons lavender buds + additional to decorate, if desired

For the "meringue" icing:
200g (7 oz.) Instant Royal Icing Sugar (also called Royal Icing Mix)
2-3 Tablespoons water
Yellow nonpareils or sprinkles to decorate, if desired

1. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, mix the butter and sugar until the mixture pale and fluffy. Add the yolks and mix well to combine, then add the lemon zest.

3. In another medium-size bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine. Gradually add the flower mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the lavender buds until incorporated.

4. Turn the dough out on floured surface parchment paper and knead until smooth (it can be a bit crumbly, so add a little sprinkle of water if it's too dry to work with). Roll out onto the parchment until it is about 1/4 inch thick (you may have to do this in 2 rounds, depending on the size of your surface). Place another sheet of parchment on top of dough, transfer to the baking sheets, and chill in the freezer about 10 minutes.

5. Remove the dough from the freezer and cut into 2'' circles using a fluted biscuit cutter (or cookie cutter of your choice). Transfer to the lined baking sheet and chill in the freezer another 10 minutes before baking.

6. Bake cookies in the oven for 3-5 minutes until firm yet still pale. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

7. Meanwhile prepare the filling. Mix the Instant Royal Icing Sugar (or make your own royal icing from scratch) with the water to form a smooth paste for piping. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with the 1M star icing tip. Ice a single peak on each cookie and sprinkle with non pareils and lavender buds to decorate. Allow to set hard before packaging.

Related recipes:
Dark Chocolate Lavender Tart with a Lemon Cardamom Crust
Lemon-Ginger Meringue Tartlets
Lemon Meringue Pie