Monday, October 29, 2012

Tomato, Bacon & Jalapeño Pie at Turkey Scratch

Banjo player sculpture made by Cindy, who is a blacksmith. The banjo head is a pie pan!

I think I found heaven last month. It's in a Virginia holler outside of Blacksburg, at the home of Greg and Cindy Galbreath of Buckeye Banjos during their annual Turkey Scratch party. We arrived Friday night, and after driving up the long twisty driveway along a dirt road, we suddenly came upon a clearing, with multiple buildings lit with tiny glowing lights, folks milling about, and the sound of fiddle tunes in the air. As we approached these welcome sights and sounds, the buildings came into focus. There was a beautiful porch-wrapped home, made by Greg and Cindy; a banjo workshop with a loft, a pig-roasting shack, a chicken coop, and a little pavilion with an outdoor kitchen, where a jam was already in progress. After finding friends and the kegerator, we held a little square dance in the pavilion, and capped off the night with a 1am hot dog roast in the outdoor kitchen. Then it was off to bed in the banjo workshop, anxious to see what this little haven looked like in the daylight.

Sarah & Aviva singing on the porch

It was even dreamier than I imagined, as we were graced with the most perfect fall day. Friends and I went for a walk along the trails on the property, played around-the-world micro-pong (portable ping-pong game) on a sheet of plywood, and held down a ladies' porch jam of singing and tunes for most of the afternoon. Just before dinner time, I gathered a few friends, and we got into the kitchen to make our contribution to the potluck-- Homesick Texan's tomato, bacon & jalapeno pie. I'd brought all the necessary ingredients, but  we swapped out my grocery store tomatoes and bacon for heirloom and homemade varieties that Sebastiaan shared from his farm. While I prepared the crust, he and Ariel and Sarah worked on the filling, and we sang and told stories in the kitchen that was abuzz with other cooks, musicians, and cute babies. We assembled the pie in one of the many hanging skillets from Greg and Cindy's collection, then put it in the oven while we sampled the other dinner dishes and snuck oven peeks.

I'm not sure this pie ever really made it out of the kitchen entirely. The spicy-BLT like dish was so enticing, that we had to keep it on the down-low, sneaking our friends slices so they could all have a taste. Brent liked it so much, he said he wanted it to be his birthday cake for next year. It's good thing we laid down a strong pie base, for all the pickle back shots and square dancing and two-stepping that we'd get into later that night. Homesick Texan nails it yet again.


Tomato, Bacon & Jalapeño Pie
Adapted only slightly from Homesick Texan

Ingredients
For the filling:
1 1/2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes (a meaty variety is best), sliced
1 tsp. sea salt
3 c. (12 oz.) pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced in rounds or diced
8 oz. bacon, cooked and diced

For the crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
8 Tblsp. unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 c. buttermilk

Directions
1. Place sliced tomatoes in a colander and place the colander in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and toss, then let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so the juices drain.

2. Meanwhile, make the crust. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pepper. using a pastry cutter or fork and knife, cut the chilled butter into the flour mixture until it is the consistency of cornmeal and peas. Stir in the buttermilk and mix well. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet (you can use a normal pie pan if you don't have a skillet). Transfer the dough to the skillet and fit the crust, making sure it reaches the top of the pan all the way around.

4. Fill the pie by sprinkling and spreading half of the cheese along the crust. Layer in the tomato slices, garlic, jalapeño, and bacon, topping with the remaining cheese.

5. Place the skillet on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes until the crust and cheese are golden brown and filling is bubbling.


Ariel & Sebastiaan walking the trails

It is funny to think about this heavenly time and place when we here in DC and pretty much everywhere else along the East coast is getting slammed by Hurricane Sandy. I will say though, that while this pie was the perfect thing for an old-time party on the perfect fall day, it would also be just as good, maybe even better, as a storm party comfort food. Stay safe and dry and stocked in pie out there, folks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nothing-in-the-House at Keep DC Safe 2012


My friend Kate works for DC Safe, a wonderful non-profit organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence in Washington, D.C. A few months ago she was hard at work planning their annual benefit party and asked if Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. would be interested in donating baked goods for the event. She promised a lovely party of food, drink, and live music on a beautiful roof deck on U St. and of course support of an important civil rights organization in our community. Count me in.



 I opted for simple, autumnal offerings--miniature rustic apple tarts (following this recipe) and pumpkin doughnuts, some with a buttermilk glaze and some with cinnamon and sugar. After baking all day, Kate, Mary, and I made our way to the Room & Board for a lovely October evening on the roof deck. We played cornhole and drank apple cider sangria, took in views of the city, and celebrated the hard work of DC Safe, its staff and volunteers. And by the end, there was literally, nothing in the house.


Thanks very much to Kate and DC Safe for having me. You can find more pictures of the event here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze


It is my little pie baker's secret that I am not that into apple pie. I find it a bit "meh"--somewhat bland, generally unexciting and when it's bad it can be REALLY BAD and when it's good, it's just...good. Despite my usual traditionalist leanings, I just don't understand the fascination. Of course I get the whole nostalgia around it, and there is something really special and comforting about my mom's apple pie--always done with a brown sugar crumble top. But other than that, I can take it or leave it (or make an apple galette instead).

But apple pie is often the test of a pie bakers skill, so instead of shunning it, I instead try to find ways to make the classic dish a little more personally appealing. Last year I made it savory with grueyere, caramelized onions and sage; recently I added green chiles to my apple fried pies (recipe coming soon); and previously I'd tried some caramel apple pie recipes, with mediocre success, as the caramel always seemed to dissolve or melt in the oven. So I decided to try adding the caramel after--once the pie had been baked-- as a salty-sweet (and eye-catching) glaze. As usual, I opted for Northern Spies, my go-to baking apple (spies are for pies), which I picked up at the Mt. Pleasant Farmer's Market.


Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Caramel recipe adapted from Judicial Peach

Ingredients
For pie:
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
8 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored & cut into 1/2-3/4 inch slices (sometimes I leave the skins on, as it doesn't bother me, and they are the the healthiest part of the apple. It also saves time.)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3 Tbslp. cornstarch or all-purpose flour
1 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice
Turbinado sugar, for dusting

 For salted caramel glaze:
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 c. water
1/8 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 Tblsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
For pie:
1. Prepare the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour. Once chilled, roll out 1/2 of pie crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan. You can choose to roll out the top-crust now and refrigerate it flat, or roll it out once you've prepared the filling. Either way, you should put both the remaining crust and the pie pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place apple wedges in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lemon zest, spices and cornstarch or flour and add to the apples. Mix well, then add maple syrup and lemon juice and stir to combine.

3. Pour the apple filling into the bottom pie crust and spread evenly. Add the top crust, crimping and fluting the edges decoratively and cutting vents in the top so steam can escape. Brush on an egg wash (using the remaining 1/2 egg from the crust) and sprinkle top with Turbinado sugar.
4. Place pie in the oven and bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake for about 40 minutes more or until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

For caramel glaze:
1. While pie is in the oven, prepare the caramel glaze. In a small pot, bring cream, butter, and sea salt to a simmer over low heat, making sure to not let it boil. Once it begins to simmer, remove from heat and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, mix water, corn syrup and sugar. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Then without stirring, bring the mixture to a boil until it is golden brown in color. Make sure to keep an eye on it as this transition can happen quickly.

3. When the mixture is done, remove from heat and carefully add the cream mixture (it will bubble up so pour it slowly). Stir in the vanilla.

4. Return the saucepan to the stove and cook over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 248 degrees (you'll need a candy thermometer for this), approximately 10 minutes. Once it reaches 248, remove from heat and let cool just slightly.

5. When pie is out of the oven, use a spoon to drizzle caramel glaze over the top crust. Let cool until the caramel begins to harden and serve warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream.


Sure enough, the salted caramel really upped the ante, and I rather enjoyed this pie. Part of it may have been because I ate it at midnight in the midst of a honky-tonk jam & dance at one hell of a party at the "slice of heaven" home of Buckeye Banjos, after having enjoyed a few picklebacks, but whatever the reason, this really hit the spot. I made it again for my Pie CSA members, and it seemed to do the trick for them as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"I LIKE PIES!" A historical comic by Ellen Lindner


A few months ago my housemate Bobbie handed me a copy of Bitch Magazine, open to a cartoon. "Check this out--it's about pies," she said. It clearly was, given the big block letters reading "I LIKE PIES" across the bottom of the comic, but it also depicted the meeting of two prominent women of the 20th century--the cartoonist Nell Brinkley, and Evelyn Thaw, née Nesbit, the wife of tycoon Harry Thaw, who was on trial for the death of architect Stanford White (who by the way, designed the addition to Rokeby). The two women met in 1908 at the New York City Jail--Nell, who drew for the Hearst newspapers, was charged with doing a story about Evelyn, who had been told by her lawyers to win the court's sympathy. When Nell asked her to talk about things she liked, rather than her misfortune, Evelyn responded, "I love oysters Rockefeller, teal on toast, baked Alaska, but most of all "I like pies!" That quote appeared as the headline on the next day's paper, and Nell's coverage of the Thaw trial made her famous. Evelyn, however, was sadly left destitute when her husband was declared insane.

That cartoon on the back cover of Bitch, was drawn by the talented cartoonist Ellen Lindner. I tracked her down via the magic of the interwebs, and asked if I might feature it on the pie blog. In giving her permission, she shared a few other tidbits about her research and drawing process. Ellen first came upon the work of Nell Brinkley when she was working on a piece for Paul Gravett's 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die. In regards to Nell, Ellen says, "She's a massive heroine of mine--someone who took on the big boys of the cartooning world back when it was a bit odd for women to be working, let alone splashing their names all over the country's newspapers." 

Ellen conducted the research for this story at the New York Public Library's Picture Collection in Mid-Manhattan, and has some additional sketches for the piece on her blog. I recommend you take a look at more of Ellen's work on her website, and check out her periodical The Strumpet (and their Kickstarter for pre-orders...only 4 more days to go!), "a words and pictures periodical uniting lady comix stars of the future...in one cartoony package." COOL! I'm glad that I got united with this present-day lady comix star though a lady comix star of the past...and pie.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quince Biscuit Pie


It was a classic case of being nostalgic for something I never really knew, or only partially knew, the rest filled in by imagination. Outside the breakfast nook window of my childhood home was a "secret garden," nestled in the corner of our backyard between our picket fence and a wisteria wrapped trellis. Beside the wisteria, which never actually bloomed its purple flower but was instead just woody and knotted and slightly sinister, was a little quince tree. It produced hard, fuzzy green fruit that my brother and I would throw at each other, but never ate.

Aside from that, quince just seemed to me to be the antiquated fruit of another era--something a Jane Austen character might bring along with her on a picnic in the English countryside. Even the name sounded British and romantic and esoteric. Quince (I'm also convinced that the plural of quince should be quince and not "quinces"--right?)

It turns out, though, that quince is too hard and astringent to be eaten raw--any lady who might have been carrying one in her bosom (like a lady apple) would have gagged into her Earl Grey had she bit into one. It's only upon cooking that quince is rendered edible. Quince does have its fantastical qualities, though. Previously I bemoaned the unusually-colored fruits and vegetables that lose their vivd hue once cooked. Just the opposite with quince. Once poached or baked or roasted, quince turns from its spring green to a ruddy pink. The pear and apple cousin also contains a lot of natural pectin, making it ideal for jams and pies.


I put mine in a quince biscuit pie from Lottie + Doof via Martha Stewart. With its biscuit topping, this "pie" is technically a cobbler, but no matter what you call it, it's a wonderful delight-the smooth vanilla & maple-poached quince juxtaposed with an almost-savory cornmeal biscuit crust and almonds that become roasted and sweet in the oven.

I made the full pie for a Pie CSA member and used the leftovers to make little personal cobblers in small rammekins. We ate them for Sunday brunch and mixed the leftover poaching liquid with champagne for special sweet, pink mimosa. I also considered adding a bit more sugar to the liquid and boiling it down for a quince jelly. Whatever you do, you should use the remaining poaching liquid for something (Lottie + Doof suggests a delicious sounding rye cocktail)--it's superb.


Quince Biscuit Pie
Adapted very slightly from Lottie + Doof

Ingredients
For the filling:
5 c. water
1 c. maple syrup (grade B preferable)
3/4 c. sugar
4-5 quinces, peeled, cored & cut into quarters
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and pod reserved
2 tsp. cornstarch

For the biscuit topping:
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. fine yellow cornmeal
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
12 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 c. heavy cream
3 Tblsp. slivered almonds

Directions
1. For the filling: Place water, maple syrup, sugar, quinces, vanilla seeds & pod in a large stock pot and simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot with parchment paper and cook until the quinces are soft and rosy pink, 1 1/2-2 hrs (Don't fret if your quinces don't turn pink...mine only turned a very subtle pink while boiling, then turned more vibrant once baked. Just make sure they are soft). Discard the vanilla pod and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. For the topping: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or knife and fork until mixture resembles cornmeal 'n' peas. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined and the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the quinces to a medium bowl. Reserve 1 c. of the poaching liquid for the pie (and reserve the rest for later because it is SO GOOD). Add the 1 c. of poaching liquid and the cornstarch to the quinces and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.

4. Arrange heaping spoonfulls of the biscuit topping around the outer edge of the pie, leaving a little whole in the middle for steam to escape (and for a little peak at the pink filling!). Sprinkle the almonds on top and bake until the liquid is bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden, approximately 50 minutes.  Let cool completely and serve with maple whipped cream.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Pear Tarte Tatin (Take Two)


This Ruth Reichl pear tarte tatin, from the Gourmet cookbook, has become a staple recipe in my kitchen. The first time I made it was about three years ago, for a dinner party out at my then-new friends Lora and Joe's house in the Carolina woods. Out on the porch that night in the chilly fall air, I met a group of young old-time musicians, Anna, Brett, John & Sabra, then the Blind Tiger String Band, who were all so fun and cool and talented. I hoped that I would become good friends with everyone at the table.

Three years later, that's happened, and I see Brett at shows when he passes through town and at our friends' weddings and showers and parties, Anna and I dance at square dances and play ping-pong at old-time festivals, and Sabra and I make plans and chat regularly and sing songs around the campfire. Lora and Joe are now old friends and that upside-down pear tart is an old standby. I've since made it for Pi(e) Day and Christmas, Thanksgiving potlucks, and other dinner parties with friends.

I'm sharing the recipe again, as these photos by Stephanie Breijo, of the version I made for Brightest Young Things' Urban Picnic Guide, are the best ones I've seen yet. We're also decidedly in pear season, and maybe this fall you can also share this simple tart with friends old and soon-to-be.

 
Pear Tarte Tatin
Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook

Ingredients

4 large firm yet ripe Bosc pears
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Nothing-in-the-House Pie Crust, halved and using all-purpose flour

Directions

1. Peel, halve, and core pears (with a melon-baller or grapefruit spoon). Heat butter in a 9- to 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then stir in sugar (sugar will not be dissolved). Arrange pears, cut sides up, in skillet with wide parts facing out. Sprinkle pears with cinnamon and cook without stirring, until sugar turns a deep golden caramel. (about 15- 25 minutes, depending on pears, skillets, and stove.) Cool pears completely in skillet.

2. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and trim to a 9 1/2- to 10 1/2-inch round. Arrange pastry over the caramelized pears, tucking the edge around the pears inside the rim of skillet. Bake tart until pastry is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.

4. Invert a rimmed serving plate (slightly larger than skillet) over skillet and, using pot holders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert tart onto plate. Serve tart warm with vanilla whipped cream.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Paw Paw Pie


One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, I found myself tromping through the woods along the Patuxent River, outside Bowie, Maryland (pronounced BOO-ey, I learned) with a group of friends, heads all turned up towards the sky. We were hunting paw paw, and they were proving themselves a little scarce. Though we came across many trees with their large banana-like leaves, few seemed to be bearing fruit, and it suspiciously seemed that someone else had been tipped off to our usually plentiful foraging spot.

Before this excursion I don't think I'd ever had a paw paw, even though I grew up in "Michiana" where there is even a whole town named after the fruit. When my friend Joseph found a paw paw patch at a fiddlers' convention last month, he too was surprised I'd never eaten one, as he called them, "the Indiana banana." I've heard the wild fruit described in different ways--some say it is is the non-tropical papaya, (though Wikipedia suggests that they are only alike in name, not species, and the paw paw is, in fact, tropical), some say it tastes like a mango, banana, or avocado. All of these made sense--I found the texture similar to the latter, and the flavor like a more floral mango. The paw paw is the kind of wild fruit, like mulberries or persimmons, that you can't really find at a grocery store--you just have to go find for yourself (though NPR has this wonderful story on a plant scientist who is trying to change that).

In our hunt along the Patuxent, Adam and Sarah ended up going deeper into the forest and found a good cache, while Caitlin, Mike and I seemed to have the most success following the river and shaking down the tree branches, then collecting the fallen fruit from the river bed. Luckily though, Sarah and Adam were willing to share their spoils, so we all went home with at least enough for some sort of pie, pudding, or custard. I, of course, made a paw paw meringue pie, adapting a recipe from Kentucky State University. Paw paw's smooth texture is perfect of a custard or curd, though the floral flavor took some getting used to, it's a special seasonal treat for adventurous eaters.



Paw Paw Pie
Filling Adapted from a Kentucky State University recipe

Ingredients
For crust:
1 1/4 c. gingersnap crumbs  
3 Tblsp. sugar  
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted
 

For filling:
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
3 egg yolks, beaten (reserve whites for meringue)
1 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. paw paw pulp, puréed

For meringue:
3 egg whites (reserved from filling)
3 Tblsp. sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar

Directions
For crust:  
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put gingersnaps in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crackers are finely ground into crumbs. Add sugar and melted butter and pulse until well mixed.

2. Pat the buttery crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan, pressing mixture into the bottom and sides to form a pie crust. Place in oven and bake until crust is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before adding the filling.

For filling and meringue:
1. Combine 3/4 sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add the beaten egg yolks, milk, and cream. Whisk until well combined and the add the puréed paw paw pulp. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Once thickened (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and let cool. When at room temperature, place plastic wrap over the surface of the paw paw curd and refrigerate while you make the meringue.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg whites with 3 Tblsp. sugar, salt, and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Pour the curd into the crust and spoon the meringue on top, curling it decoratively with the back of a spoon. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes until meringue has browned. serve chilled or at room temperature.
  

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Apple Pickin' Recipes in Luri & Wilma


Ah....October at last. In my opinion, it's the best month of the year-- for woods walks in sweaters 'n' boots, Brit folk on the stereo, and a huge pot of apple butter cooking down on the stove (oh, also Halloween, duh!). But it takes a lot of apples to make all those jars of preserves, so you'd better make your way to your nearest orchard and pick yourself a bushel or two.

Growing up, we took a yearly visit to Eberly's Orchard, a place I've often mentioned and documented here. Since then, I've always tried to keep that annual tradition alive, finding a nearby apple orchard wherever I may be. Sometimes it's required convincing friends to spend a whole day in the car, and no orchard quite measures up to the one of my childhood, but I still consider it a necessary autumn ritual.

For Luri and Wilma's Fall Issue, I wrote a little piece about that tradition, and what to do with your apple pickin' haul i.e. make apple tarts, apple cider doughnuts, and apple butter! Above and below are pages from that story, and you can find my rustic apple tart recipe here, but for the full scoop, check out the issue online. Then gather up some friends, lace up your boots, and head out for the apple trees!