Friday, October 18, 2013

Pentagram Pie

Pentagram Sweet Potato Pie | Nothing in the House

My friend tells me that every hipster in Carrboro, North Carolina has a pentagram tattoo these days, so maybe it sounds trite when I say that I have an affinity for the pentagram. In the Tarot, the pentagram, or pentacles, correspond with the Taurus sign astrologically (along with Virgo and Capricorn--the other Earth signs) and in general the symbol is associated with Earth, craft, the accumulation of knowledge, physicality, and tradition. It represents stability and grounding forces and seems to appear more than any other suit in my readings. Then of course, there's also the British folk band Pentangle, one of my favorites.

Last year for Halloween, I went as the Queen of Pentacles, and carried along this occult sacrament of a Pentagram Pie for all the witchy revelers. I used a sweet potato filling for seasonality, color and because I thought it would support the crust design well. For the pentagram, cut 5 long strips out of dough and arrange them in the form of a 5-pointed star across the pie. You can weave them through like a lattice, if desired. Serve and summon the spirits.

Pentagram Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pentagram Pie
Adapted from Cheryl Day's Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes (1-2 taters), cooked, peeled, and mashed
1 c. heavy cream
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tblsp. sorghum or blackstrap molasses
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 Tblsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. mace
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1. Prepare Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out the bottom crust (half of the dough) and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Pierce the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Return the other half of the crust to the fridge. 

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place mashed sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add the heavy cream, eggs, and sorghum or molasses and whisk until fully incorporated.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, cardamom, cloves, mace, ginger, and salt. Add to the sweet potato mixture and stir until smooth.

4. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Roll out your top crust and cut 5 long strips of the dough. Arrange them over the filling in the shape of a pentagram, weaving some strips under as you would for a lattice top, if desired. Brush crust with an egg wash and bake for 40-50 minutes until the filling is form around the edges but still jiggles slightly in the center when you shake it. Let cool completely.

Wolf & Medusa with Pentagram Pie
Instagram by @abrakebarbara from last year's Halloween party at Blood Manor

Related recipes:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam

Sweet Corn Custard Pie, Overhead

I grew up with corn all around me, but I was allergic. To corn and milk and grass and dust--a tough diagnosis for a Midwestern girl. At a certain point of my childhood, though, the doctor declared me free of some of these allergens, corn included, and the first time I ever had corn on the cob, I overzealously ate the whole thing, cob and all. At my grandmother's house, we played hide and seek in the stalks with the farm boys down the road, and though we weren't really a casserole family, when I got a recipe from a classmate's mother for corn pudding, it became my signature dish at holidays and family gatherings.

I haven't lived in the Midwest since college, but I have an inkling there's something going on there amidst the corn fields and dairy farms. Organic farms, distilleries, and local restaurants are popping up, native seeds are being saved, heirloom crops are being grown again, and people are taking pride in Midwestern food. Perhaps in all of that there's a small dose of nostalgia, faux or real, that our generation is inclined toward, but this revival moves way beyond the casserole dish.

The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie Cookbook

One of the women who seems to be part of that movement is Paula Haney of Chicago's Hoosier Mama Pie Company. When I had a chance to sit down with her earlier this spring, she talked about her motivations in starting her bakery, a primary one being to bring awareness and appreciation to the "poor foods" of the United States, specifically the Midwest (read more from our conversation here).

Paula's new cookbook, The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie does just that, while also being a great go-to resource of traditional and creative pies for any home baker, offering seasonal recipes from classic Cherry to Red Line Espresso Cream.

Sweet Corn Custard Pie, Side View

The first recipe I tried was this Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam. Maybe part of my selection was guided by a Midwest nostalgic pang for the corn puddings of my youth, but the dessert is also unique and different, a new take on tradition. It also just seemed to be a good place for an (eventually) corn-fed Hoosier like myself to start.

The pie is a dream and a bit of a sleeper hit, but it's a delightful surprise when you slice it to reveal the light creamy custard speckled with fresh corn kernels. It's a sweet with a touch of savory, especially with the spicy sweet tomato jam drizzled atop.

Sweet Corn Custard Pie, Cross Section

Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam
Adapted from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie

For the pie:
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
1 1/2 c. fresh sweet corn kernels
1 1/3 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. whole milk
1/2 c. + 2 Tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
4 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites

1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Pierce the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325.

2. Place 3/4 c. of the corn kernels, 1/3 c. of the heavy cream, milk, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times until the corn is finely chopped.

3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the remaining 1 c. of the heavy cream, vanilla paste, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the remaining 3/4 c. of the corn kernels.

4. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the corn mixture in 2 additions.

5. Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake immediately for 50-55 minutes until the edges of the pie are slightly puffed and the custard moves in 1 piece when the pie is gently shaken. 

6. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge overnight before slicing. Serve with tomato jam.

For the tomato jam:
1/2 c. + 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
4 pinches cayenne pepper
4 pinches fresh ground black pepper
2 pinches kosher salt
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
20 cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Combine the sugar, spices, salt, orange juice, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Remove any stray citrus seeds.

2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. 

3. Gently toss the tomato halves into the hot mixture. Continue to simmer until the mixture becomes thick and syrup like, about 30 minutes. 

4. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Serve with the Sweet Corn Custard Pie.

Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam Slice

Related recipes:
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Kentucky Lemon Chess Pie
Maple Bourbon Buttermilk Pie
Sweet Tea Pie

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Jenny McCoy's Fresh Fig Tartlets with Goat Cheese & Red Wine Syrup

Jenny McCoy's Fresh Fig Tartlets with Goat Cheese & Red Wine Syrup

This past Spring I wrote a blog series for the Southern Foodways Alliance called "Give Me Some Sugar" on Southern women pastry chefs. Among the list of talented women I spoke to were Virginian-turned-New Yorker Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, Phoebe Lawless of Durham's Scratch Bakery, and Dolester Miles of Birmingham's Bottega, who recently wowed attendees at the SFA 2013 Symposium with her toasted cornmeal pound cake. One chef I sadly missed is Jenny McCoy. Jenny comes from a long line of Alabama natives, and along with her work in pastry and teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education, she's also a writer, contributing to Serious Eats and The Huffington Post. She also just released a beautiful new cookbook Jenny McCoy's Desserts for Every Season.

The book is arranged seasonally, with the likes of Meyer Lemon and Pistachio Tarts and Moonshine Eggnog in the Winter, Rhubarb-Rose Water Crumble & Cherry Cola Sorbet in the Spring, and Peach and Sweet Corn Ice Cream Cake in the Summer. For Autumn, Jenny is sharing with us her Fresh Fig Tartlets with Goat Cheese & Red Wine Syrup. She says that the recipe came about when she was baking for the 10th Anniversary Celebration at Craft in New York City. When she and pastry chef Claudia Fleming couldn't agree on a dessert, they let guests create their own in a dessert buffet of tart shells, fillings, and fruits. Figs with goat cheese cream and red wine syrup was her favorite combination.

But as they say in Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it! Find that fig tart recipe below, and check out the cookbook, and Jenny's website and twitter here and here.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry Buckle | Nothing in the House

Portions of this upcoming post originally appeared in the piece "Cobbled Together: American Fruit Desserts" on NPR's Kitchen Window, which you can find here

I've been making this Blueberry Buckle recipe for about 8 years now. I first made it at my friend Jamie's family cottage in Maine, the summer after I'd graduated from college. In anticipation of my trip, my dad had mailed me a copy of the Cook's Illustrated recipe, and on Mt. Desert Island, we acquired fresh wild blueberries and whipped up the buckle in the vintage blue and white cottage kitchen. Since there were only the two of us there, we left most (okay half) of the buckle in the freezer for Jamie's parents, and I think it's the reason they've continued to invite me back. 

The buckle is the most distant cobbler relative, as it has a cake-like base, rather than a biscuit or pastry crust. The name comes not from shoes, but the fact that it "buckles" under the weight of all the fruit and  buttery crumble top. Though these recipe uses a dense almost cookie-weight batter, it does indeed fall a bit in the middle, but that's the berries' fault, not the baker's, and the glut of fruit is what makes it special. Blueberries are classic buckle ingredients, but any type of berry will work--now that we're past blueberry season, try it with fall-bearing raspberries, or anything you put away in the freezer. The addition of the crumble top yields a coffee cake-esque treat that's equally good for breakfast or dessert.

Blueberry Buckle Slice

Blueberry Buckle
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated July/August 2005

For the buckle:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
10 Tblsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Zest from 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 c. blueberries, low or high-bush, preferably fresh, though frozen will also work

For the streusel:
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. salt
4 Tblsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into chunks

1. For the streusel topping, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, spices, and salt until well combined. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chunks of butter, then work butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until the mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside on the counter while you prepare the rest of the buckle.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease and flour the paper and sides of the pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder and set aside.

3. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest until combined and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Gradually add the flour mixture while the mixture is on low speed. Mix well to combine, but do not overmix. Batter will be thick. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the berries until incorporated.

4. Pour filling into the greased and floured pan, spreading evenly. Scatter streusel top over the buckle batter. Bake about 50-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Blueberry Buckle Slice

Related recipes:
Apple-Raspberry Pandowdy
Blueberry Icebox Pie
Peach-Blackberry Cobbler
Plum-Cherry Crumble

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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