Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Dessert Ideas

Christmas Pies | Nothing in the House

I'll be jumping off here shortly in favor of family time, the creation of my second Bûche de Nöel of the season, and a "Through the Looking Glass" New Year's masquerade ball, but before I do, here's an offering of some favorite desserts for your holiday table, from all things chocolate, to savory sides. Whatever your winter celebrations, sending love and light to you and yours.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate
Chocolate Orange Pie with Mascarpone Cream
Chocolate Peppermint Cream Pie, pictured top right
Katharine Hepburn Brownie Pie
Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart
Peppermint Pattie Tart

Fruits & Nuts
Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Key Lime Pie,
Red Wine-Poached Seckel Pear Tartlets, pictured top left
Shaker Orange Tarts

Preserves & Icebox
Bakewell Tart with Apple Rosemary Jelly
Jam Cookies
Joulutorttu or Finish Jam Tarts, pictured bottom right
Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte
Speculoos Icebox Pie

Chocolate Almond Snow Day Cake, pictured bottom left
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Lime Bundt Cake
Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

Beef Picadillo Pie with Mashed Potatoes
Ham, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Galette with Fried Egg
Puff Pastry Hand Pies with Goat Cheese & Hot Pepper Jelly
Tri-color Potato, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese & Rosemary Galette

For more ideas, visit Christmas dessert guides from 2015, 2013, 2012 and as always, you can find many more recipes via the Recipe Index.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie | Nothing in the House

I'm a person who has difficulty with choices. Growing up, my family called me "yes/no girl" and my astrological chart, cast by my friend when I was in my mid-twenties, revealed a seesaw-- in which the planets were situated almost directly across from each other, offering an explanation for my chronic indecisiveness. On the flip side, that curse does come with the blessing of the ability to see see both sides of an issue; I make a pretty good mediator-- when my own choices aren't involved.

My frequent vacillation (most exacerbated when deciding between two good options) extends to my dessert menu making. Faced with so many possibilities, I tend to avoid a decision and make as many desserts as I can, and hence, overextending myself. "We need something with chocolate, fruit, and nuts-- at the very least!" To combat this, I've learned to seek out desserts that combine those disparate flavors into one dish-- a way to avoid a decision altogether. That's one reason why I like the Cranberry Chess Pie so much-- it's a perfect combination of the tartness of cranberries and the smooth, buttery custard of a chess pie.

Assorted Pies | Nothing in the House

The past two Thanksgivings, when my list of pies was growing long, I decided to combine the sweet potato and pecan pies on my list into one Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. The pecan filling is salty and sweet, using only brown sugar as a sweetener, while the sweet potato filling, enriched with coconut milk, adds a smooth savory note. Now to like this pie, you probably need to already be a fan of both sweet potato and pecan pie. This year, I watched as my grandmother scooped all of the pecan filling off of the top and only once that was gone, did she venture slowly, perhaps begrudgingly, into the sweet potato filling. But if you're a fan of both pies, and/or just have trouble with decisions, this is the dessert for you.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie | Nothing in the House

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

For the crust:
Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
Turbinado sugar

For the sweet potato 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
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the pecan topping:
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups pecans, halved

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. For the sweet potato filling: 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.

3. 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.

4. For the pecan topping: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and flour until well-mixed. Add the butter and place the pan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook until butter is melted and combined with the sugar mixture. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, bourbon, and salt until well-combined. While gently stirring, slowly pour the warm sugar mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk until all ingredients are incorporated. Gently fold in the pecans.

6. Pour the sweet potato filling into the bottom of the chilled pie crust, until about 2/3 full. Add the pecan topping on top (depending on the depth of your pie plate, you may have some leftover filling). Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

7. Place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake 40-50 minutes until the edges puff and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you nudge it. Filling will be browned. Let pie cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a scoop of bourbon whipped cream.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pies and Conversation for a Post-Election Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Pies 2016 | Nothing in the House

One of the reasons I'm so drawn to pie is because it demands social gathering. A pie is a communal dish, meant to be sliced and shared, while sitting around a table with family and friends-- old or newly-made. At its core, pie is a community catalyst, humble, (generally) homemade, a vehicle for love. It can be employed as such, not just on Thanksgiving, but in community dinners, potlucks, and church suppers throughout the year, throughout these four years, and beyond. In that spirit, here is the Nothing in the House annual Thanksgiving Pie Guide. This year, I'm leaning towards making a Cranberry Chess Pie, Sweet Potato Pecan Pie, and a Katherine Hepburn Brownie Pie with Speculoos and Bourbon, but I'm going to make a game-time decision. If you don't find quite what you're looking for, check out the Recipe Index, as well as past guides from 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Pumpkin, Squash & Sweet Potato
Delicata Squash Pie
Drunken Pumpkin Bourbon Pie with Mascarpone Cream
One-Pie Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Potato Pie with Cornmeal Crust
Sweet Potato Sonker (pictured, bottom right)
Sweet Potato Speculoos Pie

Fall Fruits
Cranberry Chess Pie
Anna Gillen's Grape Pie (pictured, top right)
Pear Tarte Tatin
Persimmon Pie
Salted Butter Apple Galette

Chocolate & Nuts
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie
Black Walnut Pie
Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie
Cranberry Chocolate Chess Pie
Katherine Hepburn Brownie Pie (pictured, top left)
Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar

Custard & Cheese
Black Bottom Lemon Pie (pictured, bottom left)
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Maple Bourbon Buttermilk Pie with Apple Syrup
Pumpkin-Ginger Cheesecake Pie
Salty Honey Pie

Beef Picadillo Pie with Mashed Potatoes
Pear, Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies 
Pimento Cheese and Tomato PiePuff Pastry Hand Pies with Goat Cheese & Hot Pepper Jelly 
Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Sweet Potato Sonker

Sweet Potato Sonker from Ronni Lundy's Victuals | Nothing in the House

In a brief scene in Les Blank's 1983 documentary Sprout Wings and Fly, on Surry County, North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell, Jarrell's girlfriend can be seen pulling two steaming sonkers from the oven. It only captures the camera's attention for a few seconds, and you'd miss it if you weren't looknig for it, but it's a big moment for the sonker, an obscure dessert native to two counties of North Carolina and scarcely known to those without connections to the area. That cinematic appearance also encapsulates why I find the sonker so compelling-- not only is the dish inherently intertwined with a specific place, that place also bears its on particular musical tradition; this scene on film twines the three.

As I wrote in a 2012 post featuring a Peach Sonker, a sonker lies somewhere on the spectrum between a deep-dish pie and a cobbler, with a layer of pastry on the bottom, the sides, and or the middle, and generally sporting a lattice top crust. There are numerous varations on this though-- some recipes that lean towards a pandowdy, bearing dumpling that are then covered with the filling. A sonker can be made with any fruit, and there are many that grow well in Surry and Wilkes counties, but peach and sweet potato are favorites. An identifying quality of a sonker is the milk dip, a boiled, sweetened sauce that is partially poured over the crust and filling near the end of baking, with the remainder served on the side as a topping.

Sweet Potato Sonker from Ronni Lundy's Victuals | Nothing in the House

I first heard of a sonker in the pages of Nancie McDermott's essential cookbook Southern Pies. When I happened upon it, I had just been to Surry County for the Mt. Airy Fiddler's Convention, capital of the Round Peak style of old-time fiddling. At the time, the only other thing I knew about Mt. Airy was that it was the model for Andy Griffith's Mayberry. If I had made my trip four months later however, I may have swapped the music festival for the annual Sonker Festival, celebrated the first weekend of October. But alas, I made my own introduction, falling in love with Nancie's Peach Sonker recipe and vowing to incorporate it into my regular dessert repertoire.

A few year later, April McGreger's sweet potato sonker recipe in the pages of her Savor the South cookbook reminded me of my sonker love, and I made her version on various occasions. Then last year, my friend Ronni Lundy wrote me, asking if I might create a sweet potato sonker using sorghum, both for her upcoming book, and a spring party at Big Switch Farm in Egypt, Kentucky. Initially Ronni and I were thinking buttermilk for the milk dip, though we were concerned it would curdle during boiling, so we stuck with whole milk.

 Ronni Lundy's Victuals | Nothing in the House

That book of Ronni's, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes, came out a few months ago, and is a master work, illuminating the foodways of the region in story, history, photos, and yes, recipes. Ronni focuses particularly on the foods she grew up eating, and the young (and youngish) Appalachian chefs, home cooks, and farmers who are creatively contributing to the evolution of those food and agricultural traditions of the mountain south. That party at Big Switch, featured in "Appalachian Spring," the last chapter of the book, convened friends spread across the region and beyond (I was still living in D.C. at the time), to christen a new season on the farm, play fiddle tunes, and offer our take on the foods of the season and region. There was Anna's swoon-worthy "Appalachian Spring" cocktail, Lora's Redbud Caper Deviled Eggs, Sumac Oil Flatbread with Country Ham and Pickled Ramps, Fresh Greens with Sorghum Vinegar, a Simple Rhubarb Tart, and more.

Appalachian Spring from Ronni Lundy's Victuals | Nothing in the House

In the book, and the party, this Sweet Potato Sonker had a moment. Like the one in Blank's documentary, it's a bit role, but an important one, embedding the dish in a place, to music, to a gathering embued with meaning for those there, and those witnessing. I'm so compelled by the sonker because of this specificity-- how an unusual dessert with a funny name resists a severing from tradition, demands a story, a history. Of course, you could decontextualize it-- that type of extraction is far too familiar in Appalachia-- but then something would be lost, a crucial element of it gone; it probably wouldn't taste as good.

Sweet Potato Sonker from Ronni Lundy's Victuals | Nothing in the House

Sweet Potato Sonker 
Adapted from April McGreger's version, and featured in Ronni Lundy's Victuals

Nothing in the House pie crust, doubled
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the baking dish
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
6 medium (about 3 pounds) sweet potatoes, peeled
1-2 teaspoons salt, depending on your preference
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sorghum syrup
3 cups whole milk
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. 1. Prepare doubled Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. Divide the dough into two balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

2. Butter and lightly flour a 13x9 inch baking dish (or a dish with an equivalent capacity and at least 2-inches deep). On a floured surface, roll out half of the chilled dough into a large rectangle that will cover the bottom and sides of the baking dish. Transfer the rolled-out dough to the prepared baking dish, and press it down gently to line the dish and form the bottom crust. Place the dish in the fridge to chill.

3. Put the whole peeled sweet potatoes in a large pot, add cold water to cover, and add the salt. Place the pot over medium heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 25 minutes.

4. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the cooked potatoes to a cutting board to cool. Measure out and  reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid to use later. Slice the cooled sweet potatoes into rounds, making them as thin as possible without breaking them.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the dough-lined pan from the fridge and layer the sliced sweet potatoes on top of the crust. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the sorghum, 1/3 cup of the flour, the butter, and the 1 1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid. Mix well and pour over the sweet potatoes.

6. Roll out the rest of the dough into a rectangle about the size of the baking pan. Cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide and form a lattice crust on top of the sweet potatoes.

7. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown (the sonker will not be fully baked at this point).

8. While the sonker is baking, prepare the milk dip: Whisk 1/2 cup of the milk with the cornstarch in a medium saucepan, making sure all the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Set the pan over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute to thicken. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

9. When the sonker has cooked for 40 minutes. Pour 2 cups of the prepared milk dip over the entire surface. Return the sonker to the oven and bake for 15 minutes more or until it is caramelized around the edges and brown on top. Remove the dish from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 minutes before serving; the milk will continue to be absorbed and thicken.

10. Serve the sonker just warm, with the remaining milk dip on the side for drizzling.

Sweet Potato Sonker from Ronni Lundy's Victuals | Nothing in the House

For more of the recipes of this gathering, and for a crucial, deep narrative on the foods of the region, told by one of its best storytellers and champions, I highly recommend picking up a copy of VictualsBeyond it's inevitable place in the cannon, it's also an accessible resource for daily cooking-- many of the recipes come straight from Ronni's family, and their East Kentucky homeplace and are made from ingredients that are staples in most pantries.

Related recipes:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One-Pie Pumpkin Pie, Revisited

One-Pie Pumpkin Pie | Nothing in the House

 I've advocated frequently on this blog for baking with fresh squash rather than pumpkin in "pumpkin" pie. I've also unabashedly supported the use of canned pumpkin (er, squash?) in the absence of fresh squash, excess time, or just because. And in 2009, I declared my favorite canned pumpkin-- One-Pie. I still stand by all of those statements.

One-Pie Pumpkin can | Nothing in the House

I was recently in Cape Cod, where I spent a lovely week with a house full of friends, biking to the beach, kayaking the salt marshes, lounging on blankets in the grass, and coming together for lively nightly dinners at a long, candle-lit and wine-lined table. I baked a few different desserts with One-Pie while I was there-- a Pumpkin Custard Cake for my friend Sadie's 32nd birthday, and two Drunken Pumpkin Pies, requested by Magpie, age 7, with assistance from her and her brother Matthias, age 3. But I was keen on revisiting the One-Pie back-of-the-can "New England Pumpkin Pie" recipe, so I smuggled out another can in my suitcase.

One-Pie New England Pumpkin Pie | Nothing in the House

I will say that as far as pumpkin pie goes, I don't think you can beat the Drunken Pumpkin Bourbon Pie recipe. It's so rich, spicy, and molasses-filled it borders on savory, and of the course the bourbon ups the ante, knocking the rather bland standard pumpkin pie recipes off the dessert table. However. If you are looking for that classic pumpkin pie flavor, One-Pie's New England Pumpkin Pie recipe is the way to go. Personally, I'd reduce the sugar by a fourth cup and substitute in brown sugar for white, but I included the original recipe below for the traditionalists out there. Apparently there are many of you-- the 2009 One-Pie post is one of the most popular on Nothing in the House.

One-Pie New England Pumpkin Pie | Nothing in the House

One-Pie New England Pumpkin Pie
From the back of the One-Pie Pumpkin can

Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
1 can One-Pie pumpkin
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt (scant)
1 1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups milk or 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar (I recommend reducing this to 3/4 cup and substituting brown sugar)
1/8 cup molasses
2 large eggs, beaten

1. For the crust: Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use. 

2. For the filling: Sift sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg together. Mix this with contents of one can One-Pie Pumpkin. Add eggs, beaten, melted butter, molasses, and milk. Add a dash of lemon juice (if desired). 

3. Line a 9-inch pie plate (you've already lined this with the crust), pour in contents. Preheat oven and bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for 50 minutes. Enjoy!

One-Pie New England Pumpkin Pie | Nothing in the House

P.S. I talk a little more about using canned pumpkin/squash in a recent episode of the Inside Appalachia podcast. Listen here!

Related recipes:
Delicata Squash Pie
Drunken Pumpkin Bourbon Pie with Mascarpone Cream
Pecan Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin & Chai Spice Nut Butter Pie
Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Anna Gillen's Grape Pie

Two years ago, nearing the end of October, my friend Jake Hoffman sent me a recipe for grape pie. Included was a story. When Jake's grandmother died, he and his mother found this secret recipe among her belongings. It was "secret" not in the sense that her grape pie was so beloved that she never divulged the true ingredients, but because he had never recalled her making it, let alone ever heard of such a dish himself. A penchant for Concord grapes was in his blood, though,-- he and his mother, as he said, "always enjoyed Concord grape juice together." Curious about what it might reveal about their matriarch, they tried it out. Since then, the pie has become a fall ritual for Jake, when grapes make their yearly appearances at farmers markets and vines in his South Portland, Maine neighborhood. He's been making it every September or October for the past eight years.

I've had a few brushes with grape pie, but had never actually made or eaten one before, at least of the Concord variety. When I lived in North Carolina, I made a Muscadine Hull Pie, with the skins of the sweet, round fig-purple grapes that grow in the area. As for pie of the Concord variety, I'd first heard of it back in 2009, when my friend Angela shared a post here of a version her friend illustrator Jill Bliss had made. A few years later, my parents sent me a souvenir bumper sticker and children's book from Monica's Pies in Naples, New York, after becoming devotees of her signature grape dessert while on a road trip through the state.

As it turns out, Naples, New York is essentially grape pie ground zero. There in the western side of the state, along the Finger Lakes, Concord grapes grow extremely well and much of the region's economy relies on their production and byproducts (read: wine). Grape pie in particular rose to prominence there in the early 1960s when Al Hodges, the owner of Redwood Restaurant began offering a version, made from a recipe he picked up from a local German woman (grape pie is thought to be a German recipe). Demand for the dessert soon outgrew the restaurant kitchen, so Hodges hired Irene Bouchard, now known as the mother of Naples' grape pies. She started a small business out of her home which at its peak, produced 6,000 grapies each season. Bouchard passed away last year at the age of 98.

The Concord grape region where Naples is located actually stretches from Western New York and into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. It's within that region that we can situate Jake's grandmother Anna Gillen. Here's what Jake told me about Anna:

"Anna (nee Welsh) Gillen, was born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, in 1919 and grew up in the Anthracite coal patches of Northeastern Pennsylvania (specifically Jeddo and Freeland). She moved to Bethlehem in her late teens as mining towns were declining and tons of people were finding work with Bethlehem Steel. Mother of 5, and a bank teller, she loved math and always wanted to be a teacher, but never was. She did a lot of baking until her death in 2011. Her oatmeal raisin cookies will never be beat, nor will her apple crumb pie." Turns out, her grape pie won't be either.

Anna Gillen's Grape Pie | Nothing in the House

I finally got my hands on some Concord grapes this year, and made Anna's recipe. I was initially dubious of the crumble crust, not for taste-sake, but because I wanted to make sure the deep purple hue was visible in the pie. But I found the crumble to be an essential part of the recipe, counteracting the tartness of the grapes with its sweetness, and adding a sand-sugar texture to the syrupy filling. The flavor is rich and aromatic and evocative-- of memories drinking Concord grape juice with mom and grandmother's delicious secrets, of enterprising home bakers and vineyards running through the middle of the country, of a yearly fall ritual I may need to adopt for my own.

Anna Gillen's Grape Pie | Nothing in the House

Anna Gillen's Grape Pie
Adapted from Jake Hoffman's grandmother's recipe

For the pie:
Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
4 cups or 2-2 1/2 pounds Concord grapes
1/4-1/3 cup granulated sugar, depending on sweetness of grapes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use. 

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pop grapes put of their skin and separate pulp and skin into two medium-sized bowls. Place pulp in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, 5 minutes. Run pulp through a seive or food mill to remove seeds.

3. Place de-seeded pulp into the bowl with the grape skins. In a separate bowl, stir together sugar, flour, and salt to combine. Add the lemon juice and melted butter to dry ingredients, then mix into the grape mixture.

4. Pour the filling into the pie crust and brush crust with reserved egg wash. Place pie pan on a cookie sheet and bake sans crumble top for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by stirring together flour and sugar, and cutting in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Keep in fridge until ready to use.

5. After 25 minutes, remove topless pie from the oven and scatter the crumb topping over the grape filling. Return to oven for 15-25 more minutes until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Enjoy!

Anna Gillen's Grape Pie | Nothing in the House

Related recipes:

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese and Almond Shortbread Crust

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

As the New Yorker informed us all last month, figs are pretty goth. The fruit, which is actually an inverted flower, has developed a symbiotic relationship with a tiny insect known as a fig wasp. The female wasp pollinates the fig, lays her eggs, and then gets trapped inside, and dies; the fig eventually breaks down her carcass into protein.

This new knowledge just adds to the cloud of mystery that for me, surrounds the fig. Of course, growing up in the midwest, we didn't have much access to fresh figs-- the only variety I knew came dried from the bulk bins at the co-op or stuffed in a Newton. The first real fig I ever had came from the market in Aix-en-Provence, France when I studied abroad there my junior year of college. A visit to the center market, lined with tables of a Mediterranean bounty of dates and Italian plums, pistachios and grapes,  honey and olives, and the plump purple figs striped with narrow flecks of green. The farmer, whose sing-song list of her wares, rang out clearly in her thick Provençal accent above the market din, offered me a sample and my first bite was otherworldly. I felt like I was eating something from another planet, the fruit bursting with its pink alien brain insides, and succulent, floral flavor.  Later when I moved to North Carolina for grad school, figs became more familiar, but never lost their subtle mystery. Year later, on the first date of a rekindling romance, my counterpart called to tell me he'd be a bit late; he was picking me figs.

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

Here in West Virginia, I fortuitously got myself employed by an organization with an office fig tree. Since I started there last November, I've been eyeing the tree every time I enter the building, anticipating the moment when I can pull one of the tree and plop it in my mouth. Early last month, I overeagerly jumped the gun a bit, picking some that were a little too green, but luckily they ripened in the fridge. 

This tart was conceived out of the first real fig harvest, though splitting the share with my coworkers, I didn't quite have enough figs for a full tart. This proved advantageous though, from both a decorative and flavor standpoint, and I ended up with a veritable fruit salad atop this goat cheese tart. It turns out that an artful arrangement of fruit also gives you a lot of bang for your buck, in terms of oohs and ahs and... well... some Instagram likes. This style of tart, with fresh fruit atop a cheese or custard filling is also highly adaptable to season; top the goat cheese interior with whatever fruit you have on hand, and time of the year, and it should serve you well.

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese and Almond Shortbread Crust

Makes one 11-inch tart (though a 9-inch tart is pictured)

For the crust:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup almond meal (make your own by grinding almonds in the food processor)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
10 Tablespoons (1 stick +2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon ice water

For the filling:
8 ounces fresh chèvre
8 ounces mascarpone
4 large eggs
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
Zest of 1 orange

For the topping:
Assortment of fresh fruits, such as figs, plums, raspberries and blackberries, about 1 cup each.

For the crust:
1. Combine flour, almond meal, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add cold butter chunks to the almond mixture and process until mix is the size of small peas. Add egg yolks, extracts, and ice water and pulse just until dough begins to form. Remove pastry dough from the food processor and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour and up to 1 day.

2. After dough has chilled, lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 11-inch tart pan. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper and transfer to the tart pan, forming the crust up the sides (dough will be crumbly, so you may have to piece it together). Fold dough over the sides to ensure that the tart will have a strong edge. Prick all over the bottom with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

For the filling: 
1. Preheat over to 350. Blend chèvre, mascarpone, eggs, and 2/3 cup of sugar. Zest the orange and combine with the 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Combine the chèvre & orange mixtures until smooth. 

2. Pour the mixture into the tart shell, place on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is set. Let the tart cool on a cooling rack.

For the topping & assembly:
1. Just before serving, artfully arrange fruit on top of the tart (you may want to slice some fruits, such as figs and plums).

2. Serve immediately and enjoy! Leftovers can keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, but I'm not sure you'll have many.

Nearly-Fall Fruit Tart with Goat Cheese | Nothing in the House

Related recipes:
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Fig-Pistachio Tarte Tatin
Fresh Fig Tartlets with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Syrup
Pear and Cardamom-Fig Pie

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Ronni Lundy's Tomato Pie

Ronni Lundy's Tomato Pie | Nothing in the House

A few months ago, I finally bought Ronni Lundy's mountain South cooking staple Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken, after hearing its praises sung for years.  My friend Lora always said that when she first met her husband, she knew he was a keeper, because he had the cookbook on his shelf. I'm not sure what took me so long to acquire it, but I have a lot of catching up to do, just as Ronni is about to release another highly touted book, Victuals, due out at the end of the month.

Faced with a glut of heirloom tomatoes, as one often is in the month of August, I went looking for a new tomato pie recipe, and reached first for Shuck Beans. The recipe, as Ronni says, is a traditional version of the Southern restaurant favorite stewed tomatoes, and as I say, is not to be confused with pizza, Philly/South New Jersey tomato pie, or for that matter, sweet green tomato pie. It bakes up easily with a simple top crust, and is an ideal side dish for a summer dinner on the porch.

Tomato Pie
Adapted from Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken by Ronni Lundy

For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup buttermilk

For the filling:
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
3 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes and juice, peeled and chopped (1 large 28 1/2 oz. can tomatoes also works)
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt, then use fingers to work in the 2 Tablespoons of butter. Pour buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir until well blended but still damp. Turn out onto a floured board and roll into an 11-inch circle (or the size of your large cast-iron skillet). Cut into strips about an inch wide for the lattice top.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the Tablespoon of butter into a skillet. Add onions and cook until softened. Meanwhile, drain juice from the tomatoes and add milk to the juice. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and spices into the tomato juice and milk mixture until well blended.  Pour into skillet and turn heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

3. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Lay the strips of dough over the top of the tomato mixture, weaving to make a lattice, if desired. The tomato mixture will bubble up through the strips to flavor them.

4. Place skillet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the dough is golden-brown. Enjoy as a side dish, perhaps with a salad and chicken or fish.

Related recipes:
Heirloom Tomato Hand Pies with Bacon, Cheddar, and Thai Basil Jalapenos
Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie
Savory Heirloom Tomato-Ricotta Galette
Tomato, Bacon and Jalapeno Pie

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust | Nothing in the House

This May, my family all came home to Indiana to celebrate my grandmother's 85th birthday. We were sitting around the dining room table, swapping stories when my uncle Brett told us why he can no longer eat peaches:

It was summer, in rural northern Indiana, and my uncle, who was in high school, was broke. He and his friend went looking for odd jobs, and Don Eberly, the local apple orchardist and retired school bus driver (who I've written about previously here), said that he'd pay Brett and his friend to drive up to an orchard in Michigan, pick up a haul of peaches, and bring them back. Desperate for cash, they agreed, spending the last of their money on gas for the trip, north of Grand Rapids. On the way home, the back of their truck filled with peach crates, they were starving, but had no money left for food. So they hauled a crate into the cab, set it between them, and ate peaches all the way home, throwing pit after pit out of the open windows. When they got back, they got their money, but were completely sick on peaches, and to this day Brett is nauseated by the taste and smell of them.

I'm glad I've never had such an experience. To me, there's nothing like a fresh peach in the summer time. It's almost unbelievable that something so sweet and juicy is even real. I actually think I favor fresh peaches over baked, but this galette recipe allows the slices to still maintain their integrity, avoiding the goopy, gelatinous mess that you find in some peach pies when the steam captured by a double crust breaks down the fruit. You can use the standard Nothing in the House pie crust recipe for this-- it'll be flakier-- but this is more of a biscuit crust, with the added texture of the almond meal pairing well with the sweet stone fruit.

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust | Nothing in the House

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust

For the crust:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the filling:
7-8 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used bourbon barrel-aged)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Turbinado sugar (for dusting)
1 large beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon whole milk or cream (for egg wash)

1. For the crust In a large bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter cubes using a pastry cutter or knife and fork until texture resembles cornmeal and peas. Stir in the buttermilk with a wooden spoon. Mix until dough comes together, but is not overly mixed (it should be a little shaggy). Form into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap the disc tightly with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. 

2. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients until homogenous. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

3. Roll out crust in a large circle or oval on a piece of parchment and transfer crust with parchment to a large baking sheet. Ladle peach filling onto rolled crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold up the pastry over the edges of the filling, leaving most of the peaches uncovered. 

4. Place galette in freezer for 20-30 minutes while the oven preheats. Once chilled, remove galette from fridge and brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Bake tart in the middle rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and pastry is golden brown. Let the tart cool completely. Serve just warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Peach Galette with Almond Buttermilk Crust | Nothing in the House

Related recipes:
Apricot Galette with Cornmeal Crust
"Old Fashioned" Cherry Galette
Peach-Pecan Pie
Peach Pie with a Sweet Basil Glaze
Peach-Sorghum Pandowdy with Cornmeal Biscuits
Surry County Peach Sonker with Dip
White Nectarine Frangipane Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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