11.05.2011

Sage and Butternut Squash Crêpes with Spiced Mascarpone and Honeyed Brown Butter

We were given an assignment this week at school to write an original recipe using a (lesser known) fruit, an herb and a spice. Because it's Fall and I'm in harvest mode, I chose butternut squash (it's a fruit!), and sage pairs well with butternut, so.....fresh sage it is. Then to compliment the earthy-sweet flavors, I made a cardamom mascarpone filling for the crêpes, and a honeyed brown butter sauce.

Originally, my plan was to top this off with a maple brown butter, but when it was time to pull out my sauce ingredients, I realized I didn't have maple syrup (oops). What to do.......? I had honey, which gave me the syrup consistency I needed, and I had vanilla to mellow the honey flavor a little, so.....sure, why not. And truth be told? I liked the honeyed brown butter better than the maple. Happy accident: check.

Here is the recipe- oh, before I give you the goods, here's a note about crêpes: don't be intimidated by crêpes. The end.

If you have a shallow pan (frying pan), then you have the equipment you need. The batter is very runny, much more so than a pancake batter. Ladle a little bit onto the lightly buttered pan, and swirl your pan so that the batter runs to cover the entire bottom in a thin thin layer- crêpes are nearly paper thin and very delicate. But don't be fooled, that's a hardy little sucker and when it's cooked you can flip it in the pan and get fancy and WOW whomever is in your kitchen with you. Own it. OWN YOUR CRÊPES. Also, the general rule with crêpes is that the first one never turns out, so there. There you have it.

Ok, now here's the recipe. Go forth and make crêpes:

Sage and Butternut Squash Crêpes with Spiced Mascarpone and Honeyed Brown Butter


 

(for the crêpes)
1 1/2 ounces flour
1 ounce sugar
8 1/2 ounces milk
4 eggs
4 1/2 ounces butternut squash puree
1 ounce butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

(for the mascarpone)
6 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

(for the honeyed brown butter)
8 ounces unsalted butter
8 ounces honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

cooked, chopped bacon, for garnish

Place the butter for the honeyed brown butter in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until browned, and set aside to cool. Allow the burned fat solids to go to the bottom of the pan. Strain into a bowl and add the honey, vanilla and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine all ingredients for the crêpes in a bowl and mix well until combined.

Heat a small, flat pan over medium heat. Brush the pan lightly with melted butter, and allow the butter and the pan to become hot. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and quickly swirl until the entire surface of the pan is evenly coated. Cook until top begins to set and edges appear golden, then flip and cook lightly on the other side. Transfer the crêpe to a platter to cool. Continue process with the remaining batter.

While crêpes are resting, combine all ingredients for the mascarpone in a bowl. Mix by hand until all of the ingredients are just combined.

To assemble, lay a crêpe on a plate and spoon some of the mascarpone down the center. Fold the sides of the crêpe one over the other to close and drizzle with the honeyed brown butter sauce. Garnish with the chopped bacon.

Alternately, you can layer the crêpes and the mascarpone. Lay a crêpe on a plate or platter, spoon a thin layer of mascarpone onto the crêpe, then layer another crêpe on top of the mascarpone. Continue this process ending with a crêpe. Slice into individual servings, and drizzle the honeyed brown butter sauce over the top.



Sources:

Crêpe: © Delphin Gomes Week 5B Fillings, Meringues and Sauces- Dessert Sauces pg. 9: Pumpkin Crêpe

Brown butter: © Delphin Gomes Week 4A Fillings, Meringues and Sauces- Fillings & Mousses pg. 8: Brown Butter Filling

Mascarpone: Honey Poached Pears with Mascarpone, Bon Appétit, February 1999- found on www.epicurious.com

Lawson, Jane (2008) The Spice Bible. New York: Stewart, Taboori & Chang

10.16.2011

Chocolate

Each week, at school, we attend a lecture seminar. Some of them are very practical (knife skills, ServSafe), others are practical and fascinating (chocolate).

Chocolate is a very VERY interesting beast. My friend Erin recently asked me to tell her my favorite kind of chocolate to use in baking (specifically in something like the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies). The obvious answer is that it depends on the recipe, at least as far as the strength of the cocoa. Some recipes really just call for a milk chocolate or a semi-sweet, others need a bittersweet or unsweetened cocoa. Sometimes my chocolate preference is flavor driven.

The other answer is that I'm picky about my chocolate, in both quality and processing. Depending on the way the cocoa is processed, some companies take the cocoa butter out entirely, and add oil back in to make their finished chocolate product. There are a few reasons a company might do this, and I'll get into this in more detail in a sec, but given the choice between a chocolate with cocoa butter and a chocolate with some kind of non-cocoa related oil, I'm going to pick the cocoa butter every time. With that said, the cocoa butter chocolate is probably going to taste better anyway, but QUALITY of taste is a huge factor for me when I'm picking a chocolate.

Ok, let me stop here and give you a run through of how chocolate is processed, from bean to bar.

Chocolate is grown along the equator where the climate is wet (70 inches of rainfall a year) and humid (90% humidity). We're talking rain forest here, where it's wet, humid and the average temperature is 80°F. Hawaii is the only place in the US with a climate supportive enough to grow the cacao trees, but most of the growth occurs in Africa and South America (Central America, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Indonesia are among some of the other climates conducive to cacao tree growth). Cocoa beans grow in pods on trees (Theobroma Cacao). There are two subspecies of cacao trees: the criollo (creee-oh-yo), and the forestero (forrest-err-oh). The criollo produces a pod with a higher cocoa butter content, and its beans are less bitter than those of the forestero. The criollo tree takes longer to cultivate and bears less fruit than the forestero. The forestero produces beans that are more bitter in pods that have less cocoa butter, BUT it yields more fruit than the criollo, and it yields that fruit two years earlier than the criollo. So. You can see why each tree is attractive for its various reasons to cocoa growers.

INTERESTINGLY, there has been a cross between these two types of cacao trees which resulted in what's called a trinitario. I'm assuming it's resulted in bringing together the best qualities of each?

Now. Cocoa beans grow inside a pod that buds off of the tree. The pods are harvested by hand, cut open and the pulp is removed to get to the seeds. These seeds are fermented for about a week to enhance their flavor, then dried on large racks (in the sun). At this point they're ready to be sold and shipped off to chocolate processors.

The cocoa beans are roasted to bring out their flavor, this sounds like coffee, right? From the roasting chamber, they're funneled through a hopper and stirred before heading off to be winnowed. The winnowing takes any foreign objects off the seeds (fine skins, rocks, sticks- don't forget, these beans came straight from being dried in the fields). Winnowing is the initial refining process, and it produces a cocoa nib. After the winnowing, the nibs are ground either by stone or steel, resulting in what's called chocolate liquor (though it's not liquor liquor- it's simply what the paste is called), and it's at this point that the cocoa butter might be removed from the bean. From there, the ground seeds are put through the concher for further refining- this is where additional cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla- anything that's going to flavor the chocolate, or determine the chocolate "percentage"- is going to be added, and this process is what's going to give the final chocolate product a smooth quality. This part of the chocolate adventure can take anywhere from 90 minutes to FOUR DAYS.

Finally, the chocolate liquor is is tempered to create what's called the "snap" and sheen, and then the chocolate is molded into the finished shape.

TA DA: chocolate. It's quite a process, isn't it?

During the grinding process, the nibs might be ground down to a powder form, known as cocoa powder. We use this in baking all the time, and it's a great way to add chocolate flavor without excess liquid or sugar. Some companies, I'm not going to name any here (but you could probably guess who they might be, or a quick google search is going to point them out), will use this process to grind all of the cocoa butter out of the bean, and replace that cocoa butter with oil, and sell the extremely valuable cocoa butter to the cosmetics industry. There's nothing unethical about this, since they're being honest and it's safe and completely legal. It just.....doesn't taste good.

I SHOULD add that a pretty famous example of a company that deliberately takes the cocoa butter out of the bean and substitutes a fat back in is English Cadbury. They're not being underhanded, they're adding palm oil to develop a very specific, signature flavor. And if you've ever had English Cadbury (not American Cadbury which is owned by Kraft, and which tastes entirely different from English Cadbury), you'll know that their chocolate is absolutely DELICIOUS. English Cadbury also set off quite a hilarious only-in-Europe scandal when the UK joined the EU. In Europe there are VERY strict guidelines governing chocolate production and chocolate percentages (what can be labeled a bittersweet, versus what is a semi-sweet, etc), and all of the traditional European chocolatiers were horrified to think that Cadbury milk chocolate with its palm oil was going to be allowed to sit next to their traditional milk chocolate, and the Two Chocolates Policy was developed in order to settle the unrest.

Oh, Europe. I love you and your standards.

Chocolate percentages are really the measure of the percent of cocoa in a particular chocolate. 65% chocolate contains 65% cocoa. See? You'll notice the % of cocoa on a chocolate package, and 85% cocoa doesn't make the chocolate BETTER than 65% cocoa, it just makes it more bitter and less flavored. You probably don't want to EAT 85% chocolate. Unless, you like super bitter chocolate. And then you might want to. I don't know your life.

Through tasting, I've discovered that my favorite kind of chocolate to EAT is a 65% bittersweet. I like the complex flavors that can come out in a bittersweet- I've tasted everything from tart cherries to blue cheese in the layer of flavors of a good 65% bittersweet chocolate.

Finally, when I'm choosing a chocolate, ethics play a role. Chocolate is grown along the same geographical line as coffee. You may have heard of the fair trade movement in coffee, right?  Chocolate growth and production isn't as regulated as coffee, but many of the same issues that exist in coffee growth and control ALSO exist in cacao growth and control. It's up to the individual chocolate processor to do their research and buy their beans from growers who operate in an ethical manner, and there is a movement in the chocolate world towards direct trade or fair trade. It can be difficult for larger companies to ensure their beans are coming from fair trade growers, because of the volume of beans involved, but many medium and small bean to bar producers DO have the luxury of working with fair trade growers. I've also seen larger companies putting out a fair trade specific chocolate, which is an EXCELLENT first step. Whenever possible, I try to support companies that employ ethical business practices. And it's funny, but I've been finding that companies who act with ethical growing guidelines in mind, tend to produce a better quality chocolate. So: win/win.

Some of the best chocolate I've had is made by small bean to bar manufacturers. Taza is one of my favorites. They're a small company based here in Summerville, and they practice direct trade with their bean growers, which is really progressive, in my opinion. Their chocolate is delicious, and their flavors are adventurous, and if you're local, they offer tours of their factory. Go! See them! Give them your support!

Rogue is another chocolatier that I love- he's a guy. Making incredible small batch chocolate. I've tried his Hispaniola 70% and it's AMAZING. I believe he makes a batch, and that's it. So essentially all of his chocolates are limited edition in a way. If you come across a bit of Rogue chocolate, I'd say it's a must try.

Mast Brothers are located in Brooklyn. They consider their chocolate making to be a craft and are incredibly devoted to bringing out the best flavor in their beans and developing uniquely delicious chocolate. Their ingredients are simple, and what they DO with those ingredients is exceptional. If you're in New York, and you want an experience, pop in and see if you can get a tour. Support them too.

Theo, for you Seattle-ers, is a company I can really get behind. They are another purist chocolatier who use premium ingredients in their chocolate, and back up their quality chocolate with a fair trade promise. I have some Theo drinking chocolate in the pantry, but I hear their bread & chocolate bar is to die for. Bring it back, Theo! If you're in Seattle, stop in and see them.

It can be a little difficult to find fair trade companies that produce enough chocolate to make baking with it cost effective, however, as I mentioned above, there ARE larger companies that might produce a special batch of fair trade chocolate. Guittard has a 55% semisweet that they're calling Akoma. This is pulled from the package, "Akoma represents 'heart' in traditional Adinkra symbols of West Africa where cocoa beans for this chocolate are grown." This particular batch is marked fair trade certified, but based on their statement about ethical labor, I believe Guittard tries to approach all of their chocolate production in the most responsible manner possible. When I bake at home, I use Guittard almost exclusively. I think they make a great product, and I appreciate their ethical approach to manufacturing. I find Guittard at Whole Foods (which is an excellent place to cruise around if you want to try some specialty small bean to bar chocolatiers).

all of these chocolates are fair or direct trade...and DELICIOUS.
So. There you have it. When I'm choosing a chocolate for baking, I look for three things: the kind of chocolate flavor I want in my finished product (do I want a semi-sweet? a milk chocolate?), the taste and quality of the chocolate (production practices matter, in my opinion), and whenever possible I try to buy from ethically driven companies, fair trade, thoughtful bean selection, community minded- all of these qualities are important.

Have you come across some of the small bean to bar chocolate producers? Or tried any of the specialty chocolatiers mentioned above? If you do try or have tried them, I'd be interested to hear what you think!

(and, I want you to know I've edited myself- this is just choosing my chocolate. I can write a whole ENTIRE SEPARATE post about tasting chocolate)(which, actually, I think I will! oh gee, I'm so sad about the research that will have to go into that one)

10.11.2011

Buttercream

Buttercream frosting is maybe my favorite thing in the world. I commented on Facebook the other day that buttercream is my kryptonite, and I meant that I'm powerless against it. I always will be. Our wedding cake was entirely buttercream (and cake)(chocolate), no fondant, and I loved that people actually ATE it. Willingly.

Fact: Buttercream was a working name for my bakery before I landed on Pickwick Baking Co. 

This weekend I had the opportunity to make some treats last minute for a party (and I cannot wait to tell you more about THAT when the time comes), and I made my vanilla swiss meringue buttercream for both rich chocolate cupcakes and a yellow butter layer cake.

What I love about this buttercream (and NO, I'm not giving up my recipe! DON'T EVEN) is that it's so light. I'm not a "frosting" fan, but buttercream is in a league of it's own. Swiss meringue buttercream is simply out of this world. It's airy, has almost a whipped cream quality, but richer, and it simply melts on your tongue and then disappears. The flavor, the texture is so delicate but so right on....then it flits away.

I recreated the layer cake today with a twist of flavor. You guys were split nearly evenly between wanting a raspberry vanilla and an apricot vanilla, so: I give you both

yellow butter cake with apricot and bourbon vanilla swiss meringue buttercream


yellow butter cake with raspberry and bourbon vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Wee little cakes with big flavor. Heaven on a dessert plate.

10.05.2011

Puits d'Amour with pesto and strawberries

When we last checked in, you had your blitz turned and wrapped and ready to be rolled out. Today, I'll show you how to make Puits d'Amour, which can be either savory OR sweet, and are a major crowd pleaser at parties.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Take your puff pastry and roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. This is half as thick as it was when you were rolling it during your turns. When you have it rolled out, cut it in half (it's just easier to work with a smaller section, I think- so I cut it in half, wrap one half and keep it cold in the fridge, while I work on the other half). Like. So.


Take circle cutters and cut the dough into circles (my circles were 2 inches in diameter). Take half of the circles and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan, brush with an egg wash. With the other half of the circles, you're going to cut a 1/2 to 1 inch hole in the center, then place these circles on top of the egg washed circles on the sheet pan:

With your fingers, lightly press around the edges of the circles, and then egg wash the tops.


Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (know your oven- they may take a little less time, or a little longer, so peek at them from time to time). When they're done, the puits d'amour should be puffed and lightly golden.

NOW, this is the fun part. You can fill these babies with anything. When we made them in school, my partner and I filled them with brie, caramelized onions, fig jam, and topped them with baked prosciutto and a balsamic reduction.

Today, I'm filling them with pesto, fresh chopped strawberry, and garnishing with basil.

Once your puits d'amour have cooled, poke through the center hole with your finger, so that the shell is ready to be filled:


Spoon in a little pesto:


and fresh chopped strawberry:


And now garnish with fresh basil. I happened to have teeny tiny basil leaves sprouting off the quite leggy basil in my herb garden (seriously, that stuff will take over the WORLD if you let it. Basil and Bamboo: watch those suckers), and I thought the small leaves would look cute, so I picked them and stuck them in with the strawberry:


Aaaaaaand, DONE! Also, I'm happy to tell you that it was delicious- fresh and nutty, light, but VERY flavorful. I'm a pesto fiend (see: all of the basil). Balsamic reduction would have been nice on this. You can also substitute strawberry jam for the fresh strawberries and maybe some chopped toasted pine nuts or walnuts for the top? Play around with it.

PUFF PASTRY, you guys.

10.04.2011

Blitz: quick puff pastry.

ALRIGHT. Everyone loves puff pastry, but legend has it that it takes 12 hours to make, barefoot, uphill in the snow both ways, under the light of a full moon on the third Wednesday, and requires a single tear from a young male unicorn in order to properly rise.

Lies. All of them.

Fact: I don't make traditional puff pastry (I almost never remember that thing about the light of the full moon, and then it's ANOTHER WASTED UNICORN TEAR). If I'm making puff pastry, it's a blitz and it takes me maybe an hour to make, start to finish. Probably less. Depends on what else I'm doing.

I know, do you want to take a minute and sit down? It's ok, go ahead. I'll wait.

Ok. First thing I'm going to tell you to do is to get yourself ready. Mis that stuff out you guys, because you need to keep the butter cold, and your water ICE cold, so get your butter chopped then stick it in the fridge while you measure out your flour, salt and water.

these are your blitz players. from left: AP flour, lots of butter, fine crystal salt and ice cold water
Here's where I tell you something that might alarm you: I've taken to measuring ingredients by weight and so I only use a kitchen scale. I don't think in terms of cups, I think in terms of ounces and pounds, BUT you can do one of two things: convert this to cups (there are 8 ounces in 1 cup) OR get yourself a $20 kitchen scale. I'm going to talk your ear off one day about digital kitchen scales. Here's a preview: if you like to cook or bake, a kitchen scale is going to give you a much more consistent product since the size of a "cup" can vary, but 8 ounces of flour will always be 8 ounces of flour. This recipe will be by weight. If you're currently weeping over your keyboard, let me know and I'll convert the recipe. Otherwise, onward my brave little blitz makers!

I'm making half a recipe of blitz for this post, later, I'm going to actually MAKE something with it. So you're going to get a full recipe, start to finish. Ok, you ready? Blitz. Here we go:

17.5 oz flour
14 oz butter, chopped into small pieces
1/2 oz salt
8 oz ice cold water (give or take, you may not need all 8 ounces- you don't want this dough to be too wet)

This first part is incredibly complicated, so pay VERY CLOSE attention: in a mixer with the dough hook attached, dump everything into the bowl.



haha, just kidding, that's as easy as it gets in pastry!

Mix the flour, salt, butter and water on medium until they are just barely combined. The chunks of butter will be about grape size, like so:


DON'T OVER MIX, you want this dough to be a shaggy mess, just barely holding itself together. The rest of the blending you will do as you roll the dough. So, when the butter is about grape sized, and the flour is still pretty loose, go ahead and turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

look at that gorgeous hot mess!
Form a rectangle-ish shaped mound with the dough, and roll it out to a 1/4 in thick rectangle. Like so:

rectangle-ish
Then you're going to do one turn. Fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, and turn the dough so that the seam runs along the right side, like a book.

bottom third up

top third down

turn like a book
That is ONE turn. You're going to repeat this process five more times (for 6 turns total)- this is what gives you all of your flaky layers. So here we go, second turn: roll your dough into another long rectangle, about 1/4 in thick, fold the bottom third up, fold the top third down, and turn so that the seam runs along the right side.

it's starting to look more like dough I made on purpose, isn't it?
Do this a third time, and a fourth time, each time making sure that the sides and corners are lining up as straight as possible- these will be your layers- then stop. Wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in the fridge to give the butter a chance to cool again. If at any time you think your butter is getting too melty, stop and stick the dough in the fridge. I stopped after three turns, because my kitchen was warm and the butter seemed too soft (the dough was really sticky).


Take a break, mark how many turns you've completed so that you don't forget, then come back to it in about 20 minutes.

When you pull the dough out of the fridge, complete the remaining turns to get yourself to 6 turns. Then? You're done. You just made puff pastry.

NO UNICORN TEARS REQUIRED.

In the next post, I'll show you what I made with this dough (hint: it involves pesto and strawberries).

10.02.2011

Flour.

Back in the Biscuit post comments (here, if you're interested), there was a mini discussion about flour, the different types and what this MEANS for your finished product. Flour is probably the single most important staple in my pantry. Flour is the basis for just about everything I make as a pastry chef (not actually everything......but almost).

There are many different types of flours. You may have noticed this happening on the grocery store shelves. There's bread flour, all purpose that's "better for bread", all purpose, and pastry flour, just to name a few. And YES, they really do serve very different purposes.

Every flour has a protein content. Protein in flour is what becomes the gluten strands when you add the liquid, and the yeast and salt, and you get it all going. The higher the protein content, the more gluten you're activating. The more gluten, the denser and chewier the product is going to be.

Cake flour has the lowest percent of protein (6-8%), followed very closely by Pastry flour (7.5-9.5%). You don't want a lot of active gluten happening in your cake or pastries, you want them to be light and tender. Bread, on the other hand, is a denser product; it needs a good network of gluten (from a higher protein content flour, like bread flour) to support all of the rise that will happen between the yeast fermentation, and the heat and steam of the oven.

Now: here's where stuff gets interesting.

Enter, butter. Butter acts as a shortening agent in bread dough- it will actually coat and shorten the individual gluten strands, so if you're making an enriched bread (such as challah), you need to compensate for that gluten shortening effect with a higher protein flour. Think of it this way: your dough is going to need ALL THE HELP IT CAN GET to bounce back (literally) from all of the butter (and, frankly, sugar) that an enriched bread needs in order to be.....enriched. And here's a tip: if you're making brioche or challah at home, before you add the warmed butter, let that dough work for a good 10 minutes to get the gluten as active as possible. Then when you've finished adding all of your butter, give the bread another 10 minutes in the mixer to get that gluten network going again. The more you work a dough, the more active the gluten. And THAT RULE right there is why, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you should try not to over work your pie crust. No one wants a chewy pie crust, right?

(if you overwork your pie crust: DO NOT FREAK OUT. Wrap it up, stick it in the fridge and walk away. let it rest. come back to it later, it will be fine. There is NO CRYING IN PATE BRISEE)

All of these rules about protein content in flour, and now I'm going to tell you not to worry. Don't give your all purpose the heave ho- all purpose flour will serve you well. The protein contents aren't so far off that an all purpose is going to contain too much protein for a good pate brisee (pastry flour, for instance has a protein content of 7.5-9.5%, while all purpose generally has a protein content of anywhere between 10-13%. See? Not so far off). BUT, I would recommend taking your recipe into consideration, and knowing what you now know about butter, if you're working on an enriched bread recipe, opt for the bread flour (which has a protein content of 12-15% and will give you juuuuust that much more of an edge).

Conversely, and some of you already know this, I like to use a higher protein content flour for things that you might not expect, like chocolate chip cookies. The higher gluten content in bread flour gives the cookie a chewy quality that I can't get with all purpose, and the gluten helps to hold the moisture better than an all purpose or lower protein flour. I find that it really DOES make a noticeable difference. Try it next time you make chocolate chip cookies, and let me know if you see a difference in the end result!

Something else that's interesting to think about is whole wheat flour. Have you ever noticed that you never really can find a whole wheat bread without another flour mixed in? I'm talking a pure, whole wheat only loaf? There is a really real reason for this: the fragments of cracked wheat in whole wheat flour will cut the gluten strands, so another flour needs to be incorporated into the dough to help compensate for the effects of the whole wheat. Whole wheat flour has a pretty high % of protein (13-14%), but it needs the boost of another flour in order to work well.

So there you have it: cake flour and pastry flour have the lowest percent of protein, and they'll give you a light, tender product. All purpose is somewhere in the middle of the pack and will yield fair results for most baking, but if you're working with something that has specific needs (ie. enriched bread), then you'll do well to swap out your all purpose for a flour that is job specific.

Any questions?

9.26.2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Don't be a Robot."

I hear this all the time at school. Every day, we're being taught to think about ingredients, how they relate to each other, the conditions under which we are combining them. A really good example of this is what happened when I tried to pull together a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie by request. I wanted to base the recipe off of my tried and true Chewy Chocolate Chip recipe, but for reference I looked up a few variations on actual pumpkin chocolate chip recipes. What I came up with......didn't work. Like, at all.

One recipe called for two teaspoons of baking soda. That's.....a lot of baking soda. But I rolled with it because the collection of recipes I found all called for a full cup of pumpkin puree. That's a lot of pumpkin puree. So I thought, I don't know, maybe I need all that baking soda to lift all that pumpkin?

Yeah, I really didn't need all that baking soda. The cookies turned out like dense little cakes. I mean, there was a LOT of leavening happening in there.

I also used two whole eggs the first time, and combined with the full cup of pumpkin puree, I think it was just too much liquid. You all might remember that my Chewy Recipe calls for bread flour, because bread flour has a higher % of protein (gluten) than all purpose flour, it holds more moisture and it's going to give you a chewier cookie. But the higher gluten content in that flour held the moisture a little TOO well and I think that also contributed to the "dense little cakes" result.

They tasted great, but the texture was a problem.

So today I sat down with my Chewy recipe and tried to problem solve. I wanted to get out of robot mode. Given the moisture content of the pumpkin puree, what could budge in the rest of my recipe so that I could have that same pumpkin flavor?

I started by switching flours. I used all purpose instead of high gluten to see if I could crisp this cookie up a little.

I used one whole egg, and one egg yolk. Egg whites have a ton of moisture in them (I think they're something like 90% water), and I knew I didn't need the extra liquid.

I cut the pumpkin puree to half a cup, then tasted the batter to see if the pumpkin was coming through.

I took the milk out of my original Chewy recipe- I had enough moisture from the pumpkin, and didn't need more.

I cut the baking soda in half. One teaspoon turned out to be a perfect amount.

With these changes, the batter definitely felt closer to what I thought a chocolate chip cookie dough should be- so I spooned it onto the baking sheet, and into the oven it went.

The cookies came out looking like chocolate chip cookies should. They were buttery and crisp around the edges, moist and pumpkiny inside. I'm very happy with the results, but I might keep playing with this recipe to see what happens if I cut the butter in half, and increase the pumpkin. Or what happens if I use two egg yolks and cut out the egg whites all together? I don't know, but I want to find out!

Many people think baking is straight science. That it's very precise. In some ways it is very much a science: the ratios need to be precise for a formula to work. But within those ratios you can play as much as you want. I'd love to hear what you guys do with this recipe, if you try it. Play with the spices too- I didn't use straight ginger in this recipe, but I'll bet it would be amazing....



 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups flour (all purpose)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
*QS ground nutmeg
*QS ground cinnamon
*QS pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet, though if you prefer milk chocolate, I think they'd be good in this cookie)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Allow butter to soften to room temperature.

In a bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, combine the butter and the sugars. Beat on medium speed until the butter and sugar are light. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if you need to.  Add the pumpkin puree, and mix until combined. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice.

In three parts, add the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Allow dough to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2-2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges turn a nice golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Then get a nice cold glass of milk, and dive in.

*QS= quantity sufficient. flavor is subjective, so I didn't put specific quantities of spices. Add as much or as little as you like, and suit it to your tastes!

9.24.2011

Something's different...

(Hint: Pickwick Baking Co. has a logo!)

My friend, the incredibly talented and charming Wendy Bergquist (of Wendy Bergquist Design) designed a logo for my little bakery, and I think she knocked it out of the park! I'm so excited and incredibly proud to show off this design, which you will hopefully be seeing on a bakery box near you, relatively soon.

You ready?

Yes?

Are you sure? You might want to sit down for this.

Ok, you're sitting?

Good. BEHOLD:

!!!!

Pickwick Baking Co. is starting to come together. Wendy worked so hard to come up with a logo that would perfectly capture the feel of the bakery: approachable, classic, French Pastry, with a modern flair. I mean, does that cake stand not SCREAM approachable classic French Pastry? With a modern flair? I know, I agree, it really does.

Some other big happenings, uh, happening in the world of Pickwick Baking Co. is that I've dropped the "the." You may or may not have noticed, but I'm taking a page out of Mark Zuckerberg's book and now it is simply Pickwick Baking Co. (the THE is silent).

I'm also working on getting my kitchen certified for commercial use. FACT: soon the business will be up and running, and hopefully just in time for Thanksgiving pies. I will be keeping you all apprised of the progress, and YOU WILL KNOW when the kitchen is officially open for business.

Finally, speaking of Mark Zuckerberg, Pickwick Baking Co. is on Facebook! You can head on over here, and click on that old "like" button to become a FAN of the BAKERY. It's a good idea, if you like pastry and bakeries and breaking news, because that is where all Pickwick Baking Co. news and alerts will be posted (AHEM, Guinea Pigs!). Also, new blog posts. All moving off my personal facebook page, and onto the Bakery page. So go there. And like it.

(please)

9.13.2011

Biscuits

cheddar dill scones with fresh cracked black pepper

 So....THAT was a first week at school. Sorry about Pie Friday, but by the time the weekend rolled around my head was swimming with facts about quick breads, chemical leaveners, mixing techniques, yeast, proofing, kneading, baking.....WOW.

On Sunday, while I was studying, I got a picture from my friend Caitlin. She was making biscuits. I said, how funny, I'm studying the biscuit method RIGHT NOW, and she requested a post on biscuits.

So Caitlin, this is for you.

Bear with me while I offer some quick background- I'm in study mode and I just finished reading about biscuits for the third time in a row. So HERE, learn with me!

Biscuits, like muffins and loaf breads like banana bread, are a quick bread. They use a chemical leavener (baking soda or baking powder) as opposed to yeast, so they are quick to mix and quick to make. The chemical leaveners rely on chemical reactions (exposure to acid, exposure to moisture, exposure to heat), so there's no sitting around waiting for your yeast to ferment. Quick. Simple.

When you're dealing with quick breads, there are three methods for mixing. As you might imagine, the biscuit method is what you want to use when you're making biscuits, and that simply means that you're going to keep the fat (butter) in solid form, and your goal is a light, flaky dough that will be tender on the inside when baked. It's actually quite similar to mixing a pie crust dough, so if you've been following along with Pie Friday, this might look familiar.

When you're using the biscuit method to make biscuits or scones, you'll want to begin by reading through the recipe (ALWAYS- this way if you need to do something in advance like soften butter or melt chocolate, you'll be prepared)(but this doesn't apply to biscuits)(but still, read your recipe in advance). Then measure out your ingredients. Once you're all set, you can begin mixing your "formula."

Combine your liquid ingredients in a bowl (including any eggs). Sift your dry ingredients together, then cut in your fat (the butter). Add your liquid ingredients to your dry, and mix by hand until they are JUST combined. You really don't want to over mix your dough, because that will get the gluten too active and will cause your biscuits and scones to be tough, and it inhibits rise.

Once your ingredients are combined, turn dough out onto your surface and knead it lightly four or five times. Your dough should be soft- slightly elastic, but NOT sticky. If you're using a mixer for your dough, then use a slow mixing speed and keep the mixing time to a minimum. Really, you don't want to over mix.

Now you're ready for "make-up" (the cutting before you bake). On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness. Make sure it's evenly rolled so that your biscuits are uniform. Our Chef last week was......delighted (?) by my rustic looking bread (read: not as pretty as it could be). So honestly, you haven't failed if your biscuits aren't looking like little toy soldiers, but if you roll evenly, you should be fine. Your biscuits will double in height as they're baking.

Cut the biscuits into shapes. Scones are traditionally cut into triangles, and biscuits into circles, but no one ever said you can't have a square biscuit (right, Caitlin?), or a round scone. Here is a pro tip: if you're using a circle cutter, don't twist it as you cut, just push straight down. Twisting the cutter will inhibit rise, and your biscuits will be so sad. Don't make your biscuits sad, you guys, ok?

Place your cut biscuits on a lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheet. Here's another trick: If you want biscuits that have a higher rise and softer sides, place them close together on the baking sheet. If you want crusty sides, place them farther apart.

Bake them immediately in a hot oven.

You can brush the tops with an egg wash or buttermilk before they go into the oven, or with melted butter when they come out.

Then eat them all as fast as you can and before anyone else can get their hands on them.

No, that would be terrible! Instead, allow them to cool on a wire rack, and then serve them to your friends and family.

9.02.2011

Pear and Gorgonzola Tart

It's going to be a quick Pie Friday post today since our days are EXPLODING while four out of six of us get ready to go back to school (for some of us, that's NEXT WEEK HOLY SMOKES), but this tart is delicious. The sweet pears and caramelized onions are cut by the strong gorgonzola. Perfect for brunch, or a simple dinner with a light side salad. And how handy, pears are coming into season!

This is a Giada DeLaurentis recipe- it's essentially exactly as she's written, I've just made a few minor tweaks for preference.


Ingredients
  • 1 store bought pie shell
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces Gorgonzola
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 small pears, cored and sliced 
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • Pate Brisee

Directions
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pate brisee into a circle with a diameter slightly larger than your pie plate. Press pastry circle into the pie plate. Place in the oven, and bake until pie crust is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, gorgonzola, thyme, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Using a hand blender, whip the cheeses together.

In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are a soft golden brown. Add pears and cook until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes.

When the tart crust has cooled slightly, gently spread the whipped cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart. Place the pear slicesand caramelized onions over the cheese mixture.
 
Cut into squares or wedges and serve.


 Source: Giada Delaurentis, Pear Gorgonzola Tart Recipe

8.29.2011

Caramel, sea salted or otherwise

A stormy weekend in New England means one thing: being cooped up inside. Being cooped up inside usually leads to experimenting in the kitchen. This weekend I decided to make caramel popcorn to snack on while we watched the wind and rain, and in order to make caramel popcorn, you gotta make some caramel. Usually I make candy once a year, when I make my Christmas Toffee, but on Saturday I dragged out my equipment and made my first ever batch of chewy caramel.

I wanted to use what I had in the pantry (or fridge) since I wasn't too thrilled at the idea of heading back out to the grocery store with the rest of the people stocking up for the storm, so I scoured the internet to find a recipe that would allow me to use light cream (or half and half), instead of evaporated milk. Found one!

This particular recipe yielded enough caramel for two batches of caramel corn, PLUS some leftovers that I chopped up and passed out to friends for review (I sprinkled the caramel with a little sea salt before cutting it, because what ELSE would I do?).

Making caramel is surprisingly easy, but you need to be present. Block off some time to be standing at the stove, because this stuff will go from buttery and delicious to scorched in the blink of an eye. A candy thermometer is your best friend until you start to recognize the signs of candy being done.

Here's what you'll need to line up:

  • candy thermometer (you can find this at the grocery store)

  • a 5 quart or larger pot. The original recipe calls for a 3qt heavy pot, but without doubling the recipe, my caramel boiled right over the pot and I had to quickly transfer it to a bigger pot. It can't hurt to go bigger- you'll avoid a very sticky mess.

  • parchment paper, or your silpat

  • 8×8 or 9×9 pan (or large jelly-roll cookie sheet if doubling recipe)


Ingredients

    •    1 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
    •    1 cup light corn syrup
    •    2 cups light cream (or half and half)
    •    2 1/4 cup brown sugar
    •    1 tsp vanilla
    •    coarse ground salt, for sprinkling (optional)
 
Directions


Melt the butter in the pot over low heat. Carefully add the brown sugar by pouring it into the center of the pan (if any sugar crystals stick to the side of the pan, push them down with a silicone spatula or a damp pastry brush). Stir slowly until well combined with the melted butter. Add corn syrup and mix well, add light cream (half and half).

Turn the heat up to medium and continue to stir the candy mixture. Then slowly bring the heat up to medium high until the caramel begins to lightly boil. Once the caramel is boiling, clip the candy thermometer to the pot (don't let the bottom of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot- it will skew your temp reading). 

If you've been stirring well, your caramel should continue to look blended as it boils. If not, your butter will begin to separate. STIR!

Reduce heat to medium, maintaining a steady boil. KEEP STIRRING. You just need to park it at the stove- if you don't stir, your caramel will separate and it will make you cry. Trust me.

This next part I'm taking directly from the original recipe:

Temperature does not raise at a steady rate, so watch thermometer closely. If you have any doubts about the accuracy of your thermometer, periodically do a test by dropping a little in cold water. When thermometer reaches 244°, remove caramel from heat.

Stir in vanilla. If dipping, start immediately. If making caramels, pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Either way, take care not to burn yourself, this stuff is so so hot.

Allow to cool for several hours and use a cold, lightly buttered knife or pizza cutter to cut into small pieces

Wrap in wax paper to store. Or to save on cutting time, just leave the whole batch out on the counter with a knife next to it and watch it gradually disappear.

The original recipe includes different stages for things like making a caramel dip and dipping apples. I loved the way the caramel turned out and will be making a batch JUST to cut up into caramel squares again soon.

Source: Giver'sLog Homemade Caramel, my foolproof recipe







    8.26.2011

    Chicken Pot Pie

    It's homemade chicken soup, in convenient pie form!

    The weather around here has been cooler again, and when that happens I want to pull out all of my sweaters and cook warm comfort foods. This week, with the nice crisp weather, pot pie Friday seemed like a no brainer.

    My pot pie recipe calls for cooking the chicken using a method somewhere between braising and poaching. Broaching? Praising? I started doing this (versus, say, roasting my chicken before hand) when I started making my own chicken soup and would simmer the chicken in stock. The chicken was SO full of flavor, very tender from being "poached" in the stock for about an hour.

    (here's the thing: when you poach something like fish or chicken, typically you cook it in a liquid- which I'm doing here with the chicken- but you're going to keep the poaching to a bare minimum. If you're braising, you're probably going to brown the meat first- which I do not do here, I trim the chicken and then into the pot it goes- and then cook it low and slow in a small amount of liquid. With the chicken I use in my chicken soup and my pot pie, I'm letting it cook in quite a bit of liquid, on a low temperature, for at least an hour. So.....is it poaching? Or is it sort of braising? Is this really the opposite of concerning to you and you want me to get on with the recipe?)

    I'm picky about my chicken, so I trim it well. I like to poach in equal parts stock and wine (THE FLAVOR. you will have to stop yourself from eating all of the chicken before it makes it into your pie. I'm just looking out for your pie well being here). For kicks you can throw in a cheese cloth sachet of some fresh or dried herbs: rosemary, sage, cloves, cinammon even, just fish it out when the chicken is done- the flavor stays, but the bits of herbs go. I don't like peas, so I use sweet corn, but use the veggies you like. As always, make it yours. Cook what you like to eat!

    Chicken Pot Pie

    Ingredients

        •    4 chicken breasts, trimmed well, but whole
        •    one box (1 qt) chicken broth
        •    1 qt dry white wine (or, honestly, whatever you have lying around)
        •    1 large onion, sliced thin
        •    2 garlic cloves, minced
        •    1 (8 tbsp) stick butter (I know! I'M SORRY but it's better this way)
        •    1/4 cup cream (seriously, you will be FINE)
        •    1/2 cup all purpose flour
        •    3 or 4 carrots, peeled, sliced
        •    1 cup sweet corn
        •    salt and freshly ground black pepper
        •    Pate Brisee (but this time, instead of adding water as needed, I add buttermilk. either is FINE for this recipe)

    Directions


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Add chicken broth and wine to a large stock pot (I like to use my 5 qt cast iron dutch oven for this- but anything big enough to hold the liquid and that has a lid is going to do you just fine) over a medium heat. Bring JUST to a boil, add chicken, and turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and allow the chicken to simmer on the stove until tender and thoroughly cooked, about an hour. Remove the chicken to a plate, allow to cool and then cut it into bite sized pieces. Reserve the wine and stock in a bowl.

    BY THE WAY: If I were making homemade chicken soup, here is where I would assess our stock situation and add more stock if needed, and add cut carrots, celery, sauteed onions and seasonings. But we're not making soup, we're making a pot pie! So I'm going to remove my chicken to a plate to hang out until I need it back, and reserve the leftover wine and stock in a bowl for my filling.

    Return the pot to the stove. Over a medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook until translucent- don't go so far as to caramelize them, although that might be good so don't panic if you cook them a little longer than you intended. Add the minced garlic and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant. Get your stuff ready because this next part comes at you fast: add the flour to the onions, garlic and butter. Cook, stirring CONSTANTLY until flour is absorbed, for about 2 minutes. Add the hot reserved broth and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken. Add salt, pepper and the cream. Stir in chicken, carrots and corn. Mix well. Taste- if you want more salt and pepper, go ahead and add it.

    Pour into pie dish (you don't need a bottom crust for this one), cover with your rolled out pate brisee, crimp around the edges of your pie plate to seal it in, and slice three vents in the top of the pie. Or get fancy with your fancy patterned vents. OWN YOUR POT PIE.

    Stick it in the oven and bake until the pie crust begins to lightly brown, about 45 minutes to an hour.

    Try and let it cool before you grab a fork and dive in.

    I can't think of anything more perfect for a stormy New England weekend. Good luck with Irene, you guys.



    8.21.2011

    The Chewy

    Up to this point, everything I've learned about baking I've learned from books, blogs, food sites (like epicurious, one of my faves), and of course, Food Network. Now I'm lucky enough to be heading off to school to be trained by a Master Pastry Chef, but there is such a wealth of information to be had for anyone who wants to learn in their own kitchen.

    If you've ever watched Food Network, then you know Alton Brown. I once heard someone (Aarti? I can't remember) describe him as a Culinary Encyclopedia. TRUE. It's because of Alton Brown that I now use bread flour exclusively in my chocolate chip cookies. I LOVE chewy chocolate chip cookies. A little crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside, in my opinion, is perfection. Bread flour will yield a chewier chocolate chip cookie because the gluten content in bread flour is higher than in, say, all purpose flour. The higher the gluten content, the chewier the cookie.

    I learned that by watching you, Alton Brown.

    Look, I don't claim to know what's happening with the puppet here, but I promise you will fall for this recipe. Make it your own: I use a lighter brown sugar (they're still PLENTY chewy) and sprinkle coarse ground salt on top, because.....of course I do. Savory Sweet!



    Alton Brown video: source Food Network

    8.19.2011

    Salted Caramel Apple Pie- a pie in many parts, slice 1: Salty Dog




    Pre-oven pie.

    I have this thing for salted caramel. I might....actually have a problem. To me, salted caramel is the perfect PERFECT representative of savory sweet. Smooth, sweet, rich and buttery, with a hint of savory salt at the end. Can you taste it right now? Delicious. If you learn one thing from this blog, it will be that I'm a savory sweet kind of girl.

    Today I'm playing with my apple pie recipe to see if I can turn it into a salted caramel apple pie, without having to go FULL BOAT on committing to a caramel sauce (four kids + it's still Summer = burning your delicate caramel sauce. major bummer). I omitted my usual nutmeg and cinnamon, used a mix of light brown and granulated sugars, some coarse ground salt, and....butter. I love butter. And apples, naturally.

    The result was very tasty, but not salted caramel.

    But still good.

    But not salted caramel.

    I liked it enough to post the recipe anyway with the note that it's a neat, slightly savory twist on a regular apple pie, and the promise that I will continue to work on the salted caramel. I WILL conquer that pie. Plus maybe it's fun to see the evolution of a recipe? Yes? No? Just me?

    Without further ado, it's a Salty Dog Apple Pie (hey, I live by the sea):

    Ingredients

    • Pie crust (recipe here)

    • 6 to 8 apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced*

    • 1/4 lemon, juiced

    • 1/3 cup light brown sugar

    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

    • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse ground salt

    • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

      
    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out pate brisee into a circle with a diameter slightly larger than your pie plate. Press pastry circle into the pie plate. Set aside.

    Combine the apples, lemon juice, and sugars in a mixing bowl and pour the mixture over your pie crust. Sprinkle the apples with butter- get the butter dotted throughout those apples. Roll the rest of the pate brisee out nice and thin, and gently place over the top of the apple mixture. With a knife, trim the excess pastry from the edges of the pie plate. With the same knife, make a few slices in the top of the dough to vent (here's your chance for a fun pattern. you can also use small cookie cutters to make shapes in the top of the dough after you've rolled it out and before you put it over the apples). Bake until the pastry is golden brown, maybe 45-50 minutes or so.


    Some vanilla bean ice cream would be REALLY GOOD with this.

    * I used gala apples because I love them- they're a little tart, and easy to find around here. But use the apples you like, Granny Smith, Cortland....go for it.

    8.15.2011

    Rolling (out) the Dough

    I didn't have a post planned for today, but on Friday I had to run out and pick up a couple of baking sheets and a sil'pat. Have you ever used a sil'pat? It's a miracle in the oven. Sil'pat provides a nonstick surface without having to spray or flour- that means you don't have to add a THING to your baking sheet and yet (!) your cookies will slide right off with no hassle.

    As I picked up my sil'pat, I spotted a roll'pat (Roul'pat) on the shelf.

    What's a roll'pat?! I wondered the same thing, so I asked.

    It's the same technology as a silpat, but made to be a rolling surface. In the pate brisee post, I briefly mentioned that I like to roll out dough on my butcher block slab. True. I love that it's a large surface that's not a part of my actual counter top, but rolling on butcher block requires a lot of flour. Even rolling on a natural stone surface, like granite or marble, is going to take some flour to keep your lighter doughs from sticking. And extra flour can change your dough. Baking is a science, it IS chemistry actually, and the ratios of flour to fat to leavening agents (if any) matters.

    I love trying new gadgets, and I BELIEVE in the POWER of the sil'pat, so I threw the roll'pat in my basket and brought it home. On Saturday I had a chance to try it out when I needed to roll pate brisee for an apple pie I was planning to bring to my sister in law's house on Sunday.

    You guys, this thing is amazing. My roll'pat is 25 1/4" x 17 1/2" and provides a GENEROUS rolling surface. It's so flexible that once I rolled out the top of the pie, I picked up the entire mat and stuck it in the fridge to chill the dough while I filled the pie. and the dough peeled off the sheet with absolutely no trouble.

    I'm a big fan.

    If you want to pick up a roll'pat, you can find it here, otherwise known as the happiest place on earth.

    (In case you're wondering, any product recommendations I do are based on personal experience and are not sponsored. Basically, if I really like something, I want to tell people about it. Simple as that.)

    8.12.2011

    Tomato Pie

    Now that we have Pate Brisee down, let's get into the good stuff, shall we?

    Tomato Pie.

    There's no better late Summer flavor than a sweet tomato. Well, there's local sweet corn too, which you need to try roasted with some salt and pepper, but that's not in this particular pie. Ok, roasted sweet corn should be worked into something before the season's over....I'll get back to you on that.

    Lately I've been very into the tomatoes. Roasted tomatoes in a cobbler with a little gruyere was the inspiration behind this tomato pie recipe. I've layered roasted garlic and caramelized onions (with a splash of wine, because it's better that way), and gruyere beneath some fresh sliced tomatoes. The result is a major treat.

    I'm planning to grill a swordfish steak tonight and serve this along side.

    The recipe is below. Play with it to suit your palate. If you like thyme, add some thyme. If you want something brighter to compliment the tomatoes, try substituting dijon for the roasted garlic spread. For a little something visually different, layer yellow and green tomatoes in with the red.

    Let me know if you try it, I'd love to know what you think!

    Ingredients

        •    Pie crust (recipe here)
        •    3 large tomatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
        •    1 large onion, sliced thin
        •    Kosher salt, for sprinkling
        •    Roasted garlic, removed from skin and mashed with a fork
        •    1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere
        •    Fresh rosemary, chopped finely
        •    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for top of pie
        •    Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Directions


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out pate brisee into a circle with a diameter slightly larger than your pie plate. Press pastry circle into the pie plate. Set aside.

    Add the olive oil to a pan over a low heat. Add sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Spread a thin layer of the roasted garlic over the bottom of the pie crust and layer the caramelized onions over the roasted garlic. Sprinkle the gruyere over the onions. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in an overlapping layer. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are very soft, about 35 to 40 minutes.

    Brush the top of the pie with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Serve the pie hot or at room temperature, and ENJOY.


    Pate Brisee

    Pie Crust.

    Fresh pie crust is roughly a million percent more delicious than store bought frozen pie crust, and it's pretty easy. And if you make your own pie crust then you can tell people you made your own delicious pie crust and they WILL be impressed.

    There are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you're making your own pate brisee, but mostly you just need to remember COLD. Ice cold. The colder the butter, the flakier the crust. Try not to work your dough too much- the more you work a dough, the more active the gluten becomes and the stretchier and tougher your dough will become. If you feel like your dough is becoming too stretchy or gooey, put it down and walk away. Let it rest. If you need to work the dough with your hands, you can dip them in ice water to keep them cold. Let your dough chill in the fridge if you can before rolling it out.

    Think light, flaky, cold. Pie crust that melts in your mouth, not pie crust that is chewy. Right? Right.

    Having a good solid surface to roll out your dough is key. A stone (granite, marble) counter top is perfect. We have butcher block counters in our kitchen, and I prefer to use an additional surface when I roll out dough because butcher block can stain. When our builders installed our butcher block, they turned the cut out piece from our range into a huge block for me, this is what I use for rolling out dough. You can also find stone slabs at kitchen supply shops (Williams-Sonoma has one here)- stone is great because it stays cool.

    Some people like to use shortening in their pie crust, but I prefer straight up butter. To me the flavor is richer, the crust is lighter. Generally, when I'm making a pate brisee, I use a Martha Stewart recipe. It's a good one, and until I stumble across something better, I'm going to be loyal to Martha's. Her recipe is as follows:

    Ingredients

    • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

    • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

    • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

    • 1/2 cup ice water

    Directions

    1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter, cut into small pieces, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.

    2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream until dough just holds together without being wet or sticky, no longer than 30 seconds.

    3. Divide dough in half; flatten and shape into disks, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.


    Martha Stewart also has a wonderful tip sheet for successful pie crust, which you can find here.

    Source: Martha Stewart, Pate Brisee





    8.11.2011

    Pie. Friday.

    Who doesn't love pie?

    Who doesn't love Friday?

    It's like these two were made for each other (though I am in no way suggesting Pie isn't for Tuesday. Pie is for all the time).

    The weather's been a little cooler around here for the past few days, which puts me in a Fall flavor state of mind. And Fall flavors always put me in the mood for Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving comes with....pie, so I was thinking this morning about pie.

    Mmmmmm, pie.

    And while I was thinking about pie, and the apple pie I'm planning to make this weekend, and Fall flavors again, I started thinking about end of Summer flavors. Like sweet tomatoes. Have you ever had a really good, really fresh, sweet tomato? When my sister and I were little, growing up in NY, and we'd visit my Grandmother on Long Island, we'd be treated to the sweetest, reddest, juiciest tomatoes you could imagine. There's nothing like a Long Island Hothouse Tomato (it deserves the caps). We'd slice those beauties up with a little sea salt, and eat them plain. Or bite into them like you would an apple. They were THAT DELICIOUS.

    Anyway, back to pie. Thinking about end of Summer flavors, and those tomatoes, and pie, makes me think of tomato pie. What? Yes, really: tomato pie. Actually, there are so many savory tarts and pies that get such little credit, and THAT started me thinking about how many different kinds of pies are out there: fruit pies, savory pies, meat pies, tarts, quiche (I'm letting it in on a pie crust technicality, AND because my daughter Cate calls it egg pie, which.....sure, yes it's egg pie). And naturally, this makes me think we need something like a day specifically devoted to pie around here, because what is a week without a day for pie?

    All of this to tell you it's going to be Pie Friday all up in here starting tomorrow. That's right, PIE just in time for you to get in your kitchen and bake it on Saturday, and then you'll have pie for the weekend, and well....can't you just feel the world becoming a better place already?

    It's the power of pie, you guys.

    Tomorrow: a quick pie crust tutorial that may or may not include cheating with a Cuisinart, and a recipe for tomato pie. Plan to grill something good on Saturday, because this is a side dish that you're going to want on your plate every day.


    8.10.2011

    The Pickwick Baking Co.

    There is so much in a name.

    The Pickwick Baking Co. What's in that name? Many many layers of circumstance and coincidence. And happiness. And hard work.

    The short explanation here is that Pickwick is the name of the street we live on. And....this is a baking company that will someday hopefully become a bakery. There you have it: The Pickwick Baking Co.

    A million (7) years ago, when Bill and I first moved to Marblehead, we were lucky enough to live in an AWESOME little place downtown. It was the best introduction to Marblehead we could have asked for. It was our first home, the house we lived in when we welcomed our first child, where she said her first words, where she took her first steps. We were very happy there, in that little house, next to the harbor, in our sweet little town.

    Not long after we welcomed our second child, the house became a little....too small. We needed more space, and so we had to move. I was reluctant to leave downtown, but our need for space won out. We looked at what seemed like every available house in town (thank you, Krista). And not one was right. On a whim, on a Friday, I drove by a house we were scheduled to see the following day and noticed out in front of the house next door, a little For Sale by Owner sign. Desperate to get a look at anything that might work, I parked the car and grabbed the last listing sheet in the little plastic box next to the for sale sign. Then I called our ever patient Realtor, and asked if she could help get us in to see the house.

    We did see it. And we fell in love and tried to play it totally cool so we wouldn't show our hand, but really we loved the house so much there's no way it wasn't written all over our faces. It turns out that the family selling the house were planning to take down the for sale sign the day after I drove by. The listing sheet I pulled was the last sheet they were planning to print. If not for the chance drive by to preview an entirely different house, we would have missed this house entirely.

    We bought the house, and we'll never leave. At this point, it's about so much more than the actual house, it's the street, it's our community, but the house was what brought us here. We're so lucky.

    This kind of happy coincidence is so typical for us. Bill and I tend to stumble into all sorts of wonderful situations (like moving to Marblehead in the first place, but that's another story entirely).

    Going back to school to become a pastry chef is something I've dreamed of for so many years, it's hard to count. Ok, ten. I've dreamed of this for ten years. But I was working, and then Bill and I got married, and we started our family, and welcomed our four wonderful children and I was lucky enough to be home with them, and I never really felt like the timing was right. It was always, "in a couple of years" or "when the kids don't need me to be home any more."

    And then fate stuck it's foot out again and we had a flood in the house and we lost our kitchen for what felt like an eternity (but what was actually 5 months), and in that time when I had no choice but to step away from the kitchen I got feisty and antsy and it became abundantly clear that NOW was the time. And I know enough to trust that sometimes you have to follow the lead you're given.

    And I applied to school. And I was accepted. And here we go.

    If not for the happy coincidence of finding this house, on this street, with our wonderful friends so close by, and all of the support I've received from friends and family alike, AND THEN THE KITCHEN FLOOD, I wouldn't be doing this now.

    So. The Pickwick Baking Co.