Tag Archives: recipes

Huddle Up!

I have been reading too much.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is such a thing. One might even consider it some kind of disorder. If you think you may have such an affliction, ask yourself these difficult questions:

1. Does your reading impede your ability to do everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, baking delicious treats, or putting gas in the car?

2. Has reading at the dinner table become a problem?

3. Do you look forward to bed-time, if only so that you may do your extensive reading in a more comfortable environment?

Well, you know the drill. If you answered yes to any of these questions, we should probably be friends…but never have a dinner together as it might be so quiet, our companions would fall asleep in their plates.

Maybe it’s the freeeezing cold temperatures, or maybe just good book choices, but it has kept me out of the kitchen a bit. Anyway, I was tring to come up with something to bring to a little dinner get-together last week and I just wanted something light and pretty and warm. Yes, so what if it was a Patriots game-watching throwdown. I am a lady, and sometimes I force my desserts on people. But, this came together so quickly and I don’t know if it was just the cold kitchen that helped me out with the dough, but this dough was breathtaking. Literally, I was saying outloud, while rolling it out, “Ooh, holy moly, this is….so smooth and pretty and easy”. Ryan was thinking I had completely lost my marbles. Or pie weights. (Which you totally don’t need here!)

Crispy Apple Tart
(adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters, a gorgeous book with the lovliest woodblock illustrations)

Dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

Filling:
2 pounds apples (I used Fuji, but I think a more tart, firm variety would be better), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons sugar

Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar

MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.

DRIBBLE in water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.

PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400 F. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)

OVERLAP apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.

BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 3 tablespoons over apples.

BAKE in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

MAKE glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through sieve.

REMOVE tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

BRUSH glaze over tart, slice, and serve.



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Butter, butter, butter

Well, it sounds funny when you say it three times, but butter is truly something I cannot be without. When I’m reading a recipe I judge it based on the ratio of butter to the other components. What?! Only a quarter-cup in a whole batch of cookies? Nonsense. Next!

Butter isn’t simply there for flavor, which is does do marvelously. It is a textural god-send, turning flour into flaky pastry and a moist scallop into a crisp-edged bite of the salty sea. Butter has been a staple of the human diet as long as milk production itself has been around. This most valued food was initially made by mistake, as anyone who has over-whipped heavy cream has discovered. The clumps of fat form and the liquid (buttermilk) separates out. A more simple treat has never delighted me more.

I’d never made shortbread before, but I feel like it is such a great example of what you can do with great ratios of really lovely ingredients. A layered, dense sweet/salty cookie that has a grainy, fine texture. Use the best butter you can find for these, I think the reward is obvious when you take the first bite. By the way, I felt like these got better and better over time…Like a few days, a week, however long you can keep them around without sneaking one every time you pass the kitchen.

Scotch Shortbread

(adapted from Great Cookies by Carole Walter, Clarkson-Potter 2003)

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour (easy find in the bulk section or gluten-free area)
  • 1/4 generous teaspoon salt (like heaping, I guess)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar, plus more for dusting

Preheat your oven to 300°F, and position the shelf in the center of the oven. Line a 9-inch square (or similar, I think mine was 9 x 11) with foil, pressing it into the corners and shaping it smoothly across the bottom and sides of the pan. Sift the flour, rice flour and salt together three times and set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix the butter on a medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar gradually, taking about 1 minute, and then allow to mix for about 1 minute more. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Remove the bowl from the machine and transfer the butter mixture into a large, wide bowl. Using a wooden spoon (and your muscles!) cut half of the dry ingredients into the butter until it’s almost incorporated. Work in the remaining dry by adding it in five or six small additions. This is where you must move quickly and deliberately, as you want to keep the butter relatively cool. The “dough” will look like a pile of lumpy flour that could never be a cookie, but gather it and knead it gently to smear the bits of butter.

Scoop your dough/flour ball into the foil-lined pan and use your spoon to distribute it evenly. Then, using a flat-bottomed glass press the dough evenly into the pan, being careful to get into the corners. Clean the edges of the pan with either a small spatula or a dough scraper.

Bake the shortbread for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the top feels set. It will be very pale. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut through the dough 1 1/2 inch intervals, making five (ish) strips, and then quarter-turn your pan and do the same going the other way, making 25 small squares. They stay in the pan. Sprinkle lightly with superfine sugar, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

Remove from the pan, and using the foil as an aid, take out the individual squares and place them on a cookie sheet and return them to the oven for 10 minutes to dry and crisp. Remove and let cool on the pan for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  And your mouth. Trust me on the previous advice to let them sit a few days in a plastic bag. They really do get better with age. 🙂

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Chicken, Leek, and Tarragon Pie

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Sometimes time eludes me. I feel slightly ridiculous writing that, as I have only one job, no children, the cleanest man ever, and am relatively young and so should have boundless energy and will to…well, just do things. But that seems to belong to some other person in some other universe, cause, geez, it’s not even Thanksgiving and I’m ready for a vacation. Maybe the change in weather and light makes it so, and I think I will adjust and begin to be more productive in the hours before it falls dark at, say, 4:30pm. This is all a terribly long-winded excuse for not posting more often. Bleh.

During a leisurely day a few weeks ago (yes, there is leisure, just not enough!), I came upon a new cookbook that looked more interesting than the giant wall of faces that seem to stare at you now when looking for books on food. What is that? I don’t think I’m buying books or cooking someone’s recipes because I am so deeply moved by their face or their personality. These days, I don’t even really open books written by the famous, all-knowing deities we’ve come to follow. I found this one because it was so obviously stating exactly what was within. Pie.

Pie by Angela Boggiano (published in paperback by Mitchell Beasley, 2009), is a crust bible. This woman devotes more loving detail to crust recipe and method than most people do their whole pie. The recipes are decidedly British (as is Ms. Boggiano), so that provided serious entertainment for Ryan and I as we flipped through. Game Pie, Curried Soccer Pie, Smoked Fish and Cider Pie. I think it was just so refreshing to read something other than recipes that were California-familiar. And then we stumbled upon a Lamb Shank Pie, which has the bones of the shank protruding through the golden crust like they should be pulled out of the stew and eaten with British abandon. Needless to say, we got the book.

Although I am sure we will soon try the more adventurous pies, those of you who know me are laughing at the above recipes for good reason. I am indeed a bit squeamish about meat, be it lamb, pork or beef. So we have settled on one pie we both knew we’d love without question, and here it is.

Chicken, Leek, and Tarragon Pie

from Angela Boggiano’s Pie

for the pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Sift together the dry ingredients, and then cut  half the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the butter and mix until it is the size of small peas. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and the water.  Make a well in the center and pour in, a little at a time, mixing with a knife. Use only as much as you think you need to make it come together. I used it all but my dough was still very crumbly and messy, which spells out a great pie crust. Turn out your dough onto a floured board and knead gently just to incorporate the butter. Shape into a disk,wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

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layers of butter in the dough make for a flaky crust

For the filling:

  • 1 free-range chicken, around 3 lbs.
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs tarragon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Knob of butter (my favorite descriptor in the book)
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Place the chicken in a large saucepan with the carrot, celery, 1 of the onions and 3 tarragon sprigs. Season with a little salt and pepper and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool. Return the stock to the heat and simmer gently for a further 30 minutes until it is reduced by half.

Meanwhile heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the leeks and the remaining onion and gently cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Turn up the heat to high, add the wine and simmer rapidly for 3–4 minutes until reduced by half. Stir in the flour and mix well in the pan for l minute. Pour in the cream, about  2/3 cup of the reduced chicken stock and the lemon zest. Season with a little salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

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making pie filling

Remove the meat from the cooled chicken carcass and chop or shred into small pieces. Add this and the remaining tarragon, chopped, to the leek and cream mixture and stir together. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat.

Line the base of a 12 x  8 inch rectangular or 10½ inch round pie tin with two-thirds of the pastry and fill with the chicken mixture. Brush the pastry edges with beaten egg. Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid and lay over the filling, crimping the edges of the pastry with your fingertips to seal.

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cutting a few vents in the upper crust allows some moisture to cook out

Trim away any excess and brush with beaten egg to glaze. Place on the baking tray and bake for 30–35 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

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dinner!

The amount of liquid this recipe calls for seems like a little too much, so the next  time I make this,  I would reduce the wine to 1/4 cup. We also felt like the wine flavored the dish too strongly so that’s why I’d chose to reduce that as opposed to the cream, which is just too good to ever reduce. Enjoy!

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Soft Glazed Gingerbread

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When the woes of the world come knocking on my door (a car that won’t start, tired baking shoulders, planning holiday madness, flat bike tires), I don’t take that business lying down! No way! I get out there and  I….well, I bake some gingerbread.  I was in the process of beginning my weekend (mid-week, that is) when I hit a few hiccups, one being that my car is becoming a bit prissy about deciding when it wants to be driven. To coffee with a friend? Yes, sure. Home from said coffee date? Apparently not. I cancelled my plans to drive to the city for a day of treats and photos. I needed to conjure my own inspiration. I rode around on my bike all day, smelling everyone’s fireplaces and feeling the faded sunshine on my face. The changing light…I was reminded of New Year’s Day, the most recent one, the morning after a little rambunctious revelry. We all woke up, ate some amazing breakfast courtesy of our hosts, rolled up our sleeping bags and bad outfits and headed over to the sunny side of the city. The Soft Glazed Gingerbread from Tartine in San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cookies to behold and has the good fortune of being equally delicious. Brains and beauty, I was hooked. I ate the whole, gorgeous little slab. And then I ate a croissant too. Hey! It was New  Year’s Day!

Soft Glazed Gingerbread 

(from Tartine, Chronicle Books, 2006)

Ingredients
Dough: 
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder 
4 teaspoons ground ginger 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground 
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz./226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1/2 cup blackstrap or other dark molasses 
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

 Glaze: 
1 cup confectioners’ sugar 
2 tablespoon water

Instructions:
To Make the Dough: 
Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and mix well. Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  (I put mine in the freezer for about three hours, and that seemed like enough.)Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick liner. 

 

Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. 

IMG_0963Although the Tartine cookies are made using a springerle patterned rolling pin, I do not have such a beautiful artifact. I am asking for one for Christmas. So, for this cookie today, I used every other interesting texture-maker in my kitchen. You do not need to make any texture, but the idea is that the glaze settles into the low spots on the cookie’s surface and makes a pretty relief image. My next post will be all about these molds and pins, as I have found myself quite obsessed. I rolled mine out about 1/4 inch thick, but next time I would do it thicker, perhaps 3/4 inch.

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I used a tart pan to make a fluted slab after rolling, and then dragged a pastry comb through to make lines.

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After slicing the slab with a very sharp knife, I placed them about an inch apart on the parchment-lines sheet pans.

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I baked this one whole, and sliced it after baking

Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes. The timing will depend on the size of the individual cookies, or if you have made a single large patterned piece that will be cut after baking. 

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. 

To Make the Glaze: 
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth. 

When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly covering it. Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny, opaque finish. If you have used a patterned pin to make a single large plaque, cut into the desired sizes with a small, very sharp knife. 

The cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about 2 weeks. They do not freeze well, however, as the glaze becomes watery when they are thawed. 

Makes 12 to 20 cookies, depending on size of cutters. 

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the ginger-brick road

 Next post: Springerle, and why you should care. 

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Autumn brought ’em!

I know everyone knows exactly what I mean when I say this. Today was that first day of fall. When you feel, really acutely, the air change. The fog burned off around noon and then the wind came in, blustery and cool. The neighbor’s wind chimes were flying and the light was somewhat golder. As it is  Monday, a day of rest in our house after a long weekend of work, we opened the fridge this morning to find an explosion. Of food, that is. The Sunday Farmer’s Market in San Rafael is actually where Ryan and I both work on Sundays (and where we met…awww) but it is also when we talk to all our farming friends and trade our goods (bread and meats) for theirs (veg, fruits, eggs, etc.).  So we come home Sunday afternoons with bags bursting. Yesterday I was given some pretty, green and rosy pears from McEvoy in Petaluma, and we had a few tart apples hanging around. After cooking up a storm last night (roasted delicata squash, braised peppers with broccoli and garlic, basmati rice and chicken crepinettes from Fatted Calf), we were left staring at the pears and apples that crowded the counter this morning.  What a conundrum. Ha!

This recipe comes from Simply Recipes, a favorite food blog of mine. Thanks, Elise! I used 4 large pears and three smallish apples instead of all apples.

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Apple Crisp Recipe

Ingredients

* 7 tart apples (or pears in any combo), peeled, cored and sliced

* 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

* 1 cup brown sugar

* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 1 cup rolled oats

* 1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Method

1 Preheat oven to 375°F. In a mixing bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, and vanilla. Toss to combine.

2 Layer sliced apples in a 9 x 12-inch (or approximately the same size) baking pan.

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3 Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal in a bowl. Cut in the butter. Sprinkle sugar mixture over apples.

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4 Bake 45 minutes or until topping looks crunchy and apples are tender.

Serves eight. Or two. You know how this works…

the first of many servings

the first of many servings

via Apple Crisp Recipe | Simply Recipes.

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Thursday Pancakes

The big, white wedgewood stove I grew up with was always cool to the touch, even when cranking out a factory-load of pancakes on a weekend morning. Time softens details, but I will always remember to flip them only when the little  bubbles form and start to burst on the glistening surface of the pancake. Ryan and I make these on Thursdays mornings when we only have a bit of time together.  This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson. Full of easy, deceptively luxurious little treats, it’s a go-to when you have a little time on your hands and some room in your belly. I use sheep’s milk ricotta in mine and toss in a little yogurt for tang.

Ricotta Hotcakes


9 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sheep’s ricotta

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup plain yogurt

2 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

2 tablespoons butter

any topping, fruit or otherwise


Put the ricotta, milk, yogurt and egg yolks into a bowl and mix well to combine. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt and gently whisk to make a smooth batter.

Beat the egg whites until they become foamy and then fold them into the ricotta-milk mixture.

Melt the butter in a warm cast-iron pan, and drop in heaping spoonfuls of the batter. Cook the hotcakes for about a minute, until the little bubbles are popping on the surface, and them flip them over, cooking for about another minute longer.

We love them with more butter and a generous helping of blackberry jam, but any fruit or maple syrup is equally pleasurable.

Makes about 20 small hotcakes.





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