Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen


Archive for the ‘Sweets’


Maple Apple Butter 0

Posted on December 05, 2012 by Sahar

I can’t really say what my favorite food season might be. They each have their own delights.

But, I will say Autumn ranks in the top 4.  Especially when the apples really begin to show up.

Malus Domestica.  The fruit that brought down Adam & Eve.  Ubiquitous in myth and symbolism since, well, forever.

Likely the earliest fruit tree to be cultivated.

I enjoy an apple on its own, with some really good cheese, or in a pie.  But, I have to honestly say, my new favorite way is in apple butter.

Enjoying apple butter is a new thing for me.  In the past the ones I’ve eaten have all been your basic commercial brands.  I always found them either too sweet or too bland.  So, when I finally began to make it myself, I realized that, yes, apple butter could be good. Delicious, even.

If I do say so myself.

However, I have to say I can’t take full credit for this recipe.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe from a wonderful book, Tart & Sweet. (Kelly Geary & Jessie Knadler. Rosedale Books, 2010).  The big differences between my recipe and theirs is that: a) I use maple syrup as opposed to maple sugar.  Maple sugar can be difficult to find and very expensive (generally $15 for a 6-oz jar).  Maple syrup, while not cheap, is an excellent alternative that is easily found in just about any grocery store; b) I use brown sugar. I prefer the flavor over white sugar; c) I use a larger mixture of sweet spices; and, d) I don’t puree the apples.

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Now, to the recipe.

A note:  If you want/need a more thorough explanation of the how’s and why’s of making sweet preserves, please go to my August 10, 2012 post “Classic Strawberry Jam”.

The Ingredients

My sweet and spice (clockwise from top): Brown sugar. ground ginger, ground cloves, ground allspice, grated nutmeg. Center: kosher salt, star anise

I prefer to use whole nutmeg instead of ground. The flavor is so much better. And, as with all spices, it lasts much longer in its seed/whole form.

The whole nutmeg seed.

My nutmeg grater. A very small Microplane. It’s the best one I’ve ever owned.

The inside of the nutmeg seed. It looks strange. But smells lovely.

 

4 lbs. mixed apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4′s

1 cup maple syrup (Be sure it’s pure maple syrup. Not the fake stuff.)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 whole star anise (optional)

3 tsp. total mixed sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger)

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp.)

 

I used 3 varieties of apples in this recipe.  My base apple is always Granny Smith.  I love its sweet-tart taste and firm texture.  It’s generally considered one of the best cooking apples.  My other 2 apples are Honeycrisp and McIntosh (use any varieties you like).  I like the taste of both and it adds a depth of flavor to the final product.  However, if you want to use all one variety, it’s up to you.

Of course, I begin the prep by peeling and coring the apples.  I use a vegetable peeler for the apples.  I know some who use a paring knife to peel apples, but I’ve never mastered that technique.  I also use a melon baller for coring.  I find the tube-style corers don’t actually core the apple, rip them up, and are rather useless in general.

Peeling the apples.

Be sure you have a sharp peeler or paring knife. You want to take off the peel, not rip up the apple.  Also, a dull peeler or knife will slip and you could get a rather nasty cut. Not fun.

Peeled.

Coring the apple. Note the use of the melon baller.

Ta Da!

Cutting out the stem and blossom ends.

Cleaned and ready to go. Now, just do that another dozen or so times.

If you are using star anise, you want to wrap it in a bit of cheesecloth before you put it in with the apples.  I learned this the hard way.  The star anise can break up during cooking and stirring.  And, if you don’t get out all the pieces, someone will get a rather unpleasant surprise.

Whole star anise.

The wrapped star anise.

1.  Place the apples, syrup. sugar, salt, star anise (if using), spices, and lemon juice in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot.

All the ingredients ready to cook.

Cover the stock pot and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir occasionally.

2.  Lower the heat to medium-low, partially uncover the stockpot, and cook until the apples are soft.  Stir frequently.  The apples will begin to soften within 15 – 20 minutes. (I like to leave the stockpot partially covered so I don’t lose the moisture too quickly and risk burning the ingredients.)

Partially uncovered stockpot.

After 15 minutes. The apples are beginning to soften.

After 30 minutes. The apples are beginning to break down.

After 45 minutes. The apples are now soft enough to mash or puree.

2.  After 45 minutes, remove the stockpot from the heat.  With either a potato masher or an immersion blender (depending on what texture you prefer), carefully mash or puree the apples. (Be careful of the little packet of star anise.  Just pull it out when you get ready to process the apples and put it back in when you’re done.)

I prefer a little texture in my apple butter, so I use a potato masher on the apples.

After mashing the apples.

 

3.  Place the uncovered stockpot back on the heat.  Turn the heat down to low.  Cook for another 15 – 30 minutes, depending how thick a consistency you want. Stir frequently.

The finished apple butter. Close-up view.

Pull out the packet of star anise and discard it.

4.  Carefully ladle the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace in the jar. (See my August 10, 2012 post “Classic Strawberry Jam” on how to process jars for canning.)

Ladling the apple butter into jars.

Filling the jar to the correct level.

Checking the headspace in the jar. It’s extremely important that this is correct.

Check for and remove as many air bubbles as possible.

Removing the air bubbles.

Wipe the rims clean with a damp towel. (This helps the jars to seal properly.)

Wiping the jar rims with a damp paper towel.

Place the lids on top and then the ring. Screw on the rings to finger-tight. (Be sure not to over-tighten. The air needs to escape during processing.)

Put the jars back into the hot water.  Process for 15 minutes. (Start timing when the water comes back to a boil.)

Processing the apple butter.

After the apple buter has been processed, carefully remove the jars from the canner and set on racks to cool. (I use a towel lined baking sheet to transport the jars. It’s safer and easier.)

Let the jars sit and cool.  As the jars cool, the lids should seal.  You’ll hear a “ping” sound as they begin to seal.  This can take up to 24 hours.  After the jars are sealed, you can tighten the rims.  If you have a jar that doesn’t seal, refrigerate and eat the apple butter within 3 weeks.

Be sure to label and date the jars.  The apple butter keeps for a year, unopened (recommended).  Once it’s opened, eat within 3 weeks.

Yields 4 – 6 half pints.

Yummy, yummy, yummy.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Lime Pie (with a bonus at the end!) 0

Posted on May 31, 2012 by Sahar

Key Lime Pie is the ultimate symbol of food from Florida. Specifically, the Florida Keys.  No one really knows when the first Key Lime Pies were made or who made them since there’s no documentation.  However, according to historians, the most likely candidate is a ship salvager turned millionaire named William Curry.  He had a cook known only as Aunt Sally.  She supposedly created the pie in the late 19th Century.

Other historians believe that fisherman off the Keys, off to sea for long periods of time, created the pie as a way to help preserve their supplies, especially eggs.

Sweetened condensed milk was used because, until the Overseas Highway was built in 1930, there was a lack of fresh milk, ice,  and refrigeration on the Keys.  To this day, it is the key to making the pie so creamy.

The other main ingredient is, of course, key limes.  The key lime tree is native to Malaysia and most likely arrived in the Keys in the 16th Century with the Spanish explorers.  They are about the size of a golf ball with a yellow-green skin.  Their juice is sweeter than the more common Persian limes.

As a fun little political aside, in 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr. introduced legislation calling for a $100 fine to be levied against anyone advertising Key Lime Pie that isn’t made with key limes. The bill didn’t pass.

(Some historical information from whatscookingamerica.net)

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Now, to the recipe.

The Ingredients

 

Of course, the purist, like Rep. Papy, would say that the only true Key Lime Pie is made with fresh key lime juice. And they would be right.  However, many of us don’t have access to fresh key limes, or, if we do, the time to juice & zest about 20 – 30 to make this pie.

I use a combination of fresh lime juice and bottled key lime juice.  The most common brand of key lime juice is Nellie & Joe’s.  However, if you can find fresh key limes, and have the time to prepare them, by all means, use them.

Another question is what kind of crust to use: pastry or graham cracker? My own personal preference is pastry.  More specifically, cookie.  Which is what I do in this recipe.  And, because the crust recipe here is essentially a cookie recipe, it isn’t going to behave like a regular pie crust.

Meringue, whipped cream, or plain?  Again, it’s up to the baker.  I like meringue.  It’s also most likely the original topping since heavy cream wouldn’t have been available in the Keys before the 1930′s.  In this recipe I use an Italian Meringue.  It’s made with a hot sugar syrup as opposed to granulated sugar.  It makes an excellent, stable meringue that is almost reminiscent of a fluffy cake frosting.

One more thing.  True Key Lime Pie doesn’t have green food coloring.  The color of the pie should be a light yellow-green color.  If you see a pie that has a fluorescent green hue, walk away.  It’s most likely a pre-made mix.

Also, I prefer a more tart pie than many people.  Many of the key lime pies I’ve tasted really put the emphasis on sweet rather than lime.  I feel I’ve remedied that here.  It’s more of a sweet-tart flavor.

 

Shortbread Cookie Crust

2c. (9 oz.) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. citrus zest (optional)

1/2 c. light brown sugar

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

 

Key Lime Filling

2 cans sweetened condensed milk (don’t use non-fat. Yuk.)

3 egg yolks

1 1/4 c. lime juice (I use a combination of fresh Persian lime & bottled key lime in this recipe. However, you can use all fresh of one or the other)

2 tbsp. lime zest

 

Italian Meringue

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

2 tbsp. light corn syrup (keeps the syrup from “sugaring up” or solidifying)

6 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (if you don’t have this, it’s all right.  However, it does act as a stabilizer for the whites)

 

1.  Make the crust: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl.  If you’re using the zest, toss that into the dry ingredients as well.

Weighing the flour.

 

Zesting the limes. The Microplane is a perfect tool for this. It takes off the outer peel while leaving behind the bitter white pith. If you don't own a Microplane, go get one.

 

The dry ingredients and zest mixed together.

 

2.  In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

The butter & sugar in the bowl.

 

Beating together the sugar & butter.

 

You want a fluffy, aerated mixture. This will help with the texture of the crust.

 

3.  Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the flour mixture.

Adding the flour to the butter & sugar

 

Keep mixing until the flour is completely incorporated.

 

4.  Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a slightly flattened disk.  Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and chill for at least 3 hours.

The dough ready for the refrigerator

 

Note: At this point, you can simply use this dough for cookies.  Delicious.

 

5.  After you’ve let the dough chill, take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 15 – 20 minutes to let it soften slightly.  When you roll out the dough, you want it to be firm but not rock-hard.

Dough ready for rolling.

 

6.  Unwrap the dough and lay it on a floured surface and lightly sprinkle the top with more flour.  Alternately, you can sandwich the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap.

7.  Roll the dough out, starting from the center and working out to the edges.  Turn the dough a 1/4 turn each time you pass the pin over it.  This will help make a more even thickness as well as, especially if you’re using a floured surface, keeping the dough from sticking.  Use more flour if you need to, but try to use as little as possible.  Too much flour will make the crust tough and dry.

Note:  Again, remember, this is a cookie dough.  It is not going to behave the same way as a regular pie dough.  Because of the high butter content, this dough will get very soft, very fast as you work it.  If the dough cracks while you’re rolling, just press it back together.  If you give up on trying to roll it out (and believe me, I have a couple of times), you can simply take pieces of dough and press them into the pie plate.  Trust me, though, the results are worth a little frustration.

Getting ready to roll the dough.

 

8.  When you’re done rolling, take a 9-inch pie plate and measure the dough.  There should be approximately 3 – 4 inches of extra dough around the outer edges of the pie plate.

Measuring the pie dough.

 

9.  Now for the fun part.  Carefully flip the dough onto the pie plate and shape the dough into the plate.  Trim any dough overhanging the edges to a 1″ overhang. (if you don’t have any overhang, it’s all right.) Use whatever scraps you have to patch up any holes, tears, or spots and the edge that are a little short of dough.

Save the scraps for cookies.

Getting ready to flip the dough

 

A not entirely successful flip

 

If your dough looks like this after you've flipped it into the pie plate, don't despair. All will be well.

 

After a little repair work. See? I told you it all comes together.

 

10.  Tuck under the overhang around the edges. (If you have any.  The most important thing is that the crust is as even a thickness as possible.).  Finish the edges as you like.  Use a fork to prick a few holes in the crust and place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Pie crust ready for the freezer. Freezing the crust will help to keep it from melting & burning in the oven when you par-bake it later.

 

11.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.  Grease a piece of foil or parchment paper on one side with spray.  Set aside.

12.  Take the pie crust out of the freezer, place it on a baking sheet, and press the foil or paper down into it.  Fill the foil or paper with pie weights (i.e. dried beans, lentils, or rice) and place the pie crust in the oven.

Raw crust filled with pie weights ready for the oven.

 

13.  Par-bake the crust for 30 minutes.  Take the crust out of the oven, carefully remove the foil or paper and the weights.  Wrap the edges in foil, if needed, and bake an additional 8 – 10 minutes.

Note:  There will be a bit of melting of the crust, especially the outer edge.  It’s inevitable given the fact this is cookie dough.  When the crust comes out of the oven, it will be very soft and fragile.  Hence, the cookie sheet.

Finished par-baked crust

 

14.  Take the crust from the oven and let it cool completely.  At this stage, of you like, once the crust is cool, you can carefully wrap it in plastic and place it in the refrigerator.

15.  While the crust is cooling, you an make the filling.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up.  Add the condensed milk, lime juice, and zest.  Whisk until you have an even, well combined mixture.  The filling will thicken upon standing.  Set aside or cover and refrigerate.

Egg yolks & lime zest.

 

After adding the lime juice

 

After adding the sweetened condensed milk. Yummy stuff.

 

16.  Once the crust has cooled completely, wrap the edges in foil (to prevent any further browning)

Wrapped edges.

 

Carefully pour in the filling.

Ready for the oven.

 

Place the filled pie on the baking sheet (if you haven’t done so already) and put the pie back into a preheated 350F oven for 35 – 45 minutes. If your oven has a hot spot, and most ovens do, rotate the baking sheet about halfway through the initial baking time.

The center should be a bit wobbly when you take it from the oven.  It will firm up as the pie cools.

 

Note:  This is a very important thing to remember.  When you are making ANY type of cream pie, you must pay attention to the baking time & doneness of the filling.  I didn’t the first time around when I was making the pie for this post.

I had workmen in my house that day and became distracted.  So, here is what happened:

What you don't want to see. An overcooked cream pie.

 

The overcooked proteins have basically squeezed out all the liquid causing the filling to separate.

 

So, what you’ll end up with, if you aren’t paying attention, is essentially sweet-tart scrambled eggs.  And I’m fairly certain none of you will be going for that.  The pie will still taste good, but the texture will be, well, funky.

Eat the pie yourself or dress it up and give it to someone you don’t like very much.

Here is what you want to see:

A smooth, creamy pie

 

Let the pie cool completely.  (I usually cover it once it’s cooled and place it in the refrigerator overnight.)

 

17.  Make the meringue: Separate the eggs using the 3-bowl method (see my blog post “Mom’s Favorite” on how to do this).  Place the egg whites & cream of tartar in a mixer bowl and set aside.

Egg whites & cream of tartar ready to go.

Make the sugar syrup:  In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.

Sugar syrup getting ready to boil

 

18.  Once the syrup reached 240F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage):

Syrup at 240F

 

begin whisking the egg whites on high speed until they are frothy:

Frothy egg whites.

 

19.  Once the sugar syrup reaches between 245F & 250F (firm ball stage), remove the saucepan from the heat.

Syrup at 250F. You don't want it to get any hotter than this or the whites will too stiff to work with later.

 

Turn the mixer down to medium speed.  CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY pour the hot syrup into the whites, avoiding the whip.

Carefully pouring the sugar syrup into the whites.

 

(A hot syrup burn is really, really painful.  There’s a reason pastry chefs call this stuff napalm.  Do not give this to the kids to do, be sober, and pay attention.)

Once you have poured in all the sugar syrup, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and continue whisking the whites until they are firm and shiny.  The bowl should be just warm to the touch when they’re done.

Whisking the egg whites after all the syrup has been added

 

The finished egg whites. These could be used as a cake frosting at this point.

 

20.  Turn your oven on to broil (you may want to take a rack out) or have a torch ready to go. I usually set my oven on “Broil” setting and turn the temperature to 450F.

21.  Pile the meringue on top of the pie.  Spread it all the way to the edge of the crust and smooth or spike it out as you like (there will be A LOT of meringue).

An almost comical amount of meringue.

 

Ready for the oven.

 

Place the pie in the lower part of the oven and let the meringue brown.  Watch it carefully, though.  It can burn quickly.  About 60 – 90 seconds is all it will take.

If you have a torch, brown the meringue with that if you like.  You can direct the heat more directly and make the browning more even.

PIe! Yummy!

 

A cross section. It was really, really good.

 

Store any uneaten pie, covered, in the refrigerator.  It’ll keep for about 3 – 4 days.

 

Enjoy!

 

P.S.  Remember what I said about saving the scraps for cookies?

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Have your oven preheated to 350F.

2.  Roll out the leftover dough into a 1/8 – 1/4″ thickness, depending on how crunchy or soft you like your shortbread cookies.

3.  Cut the cookies out into your desired shape.

Cutting out cookies

 

4.  Place the cut cookies onto the baking sheet about 1″ apart.  If you like, sprinkle them with a little turbinado (raw) sugar before baking:

Ready for the oven

 

5.  Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes.  Depending on the thickness and how brown you like them.  Turn the baking sheet about halfway through the initial cooking time.

6.  When the cookies are done, let them cool slightly on the baking sheet then transfer to a rack.  The cookie yield depends on how much leftover dough you have and how thick you make the cookies.

All done!

 

Bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Pie Primer 0

Posted on May 15, 2012 by Sahar

Pie. Something everyone seems to love. They can be sweet or savory. Snack, main meal, or dessert.  And, I have no doubt many of us have eaten pie for breakfast more than once. Especially during the holidays.

Pie in form or another has been around for millennia.  The original pies had crusts that were several inches thick that were simply used as cooking vessels.  The crusts weren’t actually eaten.  Historians say that the roots of pie can be traced back to the Egyptians of the Neolithic Period, around 9500BCE.  These early forms of pies were essentially free-form made with oat, wheat, rye, barley, and filled with honey baked over hot coals.

The first pies were called “coffins”, meaning basket or box.  They were savory meat pies with tall, straight-sided sides with tops and bottoms.  Open crust pies were known as “traps”.  These were baked more like what we now know as a casserole and were made with meats and sauce.  Again, the crust itself was the cooking vessel and was inedible.  A tradition of these early pies was carried on by the Greeks. Historians believe that the Greeks actually originated pie pastry. The pies during this period were made by a flour-water paste wrapped around meat; this served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.

The Romans, sampling the delicacy, carried home recipes for making it (a prize of victory from a conquered Greece). The wealthy and educated Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course. According to historical records, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and other meats and fish were normal in Roman puddings. It is thought that the puddings were a lot like pies.

English women were baking pies long before the settlers came to America. Pie was an English specialty that was unrivaled in the rest of Europe. Two early examples of the English meat pies were shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. Shepherd’s pie was made with lamb and vegetables, and the cottage pie was made with beef and vegetable. Both are topped with potatoes.

The Pilgrims brought their favorite family pie recipes with them to America. The colonist and their pies adapted simultaneously to the ingredients and techniques available to them in the New World. At first, they baked pie with berries and fruits pointed out to them by the Native Americans. Colonial women used round pans literally to cut corners and stretch the ingredients (for the same reason they baked shallow pies).

Pioneer women often served pies with every meal, thus firmly cementing this pastry into a unique form of American culture. With food at the heart of gatherings and celebrations, pie quickly moved to the forefront of contests at county fairs, picnics, and other social events. As settlers moved westward, American regional pies developed. Pies are continually being adapted to changing conditions and ingredients.

(Some historical information from http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PieHistory.htm)

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A few notes on making pie crust: Pie crusts are fundamentally easy to make.  However, they are also one of the most seemingly complicated recipes to master.  There are so many things that could keep you from pie crust success: overworking the dough, a crust that shrinks when baked, a crust that isn’t flaky.

Pie dough, for the most part, if your treat it right, is quite forgiving.  If it tears, it’s easily patched.  You can trim it and add to places that don’t have enough dough (especially for the rim of the crust).  If the crust gets soft while you roll it, you can wrap it and place it back in the refrigerator to rest.  It’s easily frozen.

There are just a few rules to follow when starting a crust:

1.  Make sure the fat you use (lard, shortening, butter) is cold. The reason for this is that the fat doesn’t melt when you work it into the dry ingredients.

2. Use ice water.  This will also keep the fat from melting.  However, don’t use too much because your dough can become tough.  Too little, the dough won’t hold together.

3.  Don’t overwork the dough. If you overwork the dough, you’ll develop the gluten (fine for bread, not for pastry).

4.  Give the dough adequate rest time.  This allows the gluten proteins to rest and the moisture to distribute evenly in the dough.

5.  When you make the dough, you want to see bits of fat and keep it as cold as possible until you put in the oven.  As the crust bakes, the fat melts and creates steam.  The steam in the dough is what creates the flaky crust.

 

There will be more tips as you go through the recipe.

 

Mixed Berry Pie with Lattice Crust

 

The Ingredients

 

Crust

2 2/3 c. (12 oz.) all purpose flour (the best flour for pie crusts)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 lb. ( 2 sticks) plus 2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into approximately 1/2″ pieces

5 – 8 tbsp. ice water, as needed

 

Filling

7 c. fresh washed berries (you can use any mix of berries you like, or just one berry)

-or-

3 bags frozen mixed berries (ditto.)

3 tbsp. cornstarch

3 tbsp. tapioca

-or-

6 tbsp. tapioca flour

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

-or-

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

 

1 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp. water

 

1.  Make the crust:  If you are making the crust by hand, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl

Weighing the flour.

 

Add the butter and press it between your fingers into the flour.  You want to have little disks of butter.  Add in just enough ice water (about 5 tablespoons to start) and carefully toss the ingredients together.  You want the dough to just come together when you press it in your hand.  If the dough is dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together.

If you’re using a food processor (as I did for this recipe), pulse together the dry ingredients:

Dry ingredients pulsed together

 

Add the butter:

Butter ready to be incorporated into the flour

 

Do 2 or 3 quick pulses to break down the pieces of butter and begin incorporating it into the dry ingredients:

Butter & Flour after pulsing

 

You want to have pieces of butter visible.  This is what helps make the crust flaky:

The pieces of butter in the flour.

 

Add 5 tablespoons of the water and do a few more quick pulses.  Add more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Again, you just want the mixture to come together:

After the water has been added

 

The dough just coming together after being squeezed in my hand

 

2.  Separate the dough into two equal pieces.  I like to weigh the dough so I’ll get the disks as even as possible:

Weighing the dough

 

Press the dough into disk shapes and wrap them tightly in plastic:

The dough ready for the refrigerator. Notice the pieces of butter in the dough. This is what you want to see.

 

Place the dough in the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 2 hours.

 

3.  Meanwhile, make the filling. (If you are using fresh berries, do this just before you roll out the crust; if you’re using frozen, do this about an hour before rolling out the dough.)

In a large bowl. toss the berries with the cornstarch, tapioca, sugar, ginger and nutmeg.

The berries and spices, etc. ready to mix

 

Berries after mixing. Now, let them sit. Stir occasionally.

 

Set the berries aside and let them macerate. Be sure to stir the berries occasionally so the dry ingredients are distributed evenly.  The have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the bowl otherwise.

4.  Remove one of the disks of dough from the oven and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to warm and soften slightly.  (You want the dough to be firm when you roll it out, but not rock-hard.)

Unwrap the dough and lay one disk on a lightly floured surface.  If you like, you can place a piece of plastic or wax paper over the top of the dough as well.

Getting ready to roll the dough

 

5.  Roll out the dough starting at the 12 o’clock position.  Roll away from you and then back towards you at 6 o’clock.

Rolling the dough.

 

Rotate the dough 1/4 turn.  Repeat.  By doing this, you’re making sure the dough doesn’t stick at the bottom (lightly flour if necessary) and you’ll roll out the dough more evenly.

Picking up the dough and rotating it 1/4 turn as I'm rolling

 

Be sure to apply equal pressure over the whole surface of the dough to keep as even a thickness as possible.  Just roll up to the edge of the dough, not over.

Rolling the dough.

 

Still turning the dough 1/4 turn after each pass with the rolling pin. This will also help you better gauge if you need any more flour as you roll. If you add too much, the dough can become dry and tough.

 

6.  Remove the plastic or wax paper (if using) from the top of your dough.  Place your pie plate upside down in the center of the dough to measure it’s diameter.  Ideally, you want the dough to extend out at least 3 inches on all sides.

Measuring the rolled dough. It's about 1/8" thickness at this point

 

Take the pie plate off the dough and set aside.

Very lightly flour the top of the dough.  Take the rolling pin from one end and begin to carefully to roll the dough around the pin:

Rolling the dough over the pin.

 

Take the pin to the pie plate, hold it over one side and carefully unwrap the dough by again rolling the pin across of the top of the pie plate. (Don’t press down on the edge of the plate.  You’ll run the risk of cutting the dough.)

Transferring the crust into the pie plate

 

7.  Start shaping the pie dough into the pie plate by lifting the edges and setting the dough into the plate.  Don’t press or stretch the dough.  Not only will it tear, but it will also shrink during baking.

Shaping the dough into the pie plate

 

Shaping the dough into the pie plate

 

Pie crust in the pie plate. Ready for the refrigerator.

 

Once you have the pie crust in the pie plate, trim the outer edges to a 1″ overhang.  Use the scraps to patch any holes or cracks in the dough.  Place the pie plate in the refrigerator to rest as you roll out the second piece of dough.

8.  Unwrap the dough and follow the same rolling instructions from Step 5.

9.  Either by eye (if you can do this, more power to you) or with a ruler (my preferred method), cut 10 strips of dough 3/4″ wide each.

Measuring & cutting the dough for the lattice top

 

Because I'm terrible at spacial stuff

 

10.  Mix the berries one more time (and you should’ve been doing this all along anyway), and remove the pie plate from the refrigerator.  Carefully fill the pie plate with the berries and dot the top with the butter.

The berries after a bit of maceration time.

 

Berries and butter in the crust ready for the lattice top

 

11.  Lay five strips of dough across the top of the pie, spaced evenly apart.  Be sure there is some overhang off the sides, especially the center.

Beginning the lattice top

 

Pull back alternating strips of dough and place a piece in the center:

Pulling back alternating strips of dough

 

Laying the top piece.

 

Lay the strips back down.  Again, fold alternating strips of dough and lay another strip of dough across.  Do this 3 more times.  Then, you’ll have a lattice top:

The lattice top. Almost finished.

 

Trim the edges back to a 1″ overhang, tuck the edges back under the rim of the pie crust and crimp the edges as you like.

All shaped, glazed, and ready to go.

 

Brush the crust with egg wash and, if you like, sprinkle on a little turbinado (raw) sugar or crystal (decorating) sugar.  Place the pie in the refrigerator for an hour or in the freezer for 20 minutes.

12.  Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with foil and place it in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  Carefully take the pie out of the refrigerator or freezer and carefully place it on the baking sheet in the oven.  Immediately turn the temperature down to 375F.  Using the preheated baking sheet helps the bottom of the pie seal quickly.

Pie ready for the oven. The foil around the edges of the pie is an option. My oven bakes hot, so I like to use them.

 

If you like, you can wrap the edges of the pie with some foil to keep the edges of the crust from browning too quickly.  If the top is browning too quickly, you can place a piece of foil, shiny side up, to keep it from over-browning.

Bake the pie for 60-75 minutes.  You want to see juices bubbling from the center, that way you know the pie is cooked through.

By the way, there will be a lot of juices and this pie will be a little messy.  Hence the foil on the baking sheet.

13.  Carefully remove the pie from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours to let the pie set up.

The finished pie. Notice the lovely juices. Yummy.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Favorite 0

Posted on April 30, 2012 by Sahar

Angel Food Cake has always reminded me of my Mom.  Why?  Because it’s her favorite.  Because it’s something that makes her happy. Because it’s something seemingly delicate yet strong.

Her mother made it for her birthday every year with chocolate sauce.  If I happen to be with  Mom on her birthday, I always make Angel Food Cake.

I also like it because it’s delicious.  It tastes a little like toasted marshmallows to me.

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Some food historians believe that the Angel Food Cakes were likely baked by African-American slaves in the early to mid 19th Century, since making this cake required a strong beating arm and lots of labor to whip the air into the whites.  Angel Food Cakes are also a traditional African-American favorite at post-funeral meals.

In “Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book, and Companion for Frugal and Economical“, published in 1871, has a recipe for “Snow-Drift Cake”. A similar recipe appears in 1881 in a book by Abby Fisher, the first Black American woman and a former slave from Mobile, Alabama, who recorded her recipes in a cookbook called “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc.”. Her book has a cake recipe named “Silver Cake”.

The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book” by Mrs.D.A. Lincoln published in 1884 had a recipe for “Angel Cake” mentioning the name for the first time. In Fannie Merritt Farmer’s 1896 updated version of the “Boston Cooking School Cook Book“, she uses the same recipe and calls the cake “Angel Food Cake.”

(some historical information from Wikipedia)

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There is the school of thought that Angel Food Cake was so named because of it’s lighter color and texture.  It is suitable for the Angels to eat.  On the other hand, it’s slightly more decadent counterpart, Devil’s Food Cake, is darker, richer, and is considered more sinful. Exactly what the Devil would eat.

It reminds me of Muhammad Ali’s statement, ” Angel food cake is the white cake, but the devils food cake is chocolate. When are we going to wake up as a people and end the lie that white is better than black?”

I just had to add that.  It’s always stuck with me.

*******************

Once again, now to the recipe:

Now, to be honest, an Angel Food Cake isn’t for the cake-making novice.  There are so many things that could, can, and will go wrong if you don’t have the confidence and expertise when you bake.

Hell, things could still go wrong even if you do have plenty of baking experience.  I can tell you that with all sincerity.

 

Angel Food Cake Ingredients

 

1/2 c. 10x, or Confectioners, sugar

1 c. Pastry Flour (I admittedly use bleached in this recipe.  Just this recipe)

10 ea. Egg Whites (be sure they’re room temperature)

1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar

2 tsp. Vanilla or Almond Extract (be sure to get pure extract, not imitation flavoring)

1 c. Granulated Sugar

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

2.  Sift together the 10x sugar and the pastry flour.  Set aside.

The sifted 10x sugar & pastry flour

 

When you measure out the pastry flour and 10x sugar, be sure to use the scoop & sweep method of measuring (see “Baking the Perfect Biscuit”, 12/18/11).  Otherwise, your cake runs the risk of having too much dry ingredient weight and you’ll deflate the whites and end up with a heavy cake that won’t rise.

2.  In a large mixer bowl, pour in the egg whites.

The 3-Bowl method of separating eggs.

 

There is a kind of art to separating eggs.  When you want egg whites, that’s all you want, egg whites.  Any additional fat (i.e. yolks) in the whites will keep them from potentially reaching full volume. Hence the 3-bowl method for separating egg whites.

You break the egg into one bowl.  If the yolk isn’t broken, you carefully lift it out of the bowl  and place it in the second bowl.  Then you pour the white into the third bowl.  If the yolk breaks, you pour the whole egg in with the yolks.  If there is any yolk left in the first bowl, wash it out or get a clean bowl.

By using this method, you’ll always have pure egg whites ready for your cake.

Cover the yolks and use them for something else.  Like a very rich omelet or lemon curd.

 

3.  The next thing you want are for your egg whites to be at room temperature.  This allows for the proteins in the whites to relax and allow the strands to be broken so they will incorporate more air as you whip them.

Add the whip attachment to your mixer (or break out your hand mixer).  Add the cream of tartar to the whites (this helps with the stabilization of the whites as you whip them).  Begin beating the whites at medium-high speed until they form soft peaks. Add the extract.

Just starting to whip the egg whites.

 

Frothy stage.

 

Almost to soft peak stage. Notice how the whites are becoming shinier and the bubbles are getting smaller.

 

Egg whites at soft peak stage. When you pull the whisk or beaters out of the whites, there will be a distinct peak, but it will bend a bit. And the egg whites are still soft.

 

4.  Continue whisking the whites until they form stiff peaks.

Egg whites beaten to stiff peaks. The whites will have a bit of a shine and the peaks will stand straight when you pull the whisk or beaters out. The whites will also feel almost heavy.

 

When you get to still peak stage, you want to be sure not to over beat the whites.  If you do that, the whites will begin to separate.  The whites will dry and the liquid will seep out.  There is no saving it.  You have to start over if this happens.

 

5.  Lower the speed of the mixer to low and slowly pour in the granulated sugar.  You don’t want to put all the sugar in at once because you want to give the whites a chance to dissolve the sugar and mix in more evenly.

Incorporating the sugar.

 

Raise the speed again to medium-high and continue beating the whites until they become stiff and shiny.  Again, take care not to over beat.

The beaten, sweetened egg whites. Just lovely.

 

6.  Carefully turn the whites out into a large, shallow bowl.

The egg whites in the bowl. You have to be careful when transferring because you don't want to deflate the whites.

 

Sift the reserved flour and 10x sugar mixture in 1/3rd’s over the whites and fold the dry ingredients into the whites.

Folding is a method of mixing that is much more gentle (if done properly) that will keep the deflation of the whites to a minimum.  Because the millions of air bubbles in the whites are what make the cake rise (hot air rises), you want to deflate them as little as possible.

 

 

Folding: Step 1

 

To fold the dry ingredients into the whites, Step 1:  Take a rubber spatula and put it into the center of the whites.

Folding: Step 2

 

Step 2: Slide the spatula underneath the whites and begin to bring it up the side.

 

Folding: Step 3

 

Step 3: Bring the spatula up over the tops of the whites and fold the whites back down into the center.  Turn the bowl a 1/4 turn and repeat until you have all of the dry ingredients incorporated.  Try not to over mix. Be as gentle as possible.

 

 

After the dry ingredient have been folded into the whites.

 

7.  Carefully move the batter into an ungreased Angel Food Cake Pan:

2 pieces of an Angel Food Cake pan: The Bowl and Chimney/Base.

 

The pan together. The chimney is to help with more even baking of the cake. This cake pan belonged to my Great Aunt Arlene.

 

There are two main reasons you don’t want to grease the pan: a) because you don’t want any fat to impede the rising of the whites; and b) the whites will use the dry pan to hold on to and even use it to climb up the sides of the pan during baking.

 

The cake ready for the oven

 

8.  Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched on top.

Cake fresh from the oven. The top will have a slightly crispy texture.

 

9.  As soon as possible after the cake is taken from the oven, invert the cake pan onto a narrow-necked bottle (a wine bottle is perfect).  This will help keep the deflation of the cake to a minimum (by keeping it it from collapsing under it’s own weight).  There will be some deflation as the cake cools no matter what because as the air in the cake cools, the lighter hot air dissipates and the heavier cool air takes its place.

Science!

Cooling the cake over a rather nice merlot.

 

Leave the cake in this position until it is completely cooled.

 

10.  When the cake is completely cooled, run a knife around the outer edge of the cake to help release it from the bowl of the pan.  Pull, carefully, on the chimney and pull the cake out.

Cake!

 

At this point, you can do one of two things to finish releasing the cake: a) Run a knife around the chimney and around the base to release the cake; or, do what I do, and, b) simply run a knife around the center and cut pieces off as needed.  Then I store the uncut cake in the pan and cover it.

Wish Mom was here right now.

 

Sorry about the lighting. My bulbs seem to be a little yellow.  I swear the cake is white.

This cake, by the way, is excellent with chocolate sauce and strawberries.  Mmm…

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cajeta Bliss… 0

Posted on January 29, 2012 by Sahar

One of the great things about living in Texas are the traditions of Mexico.  Of course, Texas was part of Mexico prior to the Texas Revolution of 1836.  But, even after the Texicans took over, most of the Mexican traditions that were here before stayed, thrived, and were & are loved.

Especially the food.

Here is one of my favorite recipes: Cajeta.  Goat’s milk caramel.  The word came from the Spanish phrase “al punto de cajeta”, which means a liquid thickened to the point at which a spoon drawn through the liquid reveals the bottom of the pot in which it is being cooked.

No doubt you’ve seen cajeta on shelves in the grocery, especially those that cater to the Hispanic market.  My favorite off-the-shelf brand is Coronado.  Cajeta can be used as an ice cream topping, in sweet recipes, over apples, on and in cakes, on churros (sweet fried dough), and even eaten straight out of the jar.

Admit it. We’ve all done it.

Now, to the nuts and bolts of the recipe.  The most important thing is patience.  This is not a quick recipe.  It takes about 2 – 3 hours to cook.  If you do a larger quantity (this recipe is easily doubled), it could take 4 – 5 hours.

The second most important thing is a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  This will help keep the milk from scorching as you slowly cook it down.  If you use a thin-bottomed saucepan, the likelihood of scorching increases expedentially and all your work will be wasted.

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1 qt. goat’s milk (Do not use low fat)

1 c. brown sugar, packed (If you want a lighter colored cajeta, use white sugar)

2 tsp. vanilla extract (Do not use imitation vanilla. Yuk.)

1/2 tsp. salt (Use kosher or fine sea salt, not table salt)

1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp. water

 

Cajeta Ingredients

 

Have a large bowl or a large baking dish nearby.   In a 3-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Stir frequently until the mixture comes to a boil.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and place it in the bowl or baking dish.  Stir in the baking soda.  The mixture will foam up – a lot.  Hence the bowl or baking dish to contain the spill-over.

After adding the baking soda

What the baking soda basically does is change the chemical composition of the mixture to make it “softer”; i.e. to help keep it from sugaring up.

Keep stirring until the foaming subsides a bit.  If there is spill-over that has coated the outside and bottom of the saucepan, be sure to wipe it off before putting it back on the burner.  If you can, pour any milk that ran out of the saucepan back in.

 

After about 30 minutes over low heat

Continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently.  You don’t want to walk away for too long or you run the risk of scorching the milk.

After about 1 hour

 

The whole process will take about 2 – 3 hours.  It seems like a very long time, but the end result, when everything is done properly, it’s worth your time.

After about 1 1/2 hours. Note how the milk is beginning to thicken.

 

The thickened cajeta after roughly 2 - 2 1/2 hours

When you have reached the point where the cajeta has thickened significantly, be sure to stir constantly to keep the mixture from burning.  Continue cooking until the cajeta has reached 220F on a candy thermometer or until it thickly coats the back of a spoon.

The finished cajeta

When the cajeta is done, pour the mixture into a bowl or measuring cup.  If there is a any cajeta that looks like it might be too dark (like it’s about to burn), don’t scrape it off into the cup.

You’ll end up with roughly 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups of cajeta.

Final yield

 

This will keep in the refrigerator, covered or in an airtight container, for about 2 – 3 weeks.  If it lasts that long.  Try not to eat it all sitting in front of the TV.

 

Enjoy!

 

 



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