Thursday, July 15, 2010

Peach Red Currant Pie with a Whole Wheat Cinnamon Crust and Buttery Oatmeal Crumble

That title is a mouthful, isn't it? Well, I couldn't decide what aspects of this pie to highlight because everything about it is so freaking wonderful, so I opted to just say it all in the title. BECAUSE IT IS ALL WONDERFUL.

pie slice

pie with missing slices

I'm on my big California vacay right now at 205 View Court, land of milk and honey and bottomless pots of perfectly brewed fresh coffee. I love it here. I know most (some?) people ditch the internets when they go out of town, but this little foodie blog is my thing, you know? My labor of love. My little contribution. My cognitive dissonance. I enjoy researching, preparing, photographing, devouring, and sharing everything you see here. I find it mostly relaxing. And relaxing is what one's meant to do on vacation. So now I'm in California and I have two weeks to share some of the things that have been piling up because here - God Bless California - there are countless loving arms and goofy personalities to entertain my rather needy daughter. Yay for me! And dare I be so bold: yay for you.

On the night before we boarded our plane, I uploaded all my recent food pictures and typed up six draft posts with the recipe basics and a few random tidbits I didn't want to forget. My goal is to flesh them all out while I'm vacationing and post them for your viewing (baking? eating?) pleasure.

My first post was going to be spicy black bean burgers - SO FREAKING GOOD, plus I didn't want to have three desserts in a row because variety is the spice of life - but then I got an email from a friend of mine who happened to be at the party where the last third of the pie described herein happened to be polished off. She called it "AMAZING" - and I will love her forever for saying that because all I want in life is for my baked goods to be well-received and a compliment like that will suffice just fine thank you v. much - and asked if the recipe was on my blog. It wasn't yet, but I'm here to please so it got bumped to the top of the list.

pie crust collage

filled pie collage

Don't worry though - spicy black bean burgers are only a day or three away.

A few notes on Pie, the lovely cookbook that inspired the above-featured glorious creation. This cookbook is awesome. By which I mean, it is totally worth owning. It doesn't have as many pictures as I like in my cookbooks, and there are some super randoms in it for sure (Watermelon Rind Pie? I guess if we're preparing for our Next Great Depression.), but there is a recipe for almost every pie you have ever heard of and many you haven't, the few pictures that are included are beautiful, and all three of the pies I have made from the book have been excellent (Shoefly, Fresh Fig & Raspberry, Peach Red Currant). And I've only made three pies in my life, so if this book's recipes allowed this novice to make excellent pies on her first three tries, well, that fact just speaks for itself, right?

I combined and messed with a couple of recipes from his book in crafting this little darling. The pie crust is based on the Basic Flaky Pastry recipe and the rest is based mostly on a Peach-Sour Cherry Pie recipe but then I saw these gorgeous red currants at the farmer's market and one thing led to another and, well, yum. Enjoy, folks, enjoy.

red currants

Peach Red Currant Pie with Whole Wheat Cinnamon Crust and Buttery Oatmeal Crumble
Adapted from Pie by Ken Haedreich
Yield: 8-10 servings

Whole Wheat-Cinnamon Flaky Pie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup cold water

I used the food processor to make my pie crust and you should too. Put flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse the machine 5 or 6 times to cut it in. Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom. Scatter the shortening in now and pulse again 5 or 6 times. Stir with a fork again. Drizzle half the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5-6 times. Fluff the mixture one last time and sprinkle the remaining water on top. Pulse a few more times, until the dough starts to form clumps. Do this until it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump dough into a large bowl.

Using your hands, pack the pastry into a ball. Knead the ball once or twice, then flatten it into a 3/4" thick disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Pie Filling
4 cups ripe peaches
1 cup fresh red currants
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
Big pinch of each: freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon, ground ginger

On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin (mine was not floured and I used unfloured counter top - worked fine but only try it if you know your counter top v. well). Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2" pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the overhang with an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Combine the peaches, red currants, white sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Stir a bit and set aside for 10 minutes to juice.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the fruit and then add the spices. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top of the fruit with your hands. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces

Either pulse everything together in the food processor a few times until pea-sized chunks are mixed with finer crumbs, or accomplish same by just mixing it with your hands. The latter is v. rewarding and feels nice.

Remove the pie from the oven and reduce temp to 375. Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them outward with your hands to cover the whole surface. Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. (This is a v. good idea!) Continue to bake until the top is dark golden brown and the juices bubble thickly at the edge, 35-40 minutes. If the topping starts to get too dark, loosely cover the pie with tented aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes of baking. (I didn't have to do that last part.)

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours (preferably 3-4) before serving.

This is DELICIOUS. It also stored well at room temperature for three days and then in the refrigerator for another couple. I imagine it would freeze well too but can't speak to that with certainty. Next time though. When my freezer isn't full of baby food cubes and breastmilk.

Now if you'll excuse me... I have a second first birthday party to attend.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Honey Cake with Lemon and Herbs

How's everyone enjoying summer? So far so good? Loving the heat and humidity? Making it to those lakes and/or oceans? Thinking about the waves? Water skiing? Skinny dipping?

I knew it.


My mom (who can't swim) is on a river rafting (skinny dipping) trip right now with my dad (who's a fairly seasoned rafter), so I'm spending the current span of the summer worrying. That's my M.O. But my M.O. isn't what this blog's about. (That can be found here.)

With respect to the summery recipe that I've got for you today, I have the following to say: (a) That just rhymed. I'm a poet and you didn't know it. (b) Interesting that it's "summery" even though lemons are totally not in season, right? Totally at odds with my seasonal/local aspirations, but that didn't stop me so maybe it won't stop you. Now go drink a glass of lemonade made with Argentina's finest. (c) This cake will intrigue you. Repeatedly. At first bite, it is so unique and complex - with flavors more often associated with herbal tea than cake - that you will have to pause and decide whether it's actually tasty. But then you will keep going back for more bites because you are intrigued by the uniqueness and complexity and because, well, the texture of the cake is indubitably perfect. Then you will be done and you'll think, "Hmmmm. I think that was actually really good." But you still won't be super sure of yourself - this cake makes you insecure! - so you'll have another. And then pretty soon you'll have eaten half a cake. (d) It's even better the next day and, if you're lucky enough to experience it, even better than that on day three. (e) I'm sorry I didn't get better pictures because it's not an unattractive cake. The honey sort of seeps to the bottom of the pan giving it an upside-down-cake-type sheen. The herbs give it a sexy green hue. Unfortunately though, the battery on my camera was dead when I was making the cake and I didn't recharge it until the cake was half eaten. (See (c), above.)

I think everything above is rather confusing. I apologize for that. What I meant to say is this: this is a sophisticated and indeed special little cake. If you like herbs and honey and adventure, you will love this. If you don't, well, those Independence Oreos are a safer and less cosmopolitan bet for you then.

Honey Cake with Lemon and Herbs
Inspired by this and this and this
Yield: 10-12 servings

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup honey
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1-2 Argentinian lemons) (that was a joke for those of you who didn't read the whole post; any old lemons will do!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
zest from a lemon
a large handful each of fresh mint and basil, finely chopped (worked out to be about ¼ cup combined)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl with a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and stir until combined. Add honey, yogurt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir until combined - mine ended up looking quite curdled. No biggie.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they're all combined and there are no large lumps. Gently stir in the lemon zest and finely chopped herbs. Pour into a thoroughly greased round pan, I used one that was 8 inches in diameter. I'm sure a 9" pan would work fine too.

Put pan in oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Mine started to brown right away on the top, so after about 20 minutes I put the oven temperature to 300 and baked it for 15 minutes more. I knew it was done using the knife in middle trick, plus it stopped jiggling. It was v. jiggly still at the 20-minute mark.

Allow to cool in pan and then run a knife or spatula around the rim of the pan before flipping cake over onto a platter for serving. Drizzle a glaze of two tablespoons of lemon juice + half cup powdered sugar, if you want. (I did. Best to do while cake is still somewhat warm if you want it to soak up a bit.) Alternatively, whip some cream with a couple teaspoons of sugar or honey and vanilla or lemon extract and serve with fresh berries. (I did that too.)

This really is a quite a fantastic dessert. Something I imagine they'd serve at Manresa in Los Gatos alongside a housemade tea-infused gelato. I hope some of you will be eager to try it. My treadmill was sure glad I'd made it after I ate half the cake. It had missed me, especially after I'd totally stood it up on the 4th of July because I was in an Independence Oreo-induced sugar coma.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence Oreos

This will be quick. I'm just so absolutely excited to share it with you asap that I am not going to bother with one of my typical lame attempts at humorous preface prose.

It goes like this: I made the Homemade Oreos originally from Retro Desserts and posted on these here interwebs several places, most reliably of course on the Smitten Kitchen site. I thought they were delicious. I shared them with people. The people thought they were delicious. The people also analogized them to things like, say, "crack." I considered blogging about them in a post that thus far exists only in my head, wherein I write about several recipes, each one perfect as is, I link to the recipes, and then I just post my humble pictures and talk about how much I love food. The oreos were going to be included in this referral-type post because I didn't feel I could really own them at all, despite the fact that with each bite I wondered how a lemony filling would taste.

Then, this morning, my in-laws, who are hosting us at their lake cabin for the 4th of July and who consider me the family sweet tooth, asked me if I could make a dessert for tomorrow. One unnamed relative suggested perhaps a fruit pizza shaped like a flag. (If you are from Minnesota, you know the one.) Totally festive, for sure, but I didn't think it would travel well in the car (it's like 90 degrees here and we don't have a cooler), and also I think fruit pizza is one of those treats I prefer to have real Minnesotans make for me. I feel the same way about Susan Mary's hot dishes and Psycho Suzi's pickles wrapped in ham and cream cheese. (Oh my gosh so good.)

But anyway, being festive sounded fun, and so I said to my husband, "I'll make those Oreos again. Those are American." Then I paused and then I got super excited and then almost yelled, "I could make the filling red white and BLUE!" And so I did.

Now, remember: crack.

Tread cautiously. And don't drink and drive.

Enjoy your holiday. I will enjoy my cookies. And might possibly go visit my friend the treadmill.

Independence Oreos
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: about 36 sandwich cookies

For the chocolate wafers
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 large egg

For the filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
red and blue food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

In food processor or stand mixer, pulse or use low speed on mixer to combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into large chunks and add them into dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated and then do same with egg. The dough will come together in a nice big sticky ball. This part will make you really love your food processor if you are using one.

Form the dough into balls about 3/4" in diameter. This is small. These cookies are best small and the dough will spread while baking. I managed to get three sheets of 24 - enough to make 36 sandwich cookies. Bake cookies for 9 minutes, rotating the baking sheet 180 degrees half-way through baking time.

Allow cookies to cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then move to a cooling rack until you are ready to assemble sandwiches.

Now for the filling: I put the shortening, butter, sifted powdered sugar (I used 1 + 1/2 cups unsifted, FYI), and vanilla into a bowl and mixed with an electric hand mixer. This worked but involved several stages I did not anticipate (e.g. failure to combine stage, flying powdered sugar stage, crumbly topping-like stage, stiff peaks stage), all of which freaked me out and made me think this was never going to work. But it did work, both times, after about five minutes of mixing on low-speed. So my way works, but it doesn't feel good. If you'd rather have a stress-free time of making the filling, you might try creaming the butter and shortening, adding the vanilla, and then adding the powdered sugar gradually.

Once the filling is of a spreadable consistency, divide into thirds. Use one third as is to fill a third of your cookies by putting it in a plastic bag, snipping off a corner with scissors, and squeezing about half a teaspoon or slightly more filling onto one cookie and then gently pressing a second cookie on top. (This recipe makes a lot of filling. The first time I made them I was prudent with the first half of the batch and then by the end they were totally double-stuf. Don't be bashful. There will be enough.) To the second portion of the filling, add 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract and about 20 drops of red food coloring (I know. Sick. But also awesome.) and stir together with a spatula until no longer marbled. To the final third, add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract and about 10-20 drops of blue food coloring, depending on how blue you want it. (Baby blue doesn't look as flawed as pink, you know? Use your best judgment here. I dare you.) Assemble the rest of your Independence Oreos and go be a star wherever you bring them.