Home is where the heart is

Oven is on fire - ha haThanksgiving can feel like a drudgery for the cook no matter how fearless she/he is. Luckily, every Thanksgiving, our dear friends Joy & Terry, host the event. I usually bring a salad or vegetable side dish. This year I’m bringing a pie as I stocked the freezer with pie fillings from fruit of the summer and fall bounty.

I have this book to thank for my pre-planning this year.Art of the the Pie  cookbookI met Kate McDermott the author of The Art of the Pie, in June 2012 when I went to a food blogging conference in Seattle. She was a lovely and humble woman who sat next to me,  told me about her story and food blog, Art of the Pie.  I have followed her baking career since our meeting and feel so privileged to have met her and so happy to own her beautiful cookbook. Kate McDermott & I - June 2012Thanksgiving is all about the pie when it comes to dessert. I took a tip from Kate’s book on page 155 on Pre-Cooking and Freezing Apple Pie filling. Partially cook the apple pie filling, allow it to cool, then place plastic wrap on the bottom of a pie plate, the pour the filling inside.Apple Pie Filling -1Wrap up the filling in the pie plate then place in the freezer. Once frozen, you can remove the plate and wrap the filling more securely with aluminum foil if you wish.Apple Pie filling - 2When you are ready for a pie, make the crust and pop in the filling. The filling can be partially thawed and then you would bake it an additional 10-15 minutes at the lower temperature.  I was so happy to have discovered this I froze peach, peach-blueberry and cherry pie fillings from the summer harvest to have ready for the next party.Pie crust crumblesI generally have issues with managing the dough. I made Kate’s Traditional Art of the Pie Butter and Shortening Dough, which has worked well for me in the past. My problem is the timing of chilling the dough, then rolling it out. For today’s pie I chilled it overnight, sat it out for an hour, but it was still a chore to roll it out. One crust rolled out well but the other did not.
img_2129.jpgOne thing about Kate’s book, is that she is not perfect, nor does she profess to be. She admits that baking can be troublesome and she talks about how to to roll with it.

I scrambled around in my pie box where I store items and found some cookie cutters. This was my opportunity as a baker to make a signature crust. Home is where the pie heart is Patty’s Points:

1. The crust rolls out best for me, when chilled after one hour. It is more pliable.

2. I loved making the filling in advance, completely separate from making the crust. This works for me until I have managed making and rolling out the crust with great skill.

3. It takes practice to make pie crust as it is more art and skill than anything.

4. Make the pie crust topping your own. Be creative.

Happy Thanksgiving – Enjoy your family and friends during this American Holiday.

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Retro Rhubarb Pie

When I think of rhubarb I think of Aunt Rose. She was my Dad’s oldest sister and the matriarch of the family. The first time I ate rhubarb was a family summer trip to Kansas. It was odd tasting, intriguing,and it grew in her back yard to boot!

I have two rhubarb plants in my garden. It is a rite of spring to see the shoots burst forward into a lovely plant. I usually mix it with a fruit from the berry family to make a pie, crisp or cobbler. Then I ran across a 100-year old recipe in a blog I follow A Hundred Years Ago. My old soul was touched by this recipe so I had to try. The pictures below left: Aunt Rose and my Grandpa and right: me, my sister and my Grandpa celebrating my 11th birthday. We had matching cherry smock tops 🙂

This recipe is unique as it uses raisins to accompany the rhubarb. Never seen that before.

So here we go.

Left to right pictures:

1 1/2 C rhubarb and 1 C golden raisins

1 C sugar, 1 egg, 1 TBSP cornstarch, 1 tsp vanilla

Blending the two mixtures into one bowl

Continuing the retro theme, I made the pie crusts from Jiffy pie crust mix $0.38 on sale, original price $0.84. The Jiffy Mix products were established in 1930 but the Chelsea Milling Company  was a traditional flour mill, established in 1901 in Chelsea, Michigan. If you want to learn the history of the company watch this video for a virtual tour.  My mom was a Jiffy consumer, she may have grown up with it during the depression.

Pictures left: Jiffy Pie crust mix and right: my retro milk glass pie plate with the crust.

Brush the pie crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar atop. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake an addtional 20-30 minutes.

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Patty’s Points:

  1. Rhubarb has a high water content so addition of cornstarch, flour, arrowroot, or tapioca are used as traditional thickeners for the filling. Most recipes call for 3 TBSP but this recipe called for 1 TBSP. The addition of the raisins added a “sponge” for soaking up additional liquid. Raisins can hold a lot of liquid. I almost wonder if any thickener would have been needed with the raisins as part of the recipe. As a result, there wasn’t much “bubbling” through the vents that I am used to when I know the pie is done.
  2. I liked the raisins as part of the filling. It allowed the rhubarb to be slightly sweetened and still taste the rhubarb. In most berry-rhubarb recipes you can’t taste the rhubarb at all.
  3. I made adjustments to the filling by adding vanilla and reducing the sugar content to 3/4 C. The egg made the filling custard-like and contributed to the thickening.
  4. The Jiffy crust – all you add is cold water – 4-5 TBSP.  The ingredients are wheat flour, hydrogenated lard, salt, and preservatives. I wonder how that lard gets pulverized into a grain mixture? It was a pretty wet mixture. In retrospect, I should’ve added 1 TBSP at a time into the cold food processor and checked the consistency.  I refrigerated the dough for 30 minutes before rolling it out although the directions indicate that you don’t have to. I added flour to the board before rolling it out which helped. It was a very tender crust and was easy to place in the pie plate.
  5. The pie crust was dry, the filling was moist and compact, but very little juiciness.  If I made this again I would use a different crust and eliminate the thickener. The raisin-rhubarb combo was good but it needed something.  Maybe it needed something like Julia would’ve used,  “With enough butter, anything is good.”

Oh Snap! Popovers

Have you ever been gifted something and didn’t know what to do with it? This was true for me with this popover pan.

We moved our belongings out of the house into the garage this past November when we had ALL of our hardwood floors refinished before Christmas. I was in a tossing and keeping mode I was in I stared at this popover pan – Stay? or Go!

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Well it must be used before any decision can be made, right? I have never eaten a popover before. I must try it out.

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I read two recipes: the one on the popover pan box and Alton Brown’s Good Eats 3 cookbook. The ingredients were simple eggs, milk, flour, salt and butter and toss in the the blender. I love simple, so how hard could it be?

I was also curious to see how this whole pop-up event was going to transpire in the oven so I sat and watch the event through the oven window.

POP OVER recipe (from Progressive International)

Preheat over and Pan 450 degrees F (makes 5-6 popovers)

Ingredients: 1 C milk, 1 C flour, 3 eggs, 2 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend on high until bubbles form. Fill the preheated popover tins (BNSP-100) 1/2 to 3/4 full depending on how large you want your rolls to be. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, reduce heat, bake an additional 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Patty’s Popover points:

1.The key to popovers is heating the pan. If you don’t preheat the pan you will have doughy denseness and no pop. Also brush the sides with butter or oil so the side of the roll does not stick to the pan.

The batter will get crispy first on the outside next to the tubes in the pan and rise first. Then the batter in the center will rise later and provide the pop and leave the hole (see next point).

2.Yes there is a hole in the center. These rolls are good for putting an egg in for breakfast or a chicken salad for lunch. What they are best used and known for is a hearty beef meal with gravy and mashed potatoes. Mmmmmmm. Me, I like butter and jelly.

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3.The difference between the recipe above and AB Good Eats 3 version is amount of flour and eggs he used; and he used butter. No offense AB, but I liked the side of the box recipe better, save the oil. The amount was just right for filling all six tubes. I like even numbers.

4. As you can see below, the tubes were not evenly filled so the popovers on the bottom of the picture did not rise as high as the ones at the top of the picture. Best to use a measuring cup – probably 1/2 cup – so as to not have different sized rolls.

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5. It is plain to see that popovers are puffy and pretty cool. I was a little amazed. My husband liked them. I don’t think he had ever had one before. Most references say that they are easier to make than dinner rolls for a nice meal planned. The eggs give them substance compared to a dinner roll.

I made popovers six times in a span of two weeks. I sat on the floor watching them rise at 10:00 pm at night and I made the mistake of not preheating the pan once. Big mistake. There was no pop in the over. Tee hee.

6. Some recipes I researched used a regular muffin pan to make popovers. They are just not as tall as these. Should I keep the pan? or toss it? I can’t decide, yet.

When you have a few ingredients, then technique is the key. It’s all in the preparation to make your popover the star.

Sneak zucchini onto your neighbors porch

Today is my birthday and a National Holiday:  Sneak zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch day!

I have my share of zucchini in the garden and with vacation coming, my neighbors may be the recipient of some of these squash babies.

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If you gifted with a few zucchini – here are some new recipes I have tried this season.

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Chocolate Zucchini cake

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Crust-less Summer Zucchini Pie

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Zucchini Fritters

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Quinoa-Rice salad with cherries and feta adapted from the Weight Watchers July/August 2016 edition.

Patty’s Points

1. The all recipes! website is a great resource to look for recipes for the home cook. AND always read the reviews by the readers to see the pitfalls and triumphs of the recipe.

2. Here are a few cookbooks to sample:

The Inspired by Zucchini Cookbook

Chocolate & Zucchini: Le Livre

The Classic Zucchini Cookbook

3.The Chocolate Zucchini Cake is a winner! It is a great cake to make and store in the freezer and pull out for a potluck or picnic. Chocolate Cheese Frosting is an awesome addition to this cake. Super!

4.Zucchini can be used to substitute for pickles in relishes – made sweet or dill – and canned. I tried a recipe through the Ball Canning Cookbook summer and they were awesome as hot dog condiments.

5. Invest in a food processor with a shredder. Place the zucchini in a colander/strainer to get the water content out before cooking with it.

Get on with it now. It’s Zucchini Day!

Springing Forward

Spring is time for growth and renewal. But the world and the weather have been volatile this past week as we moved into this new season.

Growth is painful. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been in a funk for the last year. I left one job and took another, my father died, our daughter married, our son moved home to the US, and my house is a complete mess. BUT through all of this turmoil and upheavel, I have continued to cook.

I may print some of my cooking adventures out to cleanse myself, but not all at once. You as the reader won’t appreciate my purging, only I would.

So here’s to spring, new growth, moving on and putting away the Christmas decorations this Easter weekend.

Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake

I am a big fan of The Splendid Table. It is an American Public Media radio broadcast that can also be found on most podcast libraries. Lynn Rosetto Kasper has the best radio voice ever! I could listen to her all day. She is charming to her guests and to us, her listeners. Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake from the author Anissa Helou from her cookbook Sweet Middle East was featured last month. She describes it as a “delectable syrupy sponge cake topped with mixed nuts.”

I was drawn to the nuts as ingredients in the recipe. I have a stash of nuts in the freezer and my husband has been noshing on them lately.  The rest of the ingredients I did not have in my pantry: semolina, baker’s sugar, orange blossom water and rose water. I was not in a mood to go out searching store to store for these ingredients, so I went online.  King Arthur Flour had everything I needed in one location. What a wonderful website and a great reference for baking.

Go to The Splendid Table website for the recipe  and you will see that it is a pretty easy cake to put together. Flour, butter, sugar, yogurt, baking soda and of course NUTS.

The fragrant sugar syrup on the other hand was challenging. The orange blossom and rose water were extremely fragrant and seemed to be competing with each other as flavors. Once they settled down it was better.

Patty’s Points:

1.Timing. The cake has to set for 3 hours before baking, so plan accordingly.

2.Syrup. Even though the author recommends putting the syrup on the cake for it to soak in, I do not recommend doing that. The syrup was overpoweringly sweet and fragrant, just as the author stated. It was so sweet that it took away from the flavor of the cake and the nuts.

It is also quite possible that I overcooked the syrup and it wasn’t the proper consistency to soak into the cake. My husband and I liked the cake, but the syrup made the cake too sweet. I would recommend serving the cake, plain, with the syrup on the side and maybe with some plain or vanilla yogurt as a dollop.

3.Ingredients. Simple to make with complex ingredients. I had never purchased these ingredients before, ever. Semolina flour is used with breads or dough, like pizza, to give them extra crunch. Baker’s sugar is very fine. I used to shrug it off when I saw it in recipes and made my own by processing regular sugar. But this had such a lovely quality of fineness that I’ll think differently about it in the future.

Orange blossom water and rose water.  I’d heard of rose water but never orange blossom water. I actually saw an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown where he made rose water from chemical-free roses at home. This web post from Pam in the Garden follows the Alton Brown step-by-step process of making rose water. Orange blossom water and rose water I have seen as ingredients for baklava, but I’ve never had them on hand before. The uses for the fragrant waters go beyond food and are beneficial to skin and health enhancers.

4.Nuts. Despite the recipe directions to add the nuts prior to baking, they run the risk of burning. I would recommend adding them halfway through the baking time to prevent the char.

We had a blizzard hit here two days ago and I’ve been sick in bed all week so writing this blog helped me leap out of the doldrums. Thanks for reading. Be fearless and keep cooking.

 

25th Anniversary Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

InvitationMy invitation to “cookie bomb” the Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange was taped to my front door. Isn’t it precious? This is a special year because it is the 25th Anniversary. I don’t live in the neighborhood but I get an invite from my friend Joy every year. She hosted it this year and did a bang up job.

I started a new job six weeks ago and my life has been crazy. Check out my other blog, the patty beat, to see the details of that. As I was reflecting just yesterday, that when life is crazy anyway, throw a major holiday and family wedding in the mix and *%#@!*#@!

I planned in advance knowing I would have little time this week get it altogether.

the recipe

I chose the recipe from Cook’s Country December/January 2015 and it was the Grand Prize Winner of the Christmas Cookie Contest entitled Chocolate Croissant Cookies by Karen Cope of Minneapolis, MN. The requirement for the cookie exchange is to make 5 dozen cookies to share among a group of people and take home a smorgasbord of cookies to share for the holidays I made the dough in advance and popped it in the freezer for the past two weeks. I put it in the refrigerator 24 hours before assembly for it to thaw.

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The dough is a mini version of the croissant. The chocolate bars are placed in the center, fold over the dough and pop it in the oven.

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Rolling out and cutting the dough into twenty 4 x 2 inch pieces was the challenging part of the construction.

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I was pretty amazed that I rolled out and assembled the cookies in 2 hours. The last batch was warm from the oven and placed separately from the first two batches. Didn’t want the chocolate to schmush.

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Lucky for me Joy had two lovely plates for me to put my cookies on to display.

Chocolate Croissant Cookies

Every year the cookies become more creative.

St Nick cookies

 St Nick Cookies

 

Almond Coconut Cookies

 Almond Coconut cookies

reindeer cookies

 Reindeer Cookies

Heath bar cookies

Pecan Pie Bars

snowman cookies

 Snowman Cookies

Joy displayed a poster of all the pictures from all the past years and it was a nice to reflect on the past and look to the future.

Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

 The 25th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange 2014