Gabe the Pie Man

appletini pie

The Fearless Cooking Club met last weekend to celebrate National Pie Day January 23rd. We invited self-taught baker, Gabriel Mills, who demonstrated his expertise at pie and pizza pie making.

Gabe was born in Baker, Oregon (really) and he and his sister were raised by three sets of people. His mother was bi-polar where home was chaotic. Then raised by a nice elderly couple where the woman taught he and his sister how to cook and bake. There was an atmosphere of no fear and she was a kind teacher. Then they were sent to live with a not-so-nice aunt and uncle. It was never okay to ask for a toy as a gift, but to ask for a practical gift like a rolling-pin or kitchen tool was fine. At age 13 years he began his quest to unseat his aunt as the family Pie Queen. He became the family Pie King when the relatives gathered for Thanksgiving and they gobbled up his pie and left hers still in the plate. So began his baking career.

Gabe brought us all a pound of butter he buys wholesale, $2.00 apiece. That’s a lotta butta!

James Farm Butter

85 grams flour (2 cups)

1/4 teaspoon salt (use a pinch for a sweet pie)

1 Tablespoon sugar

155 grams unsalted butter (cold) or (2/3 cup)

113 grams cold water or (8 Tablespoons )


prepping for pie crust

Add the cold butter cut into small cubes and cold water to the dry ingredients on the pastry sheet and work them together using two dough scrapers with the goal of keeping it cold. Work the dough by stacking formed pieces together on top of each other making thin folds.

pastry scrapingWrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in freezer for at least twenty minutes before using it in a recipe or for up to four days in the refrigerator. It may be placed in the freezer almost indefinitely.

Each crust weighs 120 grams for a 9-inch pie pan. Pre-heat the oven to 370 degrees and place in the middle of the oven. Follow the directions for the filling of your pie recipe.

Gabe’s Go-To-Tips:

1. Measure everything with a scale. Flour is sensitive to humidity and lack-there-of (especially in the Mile High City where it is pretty dry). You get a more accurate end-product if you do.

2. Gabe likes the Pie and Pastry Bible  cookbook by Rose Berenbaum as his baking reference. He said that some of the recipes are quite lengthy to prepare, but the result is worth it.

3. Gabe uses a non-slip pastry sheet for rolling out the pie dough. As you can see in the picture, Joy brought her vintage Tupperware pastry sheet. I had one just like it oh-so-many years ago but it got cut up and damaged. You can still find them at Tupperware or you can find a vintage one on EBay. A marble slab is the ideal board for keeping the pie ingredients cold.

4. Gabe likes aluminum pans as he gets a consistent end-product result. He brushes the crust with egg white and sprinkles it with sugar.

5. Gabe likes Gold Medal flour, but King Arthur flour is his prime choice as it is organic. He usually buys it if it is on sale as it is a little more expensive.

6. If you use your hands working the dough, it warms the dough. The pie dough is very forgiving because it eventually ends up in the refrigerator or freezer before using in a recipe. If need be, the dough can be placed there for a time to get the temperature right and then return to the work board to get it back to a good consistency.
Gabe the Pie Man

Patty’s Points:

1. I looked up James Farm butter and could only find that it is distributed out of New York. What little I could find on the internet was that in the Julie and Julia movie, Julie Powell leaves a pound of James Farm butter at the Julia Child kitchen replica at the Smithsonian. Butter made in the old USA. There is also a band called James Farm. They got more hits on the internet than butter searches.

2. The pie pictured above was baked by Gabe prior to the baking party. It is an Appletini Pie with gin and vermouth added in. He likes to use Honey Crisp with Granny Smith apples together. He also likes the Pink Lady variety which adds a pink color to the pie. He doesn’t add a lot of sugar to the fresh fruit, instead choosing to let the fresh fruit shine in the recipe.

3. The pie crust was flaky and light, the apples were so fresh, without being heavy. He does NOT use Crisco. He has used lard on occasion but butter is best.

As Gabe was telling his story of how he started baking as a child I had memories of other pie makers and the stories behind them.Art of the Pie , a blog written by Kate McDermott is one. I met Kate this past summer at the BlogHer Food 2012 conference in Seattle when she personally shared her story about her kind neighbor. And of course there is the movie Waitress. The lead actress played by Keri Russell, baked and created unusual pies with titles reflective of her unhappy marriage, unexpected pregnancy and affair with her doctor.

The pie story continues on the next post as we made pizza pie dough and lotsa pizza.

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Christmas time is here

It’s been wildly busy month in my kitchen and at my job. I now have a break in the action to post the events of the past four weeks.

Celebration #1. Out to dinner celebrating a co-worker’s birthday. The Irish Cream Liqueur were gifts to my girlfriends.

Gift giving Baileys

Celebration #2. Char and Dwayne hosted a fondue party. Three fondue electric plates were placed down the middle of the table and each hot plate had two bowls: one for cheese and one for hot oil. We dipped apples and bread in the cheese and we cooked steak cubes in the oil, dipping them in steak or horseradish sauce. Dessert was pound cake cubes and strawberries dipped into melted chocolate.

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Celebration #3. The 23rd Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange. It was a grand gathering of baking talents.

23rd Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

I made peppermint cream cheese brownies (recipe below).

peppermint cream cheese brownies

Final Celebration-Christmas dinner. We made a Roasted Garlic Herb Crusted Strip Roast featured on Epicurious.com. It was flavorful and tender. I think we found a winner!

strip roast

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Patty’s Points.

1. The Irish Cream Liqueur should be shaken before serving. It can be stored in the refrigerator for one month. The bottles came from The Container Store but any pretty bottle can be used.

2. The fondue electric heating plates and bowls were vintage and obtained from garage and estate sales. I have never seen anything like them. I loved that they were so versatile. I want one just like it!

3. I adapted the Cream Cheese Brownies recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook (2004).

Peppermint Cream Cheese Brownies  

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Brownie Base:

Dry ingredients: 2/3 C flour + ¼ tsp. salt’+ ½ tsp. baking powder

Wet ingredients: 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate + 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate+8TBSP butter+1 C sugar + 2 tsp. vanilla + 3 eggs

Cream Cheese Filling: 8 oz. cream cheese softened, +1/4 C sugar+1/2 tsp. vanilla + 1 egg yolk+ 4 crushed candy canes

Directions:

Spray 8” square baking pan with non-stick spray. Fold two 16” pieces of foil or parchment paper lengthwise to measure 8” wide. Fit one sheet into the bottom of greased pan (the overhang will help in removal of bake brownies). Fit the 2nd sheet in the pan perpendicular to the 1st sheet. Spray the sheets with non-stick spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt in a bowl and set aside.

In medium heatproof bowel set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stir until incorporated. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla. Cool. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.

In a small bowl beat cream cheese with sugar, vanilla, egg yolk and peppermint (optional) until evenly blended.

Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Drop half the cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls over the batter. Repeat layering the remaining brownie batter and cream cheese filling. Use the blade of a table knife or spoon handle and swirl the batter creating a marbling effect.

Bake in oven until the edges of the brownies have puffed slightly, the center feels not quite firm when touched lightly or a toothpick inserted comes out with moist fudgy crumbs adhered to it; about 50-60 minutes.

Cool brownies in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove brownies from the pan using the foil or parchment handles Place brownies on wire rack; allow them to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled 3 hours Cut into 2 inch squares. Will keep in refrigerator for 5 days

brownies and peppermint ice cream

The brownies make a great dessert served with Peppermint Ice Cream and peppermint sticks. I am taking this to a dinner party tonight.

The Epiphany is the official twelfth day of Christmas so there are ten more days of celebrating!

 

 

Waltzing Matilda

It has taken me, what it seems like, forever to make Pavlova.  And look I even have a tea towel from my Mom and Dad when they traveled to New Zealand in the 1990s.

Well my time came. My son took a job in Australia so I had to give it a try.

According to What’s Cooking America the Pavlova recipe started appearing after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and 1929. The airy dessert was created to honor the dancer who “soars as though on wings”.  There is disparity between Australia and New Zealand on who created the dessert first. They both claim it as their national dessert.

My friend Joy, whose two children have been to Australia as exchange students, has made Pavlova a lot. This is her Pavlova plate that is oven-safe and beautiful enough to serve from oven to table for presentation.

Joy made the Pavlova for Ben’s going away party. Then I made my Pavlova after the tea towel recipe

4 egg whites

Few grains of salt

3/4 C castor sugar (granulated sugar)

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Centigrade (300 degrees Farenheit). Brush the plate with melted butter and dust with cornstarch. Beat the egg whites to a foam with an electric mixer, add the salt.  Beat to a stiff foam, add 1 Tbsp of sugar at a time until form stiff peaks. Remove the beater then add the vinegar and cornstarch and blend together.

Spoon the meringue onto the plate forming a 9 inch circle.

Bake at 140 degrees C (275 degrees F) for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 120 degrees C (250 degrees F) and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and allow to cool in the oven.

Serve with whipped cream atop then decorate with strawberries, kiwi, mango or any fruit of choice.

Patty’s Points:

1. I let the egg whites come to room temperature before whipping. I’m not sure why my whipped egg whites weren’t full and piled high. Baking caused it  to spread out on the plate. Egg whites are sensitive to heat and humidity; that could have been the reason.

2. Cooling the Pavlova while in the oven was a perfect technique as it allowed it to cool slowly and prevent the meringue from cracking.

3. Pavlova in an egg. Okay what? Joy told me about a product where all the ingredients for Pavlova are in an egg-shaped container. Of course we are talking about dried egg whites. I found a website review of Pavlova Magic by blogger foodycat.  Joy’s Pavlova in an egg version turned out well. It piled high on the plate for a pretty presentation.

4. The taste? It was good, but then again I’m a sucker for baked egg whites. I’m obsessed with macarons remember? I skipped the whipped cream with mine but it is a fabulous addition, also adding height.

Our son has started a new chapter in his life. He is waltzing Matilda, Aussie-speak for wandering happily. It’s also the unofficial Australian national anthem. This food blog wanders happily in cooking adventures. Happy trails in cooking all.

British food rocks! Really.

I went to my second cooking class this week. I had purchased a silent auction item at the Sunset at the Ritz benefitting the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ALS Association at The Kitchen Table. I had eyed the cooking classes for several months, trying to figure out which one to take. My summer has been busy, but I saw a break in my schedule this week and leapt at a recently added class celebrating the Olympics and British Food.

Chef Tom, surveyed the class on who had been to England and if they had a memorable meal. Most said the food was horrible, citing fish, chips and beer as the highlights.  Chef Tom taught us that the Brits were big on:

pickling, smoking

beer, ciders, tea

custard,  pies, savory puddings

beef

Sunday was the day to serve a grand meal as Monday was wash day and gave the cooks a break to clean up and eat the leftovers. Our menu was crab and asparagus salad, roast beef, savory Yorkshire pudding, horseradish cream, mint peas, gravy and a bread pudding.

The Kitchen Table pre-made creme fraiche (fresh cream) that we used for the salad dressing and the horseradish cream for the beef. Also pre-made for us was a veal stock for the gravy.

The first item we made was the bread and butter pudding with Bailey’s (oh yeah). We made a creme anglaise (English cream), a custard mixture similar to one for an ice cream. We layered apricot jam, circles of brioche, rum-soaked raisins, all soaked with the creme anglaise to ramekins. They were popped in the oven while we constructed the rest of our meal.

Next was to build our Yorkshire and pour into ramekins with lard in the bottom (oh yeah), make the horseradish sauce, and truss our beef. After those tasks we constructed our salad with a creme fraiche, lime and grainy mustard dressing.

After we munched on our fresh, lovely salad, with Paco y Lola, 2010 white wine we returned to the kitchen to braise our beef, make our gravy, and heat our buttered, mint peas.

Chef Tom’s Tips:

1) Creme fraiche is easy to make at home and tastes better than store-bought. Heat 1 C cream to 105 degrees in saucepan, remove from heat and stir in 1TBS buttermilk. Place in shallow container, cover with plastic wrap and leave on the countertop, warm area and stir every 8 hours for 2 days until thick. Refrigerate once set.

2) When removing bread and butter puddings from ramekins place the sharp knife along the edge and turn the ramekins, do not move the knife up and down. The pudding edge will come out smooth not jagged.

3) Don’t play with the beef, leave it in the pan to braise on all sides; let is rest after oven baked by tenting it with foil all before slicing it.

4) Good lump crab can be purchased canned. When added to the salad don’t break apart the crab, be gentle with it.

Patty’s Points:

1) I loved the horseradish. Now I want to buy one. It’ll go great in my sauerkraut (see https://thefearlesscookingclub.com/2011/09/). My husband loves horseradish cream with beef. It was so fresh.

2) I loved the Yorkshire pudding. I know crazy huh? all those carbs and lard? They puffed up so beautifully. Chef Tom said it was the cold egg batter poured into the hot ramekins with hot lard, popped into the oven that made them puff up.

One student in the class said this class was then next best thing to going to the Olympics (which was on her bucket list). It was fun. I learned great techniques and a little bit more about England.

The class found it fascinating and maybe scared (?) that I had a food blog. I assured them that I only make fun of myself in this blog. I made a few mistakes in the kitchen, using the wrong pan a couple of times. Chef Patricia set me straight and was a great resource in the kitchen. I bonded with another macaron fan and I have already lost her e-mail to send her my most recent macaron recipe. Send me a message okay?

I took a macaron cooking class. See what I learned

4-H was my first leap in cooking. I learned how to make dishes from the project recipe books with lots of practicing. But, I have never taken a cooking class. I’ve seen plenty of food demonstrations (that will be a future blog post) but never taken an actual class from a chef.

Ever since the macaron adventure in February 2012 I’ve been obsessed with macarons.  I have looked at different recipes on blog posts and macaron cookbooks. jothetartqueen has a chocolate macaron recipe; The Seaside Baker, my BlogHer Food friend, makes tons of macarons and has several flavors posted on her  blog; and a friend went to France and brought back a package of French macarons and a macaron cookbook completely written in French.

I saw an opportunity to take a macaron cooking class. I thought I could learn from a professional chef and fine tune my technique. After all, I am self-taught, studying recipes and cooking by lots of trial and error. I wanted to see what an expert could teach me.

I was off to a rocky start as I rolled in 15 minutes late and as my online reservation wasn’t received. But, they had room in the class and I fell into an affable group of two women, Erin and Susan, who welcomed me to the class. Susan has a knitting blog, so we bonded quickly.

When I jumped in, Erin was sifting the almond flour with the powdered sugar. Tip #1 was to sift the dry ingredients twice for a finer flour and to throw out the bigger pieces. You could even put it in the food processor first before sifting. You can’t over sift the dry ingredients.  Tip #2 store your almond flour in the freezer so it doesn’t spoil.

Next was the egg whites. Tip #3 whip them until foamy on a medium speed before adding the sugar and when the sugar is incorporated whip at a high-speed until stiff peaks are achieved. Deborah our chef said the bowl did not have to be cold but the egg whites should be at room temperature and “aged” at least one day.

Tip #4 use a Silpat liner under the parchment paper to prevent burning as well as an extra cookie sheet underneath. Our first batch of blueberry macarons turned out great. Perfect in fact.

Then we learned how to make a berry cream filling. That was new for me because I have used pre-made fillings like curd, jams, Nutella, or caramel in the past. I volunteered with three other students to go to the stove and make the filling. It turned out to be a lovely curd-like filling using cream, marscapone cheese, berry filling, eggs and sugar.

So I took those techniques from class and fine tuned my macarons.

Problem #1: Too hot an oven. The recipe called for 375 degree oven. After the first batch I turned it down to 350-360 degree F. See the first batch on the left is a little too brown compared to the light green batch on the right.

Problem #2: Cracked macaron. I think this happened because I didn’t let this batch dry completely for 30 minutes, I might have popped them in at 25 minutes.

Problem #3: Powdered mango. The mango macaron recipe called for powdered mango. In our class we had powdered mango. I asked Chef Deborah how to make it and she said to food process dried mango. As you can see below that did not happen. I dried it in the oven twice and pulverized it 2-3 times in the food processor and I got maybe 2 pinches of mango powder into the mix. I added some water to it and used it to make my filling.

I made two fillings Lime Cream and Mango Cream. I can’t believe I used a stick of butter for each of these fillings with the curd flavoring. They tasted good. mmmm butter.

While I was in the class, I asked lots of questions and I think Chef Deborah liked that. There were four groups of students, 15 in all, and four helpers clearing away our dishes. If I was taking the class for the first time I would’ve been overwhelmed. Making macarons calls for many details. I knew my subject and kept up with a fast paced class. All in all, I am glad I took the class. I felt more confident making my macarons today.

Pièce de résistance (my fine accomplishment). Embrassez le cuisinier (kiss the cook)

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A Mother’s love: Alfajores.

I tasted my first Alfajore cookie a few years ago when my husband brought home a box from a business trip in Argentina. It was love at first bite, melt in your mouth deliciousness.

I saw a recipe for Alfajores last year from Relish May 2011. The article mentioned that these cookies are a traditional Mother’s Day cookie. Any mother who loves to bake will have no trouble making these cookies for their children because it is all about love. I’m an empty-nester so I shared these cookies with my husband who had no complaints.

Patty’s Points:

1) The half flour, half cornstarch combination was a first for me. It made the cookie melt in your mouth.

2) The dough was very tender, but rolling the dough in the cornstarch was easier to accomplish than I thought. I used a biscuit cutter to cut out the cookie. I used a metal spatula to lift the cookie disc off the cutting board so as to not damage it.

3) The boiling of the can of sweetened condensed milk was an interesting method to caramelize the sugars for the filling. If I use this method again I would place the can on some type on metal sieve or plate in the bottom of the pan. My pan had a film on the lining of my pan from the can and stained the bottom of my pan.

The cookie was melt in your mouth delicious, great with a cup of tea or coffee.

Now that I have accomplished the basic Alfajore recipe I am ready to move on to different flavors like from 6 Bittersweets website for Chocolate Nutella Alfajores. I absolutely love Nutella so looks like a great recipe to try next.

I also sent a Mother’s Day wish out to my children at my other blog site May 8,2012 posting at the patty beat . Check it out! Happy Mother’s Day.