Fearless Cook Junior Edition

‘I want to learn to cook!’ my chip off the block chirped. Okay, Kate is 22 years old, she’s cooked before. During her college days she ate dorm food, made a few recipes I handed down to her, and tested the Pinterest web recipes.

She wants to feed herself in Veterinary Medicine School for the next four years. Her challenge for the this summer is to improve on cooking techniques,learn basic recipes and try to stay within a budget. My challenge is to give direction on what I’ve learned from trial and error in the kitchen.

See how enthusiastic she is?

Jr Fearless Cook

Here are all the recipes we’ve made individually and together.

Banana Bread

Chocolate chip and Peanut butter chip Banana Bread

omelets and falafels

Omelet with Falafel

beer batter cheese skillet bread

Skillet Beer Batter Cheese Bread from Quick Family Recipes

Nutella Bread

Nutella Swirled Banana Bread

radish, cucumber and apple salad

Red radish salad

Pork chops with the Dean brothers spice rub

Pork Chops with the Dean Brothers Dry spice rub

white chicken pizza

White Chicken pizza

cherry crisp pie

Cherry pie with almond crisp topping

frozen lemon yogurt

 Lemon Frozen Yogurt

Kate’s Komments:

1. Pitting the cherries for the cherry pie crisp was fun. About 10% of the cherries still had the pits inside despite using the cherry pitter.  We found two websites on how to pit cherries without  using a pitter at Our Best Bites and Baking Bites.  The cherries splattered juice everywhere while pitting them. We had just watched Django Unchained the night before and scenes from the movie came back to haunt us!

2. The Skillet Beer Batter Cheese Bread called for Gruyère cheese which was pretty tasty, but a little pricey for someone on a budget. For a similar and cheaper substitute use Swiss Cheese.

3. Her favorite recipe was the Nutella Banana Swirl Bread. Her mistake was that she set the oven for 250 degrees, not 350 degrees. The recipe in turn took longer to complete after she discovered  that the bread was still mushy inside and then adjusted the oven temp. As a taste tester, I thought the bread was delicious and moist. I didn’t know about the temperature error until much later. Gotta check the oven!  There are chocolate hazelnut butter knock-off brands that are cheaper.  They all vary in quality, so test out what brand you like.

4. Kate said she had never eaten a Falafel before and liked them. She also said she is not a fan of radishes, but we had them growing in the garden and we had to make something! She said the radishes were good as long as they were “hidden”.

5. Pizza is always a favorite and economical to make. We made a garlic butter sauce for the base of the crust. It was yummy with mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, halved yellow cherry tomatoes, red onion and grilled chicken thigh strips.

I bought her the America’s Test Kitchen ‘Quick Family Cookbook’ to take with her this fall. She loved leafing through the recipe book. The pictures are great with many step-by-step tips and techniques to master.

My parting wisdom: you can buy the ingredients to make your favorite recipes or you can look up recipes and decide what to make based on the ingredients you already have in your pantry. The key is use your ingredients thoughtfully. Way to go Fearless cook junior!

Pizza pie is amore!

Oh Dean Martin, I wish I had your song playing while we made pizza a couple of weeks ago. The second half of our pie adventure was making pizza with Gabe. It was dough love!

pulling apart the dough

  Gabe Mill’s Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

Makes two pizzas

500 grams unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt (6 grams)

3 grams yeast

325 grams water

Place all the ingredients in a Kitchen Aid mixer with a bread hook and process on the mix setting of “2” for six minutes. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let it rise for about 1-2 hours. Punch down the dough and divide into two balls. Let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter before forming into a pizza.

To form the dough into a circle, grab the edges of the dough and let it hang down (see the top picture of Gabe) and go round and round with your hands on the edges. Slowly a bigger pizza pie dough circle will develop.

the cooking club members

Patty and Gabe

Pizza pointers from Gabe:

1. Measure everything with a scale. Flour is sensitive to humidity and you get a more accurate end-product.

2. The temperature of your oven should be turned up as high as it will go (without going to the broil setting). My oven went to 500 degrees F but I think 450 would’ve been ideal for my little oven. Gabe, being a carpenter, has built his own brick oven kiln in his backyard. The temperature of his kiln can get to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. You can use any type of pan or stone to put the pizza in.  Don’t oil the pan.

4. If you are not using the dough right away, oil the dough and bag it for the refrigerator.  When you take it out of the refrigerator , let it have a chance to come to room temperature for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

5.  You can use Semolina corn meal on pizza peel if you use a stone and a paddle to take the dough in and out of the oven.

6. Put toppings on pizza dough and sprinkle olive oil lightly over top.

7. Check on the pizza after about 8 minutes, then continue to check on it every 1-2 minutes. You can turn the pizza 180 degrees if your oven is not very even in baking.

8. Gabe’s Sauce for Butter knots: minced garlic, butter, white wine, olive oil, and cream.  Combine the ingredients in a pan and heat on the stove top. All the ingredients are to taste. It was fabulous!

9. Use fresh tomatoes with some salt for the pizza sauce. It brings out the freshness of all the ingredients.

10. This dough is great for bread making too. After it rises,punch it down, form it into a baguette then let it rest for 10 minutes before putting it into the oven.

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pizza uno

pizza

I lost track of how many pizzas we made, maybe ten? We had a variety of toppings, feta cheese, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes. We even had a dessert pizza. Bake the pizza dough without anything atop, spread a mixture of marscapone cheese with fig jam and crinkle malt vinegar with sea salt potato chips atop. Sounds weird but it was yummy.

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We all gathered around the table to finish up our pizza, drink some wine and limoncello to cleanse our palate. Julie, our school teacher among the group, read the book below. The Little Red Hen didn’t bake any pizza but she did do the dishes. It was a nice ending to a beautiful day and everyone pitched in to clean up which was even better for me as the host.

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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.

Related articles

National Pie Day

Today, January 23rd is National Pie Day

In celebration of this event, The Fearless Cooking Club will meet this weekend to celebrate Pizza Pie and Traditional Pie with a sweet and savory fillings.  Gabe “The Pie Man” will demonstrate the key to perfect pizza and pie dough.

In the spirit of my children and spouse who are engineers, the other Pi Day is March 14th (you know 3.14…….)

Stay tuned…..

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.