Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cranberry Pie, Part 2: Berry Filling

As I'd said in Part 1, I was looking for something other than a pumpkin pie for this Thanksgiving, and when I found The Frugal Gourmet's recipe using cranberries it was just the ticket.

from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American

Cranberry Pie
  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbls cornstarch
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Pastry for a 2-crust, 9" pie

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash and pick over cranberries;  drain thoroughly. Chop cranberries and mix with sugar and cornstarch. Mix egg and almond extract and combine with cranberries. Line a 9" pie plate with half the pastry. Add cranberry mixture. Cover with strips of pastry arranged in a lattice, and seal edges. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking about 35 minutes, or until cranberries are soft and pastry is browned.

Results of family vote:  two in favor (husband and daughter), one slightly meh (me).  It wasn't that it was bad tasting, but it was too sour for me. The sourness was totally my fault, of course, because I chose not to chop all the cranberries (they kept rolling away from me and it was irritating so I gave up after halving about a third of them);  I hadn't thought about what that would mean to the filling and how the whole berries wouldn't be coated in and out with sugar. Oh well. I still ate a big piece (as did my husband and daughter). I'd make this recipe again, but next time I'll allow myself more time to chop chop chop the berries.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cranberry Pie, Part 1: Crust(s)

If Americans agree on anything it's that it's not Thanksgiving without pie. But I wanted to go beyond pumpkin this year, and after finding a recipe for cranberry pie I knew that it was what I was meant to make. I could have picked-up a pre-made pie shell, but I decided to be old fashioned (and thrifty) and make my own piecrust. Looking in The New Laurel's Kitchen I came across two easy-enough-sounding recipes. I couldn't decide between them, but since the cranberry recipe called for a two-crust pie of 9", I just made both and used one for the dish and one for the lattice (two taste-tests in one pie!).

uncooked crust

Recipe one:
Whole Wheat Piecrust    from The New Laurel's Kitchen 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ (or 1/4 cup flour)
3/4 tsp salt
10 Tbls butter, chilled
4 to 6 Tbls cold water
Stir together flour, wheat germ, and salt. Grate the cold butter on a coarse grater or cut into small pieces, tossing it with the flour as you go. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to combine the flour and butter until it is the consistency of rolled oats. Sprinkle with the water, using just enough to hold the dough together. 
Using cupped fingers, form the dough quickly and gently. As soon as it will hold together, make it into a ball.  
Press the dough out into a thick disk. Roll to size on a lightly floured surface, or between sheets of waxed paper, or on a pastry cloth. Gently roll the dough over the rolling pin and onto the pie plate, easing it loosely into the plate. (...)  
Gently press the dough into the plate so there are no air pockets. Cut off the excess with a sharp knife, but make the rim double thick to keep it from burning. (...) 
If you are making a  pie with a top crust or lattice, preheat the oven to 400 F. Fill the bottom shell and put the top crust or lattice in place, baking according to the directions in the recipe you are using. 
Makes one 10" bottom crust or crust and lattice for one 8" pie.

And recipe two:

Lighter Whole Wheat Piecrust    from The New Laurel's Kitchen
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbls oil [I used coconut]
1/4 cup water
Stir dry ingredients together. Mix in oil and enough of the water to make the dough form a ball. Roll flat between sheets of waxed paper and lift into pan. Make decorative edge. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned and crisp. Makes one 9" shell.

Our vote:  we enjoyed both! The crust was a little thick and brittle for my preference, but I chalk that up to chef's error (I realize pie crusts are an art). But the taste was good, both bottom and lattice. The "lighter" version was easier to make (spooning oil is so much easier than grating butter!) so if I were to try making it again I'd try that recipe first.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Sadness

So, overall Thanksgiving was happy and tasty. But... there was one hiccup. Perhaps the worst thing (culinarily) is when you present a recipe made of quality ingredients in the highest of hopes and it doesn't thrill anyone, not even yourself. And it's not because of a mistake the cook made, it's just... the food. That's what happened with my sweet potatoes this year.

Rather than go the typical SAD route of dousing them with sugar and animal hoof goo (i.e. marshmallows) or after baking them in their own skins and splitting them to be served with butter and salt (my favorite!) I tried out a recipe that, well, just didn't work out as I'd wished.

From Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions:

Sweet Potato Puree 
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • grated rind of two lemons
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
Boil potatoes in water until tender and then peel while still hot. Place them in a bowl, mash and mix with butter, lemon rind, lemon juice, egg yolks and sea salt. Transfer mixture to a buttered ovenproof casserole and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 1/2 hour.

Frankly, this dish tasted really "healthy," which, as healthy as sweet potatoes actually are, wasn't was I was looking for in a Thanksgiving dish. Left alone to bake, sweet potatoes are divine, sweet, earthy (can something be earthy and divine? If so, it's this root!). This dish was too bright (because of the lemon) and too rich (because of the egg yolk). I forced myself to finish the dollop on my plate and will brave through the leftovers, but I'm not gonna enjoy them. Sadness.

Next time I'll just roast 'em up and let 'em shine on their own---sweet potatoes really don't need anyone to fuss over them. I've learned my lesson.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Review

Hope your Thanksgiving was as blessed as mine! My husband and I and our girls celebrated at home, just the four of us this year, so we held back on creating too many dishes (okay, my husband reminded me to hold back), and it all turned out very well, over all. I'll be setting up the hyperlinks to my posts on the dishes below as I have time to write them. Stay tuned!

New dishes:
Onion-Cranberry Compote (see below)
Sweet Potato Puree
Cranberry Pie with Whole Wheat Crust

Dishes I've mentioned before:
Sandy's Gingered Squash
Cranberry Sauce

And Justin slow-roasted a turkey and we had Riesling, sparkling pear juice, and coffee.

Really very good!

As an alternate to my usual sweetened cranberry sauce I decided to try out a more savory version this year. And it was good. Very good. (Is it disturbing that so far my only greatest Thanksgiving acheivements can be categorized under "sauce, cranberry")?

From Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions:
Onion-Cranberry Compote
  • 1 1/3 cup raisins [the recipe calls for both yellow & dark raisins, I just used all dark]
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 lbs small white onions, peeled [I used 1 large yellow onion]
  • 3 Tbls butter
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 2/3 cups fresh cranberries
Soak raisins in water for 10 mins. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute onions in butter until well coated. Add raisins with soaking liquid and remaining ingredients except cranberries. Liquid should just cover the onions--if not, add a little water. Simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove cover, add cranberries and simmer uncovered for 15 to 30 mins until liquid has thickened. Let cool. Maybe made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 cups.

What I most liked about this recipe was it blended so well with the rest of the holiday food! Truly a delicious relish. I personally plan to make this one again next year. Not to replace the sweeter version, but to complement it and give diners a more flavorful plate.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gingerbread Destiny

It's a rare afternoon when I find myself flipping casually through a cookbook, randomly stop on a recipe, think it sounds good, and realize I have all its ingredients on hand. (It's that last one that usually trips me up.) So when I ran across Laurel's recipe for gingerbread and realized I could make it without a trip to the store, and my daughters were both napping, well,  I took it as a sign.

Imagination time!
Imagine this mildly disappointing picture of gingerbread is actually delicious-looking.

Gingerbread   from The New Laurel's Kitchen
1/3 cup soft or melted butter
1 cup dark molasses (or 2/3 cup blackstrap & 1/3 cup honey) [I used the combo]
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk or orange juice [I "made" buttermilk by adding vinegar to whole milk]
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins
(1 Tbls orange zest) (optional) [I left this out]
(1/2 tsp dry mustard) (optional) [I used this. I figured, weird, but why not?]
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix butter and molasses. Beat in egg and add buttermilk or orange juice.
Sift together the dry ingredients and combine everything together.
Turn into a greased 9"x 9" square pan. Bake 40 mins.

Results of stars aligning:  We LOVED this! Soooo good. It had absolute perfect texture (think: that perfect mid-point between cake and brownie). The flavor was rich and could have been too much but for the brilliant sweet bursts of raisiny fabulousness that caught your tastebuds by surprise with each bite. Honestly, really, really good. 

Only one small point of contention:  I wouldn't actually call this Gingerbread. I'd call it Molasses Cake. And maybe it's just because I've never had "real" gingerbread prior to baking this? But I didn't taste the ginger, I tasted molasses. And raisins. Totally delicious, but not very gingery. Or bread-like. 

So there you have it. Followed my destiny and made an amazing ginger/molasses bread/cake. Awesome. You should make it too. Go check your shelves. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Going Banana(s) Bread

Whoops! Wrote this post in September but forgot to hit "Publish."

My imaginary self cooks best alone in a peaceful, sunny kitchen. She measures spices and stirs sauces in a meditative and tranquil state.  One chef in the kitchen, humming a happy tune, baking making magic with flour and whisk.

Reality thus far has been that I start several new-to-me dishes all at once, quickly fall behind my timetable, realize I'll never make the scheduled dinner time without assistance, and I have to ask my husband in to help me finish the meal.

So I'm used to help in the kitchen, but it's usually a last minute, For goodness' sake, HELP ME! kind of help.

This past week I had a whole new-to-me kind of kitchen assistant, one of the small child variety. I had the incredible desire to make banana bread (several rapidly softening--dare we say oozing on a food blog?--bananas on the counter can be quite inspiring). My toddler was in need of an indoor amusement (weather went from 80s to 50s overnight). We picked the recipe from Joy of Cooking and started to stir.

Who will help me bake the bread? She will!!

Success! The banana bread itself was fine. Normal. Fine. But the time spent measuring, stirring, pouring, scraping? Fabulous. One of the most enjoyable times I've spent with my daughter in recent months. She loved it. I loved it. Guess we've found a recipe for mother/daughter success.

Banana Bread
from Joy of Cooking

Have all ingredients at room temperature, 68-70 F
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 (6 cup) loaf pan.

Whisk together

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl, beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2 to 3 minutes:

  • 5 1/3 Tbls unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Beat in the four mixture until blended and the consistency of brown sugar. Gradually beat in:

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Fold in just until combined:

  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans [I omitted these. Why ruin baked goods with nuts?]

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 mins. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Eggcellent Baked Dish

Are you getting tired of my puns? Too bad! I have fun with them. Never stopping!!

For my daughter's birthday party a few weeks ago I experimented on our guests and tried out several new recipes (including the cake itself) but only one was from a cookbook and can thus be mentioned here. It was super easy (especially since I had someone else prepare the cauliflower and onions for me the night before) and delicious. You should make this for your next brunch. Yes, you.

Cauliflower Cheese Puff
from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe 

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups cauliflower florets
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 ounces garlic and herb goat cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly spray a 9"x13" pan with nonstick spray, then add the butter.
  3. Place the pan in the preheated oven for a minute; let the butter coat the bottom.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Heat a skillet on medium. Add the olive oil.
  6. Add the onions, saute` for 5 minutes, then stir in the salt and the cauliflower.
  7. Saute` over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender.
  8. Transfer this mixture to the prepared pan.
  9. While the cauliflower is cooking, combine the eggs, milk, flour, and cheese in a blender.
  10. Whip into a smooth batter and pour it over the cauliflower mixture in the pan.
  11. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
  12. Serve hot or warm, cut into squares.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New-To-Me Cookbooks

I splurged recently and bought three cookbooks. Saint Vincent's has thankfully regained their sanity and returned to marking books as $1.00 (remember the outrageous $4 they'd charged for a time? I still fume at the memory) and so three books cost me less than a visit to Starbucks. I came away with:
I've finished reading the Scandinavian book and have decided that this Christmas Eve Eve (Dec 23) will have a Swedish theme. Super excited about that. Will likely go off cookbook and use some of my grandmother's recipes. But no lutfisk. Oh, you thought it was "lutefisk"? Mmmm, sorry, that would be Norwegian, my friends. We Swedes don't need that "e." Why not? Perhaps just to be irritating. Because I think the Swedish have a feud with the Norwegians. Or vice versa. Or both. I don't really get it... I pretty much consider everyone from Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark to be the same peoples. (Note:  I am now likely banned from all of Scandinavia.)

The Frugal Gourmet's book is interesting, but, be forewarned, has a revolting-sounding recipe where the main ingredient is pork blood. I only note this because after reading that recipe before bed I had an actual nightmare about being unjustly accused of shoplifting pork blood from a small market and being chased down and killed by the ethnic grocers mafia. You can't make this stuff up, folks. Nightmarish blood recipe aside (and crossed out with dark marker) I'm thinking we can use a lot of the recipes to do some sort of geography/history lesson with our daughters while we enjoy dishes from different countries.

And Gertrude Crum's book? Well, Gertie (may I call you Gertie?), I find the idea of full menus so very appealing that I will continue to read your cookbook even though I find it annoyingly overly-specific about which wine to serve with the meals.  But I'm not sure I'll ever actually make one of your menus. I'm just not feeling the inspiration, I don't know why. I should. I mean, you have your cookbook arranged not only by full meals but also by season. I should be all over that. But instead I'm, like, "meh." Perhaps I'm intimidated by all the wine talk. Perhaps I need a little more wine in my life. Perhaps I like to  whine. It's a mystery that is unlikely to be solved.