Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Plum-Raspberry Galette

This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was a Summer Fruit Galette, chosen by Michelle of Michelle in Colorado Springs. For the recipe, check out pages 366-367 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours," or hop on over to this page on Michelle's blog.

This recipe was a huge hit in our household. Jim said he thought it was the best Dorie recipe I'd made yet, and the best galette he'd ever had. And he is a real connoisseur of pies and tarts!

As I usually do, I substituted 1/3 of the total amount of flour with whole wheat flour instead. We both like whole wheat, but a crust made with all whole wheat isn't quite as flaky and the texture is too coarse and crumbly. We like this ratio as a compromise. The dough came together very nicely. As I noted before for the TWD Blueberry Pie, the big secret to good pie crust is keeping it cold all the time. The weather's been hot (for Wisconsin, that is, which means well into the 80s) so I froze both the butter and shortening. I decided to try a technique from a Cooks' Illustrated recipe for rustic tarts and did a quick "fraisage" of the dough. It's supposed to help keep the crust from cracking and leaking, and it did seem to work. I then let the dough chill overnight.

I decided to make two smaller galettes. Being mathematically inclined, I figured out that if you want to make 2 galettes from the same amount of dough, you should divide the diameter of the dough by the square root of 2. (For 3 little galettes, divide by the square root of 3, for 4, by the square root of 4, and so on.) That meant I should roll out two pieces of dough about 9 1/4 inches in diameter, and put the filling on a circle about 6 1/4 inches in diameter. I found two pot lids of the appropriate dimensions and rolled away. I was in a "neat and tidy" mood so I trimmed the edges neatly, although you don't really need to do this with a galette. They're supposed to be rustic.

For jam, I used homemade black raspberry jam -- the last jar of a batch from two years ago that needed to be used up. Graham crackers for crumbs. For the fruit, I sliced up 7 plums (that was all we had) and then added in about 2/3 cup of fresh black raspberries (the last picking from our garden). I drizzled 1 tablespoon of vino cotto over the fruit and let it sit for 15 minutes, then drained the fruit and arranged it on the crust. I had great fun carefully making a ring of plum slices around the edge of the galette, filling the inside with a thin layer of raspberries, then arranging more plum slices and tucking in more raspberries in the spaces. There was a little too much fruit, but fortunately I had saved the dough trimmings, so I made a teensy extra galette with those.

The dough was getting soft quickly in the heat, so I froze the galettes for about 20 minutes. That firmed up the dough nicely. Brush with water, sprinkle with sugar, and into the oven they go! After about 25 minutes I poured in the custard. I fiddled with that a little, adding in the drained vino cotto and fruit juices, plus a tablespoon of sour cream, plus a few drops of almond extract. I'd been careful to not to pack the fruit too firmly, so there was there was room for most of the custard in the two bigger galettes and one mini galette.

Fifteen minutes later they were out of the oven and cooling. There was just a little bit of leakage over the top of one crust, not very much. We could hardly wait!

Served with whipped cream (which I overbeat, but fortunately I was able to stop just before it turned into butter). I think Dorie is right, though, this galette would be fine all by itself.

The crust is superb! As well it might be, considering the sheer amount of butter and shortening it contains. This is not an everyday pie crust, this is a full-speed-ahead, d**n-the-calories-and-cholesterol, absolutely delicious and decadent pie crust!

The fruit was wonderful, the jam and graham cracker crumbs protected the lower crust from getting soggy, and the custard added just the right note of sweetness and flavor. Wow, what a recipe!

By the way, vino cotto is an Italian-style cooked-down wine syrup. I made it for the first time about a month ago and plan to keep it on hand all the time! It is a wonderful sauce and flavoring for fruit desserts. A little bit goes a long way. See the bottom of my July 4th-Cherry Tartlet post for the recipe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cherry-Raspberry Cobbler

This week's choice for Tuesdays with Dorie was Cherry-Rhubarb Cobbler, chosen by Amanda of Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake... (Hop on over to her blog for the recipe.)

I was hoping to actually use rhubarb in this cobbler. The notion of contrasting the sweet cherries with the tart rhubarb sounded intriguing. But alas, rhubarb season is over here. And can you find frozen rhubarb in any of the stores? No way. Maybe it's because every farmhouse and quite a few town and city houses have rhubarb in their gardens. People don't buy rhubarb in southern Wisconsin, apparently -- they grow it themselves or get it from their neighbors.

We don't grow rhubarb. But our neighbor Ardie does. I went over to see if she might have any in her freezer. "Not this year," she said. "My rhubarb did really badly this spring," pointing at a few small, spindly stalks. I called my friend Edie who lives about 6 blocks away. No rhubarb. She said it's never grown well for her since she moved off the farm and into town.

Jim said "Great! I don't like rhubarb." I said, "How do you know? I've known you for twenty-one years and never even seen you taste it." He said, "Yeah -- that's because I don't like rhubarb."

Fate was against me. But then Fate nudged me in a new direction -- our neighbors Deb and Lin stopped by to say, "Can you take care of our cats for a week? Oh, and please feel free to pick and eat our red raspberries while we're gone."

O.K. Fate was telling me to make a cherry and red-raspberry cobbler. I already had 20 ounces of frozen sweet black cherries. I thawed them and added in 12 ounces of fresh ripe raspberries. I added about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to give it at least some tartness, kept the sugar the same, and used 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger. I increased the thickener to 2 1/2 tablespoons of potato starch since the fruit mixture had a lot of liquid.

Once again, I decided to pre-bake the fruit before putting on the topping, as suggested by a recipe from Cook's Illustrated. I pre-baked it for 25 minutes, made up the biscuit dough while it was baking (for once, I followed the recipe exactly!) and then divided it into 16 pieces. Dropped them on top of the hot fruit mixture (they sank in a bit, it was still very liquid), sprinkled with ginger sugar, and baked for another 25 minutes.

What is ginger sugar? It's the sugar left over at the bottom of a bag of candied ginger. I love it! Every time I open a new bag (wonderful Australian candied ginger, from Penzeys) I dump in some extra sugar, just to make sure I have enough.

We let the cobbler cool for 20 minutes and dug in! Perfect! The topping was done, the filling was just runny enough, and the ginger added a wonderful, subtle kick. This will become my "go-to" cobbler recipe!

And I think I will plant some rhubarb.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Pudding

Another late post for Tuesdays with Dorie. Sigh.

This week's recipe was Chocolate Pudding, chosen by Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen. You can find the recipe on her blog, on page 383 of "Baking: From My Home to Yours," by Dorie Greenspan, or on Dorie's blog.

I was planning to make this on Tuesday night (last minute, I know), but we had such a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, "La Mestiza" in Madison, Wisconsin, that I was too full to even want to think about cooking!

So, Wednesday night I set out to make pudding. The food processor was already dirty from making hummus for dinner, so I used our hand blender and a stainless-steel Ikea container (both wonderful second-hand store purchases from my sweet husband). I made half the recipe, using Green and Black cocoa powder and Valrhona Guanaja 70% chocolate. Yeah, I admit it, we're chocolate lovers.

I had a moment of panic when my custard thickened up very quickly and got a bit lumpy. I hadn't turned the heat down enough. Duh. But a good beating with the hand blender took care of those little lumps! Yay! (I did get a lot of bubbles, but they mostly popped after a brief rest and a bit of a stir-down.)

While I was rummaging in the china cabinet for our ramekins, I spotted the antique hand-painted German hot chocolate set we inherited from Jim's Great-Aunt Vi. Hey, what great containers for chocolate pudding! Half a recipe was enough for 4 containers and a little bit left over.

After chilling for 2 hours (yes, the book says 4, but we couldn't wait any longer), we had them with whipped cream and black raspberries. Wonderful! Although my husband did say, "It could be more chocolate-y." What can I say, he's a chocolate "extremist!"

A great way to celebrate the release of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" by Joss Whedon. What? You haven't heard of it? Guess you're not a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," and "Firefly." But if you are, head on over and take a look. Or read what the LA Times has to say.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Late Tuesdays with Dorie: Double-Crust Cherry Pie (instead of Blueberry)

Sorry about this late posting. No excuse other than general disorganization.

This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was Double-Crust Blueberry Pie, chosen by Amy of South in Your Mouth. Another great choice!

Really good fresh blueberries are hard to find around here. They don't like our alkaline soil. I was thinking of going with frozen instead. Then I realized that our very own sour cherry tree was about to give us our first good crop of cherries. Just enough for a mini-pie. Oh boy, our very first cherry pie with our own cherries!

Now, you have to understand that cherry pie holds a really special place in my heart. When I was five years old, we moved into an old house with a great big sour cherry tree in the back yard. That tree was almost as tall as the two-story house! We picked the lower branches from the ground and with stepladders, and left the upper branches to the birds. Everyone was happy.

I vividly recall sitting out in the back yard pitting cherries, with our dog Princie watching. He was convinced that anything we spent that much time on must be a grand treat. Now, if you've ever tasted sour cherries, you know that they are mouth-puckeringly tart. Even us kids didn't like snacking on them as we pitted--we preferred to wait until they were cooked with a good dose of sugar. What's more, we were pretty sure cherries weren't good for a dog's digestion. After all, dogs are not normally fruit-eaters. All the same, every now and then those big, brown, beseeching doggie eyes would get to us and we'd toss him a pitted cherry. He'd snatch it out of the air and gulp it down. We were convinced the only reason he could stand them was because he ate them too fast to taste how sour they were.

We would freeze up the cherries with sugar and a pinch of a crushed Vitamin C tablet. Then came the pies...made by my Mom (with our "help") by my Grandma's recipe. No, not a recipe from my mother's mother, she didn't like to cook--it was from my father's mother, who was a superb baker and very generous about sharing her knowledge and recipes with her two daughters-in-law. And of course, the pie crust scraps were always rolled out, cut up, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar to make "pie crust cookies."

Well, OK, enough reminiscing, let's go on to how I made this pie. We didn't have enough cherries for a full-size pie, which gave me a chance to use the cute half-size pie pan I picked up at a rummage sale for 25 cents. I made the recipe for a single-crust pie and had enough for a double-crust mini-pie. I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, and 1/4 cup unbleached pastry flour. For the shortening I used Spectrum Organic. Other than that I stayed with the recipe. I didn't have any white bread crumbs on hand to sprinkle on the bottom crust, and I was worried that the multi-grain ones I did have would have too strong a flavor. So I used graham cracker crumbs instead.

Now a confession--I strayed far from the Dorie path when making the filling. I wasn't sure what amount of sugar would go with the sour cherries, and I also dislike using flour to thicken pie fillings (I don't like the taste or consistency). So I pulled out various cookbooks and magazines and started comparing recipes. My final recipe was a combination of them all.

My small pie dish holds 2 1/2 cups, but it's always best to start with more fruit since it cooks down. (And I love pies that are full of fruit!) So here's what I used: about 3 3/4 cups / 610 grams pitted sour cherries, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 14 tablespoons / 175 grams sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch, 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Well, that was what I meant to wasn't until I cut into the pie and saw how runny it was that I realized I had used teaspoons instead of tablespoons to measure the thickener. I was happy with the amounts and balance of the other ingredients, though!

I made a lattice top, woven in place on top of the filled pie. Then I brushed with cream (which I prefer to egg), and sprinkled with Demerara sugar. Next time I think I'll use white sugar, it lets the color of the cherries show through better.

Here's a great trick I learned from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible" -- to prevent a soggy, undercooked bottom crust, put the oven rack at the lowest position and put a baking stone or heavy metal pan on the rack before you preheat the oven. (You may wish to top the stone or pan with parchment or a silicone mat, since fruit pies bubble over a lot.) Since this was a smaller pie, I baked it at 425 for only 20 minutes, (next time, do 25 minutes) then at 375 for 40 minutes.

Despite the thickener mistake, it was great! Dorie's crust is very flaky and the taste of the sour cherry filling took me straight back to my childhood. Ah, pie! What a wonderful dessert!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bungalow Black-Raspberry Cobbler

I liked the cobbler I made for Tuesdays with Dorie so well that I decided to try it again, with a number of changes and variations. It gave me a chance to use up the last of our home-grown frozen black raspberries. (We just started picking this year's crop today, so it's time to get rid of the old stuff!)

The recipe is below. I made double the recipe and baked it in two pans. The small pan above is half a recipe, baked in a 6-inch casserole dish. The large pan below is a 10-inch casserole dish, holding one-and-a-half times the recipe.

What would I do differently next time? I'd increase the sugar just a little. Also, it was easy to slide the dough onto the smaller cobbler, but quite a pain to do it for the larger one. I might try cutting the dough into smaller pieces and putting them on individually next time.

Other than that, I was very happy with the recipe I came up with!

Bungalow Black-Raspberry Cobbler
by Bungalow Barbara

For a 9-inch round or 8-inch square baking pan, with a capacity of at least 8 cups.

Fruit Filling:
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, grated,
sprinkled with 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (about 4.95 oz / 140 gm total)
7 cups individually frozen black raspberries, not thawed (27-28 oz / 770-791 gm)
7 Tablespoons sugar (3.1 oz / 88 gm)
Note: next time I would use more, say about 9 Tbsp. (4.0 oz / 113 gm)
Note: my husband and I prefer cobblers with less sugar in the filling.
If you like sweeter fruit desserts, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup or 1 cup.
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon potato starch or scant 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Butter the baking pan.
Peel and grate apple. Sprinkle grated apple with lemon juice. In small bowl, rub lemon zest into sugar with fingers. Mix in salt and starch. Place berries in large bowl; add grated apple and sugar mixture, and mix well. Place in baking pan.
At this point I wrapped and froze the filling (the raspberries hadn't even had a chance to defrost).

Biscuit-Dough Topping:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (2.55 oz / 72 gm)
1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (2.6 oz / 74 gm)
1/2 c. unbleached pastry flour (2.35 oz / 67 gm)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 T. sugar (1.3 oz / 37.5 gm)
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
6 T. unsalted butter, frozen (3.0 oz / 85 gm)
cut into 6 or 8 pieces
9 Tablespoons buttermilk (4.8 oz / 136 gm)
plus an extra Tablespoon if needed
1/2 tsp. vanilla
For the top:
about 2 teaspoons cream or half-and-half
Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Place flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in bowl of food processor. Rub lemon zest into sugar with fingers and add to flour mixture. Process briefly to mix.
Add about one-third of the butter to processor and pulse until mixture resembles fine crumbs and no lumps of butter remain. Add the remaining butter and pulse until butter lumps are no larger than peas. At this point, you may put the mixture into a plastic bag or container and freeze until ready to use.

When you are ready to bake, bring pan with fruit filling out of the freezer. Place topping mix into a bowl and set in refrigerator. Measure out the 9 T. of buttermilk and mix in the vanilla, set that in refrigerator as well.
Set oven rack to middle position or slightly lower. Place silicone mats or aluminum foil on lowest rack or bottom of oven to catch drips. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Measure your pan before you put it into the oven. Then, place pan with fruit into oven. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, until fruit is very hot and bubbling around the edges.
About 5 to 10 minutes before the fruit is ready, take topping ingredients out of refrigerator. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a fork or spatula, being careful not to overmix. If more than a few dry crumbs remain, add in more buttermilk or other liquid as needed. The dough should be moist and fairly sticky.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat out to dimensions of pan. You did remember to measure it before you put it into the oven, right? Cut out some steam vents.
When fruit is ready, take it out of the oven and turn the oven up to 425 degrees.
Slide the dough onto the top of the fruit. I like to use a flexible cutting mat for this (just don't use the one you use to chop garlic and onions). Brush top of dough with cream or half-and-half, sprinkle with sugar.
Put it back in the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until top is well browned and filling is bubbling vigorously.

Cool on rack for half-an-hour to 45 minutes. Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Inspirations for this recipe:
Mixed Berry Cobbler from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking from My Home to Yours," or here, or here.
Best Blueberry Cobbler in Cook's Illustrated magazine, July/August 2002 or here.
Best Blueberry Pie in Cook's Illustrated magazine, July/August 2008 or here.
and Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible" for general good advice, and weights and measures.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dessert for 4th of July - Cherry Tartlets

Dessert for July 4th was cherry tartlets made with home-grown sour cherries.

We're so excited, the dwarf sour cherry tree we planted three years ago is finally yielding a good group of cherries! Not quite enough for a pie, but plenty for tarts.

Here's how I prepared them:
The crust was Almond Sweet Pastry Crust, left over from baking the Tuesdays with Dorie project for June 10, "La Palette's Strawberry Tart." These had been frozen after baking. They were still great!

On top of that I put a layer of sweetened cream cheese: cream cheese, heavy cream, vanilla-flavored powdered sugar, and a few drops of almond extract.

After pitting the cherries, I soaked them briefly in a warmed mixture of vino cotto, (recipe below), frozen concentrated cherry juice, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, and a touch of almond extract. Then I drained the cherries and thickened up the liquid with some potato starch. After cooling the glaze, I put the cherries on top of the tarts and poured the glaze over.

Yum! I was interested to note that although I felt the crust was too sweet when I served it with strawberry jam and fresh strawberries, it seemed "just right" when served with the tarter cherries and the tangy cream cheese.

Vino Cotto (Italian wine syrup): adapted from Nick Malgieri's "Great Italian Desserts."
one 1.5 liter bottle of inexpensive-but-decent red wine, fruity or spicy rather than oaky (I used Rosemont Grenache-Shiraz)
1 cup of granulated sugar (200 grams)

Place wine and sugar in large pot and bring to a boil, stirring often until sugar is dissolved. Turn down to a strong simmer or low boil and cook until it is reduced to about one-quarter of the original volume and is thick and syrupy. Stir it from time to time. It may be necessary to turn down the heat a bit as it reduces. Keep a close eye on it when it is mostly reduced, as it is easy to burn it at this stage. Cool and pour into a clean glass jar. Keeps a long time in the refrigerator.

I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of the wine syrup.

A Wisconsin 4th of July Dinner

For the 4th of July, we had brats, potato salad, and lettuce salad.

As an "immigrant" to Wisconsin, I had to be introduced to brats (pronouced to rhyme with "hots"). My husband very rarely eats red meat, but he makes an exception every now and then for brats. I think it is some sort of food ritual to affirm his connection to Wisconsin. I like them just fine myself and am always happy to eat them!

I've read that real German-style bratwurst are made from meat that is processed very fine, like the meat for hot dogs (you should excuse the comparison). However, real Wisconsin-style brats are made from more coarsely-ground meat, similar to Italian or Polish sausage. One of my ex-boyfriends, a native Wisconsinite, swore that the best way to cook brats is to boil them in beer, then let them cool and dry, and grill briefly to brown and heat them. My husband and I usually skip this step and just grill them until done. And because we are "foodies," we serve them on a part-whole-wheat bun with grainy Dijon mustard and sauteed onions, with multi-colored home-grown lettuce and a Belgian ale. And potato salad, of course -- with fresh dill from our garden.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple-Cheddar Scones

This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was Apple-Cheddar Scones, chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron. Thank you, Karina, for a delicious choice!

I stayed close to the recipe on this one. I made the apple juice from concentrate and made it extra-strong by adding just one can of water instead of three, for extra flavor. I thought my dried apples were a bit too dry, so I soaked them in a generous bath of apple juice. Bad idea -- they soaked up the juice like little sponges and were soon far too wet! I had to drain them and press them between towels to keep them from being utterly soggy. Note to self, next time just sprinkle dried apples lightly if they need moistening.

The dough was indeed very moist and sticky. I spread it out on a well-floured cutting board using a spatula, not my fingers, then patted it gently into final shape with floured hands. Then I cut it with a floured dough scraper (a wonderful tool for scones).

These were extremely tasty! They came out a little flatter than I would have liked, next time I will make them smaller and thicker. Both the apple and cheddar flavors were subtle and went well together. The cornmeal added a lovely "crunch." The texture was nice and light.

However, Jim and I are more "big bold flavors" people, so we may try increasing both the apples and the cheddar next time. Not to mention that I want to try some apple-ginger scones, and some apple-pecan scones, and some cheddar-herb savory scones, and....