twd: baking with julia: popovers

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i first had popovers in high school. we had a british-themed night. watched some monty python.

it's true. i've been a huge nerd for quite some time.

popovers are fun. minimal effort, and they do all kinds of funky stuff in the oven.

this one reminds me of the nike swoosh.

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this one is like half dome.

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i thought i'd get all fancy and add a cinnamon swirl and a little vanilla extract.

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it didn't add materially to the taste . . . popovers really need gravy if you're serving them with roast beef a la the brits, or butter and jam if you're going for brunch.

i think maybe a little sugar would also help. make them a bit more like miniature dutch babies.

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fresh out of the oven, popovers have a nice crispy crust, with an airy and tender center.

the craters are perfect to fill with nice salty butter.

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for the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie, or this week's hosts: vintage kitchen notes and bake with amy.

twd: baking with julia: peach & blueberry galette

first, i would like to thank everyone who visited my blog last week and for all the comments! i appreciate you!

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on to this galette . . . such a fancy name for such a simple, rustic and homey tart.

this was light, thin crust and studded with crunchy cornmeal. just the right note with sliced peaches and the most blueberry-tasting of blueberries i've had all summer.

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i was a little less than excited about two weeks of pie . . . see last week's posting if you have any questions about my pie attitudes. while the closest this galette gets to my beloved streusel topping is the crunchy turbinado sugar on the crust edges, i would make this again.

it's the type of light summer dessert that perfectly highlights the natural sweetness of any fruit at the peak of it's season.

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and it's so light you can serve it with ice cream. lots and lots of ice cream. this is sweet corn ice cream with raspberry chambord sauce and lemon frozen yogurt with white chocolate. thank you, again, jeni's fabulous ice cream recipes.

the ice cream? it was for the birthday girl.

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birthday galette on a steam august evening, after a night of champagne cocktails, cut-throat board gaming and good friends.

not bad way to wind down the summer.

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to find more posts on this lovely galette and the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie!

twd: baking with julia: summer fruit pie

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in my book, pie is a winter food, best left for graham cracker crusts and creamy pumpkin filling with the warmth of the oven and scent of nutmeg making a cheery end to a cold and dark evening.

 

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summer is why we have crisps and crumbles. the glorious lack of fuss of a crumble, the messy abundance of a crisp, puts the focus on the fruit, just as it should be. beyond which, crumbles are supremely easy, virtually impossible to mess up (evidenced by a happy discovery that boxed cake mix makes a fantastic substitution for flour, should your weekend cabin getaway come so stocked). a crumble topping is just so much more interesting. how can you argue with mounds of brown sugar and oats? why would you even wish to try?

summer desserts – particularly not summer fruits at their peak – are not meant to be weighed down with the onerous task of perfecting a flaky, tender and buttery crust. why waste a single bikini season calorie on anything less than sublime?

 

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i am aware that this is not a widely shared sentiment. there is a whole contingent of summer pie advocates, many of whom i am guessing are passionate tuesdays with dorie bakers who will not be amused by my anti-pie tirade.

i mean, i'm crazy in the kitchen, just not freezing my flour and my food processor blade crazy. pie crust isn't something i'm willing work for.

homemade ice cream?  that's a different story.

 

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in any event, i did my best to compromise. i endeavored greatly to produce a passable bottom crust for this luscious fruit filling, and then topped it with an epic mass of brown sugar, oats and other crumbly deliciousness.

victory.

 

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this pie was as wonderful warm out of the oven as it was cold from the fridge for breakfast.

 

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and now back to my original summer programming . . . lazy afternoons, evenings with chilled wine and moonlight and homemade mint chip ice cream, with nary a pie crust in sight!

here's the recipe from the wonderful baking with julia, which you can also find on my cohost's blog, that skinny chick can bake! to find more lovely blogs and photos, visit tuesdays with dorie.

 

Blueberry-Nectarine Pie

Pie Crust

  • 5 1/4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups (11 oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 cup ice water

To make the dough by hand, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender (or your fingers, if you prefer), cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient – this takes a while. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times – don't get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refridgerator.  

To make the dough in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the flour and salt into the bowl and stir to mix. Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. Add the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together. 

To make the dough in a food processor, start with very cold ingredients and take care not to overwork them. Place the dry ingredients in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to mix. Take the top off, scatter the chilled cubed butter and shortening over the flour, cover, and pulse again, working only until the fats are cut in and the mixture resembles slightly moist cornmeal. Add a little of the liquid and pulse a few times, then add more liquid and pulse again. Continue until the mixture has curds and clumps and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Don’t process until the dough forms a ball that rides on the blade – that’s overdoing it.

Chilling the dough: Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

The Filling

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 ½ pints)
  • 2 cups sliced nectarines (about 3 large)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Large pinch of grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons (approximately) fresh lemon juice

Put half of the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugar, flour and lemon zest and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

The Crust

  • ½ recipe Flaky Pie Dough (chilled)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash
  • Crystal or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Lining the Pie Pan: Cut the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 11 inches across. Fit the crust into a 9-inch cake pan with 1-inch-high-sides. (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch cake pan with 1 ½-inch-high sides.) Allow the excess dough to hang over the sides for the moment.

Roll the remaining piece of dough into a circle about 10 inches across. Place the pie pan in the center of the dough and, using the pan as a template, cut the bottom round of dough so that it is about ½ inch larger all around than the pan.

Filling the Pie Pan: Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the top with the butter.

Top Crust: Trim the overhanging dough to about ½ inch. Lift the rolled-out circle of dough onto the pie (this is easily done by folding the dough into quarters, transferring it to the top of the pie, and then unfolding it), aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. If necessary, use a kitchen knife or scissors to trim any ragged edges.

Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan. Crimp the edges by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 or 2 inches around the rim. Press the tines of a fork against the flat scallops to decorate. Paint the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little crystal or turbinado sugar.

Chilling the Pie: Using the point of a thin knife, cut 4 to 6 slits in the crust and chill for about 20 minutes. At this point, the pie can be frozen. Place it on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, then wrap airtight and freeze for up to a month. There’s no need to thaw the pie before baking, but you should apply another coat of egg wash and will have to bake the pie about 10 minutes longer.

Baking the Pie: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the pie on a parchment- or foil-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit bubbling. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut it so that the crusts, top and bottom, have a chance to set.

Storing: Pies are at their peak the day they’re made, but you can cover and chill leftovers for a day.

almond chocolate biscotti . . . or chocolate toffee cookies.

Biscotti, anyone?

i don't really understand biscotti. i like a gooey cookie. a chewy, melty chocolate chip cookie. i can handle a crispy cookie . . . a ginger snap or crumbly shortbread. but biscotti. what, my friends, is the point?

this isn't to knock the joy of dunking. i very much enjoy a good milk-soaked oreo or graham cracker. but the biscotti doesn't do it for me.

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i tried here. the baking with julia recipe was for hazelnuts. but i decided to pull a total hilary. i used almonds. and rather than buying frangelico, i made amaretto.

that's right. i have two mason jars of boozy almond goodness in order to put two teaspoons of almond liqueur in these bad boys.

but neither the homemade amaretto or the judicious addition of chocolate could save the biscotti from their inherent hard as a rock biscottiness. they were lovely biscotti, easy to make (even with the exceptionally unnecessary step of homemade liqueur, a recipe for which you can find at shutterbean) and were munched down by italian and spanish fans alike at my euro cup party.

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but still. if i'm going to eat a cookie, friends, biscotti will not get the job done. my newest cookie obsession will: chocolate toffee cookies, courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

yeah, that's the stuff. the perfect slightly gooey center, crisp and chewy edges, intense chocolatey goodness with the crunch of slivered almonds and caramely, toothiness of the heath bar crumbles. dunking optional.

if you insist on enjoying biscotti, check out the recipe at tuesdays with dorie

berries & cream cake

Happy Birthday Marilyn

it was a good weekend, full of family, sunshine and good food.

also, many photos in extreme variations of lighting and camera source. brace yourself.

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everything tastes better when eaten with your fingers and an endless supply of raspberry sauce.

Goat cheeses and cherries, fresh & preserved

goat cheeses and cherries . . . summer berry season is officially in full swing.

you know it's a good weekend when it includes more than one birthday cake.

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berries & cream was my contribution.

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chocolate on chocolate. purty.

my cake talked a good game. a light genoise, layered with macerated berries and whipped cream frosting.

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my execution? well, it looks pretty. and i learned an important lesson about how long you really, really, really need to whip your eggs for a genoise.

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the bottom layer did not raise. my generous father-in-law may have called it a tasty crust.

that's love, right there.

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but, also? fresh summer berries, macerated in a little booze, plus whipped cream frosting? made for a very special birthday?

that's also love.

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for the recipe – french strawberry cake - visit tuesdays with dorie. make extra whipped cream frosting and macerated berries. and whip your eggs!

twd: baking with julia: oasis naan

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sometimes, i feel like fine dining is totally wasted on me when i would be perfectly happy just consuming the bread basket. sometimes (see friday night, to the somm's horror) a loaf of good crusty bread is dinner. add butter, cheese, maybe some honey. call it a day.

since the somm was in town and would prefer not to consume only carbohydrates, i decided to go ahead and try a few new indian recipes to go with the naan.

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there was a half-hearted attempt to find friends to come share the mountain of food, but it ended up just being us.

no complaining here.

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more easy chicken masala, caramelized cumin-roasted carrots, green bean, corn and coconut stir fry and raita for me.

every one of those recipes was easy and super delicious. light, and summery, not what you might think of when you think indian food, and worth sharing … or keeping to yourself.

but back to that naan. this recipe did not turn out the way i expected naan – which is usually soft, and chewy, and little charred. instead, i got a yeasted, crispy flatbread. 

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i tried baking them two ways: on my pizza pan that has lots of little holes that encourage crispness, and on the back of a cookie sheet, as recommended by the cookbook. no real noticable difference. 

the problem was probably too much flour in the dough, which was necessary since the recipe called for TEN WHOLE MINUTES of hand kneading. which i handled like a champ, thanks to my fabulously gay drill sergeant of a weights class instructor. no master courvoisier, i wasn't whining. i just think a traditional naan dough should be wetter. and maybe involve yogurt.

while i don't think these were really naan-enough, and i probably won't make them again because my go-to bread recipe involves no physical exertion whatsoever . . . the bread was tasty and eargerly consumed by both the somm and myself. and just as good smothered in raita as butter. the big crystals of salt made them reminiscent of pretzels.

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which are still so totally on my summer bucket list.

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for links to the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie.

baking with julia: strawberry rhubarb “shortbread”

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summer has arrived. with a vengeance. 

luckily, we can temper the crankiness brought on by heat and humidity with the sweet pucker of strawberries.

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i love the classic sweet tart of strawberries and rhubarb. i like my food with balance. not too much one way or the other.

the way a sprinkle of sea salt on dark chocolate brings the sweet and bitter together a little more harmoniously on your tongue.

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if it is pink, all the better.

i learned a new technique with this recipe. you put together the dough, chill it, and then grate it into the pan.

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the grated dough sandwiches homemade jam of the strawberry rhubarb vanilla bean persuasion. don't be tempted to add something sweeter. it needs a bit of the sour bite of the rhubarb. and the vanilla bean deepens the flavor a bit. i love the almost woody caramel flavor of a real vanilla bean.

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grating the frozen dough keeps the butter cold but brings a lightness to the finished cake. because, let us be clear.

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if you are looking for the crisp crumble of a walker shortbread cookie, this is not your recipe.

this is cake.

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have a bite!

For the recipe, visit Tuesdays with Dorie or buy the book!