Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sweet (and Savory) Potato Pie

Keeping a careful eye on the butter
With a continuous supply of sweet potatoes at the ready, I knew it was about time that I begin baking with those bad boys again. This time I wanted to take a pie approach, as you should often due when faced with a surplus of sugary vegetables. As you may very well know by now, I prefer my desserts chocolate and my pies savory.
This recipe comes from a little fellow I know. He is a pretty big fan of root vegetables and I'm sure he'd enjoy cheese if it didn't upset his tummy so. He was in charge on monitoring the butter to make sure it was at the ideal temperature for everything that was made this weekend. He did an excellent job and I think I shall have to keep him on the task force.

This is a super adaptable recipe for whatever you taste preference is. My palate prefers gingery-garilcky flavors so I made sure to add a lot of them into this.

Bake Temp: 350 F
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
On the Table In: 1 hour

Pie Crust
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cold and chopped into 1/2 cubes
1 tbls apple cidar vinegar
3 tbls cold water (stick in freezer right now and it will be perfect!)

4-5 smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced vertically to make circles
the top part of a butternut squash chopped into quarters
1 tbls chopped chives
1 tbls onion powder
1 tps cilantro
1 tbls ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, smooshed
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cup cheese (cheddar is good)

Begin by making your pie dough. Cut butter into flour until it forms a thin crumble. mix in vinegar and water. Mix (preferably by hand) until dough comes together. Seran wrap and put in fridge.
Now make the filling. Steam the sweet potatoes and squash for 5 minutes.
How to Steam:
Place a metal strainer in a pot. Fill water about half an inch over the bottom of the strainer. Salt  lightly. Place vegetables in. Heat up until water boils, cover and let steam for 5 minutes.
Good job.

Remove veggies from steamer. Sprinkle with chives, onion, cilantro, ginger and garlic. Mix gently so as not to smoosh anything.

In a separate bowl mix together sour cream and lemon juice. Set aside.

At this point the kitchen smelled pretty darn good, although that may be due in part to the crepes I was making for breakfast in the background. Mmmmm....nothing like Sunday Morning Crepes...


Take out your pie dough and split into two balls. One should be slightly smaller than the other. Roll out larger ball into a circle shape. Lay gently into pie dish (about 10 inch diameter) Make sure to have a little overhang. Because this is a relatively dry pie, you don't need to bake the bottom part ahead of time.

A lil overhang
 Layer half the vegetable glop. Pour in the cheese. Layer the other half of veggie stuff. Pour the sour cream and lemon juice on top.

Roll out the second layer of pie dough. It should form a smaller circle. I like to sprinkle this with salt and pepper on one side. Plop the dough on top of everything. Using the overhang from the bottom pie dough, wrap to the upper pie dough and pinch together to form a nice tight seal.

Cut the pie dough so gas and liquid can be released during the baking.

 Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Turn up oven to 500 for the last five minutes for a nice golden brown on top.

For a little bonus beauty in your day - our Christmas cactus has bloomed for the first time in many many years:


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kiss Pies

I found this sweet little recipe last week and decided to adapt it to a homemade version, instead of using premade crust as the original called for. As I mentioned in my other post today, Mushroom Tart, I used the same pie crust in that savory recipe as I will use here in this sweet recipe. It's a very basic, flaky pie dough that can be sweetened or savored, depending on your purposes. 
These are super cute and great for handing out to kids or friends. So easy and quick to make, but really fun and great if you like to watch cooking shows at the same time (like the latest Halloween episode of Chopped). 

Bake Temp: 350 (you can bake it at the same time as the Mushroom Tart!)
Prep Time: 40 minutes (including cooling pie dough for 30)
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Ready-In: 55 minutes
My own Field of Dreams

Pie Dough:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
3 tbls cup ice water (or cold water)
1 tbls apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Hershey Kisses!

1 egg white
1 tsp water

Make pie dough by cutting the butter into the flour and sugar until it forms a crumbly mixture. Pour in both liquids and continue cutting. When fairly mixed, dump unto a lightly floured surface and knead until combined. Form into a disc and put in fridge for 30 minutes.

When done, roll out thinly on a lightly floured surface. Cut 2 1/2 to 3 inch circles. I used a 1 cup measuring cup to get perfect circles every time, but they are so easy to work with, the circles can be pretty irregular.

In the back you can see the first step of folding, in the front is the second

Place a kiss in the middle and fold up opposite sides of the circle and pinch together. Repeat with other two sides to get a square shape. Pinch the edges together. Repeat with all the circles. With the in between dough left over, form a ball and roll out again. Repeat until all dough is used up.

Whisk together egg white and water. Lightly paint each pie. Sprinkle with sugar.
Back at 350 for about 25 minutes, until the top is golden.

Cutie Pies

Mushroom Tart

Smitten Kitchen, which is arguably the most incredible cooking blog ever, just came out with its cookbook. For my birthday, my lovely sister sent me a brand-spankin' new copy of it. As always, when I receive a new cookbook, I leaf through and mark the recipes I have an interest in.

About 75% of the recipes...
My favorite cookbook, which is The Golden Book of Chocolate looks like this...

 Usually I'll mark any recipes that feature chocolate, so marking that book required a LOT of self-restraint, believe it or not.
Anyways, I recieved this amazing new cookbook. While I always love her recipes, I decided to make a few variations on her Wild Mushroom Tart. I loved the unique shapes of Shiitake mushrooms so I featured them in my tart pretty heavily. 
I also made a double batch of pie dough because today I made TWO recipes from ONE pie dough! Woooooah! This is, of course, a savory recipe, but the other is sweet. That's right, a universal pie dough. 

Oven Temp: 350
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
You're probably noticing that 30 and 40 minutes should add up to and hour and 10 minutes, but you need to cool the pie crust for 30 minutes additionally, plus cooling time rounds to around 2 hours.

Pie Crust
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
3 tbls cup ice water (or cold water)
1 tbls apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup grated hard cheese (cheddar, parmesan or asiago recommended)
1 tbls ground pepper

The heavenly smell of melting butter
1 tbls veggie oil
1 tbls butter
1 tbls thyme
1 tbls chopped chives
2 shallots, chopped up
2 garlic cloves, minced
1lb wild mushroom variety (I used shiitakes), pulled into pieces or slived
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms (the regular white or brown guys)
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup hard cheese (I used a mix of romano, provolone, mozzarella and parmesan)

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 (I know the bake temperature is 350, but you  need to bake the pie crust prior to filling it, so viola!). I pop 1/3 a cup of water in the freeze at this point to cool it off. Cut the butter into the flour (you can also use a food processor) until it makes a crumbly mixture. Pour in to the vinegar and continue cutting. Add in the water. Mix in cheese and pepper and need.
Roll out into a patty shape. Wrap up and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
In the mean time, begin chopping up the mushrooms. I had to take a moment to admire the shape and funk of the shiitakes.

Melt the butter in a pan. Add in the oil. Over medium-low heat, sizzle the shallots for about two minutes. Add garlic, let sit for another minute or two before mixing in chives, thyme and mushrooms.

 It's a huge quantity of mushrooms, so you need to flip them a lot until they shrink enough to fit in the pan. They need to simmer until there is little water left in them. It will smell amazing.
As the mushroom mix is simmering, mix together the heavy cream, sour cream and ricotta until smooth. Add in the eggs and hard cheese.
When mushroom mix is done, stir into cheese mix.

When the pie dough is done, take out of fridge and roll out.
Often there will be too much dough. In situations like this, I always resort to making "Sammy snacks" by chopping up the dough and baking.

Place in a tart pan  and bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Take out. Pour in mushroom mixture and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.



It's so good that the ghost that lives in my oven ate a slice before it was even finished baking!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sunday Morning Crepes

After a fairly exhausting birthday and championship meet, I found myself in great need of a sunday brunch. Luckily, my friends have a similar mindset. I guess that's why I like them.
As per usual, we didn't get together for several hours after we had originally planned to meet. Being smart, for once, I ate breakfast in advance, but poor Isaac did not foresee the problem and was starving by the time we arrived. Thankfully, we decided on a recipe fairly quickly. And, even better, there were three of us to make a breakfast that really only requires half a person to prepare it.

A hungry crowd
It's a lovely crepe and apple sauce recipe. The crepes are from Sequoia's family recipe which is easily convertible for various amounts of people. This is a REAL recipe, with only rough measurements, meaning each batch turns out slightly differently! More fun! More adventure!

Apple Sauce
2 tbls butter
2 tbls brown sugar
1 tbls water
2 large apples, chopped

Crepes (per person)
about 2 tablespoons of flour
 4 table spoons of milk
 2 eggs per person
splash of vaniller
So, for 3 people we used 6 tbls of flour, 2/3 cup of milk and 6 eggs

Begin by placing the apples and butter in a saucepan and heating them on medium heat. Let it thicken for about five minutes. In the meantime, begin mixing the crepes. Whisk the eggs lightly. Stir in milk, flour and vanilla. To get rid of lumps, strain. Always strain the batter for thinner crepes. If time is available, it's good to let the batter sit to get rid of bubbles.

Check in on the sauce, if it's looking to thick, add in some water. Stir in the brown sugar and let simmer on low as you make the crepes.

Sequoia, with proper flipping technique
With crepes, proper supplies and technique really make all the difference. I recommend a true iron skillet, if attainable. A wide, flat pan is necessary, regardless. Lightly butter between each crepe. Make sure it the pan is heated up to temperature before you begin. Butter should lightly sizzle and the batter should cook very quickly. If the pan is too cool the batter will absorb too much butter and be gross and soggy. Flip quickly and accurately. If you're seriously considering going into the crepery business, you'll want to be practicing wrist-flips nightly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

World's Best Vanilla Cupcakes

Just as promised, a second recipe for today! I've been wanting to try this incredible looking cupcake recipe from It's supposedly the greatest vanilla cupcake recipe in the world! For the sake of some gluten-free girls I know I wanted to make another gluten-free recipe. Unfortunately I'll have to save that project for another weekend. In the meantime, I thought I ought to get some practice frosting cupcakes in nicer ways than the simply flat-top.

I looked up several different techniques but ultimately went with a simple and incredibly easy one of my own.

Bake Temp: 350
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 16-18 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour

1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

Perfect Buttercream Frosting
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup room temp butter
2 tbls vanilla
Food Dye

In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. To get the seeds out, slice through one layer of the bean lengthwise. Using the flat side of a knife, scrap the inside of the bean. The blackish goop is the seeds all joined together.

Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake flour*, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.
Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because there is so little butter, you'll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs (please use room temperature eggs! You can warm them up by putting the eggs in a bowl with warm, but not hot, water for about 5 minutes or until the shell is warm to the touch), sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

 Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquid.  (Don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong.  It's supposed to be that way.)
Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
Bake for 16 minutes and then test to see if they are done. To test for doneness, gently tap the center of each cupcake with you finger. If it is slightly mushy, or if pieces stick to your finger, then it is not done. If you take it out too soon, the centers will collapse. The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes. When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rac.

*Because these are such nice cupcakes, I highly recommend going the distance and getting cake flour, as well as making sure you have room-temp supplies.

For the Frosting - I recommend you make this as they bake.
Mix butter and sugar until well combined. There's nothing wrong with mixing this for an extended period of time. Add in vanilla and dye. If too thick, add one teaspoon of milk at a time, if too thin, add more sugar.

For this texture, the method is very simple. Using a simple star tip and starting at the middle of the cupcake, squeeze heavily initially, then release, while pushing down slightly and pull up. Work out in a spiral formation.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bacon-Cheddar Scones

Gosh, I'm awfully sorry for not posting a recipe last night. Between Frankenstorm Sandy and college applications I lost track of time and next thing I knew I was back in school with no sweets. To make it up to you, I thought I ought to make TWO recipes today! With the extra hour the clocks have given us, I have a whole new hour to bake in! It's not even 10 and I am ALREADY more productive than I've been in perhaps the past month. I decided to start us out with a nice savory scone recipe - something I've never tried before. 
Scones are wonderful. They are as versatile as muffins, but the texture is more interesting and the flavors more poignant. I believe some get intimidated by the idea of making scones, but they are certainly as easy as a good muffin recipe and, personally, I think a lot more enjoyable to much. 

From cookinglight.timeinc

 Before we began, here's a couple helpful hints that any scone-maker should know:
1. Don't over mix. If you do the scone will be denser, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the desired consistancy is light and fluffy.
2. Before I begin making scones, I always take a moment to take a deep breath and tell myself that there is only so much you can control in sconery. Scones have their own personality- by nature they need to be bumpy and uneven, therefore you can only control their appearance to a certain extent.
The Goal

Oven Temp: 400
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 22-27 minutes  
Ready In: 50 minutes

3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (you can freeze for 15 minutes before needing “chilled” butter)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 8 oz)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
10 slices cooked and chopped bacon
 3/4  and 1/2 cup buttermilk (you'll be using them separately)
1 large egg
2 tsp water
Preheat oven to 400.
Because I had no pre-cooked bacon, I started frying it before I began and the timing was perfect. My dad, being a genius, rolls up the bacon before we put in the freezer so that you can take individual pieces out without having to defrost the lot.

\In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Cut in butter slowly using a  pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles small peas. Stir in cheese. 
Add green onions, bacon and the 3/4 cup of the buttermilk to flour and cheese mixture.
  Mix by hand until all ingredients are just incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon of buttermilk at a time, until dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball. Stir as lightly and as little as possible. Remove dough from bowl and place it on a lightly floured flat surface. At this point the recipe says to pat dough into a ball and use a well-floured rolling pin to flatten the dough into a circle about 8 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick and cut dough into 8 to 10 equal wedges. I prefer to scoop up palm-sized balls and flatten them into rough rectangular shapes. Whatever you do, it will be okay.
Whisk egg and water in a small mixing bowl to combine. Brush each wedge with egg wash. Place scones on a Silpat-lined baking sheet and bake for 22 to 27 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle.

Serve warm.