Sunday, June 23, 2013

Savory Rhubarb and Onion Pie

Rhubarb has a secret that it's been hiding for many years under layers of sugar and syrups. Rhubarb can be savory.
Game changer. 
Think of the billions of possibilities that have now emerged. The reason it couples so well with sweet things is because cooked rhubarb has a naturally elegant bitterness that will cut the sweetness in a pie - bringing a balance to dessert. So, when you try to make a savory rhubarb dish, you have to make sure to bring a tint of sweetness to provide that balance. Actually, that's the basis behind my theory for today's dish - a little yin-yang sort of thing. We're used to rhubarb being used as a spot of bitterness in a sweet dish. Instead, I wanted to switch the ratio of sweet to bitter so our sweet element (raisins) would be a spot of sweetness in a tart(ish) dish.
I hope I'm not misleading you with all this talk of bitterness. It's not actually a bitter dish! It's salty and sweet and contrasts a nice flaky pie crust with a veggie interior. You have the mild bitter and the satisfying sweetness and, wow, I need to go eat another piece....

Well....I used my favorite pie dough recipe, but you can substitute any old savory pie dough for it (this is not the time to break out the pre-made oreo pie crust).
I wanted to try something new, so I set it up as a pizza sort of thing - flatted the dough unto a sheet and spread out the topping.

Bake Temp: 450 F
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Ready-In: 1 hour

My Favorite Pie Dough
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 stick chilled butter, chopped into 8 pieces
1 tbls. apple cider vinegar
3 tbls. cold water

Prepare the pie dough first. Pop the water in the freezer so it will be quite cold by the time you need it. Cut the butter into the flour until it forms a crumbly mixture. Mix in the water and vinegar until the dough comes together. Wrap up and store in the fridge for the time being.

2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tbls oregeno
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp. pepper
4-5 stalks of rhubard, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 - 3/4 cup raisins
1 tbls. butter
1/2  cup hard cheese (I love Parmesan)

Preheat the oven 450 F. I chopped up one onion and set it aside to make a cleaner looking topping before baking. I cut up the other into semi-circles.

The semicircles were sauteed them in the butter until gently golden. I really let them take their time to coax that awesome sweetness out. When the time is right, mix in the garlic and let the flavors combine

 Pour in the broth and 2 tbls oregeno, 1 tsp thyme and 1 tsp rosemary, setting the others aside for later.

  Stir in rhubarb and raisins. Cover and let sit for 4-5 minutes. You want the rhubarb to be cooked and the raisins to be getting plump and juicy. Remove from heat.

Roll out the dough on a lightly flowered surface. I greased a cookie sheet and rolled out the dough to fit perfectly.

 Sprinkle remaining spices and pepper on surface of dough

 Pour the rhubarb mix on top and spread out evenly.

Plop on the diced onions.

Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Then, spread the cheese over the top.

  Lower oven temp to 350 (you don't have to wait until it lowers to 350) and make for another 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Crepe Cake

Layers of crepes, excellent custard, topped with ganache
Last weekend home with the sis! Ever since Smitten Kitchen's cookbook came out, she and I have been planning on making this amazing crepe cake together. It's quite a recipe to tackle - first there's the staggering pressure of making crepes, coupled with hazelnut custard, candied hazelnuts and chocolate ganache. This recipe was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. My sister and I both tend to be control freaks in the kitchen. I love to bake with friends, but usually for me that means having them sit in the kitchen and watch me while I bustle around, occasionally allowing them to stir something. Luckily, this recipe seems as though it was designed with two people in mind. There are certainly tricky parts where it helps to have an extra set of hands. 

Cook Time: 30 minute
Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour
Ready-In: 4+ hours (Yep...labor intensive and time consuming)
This is really a recipe for those looking for a cooking adventure! Go in with a good attitude.

So, you'll be needing a solid crepe recipe - enough to make about 20 crepes. You will want chocolate ganache and a creamy custard for filling.

Here's the crepe recipe that we used:
9 tbls browned butter
2 cups milk
1/3 cup cream
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
butter for the frying pan

For the custardy filling:
1 1/3 chopped hazelnuts
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tsps hazelnut liqueur (like Frangelico)
3 1/3 cup whole milk
7 tbls sugar
5 large egg yolks
 5 tbls cornstarch

Chocolate Ganache Drape
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbls Frangelico

Begin by making your crepes. They need to chill for at least an hour (although you can make yourself busy in this time preparing the other things) or up to two days.
You want to have browned butter -to do so, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam up and bubble and eventually turn to gold, then brown. Stir frequently. As soon as it begins to brown, remove from heat - it will go from brown to burnt alarmingly fast.

This is a great example of browned butter. Yummy yummy.

 Alright. Done. Let the butter cool until it is lukewarm before proceeding.
Get to ready to whisk your arms off - this recipe wants well-blended ingredients.
In a large bowl combine crepe milk, eggs, flour, sugar and 6 (ONLY 6) tablespoons of the browned butter. You'll need the other three later on. Whisk until perfectly smooth. I even went through the trouble of straining out flour clumps. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, up to two days.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350. Spread out your hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them for 10-12 minutes. You want them to have a little color, but not be burnt. Let those guys cool then start the pastry cream. In a food processor grind together one cup of hazelnuts, confectioner's sugar, and hazelnut liqueur. First it will become powdery (duh), then it will start to clump together as you release the hazelnut oil. You want your mixture to be finely clumpy.

In a saucepan combine this nutty paste with the whole milk and sugar on medium-high heat. Bring it to a simmer, stirring gently.

 In a medium bowl (this is the part where it's handy to have a sous chef) beat together the egg yolks with the cornstarch to make this crazy yellow glunk.

When the milk is ready, gently pour small spoonfuls of the hot milk into the egg yolk, whisking constantly so nothing cooks itself prematurely. Continuing adding milk until the yolks are quite warm. Now, pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture (reverse direction of what you were just doing). Return the milk to the stove, whisking constantly as  you bring to to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then remove from heat. You'll notice that it thickens into a light pudding consistency. Stir in the other three tablespoons of browned butter from the crepes. Transfer to a clean bowl  and put in the fridge to help cool fast. You need it to be completely cooled before you finish the cake - quicken this step by placing in a half bowl of ice water. It will take several hours. Pat a piece of plastic wrap over the top so no film forms.

IN THE OTHER  can start making crepes when they've sat long enough! It's gonna take a while unless you have multiple chefs on it (I just fried for about 30 minutes to make sure our crepes were consistent). Use a 9-inch frying pan. My strategy (although you should certainly adapt your own) was to keep the burner on medium heat. I re-buttered every two crepes. Usually your first one or two won't be that swell, but you'll find your stride and be turning out beautiful crepes in no time.
Anyways...medium heat, well-buttered pan. Pour 1/4 cup batter into one half of the pan, rotating the pan quickly to coat it evenly. Cook on one side until golden-brown (about 2 minutes), then flip to the other for 20 seconds. In order to flip, I'd slide a spatula under, making sure it wasn't going to stick anywhere, then grabbed a well-cooked edge, pulling up gently to slide my fingers under (you want to do this quickly so you don't feel the heat), then flipped it over. Don't worry too much about where it lands, or if it's folded, as it's super easy to rearrange it once it's down. Once done, place on a plate with a layer of paper towels - I put a new paper towel layer on every 4 crepes.

With the crepes all done and the creme chilling in the fridge, you may have time to take a break and re-coop a little! I took the time to clean the dishes and cuddle my favorite hedgehog.
Once the creme custard is cool, you can begin the final stage (almost)! Set aside the nicest looking crepe for the top. Choose a nice thick and whole crepe for the bottom layer.

Alternate one crepe with 1/4 cup custard until you run out of custard.  Place the top crepe on top.

Now! Make the ganache! Easy peasy, we've done this a thousand times.
Chop chocolate finely and place in a heat-proof bowl.

Heat cream and liqueur in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until all the chunks are gone - if needed you can microwave for about 20 seconds at a time until smooth.

Pour smoothly over the top of the cake and spread out gluttonously.

Let chill in the fridge until ready to be eaten.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Beefy Empanadas

 The elusive pasty truck of St. Paul makes yet another appearance in our lives. This time, my lovely sister Samantha flew in from Minnesota to make a guest star appearance at my graduation and graduation party. As always, her arrival brings a flurry of activity to the kitchen, with my dad making his famous pickles and classic red beet eggs, my older, older sister exciting to have copious amounts of time and baking supplies nearby and Samantha's belligerent request that I make her pasties. It's been fun! 
But, for her arrival, it was time for me to try a recipe that my brother and I made a long time ago. Something so delicious that last time I had them, I ate so many I felt sick. Same thing happened with calzones years ago, and I recently overcame my fear of them too! Anyways, empanadas!

 A dish that can be made sweet or savory to fit your mood! I always like the savory approach to cleanse the baking palate, but here's a slight sweet twist to keep you coming back for more! Some people prefer theirs to be fried, but I found an alarming lack of difference in the outcomes between baked and fried, thus I choose the healthier method to present to you!

Oven Temp: 350 F
Prep Time: 25 minutes +1 hour cooling
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Ready-In: 1 hr 45 minutes

3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water
Flour all your surfaces!
1 egg
1 egg white (save yolk for later)
1 tsp vinegar
3 tbls shortening or softened butter
 1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 raisins
2 tbls brown sugar
1 1/2 ground beef
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger
2 tbls canola oil
1 tsp chives
salt and pepper to taster

Begin by preparing your dough. In a bowl, beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and salt.
Cut the shortening or butter into the flour mix until well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center.
Knead until the dough comes together, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour, but no more than a day.
While the dough is chilling, prepare your filling. I went with a rather nontraditional approach by adding a subtle sweetness using raisins and a little sugar.
Heat the canola oil in a large frying pan. Stir in chopped onions and beef until the meat is cooked through. Mix in raisins,  cumin, ginger and......... Remove from heat. I'm sorry for the lack of photos....raw and cooked ground beef are pretty darn un-photogenic!
Preheat oven to 350. When do is ready, divide into 10 parts. Roll into balls then roll into into 6 to 8 inch circles.

 Scoop filling into half the circle. Fold the opposite edge over and pinch shut with a fork or your fingers.

 Lay on ungreased baking sheet. Using the egg yolk from the dough, mix in equal parts water and gently paint the surface of the empanadas for a nice golden crust.

Bake for about 20 minutes, when the outside because a golden brown. Best served warm.