Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple Pie

Baking makes me nervous and making pie dough even more nervous. I love to cook and cook with ease, baking is a different story. However, I'm trying to become more proficient and one day do hope to make the perfect looking apple pie. This pie certainly was not perfect looking but it was indeed delicious! I used cookie cutter leaf and turkey shapes to cover the rips and holes on the top crust. Even if the dough did not rip or tear I had planned to decorate the pie with some leaves and a turkey in the middle......for Thanksgiving of course.

The dough recipe hails from The Boston Globe Cook Book for Brides, copyright 1963. A friend of mine sent me the recipe knowing my hesitation with dough and assured me this was a simple recipe and that it was!

Bride's Easy Pie Crust:
1 cup lard or shortening (I used Crisco)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Cut shortening into fairly small pieces or chunks. Pour boiling water over and stir to a cream mass. Add salt and sugar. Sift flour and baking powder together. Stir into first mixture. Mix well with flat well-tined fork or pastry blender, until well blended. Gently shape into a big round ball. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. When ready to use, cut the dough ball in half. This will make a two-crust pie. Keep other half in the refrigerator for future will keep at least a week.

To roll out crust for pie, divide in half again, and roll out very thin on a floured board or pastry cloth with a floured rolling pin. Lift into 9-inch pie plate and fit gently into place. Do not pull, stretch or tear. Now put in your filling, roll out top crust and fit it into place. With long kitchen shears, snip stars for steam vents in center of pie. Trim off excess crust with scissors; with pastry brush spread milk lightly between crusts, and press gently together. Brush pie with milk for golden brown crust. I used an egg wash rather than milk. I had the hardest time putting the top crust on and it did tear, name it!

The filling of this pie is adapted from Nick Malgieri's recipe for Apple Pie. Here are the ingredients:

3 pounds apples (I used golden delicious, Granny Smith, and Honey Crisp), peeled and each cut into 8 slices
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar (you may use more or less depending on sweetness of apples)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
Dash of salt

Melt butter in large saute or frying pan. Saute apples for about a minute, gently stirring to coat apples with butter. Add lemon juice and sugar and cook till apples are just tender, about 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Allow to cool while rolling out bottom crust.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Place bottom crust into 9-inch pie plate. Fill with apples. Roll out top crust and place over apples. Seal edges and flute if desired. Cut a few vents into top crust to allow steam to escape. If desired, whisk egg with salt. Brush lightly over crust and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie plate on sheet pan to catch any drips (since much of the moisture is removed by precooking, this isn't a big problem). Reduce oven temperature to 375º, and bake for about 40 minutes, till top is browned and filling is bubbling. Cool on rack.

Bobbie's Famous Latkes (potato pancakes)

Last weekend my girlfriend invited me over to help make Latkes for an upcoming holiday party she is having. These are made each and every year for the annual party and each year Bobbie does it alone. Imagine making well over 100 Latkes! Of course, these were made to be stored in the freezer until the event. This is a messy job..........grease splattering, flying shredded potatoes, but nonetheless it is fun and well worth it when time to eat.

5 lb. bag of russet potatoes (about 8)
2 medium onions
2 eggs
heavy teaspoon baking powder
4 heavy tablespoons flour
lots of white and black pepper
vegetable oil

Peel potatoes and shred in a food processor or by hand (good luck if doing by hand). Remove moisture from shredded potatoes by squeezing with paper towels or a hand towel. Grate the onions using a hand grater. Place shredded potatoes in a large bowl, add grated onion, baking powder, flour, salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour about 1/2" of oil in a heavy-duty frying pan (cast iron preferred). Heat oil until hot and form potato mixture lightly into small flat discs. Fry in oil and flip when golden/crispy. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bags (we did the paper great. Each batch yields about two dozen Latkes. We made five batches that day. Here are pics of the messy floor and ruined nails:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry Sachertorte

One of my favorite cookbooks is The Frog Commissary Cookbook, by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller. I have the original edition (circa 1985) and Sachertorte is one my favorite recipes from this gem of a cookbook. I remember dining at The Commissary which was an upscale cafeteria in center city Philadelphia that opened up in 1976. The cafeteria is no longer there but Steve continues to run a successful catering business. He also had a restaurant called The Frog......what an awesome restaurant that was!

We are going to friends for Thanksgiving dinner and I am bringing two desserts and a side dish. Today I made the Sachertorte and it now is in the freezer until Thanksgiving morning. I have been making this since 1985........probably once/year and unlike my other baking attempts, this cake is one I can make with confidence.......practice makes perfect, or at least almost perfect. This is a decadent chocolate cake, best served with unsweetened whipped cream.

The original Sachertorte has two layers, this cake has just one. A Sachertorte is the most famous of Viennese culinary delights.

8 oz. semisweet chocolate
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup flour
8 oz. walnuts, very finely ground
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
8 egg yolks
8 egg whites
2/3 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons instant coffee
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (Do not use chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 9" x 2 1/2" springform pan. Melt the chocolate and cool until lukewarm. Cream the butter with the salt, vanilla, and sugar. Toss together the flour and walnuts. Add the egg yolks one by one to the butter-sugar mixture. Stir in the chocolate, walnuts, cranberries and orange rind. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and stir 1/4 of them into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes and push down the puffed-up sides so that they are flush with the middle. Remove the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a cooling rack set over wax paper. (The bottom has now become the top of the cake). Cool completely, Heat the apricot jam, push it through a sieve, and brush over the top and sides of the cooled cake. Let glaze set for about half an hour before icing the cake.

With glaze

In a metal mixing bowl or sauce pan, scald the cream. Whisk in the coffee and add the chocolate. Stir 1 minute over the heat, then remove and continue to stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Cool from hot to warm and pour over the cake. Rotate the cake while spreading icing evenly with the spatula. This is where having the wax paper over the cooling rack comes in super-handy! Chill the cake on its rack until the icing is completely set. Transfer to a serving plate and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

The basic recipe does not include the cranberries and orange rind. The Variations for the recipe does suggest them as an addition for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the first time I've made this dessert for Thanksgiving........with the cranberries/orange rind.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Easy Provençal Lamb

I can't believe my last blog post was in the midst of summer! Here we are with shorter days and longer nights........smack dab in autumn. The outside grill has been taking some rest (although it still is used all year) and its time for comfort meals. Part of my lack of posting is due to getting a new love. We got him (a Pug) when he was 4-months-old in the end of August. Its not as easy to maneuver around the kitchen with a puppy underfoot, but now that he's mellowed out at 7-months-old it is getting a bit more simple. By the way, his name is Bogart and we call him Bo.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's latest cookbook, How Easy Is That. I had to make some changes as rather than roasting a bone-in leg of lamb I had a boneless leg of lamb that weighed just under three pounds. The recipe suggests using 3 tablespoons of salt (way too much for us), I added just under one tablespoon total. The total cooking time was 20 minutes at 450 oven and about 45 minutes at 350 oven. After roasting at the higher temperature I added some peeled new potatoes. I did let the roast rest covered for about 15 minutes prior to slicing/serving. This was an easy dish to prepare and mindless once it went into the basting, just simple oven roasting and absolutely DELICIOUS!

Meet Bo:

1 (6- to 7-pound) bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves), divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and 1-inch-diced
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup good liquid honey, divided
1 large Spanish onion, sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the leg of lamb in a large roasting pan fat side up and pat it dry with paper towels. Combine the mustard, 1 tablespoon of the garlic, the rosemary, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a mini food processor and pulse until the garlic and rosemary are minced. Spread the mixture on the lamb.

Place the tomatoes, olive oil, 1/4 cup of the honey, the onion, the remaining 2 tablespoons garlic, 2 tablespoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a bowl and toss well. Pour the tomato mixture around the lamb and tuck in the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle the lamb with the remaining 1/4 cup of honey.

Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and roast for another 1 to 1-1/4 hours, until a meat thermometer registers 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare. Place the lamb on a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Discard the herb stems and return the tomatoes to the oven to keep warm. Slice the lamb, arrange on a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with the tomatoes and pan juices spooned on top.

Serves 8.