25 July 2010

peach pocket pie

I went to the farmers market yesterday with the intention to buy some sour cherries. Shows what I know - there wasn't a cherry to be found; guess cherry season's over, lol. There were, however, peaches everywhere. And I heart peaches. See - I got 2 lbs. Mmm. Farmers market swag:
Remember that poll I had a couple weeks back when I had all these ideas of what to make? I ended up making the galette, but this time around I'll be using those delicious peaches to make hand pies aka pocket pies. I used the same dough recipe from the galettes, and they translate to these little pies nicely. These were flaky, sweet and fresh tasting. Made a great snack for me and the fam at the Beach Boys concert at Wolftrap today. Look how pretty:

Peach Pocket Pies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 recipe pie dough (split into 2 pieces, wrapped and refrigerated at least 2 hours, preferably overnight)
1 lb peaches
1/8 C flour
1/8 C sugar (my peaches were pretty sweet, so I only used 1 tbsp)
1/2 tsp bourbon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten (for the egg wash)

Make the filling: Peel and dice peaches into about 1/2" pieces. Mix in the flour, sugar, bourbon and vanilla until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 of the doughs to about 1/8" thick and cut 4-5" circles - I used one of my bowls to cut them out, but a cookie cutter or the top of a circle tupperware will work. Spoon 1 to 2 tbsp of filling (just the fruit, skip the liquid that forms) onto the half of each circle. Dip your finger into the egg and brush around the circumfrence of the circles. Fold over one half to make a half moon and press down the edges to seal - use a fork to make crimp the edges shut. Repeat with the rest. Put pies into the freezer to chill dough for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. Place chilled pies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with clear sanding sugar if you'd like to decorate. Use a knife to poke a small hole in the top of each pie. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes about a dozen pies.

PS - these are awesome with vanilla ice cream :-)

Oh I just have to throw this little aside in there - I went to the Beach Boys concert, right. They sounded the same - upbeat tunes and great harmonies. I was singing along and dancing, hehe. I was also very Very *VERY* thrilled when I saw that JOHN STAMOS was performing with them! He was on guitar, drums, bongos, and even sang a song! He was so clearly loving every moment of it -- I totally flash backed to that episode of Full House when Uncle Jesse got to perform with them. He was dancing and taking pictures with his phone, pulled a girl wearing an Uncle Jesse tshirt onto the stage to dance with him. He was yummy icing to a very fun show (made even more fun by the mini hurricaine we had that drenched the lawn and dropped the temps some 20 degrees... glad I was in the theater so I didn't actually get wet by the rain.). It's the best concert I've been to this year, I think. Oh, and by the way, John Stamos -- still super freaking hot. Wish I had a camera that coulda caught this better... we were in row O and my phone didn't get the best shot, but I tried:
All the more reason to upgrade cameras, hehe.

23 July 2010

first time's a charm: french macarons

You ever have moments where you want to throw your arms in the air and shout, Queen of the Kitchen! Cuz tonight I definitely did. I present to you: French macarons.
So the first time I ever tasted a French macaron was maybe a month or two ago. I talked Brandt into baking some - purely because I was too intimidated to make them myself. Intimidated? Yeah. Google the French macaron and you'll see so many blogs talking about how tempramental macarons can be. Meringues in general can be tricky, so making a little treat where the meringue is simply the base? Ugh. Let someone else make it. Hi Brandt! Okay so he made them, right, and they were good! As much as I bake/cook I don't usually go back for seconds after I try anything that first time, but I think I ate, like, half a dozen... and it would have been more had he not run out.

Flash forward to this week when I decided it was time to tackle macarons myself. Was I still intimidated? Yup. I mean I've been researching these puppies for weeks now... seen plenty of pictures of failed ones, read lots of stories of how many times someone had to try it before it finally worked out. Where are the feet!? They shells are too bumpy! They didn't puff up! They puffed up too much! I looked at these freshly piped dollops of batter and mentally prepared myself for the worst.
There is a flip side to all that research. I read about all the techniques needed to make these a success. I learned that it will take anywhere from 1 to 5 days for the whole process start to finish. I learned that weighing them is your best bet (but estimated conversions will be listed below.) I learned that by letting the batter sit for a while after piping, their outside shells will harden a bit. I'm guessing that makes for a very delicate top. I took all the tips into account, and these turned out exactly right -- crisp delicate top, airy middle, meringue-y cookie part. Smooth tops. And look at the feet! Queen of the kitchen!
The recipe below is for the shells. A macaron is basically a sandwich with 2 shells and a filling - often ganache, buttercream, jam, or curd. In my first picture, I filled them with key lime curd, peach preserves, and raspberry jam. (I had all three in my fridge, convenient yay!) The curd was my favorite, though I look forward to trying a flavored buttercream or ganache... and to trying different shell flavors too. In the mean time, heck, I could happily eat the shells by themselves!
One more note: Of the dozens (seriously, dozens) of blogs I read to find recipes and tips, the vast majority of the variations are based off of Tartlette's recipe. Apparently she is the macaron goddess. Thus, this recipe is from Tartlette.

French Macarons

90g egg whites (just a touch less than 3 egg whites)
25-50g vanilla sugar (2 tbsp to 1/4 C)
110g blanched almonds (about 3/4 C)
200g confectioners sugar (about 1 1/2 C)

Prepare/Age the eggs: Separate the whites from the yolks, place whites in a really really clean bowl, and cover loosely. Let it sit at room temperature 1 to 3 days. I aged mine for 3 days. You can also refrigerate up to 5 days.

Prepare the almond meal: Combine almonds and confectioners sugar in a food processor and proccess until it's very fine. Sift through a strainer to keep the big bits out and regrind as necessary, until pretty much all of it can be sifted through.

Make the meringue: In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until foamy -- it should look like a bubble bath. Continue beating and add sugar little by little (I added 2 tbsp worth) just until it forms a glossy meringue that looks like shaving cream - you should just get stiff peaks.

Add about half the almond meal/powdered sugar mix to the meringue and mix in - about 10 strokes. Gently fold in the rest of the dry mix until it comes together. You know it's done if you cut your spatula through it and it sinks back into itself within 10 seconds. You can also take a little bit and dollop it onto a plate - it should flatten on its own. If it's got peaks, fold a couple more times. This whole thing shouldn't take more than 50 strokes.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag or zip top bag with the batter. If using a zip top bag, snip off the bottom corner when ready to pipe. Pipe small rounds - about 1" in diameter - onto the baking sheets. It should spread a little, so leave an inch between each one. Let sit for 1 hour so the shell hardens.

Preheat oven to 300. Bake for 14-18 minutes, depending on the size. My small ones baked in 15 minutes. I made bigger ones (about 2" diamater) and they took 16 min.

13 July 2010

Pico & Guac

Just about 2 months ago I was kicking it in Cabo. What better way to remember that great time than by hosting a little Cabo reunion? (Shout out to Jeffrey, Ang., Danielle, Mike, and Team Heater!) Each of us made something that reminded us of our trip - there was ceviche, tacos, margaritas... And I made the two things that were served with every single meal (and snack) in Mexico: pico de gallo and guacamole. Both were always so fresh, soooo tasty, so Mexican, lol. And you know what, I never once got sick of either while I was there :-) These two are a natural pairing - they share many of the same ingredients and thus complement each other well.
Pico de Gallo

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (I took out most of the fleshy insides so it wouldn't get too mushy - just toss those into a pasta sauce)
1/2 medium-large sized vidalia onion, diced
1-3 jalapeno peppers (depending on how hot you want it), seeded, deveined and diced small
1/2 C cilantro leaves, then chop finely
1/2 lime
dash of garlic powder

Combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro. Juice the lime all over, and mix. Add garlic powder and mix. Add salt to taste. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors mingle then serve.

The funny thing about guacamole is that I did not like anything that had to do with avocados for most of my life. I think I only developed a liking love for it in the past couple years. Now I probably make something with avocado a few times a month.

3 ripe avocados (should give a little when squeezed)
2-3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 medium-large vidalia onion, diced finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 C cilantro, then chop finely
1/2 lime (mine was large and really juicy, so if yours isn't that big/juicy, use a whole lime)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (mine was closer to 1/2 tsp)

Cut open avocados, remove pits (don't throw them away!), and scoop out into a bowl. Mash lightly and squeeze lime juice over it to keep from browning. (Note: the avocado will continue to break down when you mix in the rest of the ingredients, so mash only enough so it's twice the chunkiness you'll want in the final product.) Mix in tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Taste, and add seasonings as necessary. Squeeze the hell out of the lime so whatever juice is left covers the guac, then add pits to stave off browning. Cover - press the plastic wrap down directly onto the guac to keep oxygen out so it doesn't brown - and let sit in the fridge for a few hours for flavors to hang out and get to know each other. 

12 July 2010

balsamic strawberry galette

While I did not actually make it to the farmers market on Saturday morning due to the rain, I just picked up some strawberries from the happiest place on earth to make the winning goody from the Poll. 47% of the voters wanted a galette, so here it is! What exactly is a galette, anyways? Basically, it's a free form pie. Instead of forming the crust in a pie plate and worrying about crimping a crust, you basically lay out the dough on a sheet pan, put some filling in the middle, and fold over the edges to create a nice rustic crust. The filling can be just about anything, and summer is great for it because of all the fresh fruit around. In this case, it's strawberries that've been soaking in sugar and balsamic vinegar for a while. You can also use peaches, berries, apples... just make sure it's fresh and sweet and not too juicy so it doesn't make the crust soggy (like I don't think watermelon would work).

I should note that I split the dough and made two mini galettes. Each would make a modest dessert for 4, or a generous dessert for 2. For the first one, I let the dough rest one hour and the berries macerate for the same amount of time. This turned out to be soggier and the berries were okay. I didn't get to make the second set until tonight, so the berries were macerating and the other half of the crust was sitting in the fridge for an extra day. I also made sure to keep the dough as cold as possible, throwing it back into the freezer to chill between steps. And it was downright delicious - not too juicy, the crust was crunchier - more airy and flaky. Quite pleased with the result. Balsamic Strawberry Galette

1 pie crust (recipe to follow)
1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
3 Tbsp vanilla sugar, split
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp flour
1 tsp ground nuts (in this case almonds)
egg, beaten
turbinado or clear sanding sugar

Put berries in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar and vinegar. Macerate for an hour (or more, and if you read the paragraph before the recipe, you'll know I macerated in the fridge overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out half the pie crust until about 1/8" thick then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put into the freezer for a few minutes to chill. Strain the strawberries (keep the juicy goodness and reduce down for a yummy sauce later.)

Take back out, then sprinkle the flour, ground nuts, and the other tbsp of sugar in the middle. Make sure to leave an edge that's at least 1 1/2" wide. Placing the berries in the middle on top of the flour, sugar, nut mix. Fold the edges of the dough over the strawberries. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden. (reminder: this is for a half recipe)
(above: you can see I folded the edge pretty tightly so it didn't cover much of the berries. you don't see the pleating much after it baked up, but it sure was flaky and delish! the great thing about being rustic is you can make the edge/crust as big or little as you like!)

Pie Dough
adapted from Gastronomer's Guide

1 stick butter, cut into small pieces and frozen
1 1/4 C flour
2 Tbsp vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 C ice water (give or take)

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt with a whisk. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal -- there should be some butter clumps that are the size of small peas, but most should be pretty small. Chill in freezer for a few minutes just to make sure the butter doesn't melt.

Form a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in 2 Tbsp ice water. Mix with a wooden spoon, adding more water 1 Tbsp at a time until dough starts coming together. Form into 1 disc (or 2 small ones like I did), wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at LEAST 1 hour - I recommend overnight - before rolling.

UPDATED: This dough is really easy to make with a food processor, too. Basically you'll want to cube the butter and freeze. Then combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a couple times to combine. Add butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until it's a coarse, pebbly texture. Some pieces should be the size of peas. Add water 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing a couple times with each addition, until a ball forms. Form into a ball, flatten, wrap, and refrigerate.

09 July 2010

a peachy keen simple salad

One of the best treats of summer (and one of my most favoritest types of fruit) is the white peach. When perfectly ripe, it's fragrant - sweet, happy and almost innocent. Yes things can smell innocent :) It's lighter than a yellow peach in hue and taste... delicate, even. And then it gives just the slightest bit to your touch. It has firm flesh but it bursts with juice when you bite into it. I would write a love poem to this fruit.

In fact, I will.
sweet white peach in hand
summer's gift to the taste buds
juice dripping down chin

Have I ever mentioned that sometimes I break into random haiku?

Anyways. I usually happily consume white peaches as they are as a midday snack - either sliced or I bite into it like an apple. But today I made a meal of it. I took a hint from those popuar proscuitto wrapped melon slice recipes -- the sweet and salty flavor combination is always a winner. I added the almonds for some crunch and cuz apparently they're really great for you, too. It's a very simple salad that I happily dug into for a light lunch. It's way nutritious, too, bonus!

White Peach and Proscuitto Salad

1 large white peach, sliced thinly
2 C baby spinach leaves
1 oz proscuitto, torn or cut into pieces
1/4 C dry roasted almonds (or pecans or walnuts)

Toss all the ingredients together and eat!

I should note, by the way, that I don't usually have dressing with salads. I like to make sure every bite has peach in it so its sweet juices coat everything - it's its own dressing! However for you dressing lovers out there, a balsamic vinaigrette would complement this quite well.

07 July 2010

A Poll

Oh hey let's be interactive today :-) I haven't baked anything in a little while, and that's just weird. So, since summer is such a great fruit time of year, I'll be heading to the farmers market on Saturday morning. Last time I went they were chock full of cherries, berries, and peaches, so I'll probably pick up one of those. The question is, what do I make with it? So... click on the link below and answer!


Results can be found here.

05 July 2010

jambalaya rice

Egads time flies! I had one recipe left to share from Fathers Day dinner, and this is it. Cajun food has always been kind of mystifying to me - something I'd always bought but never attempted to make on my own because it seemed a bit labor intensive. I mean, there are a lot of ingredients in this! But in reality - I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and quick it was to make this. Basically you dump everything into a pot and cook. This is easy enough to make on a weeknight, and pretty enough to dress up for a special occasion.

Since my awesome shrimp and andouille skewers had the meat/seafood components of a jambalaya, I just made this a rice side dish. To retain the smokiness the ham would have supplied in Ellie's original recipe and to mimic the skewers, I swapped smoked paprika for the regular. I also threw in my leftover tomatoes. This puppy is chock full of veggies and has very little oil - thanks Ellie for making this healthy and tasty! You can, of course, just follow her recipe and add the meat into it and you have yourself a stellar one pot meal, too.

Jambalaya Rice

adapted from Ellie Krieger

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp crushed red chili peppers
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
dash of hot sauce
water (about 2/3 of the chicken broth can)
handful or more of chopped cherry tomatoes (optional - these were leftover from the skewers)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 C long grain white rice

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat and sautee the onion, garlic, and pepper until soft. Add in the rest of the ingedients except the rice. Stir and bring to a boil. Add in the rice, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook about 25 minutes. Most of the liquid should be absorbed, and rice should be soft. If adding shrimp, add it now, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes.