Saturday, December 26, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

making mushrooms

Little meringue mushrooms, piped, baked and assembled this past Saturday -

A fun (and rewarding) undertaking for the very snowy weekend.
If all goes according to plan, these faux fungi will reappear Friday alongside the 'stump'...
Happy holiday baking!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

hope after cookies

I don't want to alarm you with the dangerous quantities of butter and sugar that sit in random spots throughout the kitchen these days, so I have no photos today.

Cookie sheets and rolling pins, batter bowls and spatulas are the tools currently employed - the poor neglected soup pot (normally a fixture on the stove top) has actually found its way back into the cabinet! I say this with humor because it is a joy to bake for the holidays, but a little tricky to balance the baking with the cooking of an honest-to-goodness dinner. Lately I've managed, somehow, to stir up a pot of vegetarian chili and another of a mediocre coconut curry with cauliflower and potatoes - nothing to whet the appetite, really. I do have a vision of a golden, spinach-packed spanakopita, or possibly an earthy mushroom and cashew pie. There may be hope after cookies...

But while we're speaking of sweets, how extraordinary is this dessert?

I'm working up the courage to give it a try.

Monday, December 7, 2009

of weddings and snowfalls, winter colds and the making of pies

It seems more days than intended have gone by since my last post. A flurry of visiting, dining, traveling, and celebrating has deposited me, fevered and sniffley, squarely on the sofa. Needless to say, not much has been happening in the kitchen - except, perhaps, for this - a dish I've not eaten in years, but suddenly craved the other day. Odd how that can happen, isn't it?

Still, great things worth sharing have been happening...

Such as our first snowfall of the season:

and the wedding of my brother to his elegant and charming bride!
(So, so happy for you, Nate and Julia!)

It's been a whirlwind, but I'm sure to be back in the kitchen soon (plenty of holiday baking ahead, certainly).
Before returning to my little sofa, though, I wanted to share my thoughts on making pies, as Mariana so sweetly asked after the recipe for the Thanksgiving apple pie previously posted.

I generally never use a recipe for fruit pies... I suppose I've made enough to have a feel for what's required - a big bowl of fruit, a scoop of sugar (maybe some spice), a spoonful or two of flour, cornstarch, or tapioca, a little lemon juice, and a bit of butter. They may not be the same one day to another, but I feel that's the beauty of them.
I do, however, use a recipe for the crust - for a 'special occasion' pie like this Thanksgiving pie, I use this all-butter recipe that never fails for me. The filling was composed roughly of the following:

3-4 Lbs. apples (about 8), peeled, cored and sliced - I used 4 Cameo and 4 York (the quantity really just depends on the depth of your pie dish)
1/4 - 1/2 Cup sugar, plus a tablespoon for sprinkling over the crust (this amount just depends on the sweetness of your fruit, and/or your preference)
1 - 2 tsp. cinnamon, depending on your preference (cardamom is also a favorite)
1 - 1 1/2 Tb. cornstarch (flour or tapioca or another thickener can be used)
juice of 1 lemon (sometimes I add the zest also)
1 Tb. butter, cut into small pieces (to dot the top of the pie)
1 large egg, beaten with just a trickle of water (to brush over the crust)

Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Spoon into a pastry-lined pie dish, mounding the mixture in the center. Dot the filling with the butter. Affix the top crust, crimping the edges to seal. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the pie. Cut a few small slits in the top crust and bake for about 45 minutes or until crust is golden and juice is bubbling. (I think I set the oven to 400 degrees...)