Tag : seasonal
Tag : seasonal
My relationship with cooking pork is much like the oft-debated “When was our first date? Was it the night on Lover’s Overlook when we fondled each other with our clothes on? Or was it the first time you took me out for dinner at Johnny Rocket’s and paid for my meal?”
Excluding bacon, the first time I cooked pork was soon after I moved home from Japan. I was just starting my individual foray into the world of cooking techniques and, intrigued by the idea of braising, I decided to try braising a pork belly. I expected something similar to Chinese spare ribs or those delectable slices of chashu/charsiu you get in ramen.
I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t even find pork belly. I braised some part of a pig in coconut milk and spices, and I was so excited to try this homemade delicacy. I had braised! I had made pork! It would taste sooooo delicious!
It tasted like Death.
Let me clarify: that’s Death with a capital D. It didn’t necessarily taste bad, though at the time I figured I might never braise a pork whatever-it-was again (it’s been long enough, I should give it another chance.) It just tasted…dead. Not like blood, not like mold (cough cough, lamb, cough cough), not like rot. But like flesh, or like dirt. Eating those chunks of whatever part of the pig I bought, I had a striking sense that this thing had lived, had skin, muscle, and bones, and then had died.
For my vegan and vegetarian readers, I apologize for the graphic imagery. For the rest of you, I rarely have qualms about what I’m eating, because as much as I can, I try not to eat things that would give me qualms (or salmonella, but that’s an entirely different monster.)
So it wasn’t that I felt psychologically or spiritually that this thing was dead. It just tasted dead. Like Death.
If I had to find a better analogy, I would say it tasted a little like dirt.
At the time, I figured that pork usually tasted like dirt, forgetting that I had actually eaten plenty of un-dirt-y pork in my life already, and I decided to focus on chicken instead.
That brings me to the second date, the one where he actually took me out in public, to a restaurant, as a couple, and paid for my dinner: Easter, 2016.
Knowing that pork and lamb are the common Easter dishes, I decided I would go out on a newly-blossomed limb and try one or the other. I gathered together a packet of spring pork and lamb recipes, attempted a shepherd’s pie well before the holiday to prepare, decided with certainty that I would never cook lamb again (that tasted like an entirely different kind of Death), and then picked out a pork recipe for the big celebration: Brunello Cucinelli’s pork tenderloin with garlic and rosemary.
I had to make a few tweaks to the process because Signor Cucinelli is far more skilled than I was, but when we finally cut into the garlicky, floral pork roulade, it tasted…like Life?
That’s tacky. Sorry. It tasted like spring. No capital letters.
Everyone who tried it (my grandma and my parents) agreed that it needed to come around again, so throughout the last 2 years, I found times to try the recipe again, or to try other (simpler) pork recipes (one of which will feature on the blog later this year), or, feeling super creative, to adapt that recipe for the season.
And so that’s what we have: in December, feeling the cold of winter deep down in places where cold should not be, I went whole-hog (not literally) and changed up the recipe to suit the season: rosemary became fennel and star anise; the garlic became garlic, apples, walnuts, spices, and honey; the white wine for roasting became apple brandy; and the white wine pan sauce became brandied apples with butter, shallots, and spices.
Basically, it’s baklava but with pork instead of phyllo dough, and savory-sweet instead of only sweet.
And if you’re wondering why the blog is titled “Winter Stuffed Pork,” I’ll give you a hint: cranberries are for autumn, spinach is for summer, and spring remains to be determined.
pork loin roulade with apples and walnuts
Learn from my mistakes: pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing. They both go by many names, but what you’re looking for in this recipe is pork loin, pork roast, or center loin. It’s a big chunk of meat, shaped like a block, with a nice layer of white fat on top. If it looks kind of like a certain genital thing, it’s a pork tenderloin and will turn out completely differently in this recipe (so don’t use that one.)
Also, get yourself a good digital meat thermometer. When roasting meat, it’s easy to overcook the meat, and with pork more than anything else, it’s easy to dry out the meat too much. Anything you cook will continue cooking after you remove it from its heat source, so you can consider removing the pork from the oven when it registers between 140 – 145* degrees Fahrenheit. Adding brandy and cider to the roasting pan/Dutch oven will help, and if you think your pork dried out just a bit too much, then go heavy on the brandied apples on top.
*For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience cooking meat, make sure you cook pork all the way through (it’s not the same as beef, which has a wider range of safe temperatures.)
for the pork roulade
8 garlic cloves
1/2 c walnuts (2 oz)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fennel seeds, divided
1 tsp anise seeds or ground anise
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 c honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple (save the other half for the brandied apple topping)
1 2-pound boneless pork loin or tenderloin
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c apple brandy
for the brandied apples
1 shallot, cut in half and sliced
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c apple brandy
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 c honey
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp orange zest (zest from 1/4 of a large orange)
make the pork roulade
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a small food processor, pulse together the garlic cloves, walnuts, 1 Tbsp of the fennel seeds, a hefty pinch of salt, the spices, a splash of olive oil, and the honey, until coarse and chunky but not too pasty. Set aside until the pork is ready.
Place pork, fat side down, on a cutting board with the short end toward you. Holding a sharp knife parallel to board and about 1/2 inch up side of loin, make an incision along entire length of one side. Continue cutting, lifting meat with your free hand as you go, until loin is open and flat. Alternately, stand the pork up on one of the long sides so you’re cutting vertically, if that’s easier. This process is called butterflying.
Cover the butterflied pork with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and using a meat mallet, pound out the meat until it becomes a little thinner and more even.
Spread garlic mixture over inside of loin and season with salt and pepper. Chop the half of the apple into small chunks, about 1 centimeter or 1/2″ wide. Place the apple bits evenly around the pork on top of the garlic mixture.
Roll pork tightly; using kitchen twine, tie at 1 inch intervals. Rub the outside of the roulade with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp of fennel seeds.
Place the pork, fat side up, in a large cast iron pot, skillet, or roasting pan. Add the apple brandy; roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of loin registers 140 – 145*, about 1 hour (the pork will continue to cook a bit after you take it out of the oven.) *Start checking after about 40-45 minutes.
When the pork is done, remove it from the pot and set aside to rest. Pour the liquid and fat from the pot into a large measuring cup and scrape out any brown bits. If needed, bring the liquid and fat to a simmer before you pour it off so that you can deglaze the pot and scrape out any stubborn browned bits. Keep the mixture for the topping.
make the brandied apples
Place the emptied pot or a clean sauce pan on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.
Chop the other half of the apple into small chunks just like the first half.
When the oil is heated, add the shallot slices and apple chunks and saute for 3-5 minutes until both start to brown a bit.
Add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute until you can smell the garlic.
Add the apple brandy and bring to a simmer, deglazing the pot again and reducing the liquid by half. Pour the roasting liquid and fat back into the pot and add the apple cider, then bring everything to a simmer. Add the honey, bring to a simmer/boil, and let it cook until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the butter and orange zest, and whisk until the butter melts. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Slice the roulade evenly (slices about 1″-2″ thick), and serve with the apple brandy sauce.
previous autumn monthly muffins
I will shamelessly admit that I looooove pumpkin spice. I love spices, I love the holidays, and I love squash, so it’s like a triple whammy. I know that pumpkin spice things are really more spice than pumpkin and that most people don’t actually want a candle that smells like squash or a latte that tastes like it, but I couldn’t care less, because I love all of the spices (especially cardamom.)
My new favorite is cloves. Cloves are in…and cardamom is still in, always.
I was chatting with a customer once about the PSL craze and he mentioned (whether he was right or not, I don’t really care) that when PSL first became a thing, people were so obsessed that they resorted to petty theft and misdemeanors to get their pumpkin-flavored things. I kind of doubt it, but I also kind of don’t doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, anything super hyped up is too hyped up, and I feel bad for the other autumn and winter flavors: maple, pecan, praline, peppermint, chocolate, gingerbread, etc. I love them all (though I am most looking forward to gingerbread lattes next month.)
I did a pumpkin muffin during the early days of the Monthly Muffin, and now I’ve added on a new one. This one is more sweet than spicy, and combines two different holiday favorites in one muffin: pumpkin spice with cranberries and white chocolate.
For those of you who love everything pumpkin, or even for those of you who are soooooo over pumpkin spice everything, but like autumn, sweets, and hearty things, these muffins are perfect.
Although, if you really don’t like pumpkin at all, then I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy them (but I also can’t promise that you won’t enjoy them.)
pumpkin cranberry white chocolate muffins
based on my pumpkin streusel muffins recipe
makes 1 dozen muffins
4.25 oz (120 g, 1 c) whole wheat flour
4.25 oz (120, 1 c) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1.75 oz (50 g, 1/4 c) canola oil
3.5 oz (100 g, ~1/2 c) milk or buttermilk
12 oz (340 g, 1.5 c) pumpkin puree
9 oz (260 g, 1 1/4 c) granulated sugar
4 oz (110 g, 1 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, whole or coarsely chopped
4 oz (110 g, 2/3 c) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, milk or buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and sugar until consistent.
Quickly mix in dried mixture and fold in the chopped berries and chocolate.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3-3/4 of the way full, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until springy when pressed lightly in the middle.
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Squash ya later, applegator!
Y’all, I won’t lie: I’ve been preparing for Thanksgiving 2017 for the last two months. Really. I started trying out some new autumn pie recipes in early September…well, I tried one recipe and fell so deeply in love with it, I decided to commit myself entirely to this recipe and no one else.
last thanksgiving: sweet potato molasses pie
I’ve already begun drafting a list of Thanksgiving sides I want to make, and expanding on my list of desserts so I can start trying out some new recipes in preparation for Thanksgiving 2018 (of course.)
One of my friends from work hosts monthly themed supper clubs, and though I have evening class the night of her Thanksgiving Sides dinner, I promised I would bring two dishes and show up before the evening was over, and I will not be breaking those promises.
I already tested one of the recipes (gluten-free green bean casserole with browned butter cream of mushroom soup and fried shallots.)
I love autumn. Every season, I say “this is my favorite season,” but we all know the truth: autumn is my favoritest favorite. We don’t get a lot of autumn in this part of North Carolina, so I try to soak up as much of it as I can (and by that I mean I’ve been drinking pumpkin spice lattes nonstop for two months, and even making some of my own at home.)
There’s a lot that I want to do whenever the first leaves die…I mean, fall…but for the past two years, I haven’t been able to make time for any of the pumpkin- or apple-picking, hay rides, weekend trips into the mountains, and so on. The one thing that I do consistently, frequently, and obsessively, is go walking in the woods. I always coincidentally choose the rainy days for my forest-exploration days, but the gloom adds to the beauty. When I have a full day off from work and nothing else planned (except studying), I wake up early and drive out to Duke Forest or the Eno River for an hour of trailwalking and autumn photography. I end up taking the same photos every year but who cares ‘cuz they’re always magical.
The idea for this recipe started blooming a year ago. For a brief month, we got a new pie book at the store (literally, they discontinued the book within a month, so it’s a good thing I swept mine up as soon as it was on the shelf), and the first recipe from the book that I tried was a cranberry sage pie. I made that one for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. I’ve always been so-so about cranberries and cranberry sauce, but lately I’ve begun to like them more than I used to. I liked that pie a lot, but I wanted to like it more.
I was also only just starting to appreciate sage as a flavor and ingredient, so for now, sage will have to wait in the dugout.
ideas for next thanksgiving: lemon brulée tart, classic pumpkin pie, caramel apple tart
I’ve been playing around with apple recipes but I figured because I already have two apple tarts and an apple cider muffin, I wanted to do something different: pears. I swapped out the sage for pears (a common substitution), hyped up the spices, fiddled around with ratios, and created a filling that warms the heart, stomach, and guts.
The pear helps balance out the tartness from the cranberries, while the rosemary both blends into the sugars and stands out with a wintery, piny taste. The spices are an obvious addition, as they are for any autumn or winter dessert. You could even play around with the crust a bit and fold in some dried rosemary or spices, or sprinkle some on top after brushing on the egg wash.
double-crust spiced cranberry pear pie
adapted from cranberry sage pie, from Four and Twenty Blackbirds
makes one 7″ pie
Do ahead: The dough and the filling can be made advance. If you plan on using the dough within 24 hours, keep it wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator. Likewise with the filling. Otherwise, keep the dough and filling in the freezer. You can even assemble the entire pie and freeze it until ready to bake, but be sure to keep it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator so the dough doesn’t get soggy. The steps provided in the recipe below are a simple, efficient, and low-hassle way of prepping the pie all in one day, using dough that you’ve already made.
Note: Frozen fruits break down more than fresh fruit, and as a result, they release more liquid. If you’re using frozen fruit for your pie, add some more of your thickener (cornstarch, in this case), or else the filling will be too runny. Even if you buy fresh fruit and freeze it, it will break down more and release more liquid.
2 Tbsp cornstarch (3 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries)
1.75 oz (1/4 c) granulated sugar
1.75 oz (1/4 c) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
8 oz (~2 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, divided
leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or about 2 tsp of chopped leaves
8 oz (~1.5 c) pear, chopped into large chunks (one large pear is close to 8 ounces)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cream
1 Tbsp Demerara sugar for topping
Assemble the filling
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars, cornstarch, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine half of the cranberries (4 oz) and all of the chopped pear (8 oz), and set aside.
In a small food processor, combine all of the fresh rosemary, the remaining half of the cranberries (4 oz), and the vanilla extract and pulse a few times just until the berries are broken down and a little chunky. The mixture should be like salsa.
Add the dry mixture of sugar and spices to the large bowl of fruit and toss to coat the fruit pieces completely. Add the cranberry-rosemary mixture and combine. Set aside, covered, on the counter or in the refrigerator while assembling the rest of the pie.
Prep the top and bottom crusts
I find it easiest to roll out the top crust first and let it chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the bottom crust.
Pull both discs of dough out of the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for 10 – 15 minutes to warm up a little bit.
Roll out one disc on a lightly floured countertop or sandwiched between two sheets of parchment or plastic. If using two sheets of parchment or plastic, lightly flour both sides of the dough disc, place the disc in the middle of one sheet, lay the other sheet on top, lightly press down on the disc to flatten it a little bit, and press the plastic wrap together to seal. Roll the dough into a circle of about 8″ or 9″ in diameter*, pausing occasionally to loosen the plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t stick to it, and adding a little more flour if needed.
*The most consistent way to roll the dough into a circle, so that you don’t have to cut it, is to roll a few times from the middle up to the top, then rotate one eighth of a circle (45 degrees), and continue, eventually turning the dough disc all the way around. Every full rotation of the disc, pause and see if any part of the circle looks wider than the rest, and run your hands over the surface to see if it’s consistently thin all the way across. Adjust your rolling accordingly until you have a circle of dough large enough to drape over the top of the pie. It should be about 1/4-1/2 an inch thick. If you can tell that the dough isn’t spreading out enough, it’s probably sticking to the plastic, parchment, or countertop, and needs a little more flour.
Rest the top crust in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or parchment, until the rest of the pie is assembled.
Roll out the bottom crust the same way, but roll it into a larger circle, about 10″-12″ in diameter.
Gently lower the bottom crust disc into the pie plate, lifting and lowering the edges so that the dough fills in the whole surface of the plate without leaving any air bubbles underneath. Important: Do not stretch dough to get rid of air bubbles or to cover any space. Lift and lower like you’re gluing something onto a piece of paper. Stretching causes the dough to shrink in the oven. Leave the edges of the dough hanging over the edges of the pie plate, and trim if desired.
Assemble and bake the pie
Scrape the filling into the empty pie shell and spread the filling around a bit to create an even dome.
Unwrap the top crust and place on top of the pie. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust to seal them together and crimp/fold as desired. Using a sharp knife, poke a few holes through the top crust to let the pie vent in the oven.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream, and using a pastry or basting brush, wash/brush the top crust and edges with the egg wash. While the egg wash is still wet, sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.
Bake the pie for 45 – 60 minutes, until the crust is nicely bronzed and you can tell the filling is bubbling. I suggest placing the pie plate on top of a cookie sheet, in case the egg wash or the filling drip out.
When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack until room temperature or ready to eat.
The pie can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Brb, going to play in the leaves,
previous monthly muffins:
6/17, balsamic roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic glaze || 4/17, cinnamon raisin english muffins || 2/17, glazed lemon poppyseed muffins || 1/17, earl grey walnut muffins || 12/16, chocolate peppermint muffins
Two years ago, I went to a pie workshop at a bakery in my city known for pies and tarts. Of course, it being the beginning of fall, we had to make apple pie, for which the pastry chef demonstrated this super nifty tool that I went out and bought immediately: a hand-crank apple corer, peeler, and slicer. You spike the apple onto the end of a screw, position the peeling blade, and crank. The apple spins, strips, spirals, and its guts pull right out. It’s wonderful.
When I first bought it, I hated it. The one I bought didn’t seem to work as well as the machine the pastry chef showed us. The peeling blade would either not cut through the skin or it would get stuck in the apple, the core never lined up with the corer blade, and for the life of me I could not figure out how to get an asymmetrical apple to peel and core consistently.
So I put the machine away for about two years, and when I started working on this muffin recipe, I thought I would give it a second chance.
It worked like a charm. Perhaps the little hand crank doohickey grew and matured and learned to be a better version of itself…or maybe I realized it’s easier to use if you flip the apple around and peel tail-to-top instead.
Now I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on an electric apple machine. Phew.
This recipe was inspired by a pastry we sell and sample at work during the week: apple cider donuts. The donuts are made with butter, buttermilk, and eggs (and they taste like heaven and make the whole store and street smell like apples and cinnamon), but following my obsession with consistency and matching up flavors, I wanted to go full-apple. Eggs became unsweetened apple sauce (the best vegan egg substitute I have ever used), and buttermilk became first-press apple cider. While I was already 2/3 of the way to a vegan recipe, I decided to take that last step: butter became canola oil.
Yes, butter and buttermilk are luscious and make things taste rich, but apple cider has enough acid for that back-of-the-tongue tang and there’s plenty of sweet and spice to make up for the decrease in fat.
The muffins are spiced, filled with chunks of Red Delicious apples, and then rolled in a cinnamon-sugar topping.
vegan apple cider muffins with cinnamon sugar
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 dozen
5 oz (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 oz (140 g) whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz (85 g) canola oil
3 oz (85 g) unsweetened apple sauce
7 oz (200 g) apple cider
3 oz (85 g) granulated sugar
2 oz (56 g) dark brown sugar
1 large red apple, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped (5~7 oz of apple bits)
cinnamon sugar coating
1 oz (28 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together apple sauce, canola oil, apple cider, and sugars.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and fold in the apple chunks.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups so each cup is 2/3~3/4 of the way full.
Bake the muffins for 25 – 30 minutes, until springy to the touch. When lightly pressed down in the center with a finger, the muffins should spring back up like foam.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling before coating.
In a shallow bowl or plate, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for coating the muffins.
Brush each muffin with canola oil and roll the top of the muffin around in the sugar mixture to coat.
Muffins will keep up to 48 hours wrapped in plastic at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate the muffins, or else the coating will melt/dissolve. If they firm up, you can soften them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
Help, I’ve fallen in love with apples and I can’t get up!
I’m not generally a fan of chocolate cake, unless it is 1) flourless, or 2) molten. In fact, I even prefer my brownies on the less-floury side.
That being said, I’m oddly addicted to this vegan chocolate cake. For a while, I’ve been wanting to experiment with using vegan ingredients as features instead of just background ingredients. I’m in the process of working up another vegan muffin for the autumn that uses whole ingredients both for flavor and for function.
I’m also shamelessly obsessed with combining dark chocolate and fruit, namely raspberry.
There’s a dairy farm nearby that has a creamery and ice cream shop on the premises. In high school, when I was learning to drive, I would drive out to the farm for practice, and my dad and I would get milkshakes for dessert. Because of complicated, lactose-related reasons, I don’t get those milkshakes very often anymore, but they were a fond memory back then. My favorites were all the chocolate combinations: chocolate-strawberry, chocolate-orange, even the chocolate-lavender was weirdly enjoyable. It seemed like every time we went to the farm, they had tried out a new chocolate flavor combination, and I loved all of them.
I think it goes without saying that chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination…but I’ll say it anyway: chocolate and raspberry is fan-f**king-tastically classic combination.
With this inspiration, I took a vegan chocolate layer cake recipe, turned it into a single layer cake, added red wine vinegar, non-dairy dark chocolate ganache, and a raspberry-sherry compote*. Every single bit of the recipe works together in luscious harmony: the cake is light, but also dark, and slightly tangy from the vinegar, wet enough to be enjoyable, but fluffy enough that it’s not heavy; the ganache is dark and smooth, no matter what type of milk you use, and has just enough sweetness to be pleasant without detracting from the darkness; the compote is sweet and fruity, not overly acidic, and it has the mmmmmmmm of an after-dinner sherry. If all of that seems like too much mouth commitment, top the cake with some fresh raspberries for a refreshing balance to the chocolate and booze.
*You can swap out the sherry for really any kind of liquor or liqueur, or red wine. I just found that the sherry was my favorite booze to use in the compôte. Substitute your favorite Cabernet or Pinot Noir in a 1:1 ratio, for example.
decadent vegan chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry-sherry compôte
makes one 9″ (or two 6″~6.5″) cake
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Do ahead: To save some time, you can make the compôte in advance and keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Because it’s a sauce (it’s basically undercooked jam), it’ll keep for a while. Additionally, you can make the cake a day in advance, let it cool, wrap it in plastic, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. And the make things even easier: the cake can also be made in advance. You can make the cake a day or two ahead of time and keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic, or you can make it farther in advance, wrap it, and freeze it.
Ganache note: Ganache is just a combination of solid chocolate and cream (or any type of milk, dairy or non-dairy); you can have a really thick, solid ganache by using more chocolate than cream, or a thin, syrup-y mixture by using more cream than chocolate. It’s a really simple recipe (2 ingredients), and you can fine-tune the ratio depending on what consistency you want. A 1:1 ratio, though, will be more frosting-like or thinner than what I used for the cake. For toppings on pies and cakes, I’d recommend using less cream/milk than chocolate.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen*
1/4 c (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
1 fl. oz. (1 oz) sherry
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
*Fruit note: when you freeze fruit and then cook/bake with it, or when you buy frozen fruit and then cook/bake with it, be aware that the fruit will produce more liquid/water than when you use the fruit fresh. Also, the frozen fruit will break down more when it starts to cook. For sauces and jams, this means 1) you’ll need to cook just a bit longer to evaporate the excess liquid, and 2) you’ll have fewer large chunks of the fruit due to the fruit breaking down more.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 c (5.3 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 c (3 oz) vegetable/canola oil
4 tsp (0.7 oz) red wine vinegar
1 c (8 oz) non-dairy milk
Optional: 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate chunks, 1/2 c (~2 oz) fresh raspberries
2/3 c (4 oz) bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
3/8 c (3 oz) non-dairy milk or unflavored, non-dairy cream
Make the compôte
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. If the sauce boils up too high or starts sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning, reduce the heat and simmer instead.
Let the sauce thicken and reduce, remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease cake pan(s) and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together vanilla, oil, vinegar, and non-dairy milk until fully combined.
Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and combine. If using, fold in the chocolate chips/chunks and fresh raspberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and spread out evenly.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the top is not shiny any longer and the cake feels springy and foamy to the touch. The cake is also done when it starts pulling away from the edges of the pan or when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let finish cooling on a wire rack. When the cake has totally cooled down, start making the ganache.
Make the ganache and assemble the cake
Using a double boiler or a heat-safe bowl and small saucepan*, melt the chocolate and non-dairy milk together.
*There are many different methods of heating and combining the ingredients. You can microwave them together in a microwave-safe bowl, then whisk. You can boil/simmer the cream and pour it over the chocolate, then whisk. You can even microwave the cream and pour it over the chocolate. I usually make a double boiler out of a saucepan and metal or glass bowl, because I can make sure I’ll get enough heat in the ingredients for the chocolate to fully melt.
Combine the solid chocolate and non-dairy milk in the heat-safe bowl or the upper part of the double boiler, and fill the saucepan or lower part of the double boiler with about an inch or a centimeter of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place the bowl or double boiler on top so the steam heat melts the chocolate. Whisk the mixture occasionally.
When the chocolate is almost entirely melted into the milk, remove the double boiler from the heat, and whisk vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
Pour the ganache over the cooled cake and spread out evenly so it covers the top and drips down the sides. Let the ganache cool and solidify, either on the counter or in the refrigerator (it doesn’t need to be wrapped or covered), before serving.
Serve the cake with the raspberry sauce and some more fresh berries.
The cake lasts for a few days covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.
The first time I ever made my apple chai-der pie (an idea that I shamelessly stole from the Internet, but eventually made my own), I thought I had died and done gone to heaven, y’all. The apples were good and the spiced black tea filling even better, but the real kicker was the streusel. Every time I make the streusel I have to remind myself that it’s going on top of another pastry and I can’t just eat all of it raw (and every time, my willpower fails and I eat most of it raw anyway.)
It’s also good baked.
I think it’s the cinnamon that makes streusel so addicting. And for some reason, I decided to swap out the cinnamon for orange zest in this recipe. What a strange idea.
I honestly could not tell you why I felt inspired to do orange-infused/scented anything, but just like my lemon cravings from last summer and early this spring, I started having these odd cravings for orange-flavored things. Orange cinnamon coffee cake muffins, orange shortbread, dark chocolate orange cakes. All of these things are on my mind.
This pie is overflowing with the four major spring/summer berries that we grow in North Carolina: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. It’s currently the peak of strawberry season so strawberries are providing the decorative accents to my citrus fantasies. They’re also taking up all of the space in my refrigerator and freezer.
I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago to get strawberries for jam, intending to buy two pounds of the berries, and accidentally, shamelessly going home with one five-pound basket. Most of those ended up in a failed strawberry-rhubarb pie, four of the berries went moldy, three pounds became jam, and the rest became the strawberry balsamic muffins.
The citrus counter-note to the berries, and the liquid base of the filling, is Cointreau, but could easily be orange juice, Triple Sec, or any other orange-flavored liquid. On top of the liqueur-laced berry filling is a streusel flavored with orange zest. Overall, it’s a much brighter, warm-weather version of the spicy apple original.
very berry spring pie with orange streusel
makes one 7″ pie (double the recipe for a 9″ pie)
loosely based on my apple chai-der pie recipe
Make the pie pastry, divide into discs for 7″ (or 9″) pies, wrap in plastic and freeze. If you plan to use the dough within 24 hours, refrigerate it instead. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out and filling the shell.
You can also prepare the pie shell all at once and freeze that until the streusel and filling are ready.
Make the streusel and chill or freeze, unbaked, until the pie shell is filled.
And finally, you can assemble the entire pie and freeze it, unbaked, until you’re ready to put it in the oven. The entire pie can go into the hot oven frozen.
2 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
zest of 1/4 of a large orange or 1/2 of a small-ish orange
4 Tbsp (2 oz) butter, softened
1 oz orange juice or Cointreau
4 oz fresh/frozen blueberries
4 oz fresh/frozen blackberries
4 oz fresh/frozen raspberries
4 oz fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
2.5 oz granulated sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour or cornstarch
dash of salt
preparing the pie shell
Let the pie pastry warm up slightly, for about 15 minutes on the counter, just so you can roll it out without the dough cracking too much.
Sandwich the dough disc between sheets of plastic or parchment, floured lightly to keep the dough from sticking a lot. Depending on the day, and on exactly how much water you use to make the dough (which varies based on how much water you need), the dough can be on the wet side or dry side.
Roll the dough until it’s about 2 inches wider in diameter than the top of the pie pan, and approximately a quarter of an inch thick (so just around half or a third of a centimeter.)
Place the dough into the pie plate, and press it into the bottom and corners of the plate, lifting up the edges and placing them into the plate as you go, to avoid stretching. Roll the edges up under themselves so they rest on the edges of the pie plate and add about an inch of depth, then shape, press, or crimp the edges as you like.
I usually form a zigzag edge using my pointer and thumb of one hand and the pointer finger of the other hand. By creating more height/depth, you can add more filling.
Freeze the pie shell, unwrapped if you’re baking it the same day, or wrapped if you’re not baking it within 24 hours.
making the streusel
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the butter.
Mix in the butter, just until it forms crumbs.
Using a fork or pastry blender, break up any large-ish clumps of dough into smaller pieces.
Chill/refrigerate or freeze the streusel in a sealed container until the pie shell is filled.
filling the shell
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and starch (flour or cornstarch). This will make it easier to incorporate these with the juice/liqueur and berries.
In a large bowl, toss together berries, juice/liqueur, salt, and sugar-starch mixture until all the berries are coated with the juice/liqueur and sugar-starch mix. Mash up some of the berries.
Pour the berry filling into the frozen shell, spreading the filling out to fill up as much space as possible. The filled pie should be mounded, approximately 1.5-2x the depth of the shell. The filled shell can be frozen until ready to top and bake.
assembling and baking the pie
Preheat oven to 425 F/ C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch the over-boiled pie filling.
When the oven is fully heated, sprinkle the chilled streusel crumbs onto the filled pie shell so as much surface is covered as possible. Spread the streusel around if needed, and fill in some of the gaps made by the crimped pie crust.
Place the assembled pie onto the baking sheet and bake for 50 – 60 minutes until nicely browned and actively bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool the pie on a wire rack.
Bon apple-tite, y’all
previous fruit-y monthly muffins:
The first time I ever roasted strawberries was during my short stint working in a restaurant. In fact, the first time I’d ever eaten roasted strawberries was during that job. We filled hotel pans (deep baking pans) with whole hulled strawberries (leaves and dense white core removed), a hefty layer of sugar, and a generous sprinkling of thick balsamic vinegar, and then we popped them in the oven until darkened, softened, and swimming in a thick, sweet strawberry syrup.
I may not have been enamored with that job, but with those strawberries, I was in heaven. To be entirely honest, hulling and prepping strawberries is sort of therapeutic. I prepped pounds (like, humans’-worths of pounds) of strawberries for roasting to serve with French tartlets, for slicing to decorate the tarts, and for plating with cheese, fruit, and local greens for a cheese plate.
I did vow never to make another gelatin-based dessert again, but I held on fast to my strawberry roasting and prepping knowledge.
I’ve recently begun experimenting with jam-making, and though the final product still leaves something to be desired, I can break down a village’s worth of strawberries in a breeze. You should see my freezer. I went to the farmer’s market for the first time in a very, very long time a few weeks ago, searching for 3 pounds of local berries for jam, and went home with 5.5 pounds. Now my pantry is full up with attempts at different flavors of strawberry jam (strawberry margarita jam, strawberry-orange marmalade, strawberry rhubarb jam, etc.) The last weekend of May, because I just can’t help myself when spring berries are involved, I went berry picking with a friend in Raleigh and made the best d**ned strawberry-basil jam I ever did lay my tastebuds on.
Ever since coming up with the two berry-based muffins last summer, I’ve wanted to do something with strawberries. Something a little bit…different. It wasn’t too hard, as I’ve never actually had a strawberry muffin before. I guess strawberries aren’t popular muffin berries. I figured it might be nice to put my balsamic roasting skills to the test and do a roasted strawberry and balsamic-flavored thing. I also figured, cleverly, that if I’m using vinegar, I can easily make these vegan (vinegar + baking soda = eggs.) I then thought, stupidly, that I could just replace all the liquid with balsamic or red wine vinegar for a real powerful vinegar taste.
And then I discovered why people don’t normally make vinegar-flavored things. The first batch quickly found its way into the trash and I’m still trying to convince people that no these are not “vinegar muffins” nor do they taste like vinegar.
I used both roasted and fresh berries to get the balsamic-roastiness and the juicy sweetness of un-roasted strawberries, and then I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the glaze just to make people aware of the vinegar’s presence in the pastry. The muffins themselves are whole wheat muffins and all of the sugar ends up roasting with the berries to produce a blood-red syrup, so the muffins end up seductively ruddy.
balsamic-roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic vinegar glaze
makes one dozen
vaguely based on previous muffin recipes
Roast the strawberries for half an hour at 375 F/ C, until the sugar syrup is foaming and boiling. Let the roasted berries cool, then strain out the syrup and set it aside. Store syrup and strawberries in refrigerator in sealed plastic containers. You can store them combined or separated, but you’ll end up straining them before you make the muffin batter so you might as well separate them now anyway.
roasted strawberries ingredients
8 oz fresh strawberries, hulled (and halved if you want)
4 oz granulated sugar
1 oz balsamic vinegar
5 oz whole wheat flour
5 oz all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
4 oz butter, melted and cooled, or canola oil
2 large eggs
7 oz whole milk or buttermilk
4 oz powdered sugar
0.4 oz balsamic vinegar
0.6 oz whole milk
roasting the strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 F/ C.
Hull the roasting strawberries (and halve if you want), and arrange in a single layer in a cake or brownie pan, or a hotel pan at least two inches deep, with the cut end down and the tip pointing up.
Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the strawberries, then sprinkle the vinegar over them as well. You should have one layer of strawberries with a heavy layer of sugar and a splattering of balsamic vinegar.
Roast the berries for about 30 – 45 minutes until the sugar and vinegar have formed a syrup and the syrup is boiling/foaming. The strawberries should be very tender.
Remove and let cool. Strain out the syrup and set it aside. You’ll mix the syrup into the muffin batter before you add the roasted berries.
making the muffins
Preheat (or change the temperature) the oven to 350 F/ C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter/oil, and cooled strawberry-balsamic syrup (without the berries.)
Quickly whisk together the dry and wet ingredients in the large bowl, and fold in both the fresh and roasted berries.
Using a large cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake the muffins for 20 – 25 minutes.
The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, or when they spring back like foam when pressed lightly.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Let the muffins cool completely before glazing.
glazing the muffins
Whisk together powdered sugar, vinegar, and milk until smooth. The glaze should be like a thick syrup: runny but slow. Taste and adjust, adding more of any ingredient as needed.
Using a spoon or whisk, drizzle the glaze over the muffins and let it set up before eating.
You can wrap the muffins, glazed or unglazed, individually in plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for a bit longer. If the muffins start to go stale or firm, then microwave them for 10 – 15 seconds before eating.
vegan peanut butter cookies || vegan snickerdoodles|| lemon sugar cookies || lemon white chocolate biscotti || loaded brown sugar cookies || ginger turmeric sugar cookies || basic sugar cookies || cardamom shortbread || salted, spiced double chocolate cookies || chocolate chip cookies || cardamom molasses cookies || black tea butter cookies
The holidays seemed so far off in January, and yet here they are, looming over us menacingly. Maybe not menacingly. I love winter.
This winter feels different, though, because I started back in school in August and am still working part time. Next winter may be the same, or it may be better. The winter after that, who knows? And someday I’ll have a full time job again, and I’ll be just a little bit older than I am now (probably), so the winters will zoom on by, impatient and clumsy.
I love winter.
Originally, I was going to reveal some macaron recipes, the first macaron recipes of the Kitchen Klutz Blog, but those stubborn bastards were frustrating me so much, I gave up. I still have at least a dozen egg whites aging in the fridge and freezer, but I dread those little meringue shells and creamy centers so. This year I went with something I never would have done in the past.
It all started with the vegan chocolate muffins of November. I’ve never been much of a fan of chocolate muffins, and yet I posted two chocolate muffin recipes in a row. Those two muffins opened a kind of floodgate inside me, and I decided I wanted to do something with white chocolate. As little as I have liked chocolate muffins, I have always liked white chocolate less, and yet here we are, experimenting with white chocolate.
Spoiler: I ended up deciding not to make white chocolate anything this winter, but what’s important is that I was inspired to try.
Instead, I made cranberry orange cookies. Orange isn’t something I bake with a lot, and cranberries even more so, but after making a cranberry sage pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds for Thanksgiving, I wanted to do more with those tart, red pimples.
These cookies are based on a snickerdoodle recipe, because of all the sugar cookies I’ve ever had, snickerdoodles have the best texture and flavor: tart, lively, and chewy. Instead of cinnamon and vanilla, I used Cointreau, orange zest, dried cranberries, and diced fresh cranberries, and instead of rolling them in a cinnamon-sugar, I topped them with homemade candied orange peel.
One thing I (re-)learned the hard way when making these and other cookies is that how successfully you cream the butter determines how much dough you end up producing. I rarely see a qualitative difference when I cream the butter superbly versus when I only beat it a little bit, but if you beat the butter, sugar, and liquids for a combined total of at least 7-ish minutes, you could end up with 9 extra cookies.
cranberry orange cookies with candied orange peel
makes four dozen small (2 tsp) cookies, or one dozen large (3 Tbsp) cookies
candied orange peel (for one large orange)
335 g water
300 g granulated sugar, plus an extra half cup of sugar for coating
peel of one large orange, including pith
350 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 c butter, softened and at room temperature
300 g granulated sugar
2 eggs (~104 g total)
zest of 1/2 of a large orange
1 tsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier
candied orange peel, cut into 12 – 48 small pieces
Do-ahead: Make the candied orange peels. They dry overnight and can be kept for up to 10 days in a container after dried.
Make the candied orange peel
Combine the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.
Peel the orange and cut the rind into strips, about half an inch or a centimeter wide.
Add the orange peel to the boiling syrup and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Let simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the peel is tender.
Drain the peel and toss with extra sugar on a cookie sheet. Let cool and dry on a sheet of aluminum foil, uncovered, overnight.
Keep candied peel in an airtight container at room temperature.
Make the cookies
Preheat oven to 350 F/190 C and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for about 2-3 minutes after each until well combined. After both eggs are added, keep beating for a few minutes until fluffy.
Beat in the zest and liqueur.
In 2-3 batches, beat in the flour mixture.
Finally, fold in the dried and diced fresh cranberries, and beat until dough is uniform.
Using a small (2 tsp) or large (3 Tbsp) cookie scoop, or a spoon, scoop the dough onto the baking sheets, and space the cookies about 2-3 inches apart. You’ll have one dozen small cookies on each sheet.
Top the cookies with candied orange peel and sprinkle with sugar. Alternately, when scooping the dough, drop it into a bowl of sugar and press down lightly on the back with your pointer and middle fingers to form a disc coated in sugar on the bottom, then lift the dough out and place on the cookie sheet, sugared side facing up. Press a piece of the candied orange into the center.
If you have extra dough after 2 cookie sheets are full, loosely cover it in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden or bronze on the edges.
Remove from the oven, let cool in the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling, and continue baking the rest of the dough.
Happy merry, to you and your kinfolks,
The Endlessly Humble Saint Nick-Claus
Last year, I made a decision to master pie once and for all. I went about it as scientifically as possible: I compiled half a dozen pie crust recipes, tested each one (with labels, taste-testing, notes, sample batches, and all), and developed my own recipe.
October (2015), when I took a pie class at a local bakery, all of that went out the window, as I had learned a new recipe and some new techniques (which I never mastered.) At that point, I thought I had everything down to a science and it was time to start playing with fillings. I even attempted to make my own pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins.
I have since learned, from first hand experience, reading things online, and asking professional chefs, that this is a waste of time. I haven’t pureed a pumpkin in approximately 382 days.
Half a year later, I took another pie class, and everything I thought I knew about pie went out the window…again. The technique I had learned last autumn was just a little too much work to justify something that should be as easy as pie. The pastry instructor from the cooking school gave us a useful ingredient ratio for pie pastry, so now I don’t even bother looking at my pie crust recipe (which I updated a few months ago after taking that class.)
For what I call “American pie crust,” the crust that most of us Americans know via apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie, the best ratio is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part ice water. How you go about chilling and combining the three is up to you, but it really isn’t difficult. The first few times, it can be daunting because we seem to mythologize pie crust, but once you’ve gotten the process into your muscles and bones, it’s a 5-minute recipe that you can do with your eyes closed, and the result is always phenomenal.
Even filling, which until this past summer frightened me, can be simple. I never managed a fruit pie recipe over the summer, but come April this blog will be replete with blackberry cobblers, mixed berry pies, lemon meringues, and Little Jack Horner will be weeping with joy. A berry pie filling is five basic ingredients: sugar, starch (corn, tapioca, flour), berries, flavor (lemon zest, extracts, spices), and liquid (optional, because the sugar will melt and the berries will excrete juices in the oven.)
For the sweet potato pie, I went through a few iterations of recipes, each time experiencing the same problem: my filling was runny and the sweetener was leaking out as the pie cooled down. After much pestering of chefs and coworkers, I decided to reduce the liquid in the filling drastically and simplify everything, and here we are:
The molasses is the main sweetener, and sweet potato is already relatively sweet, while the egg helps the filling set up (sweet potato puree is very loose, unlike pumpkin), and the rum is added for an additional splash of flavor. Altogether, the filling is slightly tart, deeply yam-y, and pleasantly molasses-y, so if you don’t like Meyers Jamaican rum, this might not be the pie for you!
ideas for next thanksgiving: cranberry ginger pie, classic apple pie, lemon meringue pie, fig and feta pie
sweet potato molasses pie
one 7″ pie (~6 servings)
15 ounces (1 can) sweet potato purée
2 ounces molasses
0.5 ounces dark rum
dash of salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
pecans, walnuts, or marshmallows for topping
Roll out pie pastry, ~9″ in diameter, fit into a 7″ pie plate and crimp or fold the edges as you like. Freeze or refrigerate the shell unbaked.
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C, and set oven racks at top and bottom 1/3 of the oven.
Combine the sweet potato purée, molasses, egg, rum, salt, cornstarch, and brown sugar*, and whisk until smooth. Fill the shell and spread the filling out with a spatula, smoothing along the surface.
*The sugar and starch will mix in more easily if you first combine those two with each other in a smaller bowl, then whisk them into the filling.
Decorate with pecans, and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the crust is bronze and the center of the pie is set.
Optional: Let the pie cool, then turn on the broiler. Garnish the pie with marshmallows and toast/broil them for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown.
Pie can be served warm or chilled.
I remember the good ol’ days of getting out of my car at 10:00 p.m. and watching my glasses fog up immediately. Those precious “is that sweat, rain, or the humidity?” moments. The 5:00 am sunrise and “will the sun ever set?” times.
But those are over now. My glasses don’t fog up anymore and I can walk around without fainting.
I’ve finally finished up all the frozen summer berries and started stocking up on pumpkin puree, sweet potatoes, and various apples in anticipation of autumn sweets, and let me tell you, I’m anticipating a lot of sweets.
About a year ago I started really exploring pie crust. I watched every YouTube video and read every recipe I could find. I tried every possible technique the Web would show me, and even did a bit of scientific experimentation, complete with sticky labels and test batches and all.
It was very official, y’all.
And then I took an autumn pie workshop at Scratch Bakery last October, and everything I thought I had figured out was flipped, turned right upside down on its very head. I stuck with the recipes from that workshop for months, until I took a pie class at work, and everything was made even simpler by the pastry chef. The first thing she taught us when we got to work on the dough was a universal ratio for the dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part ice water.
It was pie-vana. I had a pie-alization. The flaky, buttery dough, the rich summer berries, the dark almond-flavored cherries, they all came together to form one simple truth:
Pie is easy.
And now a full year later, making the dough is like second nature: I toss everything into a food processor, no gimmicks or silly tricks, squeeze it into a ball, and freeze it. And it turns out well every time!
Now that the crust is a breeze, I want to expand on my fillings. Last year, I made Spiced Chai Apple Streusel Pie and Boozy Pecan Rum Pie for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up new autumn and winter combinations for this year (Pear and Fennel, Chocolate Peppermint, or Limoncello Brûlée?)
I’ve also been playing around a little bit with free-form tarts (Italian: crostata; French: galette) and just filling them with a layer of fruit and spices. One evening, when I was really feeling the impending leaf-changing and air-crisping, I sliced up some apples (skins on because I can’t be bothered to peel them), and mixed up some sugar and spices. I threw in some dried rosemary and assembled the tart, then when it was in the oven, I placed some leftover rosemary sprigs (I had made focaccia that day, as well) on top for an extra flavor infusion, and voila!
rosemary spiced apple crostata (crostata di mele e rosmarino)
makes two 7″, or one 9-10″ crostata
200 – 300 g red apples
50 g granulated sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 fresh rosemary sprigs (with or without leaves)
1 egg yolk, for washing
1 spoonful raw, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for coating
Core and slice the apples. You can peel them if you want, but they’re just as good with the skin on. Set the slices aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and spices. Set aside.
Roll dough out into a circle or a square a few millimeters thick. With a bench scraper or spatula, mark approximately halfway (both vertically and horizontally) between edges, then 2/3 of the way between the outer edge of the dough and your marking. You should now have slight marks/scores 1/6 of the way in from the edge of the dough, and halfway across. This is just a guide for how much of the dough to fill and how much to fold.
Spread about 2/3 of the spice mixture between the outer markings (so the middle 2/3 of the dough, leaving the outer 1/3 border empty.)
Layer the apples on top of the spices, and sprinkle the other 1/3 of the spices over the apples.
Fold the edges of the dough in, pinching them together where they overlap.
Freeze the tart for at least half an hour to let it chill.
Preheat your oven to 425 F/220 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the edges of the tart with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is bronze and the filling is bubbly.
Remove and transfer to a wire rack with the parchment paper underneath the tart.
Cut and enjoy!
Tarts to you later,