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apricots2

I got a little crazy in the baking department this weekend.  There was a baby shower for a good friend of mine planned (god bless her precious little socks) and I got myself up to my elbows in cake for the occasion.  I thought, momentarily, about making the ever-appreciated chocolate cake, a safe bet for people whose tastes you don’t quite know.  And I thought about a Victoria Sponge too for it’s crowd pleasing qualities.  And then I thought about the friend whose baby we were showering and about how I just know, deep down, that these good folks would want their precious bebe well versed in the language of foods, various, exotic and experimental, and I knew I had to offer a few flavours not always found on a party board.  Now, if you haven’t already met her and found out for yourself, there really is only one place to go for inspiration for a splendid, voluptuous, mouth-watering Bake of some kind. Dear Debs at Smitten Kitchen has the trump up her sleeve every time.  Having scoured the ends of the earth and the bottom of every food magazine pile and waded her way through a sea of recipes she finds the best, the most sumptuous, simple the most mouth-wateringly delicious cakes out there.  This time, after an hour or so having to dab delicately at my mouth to keep my salivations from the keyboard I found a masterpiece of baking: a Pistachio Petit Four cake.  My dear friend, Ms A, is of a Persian bend and I thought that the pistachio, apricot and almond trio were a perfect tribute.

Having overwhelmed my senses at Deb’s place, I thought I’d leave some space for some other inspiration and dawdled over to Bea’s at La Tartine Gourmand.  Bea has an ability to wave her magic French wand over everything she does and give it that certain je ne sais quoi. I fell in love, instantly, with her Lemon Yogurt cake for a few reasons, not least of which was that it was her dad’s favourite.  I’m a bit of a dad-o-phile myself here and it tugged somewhat on my homesick/family-sick heartstrings.  Also, it’s kind of like a cheese cake, but much lighter and it comes in a pastry.  Pastry?  I’m in!

For the third plate I stayed a little closer to home.  I did a gorgeous walnut banana bread, which I sliced in half through the body, scooped a little bit out of the bottom half and filled with dulce de leche.  So there you go, ma petite belle bebe S: something from your home, something from my home and something half way between the two.  May your life be beautiful and delicious.

Okay, I promise that this is the last catch-up-on-summer post I’ll put out here.  It’s nearly December, for goodness sake, and I’ve a plethora of Autumn cooking to catch you up on and I really don’t want this to end in the Summer next with me still waffling on about Christmas baking.  But how, I ask you with cake in my mouth, could I not tell you all about this?  Look at it, don’t you just want a piece?  And, to be honest, with the November rain-snow-yuck glooming down all around us at the moment a little bit of sunny coloured apricotiness can’t do too much harm.

apricot-almond-pie

Apricots are something I actually seldom buy, perhaps only once in the season.  The reason is that they are such a sensitive, delicate little fruit that by the time they get from the tree to the store they always seem to have lost their lovely, translucent glow and their flesh turns to powderiness or mush far quicker than is convenient.  Growing up in South Africa meant, among other things, having access to very fresh, delicious fruit and I can’t help but compare the apricots I’ve bought here with the firmer, juicier ones I remember from childhood.  Nonetheless, there are times when, luck in hand, I run into a crop of apricots so blushing, so sunny and full of optimism that I simply Must Have Them.  This particular lot were simply lovely, a rare treat in a rainy summer.  And having bought far more than I knew we’d manage to eat before they tipped over on to the other side of ripe I knew the best way to use them up would be in a tart. I thought a great compliment to the tartness of the apricots would be the delicate fragrance and flavour of almonds  I achieved this not only by using almond flour in the pastry, but also by fashioning new stones for the halved fruit out of marzipan.  It not only looked quite precious, it tasted, let me tell you, Delicious.

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Almond Apricot Tart

For the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
⅓ cup quinoa flour (or use more plain four to the same value)
¼ cup almond flour (ground almonds)
⅓cup demmerara sugar
¹⁄⁄₈ tsp tumeric powder
big pinch salt
⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
⅓ cup cold water

12 apricots, halved and stoned

60g marzipan

2 Tbsp honey
¼sp ground cardamom

– mix all three fours and the sugar, tumeric and salt.

– add the oil and mix until the mixture is crumbly and looks like oats and wet sand

– add the water and combine to form a dough.

– rest at room temperature for one hour

– preheat the oven to 375˚F

– roll out the pastry and line a greased pie dish with it, trimming the edges.

– arrange the apricot halves, skin side down, in the pie base

– pinch of marble size pieces of marzipan, roll between your palms to form a ball and place in the centre of each apricot.

– warm the hone a little over a low heat, add the cardamom and drizzle over the apricots.

– Bake for about 35 mins until the pastry is golden and the liquid from the fruit and honey is bubbling.

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chocolate-cherry-pie1

Oh, don’t shoot me.  Another recipe I diligently wrote down while making and have since misplaced somewhere in the maelstrom of my kitchen notes over the last few months.  Listen, people, do as I say and not as I do.  If you’re going to be making up recipes and fabricate wonderful new concoctions in the kitchen, keep a whole notebook, bound and sturdy and without loose pages in which to write said culinary experiments.  Do not, as I do, keep a post-it pad in the cutlery drawer on which to scribble, somewhat illegibly and often covered in some un-named sauce, your moments of cuisinary Eureka.  So bear with me here as I try to back track in my mind and remember what went into this little morsel of yumminess you see before you.

The shell, I remember well, is a simple shortcrust.  No difficulty there.  If you need a recipe, this is a good one, but make only half the required amount as you don’t need a lid for this pie.

The filling was a pint, at least, of dark, almost black, Bing cherries; pitted and halved, or halved and pitted whichever order you like to do that in. 

Next would have been a little bit of flour and a little bit of sugar.  Again, I can’t give you exact measurements, but I’d estimate ⅓cup sugar and a ¼cup plain flour. 

Then a generous amount of dark chocolate, cut into chunks.  Hmmm.  Lets guess at 100g, 70% cocoa.

Of course, the rest seems fairly simple.  Preheat the oven to, oh, 375˚F.  Line a springform cake tin with the pastry and chill in the fridge for 10 mins.  Fill the shell with the cherry/chocolate mix and bake for about 30 mins, or until the pastry is turning a golden brown and the filling is bubbling merrily away.

Chill for about 10 mins outside the oven before removing from the springform.

Brilliant eaten still warm with a good dollop of vanilla ice-cream.

Good luck!  And please, if anyone can see a major blup in my thinking here, shout shout shout.

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Pizza rustica 1

Hello? Why, Hello! It’s been such a while since I last saw you, have you changed your hair? Yes, as you’ve no doubt guessed, life has been busy. But when isn’t it, and is that ever excuse enough for complete and utter neglect? I think not. Be that as it may, I have been somewhat distracted by other tasks, though here I am again, cooking it up and sharing what I can. Right! Lets get this year on the road! Lets finally, three weeks in, Whoop it up for 2008. Hope it’s cooking.

As a little make-up kiss, I give you a dish that sets my mouth to watering every time I think about it. It’s a dish that’s rich and warm and comforting and the perfect meal for that lazy, hazy, feet on the couch time between Christmas Feasting and New Year Bashing. Also, note to self for next year, would be perfect as a New Year Day Bash Recovery Unit. The recipe is from that Matron of the Mixing Bowl, Nigella, though I tinkered here and adapted there to come up with something better suited to a Dutch Father-in-law and a bacon-loving Mother-in-law. Also, I might add with a pat on my own back, I had enough foresight to pre-make the pastry during my initial Christmas Baking Bonanza in mid-December, which took a lot of the effort out on the day. Handy when you’re trying to keep guests vaguely entertained at the same time as cook up a brunch.

*Use a 23cm Springform Pan to make the pie.

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Pizza Rustica a la Paesi Bassi

For the Pastry:
250g plain flour
1 stick (125g) butter, cold, cut into 1cm pieces
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp iced water
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbsp caster sugar

For the filling:
75g Luganega (Italian Pork Sausage)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
250g ricotta, drained
50g smoked provolone, diced
125g dutch Gouda, diced
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Italian Parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
100g mortadello, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
2Tbsp milk

large pinch fleur de sel

Make the pastry:
– put the flour and butter in a dish in the freezer for 10 minutes. While this is chilling, mix the egg yolks, water and salt in a small bowl.

– When the butter is thoroughly chilled, add the sugar to the bowl and rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles something between damp sand and oats porridge. Little lumps of butter are a good thing, you don’t want to overwork the butter into the flour.

– Add the egg/water mix and gently mix with your hands until the dough just comes together. It should still be a somewhat loose and crumble.

– Tip the pastry out and work it together with your hands to form one lump, more or less. Divide the dough into two parts: one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate.

Make the filling:
– Place a baking tray in the oven and pre-heat it to 400˚F

– Skin the Luganega, heat the oil in a skillet and fry the sausage meat for about 5 minutes, breaking it up as you cook it. Allow to cool

– Mix all the ingredients, including luganega, except the bread crumbs in a large bowl until well combined.

Assemble:
– Roll out the larger of the pastries to line the bottom and sides of your greased springform pan, allowing for an overhang. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry wit the dried bread crumbs, then add the rest of the filling mixture.

– Roll out the smaller pastry large enough to cover the tin with an overhang. Roll up the two overhangs to seal the pie and press with prongs of a fork.

– glaze with the eggy milk mix and stab here and there with a fork to make air vents. Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel.

– bake for 10 minutes at 400˚F, then turn the oven down to 180˚F and bake for a further 45 minutes.

– Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before serving, although it’s excellent cold as well.

Pizza rustica 3
 

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Newfoundland 2007 4

I seem to have my jet-set engines on at the moment. I’m only just getting my breath back from our trip to Newfoundland and already I’m busy packing for another bout of airports and baggage check. Naturally I’m thrilled to be partaking of one of my great loves in life: travel; but it also means that I’ve not had too much time to do any cooking. And all those squash and pumpkins just lying there, calling me! I love this time of year and I’ve been waiting patiently, almost on tender hooks, to sink my cooking teeth into some new dishes. Well, they’ll just have to wait, I’m afraid, until I’m back from my exploring. Oh, our lives are not boring, at least! Now the question is: will I have time to make real Christmas pudding this year, when the time to make it would be now? The proof of that pudding … well, you know. C’est la vie, non? Right now, though, I’m still dreaming of Newfoundland, with its raw, majestic landscapes and its wild, unforgiving storms and its seas, which throw themselves, now calmly, now violently at the shores like a heartbroken woman. The kind of seas you want to stand overlooking, on a cliff, and conduct into a crescendo. The kind of land filled with fervent passion and cold cruelty, wherever you look. And with blueberries and partridge berries covering the ground, just begging for a pie.

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Apple Mulberry Pie

Mmmm.  What more can you say about apple pie?  Well, actually, I can think of a thing or two.  Let’s be honest.  Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like apple pie, even if it’s somewhere deep down inside your most private thoughts?  Saying you don’t like apple pie is like saying you don’t like puppies, or the Seychelles, or the Sound of Music.  Ahem.  You know, a friend once told me, long, long ago, in a far away land, that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like the Sound of Music and those who pretend they don’t.

I always have to be strict with myself regarding apple pie: to wait wait wait for the fresh crop of apples in the early autumn to make apple pie.  It’s all about eating seasonally, non? And yet every now and then I will break down and buy apples in April or May, those shipped in from South Africa or last season’s released from months of cold storage and make a big old apple pie.  Yet, that first pie of Autumn, with it’s super crisp, slightly tangy, tart apples is better than the Seychelles, better than it all, and a reminder to us all to be patient next year and just wait a few more months.  This pudding definitely has the proof in it.

*note: the dried white Mulberries where a gift to me from my wonderful friend, Ms A, who has opened my eyes to the culinary wonders of Persian food in all it’s glory.  You should be able to find them at any Iranian or Middle Eastern food store.

Apple Mulberry Pie 2

Apple and White Mulberry Pie

1 x pate brise
– 2 cups flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sugar
– 2 sticks cold butter
– ¼ – ½ cup ice water

filling:
1 cup dried white mulberries
1 Tbsp Whiskey
Hot water
2 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch salt
2 Tbsp butter

– put the mulberries in a small bowl, cover with hot water and whiskey and allow to sit for a at least an hour to soften.

Make the pastry:
– whisk together flour, salt and sugar.

– chop cold butter into small pieces and then run into the flour mix until it starts to resemble oat meal with pea sized chunks of butter.

– add water and mix with your hands until a dough just starts to form.  Dump the almost-dough onto a piece of cling wrap.  Divide the mix into two, putting the other half onto another piece of cling film.  Shap each piece into a rough disc, cover completely with plastic and pop in the fridge for an hour.

– pre heat the oven to 440˚F

– remove one half of the chilled dough at a time and roll out into a circle, large enough to line the pie tin with a a good 1½ inch flap over.  use one half to line a greased pie tin, in the fridge, and keep the other flat, on a baking sheet in the fridge for the top.  Refrigerate pastry for another 15 – 20 mins while you prepare the filling.

– mix apples with lemon juice, flour, sugar and spices, leave at room temp for 10 mins.  Add mulberries and mix.

– take pie shell out of the fridge. Fill with apple mulberry mix and dot with butter.

– Brush edges of pie crust with water and place top pastry over the filling, pressing down on the edges to seal the pie.  Trim the pastry edge to a 1 inch over hang. Tuck top pastry under bottom along the edges to form a good seal.  Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to reinforce and decorate pie edge.  Cut 4 slits into the pie, starting from about 2 inches short of the top and running to about 4 inches from the edge for steam vents.

– decorate with pastry leaves, if desired, and brush pastry with milk or beaten egg.

– place you oven shelf on the lowest rung available and bake pie for 50 – 60 mins until juices are bubbling out of the slits and the pastry is golden brown.

Apples and Mulberries

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white chocolate tart with blackberries 1

I’ve been using Mr P’s camera for the last while to take blog photographs, seeing as how I’m still a poor and starving artist. Wait. Did I just say ‘starving’? Well, hardly, but I’m still holding out for the camera I long for and in the interim I’m a Borrower. On Sunday I did something I’ve never done before, trained as I am with the reflexes of a cat (ahem) and dropped Mr P’s appropriated private possession, destroying the focus and retraction on the lens. Not wanting to beat about the bush for too long I ran out at first light, well 10am when the shops opened doors you must be a stickler for detail, and purchased a replacement model, which is shiny and new, with bells and whistles (the old one just had the bells) and fits in to the hand like it was born to be there. The proof of the pudding, as always in this house, is in the eating, so we’ll have to wait and see the first foodie photo’s it takes before we judge.

In the mean time, perhaps I could interest you in a little something something for that sweet tooth. A little derivative from Sylivie, who somehow always leaves me feeling a little breathless and under qualified in the baking department.

*note: this recipe needs about 6 hours in the fridge, preferably overnight. It’s great for entertaining as you can make the shells and filling the day before and just whip up and decorate the tarts before your guests arrive.

white chocolate tart with blackberries 2

White Chocolate Tarts with Black berries

for the pate sable:
200g butter, softened
pinch salt
⅓ cup icing sugar, sifted
¼ cup almond flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbsp + 1½ cup flour

for the filling:
70g white chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp + 60 ml Cream

1 punnet black berries, washed

make the pastry:
– beat the butter with the almond flour, salt and sugar until creamy.

– add the egg, vanilla and 1 Tbsp of the flour and beat until smooth.

– add the rest of the flour and combine to form a sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

– roll out and line greased and floured tart tins, refrigerate for a few mins

– heat oven to 360˚. Blind bake tarts (using parchment paper and legumes/lentils/etc) for 10 mins

– remove from oven, remove paper and legumes, bake empty tart shells another 7 – 10 mins until pastry is coming away from the sides of the tins and is “singing”.

– cool tart shells to room temperature.

make the filling:

– in a bain mare, melt the chocolate with the 2 Tbsp cream

– when the ganache is smooth, remove from heat to cool a bit. Add the rest of the cream and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

– whip the chocolate cream until it’s stiff. It whips up really quickly.

– fill the baked tart shells and top with black berries.

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Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry

Since the first time I read about it, in a book given to me by the hosts of a Water Colour holiday * I went on last year, called “Simple French Cuisine from Provence and Languedoc”, I’ve been wanting to use, and looking for, Chestnut Flour. The idea intrigued me. Can you make pastry with it? I found some in a bin in a bulk health food store eventually and bought a bag, even though I had no idea what to do with it.

After a bit of reading, I found that it’s a traditionally used flour in parts of Italy and France, among other places, when other flours are unavailable. And traditionally, the pastry I wanted to make was done on a counter top, like pasta pastry. You know the one: you dump all your flour onto your counter top in a nice big pile, make a well in the middle and throw the eggs into it. Well, I’ve never done this before, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge it I can help it. It was a bit of a tricky, sticky task, and after 15 mins of kneading the eggs and butter into the flour I was covered head to toe in the fine chestnut flour and my hands up to my wrists were a sticky, icky mess. Of course I’d forgotten to take off my wedding ring, so all it’s crevices are now caked in dried pastry. Eventually, in exasperation, I put the whole lot in a bowl and mixed it with a wooden spoon, adding more flour until a more manageable consistency was reached. If I hadn’t been laughing so much I would have been cursing!

Well, the end product is still delicious. Does anyone have any tips for working with Chestnut Flour? Any help is appreciated!

* The McEwans run a wonderful workshop holiday, whether you’re there for the lessons, the cuisine or the insightful personal guides to the area and local towns near Lodev. The hosts are warm and intimate, the food, cooked by Mrs McEwan, is inspiring, fresh and hearty and the skills available to you from Mr McEwan are invaluable whether you’re a watercolour hobbyist or a veteran painter.

Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry 2

Pear and Blackberry Tarts with Chestnut Pastry

makes 6 tarts

for the pastry:
2½ cups Chestnut Flour
2 sticks butter, soft
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Jumbo egg

for the filling:
¼ cup ground almond
⅓ cup Sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essence

1 just ripe pear, quartered, cored and sliced finely
1 punnet blackberries

– make the pastry:

– beat the softened butter with the sugar until creamy

– add the egg and flour and mix, using a spoon and then your hands, until a soft dough is formed. Add more flour is necessary.

– flatten into a disc, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 45 mins.

– grease and flour pie tins.

– in a small bowl, mix almond, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until well blended. Refrigerate for about 30 mins.

– using pastry in bits (keep the unused amount in the fridge in the mean time) roll out on a floured surface and line pie tins. Refrigerate for 10 mins before filling.

– divide filling cream between shells, arrange pears and berries. I placed a piece of pastry on top of each pie for added decoration. (if doing this, brush lightly with milk so that it browns in the oven)

– bake at 325˚F for 30 – 35 mins until browned and yummy.

these are best served warmish with whipped cream

Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry 3

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