Saturday, June 30, 2012

Martha's Mile High Apple Pie

I felt energetic today and decided to use up the 8 green apples that had been in the fridge for weeks.  I was tired of having them roll all over the place whenever I moved something on the shelf.  Why weren't they in the vegetable/fruit bin you ask? Because The Husband says he forgets about them when they are in the bin and is less likely to eat them.  Enough I decided to make apple pie.  He'll eat them now!

I have seen Martha Stewart make this Mile High Apple Pie a number of times over the years and decided to give the recipe a try.  What I failed to do though was note that her Pate Brisee pie crust recipe was actually increased from her normal Pate Brisee recipe that I have used many times.  Let's just say that I had to do a lot of stretching and cajoling of the top crust to get it to fit over the mile high apples I had piled into the bottom crust.
All in all it turned out to be an absolutely delicious pie with the most tender, flaky, and flavorful crust as usual.  I opted to serve my piece with a thin piece of cheddar cheese, just how my English grandpa use to have my grandma's apple pie.  Of course, ala mode is a fine second choice.
I am not going to print out the recipe for Martha's pie, instead I will send you to her link for Mile High Apple Pie.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rainy Day At The Farmers Market

Here it is the second day of summer and it is rainy and on the cool side with no end in sight from this weather for the next few days.  I can sit here wrapped in my blankie on the couch and channel surf, or I can get out the door, camera in hand, and head to the Farmers Market on this dreary Saturday morning.  I choose the latter.  Please enjoy the bursts of color I found amongst the gray drizzle.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

It's the beginning of strawberry season in the Willamette Valley.  This is a wonderful time of year when the markets start filling up with beautiful red jewels of local berries. Strawberries are my favorite and as I have said in previous years, no strawberries are better.  They are red, flavorful, and very juicy.  Perfect for strawberry shortcake.
I celebrated the first strawberries by making a wonderful, rich scone recipe for the shortcake portion.  This was found in my Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  This is a great basic cookbook for good American cooking. Nothing fancy but very reliable and delicious recipes.  The scones turned out very well, with a light texture and they were very flavorful.  I omitted the currants and orange rind called for, but if serving as a plain scone they would be lovely additions.

They are also very quick to make despite the fact that for the life of me I couldn't locate my pastry cutter.  I always keep it in a drawer that includes my rolling bin and other baking utensils.  I can't imagine that The Husband would have any use for it......or has he?  Anyway I cut the butter into the flour using the old fashioned method of two knives and it worked fine.  Enjoy!
Buttermilk Scones

3 cups flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup currants  (optional)
1 tsp. grated orange rind (zest) (optional)
1 tbsp. heavy cream
Sugar for top of scones

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use an ungreased baking sheet. Combine the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork to mix well and aerate. Cut the butter into the flour mixture, using a pastry blender or two knives or working in with your fingertips, until the mixture looks like fresh crumbs. Add the buttermilk, currants, and orange rind. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gather the dough into a ball and press so it holds together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly twelve times. Divide the dough in two and pat each half into a circle 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. In a small bowl combine the cream, cinnamon, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to blend. Brush the dough with the glaze (I brush the cut up wedges on the baking sheet). Cut each circle into eight pie-shaped pieces. (I chose to cut mine out individual with a biscuit cutter). Place the scones slightly apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 12-25 minutes, or until the tops are browned. Serve hot.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Corn Dog Tots

Sometimes a recipe sounds like such a good idea when I read it.  Here is one with all the elements of things we like at my house.  Hot dogs, corn dog batter, mustard.....all in a bite size morsel.  What's not to like?  Corn dogs are one of the main reasons to go to any fair, right? This, my friends, was a tale of failure in my kitchen.

I share it with you because with a few tweeks it could probably be pretty darn good.  I will never make them again, but perhaps someone out there will.  I can especially see how this might be a fun appetizer to serve at a kids party.  Here is where the recipe goes wrong.  It says not to let the oil go above 340 degrees.  I followed these instructions and what we ended up with were oily, soggy, corn dog tots.  I ended up throwing the whole lot of it away.  I would highly suggest increasing the oil to at least 350 degrees and just keep turning those little puppies so they don't burn.  Oh well, they all can't be winners in my kitchen!

Corn Dog Tots

Vegetable Oil
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, buttermilk, shaken
1/4 cup corn starch
6 beef hot dogs, cut into 1-inch medallions

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. (For draining the corn dogs after frying.) Pour your oil in a cast iron skillet, dutch oven until it reaches about 3-inches up the sides of the pot or skillet. Heat oil until your thermometer reads 340 degrees F. (Please note my suggestion of increasing the oil to 350 deg.)  If the oil is too hot the corn dog batter will be gooey on the inside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, yellow corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne. In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk and crack the egg in; beat until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, all at once, and mix until combined. (Note: If you step away from the batter for a few minutes, it might thicken up on you; if so, simply add a teaspoon of buttermilk at a time until it becomes the right consistency.)
Pour the cornstarch into a small bowl. One by one, lightly coat each hot dog medallion with the corn starch. When the oil is hot, using a fork or skewer, dip the hot dogs in and out of the batter, allowing any excess batter to run off. Immediately place the corn dog tots into the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to the paper towel lined baking sheet to drain. Place the baking sheet in a warm oven until you've cooked all of the tots.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

In honor of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee I was inspired to whip up something British to eat while watching the Boat Parade in London on the Thames this morning.  Such pageantry despite the rain.  And that Queen and her Prince Philip.  86 and 90 years old respectively, and their they stood through the whole rainy but spectacular flotilla.  Nice to catch glimpses of the handsome Princes William and Harry too.

Being of British ancestry and also loving all things English, I felt a sense of pride and thought what fun it would have been to be in London today and be a part of such a celebration.  Instead though, I nibbled on my tea cake and sipped my coffee, enjoying the festivities on the telly in my warm, dry house!

Long live the Queen!!

Blueberry-Lemon Tea Cakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
2 large eggs
2 cups blueberries

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp or more lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray 4 (5 3/4″ x 3 3/4″) loaf pans with nonstick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine buttermilk, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl.

Beat lemon zest, butter, and 3/4 cup sugar in a large mixer bowl on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk mixture; fold in blueberries.
Divide batter evenly between loaf pans and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While cakes are baking, combine remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and syrup thickens, about 4 minutes.
Remove cakes from oven and transfer to a wire rack; brush tops of cakes with lemon syrup and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and cool completely.   Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice together to form a thick glaze. Spoon glaze over cooled cakes and let firm up before cutting. Store cakes in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bacon Crumb Topped Baked Beans

I realize this isn't the most appealing picture in the world, but it is very difficult to make a bowl of brown baked beans look gourmet-worthy.  Let me tell you though, these beans are worth the effort to put together from scratch.  They actually go together very quickly and then need to bake for 2 or more hours, depending on how thick one likes their baked beans.

What takes this dish light years ahead of the canned variety is:  1) the complex flavor from all of the components, and 2) the bacon crumb topping.  If you could have all smelled my house while these were cooking!  It was like walking into the best of barbecue joints (of which we have none in my town).  I made the bread crumb topping the day before which made things extra speedy when I cooked these.  I think the whole dish could be made the day before if these were to be served at a gathering and then just reheated the day of the event.

Personally I found them a wee bit on the spicy side, even though I cut back on the red pepper flakes by half of what is called for so be forewarned.  As you start planning your family gatherings or barbecues for the summer, put this on your list of must-have-dishes. 

P.S.  After a 5 days of eating  these leftover baked beans The Husband said "These are the best thing ever."  So there you have it. 

Bacon Crumb Topped Baked Beans

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces smoked ham or tasso, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups ketchup
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
1/2 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 15-ounce cans navy beans, drained, rinsed
4 ounces bacon (4–5 slices)
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large heavy wide pot over high heat; add ham, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onion caramelizes, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add ketchup, next 6 ingredients, and 4 cups water to pot; season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sauce simmer until slightly thickened, 10–15 minutes. Stir beans into sauce.

Cover and bake beans until juices are bubbly and thickened, about 2 hours. (It took mine 2 1/2 hours)

Meanwhile, place bacon slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven until crisp, 10–15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Let bacon cool and reserve 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings separately.
Coarsely crumble bacon; place in a food processor with reserved drippings and panko; pulse until bacon is finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove beans from oven. Preheat broiler. Sprinkle beans with bacon breadcrumbs. Broil, uncovered, until crumbs are golden brown, 8–10 minutes.