Lemon Lechery

“Paulie, still hoarse but no longer sneezing, came in and started on Lemon Lechery and marbled brown sugar cake”
-Sunshine

Unlike the esteemed authoress, I’m not a big gardener. But I love gardens (which is probably why I get along so well with those books that feature it rather heavily). Take lemon trees. One little tree and you’re rolling in so many sunny citrus pops of zesty goodness you’re giving it away to the daughter of a friend of a friend who is fawning over the un-waxed skin like a doe over an actual fawn.

So thank you all you lovely gardeners who share their bounty with others. You are wonderful human beings.

Speaking of wonderful human beings, today’s guest kitchen and baking know-how is provided by my friend Mariko, one of my favorite baking buddies. Look at that tart! No wonder we get along so well.

 

No, seriously. Look at that tart.
No, seriously. Look at that tart.

Mariko was a big help while I fumbled through the recipe for Lemon Lechery. Which invaluable since Lemon Lechery is one of those intriguingly decadent-with-no-details recipes that I’ve been mulling over for a while. There were a couple ways to go with this one, but one bite of this rendition and I was humming my approval so loud I don’t know that I’ll need to revisit this one any time soon. Plus this one has the Mariko-Going-For-Seconds Stamp of Approval.

Lemon Lechery is mentioned only once in Sunshine, bundled in with marbled brown sugar cake. So I decided to go with a dessert in a similar genre. I pictured a generously sliced slab of lemon loaf cake topped with something sinfully excessive to bump it up to the next level. So I over-lemonized a well respected lemon loaf recipe and ditched the light syrups and glazes and went right for a thick white chocolate crust.

The result? Pretty damn tasty. Continue reading Lemon Lechery

Scones

Freshly Baked Scones

“This crazy came in during the lull between the late-afternoon muffin-and-scone crowd and the early supper eaters so there weren’t too many people around.”
-Sunshine

Today’s bout of flour and butter madness is brought to you from the snows of Boston. Guest starring in this episode of incredible edibles is the infallible food connoisseur Cassie. She’s eaten some of the best food in the world (and luckily for me I was cooing and scarfing next to her for some of it) and she’s finally decided to start her own food blog: Ditch the Cilantro. Check it out if you’ve ever wanted to read wisdom from someone who’s eaten more Michelin stars than her age, but can wax poetic about craft beer.

Cassie is one of those lovely people who just happens to have a big container of currants and several pounds of butter on hand right next to an eager cherry red KitchenAid. So when it started to snow this morning, there was really only one thing to do. Scones. Continue reading Scones

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

“And if the taxes went up as predicted they would have to sell the house even if they kept the coffeehouse, which they probably wouldn’t do either because they wouldn’t be able to bear putting up the prices enough for the sort of hash and chili and chicken pot pie and succotash pudding and big fat sandwiches on slabs of our own bread menu that we do so well.”
-Sunshine

Recipe re-testing can be tedious. There’s a drag-yourself-out-of-bed-before-dawn-when-the-heater-is-broken kind of reluctance to the whole damnable process. If only I could make everything masterfully the first time! But once in a while if the culinary bodies are aligned, you stumble upon a lucky escape hatch.

For instance, when you make too much pie crust you can just…make more pie. And if seven pounds later your patience for peeling, slicing and arranging apples has waned considerably, you can swap the peeler for a cleaver and hack apart a chicken instead. Plus rain and Chicken Pot Pie go better together than rain and appl–hmm… Better than rain and cinnamon rol–no, those two are pretty great too.

Rain and Chicken Pot Pie is better than rain without Chicken Pot Pie.

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

Chicken Pot PIe Ingredients

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/6 cup butter or 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/6 cup butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • homemade pie crust or 1 package with 2 unbaked 9″ crusts
Directions

This is the first savory food I’m knocking out and once you’ve got the pie crust, the rest is just cooking. I love baking, I do–I really do, honest–but the beautiful thing about cooking is how fast and loose you can be with pretty much everything. This goes for the filling itself, but even for components, like the chicken stock.

Chicken Stock Ingredients
  • Bones of 1 chicken
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Chicken Stock Directions

Prep of the ingredients should be minimal. Scrub the celery clean and cut into halves (or thirds depending on the size of your stock pot). Don’t mince, don’t slice, just hack and dump. Same goes for the carrots. Scrub. Peel. Chop. Dump.

Cut the ends off the onions and quarter it so you have four very large chunks. Into the pot! Toss in the garlic, peppercorns, a few generous pinches of salt, and the bay leaf. Fill the pot with cold water until it covers the ingredients by 2-3 inches.

If you have a steamer basket, open it inside the pot so it gently tamps all the ingredients down. Bring to a boil. After a few minutes reduce to a simmer.

After 15 minutes skim the top of the water, and check back every 15-30 minutes for the first hour. Keep it on a simmer for 6-8 hours, adding more water when the level dips below all your ingredients.

When the hours are up and your whole house smells delicious, take it off, strain the soup into another large vessel and chill overnight. Skim off the solidified fat in the morning and freeze what you don’t use for the chicken pot pie for soups or other edibles.

Chicken Pot Pie Directions

The alternative to an all day on-off relationship with your kitchen is to buy the chicken broth or opt for one of the overnight slow cooker methods that are floating around. Either will work just fine.

But enough about the ingredients: onto the pie!

Continue reading Chicken Pot Pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie

“On Friday and Saturday I make pies. Even Charlie doesn’t know the secret of my apple pie. I suppose the secret would be safe with you.”
-Sunshine

How does that saying go? Desperate craving is the mother of invention? There was a glorious slice of time during college when I had both time and an oven. What I didn’t have was a pie pan. And when October rolls around, pie is pretty much the only dessert I have on the brain. So what’s a college girl in the middle of the countryside going to do? Something desperate. One tiny pan substitute that transforms the whole dessert brilliantly. So today, dear eaters, I give you: Deep Dish Apple Pie. Sunshine would totally approve.

(Deep Dish) Apple Pie

Crust adapted from Alton Brown
Filling adapted from Grandma Ople

Ingredients
Crust*

  • 9 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 5-7 tablespoons moonshine
  • 18 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla sugar

*See end of post for updated crust recipe

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 small Granny Smith apples
  • 3 small Fuji apples
Crust Directions

I have a confession: I mostly use store bought crusts. *cringe*

I know! It’s terrible, I’m sorry. My half-sane reasoning is pie crust is amazingly bad for you so if I don’t see what goes into it, I won’t feel bad when I end up staring at a half-empty pie pan.

Okay, okay, I hear the crazy. Self-made crust is bad, but it’s still better for you than crappy store crust.

Plus pie crust is one of those easier recipes since everything gets dumped into the food processor in sequence. Not that an easy recipe means I whipped together my crust with no problems. There were problems. But it started off pretty smoothly.

Netflix recently released Good Eats onto the interwebz for mass consumption and I’m re-learning some incredible recipes, techniques and science from my oldest food sensei. And because his version of pie crust has applejack/moonshine the temptation was just too great.

So I took the Good Eats recipe and upped it by 50% since I always err on the side of crust

Crustastic Update

After reading the excellent article about the science of pie crust in Food Lab I realized that the problems in the last crust weren’t due to getting the dough drunk on moonshine (turns out inebriated crust is supposed to be sloppy like a biscuit. Who knew?). There were two big problems with the original crust (and they’re related):

  1. Batch too large for the food processor.
  2. Over pulsed.

When trying out the new dough recipes, I remembered in the proto forms of this pie I used the secretshame store-bought regular sized pie doughs, so I stuck to the original batch size to see if it would support a whopping 6lb pie. It did.

Experimental Dough #1 aka Buttercup

I was feeling pretty defeatist at this point, so I didn’t really take pictures. Of course I should have because it all worked out alright in the end. For the first experiment, I tried to follow the Food Lab Easy Pie Dough recipe. There was a very clear explanation as to why I would get what, but of course life isn’t that easy.

See, I’ve gotten pretty okay with the general unhealthiness of pie crust by now. It smells too good and you get kind of desensitized to it after a while. But–and there’s no way to sugar coat this–one Deep Dish Apple Pie takes roughly one pound of butter. And most of that is in the crust. I have long resigned myself to the fact that at the rate I bake it doesn’t make sense to buy in anything other than Costco quantities. Which is the extremely long way of saying…all my one pound butter bricks live in the freezer.

Which means when I followed the recipe to the letter, pulsing 25 times, that wasn’t enough pulsing. There should have been frozen-butter-chunks-pulsing instead of the cool-as-a-cucumber-in-the-fridge pulsing.

As it turns out, using frozen butter and the Easy Pie Dough recipe yields not the easily replicated paste-to-flake magical pie crust recipe. Instead it yields a perfect regular pie crust consistency rife with eyeballing drops of liquid. I added lemon because the acid helps keep the crust tender and because I missed the tang from store bought crusts which accompanies the granny smiths so well and put in a couple tablespoons of moonshine as an extra bit of insurance, then added water a tablespoon at a time until the dough barely stuck together and chilled it in the fridge. Visually there were little nuggets of butter speckled throughout which didn’t resemble any dough I remember.

Experimental Dough #2 aka Pastehead

Armed with another frozen block of butter I pulsed the new dough into frosty submission. I think I still did it wrong because it took less water, but more than the 6 tablespoons called for in the recipe.

For the actual pie it was tricky to test in halves, so I used Buttercup on top and Pastehead on the bottom, understanding several pounds of apples would likely squelch the flake out of Pastehead, but the sides could make an expressive substitute.

Buttercup blossomed in the oven, rising and crisping so beautifully it was like a crosshatch churro. Despite my high hopes for the scientifically proven Pastehead, it was widely regarded as inferior. I thought it might have been product of pie placement, but I took the leftover dough and made some Chicken Pot Pies. Half of the total crust recipe makes two chicken pot pies, so I topped three with Buttercup and one with Pastehead. The results? (I stuck with the name Pastehead, so it’s not like there’s a lot of hope here)

Buttercup vs. Pastehead

Winner and crisp, flaky champion!

Since deleting whole sections is confusing, I’ll leave my error-riddled crust below, just in case there was something in it that really worked for someone. Feel free to skip ahead.

Continue reading Deep Dish Apple Pie

Triple-Ginger Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Sauce

Triple Ginger Gingerbread Slab

“I’d made my special cream-cheese sauce to go with the triple-ginger gingerbread. I’d long felt that gingerbread, while excellent in itself, was still essentially an excuse to eat the sauce, so I’d always made twice as much per portion as the original recipe called for. Then it turned out that some of our customers were even more crazed than I was, so I’d started making three times as much, and we served it in little sauceboats. You got purists occasionally that didn’t want any sauce, but the slack was taken up somehow.”
-Sunshine

After what feels like an endless string of baking fails, I have whiplash from this sudden reversal of fortune. I’m just going to tell you guys right now: the Triple-Ginger Gingerbread is amazing. It is so good it deserves its own food group. The food pyramid should be: meat, vegetables, ice cream, grains, and triple-ginger gingerbread with cream cheese sauce. When I first read the recipe, I thought it was overzealous with the ginger. Like getting the word “man” in Pictionary and drawing portrait of Tom Selleck in a tank. There is a lot of ginger in this thing. But you know what? It works. Beautifully. I am delighted to say that it tastes exactly like it should.

While I dig into The Bread Baker’s Apprentice thanks to my knowledgeable food-friend Jon, I thought it would be good to give my yeast a break and embrace the changing season. What a tremendously good idea that turned out to be. Instead of tragic sunken loaves of bread, I have spicy, sultry, mysterious Triple-Ginger Gingerbread for your rainy day pleasure.

I should also mention the host kitchen may be the most beautiful kitchen I’ve seen in real life. I’m puppy-sitting for my friend Laura today and I just couldn’t help baking. Look at this place.

Laura's Kitchen

I’m pretty sure the granite is taken directly from a dragon’s den.

Dragon Granite

Also: it takes like a solid hour for my kitchen to be useable. At least two until it’s photogenic. Laura’s kitchen just…looks like this. All the time. It’s like standing inside a magazine.

I just thought I’d explain now because once I start posting pictures you’ll start to stare at the gorgeous background and at least now you’ll know what you’re looking at. But enough ktchen-porn–onto the food!

Triple-Ginger Gingerbread

Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (if pan greasing) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup diced cubed candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Note on the Ingredients

Triple Ginger Gingerbread SpicesThis recipe calls for a little spoons of a lot of spices. While you could probably leave out one of them, I wouldn’t. You can really taste the complexity. I highly recommend checking out the bulk bins at places like Whole Foods or coops (or Berkeley Bowl in my case). You can pick up small baggies of the spices instead of spending $15 on jars of spices you won’t use up. I bought enough of everything (except the ground ginger which I already had) to make 3-5 batches of this recipe for about $1.25.

Cream Cheese Sauce
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 2/3 cups whole milk
  • 16 oz (usually 2 packages) cream cheese at room temperature

Note on Cream Cheese Sauce

I was extremely unscientific with this part. I used half a pack of cream cheese and adjusted the ratio of powdered sugar and milk until it reached a consistency I liked. It is addictively delicious. Since I had Sunshine’s blessing, I just spooned on as much as I wanted and the whole batch lasted about 1/4 of the loaf (or 3 slices). To be on the safe side I quadrupled the quantity, but if you don’t think you’ll be eating 1/3 cup of sauce with each slice, you might get away with half the recipe here.

Triple Ginger Gingerbread Ingredients

Directions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line long loaf pan with parchment paper and butter the sides. I didn’t have parchment paper, so I just went the old fashioned way and buttered and floured the pan.

Floured Loaf Pan Continue reading Triple-Ginger Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Sauce

Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know

A whole long weekend has passed and all I have to show is lots of not-good bread. I mean it’s edible. But it’s not good. …And in some cases it may not have been all that edible. In the hope that some of my baking-inclined readers might be able to dole out some advice and to prevent similar mistakes, here’s a rundown of What Went Wrong This Week (another potential title for this post).

Lessons from Garlic-Rosemary Buns
Inside is better than outside.

Clearly not enough garlicAgainst my garlic-loving inclinations, I followed a version of a garlic-rosemary bread recipe that calls for the garlic and rosemary to be brushed on the outside of each bun. I reasoned with myself. Perhaps the strong garlic flavor and impossible-to-wash-off rosemary scent will penetrate the bun during the magical baking process. The recipe was on a BBC website and the ingredients were listed by weight–surely such precision wouldn’t be wrong about something as important as the flavor!

Utter nonsense. You can be bet version two is going to be literally rolling in garlic.

Baking temperature matters. A lot.

Garlic Rosemary Buns in the OvenI made a lot of changes to the original recipes I found. Mostly because they all seemed to call for a more rustic bread, and when I picture Garlic Rosemary Buns, I always think of something soft and moist and begging to be gobbled by the half dozen (then regretted–but not enough to prevent it from happening again). You just can’t do that with rustic bread which is designed to withstand rain and the Middle Ages and the French. As a result, the make up of the flour mixture changed pretty significantly, but I kept the baking temperature for a bread that is basically all crust. Instead of soft, fragrant bread pillows I ended up with dry flour cakes.

Garlic Rosemary Buns Crust
It’s like a bad dinner roll.

Lessons from Jamdandies: Attempt II

Believe it or not, but the fact that Jamdandies are mentioned in this post means there will be a third attempt. I am beginning to think I should have picked the larger bag of flour at Costco. I’m going to be one of those people that has to use those flatbeds because all her stuff can’t fit into an over-sized cart. Like a business or someone building a shed at Home Depot.

Jam is awesome.
Cookie Moat Jamdandies
If I wanted a jam-less bite of cookie I’d eat shortbread.

Continue reading Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know