Archive | October, 2008

Happy Halloween. Hmmph; I Wish.

31 Oct
Best Jack o' Lantern Ever.

Best Jack o'lantern Ever.

I am digressing from pastry for today, because Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Seriously.  My beloved husband and I recently moved to a wonderful town on a wonderful street in North Carolina, but we just found out one very unwonderful thing about it:  no children come down this street!  None.  Bummer.  If we were going to have children, I would have hung the ghosts and vampires in the tree out front, hung my scary skeleton-dressed-in-rags-moaning-and-shaking-motion-sensor dude on our door, carved a wicked pumpkin and set out the strobe light.

I’m telling you–I love it when kids run, or are afraid of the jack o’lantern, or tell me with really big eyes that they aren’t scared.  Yeah, right.  But my favorite favorite thing about having the kids come is that they sometimes run into the door.  You know–because of the strobe light.

Instead of that smorgasbord of Halloween fun, I will probably be sitting on the couch with the beloved husband eating chili (a bonus) and watching Young Frankenstein (another bonus).  Snuggling on the couch without having to get up every 14 seconds and run to the door might not be the worst thing ever, after all!

Back to pastries tomorrow.  I just wanted you to have an insight into my warped little mind.  Do come again.

Streusel

29 Oct

 

a Dutch Apple Pie with the requisite crunchy streusel topping.

Behold: a Dutch Apple Pie with the requisite crunchy streusel topping.

 

Streusel is magic!  It’s the reason that I often choose Dutch Apple Pie over regular old apple pie, even though I love crust.  Sometimes I just want homey, crunchy, buttery, golden-brown-and-delicious streusel!

It’s so simple to make, but it is so very versatile.  How to make it?  Well–easy.  It’s equal parts, by weight, of flour, sugar and butter, plus a pinch of salt. That’s it.  Please do weigh your ingredients or your proportions will be off.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale, please obtain one at your earliest convenience.  More about that later.

At any rate, here’s what you can do with streusel:

  1. top pies
  2. top crisps
  3. top muffins
  4. top cinnamon rolls
  5. roll it out and bake it like cookies (think:  shortbread)
  6. Spread it on Silpat, bake it off, cool it and crumble it.  Use it as a crunchy topping for ice cream

Stuff you can add to it:

  1. oatmeal (not cooked, please)
  2. chopped nuts
  3. chopped candied ginger
  4. dry spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger

A couple of streusel rules:

  1. You can use white sugar, brown sugar or a mixture of both
  2. If you’re going to use oatmeal, substitute out 1/4 of the weight of the flour for the same amount of oatmeal.
  3. Always add that pinch of salt.  It makes a difference.
  4. For each 2 oz. of flour, add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of dried spices, depending on your taste
  5. As long as you don’t go crazy with it, you can add a reasonable amount of chopped nuts without changing the proportions of the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Mix it by hand or in a stand mixer.
  7. You can make it in bulk and freeze it in freezer bags, portioned out for pie topping or whatever you can think of.

Here’s a thought.  Look down there at that apple pie filling.  How about making a brown sugar streusel with the addition of cinnamon and chopped walnuts of pecans.  If you have a crust, just top the pie with your streusel.  If you don’t have a crust, just dump the fruit in a buttered baking dish and pile on the streusel.  Bake at 375 degrees, F until all bubbly and golden brown and wonderful.  You’ve make a dessert without a recipe.  Awesome!

Pie Filling

27 Oct
A lovely apple pie filling? No problem!

A lovely apple pie filling? No problem!

I couldn’t very well tease you about pie fillings and then leave you hanging, now, could I?!  We’ll get into pie crust later on, or you can always look here or here for good recipes.  With this filling method, you will rule the world.  Um, the world of pies at least.  Not only the world of pies, but also the duchys of cobblers, crisps, galettes, turnovers and Bettys.  Take heed:

You will need fruit (enough to fill a pie), sliced into 1/4-1/3 inch slices if big and round (apples, peaches, pears, etc).  If your fruit is small and round (berries), no slicing is needed.  Use a mixture of fruits, if you’d like.  Blueberries are lovely with nectarines.  Raspberries and blackberries go nicely together.  Put your sliced (or not) fruit in a large bowl.  for each large handful of fruit, add about 1 T. flour or cornstarch.  Add a bit of sugar to taste.  For sugar, you can use maple syrup, sugar, honey, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar–whatever is sweet.  Add a healthy pinch of salt.  Add a couple of pinches of some complementary spices (cinnamon/nutmeg for apples, cardamom for pears, ginger for peaches, mace for cherries, etc).

Add a bit of liquid–maybe a total of 2-4 Tablespoons, depending on how juicy your fruit is.  This liquid could be water, but that’s boring.  Try a splash of liqueur or fruit juice.  A squeeze of lemon juice will help to balance out very sweet fruits.  Add a handful of chopped toasted nuts if you’d like (walnut or pecan for apple, almonds for peaches, etc), or a handful of raisins or crystallized ginger.

And that’s it.  Toss everything together, put it in your pie shell, and bake it at about 375 degrees, F, until the filling is bubbling throughout.  Like I said, the world is your…..pastry buffet.  No need to stress over a recipe for pie filling–the variation possibilities are endless.  Enjoy yourself!

The Case for Pastry Methods and Techniques

26 Oct
Limitless Possibilities

Limitless Possibilities

So, hello there, and welcome to my blog!  I also have a delightful and informative website all about baking and pastry:  Pastry Chef Online.  It needs a little love, and I am working on it, but in the meantime, here I am!  I just read on the lovely WordPress site that they alone host almost 4.5 million blogs! That only covers their corner of the blogosphere–there are TypePad folks, Live Journal folks, Blogger folks and on and on.  So, what makes this blog stand out from the crowd?

Here’s my angle:  I can’t tell you how many times people have asked for recipes for this, that or the other cake, bread or pie.  While I am happy to send someone a recipe, it brings to mind the old Chinese proverb:  “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats for the rest of his life.”  If I hand you a recipe, I might as well have handed you a fish.  If, on the other hand, I teach you a method, I have taught you to fish. In a manner of speaking, that is.

If I give you a recipe for peach pie filling, you might run off to the farmer’s market and rocket past all the beautiful blueberries, or blackberries, or snozzberries.  Shopping for ingredients for a recipe is like shopping with blinders on.  You’ll pass by all the possibilities in search of peaches.  Must. Find. Peaches.  Do not.  Deviate.  From Plan.  But if I can teach you an easy method for putting together a pie filling that is foolproof, will always taste good and is very easy to do, don’t you think you’d be excited to get in the kitchen and experiment with whatever fruit(s) looked good at the farmer’s market that day?  With sound methods and techniques and knowledge of ingredient function under our belts, the world is our oyster.  Um, dessert buffet.  Stay tuned for all the tips and tricks, methods and techniques you’ll need to help you feel confident in the kitchen.

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