Recently in Pies and Tarts
Sunday, December 16, 2007

apple cranberry pie

last picture before i broke the camera

This entry is over three weeks late. I can’t quite begin to tell you the drama of how the pictures before your eyes were the very last I took with my camera before I banged it on the corner of the table and it had stopped working (the one above is the very last photo prior to the incident). On Thanksgiving Day of all day. On the day when I was finally going to pull out all stops and show you just how awesome a roast turkey can be. How incredible and simple a cranberry sauce is. How awesome, tasty, seductive even my famous porcini mushroom soup is. Thrice I have made that soup and thrice I’ve been unable to take pictures of it, for whatever reason. But back to my camera agony – yes, the camera broke immediately after I took a glorious shot of the apple pie and then, then it was all gone. The camera unwilling to turn itself on, the sheer terror that had overcome me, the frenetic pace of the morning (cooking since the early hours) – it all just came unraveled.

If I sound like a bit of a techie geek, I suppose it’s proof enough that for the last three weeks, I’ve been walking around like the living dead, somewhat. A bit off kilter, somewhat out of my element – as if I was missing a limb. After the camera was fixed, coincidentally I discovered that the battery went dead – and it took me another week to get the battery (weeknight and all do not allow for any kind of errands).

little did i know of the dangers that lurked ahead...

It was a dear consolation that the pie turned out well. Particularly after my summer pie crust scare and panic. Having never really failed at a baking project, the crust of the summer was a disappointment and a warning that not all could go smoothly in the kitchen.

with cranberries

While I’ve done almost no cooking in the last three weeks due to work, I still have to post this recipe. It came from the Martha Stewart cookbook I very much love and use when I cook – I find that there are very few books I actually want to own. The crust in this recipe was everything I wanted a crust to be – buttery, flaky, easy to work with!! Making the filling was easy enough though I found that I needed fewer apples than what the recipe called for – I used about 5 apples, which I think is less than 3 lbs. I added about a cup of cranberries on my own – but you can keep this cranberry-free if you think it’ll be too tart.

Now that my camera is fixed, I can start taking pictures again, however, who knows when I cook next? And with a vacation right around the corner (San Antonio, Texas, here we come!!) I am hoping to at least capture some of the sights, sounds and tastes for you all to enjoy.

happy pate brisee

Continue reading apple cranberry pie.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

butternut squash and caramelized onion galette

like watching a trainwreck

In grade school, we were quick to taught that if you add two numbers together, and then another two numbers together and add the sums of those two previous sums, you will get a third sum. You could, of course, just add the four numbers together and get the same thing. You don’t need that whole two and two thing. I caught onto that one real fast – and in first grade was the top math student in my grade, which in Russia, is really something. Thanks, Dad, for doing all those puzzles with me.

Unfortunately, the same laws do not apply to cooking. I’ve learned this one over and over and well, two nights ago, it was yet again manifested in my kitchen. I took ingredients I loved, put them together, and got something altogether different than what I had expected to come out. I should probably tell you right away, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I got a wee bit creative at the very last minute. And so it goes.

butternut looking all promising and happy

Deb of the Smitten Kitchen fame, posted a little while back about a galette filled with butternut squash (swoon), caramelized onions (double swoon) and fontina cheese (me faint with excitement). I clipped that recipe in my mind’s eye and was going to make it sooner or later. Well that sooner was two nights ago and I had that butternut squash sitting around on our kitchen counter, boldly challenging me to peel it and dice it – a task I feared more than making my own pâte brisée after the disaster this summer. (Deb swears it was the summer heat and humidity and not my own ineptitude that wrecked my pie dough – and I’ve been so traumatized by the experience, I’ve yet to repeat it.)

I peeled and cut the squash – all in all, it was not so bad. I already had the onions happily sautéing in the pan, turning to that seductive golden hue. I was on a roll. I decided to use the dill we had instead of sage (a deviation I actually don’t regret here, for a change). In short, it was a thing of beauty – KS popped into the kitchen three times to tell me just how good it smelled – people, he never gets that emphatic. It was all going so well.

so full of hope...

And then, then I got too bold. Too haughty and too clever. I thought to myself, “Hey self, you have some fillo dough sitting in the freezer – wouldn’t it be great to use that on the galette?” And this, dear reader, is where I went all kinds of horribly wrong. I should have just stuck with the recipe, but I didn’t. And that killed the dish flat out.

Something about the squash and the onions made the fillo gross and mushy and limp. It tasted raw despite having baked for over an hour. We picked the squash and the onions off of it and between the layers (oh yes, I just had to get creative with the layers too!) and KS consoled me that at least the flavors and the vegetables were good. The only silver lining here – KS actually likes butternut squash and can’t recall telling me he doesn’t. A success in some ways, though I wish the dish turned out fine in the end. I suppose you win some and you lose some. And maybe this loss is kitchen muse’s way of telling me that I should just go ahead and give that pie crust recipe another go – and maybe I just will.

Continue reading butternut squash and caramelized onion galette.

Friday, July 13, 2007

apricot berry crumble

my kingdom for a crumble

Ever since I’ve fallen in love with dessert – and I’m a late arrival to that party – I’ve been unable to pass up the dessert menu at restaurants. Good for the soul – bad for the hips. Give me chocolate ganache or give me death. Nowadays, I always have room for dessert. Truthfully, I miss my non-sweet-tooth days. I had such will-power then!

However, years before I succumbed to the dessert curse, I had fallen in love with messy, baked fruit-filled dessert. I had my first crumble in college and went on a mission to make as many different kinds as I could, combining various fruit together, using one topping or another to perfect that fruit-to-crunch ratio. I have more crumble recipes stuffed in my baking binder (wherever it’s hiding) than I have mashed potato recipes (and believe me I have quite a few of those!). For some reason, I have all but stopped making them in the last few years. Could be that living alone wasn’t conducive to cooking a large dessert that was meant to be shared with a crowd.

they make me so happy

But since the summer descended upon us with its sweltering temperatures, dampening my love of a hot stove, I’ve been on a crumble craze. As in I’ve made four in the last four weeks. In my book – four crumbles in four weeks is a lot. But, people, I can’t stop. What’s not to love? Large chunks of berries, apricots, plums, apples with minimal thickener, topped with crunchy, crumbly, buttery topping that is oh-so-sinfully-good! A few years ago, Nigella Lawson, contributed a crumble recipe to New York Times. I did my clipping, but then forgot about the recipe and didn’t remember having it until Deb wrote about it and I think I drooled a little on my keyboard. Fetching, I know.

magically simple

I decided upon making a strawberry apricot crumble because both were in abundance at my market and I hear magical bells when I see the word “SALE” next to produce. Making the crumble was so easy, I paused to review the instructions to make sure I wasn’t messing it up. I wasn’t. Then I baked it. And checked up on it while it bubbled and hissed. And then, then – was the hardest part. Waiting. Waiting for it to cool down. And waiting some more. And then waiting more. I swear, it was interminable and I salivated and sighed.

But. When the wait was over and I piled a messy mound of berries and topping in my bowl, it was heavenly, sublime. I actually closed my eyes, delirious in my crumble ecstasy. After that first initial crumble experience, I had to have my weekly fix. KS, who unlike me does not have a sweet tooth, also likes them and proactively asks me to make them. So really, as far as I can foresee, I’ll be making a few of these this summer with various combinations of whatever I can find in season and whatever strikes my fancy at the time. Expect to see more crumbles here this summer. And maybe a pie or two here and there. Fruit filled. Chunky. Summer sweet. Thanks to Eve and her apple, sin is synonymous with sweetness.

presenting the strawberry-apricot crumble

Continue reading apricot berry crumble.

Friday, December 1, 2006

apple pear pie

Thanksgiving_2006 (5)

With every fall season and harvest time, I do a little dance for joy and promise myself that I’d go apple picking. Each time. I’ve not been apple picking in about ten years, but who’s counting. I wind up making grandiose plans, reciting Robert Frost, praising the idyll that is New England only to find myself making apple pies and other biblically-forbidden delights with store bought apples. Not the same thing, people, but when a girl wants to get her apple groove on, there’s just no stopping her.

When people ask me what my favorite fruit is, I say apple without so much as taking a breath. If it suddenly became illegal to consume apples, I’d be in violation in no time. I’ve always pitied Eve, though according to archaeologists and historians, the biblical fruit referred to as the apple is actually the persimmon, also yummy, but still. For the sake the argument here – the apple is the reigning symbol of sin.

Thanksgiving_2006 (3)

And for this Thanksgiving, I decided to kick it up a notch. Let apples make new friends with their produce neighbors – pears. With a bit of sugar and cinnamon, those two, I thought, would make fantastic friends. And so it was. The apples and pears went into the fray together, mixed with sugar and cinnamon, lovingly sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

And it was all glorious and good. And here’s where I confess that I cheated and used the Pillsbury crust found in the refrigirated section of your supermarket. I was running out of time, people, I am not lazy. I promise, it won’t ever happen again.

Thanksgiving_2006 (6)

The upside was that the crust is actually tasty and no one knew the difference. The downside is that I have to go to bed each night knowing that I could’ve made the crust, but instead, I took the easy way out. Robert Frost would SO not be proud.

You see, I tell you everything here – my successes AND my shortcomings. And cutting corners on Thanksgiving day was one of them.

With three cheesecakes, mini cherry and pumpking pies (I didn’t make), and my apple pear pie wonder, we were all sufficiently desserted out. And probably on quite a sugar high by night’s end.

Continue reading apple pear pie.