Friday, November 30, 2012

Lattice Apple Pie with Mexican Brown Sugar

Pie making is not my specialty, but I come from a family of pie lovers, so occasionally like to challenge myself with a recipe slightly out of the norm and then share my bounty. 

While this pie may look like any other lattice-topped apple pie, I can assure you it is not. This pie is sweetened with Mexican brown sugar that comes in a solid, conical form, and is called Piloncillo. Made from the boiled down juices of crushed sugar cane poured into molds to harden, piloncillo has been in use for over five hundred years. The flavor is intense, earthy, and deeply caramel. 

This recipe is from and well worth making. Add a new ingredient to your repertoire and delight the pie lovers in your family.

Lattice Apple Pie with Mexican Brown Sugar

1/2 pound piloncillo
3/4 cup water
4 (1-inch-wide) strips orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 1/2 pound medium apples 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pastry for a double-crust pie
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon sugar

Put a large heavy baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring piloncillo, water, zest, spices, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, covered, stirring occasionally until piloncillo has dissolved. Remove lid and boil over medium-low heat until syrup is thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, 6 to 10 minutes. Discard zest and cool syrup slightly.

Meanwhile, peel and core apples, then cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges.
Toss apples with flour, then with syrup. 

Roll out 1 piece of dough (keeping remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round, then fit into a 9-inch pie plate. 
Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and chill shell.

Roll out remaining piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 16-by 11-inch rectangle. Cut dough crosswise into 11 (1 1/4-inch-wide) strips.

Stir apple mixture, then spoon evenly into pie shell. Weave a tight lattice pattern over pie with pastry strips. 

Trim all strips flush with edge of pie plate. Fold bottom crust up over edge of lattice and crimp. Brush lattice (but not edge) with milk and sprinkle with sugar. 
Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes more. Cool pie to warm or room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry Syrup

Yesterday I told you how to use up all of those leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner with the exception of the cranberries.  Here’s a way to use any cranberries that remain from your various relish and chutney making endeavors, and have a wonderful fall breakfast to boot.  I gave you the recipe for pumpkin pancakes here, so all you need to do now is make the syrup.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry Syrup

1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup

Cook sugar in a dry 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar is melted and turns a medium golden caramel color.  This can be tricky because everyone seems to have his or her own mental imagine of what caramel color is (which explains why my husband tends to burn it), so it’s best to err on the lighter rather than darker side. Tilt pan and slowly add cranberries and water (caramel will begin to harden and steam). Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is completely dissolved.  Pour syrup through a sieve into a heatproof bowl, pressing hard on solids. I like some of the solids in my syrup, so I scoop some out of the sieve and add them to the syrup.  Allow to cool slightly, and then stir in the maple syrup.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkey Dinner Chowder

Sometimes it can be a challenge coming up with yet another use for those Thanksgiving leftovers that doesn't send your family running.  Turkey sandwiches are great, but after a while the desire for something hearty and satisfying overtakes the love for turkey on white with mayo and a dollop of cranberries.  That's where this recipe comes in handy.  You can literally dump in any and all leftovers (okay, not the cranberries) to make this delicious chowder.  Once made, you can serve it in a bowl over a mound of mashed potatoes, pile of dressing, or a scoop of rice, making it an entirely new way to present Thanksgiving dinner.  My family inhaled both the potatoes and the dressing so I added the rice directly to the soup.  However you choose to enjoy yours, it will be delicious.

Turkey Dinner Chowder

3 slices bacon, diced
1 8-oz.  package button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 T.  butter
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups turkey stock
2 cups turkey gravy, skimmed of fat
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
3 cups chopped cooked turkey meat
1 1/2 cups corn

Place diced bacon into a large heavy stock pot and cook until browned.  Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.  Add mushrooms to pot and cook until beginning to brown; transfer to medium bowl.  Add butter to same pot along with carrots, celery, and onion.  Cover; cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, about 7 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over all, and stir 1 minute.  Return mushrooms to pot.  Mix in turkey stock, gravy, and rubbed sage, and bring to boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.  Add bacon, turkey meat, and corn to soup.  Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cream of Red Bell Pepper Soup

I love a good bowl of soup, be it hot or cold, light or hearty, smooth or chunky, I can't imagine another food that is more versatile. Suitable for any season, acceptable at any meal, perfect as a starter, side dish, or (as Elaine Benes explained to Jerry Seinfeld in The Soup episode), crumble crackers in it, and soup is a meal. 

This jewel-toned offering is a tasty way to start a meal. Fans of roasted red peppers like I am, will flip for its deep roasted pepper taste, appreciate the ease of putting it together, marvel at how delicious it is both hot and cold, and find it a festive addition to the holiday table. It's a great little starter, works equally well as a lunch or addition to dinner, and is a welcome part of a cocktail party served in shooter glasses topped with a leaf or two of fresh parsley.

Cream of Red Bell Pepper Soup

1 jar Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 cups homemade chicken stock (can also use vegetable stock)
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, thyme, and basil, and sauté 3 minutes. Add broth, and the jar of roasted red peppers (no need to drain).  Simmer uncovered until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. Return to same pot. Add half and half and vinegar.  Bring to low simmer, thinning with additional broth, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls or shooter glasses. 

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Window shopping at Williams-Sonoma always helps to get me in the mood.

For the first time in over twenty-five years I won't be hosting the Thanksgiving dinner in my home. Instead, I'm carting my portion of the meal to my parents' house where I'll be joined by other members of the family, their contributions in tow, to celebrate on a less grander scale and without the company of my mother who, while improving, continues to reside for the moment in a skilled nursing center. While I'm not certain how I feel about all of this, I am grateful that the family may be a bit battered and bruised, but we're all still here. I hope you all have a Thanksgiving filled with family, good food, lots of love, and gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Brine a Turkey

I started brining the Thanksgiving turkey five years ago. Once I did, there was no turning back. Nothing makes a turkey (chicken, or pork chops) more juicy and flavorful than the process of brining.

If your turkey is thawed, it's still not too late!  Clean it thoroughly, drag out your biggest pot, and follow these directions.

How to Brine a Turkey

1 14-16 pound turkey

1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 gallon unfiltered apple cider
1/2 gallon water
10 black peppercorns
10 allspice berries
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 sprig fresh rosemary, stripped of leaves
2 bay leaves
1 gallon ice water

Combine the first six brine ingredients in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve salt and sugar. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and refrigerate until ready to begin the brining process.

Combine brine, ice water, baby apples, rosemary leaves, and bay leaves in a LARGE pot (I use a canning pot). Place the clean, thawed turkey, breast side down in liquid to cover and refrigerate 10-18 hours.

When ready to roast, remove from brine. Rinse turkey inside and out, pat dry, and proceed as you usually would. You will have a wonderfully flavorful bird and a delicious gravy.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spirited Cranberry Sauce

The jewel of the Thanksgiving table is cranberry sauce; its brilliant red color beckons to be tasted. Do not underestimate the importance of this lovely little addition to one of the year's most important meals. More than just a condiment, it can be a welcome side dish. After the meal it makes a zesty topping for a turkey sandwich, mixed with mayonnaise a tasty topper for a hamburger, warmed and poured over a brick of cream cheese, you have a festive holiday snack.

Look no further for the easiest and best recipe for this versatile sauce. The liquor makes it adults only, the variety of spirits that can be used will suit any taste. Try something a little different this year. It's guaranteed to make your guests take notice.

Spirited Cranberry Sauce

2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
2-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup spirits (Bourbon, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, Irish Whiskey, Tequila)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Rinse cranberries and pour into a 9" x 13" pan. Top with sugar and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Cover pan with foil, sealing edges tightly.  Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, stirring mixture halfway through baking time. Remove from oven, stir in spirits. Cool. Store in refrigerator. Keeps 4-6 weeks. Recipe may be halved.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gingerbread Scones

In the same way that I go absolutely crazy for pumpkin as soon as the fall season hits, even the slightest indication of the winter holidays and I’m all about cookies, specialty baking, and gingerbread.  During my online search for something new in the way of holiday breakfast items, I stumbled across this recipe for gingerbread scones.  It sounded like the perfect treat for Santa, or those favorite holiday guests, so I had to give it a try.  I was delighted with the results!  These are the best scones I think I’ve ever tasted.  Dark, rich, spicy, and deliciously unique, I know I'll be making these again and again.  An added bonus is that they freeze beautifully, even with the glaze.

Gingerbread Scones
Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Scone Dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Maple Glaze:
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 - 2 teaspoons cream or milk

Preheat oven to 400°F and place rack in the middle of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat
® or parchment paper.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the first 10 ingredients until combined.  Add butter and pulse 3-4 more times until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Whisk together buttermilk, molasses, and vanilla, and pour through the feed tube, pulsing until mixture comes together – do NOT over mix.  Remove to a lightly floured pastry board and knead lightly 4 or 5 times, working in cherries as you go.  Pat into a circle and cut into 6 wedges.  Place on prepared baking sheet and brush with egg wash.

Bake 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.  Remove to wire rack to cool.

Mix together the glaze ingredients and drizzle over cooled scones.

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