Pie and Stuff

recent grads take on food and fog

The Log

I’ve been eyeing the Bûche de Noël recipe in Tartine for about 5 years. A friend and I decided the best occasion for this traditional French Christmas dessert would be an arbitrary weekend in the middle of July.

The recipe has about a hundo steps including making tiny meringue mushrooms, pistachio moss, dark chocolate almond bark, and an awesome espresso buttercream. We went the extra mile and also added candied edible flowers.

Log times

Making the mushrooms was both the most fun and the most time consuming — they took about 3 hours to bake! But aren’t they the cutest?

lil mushroom friends

in natureThe whole baking process took about 10 hours, involved a lot of drinking espresso and sneaking spoonfuls of the espresso buttercream, and was an absolute blast. We did it mostly for the experience, but it turned out to be an amazingly delicious cake as well — chocolatey and rich, but somehow fluffy at the same time.

However, this cake hides a dark secret — before all of the decorations, it was the most unfortunate looking dessert I have ever seen. Please observe.

ugly cake

Ugly duckling —> swan.

Advertisements

Liminal

I have some pretty cool roommates. And some of those cool roommates are in a cool modern dance company, which you can check out here.

They have an upcoming show which centers around the concept of liminality–defined, according to Google, as

  1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
  2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

So…what does this have to do with food? Well, their dance company, like most artistic ventures, desperately needs some $$$! They hosted a fund-raising party at our house, and I helped provide some food.

As I tried to decide what to cook, I starting thinking: what does it mean for a food to be liminal? Should I just serve something half-finished? That sounds artsy but not tasty. Maybe there was a food that would bring people memories of a liminal time in their lives? But that could be something different for everyone.

I settled on a pretty literal interpretation: pudding cake. Have you had this before? Pudding cake is a dessert that starts with a batter which, upon being baked, forms a cakey top over puddingy bottom, and in the center is the most glorious mix of the two. So transitional! So liminal! So tasty!

Pudding Cake Batter

 

I settled on a meyer lemon pudding cake after scouring Epicurious, and then decided it ought to have some toppings to add visual and textural festivity. I added whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries, mint, lemon zest, and cookie crumbles.

Pudding Cake Toppings

 

The dish ended up being the end of a scavenger hunt–and what a delicious end it was! I would definitely recommend it for a party. It’s easy to make a lot of, it can be made ahead of time, it can be decorated however you would like, and it’s more unusual that a plate of cookies or a layer cake. Here’s the recipe!

There was one little bit left after the party–I ate it for breakfast, with extra whipped cream. 🙂

The Mushroom Project

Do you have project foods? Foods you really want to like, but just don’t?

I have a long list — and the most recent food I’ve decided to tackle is mushrooms. Firstly, mushrooms are one of those foods that sneak into everything, without warning. Lasagna, pizza, veggie burgers, etc. Disliking them is inconvenient. And the people I know who like mushrooms seem to LOVE them. I want in on that.

Anyway, I figured the best way to appreciate mushrooms would be to grow them — doesn’t everything taste better when it comes from home?

So, I picked up an oyster mushroom growing kit from Far West Fungi, and a few weeks later…

BABY MUSHROOMS!

BABY MUSHROOMS!

And eventually they grew all the way up and I harvested them…

Cooked in butter with thyme, salt, and pepper

Cooked in butter with thyme, salt, and pepper

And you know what? They were pretty tasty!

Pretentious Cookies

So, you know when your parents give you local smoked chocolate chips? And then you need to find the perfect home for them?

That happened!

sideShotSo I made these cookies from the my standby cooks illustrated recipe, which includes a ton of brown butter, which gives them a great butterscotch flavor. They have the previously mentioned smoked chocolate chips, sour cherries, toasted coconut flakes, and are topped with sea salt. It’s like a fancy mouth party!

topShot

What’s the point of classics if you don’t mess around with them every once and a while?

Lemon Pie (Shake it Off)

Hey, it’s been a while huh?

I have been cooking, but I’ve also been taking even worse photos then normal, so it’s been a bit harder to share. However, I made a lil’ Shaker Lemon Pie for Christmas Eve that I thought I would share:

lemonlemonlemon

See the little car on the right? My grandma brought them for us to all play with at the table during dinner. Yes, we are all technically adults. I’m thankful for a family with an appreciation for good food and good laughs!

This pie uses whole lemons, so the filling ends up somewhere between a curd and a marmalade. The whole situation is a study in contrast: sour lemon, bitter and chewy pith, buttery and flaky crust, and smooth whipped cream. I found it slightly too sour, but I think with Meyer lemons it could be something close to perfect…and guess who just got a Meyer lemon tree to put in her backyard?!

Anyway, the recipe is from my favorite standby, the Tartine cookbook — I highly recommend it!

Breadvolution

Hey, have I told you before how bad I am at baking bread? Like we’re talking rock-hard, bland, dense, pancake shaped loaves. This confident baker, who has bested pie crusts, croissants, and biscuits — and I couldn’t even manage some decent bread?? COME ON! There’s like two ingredients! What the hell, bread?!

Anyway, these were my thoughts when I found out a coworker had a baker staying with him, and I pleaded for him to come into the office and tell me how to make my bread un-crappy. He told me that I was doing pretty much everything wrong: my starter should be fed more often — every day or or every other day, I should be baking the bread at a higher temperature and in a dutch over to trap steam, I should be stretching the dough to help the gluten structure, etc. And thus began my bread evolution, or as my roommates will refer to it, that week where Boo make like 5 loaves of bread day after day and was sleepy and grumpy and couldn’t focus on conversations that didn’t involve bread. Yep, that sounds about right. Here we go…

Wednesday:

wednesday

Ok, this bread was already showing improvement. For example, it looks like bread! Not like a weird oversized scone. Too bad it tasted like absolutely nothing. I mean, really, really nothing.

Thursday:

thursday

Onwards and upwards! Thursday was even better! I used the dutch oven cooking method, which produced a chewier crust. The bread was also more flavorful than Wednesday’s. However, the inside was still a bit dense, and it was a far cry from the tangy crusty sourdough of my dreams.

Friday:

friday

Ah, look at that crust! So crusty! More flavor than the last time, but still a bit dense.

Sunday:

sunday

AW YEAH!!! This was from the Tartine recipe for country bread. It was extremely flavorful — sour, but also savory and rich. It was also soft and moist, but still chewy and springy! Ah! YESSSSSS!!!! I knew this was good when I made sandwiches for all of my meals that day. The only downside is that recipe is seriously high maintenance. For two days, that dough was my baby. For example, one step involves stretching the bread every half-hour for 3 hours. And that is one step out of 14 bajillion. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s that good, and the day and half you spend working on it just makes it better. Especially for the upcoming holidays, I don’t think there’s anything more special you could bring to dinner. This bread is an act of love.

P.s. isn’t that last bread better looking than the others? It was, but also because my housemate Anna took that photo, with her real legit non-cellphone camera. To see her hella professional and beautiful and inspiring food blog, go here.

Yeah, I can

You know what’s awesome for the upcoming holidays? Canning. You can give everyone the same present and no one will complain because who doesn’t want homemade jam? Or pickles? Or chutney? Or marmalade?

Anyway, my roommate and I have embarked on a pre-holiday can-everything spree, so get ready to see a lot canned stuff up here. This past weekend we made red-wine pickled beets and grapefruit marmalade.

cans yograpefruit marmaladeThe beets are fantastic, we’ve made them before. They’re sour and sweet and herby and salty and boozy and the most brilliant magenta. I imagine they would be good in salads, on cheese plates, or in sandwiches — but I have no idea because I just stand over the sink and eat them straight from the jar. Real talk. The grapefruit marmalade is sweet (uh, like 3lbs of sugar in the recipe sweet) but with the pronounced bitterness that should be expected from any good marmalade. Give it to your favorite pirate and keep them scurvy-free.

The beets are from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant and we found the marmalade by googling “marmalade recipe” (shocker!) and stumbling upon this lovely blog, which may become a new favorite!

Rustic Vegetable Crisp

Hey y’all, I have a confession. So, I pretty much always read cookbooks, front-to-back, and then proceed to ignore all recipes and make everything I cook up. When I tell people this, they think it’s impressive. They say, “Oh, it’s so great you can cook so well without recipes! You must really know your stuff!” — well, I don’t. 90% of the time I end up with a mess (which I still have to eat) and wish that I had just followed the instructions of a professional instead of trying to get creative.

But once in a blue moon, I make something up that I’m actually excited about eating! This was one of those times. I had a crazy amount of CSA veggies to use up and I began dreaming up roasted veggies, but with a delicious crispy butter topping (you know,to negate any potential health benefits of the vegetables).

Here was the result:

Rustic veggie crisp

It was great. As you can tell by the cast iron, rusty knife, and bluegrass festival flyer, it was hella rustic.

Veggie Crisp

Enough sturdy vegetables to fill whatever over-safe pan you plan on using. I used beets, celery, fennel, and an apple.

Cheese of your heart’s desire (I used feta)

A few cloves of minced garlic

thyme

oregano

rosemary

ground pepper

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

salt

Directions

Saute any hardy veggies until they have softened — like onion, celery, or fennel. Mix vegetables with cheese, garlic, herbs, and cornstarch. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix flour and butter with some salt until coarse crumbs form.

Put veggie mixture in an oven proof dish and top with flour mixture. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and vegetables are cooked through.

They left the house at half-past nine…

…in two straight lines in rain or shine–

the smallest one was Madeline.

I made Madeleines!

lines

It turns out they are super easy, and have very few ingredients. Mostly butter.

butter

They are also majorly habit-forming — this plate was gone in about 2 hours.

platefull

Also, they look like lovely little seashells. I followed the most basic recipe I could find since this was a first for me, but they were so easy I can’t wait to experiment with more fun flavors…maybe lavender? Rosemary? Chocolate? Ginger? BRB GOTTA GO MAKE MORE MADELEINES!

After-party Tart

Sometimes, you get busy and you move into a new house and you forget to update your blog for like 3 months. And sometimes when that happens you have a housewarming party where you make hella of sangria. We had no trouble demolishing the sangria, but there was a ton fruit left in the bottom of the jars.

It seemed like a waste to let all that boozy fruit go, so I decided to cook it down into a sauce and then pour it into tart shell. The best part? After the sangria, you probably have everything you need. I did the whole thing in my pjs.

FRUIT!!!!

TART!!!!!

ICE CREAM!!!!

The tart was delicious but still pretty strong — probably not a kid-friendly dessert.

I like sangria with a lot of fruit but not a lot of extra sugar. It should still taste like wine, just more fun!

Sangria for a crowd
6 bottles of red wine
1 bottle of brandy
4 large bottles of sparkling lemonade (less sweet is better)
A lot of fruit: I like when there’s 1/3 to 1/2 the pitcher full of fruit before the liquid goes in
Ice

Cut up the fruit. I used oranges, pears, strawberries, and lemons. Put in pitchers or jars. Add brandy and wine, and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready for the party, top with sparkling lemonade and serve over ice. PARTY!!!

Day-after Sangria Tart
If the fruit used has rinds, remove the rinds. Then mix fruit and any leftover liquids with sugar to taste. Cook over medium with some cornstarch until thickened. Make your favorite tart shell (I used one from the Tartine cookbook). Pour fruit into finished shell and serve with ice cream!