A BUSY DECEMBER
One of my periodic “where did I go” posts, reporting on everything and sundry that kept me from regular blogging.
First because I know there are cookie fiends out there just waiting for this year’s round-up, I present Cookie Plate 2022, arranged on the fused glass bison presentation dish given to us by my sister and brother in law. I use it in tribute to the resilience of my Buffalo, NY family and friends, enduring their second (and twice as bitter) lash of winter weather since Thanksgiving. May the lights and heat stay on and may the driveway finally learn to shovel itself!
Starting from the yellow and blue stars just above the bison’s head we have:
- Keto cutouts. I used this recipe this year, no “real” flour or sugar. I did make two enhancements, though. I put finely grated lemon zest in the cookie batter, and mixed the icing using powdered monkfruit based sweetener with lemon juice (and a dash of food coloring). Light and lemony. This dough worked relatively well for the simple star shapes, but it’s a bit on the cakey and fragile side, and would not be at its best if used for a cookie cut with an elaborate design, or with one of the plunger-style cutters that also embosses an impressed design. The icing too was a bit harder to handle than the confectioners’ sugar standard.
- Mexican Wedding Cakes. I subbed the monkfruit sweetener inside and used about a third almond flour in place of the regular all-purpose flour in this recipe, but dusted with confectioners’ sugar because the substitute doesn’t do that well for dusting. So I’d call these slightly slimmed down, but not keto.
- Keto peanut butter cookies. Last year’s recipe turned out rather poorly, so I tried a new one this year. Better results. Still a bit cakey-crumbly, but the taste and texture are better.
- Earthquakes, the name by which what most folk call chocolate crinkles are known in this house. Again not much seismic cracking this year, but the brownie-bite taste and texture were spot on. The usual recipe. Full octane – no slimming.
- Cinnamon bun swirls. This one is a specialty of the Younger Offspring. Clever fingers and exacting methods make those mathematically perfect spirals. These instructions but we skip the recipe author’s icing, The cookies are sweet enough as-is. Hint for avoiding the flat-tire look – slide the long rolls of this refrigerator cookie dough into the cardboard tubes from paper towels. They firm up nicely round without flattening that way.
- Triple Ginger White Chocolate Chip. My own invention. I love these, even though they are not chocolate. 🙂 I did slim these down a bit by using monkfruit brown sugar replacement instead of the real stuff. But the white chocolate chips probably make up for that little bit of virtue.
- Bourbon Balls. A family standard that I’ve made every year since I began baking holiday cookies from recipes more or less like this one. Since they start with crushed Nilla wafers and have a cup of bourbon in them they will never be full keto, but I did slim them a bit with sugar substitute. Note that these are also good with many other nut/cookie/liquor combos, with or without the cocoa. Chocolate wafer cookies/pecans/Chambord. Almond biscotti/almonds/amaretto. Nillas/hazelnuts/rum. One hint – they improve with long curing. Make these up right after Thanksgiving and put them in a tightly sealed tin. Then hide them until the end of December. Your forbearance in not gobbling them down right away will be rewarded.
- Jam thumbprints. Another contribution of Younger Offspring. This time the clever fingers fashioned heart shape wells, which were then filled with raspberry jam. A very buttery and light shortbread compliments that fruity goodness. Full octane. When I extract the recipe from the cookie artist I will post it here, but by the time this last cookie was baked, I was distracted and didn’t make a note of the source.
- French cocoa macarons with almond buttercream filling. Oh so good, and oh so sinful. Again Younger Offspring steps up to bat with authentic technique off a memorized recipe. Even the almond paste-based buttercream was extemporary. Obviously the Padawan has far surpassed the teachers.
- Chocolate chunk. This one started with the traditional old school Nestle’s Toll House original recipe (the one that still called for 1/8 tsp of water). No slimming and no nuts in this one, but about a third of the weight of chocolate chips was replaced by Trader Joes’ Cocoa Nibs. The remaining chocolate was chopped cold, making lots of chocolate dust, and tiny fragments. That really helps the flavor distribute itself throughout the whole cookie. The big hint on this one (aside from chopping) is to fridge the batter overnight, and roll it into uniform size balls rather than employing the two spoon/drop method. Much more uniform results.
- Yes there are 11 this year. We couldn’t cut a family fave to make the goal of ten. My Oysters. A simple hazelnut spritz with whipped bittersweet chocolate ganache filling. Slimmed a bit by using monkfruit sugar instead of about half of the regular white sugar, and a third almond flour instead of 100% all purpose flour, but it’s hard to call these virtuous.
I also made a keto lemon-chocolate swirl cheesecake, with a hazelnut/almond flour crust. I forgot to take a picture of that, and now it’s gone.
Aside from cookies, I had some knitting and crochet projects going.
First, as a favor to my mom, an old school knitter from the days of Knitting Ladies who sat by your elbow throughout design selection, customization, swatching, and execution to gauge. I didn’t do those earlier stage support functions but I did do the last and most important one – finishing. Taking the individually full-fashion knit pieces, seaming them together and adding final details like collars. Mom had completed but had not assembled two sweaters, intended for my nieces. I helped those projects over the goal. Both are adult size. Now that they’ve been bestowed, I can break silence and post them here.
Also with almost all of the squares complete, I have begun assembly for the I’ll Be Watching You sofa cushion.
More on this as I get more strips put together. Note that some rethinking happened. Due to color assortment challenges, we added two more units to the mix to make 12 individual color layouts, and upped the cushion width from 11 to 12 units. Needless to say that required a few more squares than I originally planned.
Let’s see. I visited my mom in Florida the second week of December. We had a good time together, and even managed to hijack the Palm Beach area family for a dim sum brunch over the weekend. Why I have no pix from the week, I don’t know. I guess I tend to live the moment and not document unless I’m a spectator. But I think the visit was appreciated, productive, and satisfying. Next time I promise to be a better chronicler.
As spectator, I cheered on The Resident Male as he prepared an epic feast for Christmas Eve. His menu is here. When Henri, our Guest of Honor emerged from the oven, he had celebrity status. Everyone documented him.
We also went to see a performance of The Boston Pops. It was a delight.
And as usual, we maxed out on holiday festivity, aside from food and drink. We lit candles (hard to see the fully illuminated menorah due to frost on the window). We did the tree. We had the fun of opening presents from each other. This year abetted by Fernando’s mom Carm, who is happy to be away from Lackawanna and the worst of the weather there.
AT LONG LAST, LONG GREEN IS DONE
Not quite a record for the interval between commencement and completion, but close – but after years of languishing, my long green sampler is complete, signed and dated.
I used Au Ver a Soie’s Soie Alger silk thread, 40×42 count linen (you can see the slight distortion), and began it on 11 Feb 2012. I employed several stitching techniques including double running stitch, long armed cross stitch, plain old cross stitch, Montenegrin Stitch, and Italian four-sided cross stitch (pulled very tightly to achieve a meshy effect, and worked at two scales) . All of the designs here except the top one will be appearing in my ever forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook. The top panel is from The New Carolingian Modelbook.
Long Green will languish again for a bit before I finish it off for display. Given that there is only about an inch of fabric at the bottom, due to the unfortunate destruction that happened over the years the thing sat waiting for me to resume stitching, I do not have enough fabric to frame it on a stretcher. And I really don’t want to frame it with a mat. With a stitched area of 10.5 x 34 inches (26.7 x 86.4 cm) that would be a very awkward and expensive piece. With the sewing machine out for the duration until our basement remodel is complete, I’m shelving this and moving on.
So. What to do next?
A couple of weeks ago I ran into a small DMC tote bag kit on our town’s freecycle/reuse/give-away exchange. I snatched it up. Although I didn’t want to stitch the rather boring roses intended, the kit with its big-as-logs 32 threads-per-inch evenweave was perfect for other counted work.
The bag itself was 90% assembled, and fully lined. There was an unfinished area at the bottom of the lining to allow access to the inside of the bag, to make working easier. But it was insufficient. I tried, but was unable to either hoop or work in hand as the kit stood. So I separated all of the side seams and laid the whole bag out flat:
I basted guide lines at the longitudinal center of the bag, and a half inch all the way around the edges. The total stitching area is two sides, each about 8.75 x 10 inches (21.6 x 25.4 cm). I am unsure if I will work just one design on this, front and back; or if I will do something different on each side. But the intent is to stitch, then use a decorative seam stitch on the visible parts, and a less fancy treatment on the heavier white twill lining, which won’t be very visible after the whole bag is put back to rights.
This being a rather small project, it doesn’t fit nicely in my sit-upon hoop, so I am working it in my hand held 6 inch (15.24 cm) hoop. Slow going compared to the two-handed approach I prefer, but even so this should be done quickly.
Here’s what I have so far. Two strands of standard DMC 310 black. I wanted the outlines heavy and prominent because I am considering working an open voided ground in a second color behind. At least for this all-over. And yes, it’s yet another T2CM pattern.
And finally it being eating season, both with first-run and leftover bounty, to celebrate the end of the Passover season, I transformed our leftover pot roast into a rather curious family specialty. Meat blintzes. It’s the standard blintz crepe outside, but with a mix of finely chopped leftover cooked pot roast, any remaining potatoes and carrots or onions that cooked with the roast, a handful of cooked rice, and just enough leftover gravy to keep the filling moist inside. I know of no one else who had this way of eking out an extra dinner in this manner. I suspect my grandmother or one of her sisters faced with hungry kids and a quarter pound of meat, made virtue of necessity, and passed their discovery down to me. There’s no real recipe here – it’s just doing the best with whatever leftover meat and sides are available.
So now I have about 3 dozen in the freezer, to be defrosted and pan-sauteed to finish prior to serving. Obviously these are not intended to be accompanied by sour cream. Instead, as a quick to fix/light dinner course they are usually preceded by a big bowl of chicken soup (also pre-made and stowed away against need), and are accompanied by a vegetable side dish.
If you are looking for the recipe for the blintz skins/crepes and a more traditional mixed cheese filling, it’s here. Just to be evil and make you extra hungry, I leave you with what they look like during the final sautee:
DECEMBER SLIDES INTO HOME
A hectic month and a miserable year come to a conclusion. But not without completions.
First, as promised in the last post – a family photo of this year’s cookies. I tried to have smaller batches of only ten kinds, but was foiled by a concerted group effort.
Working it clockwise (recipe links for most of these can be found in my last post.
- Noon – Lemon cut-outs, magically maniacal. Special thanks to friend Laura Packer, who sent me the twisted cutters. Oh, and bonus tiny leaf (see below).
- 1:00 – Chocolate pudding cookies. A surprise addition courtesy of Elder Spawn, who for a first fling into the communal cookie pile, did quite well with an intensely fudgy bit of delight.
- 2:00 – Orange marmalade cookies with fresh orange icing.
- 3:00 – Cinnamon swirls. A specialty of Younger Spawn, who dazzles with flavor and presentation.
- 4:00 – Mexican wedding cakes.
- 5:00 – Classic Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies
- 6:00 – Our Oysters – a hazelnut spritz sandwich, with dark chocolate ganache filling
- 7:00 – Meringues (also see below)
- 8:00 – Bourbon/cocoa balls
- 9:00 – Triple Ginger/white chocolate cookies
- 10:00 – Earthquakes – Most folk call these “chocolate crinkles” but we like the more dramatic nickname. For some reason the crevices closed up. Possibly due to overbaking this year. My cookie, my fault.
- 11:00 – Peanut butter cookies
- Center of dial – Jam thumbprints, with mixed berry jam. Another contribution of Younger Spawn.
But that’s only the start. Younger Spawn also made a magnificent Buche de Noel (Yule Log Cake), with chocolate buttercream outside, and hazelnut buttercream rolled in a rich cocoa genoise. Including the traditional meringue mushrooms and little leaf-shaped sugar cookie leaves.
Not to be outdone, The Resident Male rose to the occasion and presented us with a Christmas Eve feast – seared fois gras with chanterelles; French onion soup au gratin; rack of wild boar with maple/chili glaze, plus potatoes Anna and spinach souffle.
And there are more year end finishes!
My Bony Boi piece, back from the framer and suitably hung in its place of honor in the Resident Male’s office:
The Great Masking
And I also finished my three blackwork plague masks.
I used one of Ancient Elna’s specialty cams to make a multi-stitch “hold fast” edging around the outer edge of each of the embroidered components. Then I cut out the shapes with confidence that the stay stitching would prevent any unraveling. (The stay stitching will be buried in the seam allowances, and never be seen.)
After that I sewed my stitching together down the center to make the outer layer. I toyed with a couple of treatments for the center seam to disguise the mismatch, but settled on a simple line of stem stitch, done in Krenick #16 metallic braid. The Elizabethan plaited braid I had originally envisioned was too heavy.
Then I cut the actual protective layers, traced from the same template I used to lay out the stitching, plus the lengths for the ties (I favor ties over elastic). Each mask has two layers of high thread count percale (harvested from retired sheets and pillowcases) in addition to the decorative outer layer.
When that was done, I sewed my linings together down the center, pressed them, and pinned on the ties. Those get sandwiched between the right sides of the lining and decorative back double-layer, with care taken to make sure they are not accidentally sewn over when front and back are seamed together. The two fronts, with the ties pinned to the lining are shown below.
Once that was done it was a simple matter to sew front to back (right sides inside), leaving a bit of a turning space between the two ties on the left. The thing is flipped right-side-out by teasing the ties out and yanking. A press followed by a line of topstitching all the way around to set the edges and seal the turning aperture, and I was done:
Now on to the next thing. But first I have to decide what that is….
A PI OF PIES
More or less. Here you see them. A little over three, but probably not 3.14159… pies, exactly.
I posted this photo of our Thanksgiving pies to Facebook, and several friends wrote to me to ask for the recipes. So to the best of my ability, here it goes.
The recipes for the chocolate pecan and pumpkin are pretty exact. The apple-orange pie is more of a method description. All pies here were prepared with extensive help of Younger Offspring, who was responsible for most assembly, and all crust styling. The apple-orange and pecan pies used a home-made traditional lard crust (recipe at the end of this post), but you may sub in any crust you prefer. The pumpkin has its own very temperamental butter crust. Others may also be used, but the feisty butter crust is well worth the effort to attempt.
All of these pies were made in 9-inch glass pie plates, set on heavy, rimmed baking sheets. They were baked on the lowest rack of a convection oven, and baking times are set for that. If you use a metal pan all of these may take less time to bake. If you use a pre-made shell in a disposable aluminum pan, it may take even less time. Watch your pies carefully to forestall burning.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
This recipe is a smash-up among several, including a yummy brown butter pecan pie posted at Cookie Madness, the chocolate pecan pie recipe from The New York Times, and various other pecan pies/chocolate pies clawed from my collection of recipe books. While the Cookie Madness pie was luscious, it tended to not set firmly, even when overbaked. And the NYT pie worked well enough, but was rather under-nutted and a bit short on depth of flavor. The others were variants on a light corn syrup/dark corn syrup combo, and were often much sweeter than I prefer.
- One 9-inch open face pie crust (no top crust), unbaked.
- About 2 cups of pecans, sorted into beautiful whole halves, and the broken bits. There should be at least 1.5 cups of broken bits. The rest are decorative, so the exact quantity is up to you. If frugality requires, just use the 1.5 cups and decorate with pastry scrap cutouts instead.
- 6 Tbs unsalted butter (NOT margarine)
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 56 grams)
- 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/4 Tbs cocoa (actual cocoa, not hot chocolate mix)
- OPTIONAL – 2 Tbs bourbon
- OPTIONAL – Handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Ready your chosen pie shell. It does NOT need to be pre-baked.
- Preheat oven to 350-deg F.
- Place pecans on a baking tray in a single layer and toast until fragrant. This will take only a couple of minutes, and they burn easily, so watch them carefully.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let it brown slightly, the color should be like light oak – not pretzels. Remove from heat and let rest for a couple of minutes until the pan cools off a bit but is still warm.
- Put chocolate into the pan with the hot, browned butter. Stir until melted and combined. Set aside on the counter to cool a bit more. 15 min is plenty. The butter/chocolate mixture should still be liquid and warm to the touch, but not hot.
- Whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, vanilla, bourbon, sugar, and salt.
- Whisk in the cocoa powder, make sure there are no lumps.
- Add the melted butter/chocolate, and stir until uniform in color.
- Place the unbaked pie shell on a rimmed cookie sheet or baking tray. Lining it with parchment or a silicon sheet will make cleanup later easier, and spare your oven if the filling splashes or bubbles over.
- Scatter the broken pecans evenly in the pie shell. If using the optional handful of chips or chopped chocolate, sprinkle that over the nuts.
- Slowly and carefully, pour your filling mix over the pecans and optional chips. You want to fill carefully so you don’t move the nuts around as you do so.
- Arrange the reserved whole half nuts over the top in any decorative manner you desire. It can be full coverage like ours, a ring around the rim, stripes, or anything you want given the quantity of nice pieces to hand. If you are pecan-challenged, you can use dough scraps cut into fancy shapes to decorate. Or just let it be plain.
- Bake at 350-degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center is just set and the pastry is nicely colored.
- Cool before serving, preferably on a wire rack. Whipped cream is the expected accompaniment.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
I originally got this pie recipe from the Washington Post, 23 November 1986. I do not see it in their on line archives.
The original called for one standard 16 oz can of pumpkin. Since it was written, standard cans of pumpkin have shrunken to 14 or 15 oz. depending on the maker. Scaling back the recipe to account for less pumpkin hasn’t worked for me, nor has buying two cans and having most of the second one left over. Instead we roast small sugar pumpkins in the oven until they are soft, then scrape out the flesh and freeze it in plastic bags, of 16 oz (weighed on a kitchen scale). One thawed out bag = one pie. And the roasted sugar pumpkins have a better flavor than the tinned stuff.
The butter crust is extremely fussy to make, and even harder to transfer into the pie plate. It MUST be done the night before and fridged prior to use, and it has an alarming tendency to slump during blind baking. But it is especially tender and delicious, and really puts this pie over the top.
The recipe always makes MORE filling than fits in a standard 9-inch pie plate or a 10-inch quiche pan. I always have a “sidecar” – leftovers baked either in a mini crust (if I have extra crust left over from another recipe – the butter crust is JUST enough for one open face pie); or poured without a crust into an oven-safe ramekin and baked as a mini pumpkin “custard.”
For the butter crust
- 1 1/2 cups unsifted flour, preferably refrigerated
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick of butter, very cold (NOT margarine)
- 1 Tbs white granulated sugar
- 1 yolk from extra-large size egg, very cold (save the white for the filling, below)
- 2 Tbs ice water
For the filling
- 3 extra-large eggs plus the white left over from the crust
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar plus 1 Tbs flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
- 1/3 tsp allspice
- 1 Tbs molasses
- 1 Tbs vanilla
- 16 oz. pureed pumpkin (canned or home-made)
- 1 3/4 cup light cream at room temperature
For the crust
- Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
- Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the butter lumps are about lentil size. Blend butter and flour bits with fingertips to flake.
- Sprinkle with sugar and stir in.
- Combine yolk and 2 Tbs ice water. Mix this quickly into the dough.
- Press dough into a round cake, cover, and chill. The original recipe said for a half hour. I’ve found overnight is better.
- Roll out dough and fill deep dish pie pan or quiche pan. Dough will be very poorly behaved. It will require a lot of flour as you roll, and you’ll probably end up piecing it in the pan instead of transferring it as one unbroken sheet. Try to have enough overlap on the top edge of the pie plate to prevent sagging.
- Layer with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, beans, or pennies. (Fill to the top because the thing has a nasty habit of sagging if baked unsupported).
- Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 12 minutes. Turn down the oven to 375-degrees, remove foil and pie weights, and bake for another 12 minutes. Shell will be very blonde, but will have lost the “raw” look. Set aside to cool for at least an hour before filling.
For the filling, and final baking
Note that you will probably have more filling than fits in one pie. If you have extra crust, make a “sidecar” in a ramekin or small oven proof dish. Or just pour the extra into a ramekin, small glass or other ceramic oven-safe dessert-size dish and bake as directed below.
- Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
- Using a very large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.
- Beat in the sugars.
- Blend in spices.
- Stir in molasses and vanilla.
- Beat in the pumpkin.
- Whisk in the cream.
- Stir very slowly for a minute or two to dissipate bubbles.
- Place the pre-baked pie shell on a rimmed cookie sheet. Lining it first with baking parchment or a silicon sheet will simplify cleanup later.
- Slowly pour the filling mix into the pie pan, until it fills the shell to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch from the top. You will have leftover as mentioned above. Pour that into your sidecar container (with crust or without)
- Poke any bubbles on the surface of the pie/sidecar with a toothpick to burst.
- Bake pie and sidecar in lower third of a preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325-degrees and bake for another 25 minutes. The sidecar should be done, with a set center, and should be removed now. Leave the main pie in the oven for another 15 minutes until the center is set.
- Let the pie cool for at least an hour before serving. Can be served warm, but it’s better if the pie sets up a bit more. A splat of real whipped cream on top is a family must-do.
Apple-Orange Pie aka “Son of Anonymous Apple Pie*”
This pie is a tribute to two friends of ours. both excellent cooks. One taught us basic apple pie procedures, and would host an annual pie-fest where she made them by the dozens, to freeze and bake throughout the year. The other was a keen researcher, and avid baker who dabbled in commercial cooking ventures. She redacted a historical recipe for an apple pie that was punched up with thin slices of candied bitter orange. I blend their two techniques together, but take the easy way out by using marmalade.
You can make this as a traditional full double-crust covered pie, but this year Younger Offspring hit upon using a lattice. I think the extra venting of the lattice yielded a firmer, less soupy, better textured filling, and minimized the boil-over that often happens with juicy apple pies.
- Enough pie crust for a 9-inch covered pie, or a lattice pie, as you prefer
- Six to seven firm baking apples. Cortland, Empire, Granny Smith or other tart varieties that hold shape are preferred. Avoid Delicious, Gala, Macoun and other sweet, softer eating apples.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons of cinnamon (to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- About 6 oz orange marmalade. Use only a kind made with sugar, not fructose. I recommend Bon Mamman Orange Marmalade (this is a little bit less than half a jar).
- 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (not margarine)
- Juice from one small lemon.
- Preheat oven to 375-degrees F
- Roll out your bottom crust and place it in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Prepare your chosen top crust (full closed pie, or lattice). Place both in the fridge while you prep the pie filling.
- Peel, core and slice the apples. To keep them from browning, as you work place the apple slices in a big bowl of cold water along with half of the lemon juice.
- Mix the cinnamon with the granulated sugar and kosher salt.
- Take the bottom crust out of the fridge, and liberally spread its inside and walls with marmalade.
- Take the apple slices out of the lemon water and toss them in a large bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel, to remove most of the wetness. They don’t need to be bone dry, but they should not be dripping.
- Tightly layer about a third of the apples in the bottom crust. Sprinkle them with about a third of the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Dot with chunks of about a third of the butter, and with scattered dollups of marmalade. Repeat twice more until all of the filling ingredients have been used up.
- Optional – if you like a tart pie, sprinkle about a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over the filling.
- Assemble your pie, using either a whole top crust or a lattice. If you are using a top crust, make sure to create at least three large vent holes for steam to escape. Decorate at will if you desire (but don’t clog the vent holes).
- Put the ready-to-bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet (preferably on baking parchment or a silicon mat for ease of clean-up). This pie WILL bubble over and make a mess of your oven otherwise. Guaranteed.
- Bake in the bottom third of your oven at 375-degrees for about 45 minutes, until the top and bottom are nicely colored, and juices have bubbled for at least 10 minutes. Glass pie plates make it easy to see if the bottom has browned. In all cases, and especially if you are using metal pie pans or pre-made crusts in aluminum pans, begin hovering and watching for done-ness at the 35 min mark. The pie is ready when a skewer inserted into it reveals that the apples inside are soft and easily pierced and the pastry is a pale gold.
- Cool before slicing. May be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Whipped cream, ice cream, or other extras are always appreciated.
* If you are very good, I’ll explain “Anonymous Apple Pie.”
But that veers off into local SCA folklore.
Lard Pie Crust
This is the crust recipe I used for the apple-orange and pecan pies. It makes a very generous double-crust pie with lots left over for decoration, or enough for one less generous double-crust pie shell, plus one single crust shell. I double the recipe below when I bake pies, and use the extra for the sidecar, plus I have enough left over for a half-dozen pastries.
This recipe is closely adapted from several sources, including Sylvia’s Perfect Pie Crust, from the Tasty Kitchen blog.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 1/2 cups lard, well chilled from the fridge.
- 5 Tbs ice water
- 1 Tbs white vinegar
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt. 1 tsp if using regular table salt
- Place the flour in a very large mixing bowl. Sprinkle it with all the salt. Cut the cold lard into cubes roughly an inch square and place them on top of the flour. With a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the lard into the flour until the mix is uniform and the crumbs are about the size of raw oatmeal. Do not use your fingertips or the lard will warm up and the pastry will get sticky.
- In a separate small bowl, beat the egg, then pour it over the flour-lard-salt mix. Sprinkle with the vinegar, then with the icewater.
- Stir the mix until the dough comes together. Divide the resulting ball in thirds, and form into three flat disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least an hour, better overnight. If desired, you can freeze the disks to use later, letting them thaw for an hour before rolling out.
- When ready to shape for your pie, sprinkle your VERY CLEAN countertop with flour and roll out with a rolling pin, starting at the center and working out, rotating the dough to maintain as circular a shape as possible. You may need to flour the top of the dough and your rolling pin, and use a bench scraper or spatula to free the dough from the counter as you go, especially in warmer weather or a hot kitchen. Continue until your circle is about a half-inch wider than the top of your pie plate, then transfer it to the pie pan and pat it into shape, fluting or pinching the top or otherwise decorating as desired.
- If you need to prebake/blind bake your shell, do so in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, until it just colors and no longer looks raw. Lining the empty shell with aluminum foil and using pie weights/beans/pennies for pre-baking will help keep it from slumping or bubbling up.
When I was living in Pune, India, I posted about my attempt to make samosas there. They turned out quite nicely with a good flavor, although my clumsy shaping ensured they were clearly not “desi” by birth. I used some ingredients there that are sort-of, but not quite parallel to what I can find in US supermarkets here in the US.
For example – flour. Wheat flour in Northern India is a huge staple. Many people buy grain in bulk and grind it themselves, or bring it to a mill to grind. Even the Western style supermarket I frequented offered bulk wheat purchase, with in-store milling to the fineness desired. But I generally bought pre-milled bagged flour, of two types – attah and maida. Maida is white flour; attah is whole wheat. Both are much higher protein than US all purpose flour, and attah especially is often augmented by other grains or vitamin enrichment.
Another example are potatoes. Here we are blessed with many kinds. In India the potatoes were halfway between flaky white Idaho or Maine style potatoes, and the Yukon Gold yellow or waxy red russet types favored for boiling rather than baking. They cooked up a bit firmer than whites, but were not as fine textured as the yellows or reds. I take advantage of US abundance and use a combo, relying on the yellows for texture and the whites for the substrate of the filling. If you use just one type, an all purpose white potato will serve.
Spices. There is no comparison, so I have tried to punch up the US version to reach the flavor levels of what we found in India. There I was lucky enough to have received jars of “family masala” from our friends as gifts. Every one was different, fiercely tasty, and oh, so good. Pre-made garam masala here in the US is quite anemic by comparison. The best of them that I’ve found was at Atlantic Spice in Truro. Penzey’s is ok, but bland. Kashmiri mirch (hot chili powder) is heavenly – fruity and complex. Cayenne is hot but not as nuanced. Some New Mexico style powdered chilis are too heavily smoked for this recipe. Try to find a less-smoked, fruity yet chili pepper powder use here.
Over the past weekend I had an occasion to make samosas again, making substitutions specific to what’s on hand here. For example, I’ve tried to make the roti style flatbreads I used to make in Pune, but with equivocal success. I suspected the flour. Especially the white flour, which is too soft. So I have made some changes to the types and proportions of flour, to get a better result. Apologies for not having pix of the finished samosas, post frying. They were too delicious, and did not survive long enough for photography.
Note that if you are shopping in a specialty grocery that caters to expat Indians, you will probably want to follow my original posting, and not the directions below.
One American Chick’s Sort-of-Samosas
Revised for a US kitchen
Makes 32 large snack-sized filled fried pastries
(makes filling for twice that many – extra may be frozen and used later)
1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat bread flour
2 1/2 Tbsp stick butter or clarified butter – MUST BE SOLID, NOT MELTED
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
Oil for deep-frying
2 medium size yellow onions, diced (roughly 2 cups)
2 Tbsp oil or clarified butter for sautéing.
8 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 cups frozen peas
2-3 fist-size white potatoes, peeled
2-3 fist-size yellow potatoes, peeled
2 Tbs whole mustard seeds, preferably black
3 Tbs garam masala spice mix (or other spices to your taste). Note that US-sold garam masala is usually quite weak. If you have a fresh home-made blend or an imported blend from an import store, use less.
2-3 Tbs hot red pepper powder. Kashmiri mirch is best, but if you can’t find import, choose a fruity and hot dried pepper rather than a heavily smoked paprika. Use less if you don’t like fiery foods.
1/2 tsp dried coriander (I added this because the US masala was weak).
1/2 tsp dried oregano (I added this because the US masala was weak).
1 Tbs cumin powder (I added this because the US masala was weak).
1 tsp tumeric powder
3 Tbs clarified butter or stick butter for flavor
Fresh cilantro leaves – about a big handful, de-stemmed and washed free of sand, then chopped roughly
3 Tbsp salt
1/2 small, sweet onion, like a Vidalia
1 clove of garlic
Large bunch of fresh cilantro leaves (the remainder of the bunch) de-stemmed and washed free of sand.
Salt to taste
1/2 Roma tomato or 6 or so cherry or grape tomatoes, seeded.
1. Peel both kinds of potatoes, chunk them into two or three pieces and set them to boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and salt them.
2. While the potatoes are cooking you’ll have some time. Mix the two flours, the salt and baking powder together. If lumpy, sift. Work the hard clarified butter or stick butter into the flour mix with your fingertips or a fork, as if you were making scones or pie crust, until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour looks crumbly and grainy – past the point at which you’d stop if this was pie crust.
3. Add about half of the water to the flour/butter mix and combine. Keep adding water slowly and mixing until the dough can be gathered up and briefly worked into a smooth mass. Do not over-knead or the shells will be hard as rocks. Set the dough aside under a damp cloth or in a plastic box. The dough needs to rest and evenly hydrate for at least an hour before use.
4. Take the cooked yellow potatoes and dice them into small chunks, about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch). Precision isn’t important, you just want them to be small but noticeable bits in the stuffing. Rough mash the white potatoes with the back of a fork or large slotted spoon.
5. In a VERY large frying pan, start a couple of tablespoons of oil over a medium heat. Throw in the mustard seeds and listen/watch for them to begin popping, like mini popcorn. When they pop, sauté the onions in the oil until light golden. Add the minced garlic and sauté for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown. Sprinkle all the dried spices, salt, and dried herbs onto the onions and sauté for another minute or two, until everything is very uniform and paste like spice coats the onion bits, smelling wonderful. Toss in the potato cubes and let them get coated with the oily spicy oniony garlicky mix. Then toss in the mashed potatoes and the remaining butter and stir all together to distribute the butter as it melts. When incorporated, stir in the peas. Taste it and add more salt if needed. Let the stuffing heat on low for another ten minutes for the peas to thaw and cook, and for the flavors to meld. Stir occasionally to scrape up any yummy bits from the bottom back into the filling, and to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom. Fold in the fresh coriander leaves. This fully cooked filling can be made way ahead and fridged until needed, although I suggest taking it out and letting it warm up before stuffing and frying the samosas, to ensure that the centers don’t remain cold.
6. To assemble – have your filling ready. Have a small rolling-pin ready. Take the rested dough and divide it into 16 equal parts. Put the parts back under the damp cloth towel or back into the plastic box until needed. Take the first lump of dough. Finger-flatten it into a fat pancake and pat it into some loose flour. Roll it out into a circle, as large and as thin as you can (mine was about 6 inches around, and about an eighth of an inch thick). Take a knife and cut the circle into two halves. Each half will make one samosa.
7. Try to follow this video’s folding logic. Moisten the straight edge of the half circle with water, then pat it into a cone. Hold the cone in one hand and fill it with the other hand, patting the filling in to make sure there are no air holes. Moisten the top edge, then pinch the top of the samosa closed in the center (where the cone’s seam is), then pinch the seam shut left and right of that point. Finally, fold the left and right corners of the newly formed seam together and pinch them, too. The professional samosa chef does this by plopping the thing down on the counter and using the side of his hand to make the second seal, at the same time giving his pastry a nice, flat, triangular bottom. Mine were more free-form, looking sort of like the back end of a fleeing chicken. In spite of the laughably unorthodox shape, mine did stay closed while cooking, which is what counts.
8. As the samosas are done, place them on a plate or rack, making sure that they do not DO NOT touch each other. If you are forming them ahead of time and intend to refrigerate before frying, this is an absolute necessity. You can stack them in a large plastic box, but if you do, make sure each one is separated from the others, and waxed paper or plastic wrap between layers is highly advised.
9. When the samosas are all formed they can be either baked or deep-fried three at a time in a small, deep saucepan. The oil should be quite hot, but not smoking, and the samosas should take only a minute or two each to get golden brown. I suggest letting them drain on a baking rack rather than on paper towels so that the bottoms don’t get soggy.
10. To make the dipping sauce, use a small blender, the chopping box attachment on a stick blender, or a full size food processor to buzz the onion and garlic to mush. Toss in the tomato, making sure to remove as much of the inner moisture as possible before doing so, and buzz to incorporate. Then add the cilantro leaves. Process until everything is evenly textured. Add salt to taste. You may want to pour off some excess liquid before serving – it depends on how juicy the vegetables were.
Serve the samosas hot with the dipping sauce, or cold. They are best when still crispy, but also good after they’ve cooled.
All pix courtesy of Elder Daughter, who knows her way around a camera better than I. The belan and chakla (rolling pin and platform) were hand made for me by family friend Rupesh Rocade’s father, and as you can see – are much used and appreciated!
Where have I been? In Pune, but now home in the US for a brief visit. What have I been doing? Mostly wallowing in ennui. For whatever reason, I have not been motivated to do much, not working on projects, researching, or writing here.
I can report that aside from the transoceanic trip, we did do one major thing. We hosted a “happy hour” party for 25 of The Resident Male’s coworkers, holding it at the apartment. I did all of the prep and cooking. I made samosas, falafel, hummus, guacamole, and Chinese scallion pancakes (adding some minced hot peppers to the scallions). I also improvised a mixed olive salad, and paneer with a Thai-style peanut sauce. Everyone had a good time, and using consumption as a barometer – the snacks were well received. The scallion pancakes in particular were prime, and a do-again, for sure!
There is some minimal progress on my latest shawl. I test-knit a new MMarioKnits product, but others were far speedier than me. Most of the corrections I found were posted by others, and my finished project was not completed in time for photography for the cover of the pattern. The main reason for this was a major lace disaster. While photographing the piece, I managed to drop upwards of 90 stitches, and needed to ravel back to a solid point and re-knit. After coming in so slowly for completion, I decided to punt the official as-written, minimal bind-off treatment, and add a knit-on lace edging. I selected a simple one from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting, picked both for complimenting the lines of the shawl’s main motifs, and for being a multiple of 12 rows, and began. I’m about two-thirds of the way around my circumference, and hope to be done soon.
However, just because I’ve been a slouching, IPad/browser game playing slacker, doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still.
I’ve said before that I get an enormous kick out of seeing what people do with the patterns and designs I post. Occasionally, folk write to me to ask questions, or send me photos. Other times, I track links to my pages back to the point of origin. If I stumble across something I ask the owner if I can repost their work here, with links or attributions as they desire. Here are the products of two people who sent me pix of their stitching this month.
Elaine from Australia delighted me with these two projects that include filling motifs from Ensamplario Atlantio:
Both were presents for friends. I’m not sure which one I like more – the piece for the Kiwi audiophile, or the one for the Lovecraft aficionado.
Meanwhile, Jordana in New York used two of the Ensamplario designs for the cover of a charming two-sided needle case. Here are her photos of the work in progress, and the finished item:
Well done to Elaine and Jordana! Special thanks to both of them for making my day!