Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peach & Raspberry Pie

Gosh, I love pie. Good ole apple is probably my favorite, but I pretty much love them all. Pumpkin, pecan, strawberry-rhubarb (now we're talking!), chocolate cream, banana cream, custard, lemon meringue, blueberry....oh I could go on and on.

So, it was no surprise to me that when I spied this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, I knew I had to try it. The good cooks over there put a lot of effort in developing some of the very best recipes, and this recipe did not disappoint.

I used frozen peaches and raspberries, and gave my pie a generous six cups of filling; 4 cups of peaches and 2 cups of raspberries. No thin pies for me! I should have thought about the extra juiciness the added fruit would produce. When I cut into the pie, even after sufficiently cooling, it was too juicy. I used 1/3 cup cornstarch called for in the recipe, but next time I'll increase it to maybe just shy of half a cup. I think I'll add a tad more sugar. I love the tartness of raspberries, but a little extra sweetness would've have hurt. Grins.

The vanilla was a surprising touch, though not discernible in the baked pie. In mixing the ingredients, the vanilla, cinnamon and fruit mixture created a wonderful aroma and was enough to make want to me eat the filling Au natural. Heavenly!

As you can tell, I only used the filling part of their recipe because I favor pies over tarts. This pastry recipe has become my favorite. It's a No Fail recipe, and I think it's appropriately named. The only time I've messed it up was when I thought the flour didn't need all the water, and I reduced it. Big mistake. Follow the simple directions, and you will be rewarded with a pie crust that is wonderful to handle. It's velvety smooth and bakes up flaky. I'm not saying that this is the best pastry recipe ever (I think an old fashioned lard is probably flakier and more tender), but for sheer ease, I think you'll have to go some to beat this recipe.

Recipe is from Marcia Adams' New Recipes from Quilt Country, though I have seen it any number of places on the web. My picture is a little pale; the dough will actually be more yellow than shown because of the butter-flavored shortening.

Perfect Pie Crust

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups butter-flavored vegetable shortening**
1 egg
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and shortening. Blend until you have reached the texture of coarse crumbs.

In a separate small bowl, combine the egg, vinegar and water. Beat to combine.

Drizzle the liquids over the flour mixture and mix thoroughly.

Shape the dough into a patty, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 45 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.

When chilled, divide the dough into fourths. Each fourth is one single crust; use two for a two-crust pie. Roll and use immediately or wrap each portion separately and refrigerate or freeze.

**I've seen this exact recipe using the non-buttered flavored shortening, and in a pinch one day, I tried it. It was just okay to me; I think the butter flavored shortening has a better flavor.

The dough will keep nice for a couple of days in the fridge; I have frozen it, defrosted, and used it, but it's not as good tasting, in my opinion.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Apple Raisin Twist

I have been inspired by the wonderful breads I've seen on other blogs.
And every time I see such splendid pictures and recipes, I immediately begin coveting my neighbor's bread. But coveting is an empty pursuit. So, when I awoke at 5 a.m. this morning, I knew what I must do.

I have been eyeing a recipe in a little cookbook by Marilyn Barbe entitled Great Bread Everytime. SweetiPi bought this book on Ebay for me a year or so ago, and I've read it many times, but I have this ridiculous fear of trying anything that looks too fancy. I read and reread the directions a dozen times, and with trepidation, brought out my mixing bowl and my ingredients.

All I can say now, is Silly Me. As with all yeast breads, this takes time and some additional prep work because of the filling, but it's very doable. This bread is almost fluffy in texture (because of the eggs, I presume) and not too sweet. The best part is that the twist makes an eye-opening presentation!

Apple Raisin Twist

In a one cup measuring cup, heat 1/2 cup of warm water (110-115 F). Add 1 teaspoon of sugar, but do not stir. Slowly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of yeast into the water, making sure that each particle gets wet, but do not stir. (I just dipped my knife in and out of the water several times.) Wait 10 minutes until the yeast is thick and foamy.

While you are waiting, in a separate, large bowl add 1/2 cup warm milk (previously scalded and then cooled), 4 eggs, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, the yeast, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup cooled melted butter. Stir well.

Add an additional 3 1/2 cups flour, one cup at a time to make a soft, but not sticky dough. (You make need more or less flour depending on humidity or moisture in the flour.) Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the dough into a grassed bowl, turn to grease the top, and set the bowl in a warm, draft-free area until double in size, about 90 minutes. (You can speed rising time by putting over a pan of warm water and covering the top with plastic wrap.)

After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn out again onto a clean, lightly floured work surface.

Now here you're going to have to make a decision. You can make one or two loaves (I made two.) If you want to make two, divide the dough equally in half, and one at a time, roll into an 8" x 12" rectangle. For one loaf, roll the dough in a 12" x 20" rectangle.

Generously brush the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with filling comprised of 1/2 cup peeled, finely diced apple; 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 cup of raisins, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. (If making two loaves, divide the filling.)

Roll the dough up jelly roll style, tucking in the ends, and pinching the seam together. Place on a greased baking sheet, (I use parchment paper) seam side down. For two loaves, use two pans.

Cut the roll in half, lengthwise. Slightly twist the halves so the filling is facing you, and twist the two halves together, alternating one side over the other, ensuring sure that the filling is always face up. Let rise until double, about 30 minutes.

Pinch bottom ends together. Bake at 350F. For one loaf, bake 40-45 minutes. For two loaves, bake for 30 minutes.

After the first twenty minutes of baking, remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil to prevent the raisins from burning. When baked, remove immediately to a wire rack to cool. Glaze with icing while twists are still hot.

For a simple glaze, combine 1 cup of confectioners' sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of milk, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Stir until well combined and drizzle using a fork or whisk to get the nice thin ribbons of glaze.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Coffee Jello

I am so enamored with this recipe. This dessert is so simple and is elegant in its simplicity. It should have a more glamorous name. It has a grown up coffee flavor and it is most certainly for adults when Kahlua is added. The quality of the coffee you use will affect the flavor of this, so use a nice grind, something you'd drink at breakfast or dinner.

I used whipped cream for a topping and thought it was perfect, but you could gild the lily and add caramel or chocolate sauce.

With summer coming, this would make an ideal, make ahead, no baking involved, cool and refreshing dessert.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Amish Meatloaf with Sweet & Sour Sauce

Growing up, I didn't care too much for meatloaf. It was just so poor. I was convinced that only poor families ate meatloaf. We had it at our table a lot; I vowed that when I grew up, I would never eat meatloaf again.

And so for a long time, I didn't eat it, wouldn't even consider it. I can remember being appalled that people would actually order meatloaf in a restaurant. I don't recall when I came off my high mountain and joined the common folk, but I know that I've missed some mighty good eating. And made right, I would certainly serve it to company. This is a recipe I have served to company. The ingredients are simple, but the flavor speaks volumes.

Ole Sweetie-Pi and I agree: we love this meatloaf. If your preference is savory, you may not care for this as the sauce is definitely sweet, but that just satisfies my sweet tooth.

Once again, I fall back on one of my favorite cookbooks by Marcia Adams, New Recipes From Quilt Country.

Meatloaf with Sweet & Sour Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 eggs, beaten
2 small onions, finely diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cracker or unflavored bread crumbs
2 pounds lean ground beef

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make the sauce: thoroughly combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

To make the meat loaf: In a large bowl, add the beaten eggs, half the sauce, and the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly using a large spoon, (or if you're not squeamish, your hands) until all ingredients are well combined.

Dump the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Firmly pat the mixture into a loaf shape, leaving room all around it so any cooking fat can be easily removed.

Bake for 40 minutes. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the loaf and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.

Depending on appetites, this will serve 6 or 8. It makes a mighty fine meatloaf sandwich too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole

Certain vegetable dishes make their way to my table regardless of the season or the holiday. I'd like to think it's because I'm a bit of a rebel, but I think it's mostly because I'm not very creative when it comes to serving vegetables in an interesting way. When I find one I like I tend to prepare it for every conceivable occasion. This yam and apple casserole is one of my favorites.

I bought a cute little cookbook at a discount store some years back entitled Autumn at the Farmers Market by Gail Greco. Apparently it's part of a Bed & Breakfast Cookbook Series. Virtually every recipe is one that I want to try.

While I think of sweet potatoes and yams as an autumn vegetable, I love the bright orange color which reminds me of spring. The apple adds a sweet flavor and another texture, and the sherry! Oh, the sherry! You have to try it to see what a difference it makes in the flavor. I cannot think of a more delicious way to prepare and present sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole
2 pounds sweet potatoes (or yams), peeled, cut into chunks, cooked (or you could use two 16-ounce cans, drained)
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry sherry (not cooking sherry)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
2 cooking apples, cored, peeled, and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 10-inch pie plate or casserole dish.

Combine the sweet potatoes (or yams), 6 tablespoons butter, corn syrup, sugar, sherry, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and puree, or mash with a masher (which makes it chunkier, but I prefer the texture).

Spread half the mixture into your pie plate or casserole dish. Layer half of the apple slices over the mixture. Spread remaining sweet potato mixture over the apples. Add another layer of apple slices, in a decorative pattern, if you wish. Alas, I am not gifted with the art of food decoration and I am aggrieved that I do not know how to make this beautiful for you. (hanging head)

Brush the apple slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

Serves maybe 6 or 8 people, but in our house it only serves one; Ole Sweetie-pi won't go near anything that looks like squash!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pinwheel Biscuits

A little timid about working with yeast but still want something cinnamony good for breakfast? Maybe you're just a little pressed for time? These pinwheel biscuits will turn sleep-filled eyes into shiny bright eyes! This is an easy, no yeast cinnamon biscuit recipe that helps make any breakfast special.

From one of my favorite cookbooks, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.

First the biscuit recipe.

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup milk

melted butter

Cinnamon Filling

Combine and set aside
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl. Add the shortening, and "cut" into the dry ingredients, either using your fingertips, a pastry blender, or two knives. Add the milk, and using a fork, quickly stir it into the dry ingredients. You may need to add a little more milk, but add it drop by drop, until the dough is soft, but not sticky. (Liquid added will depend upon the humidity of your home as well as the moisture of your flour.)

Onto a clean, floured surface, turn out the biscuit mixture. Roll the dough into an oblong about 1/4 inch thick. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle a generous amount of the cinnamon-sugar mixture onto the rolled dough, leaving a 1/2 margin or so.

With the long edge facing you, roll the dough up, into a log shape, jelly roll fashion. Cut slices 3/4 inch thick and set on a cookie sheet, cut side down. (The recipe says an ungreased cookie sheet, but with this sugar mixture, I would be inclined to lightly grease it so that the sugar doesn't caramelize to the sheet; I use parchment paper.)

Bake at 450F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

When slightly cooled, top with a simple glaze, such as the one I use on my Italian anise cookie recipe.

This is a versatile recipe; any number of flavorings and fillings can be used. Butterscotch, orange butter, jams, jellies, cheese, onions, you name it. It's not just for breakfast.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Italian Anise Cookies

One of my best memories of living in Boston area is the Italian bakeries there. Oh, I never knew such a wonderful variety of exciting foods existed until I moved there. I had moved from a country town in New Hampshire to a city of over 250,000. Food that was both beautiful and delicious! I had found culinary heaven.

In the midst of my travels, I discovered a wonderful Italian cookie, full of anise flavor and so beautiful to behold. Though these cookies are sold year around, they say "spring" to me because of their brightly colored, pastel sprinkles and pale yellow cookie. My Italian friends zealously guarded their recipes, saying their recipe was given to them by their mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, and never to be shared outside of the family. So, for many years, I relied on the local bakeries to satisfy my cookie cravings.

I gave up any hope of finding a recipe like the cookies I missed. Many called themselves Italian anise cookies but none were what I remembered. And then, one day, quite serendipitously I found it on The flavor, the texture, the colors are exactly what I recalled. I have made this recipe many times, have shared with friends who've said, "What bakery did you say these came from?"

Italian Anise Cookies (also called Angeliones)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon of any of the above extracts
nonpareils (sprinkles)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line the sheet with parchment paper.

First melt the shortening and butter; cool. In a separate, medium-sized, bowl combine eggs, sugar, anise, lemon, and vanilla flavorings. Blend in melted shortening and butter mixture. Sift and the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and add to wet ingredients. Mix well until a soft dough is formed. After this point, you may want to chill the dough to make it easier to work with. Place spoonful of dough on cookie sheet. The dough spreads to about twice its size, so leave plenty of space. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

In the meantime, make the glaze. Combine the glaze ingredients, adding enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cookies and immediately sprinkle with nonpareils as the glaze will quickly harden.

Makes about 5 dozen, 2-inch cookies.

These cookies have the best flavor after they've been allowed to ripen a bit.

So good! I hope you enjoy them, too.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Amish Macaroni Salad

Whenever I see the word Amish in a recipe title, I am pretty confident that I'm going to love it. This Amish macaroni salad is no exception. This is the only macaroni salad that I'll eat.

The first time I ate it, it was a huge surprise as I had never eaten a sweetened salad like this before. There was culture shock going on in my mouth. Around here, it's pretty standard fare to have just macaroni, mayo, maybe a boiled egg or two, and maybe tuna fish (which I positively loathe in pasta salad, by the way) and likely an onion or green pepper. Can you say flavorless? Colorless? I can go my whole life without it and never feel I'm missing a thing.

But what's a potluck or a barbeque without at least one pasta salad. Along comes Amish macaroni salad to fill the bill. So, I took a chance. It was almost love at first bite. Yellow from the mustard, smooth, creamy, sweet, tart. Flavorful. BUT, I felt the recipe was too sweet (can you believe that with my sweet tooth?) and have hence reduced the sugar in the dressing to 1/2 cup, and only use real mayonnaise, not Miracle Whip. Now' we're talking macaroni love.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Filet Mignon with Brandy & Cream

This has to be about one of the best beef dinners I've ever made. Ole Sweetie-Pi couldn't stop smacking his lips and telling me how good this is. Indeed, such high praise from a consummate beef eater.

I found this recipe in my Northern Italian Cooking cookbook by Biba Caggiano. I can't tell you how long I've had it; the book was published in 1981, so at least since then,. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I've never once made anything out of it until now. What a mistake!

This recipe is restaurant quality (indeed it's a restaurant recipe) that you can easily make at home. So elegant and delicious.

Filet Mignons with Brandy & Cream

2 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard **
2 tablespoons green peppercorns
or pinch red (cayenne) pepper **
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 filet mignons, 3/4-inch thick **
1/3 cup brandy **
1/2 cup whipping cream

In a small mixing bowl, combine the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and green peppercorns (or cayenne).

Melt butter with oil in a large skill. When the butter foams, add the meat.

Cook over medium high heat 1 to two minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet.

Add the ketchup-mustard mixture and the cream. Return meat to skill. Season with salt.

Cook over medium high to preferred doneness. Place meat on warm platter. Spoon sauce over meat. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

** Cook's Notes

I think this had a very strong mustard flavor. If you don't love mustard, I would suggest cutting back the amount. Sweetie-Pi loved the flavor; I thought it was too assertive.

I used cayenne; I could not justify buying a jar of peppercorns for such a small amount as it's not an ingredient I readily use. I do believe, however, that the peppercorns would've been a better choice.

Filet mignons are expensive and exquisite and should stand on their own, I think, or maybe wrapped in bacon. I do not think they should be covered with a heavy sauce such as this. I used two Delmonico steaks; they were flavorful, tender,absolutely gorgeous.

I keep cognac in the house for cooking purposes only, and from past experience I know how quickly a dish can go from flavorful to overwhelmed. I reduced the amount I used by about three tablespoons, and that seemed to be just right. Once again, a small sampling will tell you if you'd like to add more.

Finally, the rich brown sauce didn't just happen. Even after scraping up all the little bits in the bottom of my pan, the sauce did not get the deep rich color that you see. It was actually rather salmon colored and anemic looking. So I cheated. I used a product GravyMaster. Wonderful product. I added in small amounts and stirred to combine until I achieved the beautiful, rich brown gravy that you see. If you use GravyMaster, taste sample the gravy before adding any salt.

This has to be the best steak I have ever cooked. It's fast, easy, elegant. Just perfect for that special dinner.