Friday, June 27, 2008

Mini Apple Pies

June marks my boyo's birthday, and there's nothing he likes more than apple pie. He's a pie kinda guy. -snerks- Ok, so, apple pie was the way to go, but I didn't want to make one big one, as we'd then have it sitting around the house to tempt us later (we're trying to cut back on the quantity of sweets around here). Since slices of pie are not at all portable, I decided to send his work pie miniatures.

A note for those of you admiring the lattice: I am a dork. For each of the 50+ pies I made that day, I hand wove the individual lattices. Had I been smart I would have made only one or two large lattices, then cut them up into the sized sections that I needed. Hey, weave and learn, yes?

This post also marks a momentous occasion: the retirement of my camera. It was old and tired, as evidenced by the 5 seconds it would need to take a picture (hold still... hold still... keep holding still... oops, I twitched, shot taken!). The decision to get a new one was brought about by another momentous occasion: me and the boyo's very first vacation together! We've gone on family visits before, but as enjoyable as they are there's always a certain level of stress involved. Plus, this past year we were moving at the same time, so things were at a new level of crazy.

Now that we're settled in and life is relatively calm, we are taking a cruise to Alaska! I'm excited to see the glaciers and (hopefully) wildlife, but you guys know me. I'll be taking pictures of the food. But, under the guise of admiring wildlife, we decided to purchase a new camera. The Canon PowerShot A590 IS slices, dices, makes chili and fries! ... well, ok, not those four. But so far it takes astoundingly beautiful and easy shots. I'm reading up on the manual so I won't have to plead with the eagles to hold still while I figure out which setting to use, but once I've got it sorted, look out Alaska!

So, I'll be gone for the next week. But when I return, expect a deluge of pictures and lots and lots of new oh-my-god-I-gotta-makes.

Mini Apple Pies

Dough (adapted from Simply Recipes):
* 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
* 16 Tbsp (2 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar (increase to 3 tsp if for a sweet recipe)
* 4 to 8 Tbsp ice water, very cold

Start by cutting the sticks of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and placing in the freezer for at least 15 minutes (preferably longer) so that they become thoroughly chilled.

In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar, pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again.

Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully shape into two discs. Do not over-knead the dough! You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These bits of butter are what will allow the result crust to be flaky. Sprinkle the discs with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

* 8-9 med granny smith apples
* 1 tsp lemon juice
* 3/4 c sugar
* 1/3 c flour
* 1 tsp nutmeg
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp mace
* dash of salt
* 3-4 tbsp butter

Peel, core and dice the apples to 1/2" cubes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and toss. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and spices. Sprinkle over the apples and gently stir to evenly coat.

* 1 egg, beaten
* turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove both crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of one of the disks. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking.

Cut out circles ~2x the size of your pan (I used a muffin tin; you don't need to grease it). Gently pat the rounds into the bottoms of the muffin tin, leaving the overhang (you may to need to do alternating cups first, then fill the other cups after the first round is finished, for room). Keep any scraps in the refrigerator.

Fill the crusts with the apples, until the top of the mound is ~1/2" over the crust. Dot with the butter. Brush the crust overhang with the beaten egg.

For lattice, roll out the second disk and cut into 1/3" strips. Weave the strips into one large lattice then cut off sections for each mini pie (you want the weave to be tight otherwise a lot of the moisture from the pie will escape). Carefully transfer the lattices to the muffin pan and pinch with the bottom crust to seal. Trim the excess, brush the remaining egg on top, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating in the middle. You want the crusts to be flaky-golden, not pale, otherwise the bottom crust won't be cooked all the way. Check a couple times during baking and add time as you feel is necessary.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Food for Father part 2

Sorry to leave you in such suspense! Every time I went to post the second half of this post, my picture wouldn't upload, and really, what good is food porn without the pictures? But now, tada! The other half of my Father's Day package, long since consumed by now.

These are a variant on the petit fours I made earlier. I had lots of caramel and almond praline in the refrigerator, and I wanted to dip something in chocolate because I wanted to be sure the cake would stay fresh (but really, who needs an excuse to dip things in chocolate?) Dad loves almond, as a general rule - he eats them by the handful plain - so these are Almond Praline Petit Fours, dipped in chocolate.

In my opinion, the best part of this recipe was the cake. Subtly sweet and very almondy, I could have eaten it alone. Plying it with caramel and praline seemed almost like a waste, until you tasted the final product. The praline turned out to be essential, giving the overall texture a surprising crunch after biting through the stiff chocolate and soft cake. I snuck a few to keep for myself ;)

Almond Praline Petit Fours (makes ~20)
* 1 recipe Almond Sponge Cake (recipe below)
* 1 recipe caramel (recipe below)
* 1 c almond praline
* 12 oz dark chocolate, melted
* 12 oz white chocolate, melted

Almond Sponge Cake (adapted from Our Patisserie)
* 1/4 c milk
* 2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
* 1/2 c sifted cake flour
* 1/4 c sifted almond flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 3/4 c sugar
* 3 large eggs
* 3 large egg yolks
* 1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 400F. Line bottom of jelly-roll pan with parchment so that the paper overhangs the pan at 2 opposite ends. Make cuts in corners so parchment lies flat.

Heat milk with butter in small saucepan until butter melts. Reduce heat to low, and keep hot, but do not simmer. Sift flours with baking powder twice. Return to sifter and set aside.

In large heatproof bowl, combine sugar, whole eggs, egg yolks and extract. Place the bowl in a pan of simmering water and whisk vigorously for about 1 minute until eggs are warm. Remove from heat, and beat at high speed until mixture has cooled, tripled in volume, and has the consistency of thick whipped cream.

Sift one-third of flour mixture over batter, and fold in gently by hand, using the largest spatula you have. Fold in half of remaining flour; then fold in the remainder. Pour the hot milk and butter into batter and fold well, scraping the bottom each time and bringing the batter up the sides of the bowl until you can no longer see traces of liquid.

Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 10 minutes. The cake will have browned on top, and started to shrink from the sides of the pan. Cool cake in its pan.

Caramel (adapted from David Lebovitz)
* 1 can sweetened condensed milk
* pinch of salt
* 1 1/2 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425. Empty condensed milk into a glass pie pan and sprinkle salt over top (I like to use 1 tsp +, as I'm a fan of salted caramel). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to halfway up pie pan.

Place roasting pan in oven and bake for 1-1 1/2 hours, until deeply golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool.

Beat heavy cream until medium peaks form (tips droop when lifted). Gently fold whipped cream into cooled dulce de leche and mix until smooth.

Chocolate Designs
These look awesome, especially considering how easy they are. Line a pan with parchment or wax paper. Place 1 oz melted chocolate in a ziploc bag and snip off the very tip (you want a tiny hole or the designs won't look as intricate). Pipe designs onto prepared pan, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place cooled cake in freezer and let sit 1/2 hour or until solid. Remove and cut in half; return to freezer until fully chilled.

Spread cooled caramel over one half of cake and sprinkle praline over caramel until thickly covered (reserve some praline for topping). Place other half of cake over caramel, sandwich style, and return to freezer again.

Once cake has been frozen, remove, and with a sharp knife cut into pieces. You may need to use the dip-and-wipe process (dip knife in hot water, wipe clean, cut, repeat). Return pieces to freezer while preparing chocolate.

Melt your chocolate (one at a time) and dip frozen cake squares. Scrape off excess chocolate from the bottom and place on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Before chocolate cools, sprinkle with remaining almond praline and top with a chocolate design.

If you want, you can temper your chocolate for a nicer snap. Tempering chocolate scares me, and while I will attempt it at some point, this was not the project to do so. For me, melted chocolate was fine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Food for Father

Hold onto your hats: this post is going to be a doozy. Father's Day is still a couple weeks away but this year it falls in a busy month for me, and unfortunately my Dad doesn't live down the street for me to just give him a hug (much as I'd like to). So this year I was forced to plan ahead. I sound like a good daughter -- in reality, I'm a bad sister. You see, I had another reason for sending out my gift early; my brothers' birthdays came and went, and I completely forgot to remark on them. Oops.

So, in repentance, I overkilled. It was great fun though and I felt properly forgiven when they called to thank me and I could barely understand through the mouths-full. Nothing makes you feel more loved than a strong demand that you move closer :D

As I said, I overkilled. As such, I'm going to break the contents of the gift into two posts - these treats are to be savored. So! My first offering: Raspberry Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Jam. MmmmMmmm. I've been on a macaron kick (like you hadn't noticed!) and as my parents had dutifully ooh-ed and aw-ed my pictures I figured it was fair they got a taste.

There's a little story to how these macarons came about though. I'd been eyeing the dried raspberry powder from L'Epicerie but didn't want to shell out the cash to try some. I resolved to make my own and see if it passed muster first. Drying raspberries isn't hard - they go straight from freezer to oven and sit there for a few hours at a reasonably low temperature (190 F) until all moisture is evaporated. The purpose is to completely dehydrate the raspberries, leaving only the concentrated pulp left for grinding. There are a few stipulations though: 1) The raspberries should be deep-frozen before baking, and 2) you shouldn't live somewhere with 100% humidity (yes, this again.)

Eighteen hours later (I started at 10am, gave up at 10pm and continued again for half of the next day) I finally had dried raspberry shells. Grinding them up in a coffee grinder produced a coarse-to-fine dark maroon powder that tasted strongly of raspberries. Good! This seemed usable. I set it aside for the designated weekend...

....and the day after completing the powder, received a package in the mail. Inside were two packages of dried raspberry powder from L'Epicerie, a gift from my boyo's work. Wonderful people, they are! Now, even if you live in 100% humid climate, the homemade powder will do in a pinch. But oh, the superiority of the bought. This stuff turned the air around it raspberry-y. It was fine as dust and light as a feather, and had none of the grittiness of the homemade to it. Better yet, a tiny amount imparted plenty of raspberry flavor, so there was no need to over-use.

Behold the comparison:

I admit, I used the bought. How could I not? I ended up making two batches though, as through my first batch I learned of the potency of the powder. Too much used and the raspberry became almost aggressive, while the texture turned jammy. I scaled back the amount for the second batch and was left with beautiful macarons that balanced white chocolate and raspberry perfectly. The first batch I ate myself ;)

Raspberry Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Jam (adapted from LA Times)
* 1 c + 3 tbsp almond flour
* 2 c + 3 tbsp powdered sugar
* 4 egg whites
* 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
* 4 scant tbsp sugar
* 1 scant tbsp dried raspberry powder
* 1 White Chocolate Ganache recipe
* raspberry jam (I used my leftovers from here)

Line two 17-by-12-inch baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside (you may want to fold over the edges to keep the paper flat).

In a food processor, blend the almond flour, powdered sugar and raspberry powder for 1 minute. Sift the blended almond mixture directly into a medium mixing bowl. Set aside. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

Fill a small saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Place the bowl over the pot of hot water and whisk quickly until the egg whites reach 100 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the bowl from the pot of water and whisk in the cream of tartar. Place it on a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip on medium speed for 2 minutes, then gradually beat in the sugar. Continue whipping for 6 minutes until the egg whites come to medium stiff peaks (tips droop only very slightly) and are shiny.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add egg whites to the almond mixture by gently bringing the flat side of a rubber spatula through the center of the egg whites and up the opposite side of the bowl, folding the dry ingredients over the egg whites. Repeat the same motion 50 times, turning the bowl a quarter turn each time.

Fit a pastry bag with a medium round tip (No. 4) and fill with the mixture. On the parchment-lined baking sheets, pipe 1.5-inch rounds (the batter will be slightly wet) by holding the bag at a slight angle and releasing small amounts of batter. Allow one-half inch between cookies; they will spread slightly.

Keep the piped cookies at room temperature, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours. (This will help form a skin.) If in a high humidity area, place cookies in oven turned off but with oven light on. Remove cookies from oven and heat to 325 degrees, placing the racks in the center and lower shelves of the oven.

Bake the macarons for 12 minutes, reverse the trays on the racks and rotate. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more, or until firm and not wet. Cool on a rack.

White Chocolate Ganache (from
* 8 oz white chocolate, cut into small pieces
* 3/4 c heavy whipping cream
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Pair up cooled macaron shells to approximate size match. On one half spread a thin glaze of raspberry jam. Pipe ganache onto other half and gently sandwich together.

I had a lot of fun packaging them up:

But now the real question is, now that you know what's in the pink box... what's in the orange? Tune in next time.... (dundunDUN!)