August 27th, 2012 § § permalink
Shall I invoke yet another ode to the humble peach – that fuzzy southern institution that heralds the serum of interminable summer heat; a metaphor for scrumptious, petite things; a term of endearment for lecherous love…
There was only one peach tree in my youth and we did vile things to its graceful limbs – we trimmed, chopped, and tended them until the extremities of bulbous growths sprouted obscene spindles, unable to hold their heavy, luscious burdens. In retrospect, this did not seem judicious for when the peaches came in a sudden gluttonous orgy, there followed a cascade of fallen fruit that painted the ground in its orange hues of sugary overload. I recall with clarity traversing the yard towards our miniature orchard amidst a reverse-rain of departing birds, a sudden interruption to foul-filled picnics, a veritable feather and fruit haven. The birds and I feasted but their appetites never waned, while I gradually grew tired of the orange stone fruit in all of its weary transmutations. Perhaps if that tree was not as generous in its fruiting, I might be constantly pining for orange stone fruits.
These days an acquired polite indifference yields to bargain bins and dollar bags filled with thrifty fruity odors that confer a longer life to peaches in the forms of preserves and jams, a celebration of summer’s fecundity that fits tidily into tiny jars. I made a ginger peach butter for the thrill of it – a cheap memento of a bargain shopper’s Sunday forage and ravenous hoarding. I really like this butter. The subtle ginger peach combination is growing on my palate like a second skin, akin to San Francisco scarves in cool, foggy summers. Wrapped in these chilly sea mists, it’s no wonder that I yearn for the comforts of warm fruity delights. That, and the coziness of a cup of tea.
The ginger peach butter has proved itself versatile. I dilute it with hot water to dress French toasts. I eat it on cheeses. I’m giving some of it away for gifts. I’m also enlisting it in my quest for more hand pies. It’s a slow journey, but I’ve already made this and this with delicious consequences.
This pie has a more cake-like texture than others, reminiscent of Fig Newtons, or rather what Fig Newtons aspire to be: declared the boyfriend. I found these hand pies delightfully straddling cake and pie territory… comfortable in their non-declaration of genre, while playfully enticing in their righteous Lilliputian style. Moreover, the dough is made using a hand mixer. Strange, right? This recipe yields a fortuitous abundance – an easy, casual gift with many more to spare.
Sweet Hand Cake-Pie Dough
Dough Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts
3 c. pastry flour or all purpose flour
1/4 ts. baking soda
1 ts. baking powder
1/2 ts. salt
2 ts. lemon zest, finely grated
1/2 sweet cream butter, @room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
3 oz cream cheese, @room temperature
2 TB buttermilk
1 ts. vanilla extract
Fillings for Peach Hand Pies: Martha’s recipe was for an apple butter filling, so I adapted it for a summer treat with my ginger peach butter.
1/2 c. Ginger Peach Butter*
1 Peach, finely diced
dusting: 1/4 c. granulated sugar & 1/8 ts. ginger powder. Mix well.
+ Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, zest.
+ In separate bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix, followed by cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
+ Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk 1″ thick disk. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm to the touch. This can be kept frozen up to 1 month.
+ Once dough is chilled, roll dough out to a thickness of 1/8 “. Cut out 2″ *** rounds and refrigerate until firm (1 hour).
+ Have a glass of ice water and a pastry brush. Fill half the rounds with a small bit of peach butter and diced peaches, leaving a half inch radius around the edges to press the dough together. Brush the edges with ice water and press the two firmly together. Brush the pie tops with ice water and sprinkle a bit of ginger sugar on top.
+ Refrigerate the pies for 1 hour or until the dough feels firm again.
+ Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake until golden. Mine took 20 minutes. The bottoms tend to cook really fast so I placed them on the oven’s top shelf.
* I think you could potentially replace this with a puree of peach, ginger, and sugar that’s slow cooked to a thick gravy-like consistency.
*** I find that the pieces fit better if you shape and stretch the top into a small cap. Or, just cut the tops a bit bigger. Also, you could make regularly sized 4″ hand pies, which would be faster.
August 1st, 2012 § § permalink
The San Francisco’s library collection of cookbooks is quite impressive, but let’s not tell anyone. I think I made off with at least 3 more books than I had originally intended thus looking quite homeless on my walk home with an enormous bag. I get that desperate feeling on market street sometimes when I am carrying a heavy load for seven blocks… those shopping carts do look enticing after all.
Anyways, I’m not really that into Martha Stewart. She uses a little too much turquoise and teal in everything. Also, her recipes seem so matronly. Of course I am being completely condescending and dismissive. Martha and I ought to be the best of pals because what I found in her Pies & Tart book was a challenge to friendship in the form of my favorite Brassica -Cauliflower Hand Pies! Back in the days when I had a small command of the French language, I became enamored with the chou-fleur. Chou was a French term of endearment and you can’t endear that much closer to my heart than a creamy chou-fleur soup du jour! Let’s just say I’m like the Cat Lady of cauliflower recipes.
I was determined to make a savory hand pie after reading and baking the Peach and Bourbon Hand Pies from Smitten Kitchen. Unfortunately, that impeccable flaky dough did not hold up the next day. It is really intended to be eaten immediately, because it was soaking up every ounce of humidity in the hair and was getting moist and limp with every aching minute. Further, this short crust recipe uses egg yolk and shredded cheese, a combination I’ve yet to try. I’m making a meal of them with a creamy and chunky mushroom barley soup (half of the mushrooms are pureed to give the broth some thickness). This combination was pretty hefty so a salad wouldn’t hurt.
Cauliflower Hand Pie Recipe
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts
2 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 c. Grated Manchego Cheese
1/8 ts. Sugar
1 ts. Fine sea salt
3/4 c. Butter, cut into cubes and chilled in freezer
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 c. Ice Cold Water
1 small cauliflower, sliced thinly
5 oz of sliced Machego cheese
2/3 c. Hazelnuts, roasted and skinned
1 garlic glove
1 ts. grated lemon zest
2 ts. chopped rosemary
1/4 c. olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 TB cream
+ Make Pastry Dough: Sift flour, sugar and salt together. Add flour mixture, grated cheese and chilled butter in to a food processor. Pulse into a coarse meal with pea sized butter. Pulse into the flour and butter mixture 1 egg yolk, and then slowly add the ice water to the mix. Divide dough into two equal portions and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and place into fridge for a minimum of one hour.
+ While the dough is chilling, roast the cauliflower. First, brush them with a bit of olive oil on both sides and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast one side for 7 minutes and then flip and roast the other side for 5 minutes.
+ Make the Hazelnut spread in your food processor by chopping up the hazelnuts finely. Next, add lemon zest and rosemary. With the processor still running slowly add olive oil until the mixture resembles a wet peanut butter.
+ Remove chilled pastry disks from the fridge and roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4″. With the first dough batch, cut eight 4″ circles and eight little flowers (decorative). Roll out the remaining dough disk and cut a 4 1/4″ or 4 1/2″ disk (these are the tops). I like to use a larger circle on the top as it allows me to put more fillings into the hand pies. Otherwise, sealing them can be difficult if you are prone to overstuffing.
+ Evenly place 8 4″bottom disks onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Fill your bottom disks with 2 ts. of hazelnut spread, some cauliflower, and a slice or two of cheese (leaving at least 1/4″ space around the edges). You’ll have to be judicious with these amounts because after sealing one or two, you may find that it is possible to add or remove fillings in order to seal the pastries. Brush edges liberally with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 TB of heavy cream wash. Press the top disks onto your bottom edges using a fork. I do four perpendicular corners and then press the remainder. Attach the decorative flowers using egg wash. Use the remainder of the egg wash to cover the hand pies. Chill in the fridge (I think these would freeze well at this point) for one hour.
+ Bake in a 375 °F oven for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve when the hand pies are at room temperature.
Chunky Mushroom Barley Soup (I puree half of the mushrooms to give the broth a lot of texture without having to use a thickener)
2 TB olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ts. finely chopped dried thyme
1 ts. finely chopped fresh rosemary
6 c. stock ( I used this sparingly as it tends to be salty, which is available at whole foods for about $5)
1 c. barley
6 c. mushrooms, sliced
4 TB butter
1 c. cream
+ In your soup pot, sautee the onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary on medium low heat with the olive oil until the onions are translucent . Once the onions are translucent and tender, add 6 cups of broth and 1 cup of barley to the pot. Bring the broth to a slow simmer and allow to cook until the barley is tender, approximately 40 minutes (longer if you want them more tender). Turn off your heat.
+Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pan and cook the mushrooms on medium heat until they start to absorb all of their moisture. Mushrooms first release moisture when cooked but it will eventually evaporate as you continue to apply heat. This took me about 30 – 40 minutes.
+ Place half of the cooked mushrooms into the soup and puree the other in a food processor until a smooth consistency. Add this to the broth along with the cream to the soup. At this time, I added hot water until I got a consistency I liked. Salt to taste.