Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pie's On

Another long hiatus! I wanted to share the strawberry rhubarb pie I made for my recent birthday. I made the crust from spelt flour, which is a recipe from Kim Boyle's insightful whole grain baking cookbook.

Spelt is a whole grain in the wheat family that was introduced to the United States in the 1890s. In the 20th century, spelt was replaced by common bread wheat in almost all areas where it was still grown. Spelt is gaining popularity with farmers because of it requires less pesticides and fertilizers due to its thick husk. Try adding a bit of spelt to brownies or cookies - I often substitute half of the all purpose flour in a recipe with a whole grain flour. Do remember that whole grain flours have less gluten forming proteins, so it can change the texture and crumb of the finished product.

I brushed the crust top with egg and large grained turbinado sugar from Trader Joe's. More to come soon...I promise a less lengthy hiatus :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Market

Howdy, and sorry for the hiatus! I came back from a trip to Vietnam and Hong Kong last week, and wanted to share photos of the Dong Xuan market in Hanoi. I took a Vietnamese cooking class with the chef of the Blue Butterfly restaurant, and the class started with a trip to the market, a feast of produce, some of which I'd never seen before.

 The large orange-red fruit in the front of the photo above, I were told, is called dog fruit (it has a bright red flesh interior with huge edible seeds) though, after I got home to research dog fruit, I must've heard the name wrong, because I can't find anything about it...

Our chef/teacher, Viet, bought rice paper rolls and green papaya at the market.
The class was fun - my hubby and I were the only students. We made green papaya salad w/ shredded dried beef (basically like spicy jerky, only more delicious), fried pork spring rolls, and stir-fried chicken w/ veggies.

Chef Viet, demonstrating mad knife skills

I also learned how to carve fancy vegetable garnishes, like a flower carrot (fairly easy) and a tomato rose (much more challenging and I mauled two poor tomotoes). I managed to not slice a finger off, so that was a bonus.

And the finished products - my fave was the green papaya salad, which I'd love to make as part of Christmas dinner this year, with the hope that I can find green papaya somewhere (it's simply unripe papaya).

Green papaya salad

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crazy Caramel Apples

At this year's Postcard Show at The Lab  - they are also organizing a Mini Market, showcasing small snacks and goodies by local bakers and cooks. They invited me to participate, soI've been trying to think of something seasonal, small, and also keeps well without refrigeration, since the event runs for two days. I did want to do small pies, but they just don't keep too well - especially ones w/ custard, like my pecan buttermilk pie. So - after coming across some recipes on Chow.com for Marzipan Caramel Apples w/ Sesame and Almonds  - I decided that
baby caramel apples would do nicely!

Their recipe calls for cutting out the apple core and filling it w/ caramel - a pretty genius idea!
I'm not sure if I will do that for my apples, but we will see...since, I think that I've made caramel apples maybe once in my life.  The Chocolate Caramel Apple with Pretzels also looks might good:

I think I need to do a test run of these babies this weekend - with some different combo of nuts and definitely some chocolate.  Stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wild Food

Ok, so this post isn't *exactly* on baking, but it is food related. Last weekend, I went on a wild food walk, organized by ForageSF, a cool organization that teaches people about what’s edible in their local landscape.
This particular 2 hour walk took place in a San Francisco park, and our instructor taught us about many of the nutritious edibles growing right under our urban noses. We sampled some tasty elderberries  (which would make a totally delicious pie!)


I especially liked the wild radish, below - the leaves, buds, and purple flowers taste, well, as you guessed, like radish! They are the wild cousin of the cultivated radish. And, if the flowers are  yellow - it will taste like mustard!

Wild radish

 I learned about a plant that I'd never head of before - yarrow - which is edible, though used mainly as an herbal remedy. It is used as a cold/flu remedy and encourages blood clotting (hence the plant's nickname, nosebleed plant).


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pie Pie Pie

I finally got around to uploading the pics from Pie or Die  - and no, I didn't win, but it was good fun and people seemed to enjoy my pie. Everyone was super nice, and all the ticket proceeds went to the SF Food Bank. The event was located at the Stable Cafe's courtyard in San Francisco - the 200 tickets sold out within 5 minutes, and the crowds were hungry!

Thanks to my teammate, Michael for all of this help!

Pecan buttermilk w/ chocolate in a ginger cookie crumb crust, garnished w/ pecan brittle (in case you don't get enough sugar in the pie).

We were team #8, The Sugar Lumps, and thanks to my kewpie doll for acting as our signholder. 

Group picture of our neighboring teams #7, #9 and #10 (who ended up winning the overall competition - congrats!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brittle, Baby!!

I wanted some kind of garnish for the pie, and initially thought perhaps a praline pecan and/or whipped cream. Then, my friend Greg had a very excellent idea of a  pecan brittle garnish. I've made brittle a couple times before, and thankfully it is quite easy and the most time consuming part is just waiting for the sugar mixture to get up to hard crack stage. I used the brittle recipe from Tartine's cookbook, and substituted the peanuts for chopped, toasty pecans. (The cookbook is excellent, by the way - and bonus points because they also include weight measurements for all their recipes!)

Yeah, the photo above doesn't look super appetizing - but it's sugar, nuts, & a touch of butter - so you know how it must taste!
I did notice that when I used my Le Creuset pan to make the praline, it heated up much faster than when I used a more lightweight pan for the second batch. Makes sense since cast iron retains heat very well.  4 more days till the showdown..eek!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Test Pies #2

For this second round of testing, I tried a blend of 2/3 ginger cat cookies and 1/3 regular cat cookies - and also blind baked the crusts for a tad longer, to increase the crunchiness factor.
And of course, I had to throw another factor into the mix to make things even MORE complicated - I tested a this crust with a thin layer of melted chocolate on the bottom. I've done this in the past with custard pies, and found that it seals out the moisture from the custard, and keeps the crust nice and crunchy - which is especially important if you are making the pies ahead of time. 

I used 8 chocolate chips for each mini pie, and used a little paintbrush to evenly coat the bottom of each crust. 

I tasted the two pies last night - and the chocolate definitely kept the crust crunchier which is a definite bonus. The chocolate wasn't very obvious but I think adds a nice textural element.
Michael took some pies to work for more testing today, and looks like most folks preferred the chocolate as well. Woot!