Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

side view of twofer pie

[recipe here]

This week's TWD recipe is the perfect Thanksgiving compromise: pie with a pecan pie top half and a pumpkin pie bottom half. Vibi of La casserole carrĂ©e chose this recipe — thanks, Vibi, for picking a great one!!

top view of twofer pie

We were allowed to post this one late if we made it for Thanksgiving, but since I'm traveling down to my parents' house this year, I wanted to finish it early. Well, that didn't exactly happen, because I was knocked out with the flu most of last week :( I had to hustle on Sunday and Monday night to complete it in time.

pie with bite on fork

Even though it's not the best-looking dessert I've made, it was seriously delicious!! I went out on a limb and substituted white chocolate pieces for the pecans. I was anticipating some sort of melty disaster because of this, but the discs held together and tasted great.

I prepped the crust a day ahead, putting it into the pie pan and wrapping it for an overnight chill.

pie crust just out of fridge

The crust is ready for par-baking with parchment and pie weights.

pie weights in crust

In retrospect, I should have used my other pie dish, because this one has no lip and the crust just shrank down the sides during the par-bake :( Lesson learned! I guess this dish will be for double-crusted pies in the future... or maybe I just need to roll a thicker crust!

pie crust after par-bake

My counter, all set up for the filling while the crust is in the oven. Um, excuse the mess... at least I totally separated the pumpkin and the pecan ingredients.

kitchen workspace

Pumpkin stuff and pecan stuff...

pumpkin stuff pecan stuff

I used an immersion blender for the pumpkin half because, seriously, I wasn't about to clean the food processor twice for one recipe.

pumpkin stuff pecan stuff

Finally, pie assembly time! First the pumpkin, then the white chocolate discs, then the sugary, gooey topping.

pumpkin filling in pie white chocolate discs
syrupy topping to finish it off

The pie just out of the oven was super puffy and smelled delicious! It sank down later to become its gooey, sweet, caramelized-top finished self.

pie just out of the oven

This was a really delicious, gooey pie. The white chocolate ended up being a pretty subtle, but delicious, touch. The moisture just kind of oozed into the crust, so it wasn't really flaky at all — I guess I will use just a butter crust next time instead of adding the shortening, because the shortening didn't really do much. I ate it warm, but I'm definitely going to try another piece tomorrow after it chills... hm, maybe for breakfast ;) Thanks again, Vibi, for a great pick! Go and check out everyone else in the blogroll to see their creations.

pie on bamboo tablecloth with espresso

And to everyone who celebrates, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Arborio Rice Pudding

rice pudding in blue bowl with white spoon and dried raspberries

[recipe here, also see note]

Hooray!! I am back to TWD. Sorry I didn't get around to checking out everyone's Kugelhopfs, it's been a crazy couple of weeks. In non-baking news, my rugby team came in 3rd place in our national tournament ;) Of course we wanted to win, but 3rd is not too shabby! (See my pics here!)

Anyway, back to the pudding at hand, chosen by Isabelle of Les gourmandises d'Isa. Isabelle picked Arborio Rice Pudding, and Dorie gives a recipe for either White (vanilla) or Black (chocolate) rice pudding. Since I recently bought some vanilla beans online (thanks for the inspiration, CB!), I figured I would stick with vanilla flavoring.

rice pudding in white bowl with metal spoon

I was also recently contacted by Sam of Oh! Nuts with a very generous offer of some free dried fruits. They sent over a ton of dried strawberries, cranberries and raspberries. I was pretty excited by the raspberries, since I've never seen those in a store, so I decided to soak them in some Chambord and add them in to the rice pudding. They were so delicious! I have some other plans for the rest of the dried fruit (if we don't eat them all first).

dried raspberries from oh nuts

The pudding itself was, as Dorie says, elemental. Just rice, a little sugar, a lot of milk, and flavoring. I've never made risotto or anything, but I guess now that I've gotten the Arborio rice, I'm obligated to do it sometime soon;)

box of arborio rice

The rice after parboiling:

rice after parboiling

As I said before, I bought a bunch of vanilla beans online. I've never used real vanilla beans before because they are always ridiculously expensive at the store, so I handled them reverently.

pack of vanilla beans

The poor vanilla bean... about to be gutted.

single vanilla bean

I split it open and scraped out the caviar...

vanilla bean, split and scraped

and added it to the milk and sugar mixture as it boiled. I figured this would give it a chance to permeate the flavor through the milk.

milk boiling with vanilla

It definitely worked! I was very pleased with the fragrant vanilla aroma of the mixture. After it boiled and I skimmed out the vanilla pod, I added the rice.

Here's where the controversy comes in, because I know you're thinking that my pudding is, well, more like a rice drink than a pudding. (I even strained it a little bit for the pictures... and when I say strained... I mean drank some of the liquid;) ) I simmered this mixture for 40 minutes, 10 minutes past the printed time, and it was still very thin.

pudding in ice bath

Unfortunately, I didn't read through all of the Problems & Questions posts, so I missed something important: there was a typo in the recipe :( My 40 minutes was not long enough, it should have gone for 55 minutes. Oh well — I'll know for next time!

Anyway, since it was so simple, it still tasted great — the texture was the only thing missing.

finished pudding with raspberries in blue dish with spoon

Thanks, Isa, for such a yummy and customizable pick :) And don't forget to check out the rest of the TWD bakers this week! I swear I will update my RSS reader this week, I just can't keep up with all of you prolific bakers! ;)

finished pudding in ramekin with spoon


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trip to Greece, Part III: Athens

Read Part I: Crete
Read Part II: Santorini
View all images in my gallery

[If you came here looking for TWD, sorry — I didn't have any spare time this week :( Check out the rest of the TWD blogs for their Kugelhopfs!]

Wow, it's been a while since I posted my last installment! It's been a busy couple of months, but now it's finally time to finish my write-up of our Grecian vacation.

We ended our trip with two days in Athens, where we took the opportunity to sightsee. Obviously, our first stop was the Acropolis. They have very official signage that points the way there.

A. headed to the Acropolis

It's a long walk up that hill, but it was worth it to see all of the spectacular ruins. In this view, you can also see the Arch of Hadrian in the front, just behind the trees.

view of the Acropolis

Once we got up to the top, and after some more time waiting in line in the blistering heat, we finally got to see the Parthenon up close. It's currently undergoing restoration, but is still a sight to behold.

the Parthenon

After we got our fill of ruins, we came back down to the city and had some lunch, where we enjoyed some delicious village sausage and fried zucchini.

village sausage

fried zucchini

At this point, I seriously needed a nap, so I slept in our hotel while A. walked around a little bit more. He came and woke me up a little while later so we could go check out the changing of the guard. This... was... hilarious. Sorry, I know that it's considered an honor to be one of these guys... but look at those shoe pom-poms! ;)

changing of the guard

The next day we had an adventure trying to get to the Athens beach. (Travel tip: don't take the X96 bus... it goes to the airport! I would tell you the bus line we took, but I don't remember — anyway, a good sign is when everyone else is also wearing bathing suits.) It was a beautiful beach day and it was great to relax on our last day of the trip.

One of the more ubiquitous street foods in Athens is the grilled corn, which is cooked up on small round grills and served with a little salt. We were really excited to find a guy selling it right outside the beach complex exit.

grilled corn

For our last dinner in Athens, we enjoyed some gyros and pastourma pie from Sabbas.


pastourma pie

I took one last photo of the Acropolis from our hotel, and we said goodbye to Greece.

Acropolis at night

We had such a wonderful time in Greece, and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of traveling there! I think Santorini was my favorite, although I enjoyed touring around all of the different places we visited. We ate way too much food, but it was all so delicious that we really couldn't help ourselves ;) In short, it was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn't hesitate to go back!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rugelach

rugelach on heart shaped cookie cutter

[recipe here]

I must admit that I don't remember ever eating rugelach before. I'm sure I have eaten it at some point, but in bakeries, it usually has nuts in it and I tend to avoid those. So, I was pretty excited to make my own version of rugelach when Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal chose it for this week's TWD recipe.

I was sad that I didn't get a chance to finish this one early — my rugelach-loving future sister-in-law came back from Germany two weekends ago, and I would've liked to bring some to her. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to make these until just last night. (Sorry S.!)

five rugelach arranged on dish

I really like the way these turned out! The cookie had a flaky texture with a soft interior, and I loved the filling (can't go wrong with tons of chocolate). I must say, though, they were a huge pain to roll out and shape into the final spirals. My hot apartment is no place to work with this kind of dough, so it was difficult (read: lots of cursing involved) to roll out, and it kept falling apart. I think it was worth it, but I probably won't make them again until I forget about the annoyance :)

The dough itself was pretty simple — just flour, salt, butter and cream cheese. It didn't take long to get to the "curd" stage.

flour, butter and cream cheese in food processor bowl

dough looking like curds

The two halves of dough, ready to be chilled for a half hour:

disks of dough in plastic wrap

After rolling out the dough, it was time to spread the filling, which involves a bit of jam (I used apricot), cinnamon sugar and various other fillings. Instead of putting in nuts and dried fruits as is traditional, I just used dark chocolate :) I chopped up 3 oz. of chocolate per dough disk, which may have been overkill for some, but not for me ;)

rolled out dough with filling on top

Here they are, all nice(ish) and rolled up, showing no hint of the frustration they caused...

raw cookies on baking sheet

Then, covered in egg wash and turbinado sugar:

raw cookies on baking sheet with egg wash and sugar topping

And finally, post-bake:

baked cookies on baking sheet

Most of them were kind of fugly-looking, but they definitely tasted delicious! Thanks to Piggy for picking this recipe, since I never would have thought to make these myself. Check out the rest of the TWD blogs for their rugelach experiences!

And, to all Americans, don't forget to VOTE today!

rugelach on plate with napkin