One Pie is Never Enough

lemon tart

I’m not sure what led me to make a tart for Battle Strawberry. It was clearly poor planning on my part. Although I should insert here, that I used to be a really good, I mean really really good, planner. I just plan a lot less now than I used to. Ask Chris, and he might tell you that it’s utterly frustrating. But that’s because he pretends to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants-kinda-guy and in the past has gotten away with that by hiding behind my organization. Well now, now he whines because we don’t plan, or at least we don’t plan as good as “we” used to.

Don’t let that confuse you – I will glady admit that one of my best traits is (well, are) multi-tasking, organizing, and planning. That may be one of the many reasons why I love cooking so darn much – if you make anything crazier than pasta you have to think a little about what you’re doing. And menu planning? Good times. Nothing’s more exciting than a trip to the g-store (which by the way I am just dying to hit up the new Whole Foods). Is that lame? Well, whatever. I’ve been lame before, but only a couple of times.


But when I was deciding what to make for the Iron Chef party, I forgot that this week in school was “tart & pie week”. I also forgot that I’d be eating a (frozen) goat cheese & asparagus quiche I made a couple weeks ago for lunch all week. You may be wondering what the real problem is here. tsk tsk. There isn’t one, really. It’s just that almost every meal this week (and snack) is in “pie-form”. I suppose it’s just plain weird is what it is. And it’s a lot of butter… especially before a beach weekend. Yikes!

asparagus quiche


It all started with the strawberry tart on Saturday. [Did I mention this was a second place winner next to the first place pizza I made?!] And Monday, that was really the beginning of the end. We made little key lime mini-pies, and we made our dough for the cherry pie and lemon meringue tarts that we finished on Tuesday. I’ve had the quiche for lunch for the last 4 days, and snacked on the tart for lunch one day (okay, you got me – two days). Fortunately, Chris’ coworkers love my baking class, and they gladly ate the pie and mini-pies.


mini key lime pies


If that wasn’t enough, I made another pie last night. But not to worry – I wasn’t craving pie or anything. My coworker’s boyfriend was in surgery earlier this week, and I got word that key lime pie is his favorite. Well, I’d already sent the minis from class with Chris. I had no choice but to whip one up at home. No choice at all.


Luckily, I do love pie. And they really are easy to throw together. If you’re scurred, you can buy the pre-made shells, but they aren’t gonna be as flaky or as tasty as what you can make at home. You could always go for a graham cracker shell (or any other cookie crumb), which is just the crumb, a little sugar, and melted butter. Easy peezy. But seriously, if you’re making a regular pie crust, just make sure you don’t overmix, hence melt, the fat (butter or shortening) and when you roll out, make sure your rolling pin and surface are well-floured. Other than those minor challenges, you are practically dumping fruit into a pan and baking. The end result: a delightfully flaky, buttery crust underneath a myriad of possibilities – sweet or savory – warm or cold – streusel topping, naked, or pie shell.


Really – what is better than pie?


Strawberry Mascarpone Tart w/ Balsamic-Thyme Glaze

serves 6-8

printable recipe

ingredients
Pâte Brisée shell
1 1/4 cups AP flour (+ flour for rolling)
8 T butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t sugar
2-4 t ice water, very cold


filling & glaze
2 lbs strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 T orange zest, divided
8 oz mascarpone cheese
4 oz ricotta cheese (or 12 oz mascarpone & no ricotta)
1 t lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 T balsamic vinegar


instructions
1. cut butter into cubes and put in freezer until ready to use

2. In food processor (or by hand), mix flour, salt, sugar together. Cut in butter until pea-sized – pulsing. Add in water, by pulsing, until mixture starts to clump together.

3. Remove dough from processor and place on clean surface. Roll into mound and place in fridge covered with plastic wrap for ~30 minutes. You should still see specks of butter in the dough.

4. Combine strawberries, 1/2 of orange zest, sugar. Macerate in fridge for ~30 minutes.

5. Mix cheese, confectioners sugar, other 1/2 of zest, lemon juice, vanilla. Refrigerate until needed.

6. Preheat oven to 375. Take dough out of fridge and let sit ~5 minutes. Flour surface and roll dough into 12 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Gently fold in half and onto the roller. Place atop pie plate/tin and unfold onto other half.

7. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork multiple times. Cover with parchment paper or tin foil and place pie weights, dry beans, (or spare change, which is what I use) atop and bake about 15 minutes. Remove weights and paper. Bake bare for another ~20.

8. Drain macerated strawberries, and put juice in small saucepan. Add balsamic vinegar and thyme and bring to boil over med-hi, reduce to syrupy consistency and let cool.

9. Once tart is cooled, spread mascarpone mixture over bottom. Top with strawberries. With brush, spread balsamic glaze atop strawberries.


Classic Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition; serves 6-8



ingredients
shell
4 oz graham cracker crumbs
2 oz sugar
2 oz melted butter


filling
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
5 oz key lime juice or lime juice (freshly squeezed, but bottled works too)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
whipped cream, optional


instructions


Preheat to 350. Mix sugar and crumbs in bowl. Add butter and mix with hands until all is wet. Press into sprayed pie plate/tin, and press up the sides. Use another shell to place on top to even out the mixture. Bake alone for 4 minutes.


Mix milk with lightly beaten eggs. Add in juice. If you want color, add food color too. Pour into baked shell and bake for 20-25 minutes, until “jiggly but firm”. Let cool. Add whipped cream, if using.

Challah If You Like Hot Buns!

gorgeous challah bread


I’m afeard that I may have started a trend. A trend of me showing off our baking successes (and failures, as you remember from the first episode). I’m really sorry – but when you’re in school 3 nights a week it doesn’t leave much time to prepare bloggable recipes from home.


You may think that Chris is upset about this – having been spoiled for a few weeks while school was out by having fresh dinner AND lunch leftovers practically every day. He isn’t. He may even be happier – happier because he wins brownie points by sharing his treasures with coworkers instead of eating home-made meals in front of everyone while they scarf down a Leany Cuisiney or something less healthy like McDonalds. Now, invite him to Chicken Planet for lunch and my food gets tossed back in the fridge for tomorrow. But at least while Baking&Pastry 101 is in session, he can bring some fresh baked goodies for everyone to gnaw on. And who needs lunch when you have bread anyway?

soon to be english muffinsgrilling muffinsyummy english muffins

Last week, week 2 of the quarter, was two long nights full of yeast, proofing, and scoring. Bread that is. Lean bread. We made baguettes two different ways (with and without fermenting overnight), and I got the pleasure of kneading dough for about an hour for a huge football-shaped loaf of 4 grain bread. Felt like even longer. Needless to say, I had some pain in my right palm for a couple of days. But that bread was lookin’ mighty fine. The tastiest treat of all last week was the focaccia bread with rosemary. De-lish. And I almost forgot – English muffins! My friend Emily blogged about english muffins recently. I’m not sure how she made them without coming to our class but hers looked yummy too! English muffins provide instant gratification – you cook them in a skillet rather than bake them, so you don’t have to stare at the oven and count down the minutes until its ready. If I remember correctly, everything last week came out pretty good. I have a freezer full of bread as proof. 🙂


4 grain breadbaked 4 grainrosemary foccacia


Monday night we finished up our bread-making extravaganza. Instead of lean breads, we kicked it into high gear and made enriched breads. Basically, it means good ol’ fatty bread that have eggs, milk, butter in any combination. We made milk bread, hot cross buns, and challah. Challah is by far my favorite bread. {And no – it is not pronounced challah. The c is silent as any good Jewish person will tell you.} Since we were braiding the bread, we each made our own loaf and did 4 strand braids. I think, one day, I might try to fancy it up a bit and do some more strands. And I’m going to knead with my stand mixer at home – because I can. And because I’m a wimp and I just can’t knead for an hour. The braids look mighty fancy don’t they? And every morsel is a mouthfull of chewy goodness. Take my word for it. If you’re super nice (and live nearby) – you might one day be lucky enough to receive a batch (minus a bite or two…. just to make sure it’s good). OR – maybe I’ll make you some french toast a la Wetzel. Which is essentially – french toast, with challah.


braiding challahready to bakepretty challah


While not the superstar that is challah bread, we did make some other tasty treats. I find it odd that my only memory of hot cross buns is that song. And of that, all I remember is “hot cross buns, hot cross buns” and then something about a penny. But apparently it’s a bread that is made with currants and raisins (sometimes candied citrus) and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Although ours didn’t, they generally have a cross across the top. And when you serve them hot, you get Hot – Cross – Buns. Voila! Have you ever heard of milk bread? Me neither – but we made that too. The buns were made by rolling three balls and putting them in muffin tins. As you can see, we had big balls. Done & done.


dinner rollshot cross buns


For recipes, I’ll post my two favorites: focaccia & challah and will try to post the recipes in the “at home” style. If you’re interested in the other bread recipes, just challah!!



Challah

Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th EditionAdapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition


Ingredients
Water – 8 oz
Yeast, fresh – 0.75 oz
Bread flour – 1 lb, 4 oz
Egg Yolks – 4 oz
Sugar – 1.5 oz
Malt syrup – 0.13 oz
Salt – 0.4 oz (2 tsp)
Vegetable oil – 2 oz


Instructions

Mixing: begin with water and add yeast. Add yolks, oil, and syrup. Add some bread flour, then add sugar, then more bread flour, then salt. Continue mixing and kneading (either by hand or in stand mixer) until dough springs back. (If using stand mixer, mix ~10 minutes on second speed). You may need less or more flour, but do not mix to overdry.


Fermentation: 1 1/2 hours at 80 degrees (an oven that is barely on)


Makeup: Refer to any google site. Here is a good youtube video for braiding a challah loaf with six strands. For class, we did four strands.


Baking: 400 degrees (~30 minutes; but check often with oven light)


Herb Focaccia
Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition



Ingredients
Sponge: water, 6 oz; yeast (fresh) 0.12 oz; flour 8 oz
Flour – 1lb, 4oz
Water 14 oz
Yeast – 0.12 oz
Salt – 0.5 oz
Olive oil – 1 oz
Rosemary & sea salt (to liking)


Instructions
Mixing: Sponge method – combine water, then yeast, then flour. Do not knead.


1st ferment: sponge for 8-16 hours at 70 degrees


2nd mixing: mix water, yeast, flour, salt (salt last) and combine with sponge. Knead until dough springs back quickly.


2nd ferment: all dough for 30 minutes at 80 degrees


Makeup: Scale at 3 lb for each half-size sheet pan. oil pans with olive oil. roll and stretch dough into pan to fit. if dough does not give, let it rest for a few minutes. proof again in oven until doubled in thickness. Top each with olive oil. with fingertips, poke holes heavily at regular intervals into dough. spring with fresh chopped rosemary and sea salt.


Baking: 400 degrees for ~30 minutes