Later next month my kids and I will be going down to Tennessee to visit my sister and her hubby for Thanksgiving. Normally we would be making tons of food for such a gathering, but this year we're going out for Chinese. Hey, it's their tradition. With just the two of them they never really wanted to get into a grand affair and we haven't gotten together for Thanksgiving in more years than we can count due to various happenings and circumstances beyond our control.
At any rate, my tradition is pie. I can't recall a Thanksgiving where I did not make or consume the ubiquitous pumpkin and apple pies. And while I am all for inventiveness and ingenuity and creativity, I have to say that I like my pumpkin and apple pies prepared traditionally more than anything else.
Last year I picked up the November edition of Martha Stewart Living
wherein she had recipes for these two traditional pies. I made them from scratch and was just thrilled with the results. The tastes, the textures, all as they should be. Very pretty too. That is why I chose to use the same recipes for this year to make ahead and pop them into the freezer to take down to my sister's. I don't particularly want to try to get them done in a rush the day before we leave, but I also had these wonderful apples and pumpkins sitting around begging to be used.
What I didn't
do this year was make my own crust. People can whine and cry all they want about how easy it is to make from scratch and how if I just use this technique or that type of flour it will always work out, I don't care. I have a very big hit or miss history with your basic pastry dough and though I have found a method that works most
of the time, I didn't really feel like making my own. Call it what you will, but my mind just groaned at the prospect and that was that. Instead I went out and bought ready made pie shells and some rollable pie crusts. I used the pie shells for all the pies and the rollable crusts for the toppers on the apple pies.
I ended up making three of each. For the apple pie I doubled the recipe and for the pumpkin I made a single as it was intended for two 10-inch pies.Old-Fashioned Apple Pie
From Martha Stewart Living
, November 2005
4 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
3 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon half and half
sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl toss apple wedges with lemon juice and set aside. In a small bowl mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle flour mixture over apples in thirds, tossing after each addition. Fill one deep dish or two regular 9-inch pie shells evenly with apple mixture; dot evenly with butter. Whisk together egg yolk and half and half, brushing rim of pie crust. Take rollable pie crusts and drape over filled pie shells. Brush top of crust with egg wash and press over hanging crust up to form a rim. Cut four slits into the top crust to allow venting. Sprinkle top with sugar. Bake pies for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then turn heat down to 350 and bake for a further 35 minutes.Classic Pumpkin Pie
From Martha Stewart Living
, November 2005
3 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups (2 - 12 ounce cans) evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl carefully whisk together all ingredients listed until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture evenly between three 9-inch pie shells. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until centers are almost set. Cool completely before serving. Yeah, that's it.
Though you can use the canned solid pack pumpkin in place of the mashed pumpkin, I really think that the flavour from a freshly roasted pumpkin is so much better than canned and very easy to do. Using the smaller sugar or baking pumpkins, cut each in half with a large knife. Scoop out seeds and place halves cut side down onto a tinfoil lined baking sheet. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about an hour to an hour and a half. The outer shell will have a bit of give to it when they are ready. Remove from the oven and turn cut side up. Allow pumpkins to cool completely then scoop out flesh and either puree in a food processor or take the less advanced method and mash it with a potato masher. Either one works well.
A few weeks back, around the time Karina and I picked up all of those plums, we were talking about quetscheknodel along with all the other things we love to make with plums. Well, I decided not to make them at the time because I knew my mother was freezing some for all of us when we go up for Christmas break. This lead to a conversation about other sweets for dinner that we haven't had in a long time which prompted Karina to look at me, with what I
felt was hostility, and lament the dearth of dampfnudeln on our dinner table as of late. And while she never came out and said it, I'm pretty sure her implication was that I was withholding vital sustenance from her and her brothers.
Of course this meant that on Sunday morning as I was driving home from work I thought, "What the hell, I don't really need sleep, I'll make dampfnudeln when I get home!" And so I did.
What are dampfnudeln, you ask? Only the lightest, fluffiest, tastiest of yeasty delights to ever to come out of a steam bath. A basic yeast dough is formed into small balls, left to rise and then put into a pan with sugar, milk and shortening. The pan is covered with a tight lid, the liquid simmered and 35 minutes later, wella!, dampfnudeln. Top one off with vanilla or chocolate sauce and you're on your way to a happy mouth.
your mouth will love youDampfnudeln
2 to 2 1/4 pounds all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm milk (110 - 115 degrees)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
shortening or lard
For the dough:
Mix 2 teaspoons of sugar and all yeast with warm milk and set aside to proof for about 5 minutes. Mix flour, remaining sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Heat oven to 220 degrees and then turn off heat. Stir cooled butter and eggs into yeast mixture and pour liquid ingredients over flour mixture. Bring together into a ball, adding flour if dough is too sticky. Knead briefly into a smooth ball. Place ball in an oiled bowl, spread a little oil on the top, cover with plastic wrap and put dough into preheated oven to rise.
Punch down dough and knead briefly. Cut dough into 12 to 16 even amounts. How many you make is really up to you. As you will see, I made twelve and mine turned out to be mutant, however we loved them that way. It was also really fun to speculate on the origins of our yeast and whether or not it had been possessed by the spirit of Miracle Grow.
Shape each portion into a nice rounded ball and place on a floured surface. Cover loosely with a clean dish towel and let rise to about double in size.
....it does a body good
Use several wide pots or pans with tight fitting lids for cooking. How many balls of dough fit in each will depend on the size of the pans. Place the pans over medium heat and melt in each about 1/4 cup shortening or lard. Add to melted shortening 1/4 cup sugar and enough milk to come up the side of the pan about 1/4 inch. Allow mixture to come up to a simmer and dissolve the sugar. Carefully place risen balls into simmering liquid, leaving about an inch of space between them. Place lids on pans and let steam for about 35 to 40 minutes. Do not take lids off until until cooking has finished.
glass lids offer a view inside without ruining the dampfnudeln
I ended up only needing three pans for mine. My chicken frying pan held six, while my two large stock pots held three each. When they are finished cooking, take the lids off very carefully. Lift straight up and the over, try not to tilt them too much, to avoid getting droplets of water on the top of your dampfnudeln.
If you're very lucky, the liquid in the bottom of the pan has steamed away enough to make a nice little bit of caramel on the bottom. You can also turn the heat back on and have the rest of the milk evaporate from the bottom after you've removed the lid, but be careful not to burn the bottoms if you do. Plate the dampfnudeln and serve with your choice of sauce. The standards in my family have always been chocolate and vanilla. I've added to those a raspberry and an almond. Now, I'll not lie to you and say that I slave over the sauces, because I don't. I use the packaged pudding mix by Dr. Oetker (which I get at the Himmel Haus*), but with double the amount of sugar and milk. It's easy, convenient and tasty. My mother does it like this and my oma did as well. Hell, every one of my tantes uses pudding mix. In fact, it was my late Tante Rosie who instilled in me the need for raspberry sauce anytime dampfnudeln were being served.
If by some stroke of luck you have any left over, they make excellent breakfast fare topped off with homemade jam or jelly...or nutella. mmmm....nutella....
*If you're in the Michiana area and would like to pick up some wonderful German food and products, take a trip over to The Himmel Haus. They are open Tuesday through Sunday.
The Himmel Haus
3444 S. Main Street
The last few weeks of September were cold. As in brrrr cold. So Karina and I went out and bought 10 pounds of plums. Not your regular, run-of-the-mill plums, but the plums that are called prune plums or Italian plums over here in the states. Honestly, I had no idea there were any other kind of plums until I came back to the states in '84. In Germany these plums are normal, everyday plums. And my opa had an orchard full of them. And every year we went out there to help him harvest them. And every year I ate way too many while "harvesting" and ended up sitting in the little girls room begging for mercy.
My opa used some of the plums to make his slivovicz, which, praise be to the spirits gods, outshone any moonshine I've ever had. It was especially good after sitting around his cellar for 18 years. Trust me on this. I was given a bottle on the day of my high school graduation that he had made in 1970, the year I was born. The only one who was brave enough to take a second shot of the stuff at my graduation party was my little sister and while that may seem like she put us older ones to shame, she was the only one unable to speak for a couple of hours without rasping. Thankyouverymuch. On the other hand she didn't end up falling asleep with her head in the potato chips, or jump out of the kitchen and explosively claim that the chicken cordon bleu really tasted blue, or narrowly escape Death by Falling Microwave when she realized that the cordon bleu did, in fact, taste blue and bump into it in staggering disbelief. She was already passed out in the corner during these events.
Uh, forget that last part. There was a very good reason the cordon bleu tasted blue and it had nothing to do with the slivovicz. *cough*
My oma, on the other hand, took some of the plums and canned them. After sitting on her shelves the canning liquid would turn into a thick syrup and the plums would turn so soft they melted in your mouth. Heaven. My mother still cans them in this way and I still get a little light headed when I think about how delicious they are. Then, in probably the best use I have ever seen for an old fashioned tin laundry tub, my oma made what I consider the ultimate of plum edibles, latwerg. A thick, tangy plum preserve that has to be cooked so long that it turns a dark sable brown. So amazing, I would eat it straight from the jar, sans bread. Heck, I still do that today.
That all being said, Karina and I did none of those things with our plums. First off, we lack the requisite distilling devices for slivovicz. You've seen my HQ
, where the heck would I put a still? Second, canning plums like my oma is only achievable with Weck
glass jars with glass lids and rubber rings (at least I think so) and we're fresh out of those at the moment. Thricely, neither of us have the time to devote to making latwerg. It takes forever. Like a couple of days type of forever. With hours and hours devoted to stirring. Stirring with a large wooden paddle thingy. Not exactly the kind of thing you can do when you work seven days a week. No, what we did with our plums was make quetschekuche. Or, if you're being all high German like, zwetchgenkuchen. Since we come from the Pfalz, that term is foreign to us and I don't believe we've ever used it in conversation unless we were poking fun at it for being high and mighty.
Forest o' PlumsQuetschekuche
dough (adapted from a recipe in The Best Of Baking
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk
2 packages active dry yeast
4 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
9 pounds plums (prune or Italian)
For the dough:
Mix sugar and yeast with warm milk (between 110 and 115 degrees) and set aside to proof for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice....uh, oops, this isn't my useless superhero powers slash page....mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Heat oven to 220 degrees and turn off heat. Stir cooled butter and eggs into yeast mixture and pour liquid ingredients over flour mixture. Bring together into a ball, adding flour if too sticky. I made this on a fairly humid day and ended up adding about another 3/4 cup of flour before a nice soft dough was achieved. Knead briefly into a smooth ball. Place ball in an oiled bowl, spread a little oil on the top, cover with plastic wrap and put dough into preheated oven to rise.
For the topping:
While the dough is rising it'll be time to get your plums prepared. I forgot to take pictures of this process so I'll try to explain it for anyone who has never done it like this. Hold the plum with the stem side up, seam towards you. Using a sharp paring knife cut along seam until the plum is cut down one half. Carefully open, like you would a book, without tearing uncut half. Slide the tip of the paring knife between one side of the pit and the plum if it doesn't want to come loose on its own. Remove pit. At stem end, cut about a third of the way down on the uncut side to more easily open the plum. Make two slashes about a third of the way down on each plum half to produce the characteristic points seen in the picture. Repeat with remaining plums.
Lightly grease three round 10 inch tart pans. Remove risen dough from oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Punch down dough and separate into thirds. Press each third evenly into each of the tart pans. Starting from the outside, lightly press prepared plums into dough in concentric rings, points facing up. Sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until dough is golden and plums are a little wilted. And don't worry if you have a "plum juice puddle", it's perfectly normal. It will be reabsorbed by the plums as well as the now golden dough without making the cake soggy. If you are using dark tart pans, reduce the heat of your oven to 325. I had two light ones and one dark and I had to turn down the heat for the dark one because it was browning faster than the others.
Unlike many children in the US, my kids love hearty bread. Whole wheat, rye, 13 grain, pumpernickel, indian grain...you get the idea. In fact, if the Martin's bakery in town ever stopped making their peasant loaves, mini baguettes or foccacia buns, my little carbovores would probably go into comas from being carb-free. And I would follow shortly after.
Their disdain for "squishy white bread" is legend among their friends. I'm sure some of them have even accused me of brainwashing my kids ala some weird Bread Cult. Though I cannot say that I haven't badmouthed SWB in front of them, I never forbade them from eating it. I just, you know, never brought any home and since they lack an income with which to purchase their own bread they naturally never missed it.
Then I brought home The Sandwich Maker. An evil device made, I am positive, solely for the advancement of SWB. Seriously, there is no other bread that works very well in this thing except
SWB. And trust me, we've tried many.
Devil In The Machine
The kicker is this: we really, really, really like the little hot sandwiches made with this machine using SWB. They're amazing. And I am slightly embarrassed to say that in the first month of owning it, we went through three to four loaves of SWB a week.
So, the next time you find yourself with a few extra dollars or pesos or whatever passes for currency in your country, pick up one of these babies. They're relatively inexpensive (I think I paid $12 for mine), they make quick hot sandwiches and you can finally use the SWB that some how found its way into your pantry.
Try making some filled with our current favourite: sun-dried tomato turkey breast and havarti.
The Devil In The Bread
Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Or in this case, Fettuccine alla Carbonara. This is one of those meals that taste so good, you can't believe you through it together in the time it took to bring water to a boil and cook the pasta. Really.
Now, from everything I have read, seen or been told over the years, a true carbonara sauce does not use cream or milk. Um, ok, whatever. Outside of using whatever smoked meat I have on had as a substitute for pancetta, I still use pretty much the same ingredients that my mother showed me all those many years ago when I could barely stand on tippy toes to peek over the counter. She learned it from the people who lived next-door to us in Pinetamare. That's part of Naples. In Italy. You know, the boot-shaped country on the European continent. Which just goes to show you that even in Italy, people change recipes to suit themselves.
For all you rigid recipe purists out there feel free to faint, scream, rant or weep because I used cream AND milk in this.Carbonara Sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup whole milk (or half & half)
3/4 pound pancetta (ham, bacon, or smoked turkey)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound dried spaghetti or fettuccine (or whatever pasta you have on hand)
Generously salt a large pot of water, pour in a glug of olive oil and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
While water is heating and pasta is cooking do the following:
Dice pancetta and mince parsley. Heat a large pan with high sides over medium heat and lightly brown pancetta. Mix eggs, milk and cream together. When pasta is finished, use a pasta "fork" and add it directly from the boiling water to the pan with the pancetta. Add minced parsley and pepper (be generous with the pepper, it loves you). Toss everything together until evenly distributed. Turn off heat under pan and let sit for a minute. Pour egg mixture over and toss until pasta is coated. Toss in grated parmesan and serve immediately.
And just for the record, I used hickory smoked turkey breast when I made this batch. It was what I had sitting around that needed to be used.
We had more fun than should be had with pizza when we made it homemade last night. And it had nothing to do with the Lemon Drops we made either. *cough*
What makes these pizzas especially different from the last ones is the fact that we made our own dough this time. I've always had difficulty with pizza dough. I never seem to get the right texture or flavour with the commercial ingredients I have on hand, which is why I kind of moved away from making it myself and just used premade frozen dough. Karina and I were feeling a little froggy and decided to give it a whirl based off of a recipe we found in one of my Food & Wine cookbooks. And boy are we glad that we did. As much as the toppings were wonderful, the crust was more fabulous than I had hoped for.Pizza Dough
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast (rapid rise or regular)
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
Mix honey with water and gently stir in yeast. Set aside and let proof for about 10 minutes. In the bowl of a food processor pulse together flour, gluten and salt. Stir olive oil into yeast mixture and slowly pour into flour mixture while the food processor is on until dough pulls together. Sprinkle flour onto counter, turn dough out and knead until smooth. Place in an oiled glass bowl, brush top with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until double in bulk in a draft-free warm place. If you don't have one, heat oven to 200 degrees and then turn it off. Place dough in warmed oven to rise. The rising time will depend on which type of yeast you use. We used rapid rise and were able to use the dough about an hour and half later. (It was probably ready sooner than that, but we were, um, ensuring that the lemons did not go to waste. Yeah, that's right, making sure the lemons didn't go to waste.) Punch down dough and give it a couple of kneads. Just a couple. Gently stretch dough onto a pizza pan. Top with whatever you want and bake in a 500 degree oven until browned.
We did make our own pizza sauce since it's all too simple to do. Pizza Sauce
2 - 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon ground savory
dash of red pepper flakes
Heat all ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat until well blended, approximately 30 minutes. We made this during the time the dough was rising and then set it aside to cool.
And last, but not least, here's the recipe for Lemon Drops that we adapted from the one by The Food Whore
. We owe her big time for this, they're just that fabulous. Lemon Drop
1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
2-3 parts vodka
1-2 parts simple syrup
Pour lemon juice, vodka and simple syrup over ice in a shaker. Give it a few hearty shakes, siphon into a martini glass and drink away.
And just when I thought it was safe to get back in the water, life became even more complicated than before. So far, I have to say this is one of the most depressing, complicated and busy years in my life. However, the more I dwell on all the loss I realize that none of the people who have passed would want me to let go of the small things in my life that make it "just right". This lj is one of those things. Plus, my sister is going to have a small cow if I don't start posting my recipes regularly again. =) I heart you SchmoopleBunny.
So, here we go with what has become known in our house as The Perfect Cheesecake. The recipe is extremely adaptable as far as flavour goes, but here is the one that was gone the quickest.Blackberry Cheesecake
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 pint blackberry preserves
1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Pour melted butter over mixture until all crumbs are coated. Press into a 10-inch spring form pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
For the filling:
Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add sugar and heavy cream and stir until incorporated. Stir in eggs one at a time until completely blended. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Stir blackberry preserves in a bowl to smooth out then dot on top of cheesecake mixture. Swirl into mixture with a spoon or fork. Do this as much or as little as you want. In this last cheesecake I was quite vigorous in my swirling and as you can see it turned out more mixed than swirled. Not that anyone complained while eating it, mind you. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, or until just set. Do not over bake. Turn oven off, prop open with a wooden spoon and allow to cool to room temperature. I usually make the cheesecakes the night before I want to serve them so I let them cool overnight. Place in refrigerator for long storage. Serve at room temperature.
As I have mentioned before, in my family any type of food can be eaten for any meal. Quite frequently that means that we have sweets for dinner. A staple meal in that department is Belgian waffles. My mother started it all with her "heat over a stove burner" Belgian waffle iron she bought back in the late 70's and it's become a craze with us. These basic waffles are so light and airy, they pair perfectly with whipped cream and fruit for a most satisfying meal.
As I've also mentioned before, I'm teaching my children how to cook. Karina is my most frequent sous chef and where you see hands in the pictures doing the work, they belong to her. One of the ways I teach her is to let her do everything from prepping to serving while I talk her through each step. She'll never learn the proper feel of things if she doesn't do them herself. She did especially well this time, as you see. Belgian Waffles
2 cups AP flour
2 cups milk
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
Separate the eggs.
Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites....
stiff. Make your daughter hold them over her head to prove they are whipped properly and set aside.
Beat egg yolks, melted butter and salt together until pale and creamy.
Mix in flour and milk alternately until mixture is just about pancake batter thickness. Add more flour if too thin, more milk if too thick.
Lighten batter by stirring in a spoonful of the whipped egg whites.
Add the rest of the egg whites at once and....
fold in with a spatula.
The finished batter.
Pour a heaping ladleful of batter onto a preheated waffle iron.
Close the lid and wait until the light goes out.
Tada! A Belgian waffle. =)
To serve, carefully spread with sweetened whipped cream and meticulously mound with macerated strawberries, like Brendan.
Or, toss it all together and start digging in right away, like Karina.
If neither one of those suit you, become a rebel like Alex. Slather your waffle heavily with whipped cream and liberally pour on homemade blueberry syrup.