Archive for the ‘Cakes, Pies, and Pastry’ Category

Nantucket Rhubarb Pie

Monday, June 26th, 2017

It took me a while to figure out whether to include this recipe in my forthcoming rhubarb cookbook. It’s based on a popular cranberry recipe that isn’t actually a pie, more a cross between a cookie and a cake. I think it’s called a pie because it’s baked in a pie pan—but I really have no idea. I just know that it tastes good and comes together in no time at all. I really don’t need more information than that!

When one makes the pie with cranberries, those little red gems rise toward the top of the pie and make pretty bumps on the surface. Rhubarb is wetter and therefore heavier than cranberries so it doesn’t actually rise; consequently, the rhubarb version of the pie is less attractive than its fall cousin.

Taste always trumps appearance for me, however, so I decided to give readers the opportunity to try this delectable combination of sweet and sour. And of course I prepared the recipe on TV!

The Pie

Ingredients:

2 cups relatively finely chopped rhubarb
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) sweet butter, melted and then allowed to sit for a few minutes to cool
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Generously grease a 9-inch pie plate. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the pieces of rhubarb in the bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle them with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the nuts. Make a batter of the remaining ingredients, first combining the butter and the remaining sugar and then adding the eggs, the flour, and the vanilla. Pour the batter over the rhubarb.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Top with whipped cream. (Ice cream works well, too. Or just serve it alone.) Serves 8.

And now the video (in which I underestimate the pie’s baking time—ouch):

Tinky Makes Nantucket Rhubarb Pie

Fruitcake for Those Who Don’t Like It

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

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Earlier this week my sister-in-law Leigh and I made fruitcake. We weren’t precisely enjoying the fruitcake weather of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” (I wrote at length about that story when I shared the recipe for my late mother’s signature fruitcake.) The air was warm and humid rather than cool and crisp.

Nevertheless, we wanted to get a head start on our holiday baking. Fruitcake requires advance preparation so if one wants to have it for Christmas one should start working on it in late November.

Of course we made my mother’s fruitcake—and talked about her. The image at the top of this blog (and the top of this post) shows Taffy and me several years back working on fruitcake. She loved the annual tradition of preparing it, and continuing that tradition lets Leigh and me honor her and remember her in a fun, constructive way.

We also made the fruitcake recipe below. This wasn’t Taffy’s favorite fruitcake, but it is most definitely mine. Long ago Taffy copied it from a newspaper. It was originally NOT aged with additional Grand Marnier; that was our family’s addition. The cake can be eaten right after baking, but like many of us it gets better with age and booze.

This is fruitcake for non-fruitcake lovers. It has no sticky weird fruits, just golden raisins and pecans. And it emerges from the oven with a lovely golden color. The cake is VERY rich, as you’ll see in the recipe. Our family calls it “Delicious Death” in tribute to a cake made in Agatha Christie’s novel A Murder Is Announced.

In this mystery, set shortly after World War II, Delicious Death is a household favorite, prepared by the strange but talented cook who works at the scene of the first murder. Its abundance of butter and eggs are particularly welcome after the rationing the English have endured during and after the war.

If you find this cake too big and too rich, break it up. As you can see from the picture below (taken while the cakes were cooling), Leigh and I made half a recipe. This yielded four small cakes and one small loaf—perfect for gift giving. They took about 1-3/4 hours to bake.

Happy holiday baking from our home to yours!

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Delicious Death

Ingredients:

1 pound golden raisins
1 pound pecans, chopped
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound butter (4 sticks) at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau, plus additional liqueur as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Butter and flour the inside of a 10-inch, 12-cup tube pan or bundt pan (or butter and flour a number of smaller pans, and adjust your cooking time accordingly).

In a large bowl, combine the raisins and the pecans. Sprinkle the flour and salt over them, and toss the mixture with your hands until blended. Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the sugar. Cream the mixture well; then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating constantly. Blend the baking soda and the warm water, and beat them into the batter. Beat in the Grand Marnier. Pour this batter over the nut mixture, and blend it in with your hands (which will smell WONDERFUL from the Grand Marnier!).

After thoroughly washing your beater and bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff, and fold them into the rest of the batter with your hands. Continue folding until you can no longer see the whites.

Spoon and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 2 to 2-1/4 hours, or until the cake is puffed above the pan and nicely browned on top. (If the cake starts to brown on top too soon, cover it with aluminum foil.) Remove the cake from the pan after about 15 minutes. Tapping the bottom of the cake pan with a heavy knife will help loosen it.

When the cake has cooled, wrap it in cheesecloth, and sprinkle Grand Marnier on it to moisten it. Wrap it in foil, place it in a plastic storage bag, and hide it until you wish to use it—ideally for about 10 days. (It will keep longer, but you may have to re-douse it and refrigerate it after a month or so.) Makes 1 10-inch cake.

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Cranberry Shrub

Monday, November 7th, 2016

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November greetings! Naturally, I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving.

Years ago I made what I called cranberry vinegar—basically, my usual strawberry vinegar with cranberries (I had to heat the vinegar a bit in order to get the cranberries to start blending with it). It was fabulous in salad dressings, and a friend loved mixing it with soda water as a drink.

Unfortunately, it gelled within a day or two; the pectin in the cranberries just couldn’t restrain itself.

So—here’s another version, from the book Colonial Spirits by Steven Grasse (2016, Abrams Books, recipe used with permission).

I have to admit that mine was a LITTLE tastier; both the cranberry and the sugar flavors came across more strongly.

But this one won’t gel up on you! It will beautify your Thanksgiving table and give your guests a refreshing beverage. I made it on my final fall appearance on Mass Appeal last week, along with my favorite key-lime pie, adding a little cranberry sauce to make the pie more seasonal.more-of-zee-pieweb

The Shrub

Ingredients:

3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the berries pop and become tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, and cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the cranberry mixture in a food processor. Don’t over-process the mixture.

Transfer the mixture to a cheesecloth-lined sieve and strain, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Store the shrub in a airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes about 1 quart.

To make a refreshing beverage, pour 2 ounces of shrub into a tall glass with ice. Top with 1 cup soda water, and stir to combine.

And now the videos:

Key-Lime Pie

Cranberry Shrub

Extravagant Pies!

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

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Things are humming here in Hawley, Massachusetts. In just over a week—on Sunday, October 9—the Sons & Daughters of Hawley will host the Hawley Gentlemen’s Pie and Tart Extravaganza!

This event is modeled after our occasional pudding contest. It was inspired by two sentences I turned up in an old book many years ago while doing research for Hawley’s bicentennial.

In about 1920 in “A Sketch of the [Hawley] Ladies Aid,” Mattie Carter White recalled, “At one time there was a contest for the women sawing wood. The men had a pie baking contest. Mr. Clarence Gould got the prize for making the best pie.”

For years several of Hawley’s men—my friend Peter in particular—have lobbied for a revival of the pie-baking contest. No one has lobbied for a revival of the wood-sawing contest so we’re ignoring that. But we are at last holding a men’s pie contest as a fundraiser for the ongoing restoration of the Hawley Meeting House.

It will be open to men and boys who come from other places, of course. And it should offer fun for women as well as men.

The day will include a tour of historic sites, a sumptuous lunch, a pie parade, and an entertainment in which we reenact the circumstances of the original pie contest.

Of course, we have no idea what those circumstances were. We don’t even know what kind of pie Clarence Gould made or precisely when he made it. That won’t stop us from telling a fun story involving music, vegetarianism, and a chicken named Jerusha.

Please join us if you can—and spread the word! It may be another 100 years before we revive the contest once more.

Making Pie with Michael Collins

Making Pie with Michael Collins

Here is a recipe to get male readers started. It comes from my friend Michael Collins, now semi-retired as a chef. Michael’s main responsibility is cooking filling breakfasts for the guests at the Bed and Breakfast establishment he and his partner Tony now run at their home in Colrain.

Michael came on Mass Appeal with me this week to show how quickly one can assemble a pie. I prepared my Rustic Apple Tart, and he threw together this quiche-like concoction. The herbs and the mushrooms gave it rich flavor. And we had fun as always cooking together.

Michael's Pie

Michael’s Pie

Michael’s Breakfast Pie

from Chef Michael Collins at the Barrel Shop Gallery Airbnb

Ingredients:

4 to 5 strips of bacon
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (Shitake or the mushroom of your choice)
uncooked top and bottom pie crusts
4 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, crumbled
a few gratings of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fry the bacon in a pan. Take it out, but do not remove the grease from the pan. Drain the bacon on paper towels, and crumble it. Sauté the mushrooms in the remaining bacon grease. Return the crumbled bacon to the pan, and toss.

Place the fried bacon and mushrooms in the bottom pie crust. Whisk together the eggs, milk, herbs, and seasonings. Pour the egg mixture over the bacon and mushrooms.

Place top crust on the pie. Make a few holes in the top for ventilation.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and bake for about 30 minutes more, until golden brown.

Serves 6 to 8.

And now the video….

Drink, Eat, and Be Very Merry Indeed

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

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I am one of the lucky food writers who have been invited to what is called the Abrams Dinner Party. Abrams Publishing (long known for art books and more recently for colorful cookbooks) will be sending us books to review throughout the year.

I’m already behind on posting reviews (I’m behind on EVERYTHING during this nutty season of the year) so I’m giving you three at once.

Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History by Steven Grasse is charming—so much so that although I THOUGHT I was going to set it aside as a prize for my upcoming Hawley Gentlemen’s Pie & Tart Extravaganza, I have decided that it needs to stay in my house so I can use it.

(In addition to enjoying the text I loved the old-fashioned typeface and the whimsical illustrations by the Reverend Michael Alan.)

Grasse is a distiller himself and the creator of such successful historically oriented brands as Narragansett Beer and Hendrick’s Gin. In his book he returns to colonial days, reminding the reader that since the water was unsafe to drink early white Americans turned to ale and other spirits to quench their thirst.

He provides recipes and history for a variety of concoctions, including a variety of beers and wines (cock ale or quince wine, anyone?), ciders, and cocktails. I can now make beverages I had only previously encountered in historical novels, including syllabub, ratafia, and milk punch. (Okay, I may skip the milk punch.)

Look for me to concoct such drinks as cranberry shrub and peach cobbler (yes, it’s a cocktail as well as a dessert) on TV in the months to come.

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In The 24-Hour Wine Expert Jancis Robinson offers a primer for people like me, who either don’t drink wine or don’t know much about it. She helps with selecting wines (telling the reader how to move from one wine s/he likes to another s/he will PROBABLY like), serving them, and storing them.

I have apparently stored much of the wine in my house a little too long.

She also runs through the products of major wine-producing areas and tells the reader how to find a bargain. All in all, this is a handy little book.

Butter & Scotch shares recipes from a combination bar and bakery in Brooklyn of the same name. The bar’s founders, Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth, share their “baking and boozing philosophy,” which is all about having fun while eating and drinking very well. Some of their recipes even combine butter and scotch with delicious-sounding results. All of their recipes are imaginative.

I wanted to test at least one recipe from this book. I was tempted to try the very rich peanut-butter pie but decided to give my guests the slightly less caloric Mama T’s Tuna Quiche.

Basically a rearranged tuna melt in a pie shell (I didn’t say it was calorie free!), the quiche was very popular with a group from my small hometown at a recent pot luck. I think another time I would grate the cheese instead of cubing it, to make it flow through the pie, but I’ll definitely try it again!

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Mama T’s Tuna Quiche

from Butter & Scotch, used with permission

Ingredients:

1 single pie crust
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
6 ounces Swiss cheese, cubed
1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in water, drained
1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fit the crust into a pie pan. (The original recipe uses an 8-inch springform pan, which would be great, but I don’t have one so I used a 9-inch pie pan.) Refrigerate until ready to fill.

In a large bowl beat together the mayonnaise, milk, eggs, and flour. Add the cheese, tuna, olives, scallions, mustard, and cayenne, and stir well. Pour all of the ingredients into the crust, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center has set. (The original recipe says 20 to 25 minutes, and if one has the springform that may work, but in my pie pan it took longer.)

Allow the quiche to cool for at least 20 minutes, then serve it warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week and warmed in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Serves 6 (more at a pot-luck event!).

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