Strawberry Rhubarb Slab Pie

Would you believe amazing, awesome, incredible, delicious, fantastic, best ever ever ever’s?  Well here goes: this is THE best pie and crust I’ve ever made, served and eaten.

Gluten free! Check out that crust.The subtle scent of orange plays beautifully with strawberries and rhubarb.  Not too sweet, enjoy hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with fresh cream. For breakfast enjoy it guilt free – warmed with a generous spoon of vanilla yogurt.  Eating doesn’t get much better.

This pie will easily feed 16 hungry pie loving men.  Or 8 women.  Or 4 Brits.  Brits have a thing for rhubarb. 🙂

I found that the recommended crust recipe is very close to the Pate’ Brise’ recipe I’ve already shared, but doubled.   I didn’t want to risk anything so I used this new recipe with  great results.  It can also make dough for two double crust pies.

Pie dough:

5 cups gluten free flour, plus more for rolling dough (Eh, if you aren’t gluten free use regular flour.  I simply exchanged Jules flour for regular)

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 cup ice water (the flour I used needed a bit more)

Filling:

6 cups hulled strawberries, cut in half

6 cups cleaned rhubarb, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup dry quick cooking tapioca

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons of the squeezed juice

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water to brush over crust

1/3 to 1/2 cup large granulated sugar for dusting the crust

To make:

Mix flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl.  Add in cut up butter, using either a pastry blender, fingers or two butter knives to blend into the flour until only a few pea sized pieces of butter remain.

Add in the water, about 1/3 at a time, using two forks to lightly toss the mixture as you add, incorporating the water until the mixture holds together and is able to be formed into oval mounds that don’t fall apart (this is why mine needed a little more water).

Once you’ve formed two  good rounds, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

*This is as good of a place as any to discuss gluten free flour.  Everyone has their favorite mix.  Some prefer to mix from a variety of flours; almond, rice, corn, sorghum, coconut and so many others.  GF flour, even more than wheat flour can be so dry that you can’t exactly guarantee the outcome of the product unless you’ve used it before and know how it acts.  I have made plenty of expensive delicious brick door stops that were supposed to be  cakes or breads.  I can tell you what I like and have seen work well, so if it doesn’t work for you – take a look at your flour.  I use Domata Living Flour for everyday use, sometimes adding a bit of sorghum or almond flour to add moisture.  My favorite beautiful flour for something fancy is Jules GF Flour.  She did the hard work of coming up with a formula that, while pricey, works

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you prepare the pie.

To prepare filling:

Cut up rhubarb and strawberries and place them in a large bowl.

Add in the tapioca, both brown and granulated sugars, orange zest and juice.  Mix and let stand while you roll the dough.

You can refer to the pate brisee in a previous blog in April to see how to roll, but you want a clean dry smooth surface to work on.  Sprinkle some gluten free flour on surface, place mound of dough on it, flour the rolling pin and roll the dough out big enough – about 12″ x 16″ to fit into a 10″x14″ jelly roll pan *cookie sheet with 4 sides.  Roll out the dough and slide it into the pan.  Once it’s in the pan add the fruit filling.  Roll out the other mound of dough exactly the same way and place that on top of the mixed fruit.

Okay, so Martha Stewart makes every thing look easy and perfect.  I’m no Martha (deep sigh of exasperation)!  To get the dough off the rolling area you may need a long spatula to loosen it or it will tear.  It might tear anyway and you may want to wad it up and throw it against the wall or the first person who walks in and says something like “What’s that?”
Or “Hello Honey”. Do not do that.  You can piece it together if it is torn.  I did and no one cared.  Roll the edges of the bottom and top crust together and using your thumb and two fingers flute the edges all the way around.  If there are places where there is too much dough, cut it off and use it where there is too little dough.

BE PATIENT

It takes time to work with dough and this one’s pretty forgiving.  Just realize that it may not be beautiful but it will taste beautiful and ice cream goes a long long way towards presentation.

So once that 2nd sheet is on the top, flute the edges and cut vents into a pretty pattern with a sharp ended knife in the top crust.  Then brush the surface with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Place in 400 degree oven and immediately drop the temperature to 375.  Bake for 55 – 65 minutes until it forms a deep golden crust and the filling is bubbling up in the middle through the vents.

Cool on wire rack 

Really really good old fashioned pie!

Equally good a week later…I polished off the last piece this morning, warmed with a touch of yogurt and then did a boot camp workout to try and counter the possible …

..we’re not supposed to talk about the bad side of eating this, are we?

Try it with other fruits and combinations.  I can’t wait to try Peach-Raspberry and then in the autumn I’ll try a Pear-Blackberry combination with a touch of orange zest.  Heavenly!

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Simple Bruschetta

You saw this in my bread recipe.

It’s all I eat all summer. I have very little to say about this bruschetta recipe. It’s delicious. Garlicy. Summery. Balsamic vinegary. All of the best things. You can make it in less than five minutes and pair it with bread and wine and a porch. In this recipe, I used fresh frozen basil from a brand called Dorot that sells trays of cubed herbs. My boss picked up a container for me from Trader Joes, and I have used it to add that uniquely summer taste to everything from scrambled eggs to spaghetti.

Enjoy.

Simple Bruschetta
Makes 2-3 Servings

1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cube Dorot basil, or a small handful fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir until wholly combined. Set aside at room temperature for at least 15 minutes – time allows the flavors to blend – before eating.

Honey Ricotta Cake – A Wonderful Treat

Ever stumble across a recipe you find intriguing?  That was the case with this Honey Ricotta Cake.  The flavors and method were somewhat unfamiliar.  I get cheesecake. I get cake.  But boy am glad I tried this.  It’s delicious!

It started because a friend of mine, a dear friend who I wish wish wish used gluten free flour because she’s such an amazing cook, baked a beautiful cake with a name totally out there – some sort of ethnic celebration traditional cake.  As I stood in the group of mumbling lip smacker yummy sound makers with a plate in my hand, carefully nibbling at the touch of whipped cream, the single strawberry, and staring at the beautiful dense texture and color I vowed (silently) that I too would make something new that maybe looked like that.  So back to my computer to search out something good.

By the way, this cake is an ethnic celebration cake too.  It’s Greek name is Melopita.  I have no idea if there’s a better recipe, since this is the only one I’ve ever tasted, but I don’t care. This one is a marvelous cake!

Go back a moment…I first looked in my fridge to see what ingredients I had.  A while back I’d purchased a big container of ricotta cheese for a recipe I didn’t make.  I had a half jar of Scottish Heather Honey in the cupboard that risked crystallizing, but was amazing in flavor.  I typed the words ‘recipe   honey   ricotta   and browsed through recipes until this one screamed “TRY ME!”.

Measure and lay out what you will need, like this

This honey had such an interesting flavor.

4 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided (3 1/2 and 1 )

2 extra large eggs

2 tablespoons brown rice flour or other gluten free flour (can use wheat if preferred)

4 1/2 tablespoons strongly flavored honey like wildflower, heather, or a good local honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon brandy (if your honey isn’t flavorful perhaps an apricot brandy could be used?- Just a thought)

18 ounces soft ricotta

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350, butter a 10 inch ceramic pie plate or tart pan.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar until creamy, approximately 3 minutes.

Beat in flour and add honey, beating till well combined.  Add lemon juice and brandy and beat till combined.

Add ricotta cheese and beat until creamy and combined thoroughly, about 2 minutes.

*not a great photo, but as you can see you just dump the ricotta into the bowl. Now you pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake it until the center is set and it begins to come away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.  Once it’s baked it will look like a cheesecake with some cracks in the top.

Place cake on cooling rack and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar

Then finish with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon

Enjoy!!!

How to Make a Classic Baguette

I can’t figure out why I love to bake bread. Do I simply love the finished product of hot, savory bread right out of the oven? Is it the kneading that releases tension and stress that I so enjoy? Do I respect the length of time it takes to create good bread?

While bread baking takes a lot of time, the process is broken into manageable stages. I often bake over the weekends, prepping a poolish Friday morning or as soon as I get home from work and preparing the dough Saturday morning while I am still groggy in pajamas. Then, I resume my day and forget about it; all the while, the yeast matures and flavors develop. I merely wait while time, temperature, and yeast do the work. And of course, I get some pleasure out of punching around a loaf to add oxygen and activate the yeast (although some bakers might wince at my description of kneading as “punching”).

Here is a simple, classic baguette recipe that I made over the weekend. I suggest you give it a go. Bread baking is far too basic and the reward too great to leave to professional bakers.

Classic Baguette

Poolish (24 hours):

1 cup spring water at 75 degrees (or just moderately warm)
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour

Final Dough (6 hours):

1 cup spring water
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
4 1/4 to 5 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1 tablespoon fine sea salt

The day before, make a poolish by combining a cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon of dry yeast in a bowl. Let sit for one minute. Stir with a wooden spoon for one minute until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and stir for about 100 strokes, or until gluten strands stick to the side of the bowl when you press the spoon against the bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm, safe place (I often use the top of the fridge) over night.

In the morning, the poolish should be bubbly and doubled in size.

Take one cup of the poolish and transfer it to a new bowl. Discard the remaining poolish. Add to that new bowl a cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast, and stir until the poolish breaks up, the ingredients combine, and the mixture begins to foam slightly. Add a tablespoon of sea salt and enough flour (probably 2 cups) to create a thicker dough. Continue mixing with a wooden spoon and adding flour until the mixture is difficult to stir.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 15-17 minutes, adding flour as necessary. There are a couple of ways to test to see if the dough is done. Either press your thumb into the dough and, if the dough springs back and your thumb didn’t leave and indent, you are done. Or, shape the dough into a ball. If the ball does not sag, you can stop kneading. Once the bread is thoroughly kneaded, shape it into a ball. Take some olive oil and oil a bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl to coat it with the oil, and allow it to rise on the top of the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.

After 2 to 3 hours, the dough should have doubled in size.

Punch down loaf and transfer it to a floured surface. Reshape into a ball. Cut into four equal pieces, and shape each of those into balls. Cover and allow to rest for 35 minutes.

Flatten each ball with the heel of hour hand on a unfloured board. Shape each into a baguette by moving your hands from the center of the dough outward, elongating the dough as you roll and stretch the dough until it becomes as long and narrow as you wish. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof for 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free spot.

45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven and baking sheet to 450 degrees. Be sure to place the rack in the center of the oven so that the bread bakes evenly. Using a very sharp, serrated knife, score the loaves by making quick shallow cuts along the surface.

Once the loaves are in the oven, wash your hands and dip your fingers into a cup of water. Splash water with your fingers in the oven to create steam, and quickly close the oven door. Wait three minutes, spray more water, close door, and bake bread for 15 to 20 minutes. Bread is done with the top is a rich caramel color. To test for doneness, remove and hold the loaves upside down. Strike the bottoms firmly with your finger. If the sound is hollow, the bread is done. If not, bake 5 more minutes. Cool 5 minutes before eating. I enjoyed mine with bruchetta and friends. I also suggest freezing any uneaten bread. Baguettes do not save well if left out (even if only for a day).

Candied Violets and Lilac Blossoms

They are beautiful. They are exotic. They are delicious.

Have you ever eaten a flower?  They taste exactly like they smell, and taking time to crystallize them is artfully therapeutic.

However, if you are hoping for a buddy to assist you’ll probably need to bribe them.  I’m thinking wine but if you don’t drink – this takes tons of time – I’m still thinking wine.

OR…

this could be the perfect distraction for the “chat” you need to have with ____.  Both will be so engaged in candying flowers that there will be no awkwardness.  Where was this idea when I was stumbling through awkward chats?

The photo below is of our beautiful lilacs under branch breaking wet snow. This was dubbed Snowpril by the media.  The biggest snow in late April in recent memory.

And this…

…made me pick all these sweet violets and lilacs so they would not freeze.

Candying (crystallizing) flowers kind of suspends them in time.  I like that!  In December I can bite into one of the tiny lilac flowers, close my eyes, and be back in May for a moment.  That will be very nice, let alone how beautiful they are even underneath a layer of crisp sugar.

THESE ARE SO BEAUTIFUL.

Enough tiny flowers that will be lovely on cakes or petit fours, cupcakes.   I learned how to do something new, all because of a big bad storm. I work several jobs, most of us do; you know how life gets going and you can’t stop until one day you take a deep breath and say “Where did Spring go?”.  “I think I missed it.”.

To get started you will need bunches of very fresh edible flowers: violets, lilacs, borage, pansies, rose petals and even mint leaves.

Very Important:  Do NOT ever use flowers that have had chemicals used on them.  If there is any uncertainty do not use them.

Choose only perfect flowers and leaves that have not begun to wilt at all.  This is important.  Even the smallest amount of wilting will collapse under the little bit of weight of egg wash and sugar. Look back at the lilacs under that wet snow.  A healthy fresh flower has amazing staying power.  That was a 48 hour heavy snow they survived.

Egg White(1): beaten with a fork until frothy (If you have concern about raw eggs choose instead powdered egg whites found on the grocery store shelf).

Refined Sugar(1 cup) : (not powdered, not granulated)  Can take granulated sugar, whir it in a blender for about 15 seconds and it becomes what is called refined sugar.  Too long and it becomes powdered

Waxed paper, 2 small bowls and a small paint brush for each person.  Also, a cookie sheet or cooling rack to on which to dry flowers.  To store, you will need a tin or plastic container to layer flowers between waxed paper so they will keep for up to a year.  If tightly sealed, the flowers can be frozen in the container and keep longer than a year.

You are ready to start.  Remember – only fully fresh flowers. Discard weak or fading flowers.

Here is an example of perfect:

Take the paint brush and dip it into the foamy egg whites and literally paint every exposed part of the flower, including the inside and the back and tops of the stem.

This takes time so just let go and give yourself over to it.   I’ve read about the idea of immersing the whole flour into the egg whites to save time, and some flowers might do okay but mine got all snarly and bunched up and it ended up either ruining them or I had to take even more time unfolding the petals again.  Just go for the right method.  Put the flower on the waxed paper if it helps.  Then you will immerse the flower in the refined sugar, again making sure every visible part is covered.

After that process is finished make sure the petals look the way you want them to and place the flower gently onto the waxed paper to dry

Do the same with lilac blossoms.  Lilacs separate in small “bouguets” and can be candied  like I did in the photo above, or do individual flowers.  Lilacs are much easier to work with than violets because they are sturdier.

Candied flowers should be saved for only extremely special occasions or gifted to someone who will appreciate them.

Fresh lilacs on a carrot cake!