Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Double Crusted Blueberry Pie

Here's a piece of life advice: the next time you make a pie, make the crust you need and then immediately make another batch of pie dough.  You've already got the recipe in front of you, the bowls and implements are already dirty, and you will not believe the virtuous feeling you will have when you slip the extra dough into the freezer, knowing that with a bit of work now you are saving yourself a lot of time later.
And later? When you look in your freezer and there is a nice disk or two of pie crust, you know that you can have a pie in the oven in a matter of minutes.  This week I found myself in just that situation.  I had some lovely local blueberries from my farm box order, and with the crust already made, I decided on the spur of the moment to bake Dorie Greenspan's Double Crusted Blueberry Pie.  Even though it was late afternoon, I was able to have it on the dinner table in short order. 

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  The original Tuesdays With Dorie host for this recipe in 2008 was Amy of South in your Mouth.  You can find the recipe on her blog post.  I'm going a bit out of order, but this is a recipe I'm baking in my plan to finish all of the recipes in Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.

- I made half of the pie recipe in my little 7" mini metal pie pan.  I had actually rolled out and frozen a crust right in the pan.  All I needed to do was to fill the pie and roll out the top crust.  The crust thawed as I mixed up the filling.

-  Sometimes blueberry pies can be runny in the middle from all the juice released by the cooking blueberries.  Dorie combats that in two ways: adding a hefty dose of flour to the blueberries, and lining the bottom of the pie crust with dried breadcrumbs.  I don't use prepared breadcrumbs, but usually make mine by crumbling and baking fresh bread.  I was feeling lazy, though, so I skipped the crumb layer.  I added flour to my blueberries, but somehow forgot to add the full amount that I'd measured out.  As it turned out, the pie was perfect, not at all runny and also not dry.

-  The recipe calls for tossing the berries with lemon zest, sugar, flour, salt, and lemon juice.  Dorie gives measurements but advises that we add the amounts to taste, which makes sense because blueberries can vary in sweetness.  I used a bit less sugar (and I used palm sugar) and a healthy squirt of lemon juice.

- So great was my laziness that I also skipped the egg wash on the crust.  Luckily my pie turned out nice and golden anyway.

the verdict:

I served this pie at a family dinner last evening, and my husband and daughter agreed that it was an exceptionally excellent blueberry pie!  The lemon zest and juice added a sparkle and brought out the flavor of the berries.  This will be a "go-to" pie in the summer (or even out-of-season with frozen blueberries), especially if I have pie crust in the freezer!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mixed Berry Cobbler

Berries are my favorite fruit group, and I revel in the plentiful, reasonably-priced fresh berries that are available in the summer months.  Last year I had a huge stash of blueberries and blackberries in my fridge and realized that I wasn't going to be able to use them all before an out of town trip.  I put them all in a 2 gallon zipper freezer bag and spread them out as much as my freezer allowed, and they froze beautifully.  I figured that I could bake with them in the cold winter months when berries are sparse, imported from miles and miles away, and expensive.  But you know what?  I was busy over the cool weather months with apples and citrus and didn't really use my frozen berries.  So I was glad when I saw Dorie's Mixed Berry Cobbler on the list of recipes that I had not yet baked from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  It was the perfect time to use up some of that bounty from the freezer before this summer's berries were in full swing.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on the original host blog, Sweet Life Kitchen.

- I used the optional black pepper in the fruit mixture, and lots of lime zest.  Taking a cue from some previous Dorie fruit recipes, I also added a pinch of ginger.

- The topping is made with a biscuit method but it is then rolled out and applied like a pie crust. Because I used a deep baking dish rather than a pie pan but a deeper baking dish, I just tucked the circle of dough down on top of the berries.

- I was worried about my topping because it wouldn't hold together; it was extremely dry and crumbly.  I squished it together as best I could, put it in the oven and crossed my fingers.

-  The cobbler baked up golden on the outside and soft in the middle.  The berries had just the right amount of juiciness.

the verdict:

I served this just from the oven to my book group.  This dessert was a runaway hit with the group members.  The warm soft center of the biscuit topping was almost creamy, and combined perfectly with the berries and a bit of cold whipped cream.  One of my testers said, "This is a recipe I have GOT to have!" and she was very pleased to hear that it was a Dorie recipe, since she owns the book.  My only quibble is that the topping-to-berries was too high. Next time I make this, I will use more berries.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Florida Key Lime Pie with Toasted Coconut Crust (gluten-free)

Well, it's time for another Tuesdays With Dorie adventure, featuring recipes from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  The original TWD group baked all the recipes in the book, beginning the first Tuesday of 2008, and finishing on the final Tuesday of 2011.  I didn't join the group until July of 2008 so I'm baking the recipes that I missed.  This week it's a key lime pie that Dorie jazzes up with coconut elements, producing something she dubs "Florida Pie."

Lime and coconut are a classic flavor combination, one we've seen several times over the course of Tuesdays With Dorie.  [lime coconut cookies here, complete with " You Put the Lime in the Coconut" video(!), also lime coconut tea cake here]

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on the Florida pie post of the original host from 2008, Diane of Diane's Dishes.

-  This recipe has four elements: crust (Dorie calls for homemade or purchased graham cracker crust), coconut cream, key lime custard, and coconut meringue.  I made the middle two layers according to Dorie's recipe, and changed up the bottom and top layers.

- I made a full batch of the crust, coconut cream, and key lime custard

- I decided to make the pie into a tart, using a 6" spring-form pan.  The problem with this plan was that I didn't know how high to make the sides of the tart crust when I formed and blind baked it.  My crust ended up being pretty shallow so I couldn't fit very much of the filling layers. I used some of the extra filling to make a small tart and some ramekins.

- Instead of using a purchased graham cracker crust, I made a gluten free toasted coconut crust.  I've been experimenting with this crust, and I really like it with custard-type fillings.  The crust has large unsweetened coconut flakes, and they toasted in the oven as the crust baked. My spring-form pan leaked butter when the crust was baking but I didn't worry about that too much, and just made sure to set the pan on a plate once it came out of the oven.

-  Every time I make the crust it's a little different, but here's the basic recipe I've devised:
Gluten Free Cococnut Tart Crust
8 T butter
2 c/4 oz unsweetened coconut flakes (I use the big ones, chopping them a bit if necessary)
1/3 c (or less) sugar or palm sugar
1/3 c almond meal or ground almonds
1/3 - 1/2 c pecan pieces
1 egg
Melt the butter, then stir in the other ingredients.  Press into pie or tart pan. Bake at 375 degrees until browned and set, about 25 minutes.

- The recipe made a large quantity of the coconut cream layer, and I didn't end up using all of it.  Rather than sweetened coconut, I used shredded unsweetened coconut.

- For the lime layer, I used bottled key lime juice.  Luckily my buddy Leslie, of Lethally Delicious, who is a key lime snob, does permit the bottled stuff in a pinch.

- I did not make the meringue, instead I just piled on some unsweetened whipped cream.

the verdict:

This tart was a runaway hit at the barbecue - people were raving about the combination of the lime with the coconut crust.  Because I added the coconut crust, I think that the coconut cream layer was not as noticeable - or essential, even.  The key lime layer was amazing - tart and silky - a great contrast to the chewy toasted coconut in the crust.  I think the next time I bake this pie/tart, I'll skip the coconut cream layer and pile the key lime layer as deep as I can.  And to me the whipped cream was a perfect complement on the top.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

French Chocolate Brownies, regular and gluten-free

Hello readers!  Sorry for neglecting you lately.  I am here, still working my way through the final recipes of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours, even though this post is a little bit behind my self-imposed schedule.  

The upside of posting late is that now I have two versions of these brownies to talk about: regular and gluten-free.  I only have pictures of the gluten free, but if it weren't for needing pictures to put on this post then I'd have never made the gluten-free version.  This is what happened: I baked a full batch of Dorie Greenspan's French Chocolate Brownies for a neighborhood cookout.  It was only when I started this blog post that I realized that I had whisked the brownies to the cookout without taking any photos.  So I decided to bake them again, for photos (and for my book group)  But I didn't want to waste a baking opportunity to try something new: I thought I'd adapt the recipe to make it gluten-free.  There is so little flour in a brownie recipe anyway that I figured it would work. 

n.o.e.'s notes:

French Chocolate Brownies, Dorie's original version

-  The French Chocolate Brownies were the first pick of my baking buddy Di, of Di's Kitchen Notebook (back before I knew Di).  You can find the recipe on her brownie post.

-  I made a full recipe in an 8"x8" metal pan.  The recipe calls for raisins, rum-soaked then flambeed,  to be added to the batter. When TWD baked these brownies back in June 2008 there was a tempest of controversy about the raisins, but I wasn't about to omit the distinguishing ingredient of the recipe.  I've baked with Dorie's rum raisins before, and again this time the flambeeing was a bit anticlimactic.  The flames were half-hearted, but I guess they burned off most of the alcohol.  I chopped the raisins finely, so they'd be disguised, just in case there were any raisin haters in the group I was serving.

-  I omitted the cinnamon.

-  The brownies baked up nicely, with a dense crumb.  They looked just like a fudgy brownie usually looks, with that shiny, crackly, papery top (sorry I forgot the photo session).  The recipe makes a small pan of brownies, and they disappear quickly.  Just a heads up on that!

French Chocolate Brownies, Gluten Free version

-  When faced with making the recipe a second time I knew I wanted to experiment with gluten-free, so I sought a little guidance as to which gluten-free flour, or combination of flours to use.  On Shauna Ahern's Gluten Free Girl and The Chef blog I found this recipe, which is quite similar to Dorie's French Chocolate Brownies.  I figured I could take some clues from Shauna's recipe and combine them with Dorie's recipe and hope for the best.

-  Shauna's recipe uses teff flour, and I actually had a bag (unopened) of teff flour in my baking stash.  I bake gluten-free from time to time, and at one point I stocked up on different flours.  I was glad to actually try the teff flour.  For those of you unfamiliar with teff, it is a grass-type grain and is used in Ethiopian cuisine (I had to look it up).

-  I made 1/3 of Dorie's recipe which matched with 1/2 of Shauna's recipe, in terms of butter and egg.  Shauna has more flour and more sugar for the same amount of egg and butter.  I decided to "split the difference" on both ingredients.  I made sure to use an extra-large egg (67 grams including the shell) to make sure the brownies held together.  Instead of using some melted chocolate and some chocolate chips, as Shauna did, I used all melted chocolate, as Dorie did.  I would have used darker chocolate but 61% was the darkest I had on hand.  This time I skipped the rum + flames steps for the raisins, and plumped them in hot water before chopping them finely.  I also omitted Dorie's cinnamon and added vanilla extract. I omitted the chopped hazelnuts from Shauna's recipe.

-  I baked the brownies in a 7"x3" loaf pan. Here are the quantities and ingredients I used:

2 oz chopped chocolate (I used 61% dark chocolate)
2 oz butter at room temperature
33 g teff flour
pinch of salt
scant 1/8 cup golden raisins, plumped in hot water, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg (about 67 grams with shell, 60 grams without shell)
scant 1/2 cup sugar
handful of chopped nuts, hazelnuts or any other nut of choice (optional; I didn't include them, but I think they would be great in this recipe)
Follow the mixing and baking directions in Dorie's recipe.

-  I had a hard time judging done-ness of this recipe, even though I used the King Arthur Flour Divot Test.  The divot, which started out modest in size, turned itself into a crater when I wasn't looking.

-  One problem is the thick crust that formed on top of the brownies shattered when I tried to test the brownies, and came completely unattached when I cut them into pieces. 

-  These brownies were denser and fudgier than the original recipe; in fact they looked just like pieces of fudge (but with a crust on top).  They spent an overnight in the fridge to make them even firmer and more fudgy.

the verdict:

The brownies from the original recipe were a huge hit at the neighborhood cookout, especially with the host D's college-aged daughter M.  The next day D emailed me:
You should have heard M just now offer her friend one of the few remaining brownies—she is intrigued by what “fruit” is in them! 
(Little did she suspect they were raisins!)

The gluten-free batch was equally delicious; fudgy and chewy in texture with crispy edges and crusty tops (even if the bits of crust were completely separated from the brownies).  The bits of raisin provide fruity accents to the deep chocolate flavor.  I served this batch of brownies to book group, apologizing for the top crust issue, and my testers looked at me like I was demented. "Who cares about that?" they said, "They taste great!"  Proving once again that taste rules.

All in all, I'm thrilled that my gluten-free adaptation worked.