Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Concord Grape Pie

I married into this pie - so to speak - and oh, I'm so glad I did. You've probably never heard of a grape pie - it does sound weird, doesn't it? But if you can find Concord grapes where you are, you should make this. It's like grape juice in pie form, and it's delicious. It tends toward the sweet, so it's best with vanilla ice cream or, in a pinch, whipped cream.

Concord grapes have a really short season here in Seattle, so grab the grapes when you see them! The season is usually sometime in September, but the weather has been so weird this year that I'm keeping an eye out now. Alas, Concord grapes are not seedless, so you have to get the seeds out of them before you can make the pie. Just put on some comfy shoes and some good music and you'll be done in no time!

Grape Pie
serves 6-10

1 ½ pounds (~4 cups) Concord grapes
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Bottom Crust:
Your favorite crust, homemade or store-bought

Top Crust:
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter

Filling: Slip skins from grapes (just squeeze them and the insides will eject); set skins aside. Bring pulp to a boil; reduce heat &simmer for approx. 5 minutes (until grapes fall apart). Press pulp through sieve to remove seeds; addskins to pulp.

Combine sugar, flour, and salt; add to grapes. Add lemon juice and butter; mix well. Pour into pie shell.

Crust: sift flour and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over pie.

Bake at 400° about 40 minutes, until the top crust is just getting color around the outer inch or so.

Bonus: if you want to be able to make this pie when the grapes are not in season, you can can the filling in a hot water canner - just omit the flour and butter. When you open the jar to make the pie, stir in the flour, and then add the butter and dump the whole thing into the pie crust. It works great!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Cream Pie - for Mikey

Sunday night, my Twitter stream sort of blew up with shock and sadness - I didn't know exactly what happened until Monday morning, but the food blogging community was reeling from the sudden loss of Mikey Perillo. His wife, Jennifer, is big in the food world.  I didn't read her blog, or follow her on Twitter, but I knew of her nonetheless. I knew she had young kids, and I was stunned by the news.

Later in the week, she posted about how fleeting life can be, and reminded us to treasure our loved ones while we can - don't put off loving them until tomorrow, because tomorrow is not guaranteed to arrive.  She asked that people make Mikey's favorite pie on Friday, and that we share it with people we love, because she'll never get to share it with him again.

So I did.  Peanut butter cream pie is not my husband's favorite (though I'm pretty sure he'll like it), so I'll make his favorite pie in the next few days.  For today, though, we have this pie, and we have each other and our son. And even though there are still things we long for in our life, today we'll remember to be thankful for life and love and the abundance we have been given.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry Hand Pies


Today is my husband’s birthday (happy birthday, honey!), and he is a pie guy. He’d much rather have pie than cake, most of the time.  Conveniently, it’s also Pie Party day!

I love making small pies, especially strawberry – I love the flavor of the cooked, jammy strawberries, I love that everyone gets more crust, and I love that I don’t have to try to get the slices to hold together!

We just got back from camp yesterday, and I was running short on time and energy (camp is SO fun and SO exhausting), so I used store-bought crusts.  I used one Pillsbury and one from Grand Central Bakery here in Seattle, and the Grand Central ones held up MUCH better than the Pillsbury ones – I know which I’ll keep in my freezer from now on!


I got this fun little mini-pie maker a couple of months ago.  It’s supposed to make the pies round, with the filling area star-shaped, but the star shaping gets lost in the baking process.  I don’t really care – it’s still pretty fun and easy to use.  It has a cookie-cutter side to cut the dough, and is hinged to press the crust pieces together with the filling inside.


Strawberry Hand Pies
from Martha Stewart
Makes 8-10 pies


  • roughly 3 cups strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered, depending on the size of the strawberry
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • Pre-made pie crusts for 2 double-crust pies (4 rounds of store-bought crust)
  • 1 egg
  • water
  • sanding sugar (optional; can also use granulated sugar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Stir together the strawberries, sugar, and corn starch in a medium bowl.  Let sit while you prepare the crusts.
  3. Cut an even number of 5-inch rounds from the crusts.
  4. Put about 2 Tablespoons of filling in the middle of half of the rounds.
  5. Brush the edges of the filled rounds with egg wash.
  6. Top each filled round with another unfilled round.  Press and crimp the edges to seal.  Place the pies on the prepared cookie sheets.
  7. Cut a vent in each round.
  8. Brush each pie with more egg wash, and sprinkle with the sanding sugar.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Keeps in sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oatmeal Scones


I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’m not really a scone fan.  Even if they have good flavor, they tend to be dry and crumbly and just… disappointing.  I figured this was how scones were supposed to be, and that they just weren’t my thing. So I’d pretty much given up on them until I tried these.  My friend Rebecca made them for a baby shower and – knowing that she makes good food – I tried one.  Well!  They were anything BUT disappointing, and I smuggled one home in my purse.

Turns out I’d had the recipe for YEARS, as it’s in a 2003 issue of Cook’s Illustrated!  I made them a couple of weeks ago, and they’re easy and really good.   Not dry and crumbly!  I don’t think they need anything on them and will happily eat them plain, but my husband and son liked them with jam or honey.  I was hoping these would be healthy enough to make a batch a week and have one for breakfast every morning, but… I plugged the ingredients into an online nutritional calculator, and let’s just say that health food they are NOT. Despite the oatmeal.  Alas.

Make them anyway, though!  Just not for every day.  They keep well, too, if you don’t eat them all the day they’re made.

Oatmeal Scones
from Cook’s Illustrated, Sept/Oct 2003
Makes 8 scones

  • If you use King Arthur flour (or another higher-protein brand of flour), ad an additional 1-2 Tbsp milk.
  • You can substitute half-and-half for the milk/cream mixture (I did).
1 1/2 cups (4.5 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (2.25 oz) sugar, plus 1 Tbsp for sprinkling
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  1. Preheat oven (with rack in middle position) to 375°.  Spread oats evenly on a baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 7-9 minutes (it took me more like 10-11 minutes).  Cool on wire rack.  Increase oven temperature to 450°.  Line second baking sheet with parchment paper.  When oats are cooled, measure out 2 Tbsp and set aside.
  2. Whisk milk, cream, and egg in a large measuring cup until incorporated.  Remove 1 Tbsp to a small bowl and reserve for glazing.
  3. Pulse flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined, about 4 1-second pulses.  Scatter cold butter evenly over dry ingredients and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, 12-14 1-second pulses.  Transfer mixture to medium bowl; stir in cooled oats.  Using rubber spatula, fold in liquid ingredients until large clumps form.  Mix dough by hand in bowl until dough forms cohesive mass.
  4. Dust work surface with half of reserved oats.  Turn dough out onto work surface and dust top with remaining oats.  Gently pat into 7-inch circle about 1 inch thick.  Using bench scraper or chef’s knife, cut dough into 8 wedges and set on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing pieces about 2 inches apart.  Brush surfaces with reserved egg mixture and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar (you can use sanding or decorator’s sugar here, if you have it).  Bake until golden brown, 12-14 minutes.  Cool scones on baking sheet on wire rack for 5 minutes, then move scones to cooling rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes (or, y’know, don’t.  They were wonderful warm!).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate-Cinnamon Challah


On Saturday, I had the fun of participating in the Food Blogger Bake Sale.  Food bloggers all over the country were putting on bake sales, benefiting Share Our Strength – a great organization whose goal is ending childhood hunger.

It was a TON of fun – I got to meet so many local food bloggers!  We were at the Uptown Metropolitan Market and lots of people came and bought our wares.  We had all sorts of goodies – cake pops, cookies galore, homemade marshmallows, cashew bacon brittle (really good), whoopie pies, cobbler, cake in jars (!) (courtesy of the lovely and crafty Megan of Not Martha), brownies – lots and lots of yum.

My contribution was my chocolate-cinnamon challah, something I’ve been playing with for a year or so now.  It’s basically poor-man’s babka, which is where I got the idea.  I didn’t take any home with me, so I think it was a hit!

NB: “Challah” doesn’t start with the usual “ch” sound – it’s closer to “HA-la.”  If you can do that back-of-the-throat sound like at the end of “Bach,” so much the better!

NB2: The basic challah freezes beautifully and makes FANTASTIC French toast and bread pudding.  Can’t be beat.


Basic Challah Recipe
Adapted slightly from Bria
Makes 2 large or 3 medium loaves

6 – 7 cups all-purpose flour
6 tsp (2 Tbsp) active dry yeast (not quite 3 packages)
½ C sugar
1 ½ t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 C hot tap water
4 whole eggs (preferably at room temperature), plus 1 egg yolk (save the white! you’ll need it later.)
Splash of milk
Oil for the bowl

  1. Combine 2 cups of flour with the yeast, sugar, and salt stand mixer fitted with the paddle and stir well.
  2. Add softened butter and stir again. It will look like wet sand, not a cohesive mass. 
  3. Add the hot tap water and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes until well mixed and elastic.
  4. Add the eggs & yolk, and 1 ½ cups more flour. Beat at high speed for 1 minute or until thick and elastic.
  5. Switch to the dough hook attachment, and stir in the remaining 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups of flour.  (The first time you make this, go for 3 cups.  As you make it more, you’ll have a better idea of your preferences and you’ll know the dough better, and will be better able to gauge how much flour is necessary.) 
  6. Once the flour is incorporated, knead for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.  I usually let my mixer to the kneading first, then move it to a floured surface and finish it by hand. You can keep adding flour as you knead, so the dough doesn’t stick to my hands or the counter.  I go by the windowpane test to know when it’s kneaded enough.
  7. Wash and oil the mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, turn it over once to ensure it’s well-coated, and cover with a clean dish towel for 20 minutes. The dough will swell slightly, but do not expect an overtly visible change.
  8. There are lots of ways to shape your loaves – braids are traditional.  I do 6-part braids (it’s easier than it sounds, I promise!), and I use a digital scale and a bench scraper so everything is even.  Start by dividing it into two equal pieces (or three, or however many loaves you want to make). Place one piece on your work surface and set the others aside, keeping them covered with a towel or plastic wrap.  Divide your working dough into however many pieces you need, and roll each piece into a long snake.    Try to get the snakes roughly the same length and thickness.  You don’t need to be all that gentle with it – this dough is meant to be played with!  Press the snakes together at one end and get to braiding!  Here’s a great video for the 6-strand braid, or you can to simpler 3- or 4-strand braids. Whichever you choose, when you’re done braiding, tuck the ends underneath the loaf and move it to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with other parts of the dough. 
  9. You can either bake immediately or cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.  When you are ready to bake, remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them begin to come to room temperature while you heat the oven to 355 (approximately 10-15 minutes). Beat the egg white in a small dish with splash of milk and gently brush over the loaves. Bake them for 35-40 minutes, slightly less if you went with three loaves as they will be smaller. When they are done, the loaves will be a rich, golden brown and will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.


      Upgrading Basic Challah to Chocolate-Cinnamon Challah

      Chocolate-Cinnamon Filling

      1 lb semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips*)
      1 Tbsp cinnamon
      1/2 cup sugar
      3/4 stick butter (6 Tbsp), cut into 1-inch pieces

      This is most easily done in the food processor – put the chocolate in first and grind it until it’s finely chopped.  Add in the cinnamon and sugar and combine thoroughly.  Add in the butter and mix well but don’t liquefy it.
      *If you use mini chocolate chips, you can skip the food processor altogether and just mix everything together, adding the butter last.

      Adding the Filling
      1. Make the basic challah dough through step 7, and make the chocolate-cinnamon filling.  Divide the dough as above, making your dough snakes.  Using a rolling pin, flatten one snake at a time.  Make the dough quite thin, and roughly rectangular. Try to keep it roughly the length it was before you started rolling it out.
      2. Sprinkle some chocolate filling evenly over the dough, leaving about a half-inch strip along one long edge. (I just eyeball the amount of filling needed – half of the batch per loaf, divided by the number of strands I’m braiding plus one, so that I have some left to put on the outside of the loaves.)   Press the filling into the dough.
      3. Roll the snake back up like a skinny cinnamon roll, pressing it together after each roll.  Pinch the seam to stick it together.  Set aside and repeat for remaining snakes.
      4. Sprinkle the little bit of remaining filling on your work surface and put your snakes down for braiding.  Braid the dough, pressing the little bits of filling to the outside as you go.  Use up all that filling!  (If you run out of filling for the outside, you can toss some mini chocolate chips in cinnamon and put those on the outside.  I like to have an external indicator of the internal goodness.)
      5. Repeat with remaining dough, and continue with step 9 above.  Slice and enjoy!  It also freezes beautifully.  I haven’t tried making bread pudding with it, but I bet it would be amazing!

      Saturday, April 16, 2011

      Socks! Finished Socks!

      Hey, lookit that!  I finished a whole pair of socks!  It only took me a year (or more, maybe…) and 2 3 4 start-overs.  Turns out I have really, really loose gauge.  I hadn’t noticed just how loose it was, because I tend to make things that don’t depend on gauge, but my sock attempts kept turning out HUGE.  These were knit on size 2 needles even though the pattern calls for size 5.  Yeah.  But once I figured that out and decided to, y’know, actually swatch for socks, it was smooth sailing.

      And I cast on my second pair (a different pattern) approximately 8 hours after finishing this pair, so it seems I’ve caught the sock-knitting bug (cue groans from my husband as he anticipates more money being spent on yarn)...

      Speaking of yarn – this is lovely stuff.  It’s Rios by Malabrigo, a Superwash Merino, roughly worsted weight.  I love the colorway, and it’s a dream to knit up.  Highly recommended!

      Monday, March 28, 2011

      Hazelnut Muffins, with Teff Flour


      These muffins are from Kim Boyce’s much-heralded Good to the Grain, and they are lovely.  I’d never used teff flour before, but I’ll definitely continue to use it!  It has sort of a delicate grassy flavor that is faintly sweet.  It’s wonderful in these muffins!

      The only thing I’d like to change about these muffins is the body-to-topping ratio.  There was too much topping for the 12 muffins I got (you can see how much of it fell off – and the recipe was only supposed to yield 10 muffins!) and at the same time, there wasn’t enough of it for each bite of muffin.  I think next time I’ll fold half of the topping into the batter and see how that works out.


      Hazelnut Muffins
      from Good to the Grain

      1 stick unsalted butter
      1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, skins on, chopped into rough halves
      1/2 tsp kosher salt

      For topping:
      1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, skins on, finely chopped
      1/4 cup sugar
      1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
      1/2 tsp cinnamon

      For muffins:
      Dry mix:
      1 cup whole wheat flour
      3/4 cup teff flour
      1/2 cup all-purpose flour
      1/2 cup sugar
      1 Tbsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp kosher salt

      Wet mix:
      1 cup buttermilk
      1/2 cup plain yogurt
      2 eggs
      1 tsp vanilla extract

      Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease muffin tins with butter or cooking spray.

      Place the butter, hazelnuts, and salt in a small heavy-bottomed pan and cook over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally and watching for the edges of the nuts to turn golden brown.  Remove the pan from the flame before the nuts get too brown, as they will continue to cook in the hot butter.  Pour them into a bowl to cool down.

      In a small bowl, stir together the topping ingredients. Set aside.

      Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. (This is where I'd fold in about half of the topping, after combining the other ingredients.)

      Pour the hazelnuts and their butter over the dry ingredients, and then pour the buttermilk mixture over the top of that.  Using a spatula, mix together the wet and dry ingredients.

      Scoop the batter into 10-12 muffin cups.  The batter should be mounded above the edges of the cups.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter, gently pressing it into the batter so it adheres.

      Bake for 22-26 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Let cool on a rack in the pan until they’re cool enough to handle. Remove each muffin from its cup and set it on its side in the cup to cool (this will keep them from getting soggy).

      Tuesday, March 8, 2011



      Happy Fat Tuesday!  In Swedish, “Fat Tuesday” is “Fettisdag,” and the traditional treat is a Fettisdagbullar – also known as Semla (Semlor if you’re talking about more than one).  Semlor are cardamom bread rolls filled with an almond paste mixture and topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar, and they are GOOOOD.


      I go to a church that is of Swedish extraction, so we have a number of Real Swedish cookbooks between us.  A group of us got together to make these (after buying them the previous 3 years), and we noticed that all of the Real Swedish Recipes call for fresh yeast – and a lot of it!  That’s hard to find, so we found another recipe on allrecipes.com and went with it.

      We think this recipe is good, but it needs more cardamom.  The rolls are nice and cardamom-y when eaten plain, but once you add the filling the cardamom is drowned out.  Otherwise, these are perfect!  They aren’t hard to make, and they’re a lovely treat.



      makes 16-20
      from allrecipes.com

      For dough:
      2 eggs
      2/3 cup butter, melted
      1 1/2 cups warm milk (70-80°F)
      2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast

      5 c all-purpose flour, plus 1 more cup later
      1/2 c granulated sugar
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 tsp ground cardamom (next time I'll add about 1/2 tsp. more, or use freshly ground!)
      4 tsp baking powder

      For filling/topping:
      1/2 c milk
      5 oz. almond paste
      2 cups whipping cream
      2 Tbsp granulated sugar
      confectioner’s sugar for dusting

      In a large bowl, mix the milk, eggs, and butter.  Sprinkle the yeast over this mixture and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk or sift together 5 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, the salt, and the cardamom.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of flour and the baking powder; set aside.

      Stir the milk mixture, then add the flour-sugar-cardamom mixture to it.  Stir until a soft dough forms.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.

      After it's risen, stir in the reserved flour mixture and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough comes is smooth (you're looking for "windowpanes," if you're familiar with breadmaking).

      Cut dough into 16-20 pieces and form into balls.  Place the balls on greased baking sheets, cover with towels or plastic wrap, and let rise until roughly doubled, 30-45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375°.

      Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool.

      Once cool, slice off the top (about 1/2" thick at center).  Cut or scoop out the centers of the rolls, leaving a shell about a 1/2" thick around the edges.  Tear the centers into small pieces and add up to 1/2 cup of milk, to moisten.  Stir in the almond paste until smooth.  Add more milk as needed, until the filling is as soft as pudding.

      Spoon the filling back into the bread shells (you may have extra; I won't tell if you eat it with a spoon, because that's certainly not what I did...).  Whip the cream with 2 Tbsp sugar.  Pipe or spoon the whipped cream onto the rolls, nice and high.  Replace the "lids" of the bread.  Just before serving, dust the whole thing with confectioner's sugar.

      Wednesday, February 16, 2011

      Arabic Spice Cake

      This is one of my family’s very favorite cakes.  My dad and my brother request it for pretty much every birthday, and we’ve been known to eat it for breakfast simply because we can’t resist.  It’s an old family recipe (which probably means my Nana found the original in a magazine 50-odd years ago) and I’ve never tasted anything similar.  It’s a mocha spice cake, but not your usual spice cake, either.  I don’t know why it’s supposedly “Arabic,” but it is really, really good.


      The original cake recipe tends to get dry easily, so I’ve tweaked it somewhat and made it a little moister.  The frosting is another story – it’s a mocha frosting, and the original recipe calls for raw egg yolks, which of course is a no-no these days.  My mom and I make the frosting slightly differently every time we make it, because it’s one of those that you can get right only by tasting it.  This time the frosting was perfect, but of course I didn’t write down exactly what I did!  So I’ve given guidelines below, but I’m sure I’ll change it next time I make it.


      Arabic Spice Cake
      adapted from my Nana’s recipe

      (original source unknown)

      3/4 c butter (room temperature)
      1-1/2 c sugar
      2 whole eggs
      2 egg yolks
      1 Tbsp vegetable oil

      Dry ingredients:
      1-3/4 c all-purpose flour
      1/4 tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp baking soda
      3/4 tsp salt
      3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
      1 tsp cinnamon
      2 Tbsp cocoa powder

      Wet ingredients:
      3/4 c buttermilk
      1 tsp vanilla

      1 tsp lemon extract (I have also successfully used 1 tsp lemon juice, since I’d run out of lemon extract)

      1/2 c finely chopped walnuts

      Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

      In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and vegetable oil.  In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  In a third bowl (or liquid measuring cup), mix together the wet ingredients.

      Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with two batches of the buttermilk mixture, beating until just combined after each.

      Fold in the walnuts.

      Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center is just clean.  Do not overbake or it will be dry.  Cool in pans on rack for 15-20 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

      Frosting (A Guideline)
      1 cup butter, room temperature
      3-4 Tbsp natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-process, and sift it if it’s lumpy)
      1.5-2 lbs powdered sugar
      Really strong coffee/espresso – I use approx. 2 Tbsp espresso powder in 4 Tbsp hot tap water.  I’ve also used Starbucks Via packets with great success.
      Pinch salt

      In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter until it’s glossy.  Add 3 Tbsp cocoa, approx. 1lb of powdered sugar, and the pinch of salt.  Beat until combined.  Add about 3/4 of the coffee.

      Here’s where it becomes more guideline than recipe: from this point on, you’re trying to get both the flavor (strong coffee and strong chocolate – you don’t want the predominant flavor to be “sweet”) and the texture right.  So you’ll add more of the cocoa, powdered sugar, coffee, and milk as you aim for that balance.  I’ve also used chocolate syrup with success, when I wanted more chocolate flavor but I didn’t want it to get any drier.

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