Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strawberry Pie


I may have mentioned once or twice that I am not a huge fan of pie. I can't really put my finger on why, perhaps it is all that baked fruit that is just better off fresh or the crust that seems like a waste to me since it is normally tasteless and soggy. I would rather take a piece of cake or a scoop of ice cream any day. I am not inherently against fruit desserts, however, I do like tarts and fruit ice creams, but I guess I'm just not big on the baked fruit with crust variety.

Aaron, on the other hand, loves pies. Lucky for me, he loves any dessert so he is happy to eat the cakes and cupcakes that I make. This weekend, however, I decided to make a rare pie--partly because Aaron likes pie and I rarely make them and partly because we had a quart of strawberries that were beginning to meet their end. Instead of opting for a normal pie that it made in a pie pan, creating a deep crust and layer of fruit I made a galette--basically a French style pie that isn't made in a pie pan. If I am going to eat pie, strawberry or another berry is my preference (or maybe peach) and these strawberries were delicious! The crust is also amazingly delicious and easy, possibly the best crust I've ever had. It is nice and flaky, not at all soggy and just sweet enough to be worth eating. With a sprinkling of sugar on top, it is pretty close to perfect.

Strawberry Pie
from What Geeks Eat

Crust:
1 c. flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 T sugar
1/4 t. salt
6 T. butter
1/3 c. water
1 T. buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream (I used buttermilk)

Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Put the butter into the food processor, in small bits, and pulse again until it is chopped, but still in chunks. Mix the buttermilk and water in a separate bowl and slowly dribble into the food processor as you pulse until the dough starts to clump (you may not use it all). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.

Dust the countertop with flour and roll the dough into a circle, approximately 15 inches in diameter. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

Filling
2 pints strawberries
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 t. vanilla

Remove the heads from the strawberries and cut into pieces about the size of your thumb. Add the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch and stir until combined. Pour the filling into the center of the crust leaving about a three inch border. Fold the borders over onto the pie, brush them with cold water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.



Sunday, May 23, 2010

A master (of art history?)


Today was graduation. I received my MA in Art and Architectural History (I know, you are about to ask "what are you planning to do with that?") And, my response is, I will be moving on to get a PhD in Art and Architectural History.

My mom flew in for the ceremony and Aaron was there, of course. We only went to the departmental portion where we actually receive our diplomas. I figured that I'll force everyone to sit through the entire thing when I receive my PhD. It is an extra incentive for me to finish :) Originally, everyone thought it would rain today and we would have to move the ceremony inside. Instead, it was blazing hot and we were miserably warm in our black, polyester robes. I guess it is hard to really be comfortable in those robes though.

So, I suppose this sort of ends my year of thesis research and writing. Although, I guess it never truly ends since I will be sort of continuing with the same general topic for my dissertation...at least I think.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Possibly the best (and easiest) chocolate cake


I was invited to a dinner party at my friend’s house earlier this week and I brought a dessert. We had quite a feast with shrimp, chicken, salad, pesto-pasta, ratatouille, unicorn cookies (!), two rhubarb crisps and half of a birthday cake. I decided to bring this cake because a) my friend loves chocolate cake and b) I try to always try out a new recipe when I make things ( I have a huge file of “to try” recipes so I can’t afford to make things twice).

I think I might break my rule, though and make this one again. It was pretty tasty!



Chocolate cake with Chocolate Glaze

1 ¼ c. plus 1 T brewed coffee
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 ¼ c. sugar
1 ¼ t. salt
2 ½ t. baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 ¼ cups plus 1 T buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 T canola oil
1 ½ t vanilla
2 ½ cups plus 2 T all purpose flour

Glaze:
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
¾ c. unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
½ c. sour cream ,room temp
¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled


Place oven rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degree. Grease and flour 10 inch bundt pan. For cake batter:
-put coffee and cocoa powder in small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking often. Remove from heat and cool to room temp.
-in the bowl of a stan mixer with a whisk attachement mix together the sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk  on low for about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla on low again for about one minute. Add the flour and mix on medium for 2 minutes. Add the cooled cocoa mix and beat on medium for about three minutes. Pour into the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour.

Let the cake cool completely.

For the glaze: chop the chocolate and put in a double boiler to melt. Melt the butter in a separate dish and whisk into the chocolate. Sift in half of the powdered sugar and then add the sour cream, whisking until combined. Sift in the remaining powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Stir in the coffee until the mixture is shiny.
Pour over the cake.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Step One


I am visiting home this weekend because my brother graduated from college today--woohoo! He is officially a college graduate and will be heading to Princeton Theological Seminary for his masters this fall. It has been a busy weekend so far: graduation brunch, graduation, graduation lunch (mmm, steak) and various family activities in between. Who knows what we will be up to next...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Joe!


I thought I'd share these pics of Joe--we went to the farmer's market on Saturday and took him along. He has finally mastered the "puppy push-up" where, on command, he goes from sitting to lying down and back to sitting (repeat). It is pretty funny!

Pretty, Sparkly Cupcakes


One of Aaron's labmates is having a baby in a matter of weeks or days (or hours, who knows) and I will take any excuse to make cupcakes, so I broke out my cupcake pan this weekend for the occasion. Since she is having a girl I decided to make them slightly pink with sparkly white sprinkles on top.

The cupcakes themselves are the standard chocolate that i always make and the icing is a new seven minute frosting recipe I found. Seven minute frosting is great because it has no butter so it is very light and not too sweet. This one is especially tasty, I think I'll use it again.

Joy the Baker's Seven Minute Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1/4 c. water

Mix all ingredients in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water. Using an electric mixer, beat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm. Remove from heat and mix until thick and fluffy, about seven minutes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tahini!


When I was little, I loved my Grandma's potato salad. Now, when I eat it I think that it is a little bit bland (shhh), but i still love potatoes. I recently encountered this much lighter, fresher and healthier potato salad that uses no mayonnaise or mustard and instead uses tahini plus lots of vegetables.

It is delicious! I recommend that everyone make it immediately.

It is also very simple and I'm sure could be modified with whatever you have on hand. It allowed us to use up the rest of our weekly produce.

Potato salad with watercress, radish and cucumber
adapted from La tartine gourmande

1 lb. yukon gold potatoes
sea salt and pepper
5 pink radishes, sliced very thin
1 cup cucumber, sliced very thin
8 asparagus tips, chopped roughly
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1/2 T. sugar
handful of watercress leaves

Dressing:
3 T. olive oil
1 T. tahini
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper

-boil potatoes. when cool, peel and slice in thick slices.
-put cucumbers into a colander with a pinch of salt. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to release excess water. Put them in a large bowl with the radishes. 
-Mix the rice vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and stir with the radishes and cucumbers.
-In a frying pan, heat 1 T. olive oil. Add the asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes.
-In a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper, then whisk together lemon juice and mustard. Add the 3 T. olive oil and the tahini and whisk well. 
-Toss the potatoes into the large bowl of cucumbers and radishes, add the asparagus and coat with the dressing. Add the watercress and serve.


In other news, the weather has been really nice here lately and this weekend we took Joe to a nearby park where he could run around without his leash. We were walking around near a lake and all of a sudden Joe, who was walking in front of us, just kept walking right into the lake. It was like he didn't know there was a difference between land and water, but once he was in the water he was perfectly happy until we started yelling at him to get out, which he did and shook his wet fur all over. Good to know he can swim if necessary.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The first produce of the season


This year we decided to join a local CSA for produce. We wanted to do it last year, but since I was in Italy all summer it was kind of unrealistic for Aaron to get it all alone every week. Last week, we picked up our first delivery which consisted of a variety of leafy green vegetables as well as radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, honey and a bunch of other delicious vegetables. For most of the things, we had a bunch of great ideas for recipes, but I was sort of at a loss for rhubarb. I pretty much hate rhubarb. My memories of rhubarb consist of my grandma making various rhubarb pie-like dishes, which seemed to me a way to sort of hide the gross, stringy texture of rhubarb.

So, when confronted with rhubarb, knowing that Aaron likes pie (and I don't) I figured this sort of dessert was the best way to go. I consulted Bon Appetit, which has a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble this month. I have to say, it was fine, if you like enjoy fruit pie-like desserts (read: crisps, crumbles, etc). I still feel like the recipe was using strawberries to mask rhubarb, but whatever--Aaron ate the whole thing, so I guess it was a success on some level.

The recipe follows, I am certain the crumble could successfully be made with other fruit. The sugar could also be cut significantly, this recipe was very sweet:

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Bon Appetit

3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
6 T. butter cut in to 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup husked hazelnuts, toasted, chopped coarsely
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 pound strawberries, halved
12 oz. rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces


Topping:
Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt in a bowl. Add butter. Mix with fingers until in medium sized chunks. Mix in oats and nuts.


Preheat oven to 375. Butter a ceramic or glass baking dish. Pour 1/2 c. sugar into a large bowl and mix with fruit. Pour the prepared fruit inside the prepared baking dish. Pour the topping on top of the fruit. Bake crumble for about 45 minutes, cool for about 15 minutes.