Posts tagged ‘baking’

Apple Crisp

Classic Apple Crisp

I visited the farmers market this weekend, walking the block between my home and the market at top speed, trying unsuccessfully to stay warm in the whipping winter winds.  I love that so many of the farmers markets here in Philadelphia have decided to hold winter markets, most every other week instead of weekly and for just an hour or two so the farmers don’t turn completely into icicles.  Being able to still buy local sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, kale, and apples directly from their growers is such a treat and a sure cure for the winter blues. 

Classic Apple Crisp Diptych

I purchased eight large russet-hued ‘Winesap” and a few bicolor ‘Honeycrisp’  apples, having a hard time counting out my bills with my numb fingers.  I didn’t really have a plan for them at that moment, but given apples keep for quite some time, I thought I’d just store them until I had a grand idea.  Once I got home though, I realized I didn’t want to dream up a wild creative dish for them.  Instead, all I really wanted was a simple delicious traditional Apple Crisp. 

Apple Crisp

Surprisingly, I don’t make fruit crisps very often so I didn’t have a go-to recipe already.   So, after a quick online search, I came across the one below.  It seemed ridiculously easy, I already had all the ingredients in the pantry, and the recipe got great reviews.  Away I went, peeling apples and crumbling the topping.  Indeed it was easy and delicious.  This is a keeper, though this particular crisp is likely to be gone real soon…

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December 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm 26 comments

Summer Fruit Cobbler

Summer Fruit Cobbler

Just in time for Labor Day, a perfect classic fruit cobbler recipe!

Black Berries

Somehow this summer has completely blown past me.  How did I displace the entire month of August?!  For that matter, what about July and June?  I guess this is just what happens when you launch your own business and handle every aspect of it yourself.  It’s been a fun summer though, full of beautiful flowers and new friendships with the lovely folks that buy them.   And since I now spend two days a week selling my blooms at farmers markets, I’ve been getting quite the assortment of fresh seasonal fruit from other farmers to bring home.   These guys have the best peaches.  And these guys have the most amazing Asian pears.  And these guys have to-die-for black berries. 

Summer Fruit

I’m still growing nearly all my own vegetables, but fruit, particularly anything growing on trees, is tough to manage in pots on the deck so I depend on getting to know a few key fruit growers to be sure I stay fully stocked with nature’s candy.  There have been two notable growing- fruit-in-a-pot successes this season though.   There were a half dozen of the most darling and delicious miniature melons.  Little Gem is an heirloom variety that was quite happy to climb up the lattice around our deck and dangle delicate melons from the vines without fear of them falling from their own weight.  The taste was sweet and superb. 

Summer Fruit

The other success story was the blueberries.  Last year I put a blueberry bush (‘Bluegold’) in a very large pot on the deck and crossed my fingers that it would make it through the winter in one piece.  Not only did it survive, it thrived!   I picked gobs of perfect blue orbs off it over the course of late June and July.  I had to protect the bush from marauding birds and squirrels by fitting it with a custom-made “shower cap” (row cover fleece with an elastic band sown around the bottom so I could put the fleece over the bush and secure it with the elastic around the pot).  

Take a bite

The berries went into my breakfast yogurt and pancakes mostly.   But I did save a pint of them specially to make a wonderful summer fruit cobbler.  This is just the perfect thing for a relaxing backyard get-together…perhaps you’re having one of those real soon for Labor Day.  It should be mandatory to serve it with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I won’t go so far as to dictate your entire dessert menu.  Peaches are at their peak still, but local blue berries might be hard to find.  The recipe is really just a blueprint for a cobbler that will showcase any combination of fruits.  Just stroll through your local farmers market and pick out what looks the most tempting and juiciest.  You really can’t go wrong. 

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August 29, 2010 at 9:30 pm 12 comments

Homemade Cream Puffs

Homemade Cream puffs

I’m so sorry I left you without a recipe for such a long time!   Especially considering the last post was a tease for this amazing recipe I have for Homemade Cream Puffs filled with Rhubarb Mascarpone Filling.  Considering rhubarb season is long gone at this point in late July,  I think I’ll just see if I can convince you all to make these delectable airy puffs and fill them with ice cream instead.  I have another batch in the oven right now for just that purpose. 

Cream Puffs with Rhubarb Filling

It’s been so hot here in Philadelphia that I can’t really bear to cook much.  Work in the market garden is really playing me out too so it’s been tough to sit down in front of the computer without dozing off.  Explanations aside though, it’s about time I got this recipe posted.   I got a tutorial on making cream puffs from my mom a few months back.  I had never made them, thinking they must be really tricky and the privilege of a finely trained pastry chef.  Turns out, I couldn’t have been more off the mark.

Plain cream puffs

My mom apparently has known the secret to making a good batch of cream puffs for a long time.  In fact, she apparently used to make them a lot when she was still keeping chickens in our backyard.  I guess I was a little too young to remember.  In any case, the trick is to use old eggs.   Something about the aging of the proteins in the eggs helps make them more stable for holding air in the center of the puffs.  I’m no food chemist so I can’t really explain it well.  Just trust me when I say I’ve made several batches of these at this point and never once have I had one collapse on me.   As my mom recalls, cream puffs were simply a good way to use up those extra eggs from the hens that had been languishing in the fridge for too long.    

Filling the puffs

According to my mom, cream puffs were a very vogue vehicle for serving food at parties back in the day, both savory and sweet.  Make them tiny or make them big, you can fill them with chicken salad, egg salad, dressed baby greens, cold cuts, cheeses… or got the sweet way and fill with ice cream, chocolate mousse,  baked fruit, or even jam swirled into fresh whipped cream.   I’ll be taking a batch of both savory and sweet ones to a picnic in a few weeks.  It’s time cream puffs were back in style!

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July 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm 8 comments

Roasted Rhubarb & Cream

Rhubarb

It’s much too hot to cook right now.  Philadelphia is in the midst of yet another heat wave, this one the worst yet for the summer.   So, I thought I’d delve into my aging drafts pile and pull out something I made about a month ago when I could still look at the stove without cringing.   Sadly, rhubarb is out of season for most of us now, but you might still find a few stray stalks at the farmers market, or you can just bookmark this preparation to try next spring. 

Chopped rhubarb

Roasted Rhubarb & Cream is really rather divine.  I made it a few times while my rhubarb plants were pumping out the tender red stalks.  Each time I tweaked the recipe until I came up with this final version.  And it’s not just the taste that had me smitten.  Something about pouring that heavy cool cream over the steaming garnet rhubarb with flecks of vanilla bean is, well, very sensual.

Cream over roasted rhubarb

Tasty in its own right, eaten with a spoon while it’s still warm, this concoction can also be blended to create a creamy sweet sauce or filling, thinned to the desired consistency with more or less cream.  I’ll show you next time how I used it to fill fluffy homemade cream puffs…. oh, what a tantalizing tease!

Rhubarb Cream Puffs

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July 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm 11 comments

Rhubarb Macarons

Eggs

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately {I have a lot of time to do that when weeding the garden} about what defines success in a person’s work.  I spent many years working in an intense corporate job where I earned a decent wage.  By most accounts, I was quite successful, being good at my job and making enough money to pay all the bills, occasionally treat myself to a few nice things, and beef up my savings account.   But I was so unhappy doing that work that I quit and started a whole new career tract, going back to school and becoming a poor student when I most certainly was at an age where being such was just barely do-able and certainly not desirable.   Can you really be that “successful” if you are at a place in your life where you need to take such risks to regain balance and even {if I dared to dream} some really happiness and satisfaction? 

Rhubarb

And now here I am on the other side of that leap of faith, a little out of breath from the effort, but really quite pleased with my progress towards establishing my own business and doing something that I find extremely gratifying.  My savings account is not nearly as beefy, and I find myself stuttering when I describe my “income” when I attempt to find some health insurance that would be even remotely affordable for the new entrepreneur.   I work 12 hours a day , six days a week, trying to make my well-laid plans a reality.  And I’ve been a bit saddened to have to let go of some hobbies I really loved {namely food blogging on a regular basis}.  But at the end of the day, I have a smile on my face.  A real, broad, toothy, genuine smile on my face.  I’ve never felt so healthy and creative.  I’m not able to give myself a paycheck yet, but I sure as hell feel rewarded and “successful”.  Is this enough though?   Frankly, I don’t think I can answer that question just yet. 

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May 24, 2010 at 10:40 am 7 comments

Chocolate Rhubarb Pots de Creme

Rhubarb Eggs and Cream

What a whirlwind of a spring it has been this year.  My life has changed so much in just a few short weeks, just like the weather.  I’ve always been in the garden as much as possible, but it was after work or on the weekends.  Now being in the garden is my work and my whole day, from dawn to dusk, mothering all my cut flower seedlings and transplants. 

Rhubarb coulis and dark chocolate

After many weeks of waiting, the sweet peas, sweet williams, calendulas, and yarrow  are rocketing up to put out their first tender buds. I’m battling the slugs like an angry mama bear to keep them from eating the baby shoots of my dearest dahlias.  And my back is nearly broke from hours of bending over to weed the beds of larkspur, poppies, and nigella I directly sowed into what appears to be a bottomless batch of weeds.  All this in the name of making beautiful bouquets for farmers markets and weddings.  I think it’s well worth it.  I know I couldn’t be happier than working in the garden and with flowers all day, especially those gloriously romantic pink peonies that are bursting into bloom right about now.  And it certainly doesn’t hurt that I get to snack on just-picked sugar snap peas that are scrambling up the garden fence too. 

Pots de Creme Diptych

Speaking of things well worth it, Dark Chocolate and Rhubarb Pots de Creme, are really quite something to be savored.   I tend to be a little leery of anything that involves  scalding milk.  Doesn’t it seem too much like tempting fate to burn the bejeezus out of the milk?  I just can’t usually see my way past this scary step to the final dish, but the thought of silky dark chocolate creme folded with that oh-so-versatile rhubarb coulis was enough to get me past my fear.  And the scalding bit really wasn’t all that bad.

Take a bite

The rhubarb whipped cream that tops these little pots is quite worth a try for donning any number of delightful dishes. The coulis and cream are a match made in heaven, like the fragrance of lilies of the valley and a warm spring breeze.  Its subtle pink blush just made me love it all the more.  Goodness, when did I become such a fan of girly pink?  So unlike me!  Perhaps it’s the bushels of ruby  rhubarb rubbing off on me. 

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May 17, 2010 at 8:56 pm 11 comments

Rhubarb Lemon Sponge Pie

Ingredients and Pie

Rhubarb has been piling up in my fridge as the plants in the garden go bonkers this spring.  It is absolutely amazing how fast these plants grow.  The crimson stalks seem to appear overnight and if left to their own devices for a week, they’ll triple in size!   Since I can’t possibly keep up with the harvest in “real time”, I have taken to making big jars of the rhubarb coulis that I included in the last post’s recipe.  The coulis lasts in the fridge for quite some time (so far three weeks) and is wonderful for so many dishes, including drizzled over a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.  Mmmm….  

Rhubarb Lemon Sponge Pie

Strawberries have somehow always been the most common pairing for rhubarb, but I would argue this is an injustice to the rhubarb since the strawberries really tend to mask the tart complexity of the rhubarb.  Still, having all this rhubarb around the house got me in the mood for pie.  At first I was going to settle for straight rhubarb pie, but as I was writing out my shopping list, I started thinking more about my favorite kinds of pie and why I like them.  I don’t particularly like pies with a crust on top; nor do I really like pies that have chunks and juices that act like strangers once you cut a slice.   My favorite pies all seem to be dense and custardy, probably thanks, at least in part, to growing up with my Grandmother’s amazing pumpkin pie.

Rhubarb Lemon Sponge Pie Triptych

So, once I realized that a straight rhubarb pie was going to yield a pie that wasn’t, on principle, really to my liking consistency-wise, I decided to think about using the rhubarb coulis in some sort of custard pie instead.   Unlike strawberries, lemons seemed a good teammate for this pie project since they compliment the rhubarb’s natural flavors.  Lemon sponge pie is my go-to pie for any time I need a quick dessert to take to a potluck or to have on hand for company.  Adapting it to add the rhubarb coulis was easy…as pie. 

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May 6, 2010 at 6:52 am 8 comments

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