Saturday, March 27, 2010

Peach, Raspberry and Blackberry Pie

I am not a huge pie person. I pass on the pumpkin pie at during thanksgiving, and when we get a lemon meringue one for my grandmothers birthday I generally stick with the ice cream portion of the dessert. But sometimes you just really want a slice. In college when that happened, we would all pile into the car and head to Banning's, the 24 hour diner down the road. They had one of those revolving pie cases, and if you were lucky you could get someone to get the chocolate pie and you would get the peanut butter pie and share them both, making the pie version of a reese's cup. Now that Banning's is just under 3,000 miles away, I need a new way to get my pie fix, so I thought I would try my hand at baking one myself, plus I really wanted to make one of those snazzy lattice tops. I made this pie, it uses frozen fruit so you don't have to be constrained by silly things like seasons. I made the crust, but by all means use store bought if you want to, I probably will next time. Also, this is neither here nor there, but I just tried some Trader Joe's Goat Milk Brie and it was quite tasty, and very creamy straight out of the fridge, unlike the regular brie we get. I would recommend it. That is all.

Grab your frozen fruit, you want it to be thawed and as dry as you can get it otherwise your pie will get soggy.

Toss it all together with some sugar, flour, spices and lemon zest.

Then grab your pie crust and plop it in the pan.

Add the fruit, mine looked like it wouldn't all fit, but I piled it up and it worked just fine, although some juice bubbled out when I baked it. Next, you have to make a very difficult decision regarding what top you would like your pie to have. You could do the turtleneck of the pie world and have it completely covered, just make sure to cut vents in it. Or you could do the slightly more risque lattice top, which is actually quite easy to do, if you have ever taken an elementary school art class. Or you could cut out shapes and place them on top.

After you make that tricky decision, brush all exposed pie dough with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Place pie on a cookie sheet to catch any drips and bake.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coffee Cheesecake Brownies

I had this fabulous idea to make mocha brownies, and because bigger is better, I decided that I should not only make brownies, but I should make cheesecake topped brownies, with coffee flavored cheesecake. Brilliant I know. In fact so brilliant that a bunch of other people apparently had the same idea. It wasn't quite as disappointing as when I found out that Caribou Coffee is a ginormous chain (so I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but seriously, I had only ever seen one in my entire life, until I switched planes in the Minneapolis airport and passed like 4 on my way to my gate) but still, it turns out that I am not a culinary genius/super innovator just yet. That wont keep me from trying though, I have big plans for a whole assortment of cheesecake brownies, raspberry ones, carmel ones, lime ones (Nigella has a great chocolate lime cheesecake that I plan on using for those), peanut butter ones..... Anyways, I must confess something, I love brownies from boxes. Generally I would rather use a box than make them from scratch. My very favorite brownie mix was the generic Safeway one. Tragically, they do not make it any longer and I have yet to find my a new favorite, I am taking suggestions if anyone knows of a spectacular mix.

Start by making your favorite brownies, be it from a box or scratch, I added some of the super strong coffee I made for the cheesecake to the brownie batter, about 1/8 cup worth to bump up the mocha factor.

Next make your cheesecake. I adapted this recipe.

Now, put the brownie batter in the pan, but not all of it, don't really scrape out the bowl just yet, we want to have some batter left to dollop on top of the cheesecake so it looks pretty.

Pour the cheesecake over the batter and spread it out so it covers the entire pan. Then dollop the remaining the brownie batter around on top of the cheesecake. Take a knife and swirl the brownie around to make the pretty patterns.

Bake for about half an hour, you want the brownie bit to be done and the cheesecake bit to be set.

Coffee Cheesecake Brownies
1 batch of brownie batter (enough for a 9x13 pan)
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
about 1/4 cup very strong coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350, grease a 9x13 pan
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until well blended. Add the coffee and vanilla, mix well. You want to be able to taste the coffee in this mix, I started with a small bit and kept adding until it tasted coffee-ey enough to me. I had some coffee left so I tossed it in the brownie batter. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Spread almost all of the brownie batter in the pan. Top with the cheesecake mixture, spreading it evenly. Dollop the remaining brownie batter on the cheesecake, drag a knife through the dollops to swirl around. Bake for about 30 min, until the brownie is done and the cheesecake set.

Iced Coffee

I am addicted to coffee, and I am so grateful that my addiction is a socially acceptable one and that so many companies enable me to satisfy it (Caribou, Stumptown, how I miss Stumptown coffee, Peet's, to name a few....). One of the worst parts about living in Ireland for six months was the terrible coffee. The tea was fine, but as we all know, tea is not the same as coffee, as Seinfeld said tea is yard work, leaves and bags and yard work has never been my thing. However, something good came out of that situation, I was researching how to make coffee without any specialized equipment (making french press coffee without a french press and not making a giant mess can be quite difficult, also using paper towels as coffee filters doesn't work too well... trust me) I stumbled across cold brew coffee. You may know about the beauty that is cold brew and how delicious the iced coffee that comes from this process is, if not you should try it. It is so simple I almost feel silly dedicating an entire post to it, but I do take my coffee seriously.

Start with coffee beans. I ground these myself, but you don't have to do that.

Place the beans in your container. I use a french press because it is easy and fits nicely in the fridge but you could use any pitcher or jar you have around. I also use about the same ratio of beans to water that I do when I make regular coffee.

Add cold water and make sure all of the grounds are wet. Pop it in the fridge for about 12 hours.

Once it is ready, either press the plunger down (if it's a french press) or pour it through a coffee filter or fine sieve to get the grounds out. Now it is ready to drink. I hear you can keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but I wouldn't know, it barely lasts 2 days around here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Potato Leek Pizza

This is yet another Pioneer Woman recipe (I just realized it is only in her cookbook, not her website so I can't link you to it, but I can link you to the recipe for the dough), so I may have a slight obsession, but everything she makes is just so good. Potato pizza is one of those trendy things (keep in mind I am basing this solely on extensive viewing of food network and foodgawker, I have no idea what the actual trends in the world may be, I pretty much only go to restaurants for happy hour because I heart half price appetizers and am poor) that probably wont pop up on any happy hour menus around here for awhile, so I had to take matters into my own hands. Boy was I glad I did, it is delicious. Of course the fact that it has 3 different kinds of cheese, bacon and leeks on it as well as the potatoes doesn't hurt. It is surprisingly filling, and the potatoes combined with the cheese give the pizza a sort of deconstructed creamy white sauce kind of effect, which is quite tasty.

Start with the bacon. I hate to fry bacon so I always bake it, just lay it on a cooling rack on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until it reaches the desired crispiness (I like it really crispy).

Next start on the leeks, I am always a bit obsessive when I clean leeks but I feel it is justified because have you seen the crap that comes out of them?

Once the leeks have been completely cleaned, saute them in the bacon pan (since I didn't fry my bacon I just scooped some grease out from the cookie sheet and cooked them in that).

Now it's time to start the assembly process. I used PW's pizza dough recipe, but use whatever dough you like, I would have used Trader Joe's dough but I didn't want to drive all the way over there and we didn't have any at home.

First layer on the potatoes. I used my mandolin on the thinnest setting, if I didn't have that I have no idea what I would have done, as my knife skills are basically nonexistent. Also, PW calls for 5 potatoes, I only used one large one on this pizza, but as you can see it covered the whole thing.

Next put the fresh mozzarella. You must use fresh, it makes it so lovely and creamy. It doesn't look like much but it will ooze out and with everything else you put on this thing it is plenty.

Now top the cheese with the bacony leeks, they add such a nice mild oniony flavor.

Finish it off with the bacon crumbles, goat cheese and some parmesan.

Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted.

Guest Blogger Tracie: Tres Leches Cake

As promised, here is the second recipe from guest blogger Tracie, I however cannot vouch for the tastiness of this cake as she did not share any with me, but I am sure it was good, it is Pioneer Woman's after all, and as we all know I am quite fond of just about every recipe she has ever written.

The second thing we made while waiting for the other dough to rise was Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leche Cake. I love Pioneer Woman. Maybe a little bit too much, and maybe I also have daydreams about marrying a cowboy. Not her cowboy, just *a* cowboy[Emma: me too, me too]. PW’s recipe is here found here. Tres leche cake tastes like milk, sweetened milk, but there is a distinct milk taste. So if you don’t like milk (*cough cough* Emma *cough cough*)[Emma: milk is gross, and this may in fact be why Tracie didn't share this cake with me...] this cake might not be for you. The cake itself is light and airy, but the milk you pour over it adds some weight and makes it seriously moist. It’s both light and heavy and, most importantly, tasty.

I did the necessary greasing of a 9 x 13 pan , but the cake still stuck a tiny bit so I recommend going the grease and parchment paper route, just to ensure it doesn’t stick.

There are quite a few photos missing from this baking escapade, as some of our friends came over and distracted my photographer[Emma: I am a social butterfly, what can I say?].

Basically though, you:

Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Separate the eggs.

Beat ¾ cup sugar and the egg yolks on high until they turn a light, pale, yellow. Then add the vanilla and milk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and combine gently

Beat the egg whites with the rest of the sugar on high (in a clean, dry bowl) until they reach hard peaks, but make sure not to over beat them and let them get dry

Then fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. I winged this a bit. I think you are supposed to do that thing where you add a bit of the mix to the egg whites and combine that before you add all the egg white into the rest of the mix. I also, maybe got a bit distracted by *someone* talking to me and stirred more than I should have. But it was fine anyway.

Pour it into the greased (and parchmented) pan, making sure the batter is evenly spread.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Then turn the cake out onto a rimmed dish (or in my case a jelly roll pan) and allow it to cool. This also takes place after Em had left and I was taking photos. I’m not sure why there is that dented in bit. And I’m not here to assign blame.

Once it is cool, use a fork to poke holes in the cake. I poked a lot of holes, but I suppose you can do as many as you like.

Then combine heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk.

And stir to mix them all together. It makes about three cups of milk but you only need to use two to get the cake properly saturated.

Then pour the milk over your cake slowly, making sure to get the edges (I poked a bunch of holes around the edges to make sure it would hold the milk).

Let the cake absorb the milk for at least half an hour before you ice it. Icing it? Frost it? I just made a simple whipped cream to icing it. One cup of heavy cream and 1.5 teaspoons of sugar, beat together on high in an electric mixer. Sorry there are no photos of this step either. But I trust you can imagine it as well as I can illustrate it.

Then icing the cake. I don’t think PW covered the edges of her cake. But I covered mine because I like it that way.

My mom asked for a rustic, swirly, look on the top. I didn’t really comply because I like smooth cakes [Emma: does this remind anyone else of Martha Stewart? Just a little? I once saw her snatch a craft away from someone for not glittering it properly]. It ended up somewhere in the middle.

And then you cut a piece and eat it! I suppose you could top it with something, PW uses maraschino cherries, but I think they are gross so I left the cake plain. And it was just as good.

The end

Thank you for your time and patience, and extensive use of your imagination[Emma: And thank you Tracie for being my very first (and most likely only) guest blogger!].

Friday, March 19, 2010

Guest Blogger Tracie: Gooey Butter Cake

My darling friend has decided (by decided I mean I told her she was going to and she said ok) to grace us with her presence today on Emma's Eats as a guest chef(or as they say on tasty kitchen, home cook extraordinaire)/blogger. I was feeling a tad bit uninspired (i.e. lazy) and felt it was time to shake things up, hence this guest post. And you know, being in grad school and all she has much more free time for this sort of thing than I do being unemployed and all (I do have my work at the hospital and by work I mean three and a half hours of volunteering every week). So with only a few minor tweaks (she wanted to post 38 pictures....) here is the gooey butter cake by Tracie.

Guest Blogger! Say what?! I honestly have no idea why I just typed that, it isn’t a phrase that frequents my everyday vocabulary. But hey, I’ve adopted a “type it and it stays” approach to this entry. Which is a way to say, basically, I’m sorry in advance. I am typing this blind, ps, not in the sense that my eyes are shut, but in the sense that I am writing it without any idea as to what, if any, introduction Em has written about me. Go ahead and assume none of it is true [Emma: you should not tell lies to these lovely people, I only tell the truth] (unless she is raving about me, because then it is true. Fact)

Anyways, I came home the weekend of the 12th for a mini-spring break. Because, it turns out, being in graduate school and having a non-paying internship that you are still required to go to really cuts into your loafing-about-at-home-and-not-doing-anything time. Not that I let such obstacles stop me. For instance, I am currently writing this instead of doing the vast amounts of research that awaits me. So… in my mini-vacation, I decided to pack as much baking and cooking as I could into one trip.

If my internal ramblings haven’t lost you yet, dear reader, let’s get to the baking and the pictures of the baking. On Friday after being poked with a sharp needle to determine that I’m not dying, I started baking in early afternoon. Of course, I called my hetero life-mate Emma-Pants to the scene to help. And by “help” I really mean take pictures and catch me up on gossip. Emma and I have a track record of baking things together that end up going disastrously wrong. [Emma: there once was a strawberry rhubarb pie which resembled something that had already been eaten, if you catch my drift I hear it was tasty but couldn't make myself try it] Which is a source of amusement for us because we are both capable cooks, but we can’t seem to make anything together. (Side note: Word’s grammar check suggested I use “record of accomplishment” instead of track record. This amuses me to no end) BUT! These two delightful creations turning out perfectly mark a turning point (I hope).

The first recipe I made was Smitten Kitchen’s St Louis Gooey Butter Cake, instructions to be found here. SK adopted it from an article in the New York Times who adopted it from a person at the Park Slope Farmer’s Market. It’s pretty much deliciousness in a buttery vanilla-y square[Emma: it's true, I ate one and it was soooo tasty]. They look sorta like lemon bars and have an internal consistency slightly reminiscent of those molten lava cake things. But it’s got more structure because of the yeast dough base. And that base is topped with a yummy oh-so-healthy combination of butter, vanilla, sugar, and corn syrup.

I used a ceramic dish that was slightly smaller than the 9 x 13 dish I was supposed to use, so my cake was a bit taller, and in retrospect, I should have let it bake a little longer because I think it should have been slightly firmer. Also in retrospect, I should have greased the sides of the dish more --my topping stuck in a few places.

This is me, by-the-by. In my adorable T apron. I apologize for the look on my face, I was talking while this was being taken.

The cast of characters for both the dough and the topping. I need you to imagine an extra egg and some butter here.

I added yeast to milk and warm water and whisked it until it combined and foamed a little. There probably would have been more foam if I had used fresher yeast. At first, I tried to mix this up with the baby spoon seen on the right. That was pretty much an epic fail and so I switched to a more reliable method: a fork.

Then I combined butter, sugar, and salt in my mixer and creamed them together. Notice my awesome paddle with scraper already attached[Emma: it is quite loud though]. My mom got it for Christmas. It’s pretty much awesome (like her).

In went the egg and then I began alternately adding the flour and milk/water/yeast mixture. Then we kept mindlessly beating it for a few minutes until I double-checked the recipe and SK said to switch to a dough hook. We did and the dough did indeed form a ball that pulled away from the sides slightly.

Then we put the dough in the dish and smushed it about until it reached the edges. Next we covered it in plastic wrap and let it sit for the recommended 2.5-3 hours so it could double in size. In the mean time, we made the other recipe[Emma: stay tuned for the other recipe, I should post it in the not too distant future]. Side note: my dough was not rising, which I found most distressing. Turns out, the kitchen was too cold for it to rise properly, so I stuck it in a warm oven and it rose nicely. Important lesson: when a recipe says to sit something in a warm place for it rise, don’t assume your kitchen with all the lights on and a bunch of people in it is necessarily warm enough [Emma: it's still much warmer than my house, which despite our new magical energy star windows still kind of feels like the inside of a fridge].

While I was preheating the oven, I made the topping. I mixed corn syrup, water, and vanilla together in a bowl. Why yes, that is a stackable bowl from Ikea in a festive red shade. Also, notice my adorable tiny whisk. I love this whisk a lot. And I love being able to legitimately use it without being inconvenienced by its tiny size. It was perfect for this job.

Then I creamed more butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. There was also an addition of an egg, that once again you don’t get to witness. It’s a violent act. I added the corn syrup/vanilla/water mix and the flour. By this time, Emma and her camera had tragically abandoned me to go home [Emma: I am super fabulous and crazy busy, duh], so I started taking the photos myself using my dad’s camera. (Thanks Daddy!)

This is the cake after it rose but before I figured out how to turn the flash on manually. Honestly, I didn’t figure it out and had to turn off the lights in the kitchen to get a balanced shot.

Anyway, you dollop the topping on (and it bothered me that my dollops weren’t symmetrical, they kept sinking towards the center) And then you spread the topping out evenly over the cake using an offset spatula. Maybe you should grease this a little too, because when it touched the cake dough, it would stick a bit and the grease would make it glide smoother.

I pulled it from the oven when it was golden brown. And inserted a knife to make sure the center was still liquid-y. Then I let it cool and dusted it with powdered sugar and cut it into squares.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Polenta Fries

There are plenty of myths about polenta, I used to think that it was super tedious thing to make which had to include standing at the stove for an hour stirring it, only going in a clockwise direction, being careful to avoid getting lumps which would ruin the entire endeavor and using fancy cornmeal that is clearly labeled polenta on the packaging while wearing green on the third day of the month. Well maybe not that extreme but you get the idea. But, I have yet to mess up a batch of polenta, and have been trying all sorts of different methods for cooking it. The recipe here is for polenta fries, but you could always skip the fry bit and just do the polenta bit. Also, I just use cornmeal, the kind that we use to make cornbread and hush puppies and it works just fine.

Simmer some water in a pot, and plop a bowl on top op it, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Alternately, use an actual double boiler. Put the milk and warm water in the bowl with a bit of salt. Then slowly add the cornmeal and whisk it in.

Once the cornmeal is fully incorporated, cover it with tinfoil and let it hang out over the simmering water for about 20 minutes.

Next stir in a knob of butter and a good handful of grated cheese until everything is melted and combined.

Spread the polenta into a greased pan (the recipe says to do it in a 9 inch square pan, but that seemed WAY to small so I did it in a 9x13 one).

Chill overnight, or until it is firm enough to cut into strips. Take the strips and place them on a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and bake.

When they are done they will hold their fry shape and have a golden crust, it took mine longer to get there than the recipe said it would.