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It’s been some time since I reported on cookbooks, but I have 2 additions that I have to mention, or lightning will strike me. The first is a 2011 Solstice gift from Diane, “BULL COOK and AUTHENTIC HISTORICAL RECIPES AND PRACTICES, by GEORGE LEONARD HERTER  and BERTHE E. HERTER,  Herter’s, Waseca, Minnesota“,  (c) 1960, 61, 62, 63 – in total 7 editions, and a treasure.  To give you a teaser, it provides the instruction for preparing “DOVES WYATT EARP”.  Mine is a 1963.

And today I found another real gold nugget:  a first-edition of “Brown Derby COOK BOOK”, (1949), forward by Rbt. H. Cobb, President, The Brown Derby Corporations, which finally closed in 1985, amid significant national nostalgia, having served generations of Hollywood’s elite.  It has a handsome brown leather cover, with speckled edges – and the seller asked only $6.  It’s worth $50 on Ebay, if you had the heart to sell something irreplaceable.   The Derby opened in 1926.  Sixty years is not a bad run.  The menu was famous for Grapefruit Cake, a cocktail, a Blackbottom Pie, Cobb Salad, a Red Velvet Cake, and a long list of other major & minor culinary credits.

(photo courtesy http://www.etsy.com/listing/78806862/hollywood-vintage-postcard-brown-derby )

Here is the renowned

Brown Derby Black Bottom Pie (10″, serves 8)

Start with Shell Pastry Dough For Open-Faced Pies, 2 10-inch shells

3/8 c (1/4 c & 2 Tbsp) sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp. lemon rind, grated

Small pinch salt

1/2 tsp vanilla (bean or extract)

2/3 c butter

2-1/4 c flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Use an electric mixer to combine egg, lemon rind, salt, vanilla, until creamy.  Knead butter till smooth, and add to egg mixture.  [* that’s apparently correct – knead the butter?  Counter-intuitive = good. ]  Then combine all in the mixer at slow speed until a paste is formed.  Beat at high speed for only a moment or two.  Allow the paste to relax, and roll out thin on a lightly floured board, baking the shell at 400F for 10-12 min.  (probably best to do a blind-baking w some aluminum foil and/or pie-weights.)

Now on to the Black Bottom Pie

BROWN DERBY’S BLACK BOTTOM PIE

2 tsp (one envelope) unflavored gelatine

1/2 cup milk

1 oz. sugar (that’s 2 Tbsp)

1 pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg yolk

3 ounces sweet chocolate

1 pt. cream, whipped (that’s 2 cups of heavy cream, not yet whipped)

1 prebaked baked pie shell

Soak gelatine in small amount of cold water for 15 minutes.  Bring milk to boiling point.  Beat together sugar, salt, half of vanilla, and egg yolks until light, thick, and creamy.  Add 1/2 of the boiling milk over egg mixture.  Blend well, then add to remaining hot milk.  Return to heat, stirring constantly, for a few seconds.  Remove from fire before boiling point is reached.  Press soaked gelatine free of any excess water and dissolve in hot mixture.  Strain through a very fine sieve.  Add 2 ounces of the chocolate, which has been shaved; beat until smooth.  Cool until it reaches creamlike consistency.  Fold in half of whipped cream and remaining  half of vanilla.  Fill prebaked pie shell.  Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Top with remaining whipped cream 1 inch thick.  Remaining chocolate is now shaved into curled spears and stuck in top.  Dust with grated chocolate.

For reference, here is a little more background and some modern context for this famous Hollywood eatery,  as well as an updated read on this recipe:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2011/10/from-the-culinary-sos-archive-the-brown-derbys-black-bottom-pie.html

Here are a few recipes that visitors online have requested at one time or another –  My favorite Shoofly, Hoppin John, and Moravian Love Feast Buns.  I don’t have photos for any of these at the moment.

There are 2 types of Shoofly Pie- one is generally referred to as ‘wet’, the other ‘dry’. This is the wet variety (that just means it’s not dry like cake- it should come out very moist, almost like a bread pudding.) Some people only put the crumbs on the bottom of the pie shell, others put the molasses mixture on the bottom. I put most of the crumbs on the bottom, and scatter the reserve over the top.

unbaked 9″ pie pastry
3/4 c flour
1/2 c br sugar
1/2 t cinnamon (generous)
dash salt
2 T butter
1/2 c molasses (I use dark)
3/4 c very hot water
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/2 t baking soda

Cut the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix molasses, soda & hot water- beat in the egg yolk quickly so it doesn’t scramble and get hard. Put most of the crumbs in the bottom of the pie shell so it is roughly even- it doesn’t have to look perfect- no one’s going to see it because you’re going to pour the molasses mixture all over it anyway.  Sprinkle w remaining crumbs over all & bake in 375 oven for about 40-45 min

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My Hoppin John  (a special New Year’s dish)

* sort, soak overnight, and drain one dry # of black eyed peas (drown them in water)
* a  ham hock or meaty ham bone (sometimes I substitute smoked turkey)
– or today, I used an Andouille sausage in place of all of the above
* 2 medium onions, divided
* 3 large cloves garlic, halved
* a bay leaf
* 1 cup rice
* 1 can (10 to 14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with chile peppers, juices reserved
* 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
* 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
* 3 stalks celery, chopped
* 1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, minced
* 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 4 green onions, sliced

Preparation:
In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the drained black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Cut 1 of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil NO SALT added, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy (probably a couple of hours). Remove the ham bone or hocks- or turkey-, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion pieces, and garlic.  If salt is introduced as the beans cook, they will become tough & unpleasant.  Season them after they have completed cooking.

*Five Bean Rule:   give the pot a good stir, pick out 5 random beans and pinch them.  If they all squish and yield between your fingers, they are perfect.

Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is almost tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Chop the remaining onion then add to everything else. Cook until the rice is tender. Stir in the sliced green onions and the reserved diced ham.

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Moravian Love Feast Buns
(recipe from the Moravian Music Journal– this is from about 30 years ago).  This communal act of  worship has been described as an Agape Feast, where collective resolve is strengthened among the community,  and goodwill is affirmed.  The two key food components are Lovefeast coffee, which is like a mild sweet cafe au lait; and a soft, sweet raised bun, which goes perfectly with coffee or cocoa- or in many locations on many occasions,  orange juice, tea or Kool-aid.
oven 350 degrees

1 c mashed potatoes
1 c sugar
½ t salt
½ c warm water
1 T grated orange rind
1 t. grated lemon rind
½ t nutmeg
5-6 c flour
½ c scalded milk
½ c butter
3 pkg dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
1 T orange juice
1 t. lemon juice
½ t. mace

Cool potatoes to lukewarm. Scald milk, adding sugar, butter, and salt.
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Into sugar mixture stir the lukewarm milk, potatoes, yeast, eggs, lemon/orange rinds & juices, nutmeg/mace.

Stir in 2 ½ c flour until smooth
Add enough additional flour to make soft dough and knead till satiny. Let rise till double, punch down cover & rest for 5-10 min.

Shape into approx. 2” balls, and place on greased pans, not touching; let rise till doubled.
Bake 15-20 min. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar when fresh from oven

If you’re new to fried-pies, let me tell you I’ve been making hand-pies for many years.  It’s a pie, you can hold it in your hand, and it is deep-fried.  I love making them, but I usually end up making some kind of peach filling, because it’s hard to hold a candle to a peach handpie.  You can use any filling you want-anything that you can imagine going into a regular, big pie in a pie-pan.  Just use a spoonful.

I cut a 9″- round of pastry into 3 parts (almost like a peace-symbol) and put a good tablespoon of filling in the center of each, one at a time.  Then I cut them into half-moons, crimping firmly with a fork all around the edges, and cutting a couple of vents- and I dropped them into 375F peanut oil.  They cook completely in 3-5 minutes.  However, you will need to turn them at least once, preferably with some kind of spoon or spider (don’t puncture them now).  When they’re golden-brown, you can safely assume they’re done.

For peach filling I chopped up about

1-1/2 cups of frozen peaches and added approximately,

1/3 cup of raspberries I had in the refrigerator

8- 12 Tbsp brown sugar (I use about 1/2 cup)

3/4 tsp cinnamon

generous 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

pinch salt

1 heaping Tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder (it’s my secret ingredient in so many pies.  I am weak)

squeeze of lemon juice

some lemon zest

1-1/2 tsp Balsamic vinegar (you read that correctly-just try it & you will genuinely like it, I promise); just use a supermarket Balsamic

Mix it all together and do not cook it. This is the filling and you can mix everything together in 2 minutes with a small bowl and a spoon.  I have a small, electric deep-fryer, so I only cook one pie at a time.  It requires a little patience, but the result is something you don’t just see everyday.  Dust them with powdered sugar- even though they don’t need it.

Let them cool, don’t burn your mouth- but you’re a lucky person if you are standing near the stove when they come out of the fryer.

To make a strawberry rhubarb pie, I consulted an old edition of the Farm Journal Cookbook- a wonderful and classic American cooking tool with lots of heritage recipes.  I used a version of this pie that includes honey!

First you get rhubarb from Gary’s back yard and chop it up 🙂

I used 4 cups of chopped rhubarb, 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries, 1-1/4 cups sugar, a 1/4 cup of honey, 6 Tbsp all purpose flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and the zest of one whole lemon.

It’s fun to weave a lattice top crust- it makes it a really old-fashion pie.

Don’t worry if all the ends aren’t even.  You’re just going to eat them anyway.  I brushed this with a little egg and water whipped together, and then I sprinkled sugar on top.

Bake this pie at about 400F for a good 45 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to remain in the oven for another 10 minutes or so.  I put a cookie sheet under the pie as it bakes- if you don’t, you might have a mess to clean up on your oven floor.

Click on any photo for high resolution details.  I  love my digital camera.

I didn’t mention it last month but I started some starter- sourdough starter!

…and I had found a butternut squash on the last day of the Minneapolis farmers market -for 50 cents!

Well, if you’ve ever loved a sourdough bread and mistakenly believed that it is beyond your abilities to make your own, then it’s time to think about it again.  If the only thing standing in the way between you and homemade sourdough is the notion that it’s too complicated, get you a cup of water and a cup of flour.  Mix them and leave it alone for a few days.  You are now officially on your way.  Some people say to let it sit outside in nice weather.  I’ve never done that, but it probably works beautifully.

It really is that easy- you don’t need packets of commercial sourdough starter- everything you need is in the air, literally!  I grew up reading The Mother Earth News, Carla Emery’s Old Fashioned Recipe Book, and other vintage hippie self-sufficiency propaganda when I was in my teens in the 1970s.  That’s why I make so much of my own stuff- not only because I believe in the principles of locally produced food with the least amount of chemical and processing intervention (it’s better for you, gives you, your loved ones and friends a genuine relationship with food based on familiarity and ownership).  It also saves you money and saves the earth.

If I buy my flour (I usually buy a 50 pound sack at a time) and make my own yeast, I can make a rustic loaf of sourdough bread for about 50 cents of ingredients, and another couple of bucks of oven heat, rather than the eye-popping, mind-blowing $5-6 bucks you pay at the store for a loaf of organic sourdough.  I mean there’s nothing wrong with that bread at all–except for FIVE OR SIX BUCKS???  If you can afford that, Go with God.  I will make my own bread.

When you start your starter, use a clean, preferably sterilized glass jar, a small ceramic bowl, or one of non-reactive metal (i.e. not aluminum) and pour a cup of boiled water into it.  When it is room temperature, stir or whisk in a cup of All-Purpose flour.  I suppose there’s no reason why you can’t use whole grain flour, or one of the new white and wheat blends.  But to keep things simple, I just use AP flour.  Oh, and some recipes call for adding commercial yeast at this point– even if it is as small an amount as 1/2 teaspoon.  Resist the temptation to do this!   Just use the flour and water, and cover your chosen vessel with cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel and just forget about it for a few days.  Pretend it doesn’t exist.  After a few days, a darkish water/liquid layer may develop on top.  Nothing to worry about.  Stir it back in, check on it after that, and you may notice bubbles and a faint sour odor.  That’s how it should be.  Let it work a little more (when it’s bubbling, we refer to the starter as ‘working’).

At this point you can do a couple of things.  You can make it directly into bread, or you can divide the starter, save some for later – or make other things.  Let’s do two things:  Divide the starter AND make bread.  Your first bread from a new starter is often like the first waffle or pancake or doughnut to come off the line.  It may be a a little balky, stunted, slow- er, not exactly the floating vision of sourdough nirvana you anticipated.  This is also OK.  For the very first batch of bread, go ahead and add a little commercial yeast if you must- you’ll probably still get all the flavor of the sourdough.  If you go that route, add a teaspoon of dry yeast to a little water, proof it (make sure it bubbles and is alive) and add it to the dough.  The only thing to keep in mind is that the wild yeast and the domesticated yeast might duke it out, and the wild yeast may lose the battle.  Nevermind- it’s not a big deal.  Also keep in mind that if you add milk, even pasteurized milk from the store, you really must scald it and let it come to body temperature before enriching your yeast dough with it.  To scald milk bring it almost to the boiling point.  If you accidentally boil it, the world won’t come to an end, and it’s still perfectly useable.  I used to freak out about so many of these things, and I just don’t anymore, because it will be just fine.

You knew that the gold-miners in 1800s Alaska used to be called Sourdoughs, right?  That’s because they kept their sourdough starter in a little leather bag around worn around their neck and beneath their shirt, to keep the starter  from freezing and to keep it vital.  Just don’t give the guy a bear hug or anything, and everyone will probably be happier.  But that’s how they made bread while they were taking gold that belonged to-, and continues to belong to Native people.

Different regions around the earth have distinct and different strains of wild yeast.  What you find in Egypt is different from what you find in Paris or San Francisco.  Wherever it is you happen to live- you have your own strain of wild yeast there. Lure it out of the air and into your oven and stomach, and you will have accomplished something that humans have been doing for thousands of years all over the earth.  If you do yeast baking on a regular or even on an occasional  basis, you probably have leg up on kitchens that are used mostly as a location to zap food in a microwave or switch on an electric coffee maker.  You will have ambient yeast in the air, and that’s an advantage, because when your yeast dough is rising in your kitchen, it naturally releases some of the little plants into the air.

So, back to dividing and making bread.  A couple days before you want to use your starter to bake raised sourdough bread, add another cup each of flour and water.  Save a cup of the stuff and put it into a jar or plastic container, cover with a little cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.  Just let it sit in your refrigerator and if you don’t use it for a while, only remember to feed the starter with a tablespoon of flour and water about once a week and stir it in- this is quite important.  If it does separate with a liquid layer on top, again- don’t freak out- that’s what it does.  You do want to use it though, to keep it in good condition.  Every time you use the starter, you basically strengthen it and make it better.  You can keep it alive for years- and there are accurate and true stories about sourdough cultures that have been kept alive for a century- and it’s true!

There are other types of home-cultured yeast leavenings- the rarely seen old-fashion Salt Rising Bread (a very distinctive American frontier classic) relies on a combination of raw potatoes and cornmeal as the starter.  It makes a bread that is supposed to be mildly flavored like cheese, which comes from the particular yeast/microorganisms encouraged by potatoes and cornmeal.  Of course the cornmeal a hundred years ago wasn’t de-germinated and irradiated either, so it easily provided a great launch-pad for wild yeast.  I still want to try and make this bread sometime- if you’ve ever read The Little House on the Prairie books, you read about Ma making salt-risin’ bread.

So, you have divided your yeast, put some in the fridge for another baking, and you have more flour paste probably sitting in a bowl on your counter and you’re wondering what to do with it right about now.  Mix in about 1-1/2 cups of flour and  another 1/2 cup of water and let it sit overnight all over again- this presumes that your room temperature is somewhere in the vicinity of 65-75 degrees.  Now you’re going to extend the dough…and if all goes well, it will look sort of like a sponge.  There will be bubbles and should have a definite tangy, sour odor to it.  If it smells really truly ‘off’ try starting over with a whole new starter.  Sometimes you do get microorganisms that are not desirable – it’s a risk, and a small one, but again, not a big deal.

Now you have roughly 2 cups of flour mixed with about one of water in your bowl and it has sat overnight, with the wild yeast feasting on the starch and sugars in the flour and having a significant population increase.  At this point, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, butter, or whatever your preferred fat is.  Also add 1-3 tsps sugar and some more flour.  You could use semolina (pasta flour, which is a ‘strong’ winter wheat with high gluten content), bread flour (another ‘strong’ flour), whole grain flour or more all purpose flour to make a sturdy dough.  You could probably add up to a tsp of salt with the flour at this point as well.

Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking describes the method for making a traditional yeast dough that’s used for french bread- there’s really no fat or sugar, but there is definitely a bit of yeast and quite a bit of salt.  I made that recipe a couple of times maybe 20 years ago, and it calls for very long periods of rising.  Like 5 hours at a time if I recall correctly.  It makes an authentic and very good bread- and the sourdough method I’m describing to you is distantly related to Julia’s process.  For a few years it was fashionable to say that the French bakeries never used Sourdough- they simply used ‘mother from the brewers (the guys who made the beer) and sort of domesticated the yeast from that point.  Now food historians are more likely to say with one voice that French bakers throughout history actually did use sourdough for their raised bread.        cf: the whole discussion of Searing Meat.  That’s another debate that caused a big Fracas for years.  Now most people admit that searing doesn’t seal in meat juices, but does caramelize natural sugars and raises the flavor profile of meat in a dish.  If cooks didn’t have controversies about sourdough vs not-sourdough, or The Virtues and Outcomes of Searing, what would we all do.  It’s more exciting than soap operas.

So your dough is now recognizably like a real bread dough.  Add more flour, knead it with your hands or a mixer with a dough hook for a minimum of 10 minutes to develop the gluten, which is what hold the dough together and captures the expanding carbon dioxide in big or little bubbles released by the yeast during baking.  We were amazed every time my mom said that Great-Grandma Dickey routinely kneaded her yeast dough by hand for an hour, or even an hour and a half.  I’ve done that, and it makes a yeast bread with a velvety crumb.  With any luck, your dough will rise, but I will tell you that many times, I have let that sour bread-dough rise for hours and hours, and it does not help at all to watch it.  I usually give it one rising, which means when you finish mixing and kneading, the next stop is the oven- just keep that in mind, whether you do a free-form loaf, or use a loaf pan.

I almost always do a free form round loaf for sour dough.  I like baking it in an oven hot as a blast furnace (like 425-450F) on a baking stone (sometimes called ‘pizza stones’- you can find them for $9-12 bucks in a lot of places now, not just kitchen speciality stores).  Just heat the stone for about 20 minutes in the oven.  If you’ve never used one before, this is what I do for all bread baked on stone:

Take the hot stone out of the oven, sprinkle very generously with cornmeal (it will smoke on the stone and smell good, like hot corn-perfume) and slide your bread dough onto the stone.  Sometimes I put it on the back of a cookie sheet also covered with cornmeal, so it has a better chance of actually sliding.

Next take a very sharp blade and very quickly make a bunch of slashes, criss-crosses, or V’s, or something artistic looking.  These slashes are very important because the allow the bread to expand properly as it bakes.  Also, as soon as the dough has been slashed, spray the whole loaf around with water, into the slashes and sides.  Buy a plant-spray bottle (the kind you use to spray mist on your ferns) and only use it for the kitchen.  The steam also helps give the dough lift and a superior crust.  Place the baking stone in the oven, and 3 more times, every 3 minutes, spray that loaf again all over.  You won’t believe the results if you’ve never done this before.  It’s like a professional baker sneaked into your kitchen and made your bread- but you did it!  Let the bread continue baking for another 30 minutes or so- when it gets dark golden brown take it out with hot pads or an oven mitt and thump it on the bottom of the load with the flat of your palm.  If it sounds sort of muffled and hollow, it’s done.  Put it on a cooling rack and let it come to room temperature.  You have bread.

The first apples are ripening- it was a perfect reason to make pie.  And make ice cream to go with it as well (made with coconut milk!)  Click on the individual photos for close ups, and then click on the close ups for REAL close ups 🙂

Would it be wrong to put whipped cream on top of the whole thing?

got to try new things

got to try new things

We used to pick prairie rose fruits in Alberta- the preserves I used for this pastry comes from a jar, and this jar comes from Croatia.  This experiment is sort of like a Kolache- with a sweet cream cheese filling and a spoonful of rosehip jelly.  Rosehips are very rich in vitamin C and they make a good tea, especially if you have a cold.

Real Kolache (by people who know how to make them- they originate in Eastern Europe) are beautiful and tasty.  We have a nearby town here in Minnesota where I believe they have a Kolache festival annually.  They come in a couple assorted styles and many flavors- apricot, date, poppyseed and various other fillings.  I’ve heard it pronounced Ko-la-chees, as well as Ko-lotch-keys.  I don’t know if I’ll make this experiment again, but at least one guinea-pig said it was edible 🙂  It turned out to be kind of like a labor-intensive, boutique Pop Tart.

My friend Citty (pronounced Kitty) came for a visit and brought an amazing Mackerel and Leek Pie- in Dutch leeks are called Prei (pronounced Pree) and I pronounce it delicious

Well, then there are fish cakes too in various cuisines.  You could have a whole meal with (fish) pies and (fish) cakes for the main course, but then what are you supposed to do for dessert?  I have been discovering how to make the photos in the gallery clickable, with all the annotations to the photos.  You can click on any of them so far, and some have additional information; you can do a close up by clicking on a pic, and if you click yet again- you can *really* zoom in and see the proverbial fly’s eyelash.

Dinner and a movie?

Try:

‘Eat Drink Man Woman’- you want to see what Chinese classic cuisine and the Imperial Table looks like?

‘Babette’s Feast’ – not only a great movie, but surely one of the greatest pieces of international cinema where cuisine is the star

‘Like Water for Chocolate’ (Como Agua para Chocolate) – takes place during the Mexican revolution and is framed in convincing and passionate Magical Realism.

‘Big Night’ – famous lines…’Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone,’  and ‘ risotto is rice, so it is a starch and it doesn’t go, really, with pasta Mr. SHALHOUB: (As Primo) How can she want – the lady, She’scriminal. I want to talk to her.”

Babette’s Feast is probably my favorite.  However, Water for Chocolate has the additional and salacious spectacle of people on horseback riding like Lady Godiva, as kitchens and villas burst in flagrante delicto.  In other words, the dressing is not even served on the side.  Then there’s also Willy Wonka; and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, with that Holy Grail of smelly cheeses, Stinking Bishop.  Yes, that’s actually what it’s called, and whoever named it was genius.