Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grape and Pear Pie

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This post is not as much about the grape pear pie, which was delicious and unusual, as it is about the pie crust itself. As far as I can remember back to my early days of learning to bake pies, I have always made my own pie crust, not only because I loved making the dough and rolling it out, but I never liked the aluminum tins that the unbaked crusts came in; plus most pie fillings would overflow these meager vessels. In my mind, it was a travesty to make a homemade filling and then it end up in a tasteless crust. Now to the crux of the matter-I was in a hurry to make this pie! Setting my snobbery aside, I bought a package of rolled 9 inch pie crusts from the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Making the pie was a snap! The refrigerated dough sat out for about 15 minutes to make it easier to handle. I wouldn't recommend the microwave method to warm the dough to room temperature due to uneven heating in some microwave units. In about 20 minutes, I had the pie in the oven. Although the baked crust was a little thick, I was impressed with the flavor. I will continue to make my own pie crusts, but when in pressed for time, I'll buy the ready made ones. From Better Homes and Gardens, recipe here. Pie needs to cool for 6 hours, then refrigerated up to 24 hours.

Grape and Pear Pie


* 2 rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crusts
* 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
* 1 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
* 5 cups seedless red or black grapes
* 2 medium red pears, cored and sliced (2 cups)
* 1 egg white


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare Pastry for Double Crust Pie. For filling, in a large bowl stir together brown sugar, flour, melted butter, and orange peel. Add grapes and pears; toss.

2. On lightly floured surface, slightly flatten 1 ball of pastry. Roll dough from center to edges into 12-inch circle. Wrap pastry around rolling pin; unroll in 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate, being careful not to stretch. Trim even with rim of pie plate. Pour filling into pastry. Roll remaining dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Cut slits in pastry to allow steam to escape. Place pastry on filling; trim to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold top pastry edge under bottom pastry. Crimp edge as desired. Place on baking sheet.

3. In small bowl combine egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush top of pie with egg white mixture. Cover edge of pie with foil. Bake 35 minutes; remove foil. Bake 35 to 40 minutes more or until top of pastry is golden and steam is escaping from slits in top crust. Remove from oven. Cool 6 hours. Store, loosely covered, in refrigerator up to 24 hours. Makes 8 servings.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Photographing a Ghost

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You can photograph your own ghost with these tips from Photojojo. Have fun and Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

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The rain played havoc with my photography today. I should have finished the cherry fudge brownie torte yesterday, but was out of town visiting my sister. Yesterday was beautiful; today is dark, dreary and pouring rain. Now that the time will be changing soon, I must begin using my lighting equipment that I bought awhile back. I threw open all the shutters, pulled out reflector boards and mirrors to get the photos for this Tuesdays with Dorie edition chosen by April of short+rose who has the recipe on her blog.
I halved the recipe and used 4 x 1-3/4-inch springform pans that I bought at Michaels. Not wanting to search for mascarpone, I made the faux version suggested by Rachelle of Mommy, I'm Hungry. It tastes pretty good; in fact, I could have ditched the cake and eaten the faux mascarpone! This is a great cake for guests as it can be made a day ahead. Check out the TWD blogroll to see what lovely cakes our Dorie bakers have come up with.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daring Cooks -Vietnamese Shrimp Pho, Plus Brandied Fig, Chocolate and Sugared Walnut Stuffed Wontons

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Our October Daring Cooks challenge comes from Jaden of Steamy Kitchen fame whose exciting first cookbook is due to hit the shelves mid October; however the Daring Cooks get a chance to make two of her recipes which will be included in her cookbook. The first one is Vietnamese Pho, a concoction of noodles in a spirited broth with choice of meat, seafood or vegetables, then garnished with loads of fresh accompaniments, such as cilantro, red onions, lime and a hot sauce. The second challenge, a delicious and decadent chocolate wonton. While the challenge required we make the pho broth exactly as the recipe states, especially the seasoning; choosing the meat, seafood or vegetable/vegan was a personal consideration. Especially thrilling was the opportunity to be creative with the wonton fillings and shapes. However, it was imperative that the wonton remain a dessert.

From the Daring Cooks October Challenge

Vietnamese Pho
For my Vietnamese Shrimp Pho, I followed the directions below except when the broth was completed, I used fresh, peeled and deveined shrimp which I stir-fried first before adding to the Pho.

1. Variation; chicken, beef, pork, seafood or vegetarian/vegan.

2. There is no variation allowed with regard to seasoning. You must use the spices listed in the recipe and they must be toasted. (Only leeway here is if you cannot use the spices for health/dietary reasons.) *Note: Use same spices as listed in the chicken Pho recipe for pork, seafood and vegetarian/vegan variations. The beef variation lists it’s unique spices in the recipe.


• Frying pan
• Large stockpot
• Tongs
• Strainer, sieve or colander
• Bowls for serving

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Brandied Fig, Chocolate and Sugared Walnut Stuffed Wontons
My dessert wontons are a brandied dried fig, grated chocolate and sugared walnut concoction.
Figs are one of my all time favorite fruits and perfect for a Fall dessert. Most often I use dried figs as they are readily available. Keeping Jaden's chocolate theme, I used Scharffenberger dark chocolate and I had on hand sugared walnuts that I had made recently.

Ingredients for the Brandied Fig, Chocolate and Sugared Walnut Wontons

Makes 12 filled wontons

  • 1-5-6 oz package dried figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 oz grated dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup sugared walnuts or toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • Bowl of water
  • Pastry brush
  • Oil for Frying
How to Make the Stuffed Wontons
  1. In a small saucepan, add water and figs. Cook over medium heat until the water evaporates, taking care not to burn the figs. Remove pan from heat, add 3 tablespoons brandy. Stand clear of pot and set the figs aflame. When the flames die down, transfer figs to a bowl. Let cool
  2. Add the grated chocolate and sugared or toasted walnuts. Combine well.
  3. On a clean, dry work surface, lay one wonton wrapper down. Place a scant tablespoon of the fig mixture in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Brush s small amount of water on the edges of the wrapper. Place a second wonton wrapper over the filling so the shape resembles a star. Place on parchment paper. Repeat process until all wonton wrappers are filled. Refrigerate covered with plastic wrap until ready to fry.
  4. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2-3 inches of oil.
  5. Heat the oil to 350° F.
  6. Gently slide one or two wontons in the hot oil.
  7. Fry for 1 minute, then flip and fry until both sides are golden brown and crisp.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sugared walnut.

Allspice Muffins-Tuesdays with Dorie

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Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table chose not only an easy muffin recipe for this week, but one that filled my kitchen with the aroma of allspice, one of my favorites. Last week, I had made a grilled flank steak meal using jerk seasoning whose essential ingredient is allspice, so I was delighted to use the spice again, but in a dessert. Allspice has the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, pepper and nutmeg rolled into one. Named the "Jamaican pepper" by the Spanish who erroneously thought the fruit was black pepper, allspice is grown only in the Western Hemisphere. This tall evergreen grew wild in the rain forests of South and Central America, but the forests were decimated, so few remain. The best allspice is said to come from Jamaica where the soil and climate are well-suited for producing this ambrosial spice. Whole allspice can be stored indefinitely, but the ground spice loses its flavor after about three months. Culinary uses of allspice are many and varied. To substitute for allspice, combine one part nutmeg with two parts each of cinnamon and cloves. Source
Kayte has the recipe on her blog or you can find it on page 16 of "Baking From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan. The Allspice Muffins are great to serve with breakfast, brunch or with a cup of coffee or hot tea.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Potato Cheese Quesadillas with Roasted Poblano Sauce

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Perfect for a side dish to a grilled meal or serve for breakfast with scrambled eggs, the potato cheese quesadillas are composed of sliced, roasted new potatoes and Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos. The baked quesadillas are slathered with a tangy sweet poblano sauce that would be delicious with grilled chicken or as a topping for green chile enchiladas. Garnish with thinly sliced red onions or pickled red onions, recipe here. The potatoes and sauce can be made one day ahead to make this hearty, flavorful side simple put together. Adapted from "Bold American Food" by Bobby Flay with Jean Schwartz.
Poblano chiles are much like green bell peppers, but are darker green, have a thicker flesh and are more elongated than its bell pepper cousin. Although poblanos are best known for chile rellenos, a cheese or meat stuffed chile dish originally from the city of Puebla in Mexico, this traditionally mild pepper is also used in many sauces and salsas.

How to Roast Poblano Chiles

To roast the poblanos-wash and dry the peppers. Using a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil, coat the peppers well. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 375 degree F. oven and roast for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven, place in a paper bag for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the steam to loosen the skins. Cut the peppers in half, peel, seed and cut into strips.

Potato Quesadillas with Roasted Poblano Sauce

  • 12 new potatoes or small red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Eight 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 to 1-1/3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos
  • 1 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • Roasted Poblano Sauce-Recipe follows.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Rub the potatoes with half the olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, or until done. Cool. Cut the potatoes in 1/4 -inch slices.
  3. Lay the potato slices on 1 flour tortilla, leaving 1/2 inch at edge; sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Lay another flour tortilla on top of potato and cheese filled tortilla. Press to seal the edges.
  5. Before serving, brush top lightly with oil and sprinkle with ancho chile powder.
  6. Bake about 6 minutes, or until tortilla is crisp. Cut in quarters and drizzle with Roasted Poblano Sauce and garnish with pickled or thinly sliced fresh red onions. Serves 4 as a main course.
Roasted Poblano Sauce
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine poblanos, red onion and lime juice. Blend until smooth.
  2. While the machine is running, add the oil slowly until emulsified. Add spinach and blend until smooth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Sauce may be made up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
  5. Makes about 1-1/2 cups sauce

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Split Level Pudding

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What a shock I had when I went to my refrigerator after the required four hour chilling time! The split level puddings made from orange flavored chocolate and espresso pudding were runnier than when I put them in. Well, that's what I get for rushing through this dessert so I could photograph it before the football game that my team ended up losing anyway. So I got up early Sunday morning and made the dessert again. This time, I didn't use the food processor as it was very early and I didn't want to wake my husband or my sleeping Yorkie. I just mixed the cornstarch, salt and sugar in a small amount of milk, then combined all the ingredients and whisked them well before cooking the pudding.Instead of the orange chocolate, I used plain chocolate for the bottom layer, but kept with the espresso theme. Success! But, I had a failed pudding and six egg whites to deal with.

After chilling the puddings,I topped them with a meringue, placed them in a pan of ice to keep the puddings cold, then ran them under the broiler. The failed pudding mixture became chocolate orange espresso ice cream. The only downside was I had two desserts to eat, not just one. Some people wouldn't call it a downside, but they probably are skinny. It's time for me to hit the gym! See you next time.

Thanks to Garret of theflavorofvanilla for choosing the Split Level Pudding for this edition of TuesdayswithDorie.
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.