Thursday, November 23, 2017

Apple Ginger Pomegranate Tart with 5003 Falernum

The art of the tart is our family Thanksgiving tradition. I always make either a pie or a tart, or two, for the holiday. Apple seems to be the favorite, but I try different things every so often. Those who know me well, know my personal aversion to cinnamon, a topic on which I've ranted many times. I am of the belief that the food product should taste like the main ingredient, not like every other baked good under the sun.

This year, I decided to add some of my personal favorite flavors to the mix, which are ginger and pomegranate. This time of year is pomegranate season, they start to get ripe in the Arizona winter. Since I'm nowhere near that climate, it's something I miss. I also decided to try something new. Over the past year I've become attached to our neighborhood distillery, Elevation 5003, in a little shopping center that is walking distance from home.
I've gotten to know the owner, Loren, and she's a big supporter of the running community here, among other things, and a dog lover, and she appreciates good food and drink. She's also been a supporter of my artwork, and I currently have some of my pastels on display there. Our puppies have grown up visiting the distillery often, and Loren has patient with the process of raising them, so they don't bark or jump on things, or steal people's drinks.
One of the types of liquor they produce is Falernum, which is a Caribbean-style liqueur, flavored with almond, ginger, allspice, clove, anise, and lime. I've never been a fan of those baking-type spices, but last Christmas I tried the Falernum, which Loren described as "Christmas in a glass", and I was instantly hooked.
Last year I created a Falernum punch-type cocktail with equal parts vodka (The 5003 brand is called Narrow Road) and Falernum, with squeezes of fresh lemon, lime, and orange juices, a maraschino cherry, all over ice, with a slice of jalapeno in it.
This year I decided to try soaking the apples in the Falernum to give them a different flavor. I sliced the apples, leaving the skin on, and soaked them for 2 hours in a shallow bowl with about 1/2 cup of Falernum, stirring and turning them to make sure they all got coated with it. This year I used Braeburn and Jazz apples, just because that's what they had at Sprouts and they both have good flavor and are tart enough for a tart.

I peeled a small knob of fresh ginger and chopped it finely, throwing half of it in with the apples and Falernum, and saving the other half for the tart dough.
While they were soaking, I made the tart dough. Starting with a softened stick of butter, cut up into thin slices, I added the flour, mixed it with a fork until the crumbs were evenly mixed and about the size of peas. Then I added the sugar, mixing again. After that, I added the ginger, a third of a cup of Falernum, two large egg yolks, and the zest of one big lemon.
I mixed it all up together, and it was crumbly, needing more liquid, so I added a couple of tablespoons of water at a time until it all stuck together and I was able to knead it into a slightly sticky dough. Then I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while I prepared the pomegranate.

The idea with the pomegranate for the tart is to just get the juice, without the seeds or the bitter-tasting white junk that holds the seeds in place. I roll the whole pomegranate under the pressure of my hand for a few seconds before I cut into it. Then I remove the pomegranate seeds from the white film and place them in a bowl, and remove whatever white junk is left, so all you've got are the dark red fruit around the individual seeds.
Take the seeds and place them in a plastic bag with a zipper-type closure. Get all the air out of the bag before you seal it. Use the pressure of your hands to squeeze the juice out of the pulp on the seeds. Be careful not to tear the bag or it will look more like Halloween in your kitchen than Thanksgiving!
Once all the seeds are juiced (no more popping of the seeds) then carefully pour the juice out, using a cheesecloth or filter if you have one, so all you get is the pomegranate juice. Watch out for the kitchen supervisors trying to micromanage you.

I poured about a third of a cup of the juice over the soaking apples and mixed it in, and saved the rest for drinks later!

Then I went back to the dough. Using two large pieces of wax paper, I floured the bottom piece and placed the dough ball on it, flattening it under my palm. Then I sprinkled a little flour on top of the dough, and placed the other piece of wax paper over the top. Using the rolling pin, I rolled it out until it looked as big as the tart pan bottom. Then I rolled it out even further to allow for the sides of the tart pan to be covered with dough.
Carefully remove the wax paper and place the dough, centered, in the tart pan, pressing down gently to cover the entire pan evenly and up the sides. Any dough that hangs over can be rolled back up and mashed with a fork or decorated if you are into that sort of thing. I like my tart to look sort of rustic, so I pinch it with my fingers and that's enough. Prick the bottom of the dough evenly with a fork, but don't gouge big holes in it.Then it's time to arrange the soaked apple slices, trying not to eat too many of them before they make it into the tart pan. Again, I don't worry too much about appearances, I arrange them sort of neatly, but you can be as obsessive as you want to be. There might be a little juice from the soaking liquid that pools in the bottom of the tart, don't worry about it. You don't want it to be too wet, though.

Leave the remaining Falernum-pomegranate-ginger mixture for drinks later- or, drink it now, after filtering it.
I covered the tart in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to bake the next morning, but you can bake it right away.

To bake, set the oven at 375, placing the tart pan on a cookie sheet, so you don't damage it by pushing the bottom up. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the apples and dough start to brown.

Cool and serve, with ice cream, whipped cream, coffee, more Falernum, or just plain.
Ask the kitchen supervisors to write you a review...
4 large apples (I used 2 Braeburn and 2 Jazz), scrubbed, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup Elevation 5003 Falernum
1/2 T. chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate juice
Soak apple slices in other ingredients for about 2 hours in a shallow bowl, mixing every 30 minutes to evenly coat the apples.

2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick (4 oz) butter
1/2 T. fresh chopped peeled ginger
zest of 1 large lemon
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup of Falernum
water as needed
Mix flour, sugar and butter until even and crumbly, then add remaining ingredients, onyl adding water until dough sticks together, slightly sticky and kneadable.

Follow instructions as above, bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Raspberry "Rhubarb Envy" Pie

For nearly a month we have been overrun with raspberries on a daily basis, and it's hard to keep up. Large quantities of fruit spell pie to me, having worked in a bakery long ago.

Certain types of fruit go well with the tartness of rhubarb, and this is a mixed blessing for me. I planted some rhubarb four years ago and it's never grown beyond a tiny plant with a few little wimpy stalks.

My rhubarb problem is a good thing because if we had tons of rhubarb, I'd be making pies all the time. Fort Collins has an abundance of rhubarb and one house in particular along the route where I always walked Iris has several HUGE rhubarb plants in raised beds in the front yard. I think Iris always took me past there to remind me that I was doing something wrong. Let's just say I have a serious case of rhubarb envy.

I should probably get with the program and figure out what to do about my wimpy little rhubarb or start knocking on doors with bowls of raspberries in hand and ask to trade. But I didn't. I took a wimpy little knife and cut my wimpy little rhubarb stalks and chopped them up, yielding only enough rhubarb for one pie.

A word (really a lecture) about spices in pie!

I realize this is a thing of personal preference, but I have to sound off here about my opinion on spices in pie. For some reason many people feel the need to add cinnamon to everything they bake. I don't understand this way of thinking. Why would you want everything to taste and smell the same?

I don't use cinnamon in baking for two reasons: One, because I really don't like the smell or taste of it- I think it belongs in certain things, like cinnamon rolls, because that's what they are: cinnamon rolls. And two: Why would you want everything else to taste like a cinnamon roll?

You need to allow the true flavors of something to come through, and cinnamon just ruins the whole thing. Think about it: in nature, fruit tastes like itself: fruit. Raspberries taste like raspberries, cherries taste like cherries, and so on. If your divine creator wanted it to taste like cinnamon, he, she, or it would have made all fruit taste like cinnamon. But they didn't.

So back off on the cinnamon, will ya? You might call me a cinnamon hater, but I'm not. I think cinnamon has its place: in things that are labeled "cinnamon".

'Nuff said.


Part I. Pie Dough

1 1/2 cups of fine pastry flour

1/2 stick of butter (4 T.)

a sprinkle of sugar

a sprinkle of salt

1/4 cup of water (and more- see below)

optional: 1 tsp. of vanilla if you want the crust to smell really, really good.

Part II. Filling

2 cups of fresh, rinsed and drained fruit (raspberries in this case)

1 cup of chopped rhubarb- leaves and roots removed. (Google on cooking with rhubarb if you're unfamiliar with it) 1/2 cup sugar or to taste- you might want more.

Note: I base my sugar usage on the sweetness of the fruit and how healthy I want to be. For a single fruit pie you can get away with using very little, unless your fruit is very tart. For the pie shown, I used about 1/2 cup of sugar.

2 T. of finely ground tapioca. (I used minute tapioca and put it in a coffee grinder to grind it to a powder) You can also use arrowroot, cornstarch, or other thickeners if you know how they work. I use tapioca for pies.

1/2 cup of water- I used this because the fruit was not very wet and rhubarb and raspberries don't have a lot of juice. With juicier fruits you will want to use less water.

What to do first:

Make the pie dough, then mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and let the filling sit a few minutes while you roll out the pie crust.

To make the pie dough

Place flour in the bowl with other dry ingredients and mix. Butter should be soft to touch but not runny. Slice butter into thin pieces and place in bowl with flour. Using a fork, mix the butter by pressing down with the fork and blending until the entire mixture becomes crumbly. It should look like soft crumbs.

Then add 1/4 cup of water and mix in until all of the dry ingredients stick together and can form a ball of dough. If you need more water, add tiny amounts, slowly. You don't want the dough to become wet. You can add a sprinkle of flour to keep it from sticking to your hands but don't add very much or it will be stiff. If you've done it right, it shouldn't stick to your hands.

Knead it lightly. As soon as the ball of dough is velvety, smooth, and pliable, using a rolling pin and a flat, smooth surface, roll it out on a clean, lightly floured surface. No kitchen supervisor hairs allowed. You can place it between two sheets of wax paper but I prefer to use a big wooden board for this purpose.

Leave the ball of dough to sit while you mix up the filling.

To make the filling

Simply mix all the filling ingredients together in a separate bowl.

To roll out the pie dough

Roll it out until it's a bigger circle than your pie plate. It should be thin but shouldn't tear when you pick it up. You'll want you pie shell to be big enough to more than cover the edges of the plate. Drape it over the plate so the edges spill over as evenly as possible all the way around. Lightly press the dough down against the edges of the plate. Prick the bottom of the shell a few times with a fork, but don't tear holes in the crust.

Pour the filling into the crust, spreading it evenly.

Cut the extra crust from the edges or fold it up over the edge, pinching it with your fingers or using the extra cut dough to make a lattice or if you have enough, roll out a top crust.

You can bake an open pie, or if you make a top crust be sure to cut slits in it for the heat to escape. Or you can be creative and make a lattice, like I did. Roll out the dough and cut it into strips and weave them over the top. There's an art to this, but I'll leave it up to you to google on it.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn it down to 375 and bake for another 40-60 minutes, until the crust edges are brown and the filling boils into big, slow moving clear bubbles. If you fill the pie with too much filling, it will bubble over and make a mess, so it's a good idea to place a baking sheet under the pie.

Cool, cut, then serve with a generous amount of good vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Chocolate Raspberry Zucchini Bread Florentine

We have way too many yellow squash in our garden, and it's raspberry season. Trying to figure out a way to creatively use both, I came up with this. Use the yellow squash just like zucchini and since raspberries are a perfect complement to chocolate, some chocolate chips were an easy addition.

Part I. Making the bread.

Grease and flour two loaf pans or one large bundt cake pan. (We used the cake pan because of part two, below.)


2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 (1.5) tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

6 oz plain greek nonfat yogurt

2 t. vanilla

2 large eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 cups grated yellow squash (or zucchini)

3/4 cup of chocolate chips (6 oz)

1 cup of fresh raspberries (I used more like 1 1/2 cups and the raspberry flavor was intense!)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add yogurt, vanilla, eggs, and oil and stir to a smooth consistency. Add raspberries and smash them while mixing. Then add squash and chocolate chips. Mix with a wooden spoon until well-blended.

Bake at 350 for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean except for the part that touches melted chocolate chips.

Cool thoroughly if you can wait that long.

Part II. Floor-entine.

This is what happens when you try to work without the oversight of your kitchen supervisor.

We decided to invoke the three second rule.

We scraped up all the batter except for the quarter inch or so that was actually touching the floor, and salvaged most of it. Not a single dog hair was seen in the entire loaf, which disappeared faster than you can say, "three second rule".

Somewhere, Iris is watching us and laughing as only Iris can, with her distinctive, incomparable smile.

In Memory of Iris, Kitchen Supervisor Extraordinaire

Very sad news.

Our beautiful Iris, who ran not just the kitchen, but the entire household, and the heartbeat of our family, is no longer with us. For fourteen years she herded us around the kitchen, checking every step and ingredient in each recipe. Nothing escaped her attention, she always insisted on precision and perfection. Here is her obituary.

Iris would have wanted us to continue having fun in the kitchen, so we are doing our best to carry on. Our kitchen has not been the same, and as you will see in our next post, we are helpless without her. We know she is watching us, and laughing at us from the other side.

Iris's last snack was raspberries picked fresh from the garden, and we have chosen to honor her with a couple of creative favorites in the next two posts.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blue Razz Buttermilk Pancakes

This year we had an abundance of raspberries in our garden. I didn't even think of adding them to the pancakes until after I bought blueberries at the store. The combination made them interesting and delicious.
2 cups flour
2 T. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. melted butter or canola oil
1 c. blueberries
1 c. raspberries

whipped cream and maple syrup for toppings

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well, then add eggs, buttermilk and oil. Stir this mixture until evenly blended but don't overmix or the pancakes won't rise well. Then add the fruit and mix lightly again.

On a heated pan or griddle drop a ladle of pancake batter and tilt pan until the mixture spreads out slightly.
Cook on one side until the edges are dry, then flip. It's important to make sure the edges are dry all the way around before you try to flip it or you will have a mess.

Serve immediately with maple syrup and whipped cream. The kitchen supervisors should always taste test it first, and don't forget to give them the leftovers.
You might want to warn the kitchen supervisors ahead of time that there won't be much for leftovers. This will save them time so they can move onto the next project. They tend to be obsessive.