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.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Bitchenest BBQ Pizza

It's been a long time since I posted any recipes. I've been relying on my old stand-bys, but Iris finally convinced me it was time to get with the program. She missed pizza, so that was the project we came up with. I actually got the idea for these toppings from Whole Foods, and I even cheated by using their prepared barbecue beef brisket. But everything else was my own doing, or fault, or whatever you want to call it. Iris had some ideas about toppings too, but as you'll see below, duck seemed a little too exotic for this pizza. Next pizza, maybe...
First thing you have to do is make the pizza dough, and since that takes a while to rise, it gives you a chance to prepare all your other ingredients. Here's the pizza dough recipe I used, first. I didn't bother to get real Italian super fine ground flour. I just used a combination of unbleached and whole wheat. Next time I'll go with the real stuff, to give the crust a lighter texture. This stuff turned out good, though.

Pizza Dough Ingredients

2 packets of baking yeast
a pinch of sugar or honey
1 1/4 cups of warm water
3 1/2 cups of flour (I used 1 cup of whole wheat and the rest unbleached)
1 tsp salt
4 T. olive oil
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water by stirring, then let it sit 5-10 minutes while yeast bubbles. Add 1 cup of flour and stir, then add oil and salt, then add the rest of the flour one cup at a time until dough becomes too thick to stir. Begin kneading by hand in the bowl, adding enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands but keeping it soft, not stiff.

Place the dough on a floured board or countertop and knead for several minutes until it has a uniform texture. Lightly oil the mixing bowl, then place the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a dish towel, and set it in a warm place to rise.

While the dough is rising, start preparing the sauce and toppings. There really is no preparation for the sauce unless you choose to make your own. I used Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce. You can use whatever brands you like.

Here's a list of the toppings I used:
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (I used about 12 ounces of this)
Barbecued Beef Brisket from Whole Foods Market (8 oz container, already cut into bite-sized chunks, from their refrigerated meat section)
Fresh Pineapple (about a third of a large pineapple without the core)
Red Onion (about 1/3 of a medium onion, sliced thin)
Red Jalapeno (Fresno) Peppers (I used 4 and de-seeded them)
Cilantro (a handful chopped)

Note: you can use whatever toppings you like, but remember to minimize the water content of them, either by using vegetables with little water content or by cooking them slightly first, or the pizza will get soggy)

Heat the oven to 450 degrees or higher. If you're using a pizza stone or tile, as I highly recommend, you'll want to make sure the stone and oven are heated all the way through before you put the pizza in, or it won't cook properly. Begin slicing and chopping the toppings and place in a bowl.
You might want to place the pineapple, onion, and peppers in a skillet because you'll want to sauté these before you put them on the pizza. It adds flavor and reduces the water content.
Get the kitchen supervisor's suggestions on the toppings. We ended up going with most of Iris's suggestions but ruled out the duck. Also, you see Gouda cheese pictured here, I thought about using that but decided on just plain mozzarella. You can use any cheese you like, or no cheese.
The mozzarella I used came in a sheet, rolled up in the package. I bought it because it happened to be on sale. But you can use balls of fresh mozzarella, or slice it however you want. I cut the sheet of cheese into squares.
When the dough has risen to at least double the size, place it on the wooden board and knead it again, then begin rolling it out. Use flour to avoid sticking to the board.
When you get it rolled out to the size you want- about 14 inches in diameter is what this recipe allowed for, you can pre-bake the crust for a minute on the stone (sprinkle flour or cornmeal on the stone first to keep it from sticking) so that it's easier to handle.
Once the dough is pre-baked pull it out with a giant spatula and place it back on the board to begin loading it with toppings. The way I started with the sauce was to put barbecue sauce on like this, then sprinkled some tabasco over it, lightly. Then I used a spatula to spread it around lightly and uniformly over the entire crust.
Next I added some of the cheese and some of the toppings, a little at a time, until I used everything, and sprinkled the chopped cilantro over it.
Then I loaded it onto the pizza stone and baked it for about 20 minutes. Our oven is really wimpy so you might not have to bake yours as long. Fifteen minutes is usually enough unless you like the crust really crispy. When it's done, take it out and serve it hot. Immediately. With beer.
Iris is the kitchen expert and she gets the final word, but...
it's always good to get a second opinion. Isabelle concurs.
Almost gone.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cherry Tomato Basil Pesto Pizza

Don't know what to do with cherry tomatoes and basil growing out of control in the garden?

This is an easy recipe, if you have time. The things that are time consuming are roasting the tomatoes and making the pizza dough. There are ways to shorten the time if you know a quicker, easier way to make pizza crust but I don't recommend any store bought ones.

I'm not going to include my own recipe for pizza dough, it's a yeast-raised, half-unbleached, half-whole wheat flour recipe, and it's easy, but you do have to let the yeast rise. If you must know, it's on page 163 of Colorado Cache Cookbook, published by Junior League of Denver, copyright 1978.

Actually the crust is my least favorite part of this pizza and I'm looking at gluten-free recipes that I might be able to use. Future recipe...

You can break this one down into 4 parts:

1. Roasting the tomatoes, 2. making the pizza dough, 3. making the pesto, and 4. assembling the pizza. Then all you have to do is bake it, which doesn't take long. It can be easily adapted by eliminating cheese or flour if you want a vegan or gluten-free version.

Part 1: Roasting the tomatoes

2 pints (about 2 pounds) of cherry tomatoes- can be a mix of red, yellow, orange, purple, etc.

1 large clove of garlic, minced

4 T. extra virgin olive oil, or more

salt and black pepper to taste

Place the olive oil in the bottom of a glass baking pan. Stab each cherry tomato once before throwing it in the pan. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and toss all ingredients together. Place in oven at 400 degrees and roast for about an hour. When they're done they'll look shriveled and caramelized. Put aside and let cool.

Part 2: The dough

I'm not going into detail here. Here's a picture of the yeast and then the dough after I added all the ingredients. I let it rise until it was at least double it's size. Then I punched it down and rolled it out, and placed it on a lightly greased pizza pan with some cornmeal sprinkled over it (keeps dough from sticking)

Part 3: The pesto

About a cup of fresh basil- or one large packed handful

1 clove of garlic

salt and pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil- about 1/3 cup

1 cup of grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1 cup of walnuts or almonds or other nuts (optional)

I like my pesto without nuts. Some people think I'm nuts. It's a texture thing, I don't like nuts on my pizza. Just like chocolate, I prefer it nut-free.

Take one large handful of freshly picked basil leaves and rinse them off, shake them dry. Then all you do is grind up the garlic in the food processor, really small, and then throw all the other ingredients in, and pulse them so that you get small sized diced pieces with some texture, scrape the ingredients down off the sides of the food processor bowl if you need to.

Don't blend it until it's green goo. It should be chunky and the basil leaves should still be recognizable as some kind of shredded leaves.

Part 4: Assembling

Once you roll out the dough, place it on the pan as described in part 2.

Then spread the basil pesto evenly over the dough, it should be a uniform, thin layer.

Mix and smash the tomatoes lightly with a fork, tossing the ingredients together in the glass pan, then spread the tomato mixture over the basil pesto.

After that, you can add mozzarella cheese, any toppings- we used pitted kalamata olives here.

Bake the pizza at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is baked through.

It won't last long.

Serve with the quality control officer as your witness.