Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Festive Food Tuesday: Happy Baby Kristy!

This post is a little on the late side, because I don't want Kristy to see the food I've got waiting for her baby shower and I wanted to post a few pictures of the big event. I thought that it would be fun to experiment with Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes for the shower, because if anyone else is like me, I can't get enough cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the fall. It's a great way to feel cozy.

First up, pie #100! (and #101!)

I made Harvest Pie, which is ironic, because this recipe was also pie #1. It's a full-circle moment, folks. The recipe that I had for this pie is just horrible, so I totally revamped it. Here is my version:
(for a 9-inch pie plate--and of course I have another comment. I much prefer glass pie dishes to metal ones. And I only use the leftover Marie Calendar pie tins in a major, major bind and have absolutely nothing else. But, that's just me.)
4 Granny Smith Appels (or you can mix with other tasty, crunchy apples, like Macuon)
2 firm pears
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 Tablespoon lemon juice (juice from 1/2 lemon--give the lemon a good roll before juicing)
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons cream
1 egg yolk
Sweetened Whipped Cream (recipe below)
Pie Crust (from last week's post)

Roll out one of the crusts, transfer to pie dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, peel, core and thinly slice the apples. People often ask me if I use one of those handy-dandy apple peeler gizmos, and I actually prefer just a good ol' peeler and paring knife. By the time I dig it out from the very back of my appliance cupboard, dust it off, get the sucktion cup thing to take hold to the counter, remember how to set it up so it works, start peeling, then stop, because I did something wrong, try again, have something else go wrong, have to explain what is going on to Shane and let him try...you get the picture. I usually can get it done the old-fashioned way. When I'm doing the apples, I kind of get a peeling mojo on and can really crank them out--I choose to peel a circle around the top of the apple, another circle around the bottom, and then straight down all the way around. I quarter, core, and then slice, which is my favorite part. I start feeling like an iron chef at this point. And after a day with a sick, teething one-year-old, I'm happy to shut the door to the kitchen, crank up the Christmas music, and lose myself in rhythmic chopping.

This is what I've been listening to lately. Anyone who knows me really well will pity Shane, my husband, who has to hear it, because they know that I am addicted to this cd. It has the most gorgeous choral Christmas music, arranged by John Rutter, truly one of the greats. I have probably listened to this cd 5000 times. No kidding. And this is the 3rd copy of this cd I've had to buy or steal from my mom, which makes me wonder....have roommates in the past secretly hidden this cd, so they wouldn't have to hear it played continually from late October through January?

Oh yeah, back to the pie. Hello? Anyone there? Sorry. So, after you are done slicing the apples and pears, put them in a medium-sized bowl with the flour, lemon, sugar, and spices. Mix, add the cranberries, and just turn the fruit over a few more times.

Next, roll out the top crust. Put the fruit mixture in the chilled bottom crust, put little pieces of butter on top, transfer top crust to pie and seal the edges (I like making the cute little notches all around the crust with my knuckles.) With a sharp knife, make 4 vents in the center of the pie. Put the pie in the fridge. Now here's another little secret, which really makes your pie look irresistable--in a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons cream. Get the pie out of the fridge and brush the cream mixture all over the crust with a pastry brush. This gives the pie a beautiful golden shimmer. A sprinkle of sugar on top of that makes it even prettier. Here's another lesson that was a hard one to learn: I always bake my pies with a baking sheet underneath. I SO do not love cleaning gunk out of the bottom of my oven and I think my neighbors will absolutely kill me if the fire trucks come again on my behalf. Ahem....
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes. Ta da! Yummy pie!

For sweetened whipped cream (which does not come out of a can--blech!), I mix 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup sugar on the highest setting in my kitchenaid or hand-mixer. Let it go until stiff peaks form and enjoy your friends saying, "ooooh, REAL whipped cream!" all night.

Now on to pie 101 (which is a tart, but it still counts!): Chocolate Pumpkin Tart
Weird sounding, I know, but sooo tasty! I love this tart! I made this tart in my 12-inch tart pan, which I now regret; it's really shallow. But, it still tastes pretty good.
You can find the recipe here
I wish I took a picture of this tart, because it really is as pretty as the picture on Martha Stewart's website.
I DID, however, take a picture of two of my all-time favorite ingredients, that also happen to be in this recipe:

Hoorah for Creme Fraiche! It is kind of in-between heavy cream and sour cream and somehow the flavor surpasses all. It is king of creams! I've been trying to find this in New Haven for years, and last week, Kristy told me that she saw it at Trader Joe's. "NO WAY!" I cried in disbelief, but, she was absolutely right. Last week, I saw it sitting there on the shelf, the same shelf I have looked at over and over, wishing it was there. I almost got emotional when I put the Creme Fraiche in my shopping cart...
However, if you are less fortunate than I have been of late, you can substitute the creme friache with evaporated milk and it works a-ok.

Now, who doesn't like a huge hunk of semi-sweet chocolate?! I love this big blocks of Ghiradelli that they sell at Trader Joe's. In my humble opinion, this is the best way to buy chocolate for baking.

I also made some of my very favorite holiday cookies ever. These cookies have a story, which I will tell, so skip ahead if I'm driving you nuts here. Two years ago, I wanted to give friends and neighbors the very best cookies I could; thus, the Christmas cookie bake-off was born! I just have so many holiday cookie recipes that looked good, and I decided that I would make 6 different kinds of cookies and choose some trustworthy friends (my husband, Kristy, and her husband Paul) to try out the different varieties and vote on the winner. This humble gingersnap was unanimously chosen the winner. It looks so unassuming, but it has the best flavor and melts instantly in your mouth.
I've thought about making the cookie-tasting party a tradition, but it's kind of a lot of work....

Aunt Claudia's So-soft Gingersnaps
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. shortening
1/4 c. dark molasses
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt

Cream until light and fluffy:
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. shortening

1/4 c. dark molasses

Mix together and add to the creamed mixture:
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt

For best results, chill dough overnight. Roll into balls approximately 1" in diameter. Roll the balls in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven! Take cookies out of the oven when they just start to turn golden brown. Do not let them turn brown or you will have hockey pucks!

You can easily double or triple the batch and stash the dough in the freezer. Nice for when things get crazy at Christmas time.

I also made a couple of appetizers for the shower. These are easy and fun for Christmas parties coming up:

Sweet and Spicy Almonds--I love this recipe from Everyday Food.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 2 1/2 cups unblanched almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 tablespoon each honey and water with 1 teaspon olive oil, stirring , until combined.
3. Transfer nuts to sugar mixture (do not scrape extra glaze into bowl); toss to coat. Cool in a single layer.
These keep a couple weeks, if stored in an airtight container. I love the depth of flavor in these nuts--they start out very sweet and end with a big bang, thanks to the cayenne pepper.

Goat-Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
One thing I love about this recipe is that I was able to make the filling a couple days in advance. I just cleaned the mushrooms, stuffed, and baked on the day of the party. The cheese filling takes like two seconds in the cuisinart, but everyone eating it will think it's totally gourmet since it has goat cheese in it. Go fig.

Here she is, the beautiful Kristy Walker! And that face just describes the whole night: "Oh my oh my, this is SO CUTE!"

Happy Baby Shower!


Scott, Heidi and clan said...

oh becca, you win. this is the best post, everything about it - superb. i am so glad you are my friend...PIE MASTER

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd said...

Becca, there have been many days since we left New Haven that we have wished we were back there, but none of them more so than after I read this post. I can't believe I didn't get to be there for pie 100!! Great job! At least Paul got back in time.

Deanna said...

Hooray for pie #100!!! Way to go, Pie Master! That makes me doubly sad that I wasn't there for that beautiful pie and for Kristy's shower. Boo hoo for me. The food all looked fabulous and I'm sure it was a great shower.

Kristy said...

The food was fabulous as well as the company! I am so excited for you that you reached your pie goal...it was a delicious journey! The pumpkin tart was amazing as well and that recipe is definitely ready for the "company" file! :)