3-2-1 Pie Dough and Desserts!

Baked Apple Tart

3-2-1 Pie Dough and Desserts!

I love making pies. I’ve been working on improving my pie dough making for desserts over the past few months. I love making beautiful dessert tarts even more. Sure the rustic nature of a pie is great, but there is an elegance in making a tart.

With the birth of our son Jeremy, we have been blessed with support from family, friends, neighbors and the community at large. I decided to give back to one particular neighbor in the best way I know how, through food, after they gifted us a crib their youngest son grew out of.

I still prefer the 3-2-1 Pie Dough recipe ratio from Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ratio over others I’ve tried. The time it takes to make a solid pie dough and thus tart crust has increased significantly. The time increase mostly comes from the chilling process after working with the dough at each step to relax the gluten and prevent its formation. In my last entry I wrote about Pie Dough and Quiche Lorraine. I didn’t expand much on the pie dough process that much, so this post has pictures to help guide you along.

Pie Dough Ratio:

The first step for the tart dough was of course to make the pie dough ratio. Scaled down for one tart pan (or pie pan) it is:

  • 6 oz flour
  • 4 oz butter (1 stick) cut into chunks
  • 2 to 3 oz of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar (this is a sweet dessert after all)

I opted to keep the original amounts so I could make a tart for our neighbors while also being able to savor and judge the results myself. How else am I going to get better if I don’t taste and judge my own products?!

Method:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl or food processor.
    Dry Ingredients in Cuisinart
  2. Break the cold butter into chunks.
    Butter and Water
    Cut Butter
    Cut Butter
  3. Cut the butter into the flour, salt and sugar either by rubbing it in or by pulsing in the food processor.
    Butter into Dry Ingredients
    Combined Butter and Dry Ingredients*Note: Using a food processor makes it less likely that you’ll melt the butter with your body heat. We want to reduce the amount of water we use to prevent the creation of gluten which would result in a tough leathery crust.
  4. Slowly add water until the dough just comes together.
    Adding Water to Butter and Dry Ingredients*Note: It may be sandy or brittle. When resting in later steps, the water will be absorbed by the flour.
  5. Bring the dough together into the shape of a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  6. Roll out the dough into a disc that is slightly bigger than the tart pan or pie pan you’ve chosen. Wrap in plastic and chill again for 30 minutes.
  7. Place the dough into the tart pan or pie pan you’ve chosen. Ensure that the dough is pressed into the edges. You can use your fingers for this.
  8. Trim any excess dough
    1. If using a pie pan, trim the excess dough from the edges with a knife. Leave a little extra if you’ll be pinching the edge to make it more decorative
    2. If using a tart pan, you can easily trim the excess by rolling over it with a rolling pin. The tart pan will cut the dough and you can peel off the excess.
      Rolling Out Tart Dough
      Rolling out tart dough
  9. Chill your tart pan or pie pan with dough
  10. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees
  11. Blind bake the tart crust for 20 to 25 minutes by either:
    1. Covering the dough with parchment paper and dried beans or pie weights or
    2. Docking the crust with a fork (poking holes). If bubble form while baking, simply poke them with a fork or small sharp knife.
  12. It’s ready when the sides take on some color and dry a small amount. We’ll be baking it long and slow later, so it doesn’t need to be fully cooked.
    Blind baked tart crust

Tart Filling

  • 4 apples, cored and peeled and sliced
  • 1 lemon, to prevent the browning of the apples and to add some flavor
  • ~ 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 oz (1/2 stick) butter, cut into small chunks
  1. Cut the apples into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Cover the apples with lemon juice as you cut them to prevent browning.
  3. Arrange the apples in the blind baked tart crust
    Lining up apples
  4. Cover the apples with generous amounts of sugar. You may find that you don’t use all of the sugar. That’s ok!
  5. Add the chunks of butter on to of the sugar and apples.
    Butter and Sugar on top of Apples
  6. Bake until the crust is golden and the apples have softened while taking on some color.
  7. While still warm, glaze the apples with the heated apricot jam.
    Baked Apple Tart
  8. Enjoy!

Plated Apple Tart

 

I’m still working on technique, but enjoy making apple tarts. They remind me of my mom as she used to enjoy making them for parties. I hope you enjoy making them too! If you have any comments or questions, please post them below!

Bon Appétit!

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3-2-1 Pie Dough and Quiche Lorraine

It’s been a while since I’ve made quiche. I felt inspired and figured I’d take my culinary school knowledge to work.

I’ve made this pie dough in the past (posted here and here) and it still is one of my favorite recipes from Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ratio.

Pie Dough

The first step for the quiche was of course to make the pie dough. Scaled down for one tart pan (or pie pan) it is:

  • 6 oz flour
  • 4 oz butter (1 stick) cut into chunks
  • 2 to 3 oz of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Method:

  1. Combine the flour, and salt in a bowl or food processor.
  2. Break the cold butter into the flour and salt either by rubbing it in or by pulsing in the food processor
  3. Slowly add water until the dough just comes together.
    *Note: It may be sandy or brittle. When resting in later steps, the water will be absorbed by the flour.
  4. Bring the dough together into the shape of a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  5. Roll out the dough into a disc that is slightly bigger than the tart pan or pie pan you’ve chosen. Wrap in plastic and chill again for 30 minutes.
  6. Place the dough into the tart pan or pie pan you’ve chosen. Ensure that the dough is pressed into the edges. You can use your fingers for this.
  7. Trim any excess dough
    1. If using a pie pan, trim the excess dough from the edges with a knife. Leave a little extra if you’ll be pinching the edge to make it more decorative
    2. If using a tart pan, you can easily trim the excess by rolling over it with a rolling pin. The tart pan will cut the dough and you can peel off the excess.
  8. Chill your tart pan or pie pan with dough
  9. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees
  10. Cover the pie dough with parchment paper and dried beans or pie weights and blind bake for 20 to 25 minutes. It’s ready when the sides take on some color and dry.

Quiche Filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
    * while not traditional, it’s what I had!
  • pinch of salt
  • white pepper to taste
  • bacon
  1. Crack eggs into a bowl
  2. Add the heavy cream and cheese
  3. Add salt and pepper and whisk
  4. Break/crumble bacon or the addition of your choice into the liquid

Finishing it all up

  1. When the pie crust is ready from blind baking, take it out of the oven, remove the parchment paper and immediately pour the liquid into it. The liquid will create a seal as it hardens preventing any leaks.

    Quiche Lorraine After Blink Baking
    After Blink Baking
  2. Make sure the cheese and bacon are easily distributed
  3. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the center is just set
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature and enjoy!
Right out of the oven
Right out of the oven, Rising Life a Soufflé
Quiche Lorraine hot and cooling
Hot and cooling
Quiche Lorraine cooled off
Cooled off
A tasty little slice of Quiche Lorraine
A tasty little slice

Tips:

  • For the pie dough, everything should be cold. Use ice water if you can.
  • Non-iodized salt is best for baking. It will distribute more evenly throughout
  • Chill your pie dough after working it each time. Chilling relaxes the gluten preventing a chewy crust. It should be chilled at least 3o minutes each time.
  • Think about the end product. For the filling I chose white pepper so as not to overpower the other flavors and so I wouldn’t have black specs in my quiche
  • Place the quiche tart pan or pie pan on a sheet pan. It will make the process of putting the tart into the oven and pulling it out much easier and safer.
  • Be careful and don’t place the quiche too close to the heating element if you’re using an electric stove. You might get more browning on the top than you intended.
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A Quick Pickle

One of my most-used recipes from culinary school actually came from one of my classmates. I’ve used it often at home and have shared it with friends. After making some modifications to suit my tastes, I also submitted the recipe to the first cookbook for the Harvard Farmer’s Market. I hope it gets published. This will be my first recipe published.

Using pickling cucumbers from our garden (more on our garden in a future post), I cut them up into appropriate sizes. The cucumbers were cut off the plan at different sizes so I could test what made the tastiest pickle and also see how they compared texture-wise.

Here are some pictures.

IMG_5349IMG_5375

Pickling Recipe & Method:

Food preservation through pickling is a great way to keep fresh delicious food available long after it’s in season. This simple pickle recipe works with a variety of foods to produce a slightly sweet and sharp pickle. Try it out with cucumbers, red & white onions, beets, carrots and other fresh items out of your garden or from the farmers market. For best results, let it sit for 12 hours. This pickle can also be stored long-term using a canning method.

Base Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 C White Vinegar
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 2 t Kosher Salt
  • 2 C water

Optional Ingredients:

  • 1 t of mustard seed or ground mustard 
  • Red chili flakes
  • Fresh dill

Equipment:

  1. Large non-reactive pot
  2. Wooden spoon
  3. A heat-safe large bowl for cooling or heat-safe canning jars

Method:

  1. Cut the food you would like to pickle into your desired size
  2. Fill the bowl or canning jars with the food to be pickled. Yield will depend on the density of your food items. Scale the recipe as needed keeping the ingredient ratios in tact.
  3. Combine the base ingredients in a large pot
  4. Bring the pot up to a strong simmer and stir ensuring the sugar and salt are dissolved
  5. Pour the pickling liquid over your pickling items in the bowl or jars ensuring that they are fully covered 
  6. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature, around 70 degrees
  7. Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours or longer
  8. Enjoy!
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Free to Experiment, Making Marinara Sauce

Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce
Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce

One of the great things about building confidence with cooking is experimentation. Knowing that there isn’t a “right” answer, but many that are subjectively better than others is a great relief. Tonight I was looking for something simple to make for dinner. Spaghetti was among a few choices at the top of the list, but I did not have a sauce. Not wanting to make another white sauce, I figured I could try my hand at a simple red sauce. Over the weekend, I watched an episode of the Barefoot Contessa where she made a simple marinara sauce. It seemed like an easy task and I was inspired to experiment. On my way home, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a big 28 ounce can of the crushed tomatoes and followed her recipe for marina sauce.

I didn’t have any parsley, so I opted for basil instead; I have some growing in my window sill. Additionally I added more pepper for a spicier result. For a fraction of the cost, I was able to make a sauce equal to or slightly better than other store bought varieties. I have had better, but this one wasn’t bad. The sauce was a bit acidic, probably because of the recipe calls canned tomatoes over fresh which I have found to be much sweeter. I’ll have to try those next time for further experimentation.

Truth be told, cooking shows make everything look so easy. That’s what they are supposed to do. People don’t like complicated. This recipe was no exception and lived up to the simplicity promised saved for one exception. When done, pouring the contents from pan to storage container can be a bit tricky and messy. Also, the sauce tends to create a mess on the stove as it cooks, as tiny drops bubble over onto the stove surface. TV doesn’t like messy and these parts are nicely edited out.

The satisfaction of making a sauce and knowing you can play with the ingredients to suit your tastes has no comparison. The minor inconveniences are far outweighed by the end results. Now I have good sauce in the fridge and freezer which can be easily heated up and enjoyed later as part of another meal.

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Timing, Inspiration and Peach Golden Cake Heaven

Peach Golden Cake
Peach Golden Cake

All indicators today pointed a quiet Thursday night at home, but I wasn’t in the mood to be idle. Pâte à choux is next in my Cooking Through Ratio series, although the thought of making puff pastry with some sort of filling did not seem appealing to me.  After a long day, even the most inspired cook can dread the kitchen at times.

Today was the last day of my sister Ashley’s internship at the company where I work. I wanted to make something simple and yet nice for the occasion. My parents would be arriving to pick her up while also dropping off a new clothes dresser. The pressure was on.

We drove back to my apartment and as we walked up the stairs I had yet to come up with an idea. I checked the mail and to my surprise the first issue of my Gourmet Magazine subscription had arrived. Ashley and I climbed the stairs to my apartment while I eagerly unwrapped the magazine from its plastic cover. As I thumbed the pages, I came across a recipe for Nectarine Golden Cake. It called my name. This is what I would make…well sort of.

The recipe was simple and straightforward and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.  One thing that I did note was that having the preparation time and elapsed time as part of the recipe made planning and execution easier, defining a key variable. I was less stressed knowing approximately how much time I had.

One of the things I enjoy about cooking and my new found confidence coupled with my increasing knowledge is improvisation. I now view recipes as guides instead of absolutes. To be clear I am referring to ingredients and not the ratio between them. For instance, the recipe calls for nectarines. I have peaches. It also calls for almond extract. Don’t have that. It calls for grated nutmeg. Mine is store bought powder.  You get the idea. The essence of this cake was still there and the result was delicious, pulled out of the oven just in time as my parents arrived.

Confidence and creativity in cooking and life breed success. A year ago my cake could have been store bought. Now with a quick read of a recipe I’m able to make modifications to suit my needs. Creating recipes, now that’s where I want to be.

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Carrot Soup: Simple Food, Amazing Taste

Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup

I had the day off from work today and decided to take care of two nagging things on my to-do list. I started off with getting my car muffler and exhaust pipe repaired and then made a trip to Trader Joe’s for groceries. I even managed to fit in a gym workout to burn off some of the excess calories from last night’s food orgy.

Fixing my car set the tone for the rest of the day. With the repairs setting me back over $700, my desires for food purchases were tempered and I was forced to be more cost conscious. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and work on something new having been inspired by the Taste of Cambridge food festival I had just attended. I am currently reading The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin, who’s cooking is deeply rooted in frugality and simplicity having grown up in war torn France during the second World War and have enjoyed his descriptions of simple classical French cuisine that he prepared as he learned how to cook. While thinking about what to get I also thought about Thomas Keller’s view on food as described in The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman and his view of food and simplicity, taking one ingredient and making it the very best it can be. Using simplicity as my inspiration and cost as my guide for food purchases I settled on an something I rarely eat let alone cook with. I chose a carrot as a foundation for my dinner and decided to make a simple soup out of it. 89 cents for a one pound bag of organic carrots was a deal I could not pass up.

The process for making the soup was was really easy and the result was absolutely amazing. The salt and pepper added to the intense and fresh flavor of the carrots. I felt like I could relate to and understand both Pépin and Keller making a simple dish that wasn’t muddled with too many ingredients and flavors, producing out of this world results with plenty left over to be enjoyed in the future alone as a stand alone meal or as a component of another. The steps I took for making the soup are outlined below. Enjoy!

Carrot Soup Recipe:

Ingredients:
2 lbs. of carrots
2 cups water
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

Hardware:
Soup Pot
Immersion Blender or Food Processor

Directions:
Wash and peel the carrots and cut them into small 1/4 inch pieces. Put them into a pot. Add 2 cups of water or more if necessary so that the carrots are covered. Bring the pot to a simmer. When the carrots are tender, puree them with an immersion blender or in a food processor until they reach the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste ensuring that it is well mixed. Serve in a cup or bowl and enjoy hot.

Carrot Soup: Ready for Serving
Carrot Soup: Ready for Serving
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Family Recipes: Cassie’s Peach Cobbler

Cassie's Peach Cobbler
Cassie's Peach Cobbler

As I have mentioned before, and as it has been noted by many others, food is a great way to pass down family history and convey a story. Last weekend, Cassie shared her mother’s recipe for peach cobbler with me so that I could make it at home. The recipe itself is simple, and yet what it evokes is complex and emotional. She shared memories of making it with her mom and the smells that would fill the kitchen as it baked, bringing me into her world and her family history, and now I have another recipe that I can incorporate into my own history and pass down.
One of the hardest things for me to deal with as I improve my culinary skills is inexactness. The hundreds of pages that I have read from various texts along with the countless hours of Food Network, Travel Channel and public television shows on food, as well as my basics class have already trained me to think in exact measurements and about cooking food as a science. The scientific approach to food is at odds with the pleasure of passing down simple recipes founded on intuition.
Cassie’s Peach Cobbler
Ingredients:

6 Peaches
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk

Hardware:
9×9 baking dish

Cassie's Peach Cobbler: Ingredients
Cassie's Peach Cobbler: Ingredients

Directions:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees (F). Slice the peaches into wedges and place them into a buttered or non-stick baking dish. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and milk together until well mixed. Pour the contents of the bowl over the peaches so that they are well coated.

Cassie's Peach Cobbler: Prepared
Cassie's Peach Cobbler: Prepared

Put the peaches into the pre-heated oven for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Cassie's Peach Cobbler: Baked
Cassie's Peach Cobbler: Baked
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