A good friend of mine opened my mind to the best feature of NPR that even an anti-talk radio person such as myself can appreciate. It’s their food side (surprise surprise huh?) They list their top ten cookbooks each year and she kindly sent me the link to the article (for your enjoyment as well: http://www.npr.org/2010/11/16/131357002/2010-s-best-cookbooks-real-life-labors-of-love)

I looked through the article and checked out a couple of their excerpt recipes and found one from “flour” which used up extra egg whites, almonds, almond extract and heavy cream that I had been needing to finish off (you know how satisfying it is when a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of cream and you happen to have EXACTLY one half cup of cream left). This recipe was for Almond Macaroons with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache.

So I went home, blanched some almonds, and made them. Initally the cookies were chewy (like taffy chewy, not softyummycookie chewy) and I was dissappointed. I put them in a container and brought them into work today thinking it’d be a good way to get rid of unwanted cookies. I kept thinking, how the hell did this woman write a cookbook let alone start a bakery? these are terrible.

Almond Macaroons

As it turns out these cookies are INCREDIBLE after they sit overnight. The cookie part softens, the gnauche melds with the waffer and oh. my. god. It’s bliss. Divine and luscious. These cookies are destined to be cut out into heart shapes and eaten on Valentine’s day alongside sliced strawberries and a nice brut champagne. All the sudden I’m wishing it were February instead of thefirst snowyday of winter.

Here’s the link to the recipe from the article; store it away for a few months and you’ll be glad you did. http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/131276900/recipe-almond-macaroons-with-bittersweet-chocolate-ganache

These were surprisingly delicious and made for a fantastic Saturday. I had two 🙂

Pumpkin-Cinnamon Streusel Buns


Yield:  16 servings (serving size: 1 bun)


Buns:
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chilled butter, softened
Glaze:
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon hot water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon milk (I used heavy cream)

To prepare the buns, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour, pumpkin, and next 5 ingredients (pumpkin through nutmeg); beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of the remaining 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Spread with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut roll into 16 (1-inch) slices. Place slices in 2 baking pans coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake the rolls at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, water, milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over buns. Serve warm.

Estimated Nutrition:

CALORIES 219 (25% from fat); FAT 6.2g (sat 3.7g,mono 1.8g,poly 0.3g); IRON 1.6mg; CHOLESTEROL 16mg; CALCIUM 24mg; CARBOHYDRATE 36.9g; SODIUM 311mg; PROTEIN 3.8g; FIBER 1.2g

Adapted from Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2001

I changed the recipe a little by using cream cheese and heavy cream in the frosting and almost quadrupling the amount of cinnamon. I did not use all the brown sugar/cinnamon for the filling either. The original recipe is for 12 rolls however I managed to roll out 16.

These rolls are so incredibly fluffy and delicious that only a little cream cheese streusel is needed. They have a very light pumpkin flavor and an exquisite texture. Oh man I wish I still had some in my kitchen!

I tried four filling recipes: Bon Appetit, Bobby Flay’s, Fine Cooking, and Libby’s. When making Libby’s I unfortunately forgot to add the sugar so it didn’t ever really have a chance. I also tried two different crusts: a vodka crust which I’ve heard many chef’s swear by (including America’s Test Kitchen), and Shirley O’ Corriher’s which involved a couple odd ingredients but she’s a baking/cooking science genius. Anyway, let’s get the show on the road here’s my results, opinions, and the recipe that I personally will be using come that glorious day us blessed American’s choose to call Thanksgiving.

First, the reviews:

Bon Appetit:

By far the best pumpkin flavor out of all four. Some have spice, some have crust, some have booze and this one tasted completely and wonderfully pumpkin. I loved it. The texture was alright, and could have been corrected with different cooking temperature/times. I’ve read that cooking pumpkin pie too hot can curdle the custard, and too cold will cause it to take forever to cook and still be undercooked in the middle. I could mess with this a bit, but seriously? I was already making 4 pies. Anyway, props for the pumpkin flavor; my taste buds give their thanks.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/11/pumpkin_pie_with_pepita_nut_and_ginger_topping

Bobby Flay:

For starters the big difference in his recipe was that he strained the custard before baking. Now I honestly thought to myself, as I reluctantly held the mixing bowl in one hand and a strainer in the other, “this isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.” Well, after some time in the oven and three other pies to compare it to, it makes a huge difference. Bobby Flay’s pie had the most incredible texture I’ve ever experienced with pumpkin pie. I think it tasted good, but to tell you the truth my mouth was too busy being caressed by this lusciously smooth experience that I’m not even sure I remember flavor. It had to be there. Right? Whatever, cheer Bobby, it’s always a pleasure when you’re in my kitchen.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/throwdown-pumpkin-pie-recipe/index.html

Fine Cooking:

Now I actually wasn’t planning on making this recipe just because I was feeling pretty good about three different styles but then my mom came in and made only one statement: “you better not have any leftover pumpkin when all this is finished.” (the partialcan had been occupying valuable fridge space a little too long apparently.) So I thought, what the hell, might as well give a recipe with a little booze in it a shot.

My review is that as far as pies go, this one was pretty alright. It did not have the traditional pumpkin pie taste anyone would expect (with the addition of rum and black pepper) but it was definitely not bad. This was actually my mom’s favorite out of the four but I wasn’t too big a fan. It tasted good, the texture was a little… grainy? but did not reflect tradition and since Thanksgiving is a holiday based on a meal made up entirely of tradition it was cut from the list. Sorry fine cooking. Sorry mom.

http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/sugar-spice-pumpkin-pie.aspx

Libby’s:

I forgot the sugar. What more can I say?

http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/18470/LIBBYS-Famous-Pumpkin-Pie/detail.aspx

Cook’s Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust:

This crust is fantastic. That’s just how it is. I like to think of vodka as the tofu of baking: it serves it’s purpose by creating pockets in your pie crust so it’s incredibly soft and flaky without altering the flavor or overwhelming you with butter/shortening. Crusts are very difficult because they are easily over/under worked and the temperature of the butter is crucial to a successful crust; vodka makes it possible to get it right every time.

All that being said, I will use this crust for everything except pumpkin pie.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2007/11/cooks-illustrated-foolproof-pie-dough-recipe.html

The Throwdown:

Now you might think it was just me standing around in the kitchen stuffing myself incessantly with pie muttering between mouth fulls, “I really need to have one more slice, I’m really just not sure if I remember exactly how that one tasted and of course my opinion is supreme so why should I share?” but that is not what happened.

We had family friends over and I made mini pies (in my new mini muffin tin. every baker needs one. I’m sure of it.) The men were tasked with trying one of each kind (two crusts styles, 4 different custards) and reporting their results. I also made ramekins of each of the fillings to try on my own to make sure I had the capability to do adequate testing as well.

So the votes were tallied and the winner was… Bobby Flay! That throw down Pumpkin Pie recipe managed to win yet another victory. As far as crusts go, the vodka crust was incredible but when it comes to pumpkin pie Shirley O’ Corriher knows her stuff. There were a lot of weird ingredients (i.e. instant flour… nonfat dry milk…) but it pairs so well with the pumpkin custard that it won hands down. After all this I thought the winning pie was incredible BUT not perfect. I was still dreaming of something with the delicious pumpkin flavor Bon Appetite mustered up. Convinced that BA’s recipe combined with Bobby Flay’s technique I believe I have the best pie recipe; and now so do you:

The BEST Pumpkin Pie. (take that Bobby)

Filling:

15 oz pumpkin puree
½ c dark brown sugar
2 T granulated sugar
1 T corn syrup (or light molasses)
1 T flour
1 ½ t cinnamon
¾ t ginger
¼ t cloves
¾ t pumpkin pie spice
¼ t salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ vanilla bean split, seeds scraped (optional)
1 ¼ c heavy cream

Crust:

1 ⅔ cups (7.7 oz) instant flour (Wondra is what I used and it is not All Purpose)
7 T plus 1 ½ tsp butter-flavored shortening, chilled
1 tsp salt
2 scant tsp nonfat dry milk powder
1 ½ tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ c plus 2 tsp water

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugars, corn syrup (or molasses), flour, spices, and salt in medium bowl with a whisk until well blended. Whisk in eggs, yolks, and vanilla bean seeds followed by cream.
  2. Strain the mixture into a separate bowl (preferably one with a pour spout) and set aside.

Now time for the crust. Get out your food processor.

NOTE: pulsing when making pastry dough’s in a food processor is essential.

  1. Place flour and shortening in food processor with the steel blade and pulse until clumpy – almost pasty.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup stir together salt, nonfat dry milk, corn syrup, vinegar, and water. Drizzle this into the flour mixture a little at a time pulsing as you go until the dough comes together.
  3. Roll out the dough immediately and place in the pie plate. Don’t forget to make the edges pretty.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue to cook about another 30 minutes. Baking times will vary so keep an eye on it.

Explanations:

I made a few changes and I thought it might be helpful to know what they are and understand why I made them.

Dark Brown Sugar: Although I loved the flavor of Bon Appetite’s pie I thought it could use the slightest touch of rich depth that dark brown sugar adds. Dark brown sugar is merely brown sugar with more molasses in it and rather than go to the store and purchase molasses I just stepped into the pantry and up-ed the brown sugar amount; I also reduced granulated sugar to keep things balanced.

Corn Syrup: If you look at BA’s recipe, they use 1 T of light molasses which I simply did not have and didn’t want to commit to a full bottle of. This is connected with my previous alteration.

Pumpkin Pie Spice: I know it’s just all the spices I already put in but I didn’t want to add too much extra of any one so I thought I’d go with a blend. I also was shooting for a pie with “more spice” and although this recipe is booming with pumpkin flavor, the spice flavor is more subtle.

Egg Yolk and Straining: These two factors were, I suspect, the cause for the incredible texture in Bobby Flay’s pie. I think it’s important to have an equal number of eggs to egg yolks (nothing like a little fat to smooth things out) and straining really did make an incredible difference. With these two fixes I’m pretty certain any custard pie recipe could dance on your tongue.

CRUST: Shirley O’ Corriher’s crust is wonderful for a couple reasons: it’s made in a food processor which makes it super speedy and nearly effortless (at least until you start cleaning). There are a lot of weird ingredients that most pantries don’t just have on hand but my mom’s kitchen is thankfully equipped with many of those random ingredients; and since I own Shirley’s cookbook, I have many other purposes for instant flour. Lastly, this crust does not need to be refrigerated before rolling out which is a time saver and incredibly convenient for someone like me.

So, there you have it. That is the absolute best pumpkin pie recipe out there in the entire world. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Happy baking, happy eating, and best wishes no matter what your holiday season might bring.

Harvest Love

A short savory dialogue inspired by fall and my belly.

Pumpkin Puree: Maple Syrup?

VT Maple Syrup: yes Pumpkin?

Pumpkin Puree: I love you.

VT Maple Syrup: I know.

I didn’t realize how deep and passionate this relationship was until this afternoon I made pumpkin soup from a cooks illustrated recipe.

My world is now a better place. Thank you Cook’s Illustrated for showing me the light. And to you dear pumpkin and maple, may your love for one another grow more with each glorious fall day that passes.

So you all can appreciate the love I’ve found:

Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups chicken broth, plus extra for thinning
1 – 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup whole milk
salt and pepper, to taste
walnuts and blue cheese for garnish

Directions:

Melt the butter in a medium dutch oven pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander, and nutmeg. Continue to saute and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in the broth, making sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the soup to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and syrup and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Working in batches, if necessary, puree the soup with your brand new fancy shmancy immersion blender (thank you Costco and mom) until smooth in the dutch oven.

Stir in the milk and and additional broth to adjust the soup’s consistency (I didn’t have to add any extra liquid). Season to taste with salt and pepper (I didn’t need these either) and heat gently over low heat until hot. Garnish individual bowls with walnuts and blue cheese.

To toast the walnuts: toss them with a bit of olive oil and saute in a small pan or toast in the toaster oven for 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant.

There’s something so fantastic about a glass of good red wine at the end of the day. I don’t know what it is but that overwhelming flavor of oak with the soft warmth of each sip is just the best part of the day. It’s like when you finally get home, get through with work, dinner, life and you’ve actually survived, you deserve a nice little beverage as if to say, “Congratulations. You’ve done a good job.”

Anyway, here is my post, explaining my love for red wine. Let me count the ways.

1. Oak infused richness is the most fantastic flavor on the planet.

2. Alcohol. I love the little buzz and tingly on my tongue. It can make the most awkward or unpleasant company nearly enjoyable.

3. The pretty bottles and labels and beautiful and creative. I love how the description makes my mouth water.

4. I LOVE how it tastes with a good piece of dark chocolate, brownies, steak, bread and balsamic… the list goes on.

5. Antioxidants man.

6. Any adventure in the kitchen is usually more fun and tastes better when you’ve got a bottle of wine open and a full glass.

7. It’s yummy.

So, it’s not the most scientific or well researched list but it’s definitely my happy thought at the end of a long day.

 

Here’s to you red wine. May our adventures in life be many and our story have only just begun.

Our Weekend Hiking Crew

The last few weeks have brought many events into my life all pointing me in very different directions. I spent last weekend in Seattle visiting family and experiencing a little of Downtown’s nightlife; I’m not sure if I’m totally cut out for that one. I also managed to get out a hike with a group of people from my uncle’s condo and spend a good amount of time with my grandma. Each different outing seemed to bring new enlightenment with it:

1. Seeing my grandma makes me want to spend more time with her. She’s just adorable and getting older fast. She’s awful lonely as well in a way that is difficult to remedy. I remember being lonely like that in Moscow my last semester and what I needed was a constant companion; that happened to be Tally in Hawaii. Thank you Tally, you and the sunshine healed my soul. My grandma isn’t exactly ready for tropical islands and sexy men on motorcycles but I could definitely be there for her. She’s thinking of moving to Arizona to be in warmer more comfortable weather but there’s still the possibility that if I was around she wouldn’t have to move as soon; maybe then I could ride her around on a motorcycle.

2. My degree is pretty useless in Juneau for what I want to do. Here is where I want to be, however, I’m not qualified to make enough money to exist doing what I’m doing now. My options are as follows: 1) stay with the brewery folding t-shirts in hopes for a spot in the lab to open up where I’m still not gaining any credibility as a microbiologist but really enjoying my family of coworkers and investing in some job history at a business where I respect and enjoy who I’m working for in an incredible level 2) hope that NOAA will give me some contract work which will at least be education, a good resume builder, and probably a bit of fun while I figure out what my next best step is 3) try for Analytica (water sampling is not sounding appealing at all however) 5) hope for SEARHC to be desperate enough to hire me without certification 4) Go back to school to get MT/MLT certified.

With all of those options though, no one has yet offered me a job. A lot if happening but nothing’s going on.

UW is expensive but I could probably do the lab certification program while living with family and taking care of Grandma.

3) I do not want to be a brewer. I shadowed on the brew deck and I know I’m capable of much more.

4) My parents are quite possibly very very ready for me to be out of their house; I’m getting there. The comfort of living at home, a full fridge and no rent is pretty fan-freakin-tastic and I’m reluctant to give it up but they’re still ready for me to go. My mom said so.

5) And my final realization is that if I don’t make a move for something soon I will be wasting my degree and the glorious time of my 20’s. I can’t stay here forever being indecisive and overwhelmed with possibilities; I need to choose a plan of action and go with it so I have that experience. It might be moving to Seattle, it might be moving out and staying in Juneau, or it might be something incredible happens next week and I’m offered a job somewhere with a decent paycheck and some benefits. I’m not excited about the thought of leaving Juneau again so soon… I feel flaky doing it. I’m also not excited to spend all of my money again on school and then restart my career search (job searching sucks, did anyone tell you that?) which is a heavy thought.

So that wasn’t all that much but I stand by my statement still: a lot is happening and nothing’s going on.

There you have it.

Maybe I’ll make some cookies.

a little honey bee

Hiking Companion. I know you're jealous.

It’s good to see some clouds today but Hannah and I had a great time hiking up to the tram. This is the only photo I took. We definitely deserved to stuff our faces on smoked ribs, grilled corn, fresh fruit, and of course a few beers in the sunshine later. All this inspired me to write a note expressing my feelings:

Dear First Saturday off work for the summer,

I love you.