Category Archives: Pastry

Personal Pan Pie-zzas

I’ve more or less been on vacation for almost a week. When I say vacation, I mean, like literally, I have no obligations work or family or friends, and I am as free as my wallet will allow, which is a strange feeling. 

In typical fashion, I am unable to actually rest, so I have been cleaning, crocheting, comforting Eric, who just turned 40 and is attempting to uphold his promise to quit smoking once and for all. 

Also, we traveled up north which was gorgeous and rugged and otherworldly. It reminded me why the Scandinavians moved here in the first place. It’s home. 

Pine and birch forests cut into jagged sheer rock face. It’s brutal. It’s gorgeous. 

I never want to live in a place where I can’t be close to my lakes. Superior makes me feel at home. It reminds me that I am not so far from the motherland. 

The drive up is so invigorating, and at this point I know what to expect. I know at a certain point we will spot signs for Betty’s pies, I will want pie, Eric will express his indifference about pie, I will spot that first swath of smooth rock in the median, then the climb before the breathtaking reveal of Superior. The first time we saw it it took our breath, almost literally. The same thing happened when we spotted ocean heading into Halifax in Nova Scotia. Something happens to you when you are deprived of something for that long, and then it is suddenly revealed to you in such a dramatic fashion. Now we brace for it like its a roller coaster. “Is this it!?… This is it!” 

By the time we were on our way home and I passed the sign for Betty’s Pies again, I knew that I needed to find a way to make Eric less indifferent to pie. This was quite rich coming from a person who can’t make a pie crust to save her life. I know it’s illogical, it’s my one fault…ūüėā

I decided to make a rustic blackberry frangipane tart. I made a flakey pie crust by cutting 7 T of ice cold butter cut into 1/4 inch pieces into 2 1/2 C of flour with 1 t of salt. I cut it with two really janky spatulas, becuase I don’t own a pastry cutter, and it worked fine because I know how to improvise, until it was gravely textured. Then I added just enough ice water (like 7 TBS) to bring it all together. I divied it all up into 8 pieces, and flattened them and wrapped them and tossed them in the fridge. I set aside 4 in the freezer for later. Nobody needs 8 tarts at once unless they are a person with like, what? Friends?

I made the frangipane by mixing 1/4 C of butter, 1/2 C of sugar, creamed that in the mixer, added 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean and a fat pinch of salt. I added 2 eggs one at a time and whipped them in until fluffy. Then I added 2 T of flour and 1 C of almond flour. I whipped it in and threw that in a pastry bag.
I sliced all my blackberries (2 pints) in halves. I drizzled some tasty honey over them, a tiny pinch of salt, and some flour just to coat. 

I allowed each bundle of dough to warm up enough until it was pliable enough to not crack and rolled each out on flour. I piped a 1/4 inch thin spiral on each round and then layered the berries on top in concentric circles. I hoped and prayed as I folded in my first gold then my second all the way to the last. Very few cracks. Success!!!! I egg washed the outside and sprinkled liberally with sugar. I pitched the whole mess in the oven at 370ish and baked for about 40 minutes rotating half way through. I’m rather pleased. 

But not quite as pleased as I was sitting this close to certain death and even certainter majesty. 

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Lemon Blackberry Bavarois

It’s been a grip since I last posted, and I have been itching to get back at it. Work has been grueling and has turned me into a person incapable of resting. I have decided to use it for good instead of evil. In that spirit, and in the spirit of being jealous of the home cooks of the¬†Great British Baking Show, I have made this treat using a mixture of some recipes I utilized during my time at Green Zebra and Spring.

I first started by thinly slicing some organic (which I only mention, because you are using the zest and what not, so maybe avoid the chemicals?) lemons, and simmering them in a simple syrup made with sugar and a nice floral honey. Once the pith starts going clear on you, you can pull them out (save the syrup for later) and lay them on a sugar lined baking sheet and toss them in the oven set on low 200 degrees F. You basically want to dehydrate them.

Next, I got the Chiffon going (Set the oven to 325 Degrees F):

3/4 C-All Purpose Flour

1/2 C-Pastry Flour

3/4 C-Sugar

1/4 t-Baking Soda

1/4 t-Salt

Lemon Zest

1/3 C-Water

1/4 C- Oil

5- Egg Whites

5-Yolks

Rub a spring form pan with oil and dust with flour. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the oil and water in as well. Whisk the egg yolks on high until they are fluffy and pale yellow. They will stand up for a few seconds when you pull the whisk out. This is called ribbon stage, which is fancy. Pour it over the thick pasty batter, and rinse your bowl and whisk with hot water to move any trace of the fat from the yolks. Get your whites whisking to firm peak, and while that is happening, carefully fold the yolks into the batter to lighten it up. Once those are mostly incorporated, you can begin folding in your whites. Start with a third, to further lighten it, as a sacrifice, and then fold in the remaining three quarters just until incorporated. Pour the mixture into your lined pan, and put the cake in the oven. Bake until the top is domed and makes a crunchy fall leaves sound when you gently pat it. I topped mine with some granola for some extra texture, because I can’t keep anything simple. I cooled it to room temp, wrapped it and tossed it in the freezer to make it easier to slice.

I sliced a pint of blackberries in half for some color and zing.

Next, while the cake was chilling, I prepared my Bavarois, which is what non-Americans call Bavarian Cream, which before culinary school I previously only knew as doughnut filling. It is basically a créme anglaise with gelatin and whipped cream folded in at the end.

3 C- Cream

1 Oz-Gelatin

8-Yolks

2/3 C- Sugar

2 C- Milk

Lemon Zest of 2 Lemons

Vanilla Bean

Small pinch of Salt

I zested the Lemons, and scraped 1/2 Vanilla Bean Pod into the Milk in a small sauce pan on the stove. I separated my yolks into a medium bowl. I measured my sugar and set that aside as well. I kind of hate powdered gelatin, and I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I am mostly used to using leaf gelatin, but leaf gelatin is hard to find for commoners like me these days. I mixed the powdered gelatin in with just enough water to dissolve it. I heated it in very small increments in the microwave and stirred it in between, until it was no longer grainy. I covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside.

I whipped my cream until just before firm peak, and put it in the fridge til later.

Next, I heated the milk on low heat until it started to steam, at which point I whisked the sugar into the yolks. When the milk starts to foam up I poured about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the sugar yolks and whisked it together. I added a little more, re-whisked and then poured all of the yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk  in the pot and began whisking regularly. You will want to watch it for any signs of curdling, but you want to allow it to thicken slightly to almost a chocolate syrup texture.

This is where I am going to be honest in spite of myself. Mine started to curdle slightly. My thoughts are that possibly the zest had some affect on it, but this is purely non-scientifically based. In reality, I probably am just out of practice. While I am being honest, it has been years since I have made an anglaise, although, I used to make them 5 days a week. Never fear though, I was able to emulsify the mixture back together with my stick blender after I yanked it off the heat. I also took this moment to blend in the gelatin.

At this point, I made an ice bath in my sink and poured the goop through a mesh strainer into a stainless steel bowl and whisked it until cool. I waited a little too long, and mine was a little bit hard to incorporate my cream once the time came, so I would say that if you cool it to the point where it is no longer warm you are good. You don’t want to give the gelatin too much of a chance to firm up, because it gets lumpy. You see, I¬†make ALL of the mistakes so you don’t have to! I am such a saint.

Now fold in 1/3 of the cream into the goop. That sacrifice will lighten the mix so it is easier to keep the fluffiness of the rest when you chuck it in next. Fold it in carefully just until incorporated.

After that I lined a round bottomed bowl with plastic wrap because I was afraid that my bavarois wouldn’t come out cleanly. In retrospect, it was stupid, because the end result was as crinkle-y as I had worried it would be. Next time, I would have just stuck with greasing the bowl as i first thought. I popped my lemon slices into the bottom.

Then I was like, heck toss in my blackberry halves too!

I scooped in some of the bavarois and spread it out over the fruit.

I popped the cake out of the freezer and cut it in half. I decided at this time, that there really was no need for the bottom half, because there really wasn’t enough bavarian cream for all that cake. I rewrapped the bottom half and refroze it for later fat-kid moments of weakness. I trimmed the granola-y top down so it’d fit nicely on top of the fruit covered in bav. I gave some clearance so it wouldn’t show through the cream.

I filled a piping bag with the remainder of the cream, and piped around it. Then I poked some holes into the chiffon.

I drizzled the slightly (pleasantly) bitter lemon honey syrup over the cake, because why not? You’re making a fancy dessert for no one but you and your husband on a Wednesday, so go nutz!

Next, I lined the drizzled cake with the remainder of my blackberry halves.

I piped the rest of the cream over the top of it all and smoothed it out. Next, I pulled the flaps of plastic taught over the top of the whole thing. Tapped the bowl and tried, unsuccessfully to get out all of the air bubbles, and tossed it in the freezer for a few hours.

Once I was fairly positive that the whole thing was set, I unveiled it to Eric. It was pretty strange looking with all of the wrinkles, which I was less than stoked about.

It still looked pretty neat though. My first instinct was, holy too much gelatin. There was no wobble, but also it was mostly frozen.

I sliced into it with a little difficulty, owing to the lemon slices, which I will admit, were mostly there for cute factor.

I have to admit, it was pretty alright. My finished product resembled my vision pretty accurately. My pastry experience and instincts didn’t disappoint me too much.

Also, it is pretty tasty. Alas, I am my own worst critic, and I always have things I would change. Always.

Lemon:

I’d try the Japanese-mandolin (eep!!) to try to get them even thinner, and after I simmered them, I’d have quartered them, so I could scatter them more broadly.

Chiffon:

I was pretty happy with this, but I’d zest even more lemon in and omit the granola. I never can just leave something alone. There is always an “and then…”. I’d also do another layer, but less chunky, for aesthetic.

Bavarois:

I’d cut the gelatin in half. I think something was off with my conversion from leaf gelatin to the powder. I can taste the cow hooves and bones. I think the end result would have been much lighter and fluffier with less, and would have still held together under refrigeration. ¬†The lemon needed to get amped up as well. I think the amount of zest was fine, but I would have added a tiny amount of extract if I had it. Also, I definitely wouldn’t have lined the bowl. It was such a bummer to see all those wrinkles after working for most of an afternoon to make a neat dessert.

Other than all of those things, I am a pretty happy camper.

Now who wants dessert? Anyone? Anyone?

 


Pan de Muerto

Today until tomorrow, November 1 and November 2nd, are considered los Dias de los Muertos in Mexico, a few other parts of the world and in my apartment in Chicago. There are links to the holiday in both Pre-Hispanic and Post-Conquest Mexico. The Aztecs had a day to celebrate it, and the Spaniards celebrated All Saints Day on the 1st of the month. Naturally, the cultures blended, by choice or not, and today the “holiday” is celebrated over two days, “Dia de los Inocentes” (Innocents, as in children, who were free of sin when they passed), and “Dia de los Muertos” (Adults who were lost). Mexicans, typically further south and in more indigenous areas¬†typically celebrate the days by making altars for specific lost loved ones. They offer them food, drinks and things that they loved in life. They open their homes to invite the spirits in to visit them and the food and drink are there to nourish them. ¬†Many, then, go to the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of those loved ones. In this way, they are coming to terms with their own mortality, while ensuring the tradition to be passed to the further generations. Death is not something to be feared, it is something that can bring families together, it can be a way to remember someone forever.

Traditionally for these days, semi-sweet breads are made in Mexico, as offerings for the dead. They are called Pan de Muerto. I found the recipe for the rich dough in From my Mexican Kitchen by Diana Kennedy, and I only slightly modified it to my liking. It ended up a lot like a brioche dough.

Into my mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment, I put:

2 Cups AP Flour

1 Scant teaspoon of Sea Salt

In a smaller bowl:

1 oz Sugar (2 T)

1 1/2 teaspoon Dry Yeast

1/4 Cup (plus a touch more) Body Temperature Water

1 1/2  Eggs Room Temperature

I whisked those all together and let the sugar feed the yeast for a little bit (10 Minutes).

Then I mixed that all together on low for about 5 minutes to make sure everything was incorporated, elastic and shiny. Next, I buttered a bowl (and should have buttered some plastic wrap, but I forgot, so my starter stuck to it as you will see later), and placed the starter, which I formed into a ball in the bowl.

I then covered it with plastic and a pilfered table napkin from a fancy restaurant and let the starter rest in a warm spot for 90 minutes or so.

Once the starter has doubled in size, I begin the actual dough.

See? It isn’t a big deal, it’s just a starter. So, next, you will want to tear this ball up and add it back to the mixing bowl. Also:

1/2 Cup Sugar

4 1/2 oz Room Temperature Butter

Mix that all together until it makes a sloppy dough, then alternate:

2 Cups Flour

4 Yolks with a Splash of Water

Also:

1/2 Orange Zested (save the other half for the glaze)

Mix all of this until a nice elastic dough is formed. It should stand up on it’s own though.

Put it back in the bowl to rest covered and greased again for another 90 minutes.

It will have doubled again.

Next, take 3/4 of the dough and form it into a ball, saving the 1/4 for the Calavera or the skull and bones.

I think, traditionally, the skull and bones are not so literal, but I just got a little carried away. I took the small portion of dough for the skull and divided it in three, making a skull with one, and the bones with the other two. I shaped the body of the bread as Diana suggested, although, in the end the rim along the sides, didn’t really show up due to rising.

On greased baking sheet they go under the covers one more time for an hour, just to make sure they are nice and puffy.  Turning my oven on a few minutes before the parts were ready at 375 degrees Ferenheight.

Next, I made a egg wash of yolks (2) and brushed it on the main body before criss-crossing the bones over it. Then I  brushed the bones one more time, trying to not over wash them and leave pools on the bottom of the bread.

Then I layed my skull over the bones. I did one final shaping of the face, then I brushed that too. It was a little creepy, sort of had a terrifying Michael Jackson plastic surgery nose.

While in the oven and starting to smell amazing, I mixed together:

1/4 Cup  Raw Honey

2 T Melted Butter

1/2 Orange Zested (the other half)

(For the glaze)

I let it bake about 20 minutes, then I brushed my first layer of glaze over the whole loaf.

Then I put it back in the oven and let it bake 5 more minutes.

After which, I glazed it pretty heavily then sprinkled it with a touch of sugar, and let it sit in the oven (which I turned off), door open, to cool for about 10 minutes.

I am pretty proud of the end result. It was beautiful, if not a little ridiculous with the corny skull on top. It is a bit too pirate, and seems a little silly to offer to deceased loved ones, but as my first attempt, I hope it will suffice.

I decided to make the altar or ofrenda¬†in honor of my Great Grand Mother, or as we called her Grandma Hoekie. She was the matriarch of my Dad’s family, serving 3 generations of us until well into her 90’s.

She passed away in 2008, living to be 100. She was an amazing lady who did everything she could for her family, even if she wasn’t appreciated by everyone as much as she should be. She is pictured (R) above in 1927 next to the car with her best friend Florence Ball (L), posing like a sassy flapper. The Bakelite bangles above the photo were hers, and when she passed, I asked to take them to remember her by.

In the small dish are some candies, left there as a reminder of many trips on the pontoon boat we took as children. She was always sure to take along blankets for the cold night air and small candies (Hers were usually Hershey’s Minis, but what can I do in a pinch?) for all of us kids and adults. The coffee cup is there, filled half way, the way she liked it, and black. ¬†She was not a lady who enjoyed cold coffee, so it was always half full. The picture in front showing her as I remembered her.

The smell of marigolds as well as copal (an insence) are believed to draw the dead into the home as well. I repurposed my Halloween pumpkin for this. I hope that she is with me today. I often think about her as I am cooking, not that she made a whole lot of traditional Mexican food or anthing. I think about her taking the time to do things the right way. She probably thought that she was just doing things the way you did them, and nothing else. I know now, though, that that way was the right way. So, whenever I can, I am going to do things in this way, not the “easy way”, but the way that makes the ingredients happiest. In turn, I think it will make me happy, and hopefully I can pass that on to the next generation.

P.S. I never ended up using this, but this was my Frida Kahlo/Dia de los Muertos inspired Halloween Costume that I threw together in a few minutes. I think it is appropriate…hahaha.


Mango SHER-bet….

Growing up in Lowell, we always had Ball’s Softee Cream to go to on hot summer days. In my early days, all I wanted was a Flurry filled with Heath or peanut butter cups, but as I got older my tastes changed. When I got in High School and started working there, I found the perfect combination….Small Orange Sherbet with Twinkle Coat (which still is a mystery to me, but I am pretty sure it is made by fairies) on a cake cone. This stuff is pure magic. Jim, the owner, mixes the stuff in the back of the shop and I can’t really even say that I know what goes in it. I should clarify that this is SHERBET or SHERBERT…not Sorbet, fancy pants. Sherbert is the lovechild of ice cream and sorbet. Heavier and creamier than sorbet (sorry vegans) but lighter with no eggs unlike icecream, Sherbert is where it is at. In it’s orange form, it is like a creamsicle in one smooth package. I have been talking about making sherbet for years now, and it apparently only took one boring day off of work with nothing to do, 3 Mangoes (the small yellow kind (Champagne Mangoes?)(very ripe)), 1 1/2 Cup of Milk, the Juice of 2 Limes, and 1/4 Cup of Sugar. I don’t know why more people aren’t doing this…Why haven’t I seen this in restaurant menus? Don’t other people pine for that punch that you always got at kid’s birthday parties with Squirt and Orange Sherbet floating in it? With all of the cooks in Chicago remaking things from their childhood and putting it on their menus, why has no one done this? It is brilliant. Basically I blended all of this stuff up, chilled it down and spun it in my Kitchen-Aid Icecream Maker. The end. It was so good that I scraped the bowl and ate it over the sink. Don’t judge me.


Let them have Grilled Meats…and Cookies

Today is a glorious day in American History. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Let them eat delicious grilled meats and ignite small rockets for the enjoyment of small children!”, or something to that effect. Don’t quote me on it. Either way, I have always had fond memories of the Fourth. Growing up, it meant spending the day at my Great Grandma Hoekie’s cottage on Barlow Lake. My dad would start the day by lighting his cannon, which was miniature, but still loud enough to wake all of the citizens of Barlow Lake.

This is my Great Grandma on the left, then called Jenny DeWitt, with her friend Florence Ball in 1927 looking foxy.

We would eat her Ice Box Cookies in the morning with Country Time Lemonade made with the cottage’s horrible well water (water that we would in later years, all out reject, as something that was only suitable to wash dishes and flush toilets). Either way, we enjoyed it. Her cookies would melt in our mouths. ¬†They were the perfect thinness. I will provide the simple to make, but hard to perfect recipe here:

1 1/2 C. Soft Butter ( I use salted, because that is what I spread on toast (if you want to use unsalted just add a touch more salt later))

1 1/2 C. Sugar

1 t. Vanilla

3 C. Flour

1 t. Baking Soda

Salt To Taste (maybe 1/2 t. depending)

And that is it. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix the ¬†flour, baking soda, and salt a bit before you throw it into the sugar-butter and mix until just composed. Then form it into a log on parchment and roll it up so it is a nice smooth log the length of the parchment. Refrigerate it wrapped in plastic too (so it doesn’t taste like fridge) for an hour or so or until it is firm all the way through. Then slice disks from the log about the thickness of courogated cardboard. Use a thin sharp knife, because it tends to stick if you use a really thick knife. Now bake them at 350 degrees until you start to see a tiny bit of golden brown in a few spots. Let them cool and prepare to F-ing enjoy. At Thanksgiving I put a little Pumpkin Pie Spice in them for festiveness. I have also replaced the Vanilla extract with Maple extract before and that was awesome. One other time, I used fancy Turbinado for half of the cup of sugar for a speckly effect. This recipe is her basic one ( I think I added salt to it), but I don’t think she will mind up there, she is just happy that the family got together again for the Fourth. She lived to the ripe old age of 100 by the way.

The cottage when I last visited.

After we ate cookies and lemonade, we would all decorate the pontoon boat and participate in the Boat Parade. As kids it was awesome, we got to dress up like Lady Liberty or during Operation Desert Storm, we got to dress up like soldiers, but as we got older it was more of an obligation. We did it to make Grandma Hoekie happy. Later that day, everyone would grill hotdogs and we would eat copious ammounts of mayonase based salads and drink Coca-Cola. Then there would be swimming and drying off, then more swimming. When it started to get dark, my Dad would bring out bags of Indiana fireworks…the good ones, and we would run around with sparklers while he lit them off. Then we would load up on the pontoon on the verge of max capacity, then we would slowly putt over to the YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin, where they would have a fireworks display. Grandma Hoekie would always have extra blankets for us, and ALWAYS Hershey’s miniature candy bars to pass out to everyone. I coveted the Mr. Goodbars. These are some of the fondest memories of my life, and I am there in spirit today, as I am sure she is as well.

As for today, I will be barbequeing like the good old days, hot dogs and hamburgers, but instead, with a Mexican twist and here in Chicago. We are planning on making Chorizo burgers (just a touch mixed in with the ground beef) with guacamole, and hotdogs with pico de gallo.  We also might make some aguachiles, which is basically like a shrimp ceviche with cucumbers and chile manzana that you eat on tostadas. If we make it I will be sure to privide instructions, as it is always amazing. Happy Fourth folks.

Barlow Lake 2010


Food Porn From the Past

I cook things a lot, and at times, I don’t have time to sit and nit-pick each item, so I jut thought that I would throw a smattering of goodness at you.¬†There are few things better in life than the ‘fixins for a Mexican Barbeque….

Once we made tamales with our friend Paco’s Mom, it was amazing. Her’s were way better. I would love to have another one on one with her.

When I used to make pastries, I made this at the Zeeb. Blood Orange Creme Carmel, with Orange Spice Grandma Hoekie Cookies, Candied Kumquats, Blood Oranges, and Lemon Curd. It was baller.

During Snowpocalypse 2011, I was inspired to make home-made Sno-Balls without the pink poison coconut. I made a chocolate cake, cut it into disks, cracked open a coconut, shaved it by hand, toasted and candied it, then made a Italian meringue. Then I smeared the meringue on the cakes, and rolled them in the coconut, the end result was aMaZiNg!!!

See? I told you I was a line cook. I’m so fast, I’m blurry….just kidding…. Oh, Mushroom Roll…..

 

Sabritas Preparadas translates literally to sack ‘o deliciousness, actually no, but it is. Basically Doritos of your choice slathered in Salsa Maga, mixed with cueritos (pickled pork skin), pickled potatoes, salchicha, or whatever else you feel like. This was awesome. If you are spooked by the pickled pork skin, just hope you get tricked into eating it before you realize it, then you will fall in love as I have.

To this day, the Hobo-Pie Maker remains one of my favorite cooking tools.

This is what happens to you when it is your last day in the kitchen, even if you are the Chef de Cuisine.

When I make you pulled pork, I also take the time to make you slaw, oh, and don’t forget the pretzel rolls.

p.s. As I was looking through these photos, I was very tempted to start showing you the injuries I sustained while working in kitchens….burns, cuts, bruises, blisters, but…thank God….I had the self restraint to avoid combining food with gore. XOX.


Pepitas

If anyone was wondering what my header was, maybe this will give you a little perspective into my madness.