Sunday, July 25, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb is such an odd vegetable, no? If you use the wrong parts, it's poisonous. When put in pie or used in jam, amazingly delicious with an incredibly sour taste that turns wonderfully sweet and subtle with sugar. Add in strawberries and the flavors play off of each other wonderfully. It's a difficult taste to describe and one of the few that if a person has not had it, I will say they just have to try it.

So, the challenge with liquid laden strawberries and rhubarb in the classic strawberry rhubarb pie is, of course, making a pie and not soup under a crust. Most recipes call for two tablespoons of quick cooking tapioca to remedy the liquid/soup issue. I have also tried arrowroot and flour and they would still come out soupy. I found the recipe below on the blog Smitten Kitchen which calls for a whopping 1/4 cup of tapioca. Ok, that's a lot but nothing else was working so might as well try it. The heaping pile of tapioca got the job done in terms of sopping up the liquid. My one little issue was that I was very aware of the tapioca beads and could feel their texture in the guts of the pie. So, verdict is that it was not perfect but definitely solved the soup issue.

Final note on this post is about the crust. I have always and I mean always used shortening in my pie crusts as I believed that was the only way that the crust would fall like a blanket on the pie filling instead of standing crunchy and dome-like over the filling. A dome over a pie is never good and annoyed me endlessly when it used to happen with other crust recipes that I had used that were primarily made with butter. This recipe has changed my thinking completely on this issue! Not only did this crust taste absolutely delicious, there was no dome action that occurred. This crust fell beautifully over the pie, like aforementioned blanket and had that buttery richness that could only come from an all butter crust. The crust is also from the Smitten Kitchen and it will be the only one I use moving forward or until a better crust catches my attention.

Enjoy! AJ

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 recipe All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough or double-crust pie dough of your choice

3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon buttermilk (for glaze)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter, roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. (I like to fold my gently into quarters, to transfer it more easily, then unfold it in the pie plate.)

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt, vanilla and tapioca in a large bowl. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter. Roll second half of pie dough into an 11-inch circle and cut decorative slits in it. Transfer it to center over the pie filling. Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp it decoratively.

Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool completely (several hours).

All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough

Makes enough dough for one double-, or two single-crust pies.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl — whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces.

Make your mix: Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and mix a few times with the paddle attachment on your Kitchen Aid. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — stop.

Glue it together: Start by drizzling 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out. Gather the clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.

Pack it up: Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Touch and handle the dough as little as possible. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Curried Chickpeas

Look at me going savory! I can't take all of the credit. This recipe comes from a buddy of mine at work who is a master griller and awesome with the nightly dinner. Every once in a while he will bring leftovers into the office from the meal he made for his family the night before. What you have to love about this guy is that he never just gives you a pile of food on a plate at the office. He actually arranges the food artfully on the work paper plates and throws a garnish on top of it. He is a big believer in eating with your eyes first and although I have always believed the same, he has made me an even bigger advocate of it than I was before.

Another note on this recipe is that it is kid friendly. My little guy loved it and anytime I can get something like curry on my kid's palate, I feel like I am making him a more open-minded eater in the long run. So make, eat and enjoy! AJ


1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 medium shallot, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 29 ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon curry powder
8 ounce can plain tomato sauce
8 ounces water
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
cilantro to taste


In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and swirl around the pan. After 1 minute, add in the cinnamon stick and coat with oil and swirl for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in the red pepper flakes and shallot and simmer for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add in the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add in chickpeas and curry and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add in tomato sauce, water and ginger. Cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick and serve over basmati rice with garnish of cilantro if desired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Coconut Love

Wow! Just wow! This cake was so darn good that I think there were angels singing, the sun came through the clouds, the earth moved and my eyes rolled back into my head.

When I was a teenager with raging hormones, I had an insane crush on Pierce Brosnan because he was, in my mind, the epitome of handsome, cool and deliciously sexy. When "The Thomas Crown Affair" came out, I think I actually swooned everytime I watched the film and I am not a swooner. Ok, maybe a little bit of a swooner but I only swoon over the most swoonable.

Well, if Pierce Brosnan was a cake, he would be this one. Like Pierce, this cake is absolutely delicious and I urge you to stop what you are doing and immediately make this glorious mound of coconut goodness. The topper is that the recipe came from, of all places, Cooking Light magazine. Who knew a cake this good would actually not contain a million calories? Enjoy! AJ

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light


Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cake flour
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut, divided


Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour.

Combine 2 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (for about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap the pans once on countertop to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1 cup Fluffy Coconut Frosting. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup coconut. Top with remaining cake layer; spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle 1/3 cup coconut over top of cake.


4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract


Place egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 238°. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed. Stir in extracts.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sour Cream Donuts

I have decided that donuts are my new Everest. The first time I made apple pie, it was way more difficult than I thought it would be and although my first attempt was not a disaster, I knew it needed a lot of work. Well, my apple pie is now on track and I am setting my sights on donuts since my first attempt was lame at best.

So, please see the picture above for round two of my donut making saga. Although these were very good, I think I rolled them out way too thin and thus, they did not have as much cake inside the donut and they were a little drier than what I was looking for. They also cooked way more quickly since there was hardly anything to fry. Given that I am still not satisfied and I am determined to make a donut that is just as good as, if not better than Dunkin Donuts, I will be back at the drawing board for round three next week. Until then, make these if you dare and of course, enjoy! AJ

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

1 large egg white
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (about 6 ounces)

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled briefly
1 cup sour cream

2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
5 tablespoons (about) buttermilk

Canola oil or Crisco (for deep-frying)

For streusel:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk egg white in bowl until frothy, about 1 minute. Whisk in sugar and cinnamon. Fold in nuts. Spread mixture on prepared sheet. Bake until beginning to dry, about 12 minutes. Using metal spatula, stir to break up nuts. Continue to bake until nuts and coating are dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes; cool on sheet. Transfer streusel to work surface. Chop nuts into small (rice-size) bits. Transfer to shallow bowl.

For doughnuts:

Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until very thick, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in butter; beat in sour cream in 2 additions. Gently fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions (dough will be slightly sticky). Cover; set aside 1 hour.

For glaze:

Combine powdered sugar and maple syrup in medium bowl. Add 4 tablespoons buttermilk; whisk until smooth. Whisk in additional buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to form medium-thick glaze. Cover and let stand up to 3 hours.

Sprinkle 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with flour. Press out 1/3 of dough on lightly floured surface to 1/2- to 2/3-inch thickness. Using 2 1/2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Arrange on floured sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather all dough scraps. Press out dough; cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used.

Using 1-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes.

Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Pour oil into large deep skillet to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 365°F to 370°F. Fry doughnut holes in 2 batches until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels. Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels. Cool doughnuts and doughnut holes completely.
Working with 1 doughnut at a time, spread glaze over 1 side, then dip glazed side into streusel. Arrange doughnuts, streusel side up, on rack. Let glaze set at least 30 minutes. Coat doughnut holes with same glaze and dip into streusel.