Monday, November 29, 2010

Daring Bakers November '10 - Crostata

Definitely grateful for an easy challenge this month. With Christmas fast approaching, I'm spending extra time in the kitchen preparing homemade gifts; adding an intricate baking project to the list would not be my idea of a good time...!

So, crostata. First, a buttery short crust pastry. Top that with either pastry cream or fruit preserves - I did both because I'm risque like that. Then, a lattice or cut out top crust. Bake bake bake, cool and serve.

The dough and pastry cream I made the day before and doing so allowed for quick assembly the next day. For the fruit preserves I used a vanilla pear jam I'd made this past summer.

I decided to blind bake the pastry before filling it with the pastry cream and preserves, to avoid any potential sogginess of the crust. Unfortunately, I neglected to freeze it first and the edges of the pastry shrunk down to the base - c'est la vie. I filled the shells with pastry cream and the jam and baked till the top crust was golden.

Overall impression: mediocre. Not bad, not great. Edible but not mind blowing. I most likely won't make it again, but I don't feel that it was a waste of ingredients.

Pasta Frolla

1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar or a scant 3/4 cup icing sugar

1 3/4 cup flour

pinch salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced small

grated zest of half a lemon

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.
Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it. Reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for egg wash. Add lemon zest.

Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the dry ingredients. Knead lightly until dough just comes together in a ball. Shape into a flat disk and wrap in plastic. Place in refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg yolk

3/4 cup whole milk

Combine sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla in a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan. Add egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk till smooth. Turn onto low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent mixture from curdling. Add remaining milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes, the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. If there are lumps, press through a fine mesh strainer to remove.

Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the cream and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Assembling Crostata con la Crema

Heat the oven to 350F.
Take pasta frolla out of refrigerator and cut away 1/4 of the dough. Reserve and refrigerate to make the lattice top of crostata. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Place dough into baking dish and gently press into dish. Trim excess dough. Ensure dough is an even thickness throughout. Prick the bottom of the dough in several places.

Spread the chilled pastry cream over the bottom of the crostata.
Retrieve reserved dough and roll out. Cut as desired for the top. Set over top of crostata. Brush the border and top crust with reserved beaten eggs; add a drop or two of water to thin if necessary. Bake until crostata is golden brown, approximately 35-45 minutes. Remove to wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Potato Chowder

Southern BC is currently going through a cold front - we had our first snow a few days ago and it's been severely windy and cold since. I don't mind the cold but that wind! Straight to the bones. Broke out the crock pot for this potato chowder.

I've always thought of clam or corn as being 'the chowders' but after doing some research learned that "chowder is any of a variety of soups, enriched with salt pork fatback and thickened with flour or more traditionally with crushed ship biscuit or saltine crackers, and milk; however, the most accepted etymology for the word chowder comes from the cooking pot in which it is cooked, known in French as a chaudière."

So, potato chowder. It's definitely thick (could even be eaten with a fork), extremely creamy and rich from cream cheese. I've made it with the bacon and onions sauteed together and stirred directly into the crock pot but this time left it quite plain, garnishing simply with cooked and crumbled bacon, no onions.

I usually make double the recipe shown below and freeze half; it is easily reheated over low heat with a bit of milk or cream added to loosen things up.

Crock Pot Potato Chowder
Serves 4

1/4 pound bacon, diced
8 ounces chicken broth

1/2 can cream of chicken soup

4 cups diced potatoes

4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed

salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon till crisp. Let cool then crumble and set aside.

Combine chicken broth, soup, and potatoes in crock pot. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or until potatoes are fork tender. Mash till mostly smooth and add cubed cream cheese; stir to melt and combine. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with crumbled bacon.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

Why is it that pumpkin pie is typically served only in the fall, for Thanksgiving and Christmas? It doesn't seem fair, really. Matt, the Bear and I all love pumpkin pie and this is one of the best recipes I've found so far. We've brought it along to several family events already this year and never have we returned home with leftovers.

There's not much to say about this pumpkin pie. Not that that's a bad thing - it's just a good pie! I've made this filling with both a graham crumb crust and a pastry crust, both of which are delicious. The spices are well proportioned and the evaporated milk gives the pie a mousse-like texture. There are recipes that use heavy cream instead of evaporated milk, and I've found that works just as well so go ahead and substitute if necessary.

It might be interesting to make individual pumpkin tarts using a mini quiche pan or regular sized muffin tin - I might have to try that for the next family dinner I'm asked to bring pie to...

Pumpkin Pie
Serves 8

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs, beaten
15 ounces pure, solid pack pumpkin
12 ounces evaporated milk
9 inch pie pastry or graham cracker crumb crust

Preheat oven to 425F.

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a large bowl. Add eggs and pumpkin. Stir in evaporated milk.

Pour into crust and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 40-50 minutes or until a thin knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 2 hours then serve or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream if desired.

This pie is best baked the day of serving; if necessary to bake ahead of time, heat pie for 5-10 minutes in 350F oven to revive the crust.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roasted Applesauce

November is the peak of apple season here in the Fraser Valley. After the baking of pies, tarts, cakes and eating directly out of hand, try making this roasted applesauce. Bear wasn't as keen on it as Matt and I, but he'll come around when I heat up a jar of the stuff mid-winter and add a small scoop of ice cream to the bowl...

A note - if you do not own a food mill, simply chop the apples roughly as I did, then press through a large mesh strainer to remove seeds/peels/cores.

Roasted Applesauce
Makes 8 - 1/2 cup servings

Martha Stewart

1/4 cup water

6 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

pinch coarse salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 pounds small assorted apples such as Gala, McIntosh or Fuji (about 10)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

pinch ground cloves

Preheat oven to 425F. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a 9x13 dish.

Scatter butter pieces over the mixture and top with whole apples. Roast until apples are very soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Working in small batches, send the apple mixture through a food mill to remove peels and seeds.

Stir in spices. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 5 days.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thousand Island Salad Dressing

Thousand Island salad dressing: ubiquitous, popular, familiar, most purchased. I'm not embarrassed to admit that it's my first choice to dress a garden salad. Now that I know how easy it is to prepare it fresh at home, I won't need to purchase it.

This recipe tastes exactly like store bought. If I had to come up with one thing that would give away the homemade factor, it's the consistency - commercial salad dressings contain xanthan gum, a thickening agent, which in my opinion is unnecessary here. Otherwise, no difference. I promise.

Thousand Island Salad Dressing


Makes 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish or chopped pickles

1 teaspoon finely minced white onion

1/8 teaspoon salt

few grindings black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir well to combine and refrigerate several hours, stirring occasionally, to allow sugar to dissolve and flavors to marry.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

The End but also The Beginning

You may have noticed a few changes around the blog. There was a need to start fresh, to wipe the quintessential 'slate' clean.

If you've arrived here at Little Space through a link from sites such as Tastespotting, FoodGawker, StumbleUpon etc, the post you are seeking may not be available and for that I apologize. In time, I plan to re-post certain articles in a manner more reflective of who I am instead of what I thought may have been expected of me.

The only advertising from this point on will be through Foodbuzz - two banners; one in the right column and one in the left. Foodbuzz is a well-known community who "aggregate, organize and curate nearly 3.3 million blog posts from 15,917 food blogs worldwide." I am proud to be a featured publisher with them. I do receive a small compensation per certain number of click-throughs so if you are at all interested in supporting Little Space, that's the best, easiest, and no-cost way to do so!

Another somewhat noticeable change will be a discontinuation of posting at Suitable For Consumption. I've asked the readers there to come on over and I truly hope they do; the blog will remain live but I won't be posting there any longer.

It was a difficult decision, to essentially start over. I want to thank all of you - your support, encouragement and interest has kept me writing, taking pictures and improving upon these skills daily. It is my hope that you'll continue to visit here and also, that these changes will make Little Space a better place!

Last night I wanted something comforting, something chocolatey and delicious. So I'll leave you with a recipe from the archives - chocolate pudding. Its terribly easy to whip up and after you've tried it you'll not buy the packaged pudding powders again, I swear.

Chocolate Pudding
Martha Stewart
Serves 6

6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
pinch salt
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. In a 4 cup measuring cup combine heavy cream with milk and vanilla. Whisk 1 cup of cream mixture into the dry ingredients until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Whisk in remaining cream mixture until smooth.

Place saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Whisk in butter until melted.

Using a ladle, pour pudding into six dessert cups. Refrigerate till set, about 1 hour.

Serve with softly whipped cream.

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