My laptop died about a week ago. For the first couple of days I felt completely cut off from the world, despite having a phone that gives me access to Facebook, Twitter and basically the entire internet. I don’t keep a lot of information on my computer, I’ve heard enough identity theft horror stories to know better. I do however keep pictures on it. Lots of them. And I never backed them up. My trips to San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and a few random moments in life are all currently in limbo. I know, I know, I should have backed them up, I promise I’ll never make that mistake again. My brother says he might be able to salvage them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
The loss of these momentos had me very stressed, but I realized there was more to my computer withdrawal than that. I missed blogging. I haven’t been doing this very long, but it seems it’s become an important part of my life. So I decided to pick up a pen and some loose leaf paper and start writing up posts to be retyped once everything was sorted out. I’m probably dating myself by saying this, but there is something very soothing about actually putting my thoughts on paper. I think better with a pen in my hand; I can chew on the cap when I’m stuck, cross things out, draw arrows linking thoughts. I think I might actually keep writing my posts this way. I know it’s a waste of time and paper, but I find it relaxing.
You know what else I find relaxing? Apple pie.
I love the feeling of the dough coming together in my hands, the sense of accomplishment when I roll it into something that resembles a circle, the meditative time spent peeling the apples, and putting my face up to the oven window to watch it brown and bubble. Don’t even get me started on the smell of cinnamon and apples. And the best part, the first bite of crispy flaky crust and the sweet yet tart filling.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cups butter, cold
- 1/4 cup shortening or lard
- 1 tsp salt
- 6-10 tbsp milk, cold (more as needed)
- 5 Cortland apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup cranberries
- Make the dough. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter and shortening into the flour. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until it has a crumbly texture. Stir in 5 tbsp of cold milk, keep adding milk until the dough comes together.
- Form dough into 2 disks, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Once chilled, roll out one disk until about 1/4 inch thick. Fit the dough into a 9 inch pie plate. Chill.
- Make the filling. Toss the apples with the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, flour and cranberries. Pour into pie plate.
- Roll out second disk of dough. Place over the pie plate, cut off the excess overhang. Press the edges of the top and bottom crust together making sure the are sealed. Cut air vents into the top crust. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 375. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
There is something very comforting about an upside down cake. It’s old school baking, which I think is the best kind of baking. Think chocolate chip cookies and bundt cakes.
I saw this recipe while flipping through the October 2006 issue of Martha Stewart Living. The picture made me want to eat it immediately. When I read the recipe it confirmed what my eyes already told me. The addition of saffron and ginger give the cake a modern twist, but the caramelized pears give it a classic upside down flavour.
Saffron Scented Pear Upside-Down Cake
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 Pears, (6 to 7 ounces each), peeled and sliced
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square or round cake pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper, and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the saffron and 1/4 cup sugar. In a bowl beat the sugar mixture with the butter until light and fluffy. Spread the mixture in the pan.
Place the pear slices over the butter in a decorative pattern.
Whisk the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry in a slow stream while stirring. Spread the batter over the pears.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes then flip onto a serving platter and allow to cool completely.
I’ve been a bad blogger this week. I just wasn’t at all motivated to write even though I have a backlog of recipes to share. I haven’t been blogging very long, but these things must happen from time to time. I figured it would be better to wait till I actually felt like writing than trying to force myself, blogging is supposed to be an enjoyable experience after all.
So I am now ready to share an amazing ice cream recipe with you all. Since my Daring Bakers experience last month I’ve had homemade ice cream on the brain. When I was given all those pears one of the first things that went through my mind was “how do I turn this into ice cream?”
The internet is a magical place, because when I googled pear ice cream I found this recipe for Pear Caramel Ice Cream. It’s adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, and it is wonderful. I need to buy the book. I also discovered Herbivoracious, which I’m loving.
I was too busy eating the ice cream to remember to take a picture of it. The only one I have is with a pear upside down cake (recipe coming soon!)
Pear Caramel Ice Cream
- 3 medium-sized ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced into small pieces
- 3/4 c. + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
- a few drops of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp rum
- Spread sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the sugar has melted and is amber in colour, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula.
- Add the pears and lower the heat. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes. The pears will kind of dissolve into the sugar.
- Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of cream. The mixture will bubble up. Add the rest of the cream, salt, lemon juice and rum.
- Let cool to room temperature. Puree the mixture then strain till smooth.
- If using an ice cream maker follow your manufacturers instructions. Otherwise, pour the mixture into a freezer safe dish. Freeze for 30 minutes then use an immersion blender to mix. Repeat every 30 minutes for 2 to 3 hours until the ice cream has the right consistency.
I figured I would give you a break from all the pear recipes (don’t worry, I’ve got a couple more coming) and share muffin recipe with you. I’ve mentioned my like of obsession with Starbucks muffins before, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to actually duplicate them before.
My favourite kind is blueberry cranberry bran. I know, bran sounds like healthy grown up food. The first time I bought one I thought it was chocolate (I believe the good people at Starbucks are putting molasses in their muffins to give them a deceptively dark colour. Sneaky, very sneaky). With my first bite I experienced disappointment that there was no chocolate in the muffin. With my second bite I realized that bran is delicious. It has a flavour that I want to call nutty, but I’m not quite sure that’s the right word. Whatever the flavour is, I’m hooked.
I decided to make my own bran muffins, based on a recipe from The Joy of Baking (love that site, by the way). The recipe calls for molasses which I didn’t have on hand. After a quick check with Janice, I decided to replace it with wildflower honey. I also used a combination of coconut sugar and brown sugar. The muffins were moist and flavourful, with just the right amount of sweet to balance the tart of the cranberries.
Blueberry Cranberry Bran Muffins
Adapted from The Joy of Baking
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (50 grams) whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup (40 grams) wheat bran
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsps coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp wildflower honey
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries and cranberries (if using frozen berries, do not thaw)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix together egg, honey, vanilla, butter, and buttermilk.
- Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Stir until there is no visible flour. Try not to overmix.
- Stir in blueberries and cranberries.
- Divide batter into a lined muffin tin (makes 12 regular or 6 large muffins)
- Bake for 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool before serving.
When thinking about what to do with all those pears most of what I came up with was dessert. After flipping through some magazines and a few google searches, I managed to find a couple of savory applications for them too. The first one I tried was pear ketchup. Because I had never heard of anything other than tomato ketchup I was a little worried, but since the ingredient list sounded good I gave it a shot. I’m really glad I did. It tasted amazing. The pears sautéed with onions smelled wonderful and tasted even better. I was a little nervous about adding the cider vinegar, but it added a really nice tang to the pears (and really, a ketchup needs vinegar.)
I needed to come up with something to put the ketchup on as well. The website I found the recipe on (which is currently not working) had the ketchup on bacon and blue cheese sliders. I liked the idea of a slider, but wanted something a little healthier than a chunk of bacon. Instead I made mini chicken burgers with brie. The ketchups tang went really well with the creaminess of the brie.
- 3 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup apple cider
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- In a medium pot, saute the onions until translucent. Add the pears, season with salt and pepper. Add the cider and bring to a boil.
- Lower the temperature and simmer for 1 hour.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the pear mixture. Add the cider vinegar and stir to combine.
For the mini chicken burgers I basically made things up as I went along. I have no idea what quantities I used so I’ll just give you a list of ingredients. I still haven’t really figured out my grill, but these turned out pretty juicy and tasty.
- ground extra lean chicken
- 1 egg
- semolina flour
- salt and pepper
- onion powder
- dried thyme
- slider buns
- brie cheese
- pear ketchup
- In a large bowl, mix ground chicken, egg, flour, and spices until well combined. Shape into small burgers (they will be very sticky)
- Cook on a hot grill until 7 minutes a side.
- Place in slider buns and top with cheese, ketchup and lettuce. (you know, make a burger)
Next in my series of pear and plum recipes is pear butter. This is like a quick and easy version of a fruit butter. Unlike a traditional apple butter there is actual dairy butter in it. The brown butter gives it a great nutty flavour, which contrasts nicely with the pear and ginger.
I based myself on this recipe from Canadian Living. I love that their website allows the reader to adjust the number of servings, that way no mental math is required when trying to increase or decrease a recipe. The recipe below is for one serving. I used a little more than 1/2 a cup of cider, as the liquid evaporated before the pears had softened enough. I also used dry ginger instead of fresh, just because I didn’t have any fresh. The ginger adds a really nice heat to the butter without being overpowering.
- 2 lb Bartlett pears , (about 5) peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 1/2 tsp dried ginger
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp wildflower honey
- Pinch of salt
- In large saucepan, bring pears, cider, orange zest and ginger to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until pears have softened, about 1 hour.
- While pears are simmering, brown butter. In a small pan over medium heat melt the butter. Reduce the heat and simmer until the milk solids have browned and the butter has a nutty smell. Keep a close eye on the butter as it can go from browned to burnt in an instant. Set butter aside to cool.
- Once the pears have softened, transfer them to a food processor and purée until smooth. Add butter, honey and salt. Pulse till combined.
I have what I would call a mini garden on my balcony. There is a cherry tomato plant, some basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, chives, and some pretty purple flowers. I love stepping out there and grabbing fresh herbs for whatever I’m cooking. I would love to have the space for more, but for now this is it.
I do have access to some pretty stocked gardens though. My Aunt Christine has a backyard full of goodies. There’s all kinds of fruits and vegetables. And fruit trees, glorious fruit trees. She’s got a cheery tree, a couple of plum trees, and an enormous pear tree (some branches spill over into the neighbouring yards so they get to enjoy the fruits too). All this in a pretty small space. I’m pretty sure if she had a couple of chickens her home would be completely self-sustaining.
The plum and pear trees are both giving fruit now, and I’ve got some pretty impressive supplies of both so you’ll be seeing quite a few recipes for those fruits in the next few days.
The first is Bon Appetit’s Plum Tarte Tatin. The tart was very easy to make, although I did mess it up a little. The recipe didn’t specify if the plums should be peeled, so I peeled half of them and left the skin on the rest. Because I left the skin on the syrup turn a deep red very quickly. The instructions were to cook until the syrup reached that colour, but I knew it was too soon to stop cooking so I let them go. Turns out I overcooked them so they lost their shape a little. There was also a flipping incident due to my impatience (don’t rush it!)
Despite my mistakes the tarte tatin tasted amazing. The plums tasted almost like jam. The skins I left on gave it a really nice tart (as in mouth puckering) flavour. I definitely will make this again.
Plum Tarte Tatin
2 1/4 pounds sweet firm plums, halved, pitted
2 tablespoons plus 2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
- Roll out puff pastry. Cut a 9 inch circle, and chill for up to one day.
- Peel half of the plums. In a bowl, mix all the plums with 2 tbsp sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind, nutmeg and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Melt butter in a ovenproof 9 inch skillet over medium heat. Once melted, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the butter.
- Place the plums in concentric circles in the butter, cut side up. Pour the juices from the bowl over the plums. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. The syrup will have thickened slightly. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Heat oven to 400.
- Once the plums have cooled, cover them with the puff pastry.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until pastry is golden. Let cool at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours.
- To flip onto a platter, heat the tarte for 3 minutes in a hot oven to loosen it. Place platter over skillet and flip (make sure you’re wearing an oven mit!) Let stand for 30 minutes.
I love fruit crisps. The warm juicy filling and the crunchy oat topping relax me like no other food can (not even chocolate). They come together so quickly and are pretty much guaranteed to turn out. I really can’t think of anyway I could mess this up.
Yesterday Janice my bother and I painted my kitchen, bathroom and all the hallways. It was a pretty big job but we got it all done in a few hours (thanks again guys!). Today I want to relax and enjoy the new clean white walls. Part of my relaxing day includes a crisp for breakfast using a Food and Wine recipe from this months magazine. Their recipe calls for nectarines and plums, but the nectarines I have are not quite ripe yet so I swapped them out for pears. The recipe also calls for less sugar than a typical crisp and uses a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour to make it a little healthier. It also calls for a butter oil blend instead of just butter, however I just cut back on the butter a little. I left out the orange juice called for only because I don’t have any. I also halved the recipe because I could easily eat an entire crisp in one sitting.
The healthy crisp was definitely just as satisfying as my usual full fat/high sugar version. The ripe fruit provides plenty of sweetness, and there was just enough butter to keep the topping crisp and delicious. The plums also provide a little hit of tartness that is a very nice contrast to the sweet pears. The only thing I might add in the future are some nuts to the crisp topping for a little extra crunch, I think pistachios would be perfect.
Pear and Plum Crisp
Adapted from Food and Wine August 2010
- 3 pears, sliced
- 3 plums, sliced
- 1/4 cup raisins soaked in hot water for 20 minutes then drained
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 tbsp whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp cold butter, cut into cubes
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Make filling; combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently to cover the fruit completely.
- Make topping; Put all ingredients in a large bowl. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, combine butter into the flour until it has a crumbly texture.
- Pour filling into a 4 by 4 inch dish. Cover with topping.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Since this is one of the many magazine recipes I want to make, I’ll be submitting it to Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays.
I’ve been trying to cut back on sugar lately (it’s not working but I’m trying). My weakness is baked goods; a biscotti with my latte; a muffin for breakfast; a gigantic piece of mocha ice cream pie drizzled with caramel after drinks…
So I spent some time thinking about what could satisfy my cravings but still keep my blood sugar steady. At first I thought it was hopeless, but then it hit me; scones! I love scones, their slightly crumbly yet somehow buttery texture goes perfectly with a nice cup of tea. The fresh blueberry in these add some moisture.
Blueberry Buttermilk Scones
Yields 12 scones.
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 egg
- Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.
- Add butter. Using your finger tips or a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour mixture until it has a crumbly texture.
- Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together.
- Mix in blueberries gently.
- Using your hands, make a large ball with the dough, then roll it out until it’s about an inch thick.
- Using a round cookie cutter that has been floured, cut the dough into rounds and place on a baking sheet.
- Whisk the egg yolk and brush on scones.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 425 for 12 to 15 minutes.