Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Conversation Between Me and You

"So, like, this is a food blog, right?"
"That's right."
"So, like, where's the grub?"
"I've been busy, please don't judge me, I'm just starting to figure this whole thing out."
"Recipes baby, that's all I want, some recipes."

I know this is probably what you've been thinking. Thus, without further ado:

Dimply Plum Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums (or even Italian prune plums, when they are in season), halved and pitted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet. 

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.

Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter–Dorie says she usually makes four rows of four plum halves each–jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes during which time the plums juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Eat entire cake. Because there's fruit in it it's obviously health food, right?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Best Pie Crust

My favorite part of Waitress:

"What are you thinking about hon?"

"I'm thinking I'm gonna make an I-hate-my-husband-pie."


"I don't think we can put that on the menu hon."

It's an incredibly charming uplifting film. It's quirkly and loveable. And the story is centered around pie. Pie as a symbol of 

love. Pie as comfort. Pie is everything that people love and hope for. Some how pie dough has a reputation for trickiness. And certainly I've

had some miserably failed pie crusts. But this pie crust. This pie crust is something else. Simple. Thick. Flaky. Delicious. And when paired with a

filling of butter and cinnamon soaked apple, it's about as close to heaven on a fork as you can get. 

Basic Pie Crust from BAKED

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

3 cups flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

In a food processor whirl together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the VERY COLD BUTTER into small pieces and blend until the mixture forms into pea-sized chunks. Dribble in water and whirl until dough just comes together. 

Take dough out of processor and knead until dough comes together. Divide into two, wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for one hour before using. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Evolution of a Sandwich

Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake

I ADORE Dorie Greenspan. She's a baking guru, she's knows how to make good stuff. There had been a basket of apples festering on the kitchen counter, begging to be baked I just knew I couldn't go wrong. 
This is Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake. It's thick and dense and crumbly and heavy and not for the faint of heart. Don't get me wrong, it's good, it's not exactly everything I hoped for, but it's taken me a day and half a pie-cake to decide if I like it. I do. 
Dorie also suggests that this dough, which is basically cookie dough, can also be used to make old fashioned sugar cookies. How perfect is that? I love you Dorie. 

Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake

For the Dough:
2 sticks(8 ounces butter)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Apples:
10 medium apples 
squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4  cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

In a mixer  with paddle or with a hand-blender beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs and continue to beat until mixture is light and fluffy.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add baking powder and salt. Add the lemon juice-dough will probably curdle but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if it looks more like batter than dough at this point add extra 1/4 cup flour. Turn dough on work surface, gather into a ball and divide in half. Shape each half in a rectangle. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (dough will last up to 3 days) 

Peep and core apples, cut into slices 1/4 inch thick. Toss in bowl with lemon juice and raisins. Combine sugar and cinnamon, toss with apple/raisin mixture. 

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-x-12 inch baking pan. 
Remove dough from fridge. Roll out on well floured surface or between sheets of wax paper. Or (you can do as I did) press and roll pieces of dough and patch them together in pan. DON'T worry, because of the baking powder everything will work out fine. 
Give apples a final toss in bowl and turn into pan, spread evenly across the bottom. 
Roll out 2nd piece of dough and position it over the apples. (This took me forever and this was so frustrating I just gave up, I did as I did for the bottom dough layer, VERY ARTISTICALLY patching top dough layer together. It looked beautiful.) 
Brush dough lightly with water and sprinkle with sugar over dough. Using a small sharp knife cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in dough. 
Bake for 65 to 80 minutes or until dough is nice golden brown. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool until warm or room temperature. You'll be tempted to eat this right away but I (Dorie) think the dough needs a little time to rest. (Because Dorie is so AWESOME I obey her every word. I waited.) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To sum it up

I have had a very busy summer. I've been involved in three shows, in the span of about two months. It's been hard, getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, as well as challenging myself as an actress and singer, but in the end it's all been very rewarding. 
I've spent all summer learning how much I don't know, and while it's been frustrating on the one hand, on the other, I'm very excited about the coming school year, because I love to learn new things. 
Some interesting books I've read lately:
Bird by Bird, an interesting, thoughtful book on the joy and pain of writing. 
The Pursuit of Love. An enjoyable, short novel on the large, very British Radlett family, the descriptions of Paris were lovely. Very witty. 

Around the Bloc. One of the best travelogues I've ever read, the narrator is a young woman, struggling with her identity as a Texan-Chicana. She travels through Russia, China and Cuba. Now I want to visit all those places. Even Russia, a country, which I had previously never in a million years wished to visit. I ate it up, truly an awesome read. 
I liked this book, but didn't love it. I love fairy tales but this book felt rather heavy, as if everything had Meaning. Perhaps this says something about my lazy thinking, I simply let things slip by me instead of reading closely and really figuring out what the author was really trying to say. The parts about painting, tulips and art were very interesting. It is however, a good book.