Sunday, July 18, 2010

Peacha Pie

I’ve got some news for you: summer is here baby. In fact, it’s almost over.

It’s hot and dry and humid all at once, the sky is big and blue and wide and open and full of buxom blowsy clouds. Days begin early and finish late. Cicadas wake me up and lull me to sleep. Heat waves shimmer on pavement hot enough to fry an egg, and then an omelet, and probably some french toast for that matter. Sunflowers bloom. Air conditioners whirr. People while away hours at the swimming pool; life is better when you’re neck deep in ice cold water.

I always have big plans at the beginning of summer: I’m going to read War and Peace and study Russian history and I’m going to learn to ballroom dance and I’ll get a job and I’ll sew a quilt and paint the walls of my bedroom and get my driver’s license and learn French and go on day trips and make ice cream everyday of the week and wake up early and learn to how to jam and relearn Spanish and take voice lessons and read five plays and in my spare time I’m going to make doughnuts and go thrift/vintage shopping and go to yoga classes and hang out at coffee shops and chill with friends. And dance.

So far, this summer, I have:

-Learned how to say “You’re welcome.” in French.

-Woken up early, 6 days a week, and not because I want to. See Dance.

-Made more pie than any sane person should.

-Watched movies.


And to be honest, that’s about it.

I get strangely apathetic in the summer. Not BLAH. Just lazy. During the school year, the word I would use to describe myself is FRAZZLED. This summer, after almost a full year of freak-out, on-the-go-ness, my slovenly tendencies have blossomed, and I’ve accomplished exactly zip.

Though I don’t know if rising at 7:00 am IN THE SUMMER, SIX DAYS A WEEK counts as a slovenly habit. Not that I’m upset about it or anything. Did I mention that it’s summer?

This pie holds a special place in my apathetic summery heart.

This pie is a summer pie. You can only make it in the glorious summer months. Because it's a peach pie.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get sentimental about peaches. They’re the perfect summer fruit, just as this is the perfect summer pie. This pie never fails to impress. It never fails to get eaten immediately.

Do something with your stupid apathetic summer. Get off your ass and make this pie.

My dad likes to call it Peacha Pie. It's peaches plus a custardy filling. What could be better?

There is a lot of contention at my house about this pie. This recipe is an heirloom, which means it’s from my grandma, Ann Bryce. (SIDENOTE: My favorite cousin Kathryn recently berated me for not publishing any "Bryce Family Recipes" on this blog. SEE KATHRYN, A "BRYCE FAMILY RECIPE."AND AN HEIRLOOM NO LESS.) My dad insisted I make this pie for a dinner party we were invited to the other night. Only, he insisted we do it his way, rather than my way. His way means doubling the amount of butter originally called for and NOT melting it and adding two extra eggs. If you do it HIS way you’ll need to increase baking time, and that’s all detailed in the instructions below.

Peacha Pie

6 or 7 peaches (depending on size of peaches and of pie), sliced, with pit removed
4 or 6 beaten eggs
1 scant cup sugar
4 or 8 tablespoons butter, melted or not melted
1 pie shell, partially baked

Use this pie crust.

HOW TO PARTIALLY BAKE: Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out 1/2 recipe of Best Pie Dough, and carefully fold into quarters and transfer to greased pie pan. Butter the shiny side of piece of aluminum foil, fit the the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust and fill with dried beans or rice or pie weights. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights and, if the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, return the pie plate to the ocen and bake for about 8 minutes more, or until the crust is very lightly colored. (If you want to fully bake the crust for a different kind of pie, simply bake until golden brown, about another 10 minutes.) Transfer to a rack and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Arrange peach slices in a partially baked pie shell. In a blender or with a beater combine eggs, sugar and butter until smoothish. Pour over peaches. Put pie on baking sheet, place in oven and bake for an hour. To check if custard is fully cooked take pie out of oven and jiggle it a bit. If it jiggles a lot, if probably needs more baking time. The custard should turn a light golden brown. When fully cooked, pull out of oven and let cool. Eat.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because the crust is partially baked, when you put it back in the oven with the filling, the crust will continue to bake. To prevent the crust from burning and tasting nasty, it is highly advisable to cover the crust, AND ONLY THE CRUST, with strips of aluminum foil.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am not a master cookie baker.

Nope. That job is reserved for my little brother.

Michael. (At age 8.)
I love him so much.

Since he was a tiny mite of a child:
(at age 5)
Michael has always Gotten-Into-Things. Meaning that he's really good at fixing things and breaking them and dropping eggs on the kitchen floor when he was three and doing it completely on purpose. When he was little he wouldn't color inside the lines. He had the other kids do his coloring for him.
Michael's an excellent cook, because when he cooks or bakes, he likes to experiment. He is always doing crazy things with these cookies, he whips the eggs, he whips the egg whites, he works his special 14-almost-15 -year-old-magic.

So his chocolate chip cookies are always the best. And I mean The Best.

Happy 15th birthday little brother. I love you.

(Me and Michael now.)

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips or 2 cups store-bought chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.
Working with a stand mixer w/paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until well blended. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed mix in chocolate and nuts.
Spoon on tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.
Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes. Until light brown on edges and golden in center.
Allow cookies to rest for one minute. Then using spatula transfer to cooling rack.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chocolate Chunkers

Let me tell you a dirty secret.

I don't love brownies.

At least, I thought I loved brownies, but then I ate one of these cookies and decided that I would never eat a brownie again.

To be honest, brownies have a boring texture. They're either fudgey or cakey. And that's about it. Maybe there's a little crunch in the brownie because there's pecans or walnuts, but to be completely frank, there aren't very many people who love nuts in their brownies.

I know this from experience.

These cookies are an Experience, they are a beautiful cross between all that is good in a brownie (chocolate) and a cookie (crunch, exciting texture, chocolate chips, deliciousness, unfussyness.)
They are exciting to eat, because there are so many chips and chunks. While still hot out of the oven they're oozey and gooey. When they've cooled in the fridge they become little hockey pucks of chocolatey bliss.

Disclaimer: They are not for the faint of heart. They are rich. There is a lot of chocolate.
As always, these are from the forever wonderful Dorie Greenspan. She calls them wonderful in italics. So of course I had to make them.


Chocolate Chunkers
from Baking:From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetedned cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter cut into three pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips/chunks
6 ounces best quality white-chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup store-bought chips/chunks
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, preferably salted peanuts or toasted pecans
1 cup moist, plump raisins or finely chopped apricots

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the butter, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted--the chocolate and butter should be smooth and shiny but not so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the heat and set it on the counter to cool.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or witha hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar togetehr on medium-hight speed for about 2 minutes, until they are pale and foamy. Beat int he vanilla extract, then scrape down the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted butter and chocolate, mixing only until incorporated. WIth a rubber spatula, scrape down the vowl, then, on low speed, add the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients dissappear into the dough, which will be thick, smooth and shiny. Scrape down the bowl and, using the rubber spatula, mix in the semi-swet and milk (or white) chocolate chunks, nuts and raisins, you'll have more crunchies than dough at this point. (The dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Drop the dough by generously heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space between the mounds of dough.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes. The tops of the cookies will look a little dry but the interiors should still be soft. Remove the caking sheet and carefully, using a broad metal spatula, lift the cookies onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
Repeat with the remaining dough, baking only one sheet of cookies at a time and making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.
If, when the cookies are cooled, the chocolate is still gooey and you'd like it to be a bit firmer, just pop the cookies into the fridge for about 10 minutes.