Black Plum and Blackberry Galette

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I’m in love with this pie.  It’s a galette – a free-form pie that is usually very rustic and can be sweet or savory, or even resemble a thin pancake in some regions of France.  I love it because it eliminates the pressure to make a pretty pie crust.  So many people struggle with pie crust, and when the edges crack, it can make even the most tempered person lose their cool.  But the galette solves all that.  You simply roll out your dough, fill it up and fold the edges over.  If you add an egg wash and some crunchy sugar sprinkled over the dough, no one in the world will care that it isn’t in a pie plate!  We enjoyed plums and a few blackberries in this pie because they were ripe and in season and cheap!  I really don’t buy fruit if it isn’t on sale.  I just figure that sale price tells me what’s in abundance and that’s an easy way to know what’s in season!

I served this over the course of a few days to a few different friends.  I love that one dish can unite so many.  I believe five different friends, total, shared this pie at different times over the weekend.  This is my very favorite thing about cooking and sharing meals.  And yes, a plum galette and a cup of coffee is a meal 🙂 I think people stay longer and open up quicker and are more at ease if you have something to offer them to eat and drink.  I’m not always good about doing this, especially for the most frequent friends.  And how awful to treat the frequent friends less special!  It’s hard for those of us who can’t be trusted with baked goods in the house, to have them in the house during the week.  But, maybe you could consider it a bit of a social challenge for yourself to bake this pie and then see how many different friends you can get to share it with you.  🙂

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Plum and Blackberry Galette*

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice water
1/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds, toasted
5 to 6 plums, halved, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (keep slices together if possible – this was hard for me because my plums were cling and didn’t come away from the pit very easy.  I just sliced them as best I could – still pretty)
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/4 cup remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Don’t overmix! Remove dough from processor and shape into a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Meanwhile, wipe bowl of food processor clean and add almonds, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; pulse until ground to a coarse meal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; sprinkle almond mixture over dough (this is necessary for absorbing the juices from the fruit so your crust won’t be a soggy mess.  Plus, it tastes great.)  With a spatula, transfer plums to dough; press lightly to fan out, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edge of dough over fruit. Refrigerate 20 minutes (this is so your butter doesn’t leak out). Brush crust with cream (I used an egg); sprinkle galette with 2 tablespoons sugar (I used super crunchy sugar!)  Bake until crust is golden and underside is cooked through, about 70 minutes.

*I made this from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts cookbook, which, is a book I could look at for hours on end, reading it like a novel.  That’s one way to get better at cooking, by the way – read cookbooks like they’re novels 🙂

Dark Chocolate Chip-Pecan Pancakes

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancake stack

I opened up this recipe this week with the intention of pinning it to my Pinterest recipe board.  Then I went to my recipe board and discovered that I’d pinned this exact recipe four times over the last 2 years.  My subconscious must really want these pancakes.  I decided, no more pining for a pin!  I made these bad boys this morning for breakfast, right when the clouds rolled in and it started raining.  We enjoyed the rest of our coffee on the front porch while watching the rain and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the perfect way to spend the morning.

These pancakes are intense, rich, but not too sweet.  I accidentally left out the melted butter from the batter (believe me that I would never do that intentionally) and they turned out just fine!   Matt had pancake syrup on his and I had creme fraiche sweetened with a bit of honey on mine and I will proudly say that my way was the best.  But his way photographed better 🙂 Whatever you decide to put on top of these pancakes, be it whipped cream, syrup, powdered sugar, yogurt, it’s going to be the right decision.  The baby girl loved them, too and called them “panpays”, which was nearly the cutest thing I’d heard all week.

Enjoy your weekend!  Hope you find time to make these desert-like pancakes at some point!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Chocolate Pecan Pancakes*
makes about 10 pancakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oilPreheat oven to 225 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla; pour over flour mixture, whisking to combine. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans; let batter stand until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

    In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until a water droplet sizzles; swirl to coat bottom of pan with oil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Spoon four small mounds (1 heaping tablespoon each) of batter into skillet. Cook until bubbles appear in center, 3 to 4 minutes. With a thin spatula, flip pancakes; continue cooking until set, 3 to 4 minutes more.

    Transfer to a baking sheet; cover loosely with foil; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and batter in three more batches (adjust heat as necessary to avoid overbrowning).

    Stack ’em up and enjoy, topped with anything you’d like!

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Stack of Chocolate Pancakes

Mini Cherry Pies with Brown Sugar Meringue

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I fulfilled a little dream, today.  I baked with my daughter.  And she even wore a mini-apron. In just a few more months, she’ll be able to stand beside me on her stool and really help.  Today, she got to sit on the counter, play with the rolling pin, say, “row, row, row” as she rolled the dough and even properly sneaked little bites of the raw dough to eat.  This girl knows how to live.  And I’m so happy that she’s teaching me how to live mine, all over again.

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I found cherries on sale for $2.97, regularly over $7!  Cherries are in season in May, so I really hope they stay cheap for a few more weeks!  I did a couple things with my purchase.  First, I put a few whole in a jar and covered them with bourbon.

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A great addition to cocktails in a few weeks, I’m sure!  Or a grown up ice cream Sunday.  Or, a merciful substitution for those horrid Maraschino circles of candy that call themselves cherries.

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For my second act, I overcooked a batch of cherry pie filling so much that it resembled bits of dried cherries, resting comfortably in glue.  (I’d left it on the stove to “simmer” while I went to see my friend in the hospital.  Um, don’t ask why I did that.)  Matt rescued my near-break down by going and getting me another pound at 10:00 last night, then helped me pit every last one of them so I could start over.  That’s true love.

So I had a vague vision of what I wanted to do.  I wanted to make mini pies, fill them with tart cherry filling and use a brown sugar meringue that I’ve used before and wanted to make again because it’s close to perfection and is SO SWEET that it can really only be paired with something tart.  So these little devils are a combination of three recipes: Martha Stewart’s hand pie dough, My Baking Addiction’s cherry pie filling and Cindy Pawlcyn’s brown sugar meringue that she uses on her mile high lemon meringue pie at her amazing restaurant, Mustards Grill in Napa Valley (we went! we ate! we went into a food coma!)

The results were pretty great.  I think next time, I’d use my tried and true pie crust recipe and just add lemon zest to it.  Other than that, this recipe is a winner!  Especially for this super hot weekend that reminds us all too well that we live in the desert and it is officially summer.

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Mini Cherry Pies with Brown Sugar Meringue
makes two dozen

For the Crust

3 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest (this microplane works best!)
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup, room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 oz. cream cheese at room temp
2 tbs buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and zest.

With an electric mixer on high speed (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment), beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the egg and beat until just combined.  Add cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla; beat until well combined.  Add reserved flour mixture, and beat until smooth.  Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.  Refrigerate 1 hour, up to overnight or freeze up to 1 month.

Let the dough come up to room temp and then roll out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out 4″ rounds and press them into a standard muffin tin, making sure to patch up any holes that form.  This dough is kind of crackly, so don’t fret.  It patches up pretty easily.  Prick the bottom of each pie with a fork and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Some of the bottoms of the pies will puff up, but when they’ve cooled just press the puffed up centers down a bit before filling.  I wasn’t about to cut 24 parchment rounds and fill each cup with pie weights.  I’m not THAT dedicated to perfection.

For the Filling

5 to 6 cups fresh, pitted cherries
1/2 cup water
2 tbs lemon juice (fresh!)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbs constarch
1/2 tsp almond extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the almond extract and cool slightly before using.

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I really love using my copper jam pot – (pardon the iPhone pic) The copper heats up almost instantly, as do the sides, so it cooks jam more evenly.  There are lovely, affordable ones here!

For the Meringue:

3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Place the brown sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan with high sides (that sugar will boil up and scare the meringue right out of you if you have a small pan), add water to cover, attach a candy thermometer to the pan, and turn the heat on high. When the sugar is at about 240 degrees, start whipping the whites on high speed (they should be foamy and starting to thicken before you add the sugar). When the sugar is at the high soft-ball stage (245 degrees), remove the thermometer from the sugar and, with the mixer still running, carefully avoiding the whip, pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin stream. When steam starts to come off the whites, add the sugar more quickly. When all sugar has been added, continue whipping until firm but soft peaks form.

Assemble!

Fill each pie shell with the filling.  Then top each with a generous dollop of meringue (you’ll have leftover meringue) and then get a torch and torch those suckers.  I don’t like toasting meringue in my oven because I inevitably scorch them and that makes me feel like a failure and I try to avoid that feeling whenever possible.  It’s all about setting yourself up to succeed in the kitchen that will keep you coming back.

I think these are best served with iced coffee because that’s what you need on a 100 degree day like today!

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Little fingers are very curious 🙂

 

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JOY!

Food Memories: Chicken n’ Noodles

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Many of us have memories of being little and watching our moms or dads or grandmas cook or bake for the family.  The first memory that comes to mind for me is watching my mom cut out biscuits with an old green chili can she had cut the top and bottom off of (it’s the perfect biscuit size!) and then slap each side of the biscuit in vegetable oil, then slide the disc in line with the others to fill up an entire pizza pan.  There is something methodically calming about watching someone cook.  I always felt like I was helping, even if I never touched anything.  I felt involved, because mom let me stand there or sit on the counter across from her and talk to her while she worked.  I will always be thankful that she let me hang around the kitchen.  She was always so busy doing a thousand things for our family that it was the one moment when things were somewhat calm and we could just be together and I could count on it every night because I (thankfully) had a mom that cooked dinner 6 out of the 7 days of the week.  You really can’t replace that kind of experience with anything else.  Those memories stick.

My dear friend, Louise Shoemaker, shared a memory and a meal with me last week that seemed so fitting for my blog and for what I love about cooking for my family and eating together.  She is one of the best writers I know, (she was my 10th grade English teacher – how lucky I am to still be friends with her!) so I asked her to write a little blurb about the recipe and the memory that went along with it.  My favorite part about this recipe was consulting her every 5 minutes to make sure I was doing things right.  She had driven up to Lubbock for the day and ate this meal with us!  I’d never made noodles from scratch, and technically, neither had she, but she’d watched her mother so much that she knew.  Here is what she had to say about the chicken noodle soup that made a permanent home in her memory:

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ouise and her Mother

It’s funny that a food memory starts with a sharp, clear visual. The bright yellow Pyrex bowl and the red-handled Daisy egg beater swirling the rich gold of fresh yolks. I’ll never forget the 50’s color scheme of the kitchen: pink walls, turquoise cabinet doors, chocolate brown trim. I can still see the white enamel-on-steel kitchen table and my mom in her long, slim dress with the apron tied smartly and the scarf pulled back over her careful bobby-pin curls. It’s as clear in my eye today as it was in those days 50-some years ago.

It must have been a Wednesday. Two days until payday and five mouths to feed on a budget stretched to the last nickel. So, a plump (cheap!) boiling hen, a dozen eggs, a pile of flour, a splash of water, and we knew we’d make it till Friday.

Chicken’n Noodles: made-from-scratch pasta boiled in rich, fresh stock, with chunks of chicken so tender it fell off the bone. A silky thickened sauce, glistening with a bit of butter, and thick, rustic slabs of slightly chewy noodles curling on a plate. YUMM!

The aroma of that meal is the smell of childhood, and it takes me right back there to that kitchen watching my mom pour the beaten eggs into the crater of the flour volcano and mix and knead and roll the dough out to a four-foot circle. I can see her boning a mountain of chicken, dropping heaping handfuls of raw noodles into bubbling broth. Cooking this meal was a production, an infrequent event. I’ve savored the memory of Chicken and Noodles for decades. It was amazing to re-create it with Alisa. And Olive.

I like to think of them cooking together for years to come, Olive sharing with her mother an experience so rich and elemental and, in today’s environment, rare. You’re a lucky (impossibly adorable) munchkin, Ollie! And your mama is pretty awesome, too!

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I am giving you the recipe I did – I only added a few things to the stock, the rest, I followed Louise’s mom’s story-like recipe as best I could.  With pointers from Louise along the way…

Chicken’n Noodles

For the stock:
1 chicken, cut into pieces (8 pieces, bone still in: wings, breasts, legs, thighs)
Water
Salt
1 onion, chopped into quarters
3 carrots, chopped into thirds
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme

Put the chicken pieces into a large stock pot and cover with water until covered by about 2 inches.  Add a couple tablespoons of salt along with the onion, carrot, bay leaves and thyme.  Bring to a boil, skimming any foam off the top as it comes.  Reduce to a simmer and maintain a simmer (I left my burner on about a 3-4) for 1 and a half to 2 hours.
Remove the chicken from the pan and let it cool.  Then, remove skin, bones and any fat that remains.  Chop or hand-shred the chicken and set aside in a bowl in the fridge while you make the noodles.  Skim the stock of as much fat as you can, but don’t fuss too much.  Remove the carrots, onion and herbs and discard so you’re left with a (mostly) clear broth.  Keep the broth at a simmer with the lid on while you make the noodles.

For the noodles:

3 eggs
a big ol’ mound of flour (maybe 4-6  cups)
salt
elbow grease

Pour a mound of flour on a clean work space and create a hole in the center, volcano-style.  Make it deep enough so that when added, the eggs don’t spill over the side. Leave flour on the floor of the volcano so you can’t see your counter.  Crack the eggs into the hole and with your hand or a fork, whip up the eggs, incorporating flour as you go from the sides.  You won’t use all the flour, of course.  Keep incorporating flour to the eggs, stirring all the while, until you are left with a ball of dough that isn’t very sticky anymore.  Knead the ball for a good 10 minutes until you’re left with a very smooth ball of dough.  Trade off with a friend if you get tired:

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Clean your hands and insert your finger into the center of the dough.  If it comes back super sticky, add more flour and knead some more.  Cover your dough with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.

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Clean off your work space and if you’ve worked clean, you can save most of the flour you didn’t use.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface till it’s an 1/8th of an inch thin.  Or thinner.  You may need to let the dough rest a few times throughout this process because it will start to shrink back up.  Once you get it thin enough, cut it into whatever shapes you like.  I chose squares because I have a kiddo that needs everything cut up, anyway.  Louise remembers her mom cutting looooooooong, thick strips, which would be wonderful, too.  You could even get cute and cut out little shapes from tiny cookie cutters.  Once you get all the dough cut, make sure each piece is coated in flour and bring at least a cup more flour with you to the stove to boil and put this dish together.

Making it Into Soup:

Get your stock to a rolling boil.  Dump your noodles in a handful at a time until they’re all in the pot, stirring as you go so they don’t stick.  This is the vague portion of our program.  Once the noodles are al dente, add the chicken back in and bring it back up to a simmer over medium-low heat.  While stirring, add a sprinkling of flour – maybe 1/4 cup – and stir until fully incorporated.  Keep adding flour till a good consistency is reached.  You’re wanting an opaque sauce that’s neither soupy nor gravy – somewhere in the middle.  If it coats the back of a spoon, it’s probably ready.  Adjust the seasoning with salt until it sings of chicken goodness.  Ladle up, top with a good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and enjoy.  We had ours with a wonderful Chardonnay and some crusty challah bread with butter.  Really – it does NOT get better than that.  The baby went crazy for this soup, too, and ate her entire bowl, plus some of ours.

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