Archive for November, 2009

Thanksgiving Crises Averted

Apple Pie 2

I'm really only good for pie questions. Although those of you with my cell phone number are welcome to call.

Good luck to all the cooks out there embarking on their Thanksgiving meal for the first time tomorrow. I have to say – I envy you a little. I’ve only cooked the meal once, and it took me about ten hours. But man, they were a great ten hours. Even though the timing is hard, nothing about the meal is technically difficult – besides having the turkey, a naturally dry meat, turn out juicy and flavorful (my bird was neither, by the way). And doing that much cooking, coordinating all the little elements – it was tremendous fun.

If you’re looking for a good dessert recipe from the ModernDomestic archives, here are my best bets:

If you’re looking for more hands-on help before and during the big day, then never fear- there’s help out there. Professional help. As I did last year, I’ve compiled a list of Thanksgiving hotlines to answer all your questions. For those of you who don’t have my direct line, that is (not that I’m much help in anything but the pie department. But I can try).

For all your general cooking questions:

  • The Splendid Table, Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s  wonderful NPR cooking show, will be having a two hour live call-in show starting at 11:00 am (eastern) on Thanksgiving day. Give Lynne a call at (800) 537-5252. You can also submit questions online at the show’s web site.

For turkey troubles

  • If you’re anti-Butterball, Reynolds has a Turkey Tips Hotline at 1-800-745-4000.
  • You can also call Purdue’s hotline with your turkey questions at 1-800-4PERDUE® (1-800-473-7383).
  • If your Turkey question is specific to brining, call the Spice Hunter hotline at 888-334-8977.

For a pie crisis

  • The Crisco Pie Hotline will answer your basic and advanced pie baking questions. Call them at -877-FOR PIE TIPS (1-877-367-7438). Granted, I hope they can answer questions about more than just shorting, since I dearly hope you’re using some butter in your pie crust (actually, I hope you’re using a ratio of six tbs butter and 2 tbs shortening to 1 cup of flour).

For general baking questions:

Cranberry queries:

  • Problems with the cranberry sauce? Ocean Spray can answer cranberry questions at 1-800-662-3263.

Good luck!


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Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie - the shy wallflower of the pie set.

It looks pretty homely, doesn’t it? Pumpkin pie always looks like the plain Jane standing in the corner to me. It’s not like apple pie, which can tower over the pie plate, or sport a decorative lattice. And it’s not like cherry pie, whose bright red fruit can be shockingly beautiful. No, pumpkin pie is . . . well, it’s just too brown and flat to be impressive.

And I can’t say that this pumpkin pie is really any less plain – at least on the outside. But you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it really has been spiffed up – a shot of homemade caramel gives the pumpkin a boost of sweetness, with just a hint of that bitter, burnt sugar flavor. Oftentimes I don’t like pumpkin pie because the squash tastes too healthy to me, but this tasted much more like dessert.

The verdict on this pie was mixed – I took it to kittyhagan’s pre-Thanksgiving party and, while it was well received, a full three quarters of it remained by the time I left. Granted, I gave it some pretty stiff competition, in the form of a double chocolate mint pie (more on that next week)—maybe the shy wall flower can never really compete with the beautiful cheerleader, you know?

Well, in any event, if you’re looking for a way to spice up pumpkin pie for Thursday, I definitely suggest this recipe. The caramel gives an extra boost and depth to the pumpkin filling, the crust was gloriously flaky, and, for a homely pie, it certainly packed an impressive punch of flavor. Just make sure you make it the star of the Thanksgiving dessert table, which is certainly what it deserves.

Caramel Pumpkin Pie - Party Photo

Party photo of the pie. No, I'm not telling you how much wine I had when I took this photo. Not happening.

Recipe: Caramel Pumpkin Pie

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Weekly Roundup: Pre-Thanksgiving Edition

Swedish Embassy

The Swedish Embassy, decked out for the holidays. We're in the thick of the holiday season.

I’ve loved reading the Thanksgiving posts and articles that have gone up this week. It seems like everyone is preparing for the big day. Except me, of course – I’ll be attending the Thanksgiving celebration of a friend from my bookclub, and I’ll leave all the difficult turkey-cooking to her. I’m a little sad that I won’t be cooking the meal myself, but I’m excited to share the holiday with my friends in DC. And it gives me more time to concentrate on pie – my true obsession this month.

Recipes I want to try, as found on the Internet this week:

  • Homemade vanilla extract, from Mango and Tomato. I’ve been meaning to do this forever – I go through vanilla extract like water.

And in other pre-Thanksgiving news;

  • Find out which  Starbucks baked good is worth buying at The Tipsy Baker.
  • I’ve been having a ton of fun watching the tweets from DC’s first Cupcake Cart, Curbside Cupcake. Now if they’d only come up to Tenlytown.
  • 6th and I is holding a potato cookoff. Mango and Tomato is already signed up as a contestant!
  • Crumbs Bake Shop is coming to DC! Actually, I’m pretty happy with our current cupcake offerings. Do we really need another? Via Metrocurean.

Happy Friday!

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Next Food Blogger Happy Hour: Wed., Dec 2 @ Churchkey

It’s that time again! Mark your calendars for the next food blogger happy hour, Wednesday, December 2 at 6:00 pm. This time we’re meeting at Churchkey, the very cool new beer-centric bar on 14th street. Don’t like beer? I talked with their pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac recently, and there’s lots to enjoy on the dessert menu too.

If you’re planning on attending, please leave a comment on Orr’s post over at Young and Hungry so we can get a headcount. And many thanks to our planning committee for putting this together –We Love DC, Capital SpiceDining in DCGradually Greener, Capital Cooking, and Orr from Young and Hungry.

December Food Blogger Happy Hour
Wednesday, December 2, 6:00 pm
1337 14th st NW
Washington DC, 20005

PS – Thanks to Metrocurean, for letting us use her fabulous photo!

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Interview With Santanna Salas, Pastry Chef at Bourbon Steak DC

Santanna Salas

Santanna Salas, the new pastry chef at Bourbon Steak, DC.

Desserts can present a challenge at a place like Bourbon Steak, the fancy steakhouse located in Georgetown’s Four Seasons hotel. After a dinner of rib eye or filet mignon, “it’s hard to have the guests want dessert,” says Santanna Salas, the restaurant’s new pastry chef.

At 23, Salas brings five years of experience working with pastry and a keen palate to the kitchen at Bourbon Steak. For Salas, palate is the most important quality for any chef to have – “to make sure your standard is going out, you have to taste everything,” she says.

Salas got her start competing in cooking competitions in high school, and worked at Michael Mina Bellagio as a baker and assistant pastry chef during college. “I wanted to be a sports nutritionist,” Salas says of her college days. “It was a way to incorporate food into my work. But I fell in love with being in a kitchen.” She graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a Bachelors in food and nutrition, but has continued to pursue her passion for pastry.

Salas overcomes the challenge of luring diners to the dessert menu after heavy dinners by keeping things light – she creates refreshing desserts that play on old favorites. “Classics, with a twist” is how she describes her approach to pastry, and it shows.

Tiramisu, deconstructed.

Her butterscotch pot de creme is brought down to earth with Macallan 18 Whisky, and paired with pumpkin spice cake and pepitas. Her favorite dessert on the menu is also on the lighter side – the passionfruit panna cotta, flavored with lemongrass from the restaurant’s kitchen garden, and served with a coconut sorbet.

Salas’ tiramisu has the flavors of the original with a lighter touch: she forgoes the ladyfingers for an espresso sponge cake, and serves it with mascarpone mousse and cocoa sorbet. “When I think of tiramisu, I think of something heavy,” Salas says, “but this is really light and refreshing. For a steakhouse, that’s what you have to do.”

Bitter chocolate cake, artfully arranged.

Other desserts on the menu include a coconut candy bar – a high-class reinterpretation of an almond joy – which layers milk chocolate, praline caramel, and almonds. A caramel apple is served with cinnamon ice cream, and a bitter chocolate cake is served with hazelnut ice cream, and milk and honey ganache. As for the upcoming winter dessert menu? Salas would like to do a dessert with carrots, and experiment with holiday spices, like eggnog.

Right now, Salas is still settling into life in DC, where, she says, the smaller restaurant community and cold weather is a big change from Vegas. “I eventually want to open up my own bakery,” Salas says of her future plans, but right now she’s keeping an open mind and seeing where opportunity leads her.  After all, “I never thought five years ago I’d be working at one of the best restaurants in DC as a pastry chef.”

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Apple Turnovers With A Cheddar Crust

Apple Turnovers With Cheddar Crust

They're back! And they want to be part of your Thanksgiving!

Do not be alarmed. You are not traveled back in time to September. You have, indeed, seen these turnovers before.

But, you see, I was remiss in my reporting from the apple deluge. During my apple turnover project I made not one, but three kinds of apple turnovers. One type, with ginger and cranberry, you’ve already read about, and the other type (my attempt to make a savory, chutney-like apple filling) is not worth writing about here.

But the third type was actually my favorite – apple turnovers with a cheddar crust – and it would be a mighty shame if I didn’t post the recipe here. It was only last week, when my friend Alice and I were discussing the virtues of cheddar pie crust that I realized I had completely forgotten to put it up.

Perhaps this timing is fortuitous – after all, we’re in the thick of holiday season, and these would be really perfect for a light after-Thanksgiving dessert. If you’ve already committed to pumpkin pie, never fear – these would do very nicely at brunch during your leisurely four day weekend.

Even if you don’t make these turnovers, I hope this recipe inspires others to try cheddar pie crust in their holiday baking, because it truly is an amazing thing. It takes what we usually associate with a cheese plate – cheddar served with a slice of apple – and puts it in a pie plate. Crispy and flaky, the crust gets a mellow bite from the cheddar cheese that makes it much more interesting that normal pie crust. Use it in your next apple pie – you may just not go back your old apple pie crust.

Apple Turnovers With Cheddar Crust - In Process

Turnovers, pre turn-over.

Recipe: Apple Turnovers With A Cheddar Crust

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Pie Time: Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie 3

Nothing healthful about this little baby.

I’ve had very little cream pie in my life.

The pies of my childhood were mainly of the fruit variety – and when I say fruit I mean apples. My mother was cursed with children who were very picky eaters, and the only pie we would tolerate was the apple kind. On the whole, we are not a pie family.

But I wonder what would have happened if my mother had offered us a piece of the chocolate cream pie I made this weekend. Unlike apple pie, whose fruit filling has a veneer of healthfulness (at least, if you’re a kid), everything about this pie screams “dessert:” a chocolate crumb crust, filled with a silky chocolate pudding filling, and adorned with mounds of whipped cream and chocolate curls.

I was ambitious with this pie – I actually made my own chocolate wafer cookies from this Smitten Kitchen recipe, and then ground them into crumbs for the crumb crust. The wafers may have been more trouble than they were worth – about a third of them burnt, and, while they tasted fine, they lacked that intense, chocolatey, slightly salty flavor of Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers, which I usually use for a crumb crust. For those of you who want to try to make your own wafers, my one piece of advice is to freeze the dough log before you slice it into cookies – I chilled mine in the refrigerator for the recommended one hour, but the dough was still way too soft to slice cleanly.

I ended up making the crust slightly too thick, but it was still satisfyingly crunchy. It was the perfect foil to the creamy, chocolate pudding filling, which had a rich chocolate flavor without being too sweet. The pudding is thickened with cornstarch, giving it a silky, light texture. The whole thing is topped with a layer of whipped cream, which I spiced up with a little Grand Marnier and cinnamon.

Now, you’ll notice this pie looks a little, shall we say, un-pie like. That is because I made this pie in a tart tin, rather than a pie pan. This was not my intention, but I broke my pie pan in the process of making this pie – let’s just say that balancing a glass pan on top of my coffee maker is not the most secure situation.

So, technically, you could call this a tart. But I think you should still think of it as a pie. Its simple, unpretentious, messy soul is much more pie like.

And whatever you call it, it’s delicious. I took this to a pre-Thanksgiving party, where it was promptly devoured.

Chocolate cream pie 1

Many thanks to my taste testers!

Recipe: Chocolate Cream Pie

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Weekly Roundup: Dreaming of Pie Edition

Apple pie

You haunt my dreams.

I can’t stop thinking about pie. All day I’m distracted by the the thoughts of the pie I’m going to make this weekend. Will it use a pastry crust? A crumb crust? A cheddar crust? Will it be a fruit pie? Or a pudding pie? I don’t know why I didn’t start baking pies months ago – they’re just so fascinating.

Maybe this means I need more hobbies. Or, um, friends.

Recipes I want to try:

  • Parmesan popovers from Adventures in Shaw. Popovers are an excellent holiday feast food – they’re easy, tasty, and impressive.

And in other news:

  • The Arugula Files reviews the bar menu at Bourbon Steak, which is both decadent and reasonably priced.
  • Lemmonex reviews Masa 14, the hot new tapas restaurant on 14th Street. She is tired of tapas.
  • NPR has a good primer on quinces, which I’ve been wanting to try. I looked for them at the farmer’s market last weekend, but didn’t find any – anyone know if they’re available in this area?
  • The Tipsy Baker, aka writer Jennifer Reese, has a thoughtful, tough, review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, Eating Animals over at Double XX.
  • Gradually Greener previews a promising new social networking site for foodies, Smörgie.
  • The Internet Food Association is tired of cupcakes. I, personally, am tired of people who are tired of cupcakes. You’ll notice I tried to defend them in the comments, but, alas, the majority of comments are firmly in the anti-cupcake camp.
  • Capital Spice has google-mapped out all the restaurants on Tom Sietsema’s Fall Dining Guide (from the Post), Tim Carman’s 50 Best Restaurants (from the Washington City Paper), and the Washingtonian magazine’s 100 Best Restaurants. Now if only I could read maps.

Happy Friday!

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Rustic Guinness Bread

Guinness Bread

I still haven't drunk all that Guinness . . .

I still have a lot of beer left over from last month’s beer baking binge, and I haven’t really been in the mood to drink lately. I think I’m too busy with all these various baking projects, blogger get togethers, and early morning choir performances. Or maybe it’s that I’m watching too much Mad Men – watching people who are always drunk, or hungover, makes sobriety much more attractive.

This weather has also put me in the mood to bake, so I put two and two together and made some Guinness bread this weekend. I was also inspired by my chat with Tiffany MacIssac, the Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley, who’s been incorporating beer into their breads and desserts. I decided to use the basic hearth bread recipe from The Bread Bible, which Rose Beranbaum suggests as a good basic recipe to use for adaptations.

The beer in this bread is a subtle flavoring – it gives it a slightly more bitter, darker flavor, and a honey-colored crumb. To counteract the smoky, bitter flavor of the Guinness, I upped the amount of honey in the dough, which gave the bread a mellow sweetness. You can’t really tell that the bread uses Guinness, but the beer definitely gives the bread a subtle depth of flavor that I liked quite a bit. Because this loaf uses bread flour, which has a higher protein content than regular flour, the bread is satisfyingly chewy, with a crisp crust and light texture.

This bread is good toasted in thick slices with a good slathering of butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. Or top it with goat cheese, arugula, and Prosciutto for a quick open-faced sandwich. And it’s refined enough that you can enjoy a slice with some cheese and a glass of wine. Or your favorite craft brew. Or even a Bud Light, if that’s what you prefer. I don’t judge.

Guinness Bread - Inside

My favorite way to eat this bread is toasted and topped with a fried egg. I'm classy like that.

Recipe: Rustic Guinness Bread

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Buttery Caramel Ice Cream

Buttery Caramel Ice Cream 2

God. I love ice cream.

An ice cream maker isn’t just a kitchen tool – it is a path to dessert freedom. Think about it – can you think of a dessert that is more adaptable than ice cream? Because ice cream (and yes, I’m using it as a generic term here for any frozen, churned dessert, including gelato, sorbet, and sherbet) is essentially just a liquid frozen in an ice cream maker, it is incredibly versatile.

Flavors that can only serve as accents in a cake – like citrus, nuts, or fruit – work perfectly well as the main flavor in an ice cream or sorbet. Because ice cream doesn’t rely on sugar for structure, like a cake does, it’s much easier to control the amount of sweetness in your ice cream. And you can mix pretty much anything into ice cream (within reason). I can have my mint ice cream with some cookies, fudge, chocolate chips, brownies, or anything else good-tasting that I can think of.

Suffice it to say, I love my ice cream maker. And I was very excited to use it to make David Lebovitz’s salted butter caramel ice cream this weekend, although I wasn’t ambitious enough to make the caramel praline mix-in that the recipe called for.

Now, I had originally intended to make this ice cream to go along with my caramel apple walnut pie, which seemed like a natural accompaniment. However, the ice cream wasn’t quite set up when my taste testers arrived, so what I served them was much more akin to caramel sauce.

In retrospect, I think fate was trying to tell me something with the soupy ice cream, because I actually don’t think this ice cream is the right accompaniment to my pie. The ice cream is incredibly rich, with a deep, luscious toffee flavor – and it’s so good on its own that it overwhelms the pie. The subtle sweetness of the pie crust and the tangy interplay between the apples and the caramel gets lost in the richness of the caramel ice cream. Next time, I think I might try the pie with a lighter ice cream, like ginger or vanilla.

No, this caramel ice cream is a big, bold ice cream. It’s deep caramel and butter flavors are rounded out with a bitter, burnt sugar undertone. It deserves to be the star of the dessert plate. I actually think it would be very good in a sundae, topped with some chocolate sauce, caramelized hazelnuts, and whipped cream. But it’s also quite fabulous on its own.

Get the recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream over at David Lebovitz’s blog.

Buttery Caramel Ice Cream 1

Slightly melty, yet no less delicious.

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