Crostata, tart, pie – oh my…. Daring Baker Challenge

I usually don’t procrastinate.  When I have something to do I generally like to “get-ir-done”.  In fact, postponing things often makes me  a bit anxious.  However, this month I have to admit that I procrastinated when it came to completing my Daring Bakers’ challenge.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy being part of the The Daring Kitchen.  I really do enjoy my role with this wonderful group.  Last month I made homemade doughnuts.  I had never made them before.  And this month, the challenge, to make a crostata (an Italian baked dessert tart, or form of pie).  I’ve never made a tart before, but have made a lot of pies over the years. Making a tart was slightly new to me.

The first thing I did was buy an 8 inch tart pan.  There was no procrastinating where that was concerned. Why was I putting off making the crostata?  I couldn’t decide what kind  to make.  I scoured recipes on the internet, my cookbooks, and magazines to find a filling recipe  that captured my attention.  One criteria for this challenge was to use one of the two crust recipes that our host Simona from briciole had chosen. Unfortunately, her crust recipes weren’t compatible with the tart filling I decided on, so my crust recipe is slightly different from hers.  I’m sure I will use her recipe in the future when winter passes and fresh, juicy fruits are readily available. I would love to make a fresh raspberry, or blueberry tart – oh my….

The recipe I followed made a chocolate crust. It called for a couple of ingredients Simona’s didn’t, and it didn’t call for eggs like her recipes did.  My recipe originated from William-Sonoma Baking and I made a few small changes to their recipe as well.  Making this recipe also gave me the perfect opportunity to use some of the new products that I recently acquired from the great people at King Arthur Flour. I used their unbleached white whole wheat flour, Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract, and double dutch dark cocoa in this recipe.  The scent of their double dutch cocoa and vanilla extract was out of this world. 

The recipe, Black-and-White Fudge Pie Crostata:

Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat)

1/2 cup walnuts (I used pecans)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used King Arthur double dutch cocoa)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract)

Chop the nuts but avoid grinding them into a paste.  Combine flour, nuts, cocoa, sugar, and salt into mixing bowl.  Grate butter into dry ingredients and blend together with fingertips.  Stir in milk and vanilla until the dough is mixed.

Press the dough into a tart pan.  Chill for one hour. 

Poke holes with a fork into the bottom of the crust.  Line foil over the dough, and bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake for another 4 minutes.  If the crust starts to puff up – poke it with the fork.  Remove from the oven, reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees.  Allow the crust to cool.

Chocolate Batter

4 oz of bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used the flour mentioned previously)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I excluded these in the chocolate batter)

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, or top bowl of a double boiler set over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs.  Add sugar, flour, and salt to the eggs and mix thoroughly.  Pour in melted chocolate and nuts (optional).  Set aside 1/4 cup of the batter; spread the remainder of chocolate batter into the cooled crust.

Cream Cheese Batter

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 handful of mini chocolate chips

In a bowl add cream cheese and beat until smooth.  Add sugar, egg and vanilla and mixed thoroughly.  Lastly, add in one handful of mini chocolate chips.  Drizzle cream cheese batter over the chocolate batter in the tart shell.  Then drizzle the remaining chocolate batter over the cream cheese batter.  You can swirl the ingredients in the shell together with a knife for a marbled effect -  I didn’t.  Bake for 35-40 minutes (at 325 degrees) until filling is set – toothpick should come out clean.  I garnished with a few mini-chocolate chips.

Serve at room temperature, or refrigerated.

This tart  is delicious!  Although the recipe has quite a bit of sugar in it the double dutch cocoa and bittersweet chocolate create the perfect balance.  I liked being able to use the white whole wheat flour too.  It sneaks a little bit of nutritional value into a treat – without being at all obvious.  I didn’t settle for the first recipe that I stumbled across and my procrastination proved worth it in the end. I’m glad careful consideration went into making my first tart.  I recommend this recipe as a holiday dessert – and if you can splurge, I recommend using King Arthur products.  The quality of their products are exceptional.   

** Baker’s note – there was excess chocolate and cream cheese batter left over.  To use the batter up I lined cupcake tins with paper liners.  I then  put a small piece of honey graham cracker in the bottom of each paper and alternated the batters.  The graham cracker floated to the top during baking giving these little treats a very neat look. 

A holiday with a King

The great people at King Arthur Flour Company recently sent me a few of their products to try.  There will be more details about the products they sent me after I roll my sleeves up and make something scrumptious with them.  But first, I have to tell you how excited I am about this company.  They truly impress me, and not because they sent me a few products, but because of what they stand for as a business.

King Arthur Flour is located in the beautiful state of Vermont, and is 100% employee owned.  If you aren’t familiar with them I hope you take a minute to learn more .   After I read the company’s mission, purpose, and history  I was hooked.  Not to mention, I’ve always been very satified with their products I’ve used.  

Now here is the fun part! If  you bake, or have a baker to buy for this holiday season, you’re not going to want to miss King Arthur’s 58 page baker’s holiday catalogue.  I was fortunate enough to get one in my shipment and I can’t put it down.  Just to tease you (a little) I put a slideshow together highlighting some of their great items.  But my suggestion, (if you’re ever going to listen to me - now’s the time)  order yourself a copy of this catalogue (there is so much to see in the actual catalogue). In the meantime, take a look at my slideshow, you won’t be disappointed – honest…   I’m sure there is something in there you will add to your baking wish list.   

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You can view, or order King Arthur’s catalogue at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/.   Their toll-free customer service number is 1-800-827-6836.

Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Pieces Cookies

As a little girl I loved the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  What child wouldn’t want to find the winning ticket to a candy factory?  And, what’s not to like about the psychedelic surroundings of the factory,  the array of off beat characters, or even the unusual penalties handed out to the kids like Violet, who broke Willy Wonka’s rules and ended up as a giant blueberry after tasting the three course dinner gum.  What’s life without a little imagination?

Now granted, the candy aisle at Wal-Mart could never compare to a trip to a candy factory like Willy Wonka’s.  Well, I take that back, I have bumped into a few off beat characters in Wal-Mart before, but there is no denying  their candy aisle  has  lots of candies to choose from and it’s as close as I’m going to get to a candy factory anytime soon.  The candies that caught my eye, and were calling my name on this specific day, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Pieces. 

With the “scrumdidilyumptious” candies in one hand, and computer in the other I set out on a quest to find a moist chocolate chip cookie recipe that I could use these candy pieces in.   My search for the recipe was over when I landed on a blog called How Sweet It Is  and her post titled Big (and Best) Chocolate Chip Cookies.  If the picture of her cookies doesn’t convince you that these are the (ones), than I’m not sure anything ever will.

Following the recipe, I made the cookies and substituted the Hershey Special Dark Chocolate pieces in lieu of chocolate chips.  I didn’t make the cookies as big as the recipe called for, and because I made mine smaller I didn’t have to bake them as long either.  The results…

If  by chance, there were rules like the ones in the Willy Wonka movie that said I couldn’t eat these cookies,  then I can assure you I’d end up  like Violet  - a giant blueberry.

Apple Pie, an American Icon

Do you remember the 1974-1976  commercial  that referenced the four great American icons “baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?” 

When I was making my apple pie last night I could faintly remember the commercial.  It was kinda nagging at me.  Was it hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?  Or was it baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet? Neither felt  just right.  What was it I was missing?   Turns out I was close, but it was actually both,  baseball and hotdogs.   I guess I shouldn’t  feel too bad because at the time this commercial came out I would have been – shhhh -  don’t be alarmed – sit down -  okay – are you ready for this?  Nine years old.  Oh my gosh (panic in my voice) that was 36 years ago.   Where in the world did all those years go?

I guess there’s no sense dwelling on days gone by.   I might as well get to a more positive note.  The apple pie!

This it my favorite apple pie and there is no quest for another apple pie recipe. As much as I’d love to share it  with all of you it’s really a smidgen of this, and a dash of that kinda of recipe.  There are a couple of things I can share with you though.  I make my crust with vegetable shortening, not oil, and not butter.  I usually like to mix a couple different kinds tart apples into the pie (but if you do this make sure the textures are close in nature – meaning you want to use all soft, or all hard apples)  If you mix soft and hard some apples together the filling will not  cook evenly.  I like to place a pie baking ring around the edge of my crust to prevent it from browning too fast.  This can be accomplished with aluminum foil too.  Lastly, I’ve made a lot of pies over the years and they never look perfect, but when they taste good they don’t have to look perfect because everyone gobbles them up to fast to notice.

Do you have a forever apple pie recipe?   And, how old were you in 1974 :)

One Lovely Blog Award, passing it on…

Imagine my surprise today when I was reading one of my favorite blogs  Gingerbreadbagels  and realized that Lindsey, who had just been awarded the One Lovely Blog Award (four times – mind you), was passing the award onto me and fourteen other lucky bloggers.  Yea!!  This is my first award and I’m so excited! 

Before I go any further, I want to thank Lindsey – thank you, thank you, thank you!   I also want to  tell you why her blog is one of my favorites. First, she is one of the kindest,  most sincere, and personable bloggers I’ve met in the blogging world.  She makes all of her readers feel welcome at her blog, and her baking creations are seriously scrumptious looking.  She is a true baker – through and through.   I wish we lived closer to each other because I’d love to sample some of those sweet confections she whips up in that kitchen of hers every week :)

As part of receiving this award I have to pass it onto fifteen bloggers who I admire.  Those bloggers will then get the chance to pay it forward to fifteen bloggers who they admire.  Here are the blogs I have selected to receive the One Lovely Blog Award.  There are so many more I’d like to add to this list (but someone decided fifteen was the magic number).   I truly appreciate each and every blogger I’ve chosen for their creativity and individuality!

  • A Spicy Perspective
  • A View from the Porch
  • Mama Cupcake And The Cupcake Bandit Duo
  • Molly On Money
  • Sprinkled with Flour
  • Sugar Duchess
  • The Provident Woman
  • Cabin Fever in Vermont
  • Anecdotes and Apple Cores
  • The Lonely Radish
  • Try Anything Once
  • Cheapethniceatz
  • Caffeina
  • Baking Serendipity
  • Zomppa
  • To those of you who received this award, please pay it forward.  It will make someones day, just like it made mine.  

    Stayed tuned because I just took a homemade apple pie out of the oven.  I can’t wait for it to cool so I can cut into it! Pictures to follow….

    Mini-vanilla scones and your cooking personality

    Have you ever wondered what kind of cook or baker you are?  No, I’m not talking about a good baker, or a bad cook, or visa versa.  I’m talking about the kind of cooking personality you have.  Until now,  I really had no clue that  someone had researched this and came to the conclusion that there are five distinctive cooking personalities.   

    Looking at my own cooking traits, I admit for the most part, I like to try new recipes. Many times I veer off the recipe trail and tweak recipes.  I like the thought of contributing my own distinctive touch, tastes, or style to a recipe.  I’m always looking for a recipe that I can add to my tried-and-true file, and granted, there are only a few tried-and-true recipes in my file, but what I can tell you is this, once a recipe makes there,  my quest for a recipe for that particular dish is over.  Some of the recipes on my list of tried-and-true’s - my mother’s apple pie recipe, my apple cupcake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Red Plaid cookbook, a carrot cake from Williams – Sonoma Baking cookbook,  a fudge brownie recipe I tweaked from Martha Stewart, and our family sugar cookie recipe.

    From what I’ve found, Cornell University  researchers were the first to conduct a study to determine there are five different cooking personalities.  Their conclusions are as follows:

    a) Giving: Friendly, well-liked and enthusiastic, giving cooks seldom experiment, love baking and like to serve tried-and-true family favorites, although that sometimes means serving less healthful foods.

    b) Methodical:
    Talented cooks who rely heavily on recipes. The methodical cook has refined tastes and manners. Their creations always look exactly like the picture in the cookbook.

    c) Healthy: Optimistic, book-loving, nature enthusiasts, healthy cooks experiment with fish, fresh produce and herbs. Health comes first, even if it means sometimes sacrificing taste.

    d) Competitive: The Iron Chef of the neighborhood, competitive cooks have dominant personalities and are intense perfectionists who love to impress their guests.

    e) Innovative: Creative and trend-setting, innovative cooks seldom use recipes and like to experiment with ingredients, cuisine styles and cooking methods.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a cross-over between a giving and innovative cooking personality. Can you decide what type of cook you are? If you are looking for some interesting reading related to food topics you might want to check out Cornell’s Food and Brand site linked above

    Okay, on to the good stuff.  I found this recipe for vanilla scones on cdkitchen.  I  followed the recipe to the letter with the only adaptations made to the glaze recipe. For my glaze I used 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon & sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water.  I made mini-scones by taking small pieces of dough and shaping it into very lightly greased cupcake tins.  I love the results.  These are scrumptious, and go great with a fresh cup of coffee, or tea.  I’m almost thinking these could go into the tried-and-true file they are so good.