Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wow. What a year.

This was a pretty amazing year. 

The second year of my blog, and though I was no where near as consistent in my posting... I was definitely still baking. Including baking a small human Bean.

Miss B was all of 4 cells, I believe, when this picture was taken. 

Mr. S and I explored the pyramids and tacos of Mexico. We even had what perhaps could be called a religious experience eating Mole.

Then we discovered the Bean and things got more complicated. 

I made delicious things like....

and reeeeeeally good Panna Cotta.

We bought a house.

Then I made even more delicious things in my new kitchen. Once it got organized.

Almond Fig Cake, using the figs from the backyard. 

Chile Chocolate Bundt Cake, using chocolate from the cupboard. 

At the end of September, we had our biscuits honeyed by the entry of sweet Miss B.

And now, three months later, I can say that while I might soon have share spatula-licking duties - there is no one else I'd rather give that last smudge of icing to.

Here's to a very sweet 2014,

From me, Mr. S, and the illustrious Bean

Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday Sugar Cream Pie with Hot Fudge Sauce

How was your Christmas this year? Ours was pretty awesome.

Bean enjoyed herself, though I'm not sure that she knew that day was any more special than any other day. 

"Oh! Is this mine now? Of course it is. Just like every other thing that exists in this house."

We did have 10 people gathered around our kitchen table later that afternoon. That was a little abnormal for us.

Folks brought their A-game dishes, and we made a crown roast of pork. Which is definitely going to happen again. Probably too soon.

But now we're getting ready for New Years.

Most of us have already been cooking our brains out for the last two months and don't have much left in the old recipe file. Or in the I-have-the-time-and-desire-to-spend-hours-in-front-of-the-stove file.

This is the best pie ever. It takes no time at all, and is impressive and tasty. Win. Perfect for a classy New Year's party!

It's an old recipe, which means there are several variations. This pie hails from the great state of Indiana, and has been called a Hoosier pie, an Amish Cream pie, and many other things. My mom's family (Hoosiers for many generations) call it a Durbin Inn Sugar Cream pie.

The story goes that there was this guy called Wendell Willkie who made a surprise run for President, and named the Durbin Inn in Rushville, Indiana, as his campaign headquarters. Because he wanted to be close to this pie. It would be like the Obama campaign running out of Lou Malnotti's. Fantastic.

In any case, let me show you how we make this pie.

In a large pot goes sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Whisk it up.

Add butter and half & half. Toss in the scrapings of half a vanilla bean.

Cook until boiling and thick. Whisking CONSTANTLY. Do not step away. 

Pour into a baked 9" pie shell.

Top with a slight dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Let cool.

Slice and serve with hot fudge sauce. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I'd definitely consider this pie a potential running mate if I ever ran for president!

Sugar Cream Pie
Recipe from the Hoosier Heartland

1 - 9" baked pie crust
1 c sugar
1/4 c plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter
2 5/8 c half & half
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
Sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together salt, sugar, and cornstarch. Add the butter, vanilla bean scrapings, and half & half. Turn on medium heat and whisk constantly until it boils. Remove from heat. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Let cool and refrigerate.

If using vanilla extract, add it after the mixture boils, when you remove the pot from the heat. Then continue as above.

Hot Fudge Sauce
Absconded from my mother's recipe box

3/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 72% dark cocoa squares from Ghiradelli)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light corn syrup

In a small saucepan combine heavy cream and sugar. Cook on low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add chocolate and stir till melted. Add butter and syrup. Stir until butter melts. 

Makes approx. 1 1/2 c and will keep in the fridge for several days. If you can keep yourself from eating a spoonful every time you open the fridge door. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bourbon Pecan Pie

To my American friends, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Full of traditional foods like turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and that quintessential southern favorite - pecan pie.

I hate pecan pie. Especially that yucky goo that tastes like sugar and cornstarch. Blech.

This pie made me eat my words. And boy, was it worth it. 

Mr. S requested the pie this year, and I decided that if pecan pie ever was worth eating, it was probably way back in the old days. So I dusted off my antique Joy of Cooking and discovered this:

Any recipe that uses the word "piquant" is worth making. 

So with my trusty assistant, the inimitable Bean, we made a pie. And then burned the dickens out of it. I blame Bean.

But how can you be mad at this face for long?

So we tried again. And this time it was gobsmackingly delicious. I'm not kidding. 

Make. This. Pie. 

Just because it's Tuesday. Just because it's sunny. Just because you feel like it. I will NOT let a whole year go by before we taste this goodness again. 

Start out with a big bowl. Toss in the sugar, corn syrup, eggs, melted butter (that is slightly cooled so you don't cook your eggs), and salt. 

You need to par-bake your crust. So toss it in the oven for 5 minutes or so. 

Shhhhh. Don't tell, but I'm using Pillsbury crust. They didn't pay me to say this (but if they want to send me a free pallet-o-pie-crust I wouldn't turn them down) Pillsbury is bar none the BEST pre-made pie crust out there. And it's probably better than half the ones I've made from scratch. 

Next, add a bit of bourbon to the bowl. We're using the Costco brand of bourbon. It's delicious. 

Now, the pecans. Mmmmm.

Some I've broken up, some left in their halves. Gives a bit of variety!

Into the pie crust and into the oven. 

Pull it out at 40 minutes. Not a minute later. Pay no attention to what it looks like and whether you think it looks done or not. It's done. Get it out of the oven before it burns!

And beware - once it's cut into, it won't last long. 

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Not really adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1 9-inch pie crust 
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 c light corn syrup
1 c white sugar
1/3 c melted butter
1 c pecans, halves and pieces
3 tbsp bourbon

Roll your pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Place a piece of parchment over top of the crust and use pie weights to hold the crust so it doesn't bubble. Do not poke with a fork. Bake at 500 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, syrup, sugar, and butter. Whisk in the bourbon. Stir in the pecans. Pour into par-baked crust and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

For some reason, there's always a push around this time of year to discover alternatives for the typical Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. 

I think these folks are nuts. I love pumpkin pie. It's a turkey day staple. But that doesn't prevent me from wanting other pumpkin-based desserts around this time of year.

So with my trusty can-o-pumpkin and smiling sidekick - off to the kitchen!

I'm going to make this in a pie plate, because I think it's prettier than a plain glass baking dish. You can use an 8x8, 9x9, or a deep dish pie plate. Up to you.

Pieces of stale bread in the pie plate. 

Milk, half & half, sugar, and salt - in a pot on medium low heat. Just dissolving the sugar. 

Off the heat - add pumpkin to help cool. Then more cooling. 

Eggs and spices go in a large bowl. 

Whisk all those liquids together. 

Pour into bread. Let soak.


Eat warm, with ice cream. Yum! Or the next day, cold out of the fridge after The Bean finally goes down for a nap....

My. That went quickly! Perhaps there is something to this pumpkin pie alternative stuff.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 loaf stale bread (French or Italian - a fluffy white bread with a good crust)
1 c. half & half
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. canned pumpkin
5 eggs
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or spice mix listed below)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8x8 square dish or a deep pie dish. Cut the bread into bite size pieces and mound in baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, half and half, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved (don't let the mixture come near a boil! this will be quick). Remove from heat and whisk in pumpkin. Allow to cool. In a large bowl, crack the 5 eggs. Add in the spice and gently whisk in the cooled milk & pumpkin mixture.

Pour the custard over the bread cubes, allowing it to soak in well. Because I had left my bread cubes out overnight and they were super stale, I had to pour in half the mix, then come back 2 hrs later once the bread had absorbed it all and pour in the rest. If your bread is less stale, you might only have to wait 10-20 minutes or so.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until slightly puffed up and still jiggly in the middle. Serve with ice cream.


So I don't have "Pumpkin Pie Spice" - but I've got everything that goes in it!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cheat
Makes 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chocolate Chile Bundt Cake

It's fall!

Ok - maybe not here in Northern California, but we do have some parking lots that have sprung forth pumpkins and dried corn stalks....

Don't look at the floating fingers. I couldn't get my hand out of the way fast enough. This was the first in the series (she was asleep and I just set her down). The next several were various faces of shock, frustration, and all-out mutiny. Needless to say, this is the best of the bunch. 

We did have a nice lady offer to take a family photo. Pay no attention to the cars and chain link fence in the background. Ahhh, city living!

Next year we're going to a bonafide farm. 

In any case, it's fall. So it's time for spice, sugar, and decadence. An alternative to the typical fall flavors, this cake has heat from the chile and warms you up - not to mention giving quite the sugar rush. 

The trick is to make it while keeping the Bean asleep - which means strapping her to me like you truss a turkey. She loves it. Promise.

Dry ingredients into the sifter. Flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, 2 kinds of chile.

Cream the butter and sugar. 

Beat in the eggs ONE AT A TIME. Seriously. I mean it. Then beat in the vanilla.

Dump a third of your sifted dries into the bowl and beat. 

Add a third of the sour cream and beat. 

Repeat alternating thirds of dries and sour cream until fully mixed. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.

Bake until a skewer comes out clean. 

Serve with ice cream! 

Chocolate Chile Bundt Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine and The Amateur Gourmet

2 c. flour
1 c. dutch process cocoa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tbsp ancho chile
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c. butter, softened
3 c. sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, cayenne, ancho, and cinnamon. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time - I mean it! - beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. In 3 additions, mix in the sifted dry ingredients alternating each addition with a third of the sour cream. 

Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Bake low in the oven - move your rack to the slot above the bottom - for 65 minutes, until a inserted straw comes out clean. 

Admire the sleeping child, and then cut a big old wedge and eat with ice cream!