Friday Pie Day!

*Note: This was meant to be published two months ago, but alas, I suck.

Annes,

When I was at The Glimmerglass Festival, I started Friday Pie Day, wherein the development team and other various Glimmerglass employees and I would eat pie and drink coffee around 3:00 PM each Friday once we opened the season. Just off Highway 20 was a baked goods stand open on Fridays and Saturdays, run by a wonderful Amish family.  Saying these pies are some of the best I’ve ever eaten is not an exaggeration.  I have dreams about their blueberry pie.  In an attempt to create an atmosphere of community at my new job, I decided to institute Friday Pie Day while we’re in production.  Because I am unsure if the Amish have settled this far South and I don’t want to shell out $20 every Friday, I’ve decided to up my pie game and bake my own each week.  As you may recall, dear Annes, I have experimented with pies in the past.  In the last couple weeks I’ve baked an apple pie, a peace pie, and a strawberry crostata.

The first pie I made was apple, and because one of my coworkers is vegan, I needed to find an alternative to the traditional butter crust.  I ended up making an oil pastry crust, courtesy of the 1980 revised 8th edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (of old food no one ever makes because it’s actually pretty gross).  Some of the food pictures in the front cover are pretty gross.  There’s this broccoli casserole/salad concoction that looks like it has marshmallow with ranch dressing drizzled on top, sprinkled with breadcrumbs. (I’m all for broccoli and ranch dressing, but how do the marshmallows enter this equation?)  There’s another picture of what can only be described as a pistachio green jello mold with sugared grapes delicately placed atop the jiggling obscenity.  (Side note:  Were you ever present for Kim’s recounting of the jellos Dr. Larsen makes the music staff eat at his annual Christmas dinner?)  Despite the fact that I wouldn’t dare prepare 75% of the recipes in this cookbook, BH&G saved me this time with a quick, easy pie crust that used ingredients I already had.  I would have just used Crisco, but I didn’t have any and it was too late to go to the store (read: I was lazy and I didn’t want to get shot leaving my apartment at 10:00 PM).

20140828_230401
“Oil will always love you!”

Oil Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup salad oil
5 tablespoons cold water
1. Sift together flour and salt
2. Pour salad oil and cold water in measuring cup (do not stir)
3. Add all at once to the flour mixture and stir lightly with fork
4. Form into 2 balls; flatten dough slightly
5. Roll out (Pro Tip:  Roll dough between two 12-inch squares of waxed paper (dampen table/counter first so paper won’t slip). When dough is rolled in a circle to the edges of the paper, it will be the right thickness for crust.)
For the filling, I cut up the 4 gala apples I had left from my weekly bag of apples and poured an amount of sugar, cinnamon, and maybe some nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla.   I was a little worried about the crust because when I tasted the raw dough, it was overpoweringly salty.  Fortunately, the end result was just fine.  The salt balanced with the sweetness of the apples, though I might reduce the salt to  1 teaspoon in the future.  I didn’t want to do a double crust because I was a little low on filling, and I wanted to hide the saltiness of the crust, but I didn’t want a single crust/tart.  Instead, I cut out some tiny hearts with a cookie cutter and placed them on top.  Since I didn’t use all the dough for the second shell, I made a quick strawberry crostata.  This was so simple.  I cut up some strawberries that were teetering that fine line between perfectly ripe and rotten, tossed them on the dough, and rustically folded the sides. I took a leap of faith and hoped during the baking process the sugars would caramelize and sweeten the strawberries. I can’t actually tell you how this turned out.  I didn’t get a piece of it.  The feedback was all positive, but here in the South, I can’t tell if people are being genuine or just being nice.
The last pie in the baking tale is a beautiful peach pie with a lattice crust.  My boss invited a bunch of people to his house in Indiana (gross, but at least it’s not Ohio) for Labor Day.  You can’t celebrate the symbolic end of summer without a pie. I don’t know where this rule came from, but I stand by it.  In traditional Carolyne style, I didn’t really use a recipe.  I loosely followed this one from Taste of Home because it mentioned the Great State (Iowa).  The pie was a smash success. Again, I didn’t taste of this pie.  I had to head to the University of Louisville Football season opener before we got to dessert.
"Lattice bow our heads for Peaches Christ."
“Lattice bow our heads for Peaches Christ.”

 

Friday Pie Day caught on.  I haven’t baked a pie in a while because my coworkers have decided to bring in pie as well, which is great!  Lastly, there is a place in  Louisville called Homemade Ice Cream + Pie Kitchen, which sells homemade pies and ice cream.  Delicious.  If/when you come to Louisville, I will take you to Pie Kitchen. That’s a promise.
Pieces of pie,
Carolyne

Can we do it? Yes, pecan!

Dear Annes,

To address the issues in your  most recent letter:

1. Car accident?! Why didn’t you tell me sooner!? I would have sent cookies.  (I still might.) Also, I’m glad your car is fine and you are relatively unscathed.

2. Jobs New and Old: You quitting your old job is probably a damn good thing because I know how much you didn’t like it. Also, what is your new job? You leave me with such cliffhangers? I’ve decided you’ve joined a knit-bombing team, and that’s your new job.

3. I’m glad you approve of Wesley, because I certainly do.  I think the two of you would get along swimmingly. Hopefully, you’ll be able to meet at some point.

4. Soups are the best. It’s getting colder up here in the hinterland, which mean soups galore.  I’m definitely going to have to try that chicken and wild rice soup.  You’re not the only one who likes a thick soup, and has a tendency to not be able to make a thinner soup.  Fortunately, most of the soups I’ve made in the past couple months have been curry based, so I can easily turn them into sauces.

5. Pumpkin bars?! I do not recall pumpkin bars being in my life. I’ll definitely have to make those as well.  Who can say no to pumpkin? No one.

Okay, so for Thanksgiving, I headed to Chicago to spend some quality time with my real parents aunt and uncle.  I was asked if I had ever made a pecan pie, which I had not.  So, I decided to experiment with pecan pies last weekend.  I did some research on pecan pies, and discovered they are traditionally made with corn syrup.  While I really appreciate a good ear of Iowa corn, I’m a little apprehensive about using corn syrup.  It’s just so controversial these days, and frankly I was not willing to serve controversy pie.  I did a little more research to see if there are like minded individuals in the world.  As it turns out, one can make a pie sans scorn syrup.  My game plan:  make 1 pie with corn syrup and make 1 pie without.  Thankfully, I had a ready and willing group of friends to taste test these pies.  Full disclosure, in the interest of time, I used pre-made pie crust.  Normally, I would have made my own.

Pie 1: Scorn Syrup

Pecan Pie
I don’t always take food pictures, but when I do, I try to make them artistic.

I used The Pioneer Woman’s pecan pie recipe.  I’ve always been a big fan of her recipes.  She’s on Food Network now, which could be interesting; I’ve not yet watched her show.  Anyway, the Pioneer Woman crushes/chops her pecans, which I did not do because I am more in favor of a beautiful pie rather than one that is more easily cut.  This pie says to bake for 50 minutes, the first 30 covered with foil, and the second 20 without.  I found that it took about 70-75 minutes to bake, but the Pioneer Woman did mention the baking time depended on the oven.  Due to some brunch reservations and some poor time management, the pie was undercooked by about 5 minutes, which meant the filling wasn’t as solid as I would have liked.  Overall, still pretty good.

Pie 2: Maple Syrup

Pecan Pie
Oh, so artistic.

For the second pie, I used Delightful Repast’s recipe.  This recipe calls for maple syrup instead of corn syrup.  This is something I could get behind.  This pie should have only been baked for 50 minutes, but I got a little concerned and ended up baking it for about 5 minutes too long.  Still good.

Let’s compare and contrast.  Pie 1 was sweeter and creamier than Pie 2.  However, Pie 2 highlighted the pecan flavor better.  Both pies were good, but the general consensus was the texture of Pie 1 was better, but the flavor of Pie 2 was preferable.  So, next time I will try to marry the two.

When my aunt and I started cooking for Thanksgiving, she already had a pecan pie recipe picked out from Cooking Light.  It appeared my research was rendered mostly useless.  However, I was able to explain to my uncle why the pecans are put on the bottom of the pie dish and how they make it to the top.  Scientific & Knowledgeable Carolyne was scientific and knowledgeable.  This recipe used brown rice syrup and maple syrup.  I was not a fan.  I could still taste the brown rice syrup after baking, and I’m not a big rice fan.  However, everyone else liked it, so that’s good.

Anne, can I tell you a story about my bread mishap at the Thanksgiving?  Okay, so on Thanksgiving my aunt and I realized we didn’t have any bread for the meal later that afternoon.  I suggested we make ciabatta bread since it’s relatively easy to make, and it’s delicious.  This is one of those “mostly in my head” recipes, but I have the actual recipe on hand, just in case.  Seeing as how I was in Chicago, and not the good old Coop, I had to rely on my memory and then call my mom to double check.  Well, my mother was eating Thanksgiving with my family because they wanted to celebrate before Kelsey went to work, meaning my mother did not answer, leaving me on my own.  So, I did what I thought was right, which turned out to be wrong (yay me).  I didn’t have enough water, so I thought I could fix it by adding the amount of water I needed.  Wrong again.  I ended up with a soupy mess and a bruised ego.   Fortunately, we had enough of the ingredients to start over.  My aunt rightfully did not trust me to do this correctly this time, so she hovered around to make sure we had the proper consistency.  On a positive note, the bread turned out perfectly, and my aunt made me a sandwich with the bread for the plane ride bake to New York.   I will leave you with the ciabatta recipe.

Ciabatta Bread

Yields 2 loaves

Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 packet of yeast

pinch of sugar/honey for yeast

2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Dissolve packet of yeast in water with sugar.  Wait 5-ish minutes.

2.  Mix flour and salt in big bowl.  (Make sure to actually mix the salt into the flour.  Salt kills yeast. Learned that from the aunt this weekend.)

3. Add oil and water to flour mixture.  Mix for 10-ish minutes. (Dough should be very sticky, but not soupy.)

4. Let rise for 30 minutes.

5. Flop. (aka scrape dough onto a board, fold one side to the other, fold once more)

6. Put dough back in the bowl. Let rise another 30 minutes.

7. Flop again.

8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

9. Cut dough in half.  Form two loaves. Place loaves onto cookie tray(s).  Let rise while oven preheats.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bread is golden brown on top.  Bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Love and Giblets,

Carolyne

Ladle me this, ladle me that

Dear Carolyne,

I was excited to hear that Wesley moved in with you, based on the lovely things you said about him the last time I saw you. I’m jealous and wish I was around to partake in the fun.

I don’t recall you ever bringing me homemade pasta back in Wash 6, which obviously means you don’t actually love me. 😦

Kidding, kidding. By the way, I am still working through the red sauce you made me and impressing family and roommate alike.

My own time in the kitchen has been limited lately due to, like, life happening and stuff. I got into a minor car accident right before Halloween that resulted in a prescription for muscle relaxers. I wasn’t really hurt, thankfully, just really sore. My car also wasn’t hurt too badly, but the guy who hit me’s insurance company is paying for some body work. 

Also, I quit my job without notice, which is the most irresponsible thing I have ever done in my entire life. Luckily, I start a new one on the 27th.

So, with all this funemployment vacation time with which I find myself, I finally can get back to making things!

Yesterday I stripped a rotisserie chicken for the purposes of a) having chicken meat around to use, b) to have a chicken carcass (ew, I hate the word carcass) so I can make stock, and c) to make chicken wild rice soup. I had just had some really excellent chicken wild rice soup at Tilia that cited bourbon as one of its ingredients, so I was itching to make some for myself.

It turned out awesome, albeit pretty thick. I am having this problem lately where I cannot make a thin-brothed soup for the life of me. I made Drew some chicken noodle soup a week or two ago because he had a cold, and he told me it was good but so thick it was more like white chili (I’m sure all the cayenne and black pepper didn’t help in that respect). The thing is, I like my soups thick. I have this carrot ginger soup from Trader Joe’s in my fridge right now that tastes lovely, but the texture bums me out. It needs cream or chunks of butternut squash or something to punch it up. I hate to see a good soup wasted just because it doesn’t meet my texture demands.

Anyway, my wild rice soup is almost too thick to even be called soup, but I like it that way. Here is basically what I did:

6ish Tbsp olive oil

2 c. chopped celery and onion (I had this leftover stuffing starter from Trader Joe’s that was celery, onion, and some herbs that was ideal for this kind of thing)

1.5ish c. chopped carrot

3ish Tbsp flour (here is my whole problem, I am sure)

3ish tsp mustard powder

Lots of garlic powder, because all of my actual garlic had gone bad :/

1/3 c. bourbon

1 of those cardboard things of chicken stock, it’s like 4-6 cups or something

1 Tbsp poultry seasoning

2ish c. shredded rotisserie chicken

1/2 lb of uncooked wild rice (probably the other part of my problem)

1/3ish c. of half and half

salt and pepper to taste, of course

Pretty much you know the routine here. Saute up your veggies in the olive oil, then add the flour  + mustard powder, garlic, curry. Then the bourbon, then the stock, then the rice. Let it simmer while the rice cooks. Once the rice is cooked, add the chicken and let it heat through. Add the poultry seasoning. Lastly, add the cream and the salt + pepper. Oh, I am pretty sure I put a hit of cayenne in this too, because I always do and cayenne is good at bringing out the other flavors. Just a hit, though. Like, 1/4 tsp tops.

 

I am really happy with how it turned out. I mean, minorly irked at the thickness, but only for the sake of tradition. I like it thick *eyebrow waggle*.

 

Today I am going to make my mom’s pumpkin bar recipe. Did Mom ever send pumpkin bars with me to Wash 6? I feel like she probably did, but I can’t recall. Anyway, here is the exact e-mail she sent me with the recipe, and I appreciate the air of, “Eh, whatever,” that comes with it as well as all of my mom’s recipes.

 

this cookbook had the most stains so I think this is the one I use.

FROSTED PUMPKIN BARS

1 3/4 C. SUGAR                                     1/2 TSP CINNAMON
3 EGGS                                                 1 8 OZ PKG CRM CHEESE, SOFTENED
3/4 C. OIL                                               6 TBS BUTTER
1 CAN COOKED PUMPKIN                      4 C, POWDERED SUGAR
2 C. FLOUR                                            1 TSP VANILLA
3/4 TSP BAKING POWDER                     
3/4 TSP BAKING SODA

Combine first 8 ingredients together in order given. Pour into jellyroll pan.  Bake @ 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Mix cream cheese, butter, powered sugar & vanilla until spreading consistency.  Spread on top of cooled bars.  ENJOY!!

(I use more cinnamon and a pinch of what everelse I have, like pumpkin pie spice, cloves & or nutmeg.  Use what you like)  let me know how they turn out.

 

Ah, mom. I am looking forward to trekking back to Iowa next week to see her and the rest of the fam. Also the pets. I anticipate coming home covered in scratches and dog hair. What are your plans this year? I’m guessing you’re not coming back to the corn capital of the world. One of these years we need to be in the same place for Thanksgiving so we can do the dinner ourselves. Can you imagine? Everyone we invited would die from awesome.

 

Love and cinnamon,

Anne

 

 

Pasta Straight from My Kitchen

Dear Anne,

I have not been doing enough cooking lately.  Because things have been busy, and they aren’t going to stop any time soon now the holiday season is upon us, most of my culinary adventures are relegated to the weekend.  Fortunately, the holiday season means I can bake to my heart’s content and people at the office will make less fuss about me constantly bringing in food. This weekend I got a little crazy and made pumpkin pancakes and cavatelli from scratch.  However, I heard no complaints from roommate Wesley.

The pumpkin pancakes were not as good as I had hoped, but I think that’s my own fault for building them up in my head.  The recipe called for a pinch of cloves, and I was too generous in my pinching, because the clove flavor overpowered the other, more desirable flavors, such as cinnamon.  In the future I will most certainly be increasing the cinnamon in this recipe.  Also, I served this with butter and real New York maple syrup, but it was too sweet.  I spent the rest of breakfast trying to figure out how to make this better.  Perhaps a fruit compote, like apples with cinnamon for instance, would be preferable.  It wouldn’t be too sweet, but would keep the overall experience from being too dry. (Sorry no pictures because I am the worst.)

Most Sunday evenings, some coworkers and I place euchre.  We rotate houses, and whomever is hosting that week makes dinner for all of us.  This week, Wesley and I hotsed.  Wesley made this beauty of a cheesecake:  pumpkin nutella cheesecake.  Please take a minute to appreciate the amazingness this dessert.  It took a lot of will power to not sneak bites all afternoon.  There are two pieces left in the fridge as I type this, and I am thinking about getting one even though I am not at all hungry. It’s that good.

While Wesley encapsulated heaven in cheesecake form, I made cavatelli, which is an Italian pasta with potato in the dough.  It’s similar to gnocchi, but it uses much less potato.  I guess you could call it a light dumpling.  I choose to call it wonderful.   Every Thanksgiving, my family makes thousands of cavatelli.  Then with our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, we have cavatelli in red sauce.  I may have described the cavatelli-making process with you before, but I’m going to relay it again because 1. I repeat myself often, and 2. I won’t be participating in Thanksgiving cavatelli this year, so I must relive the experience in my mind.  At the Comito Family Stead, aka my mother’s kitchen, a myriad of relatives convene.  Everyone has their role, one they’ve usually been doing for years with the hope that someday they will be old enough to move up to a new job.  However, there really is no upward mobility in the Comito Family Cooking School.  You do what you’re told, and you don’t ask questions.  For cavatelli, my role is usually “cranker,” meaning I get to feed the pasta through the machine.  This is a role I lobbied for years to win, and one from which I do not plan on retiring  anytime soon, regardless of my lack of participation in the last couple years. I spent a lot of years rolling dough before I got to be cranker.  Anyway, the real magic of cavatelli-making is the atmosphere. It’s hard to accurately describe, but I will sum it for you in this haiku:

Insults thrown, laughing

Vince Guaraldi blasting loud

Who is crying now?

Did I ever make cavatelli for you, Anne?  I know I never made it from scratch for you, but maybe I brought some back to Wash 6 and made it with red sauce? Last night, I chopped up half an onion (more accurately, Wesley heroically  cut the onion half), sauteed it with some mushrooms, wilted some spinach, tossed it all with the cavatelli, and sprinkled some good parm on top.  The group devoured it, and we have no leftovers.  However, we do have quite a bit of cavatelli in our freezer since I made a bigger batch of dough than I anticipated.  Sometime after Thanksgiving I’ll make some sauce, but don’t think it the recipe will make it to the blog.  Nice try, Annes.  However, if I can figure out how to ship you some, I will.

Cavatelli

*Note:  This is another vague Comito family recipe, where you are required to go by feel.

Ingredients

Flour

Large Eggs

A mashed potato (use a starchy potato)

Milk

Salt

*These are the basic ingredients.  The ratio of flour to eggs is 1:1. For example, I used 5 cups of flour and 5 eggs.  When I called Aunt Jackie she said to to 5 cups of flour and 4 eggs, but four eggs weren’t enough for me. I think when my family does this, they use jumbo eggs, which would make the 5:4 ratio more accurate. Also, I don’t think we ever use more than one potato ever.

Instructions

1. Peel and boil potato

2. Mash potato, add a little milk

3. Combine flower and eggs. Dough will be mealy and dry. Add a little potato. Maybe some milk.

4. Knead until you have a slightly sticky dough, and it is malleable enough to form decent ball of dough. (You will likely need to add more milk and potato before you get to this point. Like I said earlier, this is a vague, play-it-by-ear recipe.)

5. Let ball of dough rest under a bowl for 30-60 minutes, or whenever you remember you’re cooking

6. Get out your amazing cavatelli machine, courtesy Aunt Jackie.  Properly assemble.

This is not the exact machine I use, but it’s basically the same.

7. Slice dough into decent sized pieces. (Again, you’ll just have to eyeball this.) (At this point, your dough should be a beautiful and supple ball of dough that is smooth to the touch and bounces back ever so slightly when pressed.)

8. Roll dough into ropes.

9. VERY LIGHTLY DUST ropes with some flour. (For the love that is all good and holy, do not over flour this stuff. It will make your life terrible.)

10. Place a floured cookie tray under your cavatelli machine.

11. Send those VERY LIGHTLY DUSTED ropes of delicious dough through your cavatelli maker.

12. Make sure to spread out the cavatelli as you make them.  You don’t want them to stick together.

13. After you fill up a tray, put it in the freezer.  (Letting them freeze makes them easier to handle when putting them in bags or containers for storage.)

14. Keep doing this until you run out of dough.

For consumption:  boil water (remember to salt the water), add cavatelli to boiling water, and cook for…I want to say 10-ish minutes. I could be wrong about that.  I literally just taste the cavatelli at various points during the cooking and turn off the heat after I’ve determined they’re done.  Strain cavatelli, and enjoy with your favorite sauce.  We usually just use a red sauce, but you can do just about anything with them.

Kisses and kitten,

Carolyne

Reunited and it feels so good.

Dear Annes,

I’m sorry this post is coming to you so late. My excuses are work,  game night, and changing of the roommates.  However comma but, I have done some delightful cooking. Sadly, there are no pictures because I am the worst. Please enjoy.

So, this cooking and baking from the last few weeks includes, but is not limited to curried squash soup, purple cauliflower soup, fluffy pumpkin cookies, a red purple velvet cake, harvest soup, the real rosemary applesauce, and ciabatta bread.  Fall really makes me want to create food.  I have to admit, former roommate Ellie made the curried squash and purple cauliflower soups.  All I really did for those was taste them throughout the cooking process and eat them later.  Both were very delicious, and I don’t have the recipes.  However, I will discuss them a little more in depth below.

Curried squash soup:   This soup had butternut squash, red lentils, onions, carrots, some tomato pureee, curry and some other ingredients I cannot recall at present.  When we first made this soup, we left everything chunky, which is not my preference.  Regardless, the soup was delicious and flavorful.  Because both former roommate Ellie and I are Italian, we have very little control over the amount of food we produce.  We have an innate drive to feed everyone, so we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD.   There was so much soup left over, but don’t you fret your pretty little head, because I turned it into other food, aka Carolyne pretends she can make Indian inspired foods.  That experiment consisted of me blending the soup, putting chunks of chicken breast in it, and pouring it over basamati rice.  Delicious.  Just thinking of it makes me want to eat some now, even if it is 10:30 PM.

Purple cauliflower soup:  Ellie bought this beautiful purple cauliflower from the farmers market and decided it would become soup.  We conjectured a very pretty soup with vibrant purple color.  What we got was dingy lavender color, but a damn delicious soup.  I’m not entirely sure what Ellie did to create this soup, as it was nearly finished when I got home from work this past Tuesday.  Again, we had so much soup leftover, mainly because the cauliflower was ginormous.  It was about the size of a beach ball.  I happily at the rest of the soup all week.

Fluffy pumpkin cookies:  This was my contribution to Tuesday’s meal.  These cookies are like warm, plush pockets of pumpkiny goodness.  I liked them best just out of the oven and sans cream cheese frosting, which could be a little overpowering.  Ellie made the frosting because she’s better at it, and I’m not big into frosting. I like my cookies naked.

Red Purple velvet cake:  It all started when my good friend, Wesley, became an employee of my company, and thusly had to move up to the middle of nowhere Upstate New York and become my current roommate.  I firmly believe that most occasions deserve cake or cookies or any baked good, really, so naturally Wesley received an “employment cake” of his choosing.  He decided on a red velvet cake.  Now, Anne, I must divulge a secret; I’m terrible at making red velvet cakes/cupcakes.  I don’t know what it is about this cake, but we are not agreeable.  I think a part of it is that this cake requires that I have abnormal amounts of red food coloring on hand, which I infrequently do not.  This excursion was no different.  I had an ounce bottle and one of the little gnome-like bottles of red food coloring, which was not enough to equal two full ounces, so I decided to use blue food coloring, which produced a beautifully rich aubergine cake. I also have to say that I am not fond of eating red velvet because of all the food coloring.  I don’t care that food dyes might give me cancer because SO MANY THINGS in this world can give me cancer, but I feel like such a large amount of food coloring alters the taste of the cake.  I made cream cheese frosting to go with the cake, and it was okay — not as good as Ellie’s, but not terrible.  Ultimately, Wesley liked the cake.  The cake did get better as the week went on. Maybe it just needed to sit?

Harvest soup: Anne, I definitely messed this one up.  I was loosely using this recipe, but was throwing in whatever else I had in my kitchen that needed to be used. (Please note that everything but the broth, pepper, and olive oil came from my local farmers market — even the celery.)  I had a leek that needed to be used, so I put it in the soup, and it killed the soup.  I’ve done that with leeks before. I think because they have a slightly onion-y taste, they can be used liked onions, but that is not true at all. At. All.  So, then I had a giant pot of soup that didn’t taste great, but I could not bear to throw it out, so I pondered my options.  I decided to add a sweet potato and some more salt and pepper and an obscene amount of curry and pour it over rice like the curried squash soup earlier in this post. Note: the curry made this SO MUCH BETTER! I threw some cubed chicken breast in it, too.

Rosemary applesauce: I did it right this time.  The fresh rosemary made all the difference; it dries out during the cooking, so the flavor is infused into the apples.  It’s actually a pretty good applesauce.  I think I need to make some pork medallions or pork chops as a vehicle for this applesauce, and I tried putting  it on my morning oatmeal. Note: This applesauce is not meant to be poured over oatmeal. That was most certainly not a breakfast of champions.

Ciabatta bread: Ah, bread.  The only bread I feel I’ve successfully made is your no-knead bread, which is great toasted with cream cheese.  However, I’ve been trying my hand at ciabatta for quite a while.  Ciabatta is a nice Italian peasant bread with a hard crust.  It doesn’t help that I’m using a vague recipe from my mother, which is apparently the Italian way to cook/bake.  The moral of this story is my bread isn’t as good as my mom’s, even if it is perfectly okay.

So, my dear Anne, I will try to do a better job at keeping you updated in my culinary adventures, especially as we go into the holiday season.  I am so very excited about all the holiday baking I’m planning to do.

Luff and stuff,

Carolyne

Gingerbread

Dear Anne,

Right now I have some gingerbread in the oven.  It’s your grandmother’s recipe.  I’m not sure how it will turn out because I used a little too much baking soda.  I may have got a little distracted belting out “Maybe This Time” with Liza.  Oh, I should mention I considered not using vegetable shortening for a hot second, but then I imagined Grandma Pat running after me with a wooden spoon, threatening me within an inch of my life for not using shortening, particularly Crisco.  It was terrifying.  Needless to say, I used the Crisco.  I think it will pay off.

This effort is not my best.  As I mentioned earlier, I was very distracted by my debut in Cabaret, playing one night only at Carolyne’s Kitchen, but on top of that, I don’t actually own an 8×8 pan, which is called for in the recipe.  I’m using something that looks like an 8×6, so we’ll see how that turns out.  The gingerbread has been baking for about 20 minutes thus far, and it still looks pretty wet in the middle. (The recipe says to bake for 25 minutes.) Now, while we wait for the gingerbread to finish baking, why don’t we all listen to some Liza?

I decided to make gingerbread tonight because yesterday was the epitome of a fall day.  The sky was a brooding, steely blue, threatening to rain at every turn, red and yellow leaves decorated the streets and sidewalks, and the air had that telltale crisp chill.  Above all, it smelled like fall.  Yesterday, I spent the entire workday listening to Nina Simone and drinking copious pots of tea, all while working, of course.  Today was beautiful, nearly perfect.  The sun was shining, and it was almost warm.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, which is perfect for more tea and a deliciously spicy and warm baked good.  I am all about preparation.

The gingerbread is out of the oven.  It took about 40-45 minutes to bake.  Hallelu! I didn’t ruin it!  You can’t taste the extra baking soda.  The sides aren’t dry.

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(Note to self: learn to take better food photos.)

I have not frosted the whole pan of gingerbread because I firmly believe that everyone has the right to choose how much frosting to put on their baked goods.  I am usually not a huge fan of frosting and am often forced to scrape a bunch off, and really that’s just wasteful.

The plan for this gingerbread is to pair with a giant pot of coffee and become breakfast for Ellie and me tomorrow morning.  What a charming way to start a dreary day in Upstate.

Dearest Anne, you already know this recipe, but for our potential readers, I post it below as you sent it to me.

“Grandma McLeod’s Gingerbread”
1/4 c. vegetable shortening (and it’d better be Crisco, or Grandma Pat will find you and scold you)
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda, divided
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 c. white flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 c. boiling water
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 325F.
Cream the shortening by mashing it against the sides of the mixing bowl until creamy.
Add the sugar and beat thoroughly.
Put 1/2 tsp of the baking soda and the molasses in a small bowl and beat until the molasses becomes “light and fluffy”. Then, mix into the shortening/sugar thoroughly.
In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt; set aside.
Stir together the boiling water and remaining 1/4 tsp baking soda. Gradually add about one third of this mixture to the molasses mixture, then add one third of the dry ingredients. Repeat until you’ve added all of the water and dry ingredients, then add the beaten egg and stir batter thoroughly.
Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan and sprinkle with a bit of flour. Pour batter into the pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.
THEN EAT THEM.

Kisses and kitten,

Carolyne

This post isn’t about broccoli, either.

Dear Anne,

Thanks for setting up this cooking blog! (I had to fight the urge to use the word “rad.” This is not the 90s, Carolyne.) I am very excited to share my recipes with you, and possibly the world, or at least some of our friends…maybe…

Shortly after I returned to Upstate after visiting you, I discovered this recipe for plum cake.  That Carolyn’s plum cake looks much better than my plum cake (see below), but this was a good first attempt.

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I know how you feel about fruit in general, but what’s your take on plums?  I thought this cake was sweet enough without being overbearing, reminiscent of a coffee cake.  Out of fear of the cake not being cooked all the way through, I left it in about five minutes too long, resulting in a drier product that desired.  However, I fixed that right up with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a cup of tea.

It would have been nice to have you here to enjoy this cake and some coffee with me, perhaps whilst playing a game of Apples to Apples.

Warmly,

Carolyne