Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TWD - Baking with Julia: Cheese and Tomato Galette

This Cheese and Tomato Galette was supposed to be posted on June 18, but I just didn't get to it on time.  I did get the recipe made, but not on time.  Since there are 5 Tuesdays in July, I have an extra chance to post it now! 

This is pretty much a sort of fancy pizza, with a yummy pastry crust!  I made the galette crust once before, for the Berry Galette last summer.  At that time, I was not very impressed with the dough. I found it difficult to work with and a bit greasy.  The recipe suggested using sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk, so this time I used sour cream and it was a lot better.  Did the sour cream do the trick?  There could be other factors involved, but at the very least, it worked!

The toppings for this galette are very simple - Monterey Jack cheese, mozzarella cheese, basil and tomatoes!  A Margarita pizza, right?  My favorite!    I made sure to use fresh mozzarella cheese, which I think makes a huge difference.  When mozzarella is a main flavor ingredient, fresh is the only way to go! 

The galette itself is a tiny thing - more of an appetizer or personal sized "pizza", though the galette dough makes enough that you could make two of them.  And you can use the dough for a variety of toppings, savory, like this one, or sweet, like the berry one last summer.  Now that I have had some success with the dough, I may just have to try it again with other toppings! 

By the way, if you look closely to the photo on the top, you will see that my "cooling rack" was actually a rack from my oven.  This is the very last thing I baked before moving and almost everything in the kitchen was packed at that point!  I had to improvise!!

Cheese and Tomato Galette
adapted from Baking with Julia, page 429

1/2 recipe Galette Dough - recipe follows
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 ounces fresh mozarella, shredded
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
2-3 firm but ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place the galette dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick.  The dough is pretty soft, so you will need to lift it periodically to toss some additional flour underneath to help prevent sticking.  Place the dough on the parchment covered baking sheet.

Toss the cheeses and basil together and then scatter over the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border.  Place the tomatoes in a concentric circle over the cheese, with each slice slightly overlapping the last.  Fold the border over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up and work around the galette. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crisp and the cheese is bubbly.  Keep the galette on the baking sheet and rest upon a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Gently remove the galette from the baking sheet with a large spatula, and slid it onto the cooling rack to finish cooling.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Galette Dough
Baking with Julia, page 371

3 TB sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)
1/3 cup (approximately) ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 TB cold unsalted butter, cut into 6-8 pieces

Stir the sour cream and ice water together in small bowl and set aside.  Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Drop the butter pieces into the bowl and pulse 8-10 times, until the butter pieces vary in size from bread crumb to pea.  Add the sour cream mixture with the machine running, and process just until the dough forms soft curds.

Remove the dough from the processor and divide in half.  Press each half into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.

The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, or frozen for a month.  Thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator. 
Printable Recipe - dough only
Printable Recipe - dough plus filling

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sweet Cherry Pie

Ever since I got my kitchen unpacked, I can't stop thinking of things to bake/cook/create!  I LOVE my new kitchen.  I don't totally have it all organized yet (do we ever?) but it is spacious and beautiful and I just love it!  Since I happened to make several extra pie crusts when I made the Baked Yogurt Tart, pie has been on my mind.  And then I saw these beautiful fresh cherries at the grocery store...  Ah-ha!  I can honestly say this is the first cherry pie I have ever made.  Crazy, right?  I am not so excited about canned pie filling and can never find tart cherries here in Houston (such a shame).  But when I found these sweet cherries, I thought surely I can make a cherry pie with sweet cherries!  And I did!

I found numerous recipes online, and they were all very similar.  I based mine off of the one on Smitten Kitchen

The first task was to pit all of the cherries.  Thank goodness I have a cherry-pitter!  You can pit cherries without one, but heavens...  a cherry pitter is worth it!  Plus, it makes pitting the cherries much more fun.  Ka-pow, and the pit is out!  It took some time and my hands were a bit macabre looking at the end, but I had a lovely bowl of cherries to show for it all.  As they say, life is just a bowl of cherries...  (are those pitted cherries or un-pitted cherries...  I wonder...)

Mix the pitted cherries with sugar, cornstarch, almond extract, lemon juice and a little bit of salt.

Then get the crust/s ready.  Deb at Smitten Kitchen did a double crust but I decided to try a lattice-top crust.  Again, something I RARELY do, so why not?   Don't look too closely.  It isn't perfect but I think it is great!  I didn't take pictures at this point.  I was too busy trying to get my crust to work out (it was a terribly humid day here) and trying to get it all in the oven while both kids were napping (yes, both at the same time -a beautiful thing).  And it worked! 

Sweet Cherry Pie
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
chilled dough for a double crust pie - my favorite recipe is here
4 cups pitted fresh cherries (about 2 1/2 pounds un-pitted)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your cherries)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
Coarse sugar, for decoration

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400F.
Gently stir together the pitted cherries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, lemon and almond extract in a large bowl.  Roll out half of chilled dough on a floured work surface to 13-inch circle and place it in 9-inch pie pan, leaving an overhang of about 1/2 inch.  Spoon the cherry filling into the pie crust, leaving the majority of the liquid that has pooled in the bowl.  Dot the cherries with bits of cold butter. 

Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface and either (1) drape it over the filling or (2) slice it into ribbons with a knife or pizza wheel and gently weave these into a lattice atop the filling.  Trim the top crust to about 1 inch overhang.  Fold the top crust overhang over the bottom crust and press to seal.  Pinch the edge or decorate to your liking.  Brush the top of the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  If you use a full top crust, cut some slits to form steam vents, and bake the pie in the oven at 400F for 25 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350F and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden.  Cool completely on a rack.  
Printable Recipe


I always make a snail with the extra bits of crust when I bake a pie.  A snail can contain anything, but growing up it generally included brown sugar and/or cinnamon sugar, and some raisins.  This time I brushed the crust with butter, and sprinkled it with vanilla sugar, chopped dried figs, dark chocolate chips and almonds.  I rolled it into a log, brushed the top with the egg wash and put it in the oven with the pie.  Delish!  Again, no picture but you'll have to take my word (and the word of my family) that it was a great combination!  What do you do with your extra crust bits?? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Summer Vegetable Tart

Yahoo!  I am actually posting a TWD post on the right day!  Of course I should have had it ready to post first thing this morning, but I'll count my successes where I can these days.  This week we made a Summer Vegetable Tart.  Seriously, it was easy.  Well, mostly easy anyway...

This was the hard part - using phyllo dough!  Have you ever used that stuff?  It is paper thin.  Heck, it is tissue-paper thin.  How do they get it that way?  Anyway I had to separate 8 sheets of that thin stuff, butter and pepper each sheet, then layer it over a tart pan.  Yes, the tart pan is totally invisible since the phyllo hangs over the sides.  Anyway, the phyllo is layered and then baked until golden, and at that point you are finished with your baking! 

Then just saute some veggies.  The recipe called for red peppers and mushrooms, and I threw in some sliced zucchini just because it happened to be in my refrigerator, and aren't zucchini's summer veggies anyway?  Toss in some salt and pepper and some thyme and then sprinkle in some goat cheese and spread those veggies into the phyllo crust and voila!  Done!  The goat cheese wasn't supposed to get all melt-y like mine did.  I am sure it would have been more attractive if it was in nice little crumbles still, but oh well.  I am sure it tasted the same!

And it was good, but definitely something to eat the day it is made.  It would be tricky to reheat this thing. 

The cool thing about this recipe is that you could really throw in any veggie you wanted!  Or you could butter and sugar the phyllo in the beginning and make this a sweet tart with fruits inside!

Did anyone else notice we did two tarts this month?  Hmmm.  Oh, and I looked up the definition of "tart" the other day, after my confusion with the yogurt tart.  It is essentially any baked item in a pastry shell.  Only one pastry - a double-crust pie does not count.  So any quiche or single crust pie is also a tart!  Ta-da!  Baking and an education all in one post!  Multi-tasking...

The recipe is on page 436-437 of Baking with Julia. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Baked Yogurt Tart

I am a bit behind with my Tuesday's with Dorie posts.  We moved at the very end of June and our kitchen was nothing but chaos and boxes for a bit!  Let's be honest here, most of the house still is but I have managed to get the kitchen wortkable.  I made one of the other missing recipes right before we moved, but  photos are on our other computer, which is not set up yet, that one will have to wait.  The Baked Yogurt Tart was supposed to post on Tuesday, July 2.  It is too bad my life was so crazy at that time, as this would have been a great July 4 treat!  Ah well.

Look what I found in a box!  Just kidding.  I didn't actually pack the clever baby in a box.  
Though he looks quite cozy, doesn't he?

One great thing about posting late is that I had the benefit of reading all of the other TWD baker's thoughts on the recipe before making it myself!  I benefited from their wisdom! 

I am not actually sure why this is called a tart.  Anyone know the actual definition of a "tart"??  Other than the sassy kind, anyway?  Regardless, this starts with a Flaky Pie Dough crust, which we made about a year ago for the Blueberry-Nectarine Pie.  I went back and read my post about that crust and decided I'd try it again.  The recipe calls for 1 cup of ice water and when I made the blueberry nectarine pie I used 2/3 cup and it was still fairly sticky.  This time I used less than 2/3 cups but I didn't actually measure...  I had probably between 1 and 2 tablespoons of water left in the measuring cup, I suppose.  We'll just say I used a scant 2/3 cup ice water, shall we?  And it seemed to have done the trick.  The dough was still somewhat sticky but no worse than other pie doughs, I'd say.  I also added a bit more salt this time, as last time I found the dough to be a little bland.

This crust is baked in a 9-inch cake pan.  Again, why the term, "tart"?  Anyway, the cake pan is supposed to be 1 1/2 inches tall but mine was 2 inches, so there wasn't enough crust to fold over the top edge and make it nice and pretty.  That was okay with me, though. 

Then you make the filling.  It is super easy and uses hardly any ingredients!  Yahoo! You start by beating eggs and sugar together with a hand mixer.  It actually says to use a hand mixer!  Which is good for me, as my beloved stand mixer is still in her box.  Poor thing!

Stir in some plain vanilla yogurt (FAT-FREE!!) and vanilla extract.  Now, when reading the other TWD baker's blog posts, one recurrent theme was that the filling was bland.  Not everyone thought it was bland, but many did.  The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract, which is actually quite a lot!  I used my homemade double-strength vanilla extract, and put in a splash of almond extract as well.  It was not bland to us, so maybe this did the trick!  After the yogurt and extracts are blended, flour is sifted over the top and folded into the batter. 

Theoretically now is when you pour the filling into the pie tart crust.  However I didn't time this very well and was just pulling the crust out of the oven to cool when I finished making the filling.  I put the filling in the refrigerator while the crust cooled and I ran an errand!  I wonder if refrigerating the batter could have made the flavors come together a bit better?  Maybe...

Pour the filling into the cooled crust and pile a load of fresh berries on top.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of fresh berries but I did not measure. I just kept piling more on.  I started with the blueberries, and put the strawberries in the middle.  The clever girl was watching and was sad that I had not left room for any fresh peaches, which I had taken out of the refrigerator to use.  Why not add more fruit?  I sliced up two peaches and added them!  Last, I added 1/3 cup toasted almonds and sprinkled them around the edge.  Into the oven it went.  It was supposed to bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned on top.  Another thing I learned from my fellow bakers was that it never really "browned" on top, so I just baked it until the middle seemed set, which was about 50 minutes total. 

Then comes the scary part.  You cover the top of the tart with plastic wrap and a plate of some sort and flip that tart right out of the pan!  Then invert it back onto your serving plate.  I held my breath and did a big "here goes" and it worked!  I did not end up with a disaster all over my new kitchen island!  I ended up with a beautiful tart on a plate.  Phew!

Mmm.  This was a hit.  I can't say it is my favorite pie/tart ever, but it was good!  Almost like a cheesecake in texture, but lighter than a cheesecake.  It was creamy and tasty.  The flavors of the filling accented the fresh fruit nicely, and the almonds provided a nice crunch.  The crust was flaky and the added salt was just right.  A perfect contrast for the sweet fruit.  And since the recipe calls for fat-free yogurt, you can serve this dessert and say it is healthy with your head held high.  Let's just forget about the amount of butter and shortening in the crust, shall we?? 

It is such a simple dessert, I could see making this again and trying different fruit combinations.  Maybe pears?  Cherries?  Plums?  Apricot?  And a graham cracker crust be awesome here as well!  Or maybe crushed gingersnaps?  Mmm.  The combinations are endless!

We are currently doing TWD posts without hosts, so you may find the recipe on pages 378-379 of Baking with Julia, or  you can find it here


Monday, July 8, 2013

A Pool Robe!

In the midst of taking care of my infant, preparing for the clever girl's birthday and packing our house up to move, I decided the clever girl needed a pool robe!  It is crazy, but that is how I roll!  Anyway, I used this awesome pattern from Dana Made It, using 2 thin beach towels from Target.  Had I not picked a towel with stripes that I wanted to match, I could potentially have used only one towel, but I like to do things the hard way. 

I actually already owned the pattern, as I want to make a bathrobe for the clever girl as well.  I have the fabric for that already too... just not the time yet!  So when Dana made her most recent post about her beach robes, it got my sewing juices flowing and out came this robe!

It is super comfy.  I made the long sleeved version just because I thought that would be nice and comfy after getting out of the pool.  Plus it is fun to hide your hands in long sleeves!

Mr. Clever Mom thinks it is a "Rocky" robe.  Hum the music with me...
Dum DUM da da dum da da DUM da da dum...

Happily, this versatile robe works for boxers AND ballerinas!

I made my daughter the largest size on Dana's pattern, which is a size 4.  I have a skinny but getting-taller-every-day 5 year old, for reference. I intend to keep using this pattern as she grows older - I'll just keep making it bigger and bigger!

She loves it!  It is cheerful and comfortable and way more fun than just a beach towel!  And really, the pool robes you see in stores are no where as cute as you can make these with Dana's pattern.