Mince Pie and a video demo


When Danny walked in the door Friday afternoon, he leaned on the door frame, and was completely overcome by an enormous yawn. While his mouth gaped, I laughed at him, because the yawn said it all. It was the end of a long week, a long couple of months, and the beginning of holidays!

It’s Christmas vacation!! Well, for Danny, anyway. I’m still hard at work, one of the downsides of working from home. One doesn’t just tidy a desk, flip the answering machine to ‘away’ and take off for two weeks.

I took last night off though. Once two exhausted little kiddos were asleep, Danny made lattes and I baked off a mince pie, (a total cinch, thanks to jars of homemade mincemeat in the fridge and chilled pie crust) and we retreated to our cozy loft to chill and chat about the whole two weeks ahead.

We’re looking at a surprisingly relaxed holiday season, mostly because we haven’t just moved (one year ago) and I’m not attempting to invite every single person we know over AND attend every event on the calendar.

Sometimes, I do the right thing.

Let’s talk about this mincemeat, though.

You may recall I made a Canadian version of this traditional holiday pie filling last year, which I went rather ape over. Seriously, the homemade stuff cannot compare with store bought. Shocking, I know.

This year, I was planning on making more, but hadn’t picked up all the ingredients. In fact, a few days of serious snow had me put off grocery shopping altogether and I avoided exiting the house as much as possible. (Thanks goodness for Skype and *high-five* to all work-at-home peeps!)

So here I am one recent morning, with very few groceries, entertaining a Montreal Gazette reporter and photographer in my home for an interview/photo shoot (for a future feature, not out yet) when the photog mentions that his editor wants him to shoot a cooking demo video as well.

Oh. OK. A little notice would have been nice. I scrambled together ingredients for mincemeat and we shot the clip below in one take. A few hours later it was up on the Gazette website, and my mincemeat was stashed in the refrigerator for the holidays. Not a bad morning!

A few notes from the impromptu cooking demo:

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup is too much. I should have said 1/4. But then again, I like my mince on the tart side and not too sweet.
  • I listed cognac as an option for the alcoholic ingredient. I meant brandy. Please don’t use cognac! Rum, whiskey or port are also great options.
  • I prefer currants to raisins, but didn’t have any in the house.
  • You can grate the apple if you like a finer mincemeat.

Head here for the full recipe.

Do give the recipe a go, then tuck it between two flaky layers of pastry and enjoy the best pie of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Poor Girl Gourmet Cookbook Review, Peach Crostata & Giveaway!


This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners: John, Kim and Ella!

This post could very well be titled My New Favorite Cookbook, but I wanted to lure you in with promises of a summery dessert recipe and a (yes, another!) giveaway.

Hang on, because I’m about to wax lyrical on another cookbook.

This on comes to me from the amazing Amy McCoy of Poor Girl Gourmet, one of my daily reads in the food blogosphere. She’s such a cool gal, and I was super excited to be asked to review her brand new cookbook, Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget.

For the record– I LOVE it!

Before I could even flip through the book, I had to beat back my little sister, who happened to be here when the cookbook arrived and attempted to make away with it

“But. But. It’s perfect for me!!” she protested when I removed it from her bag.

Indeed, it’s perfect for everyone, because who doesn’t want to eat like a gourmet, but still stay within their monthly food allowance?

Amy kick-starts the cookbook with some highly practical pointers on how to save money. Head over to Simple Bites to read 10 Tips to Help You Conserve Some Coin, an article inspired by Poor Girl Gourmet, plus get another fabulous recipe!

With the tagline ‘Eating in style on a bare-bones budget’, the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook takes us on a low-budget, high-quality food adventure. Every recipe is gorgeous, gorgeous, and makes you want to jump up and COOK.

Like this one, for example. Oh, and stick with me until the bottom for your chance to win Amy’s cookbook!!


Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata

Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget
by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Cornmeal Crust:

  • 2¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (½ cup) very cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ to ¾ cup ice-cold water

Peach Filling:

  • 6 medium peaches (approximately 2 pounds), halved, pitted, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
  • ¼ cup honey

For Finishing:

  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk (any kind)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (sold as Sugar in the Raw), for dusting the crust

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mixing well to distribute all of these dry ingredients. Add the shortening and butter to the flour mixture, and blend until the fats are incorporated into the flour yet remain the size of peas.

2. Using a fork or pastry blender if not using a food processor, add the ice-cold water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, meaning that no loose flour remains in your bowl. Form the dough into a ball. Place a piece of plastic wrap approximately 9 by 12 inches long on your work surface. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap, and flatten it into a thick round. Cover all parts of the dough round with the plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the peaches and honey, allowing the peaches to release their juices, or macerate, for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400°F and get out your 10 by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet.

5. On a lightly floured surface, working from the center of the dough round, roll out the dough to a misshapen rectangle approximately 10 by 15 inches. I like to do this on a piece of reusable silicone parchment, which makes the transfer of the dough to the baking sheet infinitely easier, as I also bake the crostata on this piece of parchment. You can do the same by rolling the dough out on regular parchment paper and then sliding the dough and parchment paper onto the baking sheet before filling it with the peaches.

6. Place the honeyed peaches and their accumulated juices in the middle of the misshapen dough rectangle, spreading the peaches around so that there is a 2-inch peach-free border of dough. Working from the long sides first, fold that 2-inch dough border back over the peaches, then fold the short sides’ 2-inch dough border over the peaches, tucking the corners up and over the dough to be sure all peaches at the edges are sealed in and leaving a center of exposed peaches, like a window of golden summer fruit.

7. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk and milk, and then brush the egg wash over the crust. Sprinkle the crust with the turbinado sugar, then bake until the crust is golden brown and the peaches are bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving it forth.

Estimated cost for four: $3.17.

Hungry yet?

GIVEAWAY!

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to our winner

John, Kim and Ella!

John, Kim and Ella said:

“My favorite is to buy local and in season! I’ve been trying to do this for the past year, and have loved it!
Thanks for the great post, can’t wait to get the cookbook and make the tart!

John, please contact me with your address and you will be receiving your cookbook shortly!

Thank you to ALL who entered!
* * *

OK, Amy McCoy is generously offering you a chance to WIN the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook. I strongly suggest you do not miss this chance to get your hands on this book.

Here’s what you need to do to enter this Giveaway:

1. Read 10 Ways to Conserve Some Coin over at Simple Bites.

2. Jump back here and leave a comment on this post.

3. In your comment, tell me ONE of Amy’s money-saving tips you will implement into your lives, OR one thing you already do.

4. Optional: For an extra entry, you can TWEET this giveaway. Leave a second comment, letting me know you have tweeted. Thanks!

That’s it! This giveaway is open until midnight on Friday, June 18.

Winner will be selected by random.org and announced sometime on Saturday, June 19.

Good luck!!

Amy, thank you so much for the opportunity to get to know you a bit better and for your inspiring cookbook. You better believe that the next time I am coming through RI, I am stopping in for a cup of tea and your very own honey.

Tomato & Chevre Phyllo Tart with Thyme


It sounds fancy, but honestly, this tart is easy to make. I put it together on an afternoon when I was didn’t have a minute to spare to make pizza or tart dough, and was headed to a rooftop party with a few friends.

The base is phyllo pastry, which requires a delicate hand, but is well worth the care.

And tomatoes and thyme? I think their even better suited than tomatoes and basil.

Ah, the return of tasty tomatoes bring so many options for lunch. Hope you enjoy this one.
Oh, and please, don’t call it pizza.

Tomato & Chevre Phyllo Tart with Thyme

About 8 sheets of phyllo, defrosted if frozen
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled (you could also use olive oil)
3 medium tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
several springs fresh thyme (or fresh herb of your choice)
3/4 cup fresh goats cheese,(chevre) crumbled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice tomatoes thinly and toss in a bowl with chopped garlic, thyme leaves, and olive oil. Set aside and allow to marinade while you prepare your pastry.

Preheat oven to 400F.


Lay a sheet of phyllo on a baking tray and brush with melted butter. Cover with another sheet of phyllo and brush again with butter. Repeat until you have about 8-10 layers. Don’t sweat it if the phyllo tears, just patch it up with butter.

Roll up the sides slightly until you have a small rim all around. Crumble goats cheese all over tart base.


Drain any liquid from marinating tomatoes and lay them in a thin layer over the chevre. Sprinkle extra thyme over, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.


Bake until crust is brown, about 20-25 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Note: If you love tarts such as this one, then you may want to try my Asparagus & Gruyere Tart.
It’s perfect for spring.

My Mother’s Butter Tarts


I have three siblings, all of whom are terrific cooks, and when we left home I was lucky enough to make off with my mother’s handwritten cookbook. We all grew up learning to cook from its stained and tattered pages, so I’m surprised no one kicked up a fuss when I claimed it for my own.

Perhaps none of them know I have it, nevertheless, one of my favorite rainy day pastimes (who am I kidding, those don’t exist in 2010) is to leaf through it and remember how we ate as kids – and how I cooked.


There are many favorite recipes, recipes that got me started on this whole gastronomical adventure. How many hundreds of times did I mix up Easy Wheat Pancakes or Quiche Lorraine? Crazy Chocolate Cake was my go-to one bowl chocolate cake for every occasion, while Kate’s Never Fail Pastry stood by it’s promise every time.

Sometime, I’m going to have to get my act together, scan the entire cookbook and preserve it forever. It’s literally in pieces, but that doesn’t affect the recipes, nay, they are as good as ever.

Like my mother’s butter tarts, for example.

I can’t accurately compare them to any other butter tarts, because honestly, I don’t eat any other butter tarts but these. Years of disappointment left me wary, as all I encountered were overly sweet and gooey concoctions with no texture to speak of save a stray raisin, and I mean raisin, singular.

These ones are chock full of raisins, coconut, and walnuts, chewy, and yes, a little bit gooey. They are perfection. I don’t make my mother’s butter tarts nearly often enough because well, Oh My Heck! they are rich and I can’t stop eating them even after two or seven. It may be my mother’s cookbook, but since I’ve left home she isn’t around anymore to limit my intake!


Butter Tarts

2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

18 2-inch tart shells, or 36 mini, usually the equivalent of two double-crust pies*.


Preheat oven to 350F

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light. Beat in eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla and mix well. Mix in raisins, walnuts, coconut, salt and cream. Combine thoroughly.

Spoon into tart shells and bake until set. 12-15 minutes for mini tarts, 20-22 for large.
Makes 1 1/2 dozen 2 inch tarts.

*And a quick word about those crusts. Your pie dough is your business, whether you like it flaky or crispy, all-butter or all-lard, but please, don’t roll it too thick for these tarts. It should complement the filling, not overwhelm it.
If you’ve ever had a butter tart at a popular coffee chain in Canada, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say TOO THICK. I won’t name names, because people love it so much, but I will say that it rhymes with Jim Shmortons.

Tasting Summer in Bittman’s Bake


Being the lazy pie maker that I am, I really wanted to love Mark Bittman’s Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake; however it just wasn’t all that it was talked up to be. He can call it what he likes, but it was only reminiscent of pie and I found myself wishing I had turned those gorgeous cherries and peaches into a cobbler with a fluffy cake-like topping.

We still had no problem eating our way through it, however, as the combination of peaches and cherries was irresistible. Seriously summer baked in a dish!


I did like the rustic side of this ‘pie’ and it was a great dessert to make with little helpers, I will say that. You don’t have to worry about stray fingers poking a hole in your pie crust, if fact they can help lay the lattice pieces on top, like so.


Heh, maybe I need to give it a second chance, or maybe next time I’ll try Emily’s classic Stone Fruit Pie. Anyway, this lazy version of pie is easy, pretty quick, and may be just the thing to help you use up those fast-ripening peaches hanging around.

Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake
recipe by Mark Bittman

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces, more for dish
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 pounds peaches, seeded and sliced (about 5 large)
1 cup cherries, stones in or pitted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking dish; set aside. ( I halved the recipe and made a 8 inch round. It was a little sparse, though.)

For pastry:
In a food processor, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, the salt and 1 tablespoon sugar; pulse once or twice. Add butter and turn on machine; process until butter and flour are blended and mixture looks like coarse cornmeal, about 15 to 20 seconds. Slowly add 1/4 cup ice water through feed tube and process until just combined. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate dough for up to a couple of days, or freeze it, tightly wrapped, for up to a couple of weeks.)

For filling:
Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss fruit with remaining flour, 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice; place in baking dish.

Assembly:
Put dough on a floured board or countertop and sprinkle with more flour. Roll dough into a 12-inch round, adding flour and rotating and turning dough as needed. Cut dough into 3-inch-wide strips, then cut again crosswise into 4-inch-long pieces. Scatter pieces over fruit in an overlapping patchwork pattern.

4. Brush top of dough lightly with water and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Transfer to oven and bake until top is golden brown and juices bubble, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool; serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.