Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Everything else’ Category

Butcher’s Wife Eggs

Once upon a time in France, it seems, a woman married to a butcher used one of her husband’s products to create a baked egg dish that featured ground beef and tomato sauce. The result was Oeufs sur le Plat à la Bouchère, which, I’ve just discovered, makes a very pleasant breakfast or lunch dish.

The recipe is in the Eggs & Cheese volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series. It’s a simple enough dish, and it would have been quick to make if I’d had a small amount of tomato sauce on hand, as I often do. But this day I had to make one up, so I followed the book’s recipe.

I briefly sauteed a little chopped onion in olive oil, added chopped garlic, parsley, basil, and chopped canned plum tomatoes, plus salt and pepper, and simmered until the sauce thickened.

.
Meanwhile, I buttered two terracotta gratin dishes, crumbled up five ounces of raw ground sirloin, and made a ring of the salted and peppered meat inside each dish.

.
I should say here that I was winging the recipe’s quantities a bit. It was given for six servings, with one egg in each of six dishes. With only two to feed for lunch, I decided to be generous with the eggs, the meat, and the sauce. I carefully broke two eggs into each of the rings.
.

.
After spooning melted butter over all four yolks, I put the dishes into a 450° oven. The recipe said to bake 10 minutes, until the egg whites were cooked but the yolks still soft. With my larger dishes, it took a few minutes more for the whites to become opaque. In fact, I may have left them in too long, since the yolks were no longer at all runny. But they weren’t solid yet, either, and we don’t know how much softness the butcher’s family liked.
.

.
For serving, as you can see, I dotted the tomato sauce around the edges of the dishes. It was supposed to be poured around the eggs, but I was too pleased with my lively, chunky little sauce to want to smooth it out.

Despite the yolks’ not being as liquid as we like them, we enjoyed our eggs very much. Together, the three components enhanced each other more than we had expected. It’s not a dish I’ll make often for just the two of us, but if ever I find myself in need of a mildly festive breakfast or lunch for a few guests, the butcher’s wife’s eggs would be a tasty and attractive choice.

Read Full Post »

Officially we’re well into Spring, but it doesn’t always feel like it. On one raw, wet morning lately, I had an urge to make a warm, comforting dish for our lunch. I had a recipe in mind called Cheese and Onion Pudding, which I’d seen in The Greens Cook Book. Normally I don’t find “pudding” an attractive name for dishes other than desserts, but this one seemed interesting.

.
For a half recipe, to serve two, I was to peel and slice ¾ pound of yellow onions. Clearly, you’ve got to like onions for this dish! We do. The ones I had on hand were mostly red, but I didn’t think they would hurt the dish.

.
I tossed them in two tablespoons of butter in a skillet, sprinkled on salt and dried thyme, and let them cook very slowly, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes, until they were very soft.
.

.
Meanwhile I was to beat an egg with half a cup of milk or light cream. What I had in the refrigerator was heavy cream. Undaunted, I measured out a scant cup of it and made up the difference with water, to lighten it a bit. My egg turned out to be a double-yolker, which I thought would probably be all to the good. I finished the batter by beating in two tablespoons of flour and seasoning the mixture with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.
.

.
When the onions were ready, I stirred them into the batter along with three generous tablespoons of grated gruyère.
.

.
To bake the pudding, I had the choice of a single pie plate or individual gratin dishes. I chose the latter, topping each dish with a little more grated cheese. They bubbled away merrily in a 400° oven. The recipe said they’d take only 30 minutes, but at that point my puddings were still very wet in the centers. They needed 45 minutes to firm up. (Could that have been due to my red onions, the extra egg yolk, or the heavy cream? I wouldn’t have thought so.)
.

.
Though nothing extraordinary, the little puddings made a pleasant enough – and welcomely warm – lunch. You could think of them as crustless onion quiches.
.

.
One day I may try the recipe again with the exact ingredients called for, and see if the result is any different. Or else, since both Tom and I felt the puddings would have liked more cheese presence, maybe I’ll try it with a more assertive cheese than gruyère, or simply more of it.

Read Full Post »

.
Talk about luck: This apple upside-down cake came out remarkably good, though I made it with the wrong kind of flour, the wrong kind of milk, rock-hard brown sugar, overtired apples, and even the wrong size of pan. I wasn’t actually trying to ruin the cake, you understand; it was just a naive hope that the materials I had on hand would work well enough.

Looking for a simple dessert to provide some kitchen warmth and cheer on a mean, cold, windy day, I found the recipe in the Cakes volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series. Pineapple upside-down cakes were very popular in my childhood, but I’d never heard of them with other fruits. I had three cooking apples that needed to be used. OK!

The first instruction was to melt butter in an 8-inch square pan and in it dissolve light brown sugar and grated nutmeg. I didn’t have a pan that size, so I pulled out a 9-inch round one. And I took a microplane grater to my rock-solid chunk of brown sugar to scrape off half a cup’s worth. That powder was so dry that I wondered if I should try to moisten it. No, better not. At least I had fresh, fragrant nutmeg to grate in with the sugar.
.

.
Next was to peel, core, and thinly slice apples to arrange on the caramel-y syrup. My normally sturdy Winesap apples must have had a hard life: They’d developed soft spots, and when peeled revealed some brown areas and cottony textures. I made as many decent-looking slices as I could from the best part of the fruit, and chopped enough of the not-too-bad part to cover the rest of the pan’s surface.
.

.
Setting the pan aside, I went on to make the cake batter. I sifted together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour – which should have been cake flour – white sugar, baking powder, and salt. And, since I didn’t have any milk, which would be needed next, I also added some instant nonfat dry milk powder.

In my heavy-duty mixer, I stirred softened butter to loosen it and gradually beat in the dry ingredients, then water (substituting for milk) and vanilla extract. I beat that batter for two minutes, added an egg, and beat for another minute. It made an attractive thick, shiny batter, which I poured over the apples in the pan.
.

.
The cake baked for 35 minutes at 375° and rose nicely.
.

.
I left it to cool, right-side-up, for five minutes then inverted it onto the serving plate and left it in pan for one more minute. Then came the drama of uncovering it. Would the fruit stick to the pan or fall apart? No, it all held together just as it ought.
.

.
And a very good, sweet cake it was. The loose, delicate crumb would have had a finer texture if I’d had cake flour, but there was nothing wrong with its taste. The apples’ flavor had married perfectly with the butter–brown sugar glaze. All in all, considering my substitutions, it was a better cake than I deserved.
.

Read Full Post »

Christmas Baking

I started my Christmas baking promptly this year, making three kinds of cookies without which the holidays are unthinkable at our house: peanut butter, Toll House, and hazelnut kourabiedes.
.

.
A few days later, I added a non-traditional variety: ciambellini al vino. These crunchy, sugar-dipped rings made with olive oil, red wine, and anise flavoring come out rustic looking, but they’re delicious, and they somehow feel positively nourishing – almost savory but still with a pleasing sweet edge.
.

.
Finally, with the baking urge still strong upon me, I decided to try a festive sweet bread of some kind. Hubris, this was, since twice in past Decembers I’d attempted to make panettone, without notable success (e.g., here). The doughs just wouldn’t rise for me. Still hopeful, though, I chose a recipe for a Norwegian Christmas bread from Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads. The recipe is attributed to a family in Indiana whose maternal forebears had been making it since 1870. I figured it must have risen for them.

The filling ingredients for a half recipe’s worth, which was to provide one large loaf, were half a cup each of dates, walnuts, glacé cherries, and mixed candied fruit.
.

.
As you see here, I substituted hazelnuts for walnuts. I had dates and candied citron and orange peel, but not glacé cherries. I couldn’t find them anywhere. So I made some myself, from a recipe I found online, using jarred maraschino cherries. Unfortunately, the candying got away from me, so they came out like dark sticky little gemstones. Well, they’d have to do. My holiday breadmaking jinx loomed.

Making the dough itself went smoothly enough. The first stage was actually a batter. I beat together a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a package of yeast; covered the bowl and let it stand on the kitchen counter for two hours, while the yeast did its bubbly thing.
.

.
Next, I added half a beaten egg, ¼ cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, and a whole stick of softened butter; beat that well in the heavy-duty mixer; slowly added 2½ cups more flour; and kneaded it until smooth.
.

.
Now came the tricky part. The instructions were to press the dough flat and work the fruits and nuts into it. Neither my cut-up dates nor my halved cherries were at all willing to separate from each other. I had to sprinkle on some flour to make them un-glom even a little. And I had to knead the dough very lengthily to get the additions distributed. It already looked like a lot to go into one 5 X 9 loaf pan, and it hadn’t even risen yet.
.

.
I returned the dough to the bowl for its first rising – one hour, the recipe said. Hah! In 2½ hours, it still hadn’t quite doubled in bulk – but the day was moving on, so I did too. As I’d expected, that amount of dough would have filled a single pan right up to the brim, and I could imagine what a mess it would be if I let it rise like that. I deflated it and divided it over two pans.
.

.
The second rise was due to take 45 minutes. Hah again! Here’s what mine looked like after two hours: definitely not doubled.
.

.
With a very feeble hope that the loaves would rise further as they baked, I put them in a 350° oven for 45 minutes. They browned nicely. They didn’t rise at all. AARRGGHH! This is what happens to me more often than not with filled or flavored breads, and I don’t know why. It’s not the fault of my yeast; my normal good white bread rises perfectly.
.

.
Adding insult to injury, the next morning when I sliced a loaf for our breakfast, it was clear that the dates and cherries had never really separated, but had somehow gathered themselves back into big messy globs. It was an embarrassment to look at.
.

.
But there’s a happy ending to this otherwise frustrating story. Despite its sloppy appearance, the bread was really good. It had a light, delicate crumb, and the chunky interspersions of fruit and nut were interesting and tasty. I decided I wouldn’t have to run out and buy a panettone from a store after all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Read Full Post »

During Tom’s and my recent trip to Rome, our hotel’s former broad, open breakfast buffet was displayed within glass cases and dispensed by gloved staff members. (Thanks, covid.) Among the generous array of breads, cakes, pastries, fruits, meats, and cheeses were slices of what looked like pound cake, which the servers encouraged us to have: “amor di polenta – very good – polenta cake.” I’d never heard of it, but we tried it, and indeed it was very good: a sweet, light, golden cornbread, unlike any I’d tasted before. It became a breakfast staple of our stay in Rome.

Back home, I wanted to learn to make this hitherto unknown treat, so I googled the name. Egad: Amor polenta recipes were all over the Web, in both Italian and English. Well! Time to make its acquaintance.
.

.
I discovered that amor polenta is a specialty of Varese, a province in northern Lombardy. It’s much like a pound cake, made with only flour, butter, sugar, and egg: no other liquid. The intriguing flavor comes from a mixture of white flour, almond flour, and fine cornmeal.

I downloaded a few recipes for comparison and settled on this one to take as my model. Being in Italian, it lists ingredients in grams, so I began by measuring out the three flours on my kitchen scale: 100 grams (3.5 oz) of cornmeal, 80 grams (2.8 oz) of white flour, and 70 grams (2.5 oz) of almond flour.
.

.
Then I took out my heavy-duty mixer – an appliance that the recipe calls a planetaria. Not a name I’d known. I imagine it must be because the beaters simultaneously rotate and orbit, like planets. I love the idea of having a planetarium in my kitchen! But I digress.

In the machine I whomped 100 grams (3½ oz) of softened butter with 120 grams (4.2 oz) of sugar, added two eggs, one at a time, and beat it all into a smooth cream. At this point, the recipe asked for the seeds of a vanilla bean to be stirred in. Instead, I used ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
.

.
Next, I had to mix in the dry ingredients. The recipe insisted on their being added in sequence, with the mixer running: first, the cornmeal; second, the white flour; third, the almond flour. I can’t think why; maybe it’s something folkloric. But I did as prescribed. And ended with ½ teaspoon of baking powder. Finally, the recipe wanted 10 grams of rum stirred in. We don’t keep rum in the house, so I used a teaspoon of grappa.
.

.
There is a special baking pan for amor polenta, which gives the traditional domed, ribbed slices visible in many of the google images above. Since I didn’t have one, I scraped my very dense batter into a buttered 10″x4″ loaf pan.
.

.
The loaf baked for 45 minutes at 350° and developed a typical pound cake crack down the middle. (You wouldn’t see that if you used the amor polenta pan, since the loaf is turned out onto the plate upside down.) It was attractively golden and fragrant, but it hadn’t risen very high. (The recipe hadn’t indicated a size for the pan, so I guess mine was a little too large.)
.

.
It had the fine taste and texture we remembered from Rome, confirming its seductive aroma. Lovely for breakfast, and no doubt will be excellent too with afternoon tea or coffee. The recipe suggested dusting the top with powdered sugar, but it was already sweet enough for us. I might even try a small adjustment next time: a slightly larger proportion of polenta flour and a small reduction in the sugar. No great matter: Even with no further tinkering, amor polenta could easily become a breakfast staple for us here at home.

Read Full Post »

You couldn’t tell from reading my blog that Tom does a lot of cooking in our house. He does, though. Not big on following recipes, he’s a versatile utility cook. Soups, stews, steaks, chops, pasta, frittata, vegetables – let him look in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, and he’ll put together something good for a meal.

One of his big talents is hash. Tom sees hash as the perfect way to use leftovers to make another, different meal. No two of his versions are ever exactly the same, and he never measures ingredients, but all are a simple pleasure to eat. This week I watched with my camera while he made his latest concoction. Here’s what would be going into it:
.

.
In the front, a few formerly fried potatoes, the last chunk of a good smoked ham, raw celery, and remnants of a roasted duck. In the back, two eggs, an apple, red onion, carrot, and raw potatoes. (The apple isn’t chopped yet, to keep it from turning brown.) As you see, he doesn’t feel hash needs to be overly heavy on meat.

The condiments, lined up in readiness, were Mexican hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

.
And so, to work. He started by parboiling the raw potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes.

.
Drained, they went into a frying pan with the onion and celery, and gently sauteed in olive oil for about 10 to 15 minutes. No browning yet wanted.

.
Next, he stirred in the ham, duck, and already fried potatoes, cooking the mixture slightly more briskly for another 10 minutes. Generous salt and pepper, plus splashes of Cholula sauce and Worcestershire went in at this point, and everything was vigorously stirred together.

.
Finally came the apple and another vigorous stirring, followed by gentle cooking together for 10 to 20 minutes, until the mixture began browning on the bottom and forming a slight crust. The hash was ready.
.

.
Then it was my turn to step in, to poach eggs to top the hash. You need very fresh eggs for poaching, to keep the whites neatly surrounding the yolks. On this day the eggs I had were pretty old, so as an experiment I put a pair of English muffin rings into the pan of simmering water and eased an egg into each one.
.

.
I can’t say it worked completely well. Even though most of the whites stayed contained within the rings, some escaped and floated around wispily in the water. But it didn’t seem to hurt the eggs any.

So here is a plate of the day’s hash, crowned with its egg. The hash itself was richly flavorful, as always. The apple, which he’d never used in a hash before as far as I remember, gave  a nice little touch of sweetness to the succulence of the meats and vegetables. And the liquid egg yolk made its usual perfect sauce.
.

.
Hail to the chef!

 

Read Full Post »

Police inspector Salvo Montalbano, hero of Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian mystery novels, is an impassioned consumer of local foods, eating his way through dishes often fully described in the books. The latest volume gives Montalbano a role reversal: he goes undercover as the cook aboard a mega-yacht cruise that will be hosting an international criminal summit.

Readers, please note: If you haven’t read The Cook of the Halcyon but intend to, you might want to skip this post. I won’t be able to avoid spoilers.

Between the yacht’s crew and the guests, Montalbano will have to make meals for 12 people. To prepare for the role, he gathers recipes from his housekeeper, Adelina, and his restaurateur friend, Enzo. And he manages the cooking well, once on the ship – a fact that devoted Montalbano fans may find hard to credit, as he has never before been known to cook anything whatsoever. But so we are told.

On a critical day in the cruise, Montalbano makes a potato gâteau for the dinner’s first course. (In the book’s original Italian, the word may have been gattò.) He uses a big sack of potatoes, a dozen eggs, two kinds of cheese, ham, olives, and one very special item. The combination sounded interesting, so I thought I’d try to create a tiny version. Here are my ingredients.
.

.
In the front are two ounces of chopped Castelvetrano olives, two ounces of chopped fontina cheese, and two ounces of chopped ham. Behind them are one egg white, one whole egg, and some grated Parmigiano. On the right, one pound of potatoes, mashed.

I beat the whole egg into the potatoes, spread half of them in a small buttered casserole dish, laid on the three chopped ingredients, and topped with grated cheese.

.
I covered the filling with the remaining potatoes and spread the extra egg white over the top, as Montalbano did. My only divergence from his procedure was omission of the “very special item.” Verb. sap. sat.
.

.
Montalbano baked his gâteau for half an hour, and his egg white topping became a brown glaze. We aren’t given an oven temperature, so I tried 350°. Not hot enough: after an extra 10 minutes, I raised the heat to 400°, and though my gâteau eventually firmed up well and even puffed a little, the glaze had spread unevenly and hardly colored at all.
.

.
Nevertheless, it was a very tasty dish. On the plate, the potatoes and filling made a nicely varied flavor blend – piqued by the excellent Castelvetrano olives. The gâteau could certainly have stood alone as a first course, though it went very well alongside our sauteed fillets of sea bass.
.

.
The only part of it we didn’t care for was the glaze, which was mostly a dry skin. Next time, instead of the egg whites, I’ll dot butter over the top layer of potatoes. This is a versatile dish that I can imagine pairing with almost any dry-cooked fish, fowl, or flesh. One could easily vary the filling ingredients, too.

P.S.  As readers of the book well know, Montalbano’s own gâteau was a truly memorable dish for the guests and crew of the Halcyon.

Read Full Post »

If this summer’s Olympics had had an event for Dumb Cooking Mistakes, I’d have gotten a gold. It was by pure luck that I was able to salvage the very promising Italian vegetable dish on which I had committed the idiocy.

But let me tell it from the beginning.

From the collection of summer vegetables I’d written about here last week, there was one left of the small eggplants, still firm, plump, and shiny.
.

.
I’d saved it to use for a recipe simply called Eggplant with Mozzarella, which I’d noticed for the first time while browsing the vegetable section of this little Neapolitan cookbook – another book I’ve had for years, where I can still discover treasures.

.
Basically, you fry eggplant slices, sandwich a slice of mozzarella between each pair, and bake them in the oven with tomato sauce, beaten egg, and grated parmigiano for just 15 minutes. Seemed easy enough. I peeled and sliced my eggplant, salted the slices, and left them in a colander for half an hour to drain off some of their liquid.

.
Then I pressed them dry in a cloth, floured them, and browned them well in olive oil.
.

.
Here are half the slices, placed in the baking dish, topped with mozzarella, and awaiting the upper halves of the sandwiches. The sauce ingredients are sitting behind them. All well so far.
.

.
But then I made my ridiculous blooper. This is what the recipe says:

Cospargere le melanzane ripiene con due uova battute con sale e pepe, qualche cucchiaiata di salsa di pomodoro e una spolverata di parmigiano grattugiato.

Now, in a well written English recipe, that might be given as “Beat two eggs with salt, pepper, a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of grated parmigiano. Pour the mixture over the stuffed eggplant.”

But the phrasing of the Italian is, “Spread over the stuffed eggplant two eggs beaten with salt and pepper, a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of grated parmigiano.” So what I did was add the three things one after the other. I somehow had the idea that they’d all blend together in the oven.
.

.
Anyone with half a brain would have realized that wouldn’t happen. When I looked in after the dish was in the oven for a little while, everything still sat right where I’d put it and the egg was already firming up on its own. Aarrgh!

I pulled out the dish and quickly tried to scrape the tomato sauce and cheese off the eggplant, mix them into the half-scrambled puddle of egg, and spoon some of it back over the eggplant. Didn’t work all that well, but I put the dish back into the oven to finish its 15 minutes of baking.

It came out pretty sad looking.

.
But the gods who take care of culinary idiots were on the job that day, because those little “sandwiches” were fabulous. Yes, you could see that the egg and tomato hadn’t come together properly, but in the mouth their flavors blended brilliantly. It was one of those magical “whole is better than the sum of the parts” creations. And it got even better as it cooled.

Tom had initially raised an eyebrow, but then we both scarfed down every bit. I was so relieved!

 

Read Full Post »

A great pleasure of opening any of Martin Walker’s “Mysteries of the French Countryside” books is anticipation of the dishes that Bruno Courrèges, his police-chief detective, will be making for dinner guests in the intervals of solving crimes. Bruno’s kitchen work is described so fully, I’ve been able to recreate several of his recipes for myself – about which I’ve done posts, here and here.

This time Tom and I and the friend who shared those earlier occasions gathered to make a dinner based on two of Bruno’s recipes from The Shooting at Chateau Rock: a main course of chicken and a dessert of cherries. Earlier, I’d written up the book’s information on each dish, so we could make notes on scaling down and quantifying. This we did while having kirs, the aperitif that Bruno served.
.

.
.
For our appetizer at the dinner table, we couldn’t match Bruno’s homemade pâté de foie gras, but we had a hearty chunk of peppercorn-crusted pâté de campagne, served with cornichons and mustard.
.

.
.
Our main course was this dish of chicken thighs, which, owing to a peculiar omission in the book, might well have been called a “mystery of the French countryside” itself.
.

.
.
For all the book’s detailed narrative of chopping shallots, garlic, and tarragon, softening them in butter in a casserole dish, adding wine and stock, bringing it to a simmer, covering and putting it in the oven for 45 minutes, it never said to put the chicken thighs in the pot.

I kid you not. All three of us had read and reread the book’s pages, and once the raw chicken thighs are salted and peppered on the kitchen counter, the next we hear of them is when they come out of the casserole to wait while the sauce is being finished.

Needless to say, we needed an intervention. When would Bruno have put the chicken in the casserole? We opted to brown ours quickly in butter at the beginning, took them out of the pan to wait while we softened the vegetables, and returned them in time for the addition of wine and stock. From there, we were able to return to the book’s “instructions.”

Finally, the pan juices were reduced, and the sauce was finished with crème fraiche and lemon zest. We served the chicken with a very plain rice pilaf, as Bruno did (plus green beans, which he didn’t). The whole dish was excellent, with just a touch of spicy-sweet tarragon in the creamy sauce.
.

.
.
Bruno’s dessert was cherries (picked from his own tree, of course) lightly stewed with honey and topped with a custard made from crème fraiche and heavy cream. It sounded luscious. Alas, our version didn’t entirely succeed.
.

.
We did take extreme care in the time and temperature for heating the two creams and in the continuous vigorous whisking, both when beating them into the eggs and when finishing the cooking. But our custard first refused to thicken, and then – slowly but inexorably – curdled. Too much heat, I fear. I’ve found custards made with milk much easier to work with, and baked custards are easiest of all. Wish we’d used a double boiler here!

Our dessert wasn’t quite ruined: The cherries were fine, and you could think of the topping as a kind of furry, sweetened ricotta. But it didn’t have the silky texture you expect in a custard. Still, well chilled, and with cherry juice drizzled over the top, it was a pleasant enough ending to the meal.

.
And finally: Tom produced three white wines for us to drink in the course of the dinner. A Mâcon-Villages for the kirs, a Condrieu with the pâté, and an older Savennières with the chicken. He’s done a post about them on his blog.
.

 

Read Full Post »

A cobbler can be a great fruit pastry for an ease-loving home baker. You do have to make and roll out dough but, unlike making a pie, you don’t have to fit a round of dough into the baking dish, fit another round over the fruit filling, trim and seal the two together, and shape an attractive rim.

The cobbler section of Lee Bailey’s book Country Desserts opens with a two-page spread showing a rustic blackberry cobbler, made with dough merely partially folded over the berry filling, leaving large (artistically placed?) gaps.
.

.
In the recipe headnote, the author declares this to be his favorite kind of cobbler. I’ve made and enjoyed his peach cobbler, so the prospect of an even tastier one was very tempting. And berries are easier to work with than other fruits: no peeling or slicing needed.

There were no fresh blackberries in my Greenmarket yet, so I bought a commercial pack. Happily, it contained three cups of berries, which was exactly right for a half recipe’s worth.

I usually make pastry in my heavy-duty mixer, but this recipe requires a food processor, because it calls for frozen butter and frozen vegetable shortening. That’s certainly a way to keep the dough cool, but I’ve never had trouble using just chilled fats and very cold water.  This should have been my first clue that Bailey’s favorite cobbler might require a bit more effort and complication than other, less special, ones.
.

.
The processor noisily and laboriously turned the frozen fats, flour, and salt into a rough crumble. Then I had to trickle in more ice water than called for, in order to make it gather into a mass. Good thing the fat was frozen: in the process, the machine had thrown a lot of heat.
.

.
The dough, shaped by hand into a ball, had to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. I used the time to clean the dough residue from the processor parts, which was harder than cleaning my stainless steel mixer bowl. Another clue? Hmpf!

When it was time to roll out the dough, I faced a mathematical question. If a whole recipe needs a circle of dough 15 inches in diameter, how big should the circle be for half a recipe? It was obvious that a half-sized circle – 7½ inches – would be too small, so I resorted to my trusty A = π r² formula and rolled the dough to 11 inches.
.

.
Probably unnecessary precision, as I realized later. I could just have eyeballed the job. I think I was already a little spooked. Anyway, I draped the dough over a small pie dish and heaped the berries in the middle, adding sugar and dots of butter.
.

.
Here I diverged from the recipe. For three cups of berries, it would have wanted six tablespoons of sugar – much too much, I thought. I gave it three tablespoons. Then, just before closing over the dough, I chickened out to the extent of one more tablespoon. In the upshot, that was unnecessary: Those berries were plenty sweet already.

Back to following directions, I folded the overhanging dough around the filling (it wasn’t supposed to cover completely), and sprinkled a little more sugar over the crust.
.

.
The cobbler baked at 425° for 45 minutes, to come out lightly browned and bubbling – and with a large puddle of breakthrough juices. Hmpf again!
.

.
Inartistically messy as it looked, my blackberry cobbler was delicious. Perhaps a bit too sweet for us, but richly berryish and with a firm, tasty crust. Well worth the amount of unexpected effort it took. (Though next time I might try making the crust with unfrozen fats.)
.

.
The half of it that we couldn’t finish for dessert that evening made a sinfully good breakfast the next morning. That none of it lasted longer than that is a testimony to how much we enjoyed it.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »