R2R: Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

One of my all time favorite soups is roasted butternut squach soup.  I love when I see the butternut squash start to appear at the public market because it means the weather is really getting cold and it’ll be time to make this soup soon.  I was so excited to find this month’s Recipe to Rivals challenge (picked by MegPug of Joy Through Cooking) was all about squash soup using home made stock.  I also have been looking to try my hand a stock since watching past episodes of Alton Brown on YouTube.

The recipe I’ve always used comes from the magazing Eating Well and it’s very simple:
– roast squash, pears, tomatoes, leeks, and garlic into oblivion
– blend with stock/broth
– season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon, or whatever spices you fancy
– serve with crusty bread and consume.

Ok, I’ll be honest.  I forgot about the creme fraiche (one of the requirements to the recipe).  I don’t really like it, and I also don’t find much occasion to use whipping cream, so I didn’t buy any of that to add either.  However, I have a diary based suggestion that I’ve used in the past:  Stilton.  Yes, the stinky cheese.  The recipe from Eating Well called for a little Stilton sprinkled on top.  I suggest looking for a milder Stilton, but it does give a lovely flavor to the soup that works surprisingly well with the soups sweetness.  I also like to add a kind of garlic crouton (really, it’s just crusty piece of toast with some garlic rubbed on and a drizzle of olive oil; crusty sourdough loaves work great).  The crunch of toast contrasts the smooth soup wonderfully.

Here is the Eating Well recipe as I remember it (I’m typing this at my parents (home for the holidays), and the recipe is at home in another state).  It’s a pretty flexible recipe, so I’m not too concerned about amounts:

– One butternut squash, cubed
– 4 medium tomatoes, quartered and seeded
– 2 bosc pears, pealed, quartered and cored
– 1-2 leeks, rinsed well and sliced
– 4 cloves of garlic
– 4-6 cups of stock
– salt and pepper
– olive oil
– seasoning as desired at the end (I suggest nutmeg and cinnamon, true fall flavors)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 or 450.

2. Put the squash, tomato, pears, leeks, and garlic on a cookie sheet with high sides or a large baking dish.  Everything should cover the bottom of your pan, but not pile too high because it will take longer to roast.

3. Drizzle to coat with olive oil and season liberally with salt. Toss everything together

4. Roast everything to oblivion (1-2 hours), stirring every 10-20 minutes.  I’m serious, oblivion.  It should reduce to about half the volume and the squash should be browning around the edges.  Everything should be falling apart into mush.  The longer it goes, the more the sugars in the squash caramelize and make a sweet soup.  You will not be sorry if you over roast everything… just take it out before things begin to char.

5. Blend with the stock, using as much as necessary to get the desired consistency.  I use my stand up blender and scoop some of the roasted mush in, and then fill to the level of veggies with stock.  Hold the lid down FIRMLY with a pot holder.  Be careful hear or you’ll get 400 degree mush all over your kitchen and yourself.  Blend until a cyclone forms in the blender.  You also can put the stock and roasted mush into a pot and use an immersion blender.

6. Pour the blended soup into a pot (if it’s not already in one), reheat and season to taste.

7. Garnish with a nice Stilton and serve with toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic

For the stock, I used the recipe provided by MegPug:

Vegetable Stock:
4 quarts water
2 white onions
4 carrots, peeled
2 leeks
6-8 button mushrooms
Bouquet garnish (parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns)

Boil the hell out of it and strain through a fine seive or cheesecloth.

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 4:52 pm  Comments (9)  
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Complicated Chocolate Eclairs

Eclair filled with almond pastry cream

Eclair filled with almond pastry cream

(Eeee, I’m posting a day late… That’s what I get for spending 12h in the library studying!)

It’s my first time as a Daring Baker and we’re taking on eclairs (click for challenge recipes) this month. I’m home for three days before I head back to NY and med school. I decided to tackle this challenge here at home because it’s the last time I’ll have time for a big baking project, mom has a bigger kitchen and it’s better stocked with equipment (including a more reliable oven). It’s also my brother’s birthday at the end of this visit, so I’m making a Genoise cake with buttercream frosting as well. It’s taken some careful planning to make it all happen. Since I’m not allowed to post until the end of the month, I’m going to try to write this up daily and post it all at the end.

I decided to keep the chocolate frosting for the eclairs but use Julia Child’s pastry cream filling with a little Italian Meringue folded in (since I had to make some anyway for the cake’s buttercream frosting). It was my brother’s suggestion, and my mom agreed I should try a classic eclair. I’m not the biggest fan of classic eclairs because of the custard filling (it’s a texture issue I have with custards and smooth puddings). Luckily Julia also offers an almond custard variation so I’m trying that one too. I really need to buy my own copy of “The Way to Cook.”

Here’s what’s on the schedule:

Wednesday: Creams, Glazes, Sauces, Meringues and a Brittle

Julia’s Italian meringues
to add to…Julia’s pastry cream
and for…Julia’s buttercream frosting
Chocolate sauce
to make…Chocolate glaze
Almond brittle
to pulverize into Praline… just for the hell of it.

Thursday: Baking Day

Two Genoise cakes
Choux (Cream Puff Dough)
Assemble Eclairs


Assemble the birthday cake and play around with cake decorating

I compiled the ingredient list for everything and went to the store to buy:
17 eggs (2 dozen, really, since I’m bound to mess up)
1 lb of butter
12 oz of chocolate
1c heavy cream
2c whole milk
… and I don’t even want to know how much fat that adds up to.


I started with the custard. This I whisked by hand because it was all on the stove. Mom has a hand held mixer, but it didn’t seem like it would be that much whipping. I didn’t count on how thick the yolks, sugar, and flour would be. I need to work on my whisking arm. The only thing I would recommend is a third hand for dribbling in the hot cream. I made a bit of a mess trying to whisk with one hand while pouring with the other. The batter was so thick at first that whisking tended to move the pan around instead of the batter.

The Italian meringue came next, and this is always a bit of a nightmare. It requires boiling sugar syrup to soft-ball stage. Mom has a candy thermometer, but its accuracy is questionable. Thankfully we hit the upper end of soft ball stage and the meringue was perfect.

Next I folding in some meringue into the pastry cream, which really altered it’s custard-like texture and flavor. Next time I might use less meringue… or maybe I’ll just try the chocolate pastry cream from the challenge. I’m also looking forward to trying it with the praline (aka, pulverized toasted almond brittle… which doesn’t really remind me of praline all that much).

The chocolate sauce and glaze came together very easily. The glaze might be a bit lumpy, but I’m not too worried. It’s in the fridge right now and I hope I don’t mess up the mixture when I heat it up to glaze the eclairs.

At the end of the afternoon of cooking my dad came home and was impressed with all I had made, but he did point out that I still hadn’t learn to clean up as I go. Tee hee.

I’m writing up the recipes from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook.” She gives more detail than I do, and this book is seriously a huge help for some scary recipes. It even has step-by-step photos for some of the more complicated techniques. If you can’t buy it, or don’t own it, just swing by a bookstore and flip through some of the recipes for some great pointers.

Italian Meringue: From Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
2/3 c egg whites (4-5 egg whites)
pinch of salt
1/4 t cream of tartar
1 1/3c sugar
1/2c water

The eggs:
Beat the eggs slowly at first until they foam, and salt and cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form.

The sugar:
Meanwhile, you want to make the sugar syrup so it’s ready about the same time as the eggs. Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved, then boil until it thickens to soft ball stage. Check it with a candy thermometer or by dropping a bit into cold water and checking that it’s soft when cool.

Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the eggs while the mixer is running on medium. Continue beating until stiff white peaks form.

Pastry cream: From Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
Julia offers some variations. I’m writting up the recipe I made.
6 egg yolks
1/2c sugar
pinch of salt
1/2c flour
2c milk
1T vanilla
1T unsalted butter

Heat the milk. Whisk eggs, sugar and salt until lemon yellow in color. Whisk in flour. Slowly add the heated milk while whisking so the eggs don’t cook. Heat the whole mixture over medium until it boils. Whisk out any lumps that may form after it starts to boil, then you can switch to a spoon. Cook about 2 minutes to cook the flour. Pass through a sieve, then add the vanilla and butter. Allow to cool. Fold in one cup of the meringue. Technically this is called Creme Chiboust with the meringue in it, which lightens the custard and give it more hold.

Praline (pulverized toasted almond brittle): Scaled down from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”

1/2c blanched and slivered almonds, toasted in a pan on the stove
1/2c sugar
1/6c water

Boil the sugar and water until it starts to turn golden brown and caramel color. Leave it on the stove a few more seconds. Mix in the almonds and try to spread it out on an oiled baking sheet. Brittle is supposed to be thin, but if you’re pulverizing it anyway (I used a food processor), I doubt it really matters, as long as you can get it off the baking sheet. Julia suggests having a metal spoon and spatula on hand.

For the Chocolate Sauce and Glaze, I send you to the original recipe (link to come).


This day started with two genois cakes for my brother, and then the choux. The batter really did come together quite quickly. I pipped mini-size eclairs which were perfectly two-bite sizes. With the bit of choux left over, I made a few round eclair shells, too. I made two sheets of mini-eclair size, which each baked up very differently.

Choux pastry

The one on the left, with the crack down the middle, was baked on a heavy, thick pan, started on the lower shelf in the oven, and when turning pans and shifting shelves during baking, I set this pan down a little hard and it looked like it caused these choux shells to collapse a bit. They puffed up again beautifully in the last 8 minutes of cooking. The choux on the rest of that pan has beautiful cracks all over the place that really reminded me of eclairs.

The one on the right, with the very smooth top was baked on a thin pan, started on the upper shelf in the oven, and wasn’t jostled at all during the pan rotation. Every eclair on this pan had a similar smooth top with some cracks around the bottom where the choux touched the baking sheet. I ended up flipping these over to remove the bottom “pedestal” of the choux (which came away very cleanly) to coat with chocolate. You really can’t tell that these eclairs are upside down. In fact the few I didn’t flip kept tipping over with the heavy pastry cream.

I wish I knew a little more about how choux worked so I could figure out why this happened.

I took over the entire kitchen table to put these together.

Setup to glaze and fill choux

Setup to glaze and fill choux

The pastry cream kept very well in the fridge. The chocolate glaze was nearly solid when I took it out of the fridge, but a quick turn in the microwave on a very low power setting softened it right up. I folded the praline into some of the cream. Perhaps I folded in too much, or the damp day added some moisture to the praline, because the almond pastry cream lost a lot of it’s hold. Really, it was a runny mess… but a very tasty runny mess. The pastry cream on the other hand help up quite well in the choux. For the round choux, I just stick the tip of the pastry bag into the middle and filled up the puff with cream. I added some slivered almonds on top of the eclairs with the almond filling. I was having so much fun piping the custard I accidentally piped it into some intended for the almond pastry cream.

Filled and glazed choux

Filled and glazed choux

Photographing this was a lot of fun. I didn’t let anyone eat any of them until I had all my pictures… until the camera tipped over on it’s tripod and fell on two of the eclairs. Those were up for grabs. And thankfully none got on my lense!

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 7:11 am  Comments (4)  
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Brewed Chocolate

Caffeine has been a pretty important part of my first year in medical school. With so much information to learn, the better I could pay attention in lecture, the less time I had to spend reviewing material outside of class. Every morning I whipped up a cocoa-ccino at the coffee cart, stocked by student services with Swiss-Miss hot cocoa mix and sub-par coffee. I don’t like coffee to begin with. I do everything I can to cover over the bitter taste, and the coffee-cart coffee requires a lot of Swiss-Miss, delivering a bunch of calories that I could just do without.

I’m a week into my second year I’ve avoided the coffee cart so far. Perhaps I find neuroanatomy more stimulating that the orientation and statistics we had at the beginning of first year. It takes a lot of brain power to focus on every word that Dr. J says as he runs though his neuroanatomy lectures at hyper-drive. Or maybe I just caught up on sleep over summer break.

This summer I also took the time to delve into the food-blogging world, which has afforded me food photography lessons, a post on Tastespotting, and a jar of Brewed Chocolates won from Food Interviews. I am most excited about the Brewed Chocolate, a concentration of whole, raw brewed cocoa beans with a bit of sugar cane added, just add hot water. I inquired in a comment and was assured this Brewed Chocolate didn’t have the same bitterness of coffee and black tea. I couldn’t wait to try it.

My roommate and I tried it for the first time this morning. Because I heard it could be a stimulant or make you drowsy, I decided I would not try it on a school day lest I fall asleep in one of Dr. J’s lectures and end up behind for the rest of the course.

The first thing I did when the jar arrived was pop open the lid and smell it. It has a lovely subtle chocolate aroma. Nothing too bold like a new chocolate bar, but rather a lingering chocolate essence. A beautiful soft brown color, it rolls around in the jar like warm honey, not too viscous, but with some weight behind it. My favorite part of making the cups of brewed chocolate this morning was drizzling it into the hot water. It flowed in looking like molasses and held its shape as squiggly spaghetti in the bottom of the cup for just a moment before melding together into a little puddle of darkness. Much of the brewed chocolate clung to the spoon so I had a little taste. Chocolaty, but, much like the smell, better resembled the lingering taste of a fine dark chocolate on your palate than the first few munches on a whole chunk of the stuff.

I stirred it up and took a sip. I was expecting something bold like coffee (perhaps because I had just licked a bit off my finger) and felt a bit startled when it was nothing of the sort. My roommate commented it reminded her of tea. I took a few more sips with tea in mind and felt much less startled. It’s got a watery taste like many herbal teas with the chocolate flavor coming at the finish of each sip. The smidgen of sugar added the prefect sweetness.

As to how I felt half an hour after finishing my cup: not very different. My roommate didn’t notice much difference either. Perhaps a teaspoon of this chocolaty concentrate isn’t enough to have much effect. At least I didn’t fall asleep, so brewed chocolate is approved for morning lectures. And I plan to drink plenty of it as the months grow colder to warm me up in the morning. Thanks so much to Stef and Rob for the free taster. I’ll be back for more!

Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm  Comments (4)  
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On the side of the road

Big, plum, juicy, sweet blackberries

Big, plum, juicy, sweet blackberries

How delightful is it to run across wild blackberries on the side of the road? How about a cherry plum tree? I was visiting one of my best friends, A, in San Francisco when we took a trip to Muir Woods on a Sunday afternoon. The place was pretty packed, especially the parking lots, so we parked on the side of a twisty and windy road…right next to blackberry bushes. We already ate our fill at the farmer’s market that morning, but that didn’t stop us from picking a few handfuls. It reminded me of the blackberry bush my family discovered one summer in the back yard. It was a tasty few weeks of blackberries and ice cream, blackberry tarts, and purple fingers.

I’m just going to take a minute and tell you how much I love farmer’s markets. Not only do I get to support local growers, but there’s just a sea of fresh produce all over the place. This farmer’s market even had tasties (ya know, like the plates of cut up fruit and whot-not at the grocery store that qualifies as lunch on a Saturday. My boyfriend and I call those tasties). Ever single stall selling any peaches or plums had pieces cut up to try before you buy. Another stall was happy to let us taste the cherry tomatoes. One grower had a pile of chestnuts. I love chestnuts, but I only ever see them in the fall. This grower handed us each a big plump, juicy and sweet blackberry as he explained he kept his chestnuts in cold storage and sold them all summer until he ran out. We chatted for a bit with this nice gentleman, who also fed us these delectable little plums: “Cherry plums, you know, like from the Nutcracker, ‘Cherry Plum Fairies.’ I guess they’re Sugar Plum Fairies, actually.” These plums may well have been called sugar plums, they were so so sweet!

Wild cherry plums, so sweet!

Wild cherry plums, so sweet!

If A and I hadn’t stopped at this stall, we wouldn’t have know what to call the tree that stood right next to the blackberry bush, the one we didn’t notice until we got back after the hike around Muir Woods. We were running late to pick up my boyfriend in the city, so we gathered as many as we could off the tree and tossed them into the cup holder in the car, eating them as we drove along.

Since I’m hoping to post these photos to a food porn website, I feel like I should provide a recipe. I think I’ll go with the mixed berry pie I made a few weeks before we left. After all, it did contain blackberries (but not plums). I used frozen blackberries, raspberries and blueberries because that what I could find. I mashed up the berries a bit with a potato masher, just so I could fit more in the pie. Use any combination you want (I’m sure the plums would have been a lovely addition), just make sure it only goes up to the level of the crust, but not over. Otherwise, there will be a big mess in your oven 45 minutes into baking.

One quart of mixed fruit, mashed a little.
1/2 c sugar (white or raw)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2T flour
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mix all ingredients, pour into a pie crust (recipe and pointers here), drape strips of pie crust over the top to make a lattice. Brush top with a beaten egg. Bake at 350 until bubbling in the middle.

Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Almond Tuile Cannoli: Batch 1 of the tuile

Batch 1

Almond Tuile: Recipe 1

My boyfriend and I are having an Italian themed dinner party for my last weekend in Texas. Immediately I though, “I can make cannoli!” Then I read a bit about how they’re made. The filling looks incredibly easy, mix some ricotta, maybe a little mascarpone, add a bit of sugar and vanilla, et voila! I even considered making it harder by curdling my own ricotta. Perhaps another time. And then I read how to make the shell…lots of mixing, rolling, and DEEP FRYING?!? I had no idea! It sounded like too much work for an afternoon with many other preparations… nor would my boyfriend like the idea of a vat of hot oil smoking up his loft (as our steaks and burgers do on the stove-top grill pan). So I am substituting almond tuiles (baked, not fried), and I’m sure it will be a lovely combination (readers with Italian heritage, please don’t shoot me!).

First batch of tuiles are in the oven (2nd sheet of them, as I write) and I’m already running into trouble. I tried making these once before, but did not have almond meal at the time, so I substituted with an equal portion of flour. The batter was too thick and hard to spread. Next time, I told myself, I would make it thiner and add the almonds! Perhaps not quite as I had planned. First the food processor won’t chop the almonds up finely enough. And I guess I forgot how thick the batter was last time, and made it just as thick this time. Oh, and I only had one egg left, so I just used that instead of two whites.

…Quick break to take sheet 2 out of the oven!…

First of all, the batter is immensely tasty. I probably ate a third of it as spoon-fulls of batter bypassed the oven and went straight to my tummy. So buttery and creamy with little chewy chunks of almond tickle my tongue. YUM!

I can’t quite say the same for the baking. Instead of remaining smooth and flat on the baking sheet, these tuiles puffed up, leaving little pot-marks of almond chunks behind. And they stuck to the parchment paper (excuse me! what sticks to parchment paper?!?). So after wrestling the tuiles with my spatula (which needed frequent cleaning as little bits of undercooked tuile stuck to the edge…also tasty cooked!), I managed to break one (one needed to be sacrificed to the taste testing gods anyway), and form three cannoli tubes. The tubes were a bit bigger than I wanted, and I was quickly running out of batter (I wonder why?), so I began making small disks, figuring I could at least be creative with the tuile. Some I simply folded over serving spoon handles, others I turned into little dishes on the spherical handle of our little rolling pin. In any case I have a nice array about about 20 vehicles for the yummy cheese filling I’ll be making tomorrow. I think I’m buy some chocolate chips for decorations.

Batch 2 will be made this afternoon. I plan to use the two whites. I’m also going to swap the potions of almond and flour, and try to make sure my almond is very fine. And in adding the flour, I’ll save a few tablespoons to add in later as I adjust the consistency.

Almond Tuile: Recipe #1:

Modified from Food and Paper.

Without snacking, recipe might make 10-15 cannoli, or 20-30 disks to shape over any rounded surface you can find. Be creative.

1/2 c. almonds meal (or blanched almonds processed in your own food processor)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 egg (I was supposed to use 2 egg whites)
5 T. melted butter
1/4 t. almond extract

…I should mention I was actually a little sloppy in my measuring. After the first sheet came out of the oven and I realized I would be running out of batter, I added an extra 2T of melted butter in hopes to stretch my batter a little further.

Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together the almond, flour, sugar, and salt. Beat in the egg (or whites), butter, and almond extract until smooth. Drop a rounded teaspoon size onto parchment paper and spread out with the back of the spoon to make a 4in diameter circle. For the small disks, I used one teaspoon of batter, even, and let the heat of the oven (and the hot pan I didn’t cool between bakings) spread out the batter. Bake 8-10 minutes. I didn’t use a timer because my boyfriend was taking a nap, and I didn’t want to wake him. Instead I carefully watched the tuiles and took them out when the edges started to brown.

Immediately after removing from the oven, form over desired kitchen object and leave to cool for about 1 minute. If the tuile gets too hard, pop it back in the oven for about 30 seconds to soften. Let formed tuile cool completely and store in an airtight container.

UPDATE: my post made it to Food Gawker and Tastespotting! I’m so proud of myself. Yay to improving photography skills!

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 2:04 pm  Comments (1)  
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Spinach Soup

My boyfriend made spinach soup for dinner. We enjoyed this very healthy soup, and it used up some spinach that wilted in the fridge over our weekend-away. It had a lovely color; however, we both felt that something was lacking in either the flavor or texture or both. I would have said add some butter (my English roots are showing through), but I’d really like to find a healthy addition to this recipe.

I did try a few things to spruce it up. My first though was to add some crusty bread to this smooth soup, so I toasted a few slice of baguette. Dipped in, it added a nice crunchy texture. The consistency was quite watery, and I almost felt like I could drink it out of a glass. My boyfriend mentioned he may not have reduced it enough. I also felt it lacked a bite, so I added some sharp shredded parmesan cheese. This certainly added a little extra salt the soup may have needed, and, well, cheese makes almost anything better. At the end of my bowl I found a morsel of unblended potato, which added a lovely little bit of texture to sink my teeth into, so next time we may save some chunks of potato from the blending step.

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough experience in the soup department to figure out exactly what this soup needs, and so I’m looking for suggestions from the soup experts out there.  I would greatly appreciate it.

Published in: on July 7, 2008 at 11:08 pm  Comments (2)  

Apple pie

Mummy makes more apple pies than any other pie. It might be Dad’s favorite. I made this pie at the begging of my boyfriend who wanted to learn to make pie crust (those are his hands on this page). He loves fruit pies. I think this is a fantastic pie for any season. Traditionally, Mummy uses mackintosh apples, but you could use a sweeter or tarter apple to your taste.


Pie crust

Filling: Now, I should say these are all rough estimates. You can play around with the amounts all you want for a big pie, small pie, sweet pie, tart pie, and whatever you can imagine for spices. I’ve listed what I used this weekend, which my boyfriend found to be a little sweet. My sweettooth thought it was perfect.

8-10 apples, peeled and chopped. You really can use a lot of apples. It’s great if this pie is piled high.

1/3 c brown sugar

1/3 c white sugar

1/2 T butter

2 T flour

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t allspice


1) Make the crust.

2) Mix all the fillings and pile them in the pie crust. Seriously, I could have added a bunch more to this pie:

3) Cover with the other half of the pie crust, flute the edges to seal together (see the pictures above). Poke a few holes in the top to let the steam out during baking

4) Bake at 350 for 45-60 min, until crust is golden. This pie has a tendency to leak and spill over, making a big mess on the bottom of the oven. Check it at 45 minutes (or when you smell burning), and slide a cookie sheet underneath it to catch any drips.

5) Serve with some vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie…a little taste of family

This is my family recipe for strawberry cream cheese pie. I think it’s my grandma who brought it to the family. I imagine it’s something from her childhood. It’s certainly a taste of my childhood and the family trips to visit my grandparents and aunts and uncles during summer vacation. My grandma would make many of these pies while we visited and it hit the spot on a warm summer evening.


One pie crust, preferably handmade

8 oz cream cheese

1 lb strawberries, roughly

For the sauce:

3-4 more strawberries, chopped small

1/2 c sugar

2 T water


1) Make/buy pie a pie crust. If you have a lot of people to feed, I suggest making this in a large tart pan. Use a fork and poke holes in the bottom so it won’t bubble too much and bake at about 350 for 20 or 30 minutes, until just starting to turn golden brown. Let cool completely

2) Let the cream cheese come to room temperature and spread it in the bottom of the pie.

3) Cut the tops of the strawberries and place in the cream cheese all pointing up. Or if you have a large pan, cut the strawberries in half and lay them in a pretty pattern in the cream cheese, cut side down. Make sure everything is close together, it can be a bit of a puzzle.

4) For the sauce, put the chopped strawberries, sugar, and water in a pan and cook over medium heat. Let it come to a bubble and reduce for a few minutes, until the strawberries start to wilt. If the syrup seems too thick, add a little more water. Pour the syrup evenly over the pie, and enjoy!

Photos by bhbryant.

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 10:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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Pie Crust

This past weekend I made two pies: Strawberry cream cheese pie and Apple pie. The best place to start with any pie is with a fabulous pie crust, such as the one that my mother is known for. She and my grandmother are always comparing pie crust recipes, tweaking them, and making wonderfully flaky, buttery crusts. So here is their recipe with a few pointers to always remember. Sorry I don’t have more photos, but I’ll work on step-by-step pictures when I make a blueberry pie later this summer.

Ingredients (enough for a covered pie, halve the recipe if you’re making an open face pie):

3c flour

18T butter

1/2 t salt (if butter is unsalted)

1/4-1/2c cold water


1) The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember when making pie crust is that everything must be COLD. Mummy can not emphasize that enough. The butter should be straight out of the refrigerator and the water ice cold.

2) Combine flour and salt (if using) in a large bowl

3) Cut the butter into small chunks and cut into the flour until it’s the consistency of oatmeal. I like to use my hands, pinching at the chunks of butter. Mummy says the warmth from your hands adds just the right amount of heat to the butter so the crust is easy to roll out. You can also combine the flour and butter in a food processor until the butter is the size of small peas. In either case, work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too soft, especially if you’re working in a warm kitchen.

4) Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cold water, just enough to bring the flour/butter all together. The exact amount really will vary every time you make pie crust. If the dough becomes very stick you’ve added too much and it would be troublesome to roll out. Keep going, but remember to add less next time, bit by bit.

5) Separate the dough in two. If it’s cold enough, you can roll it out right now. If the butter looks like it’s melting, pat each half into a large circle, wrap in saran warp, and put it in the refrigerator for 1 hour. The best way to roll it out is between pieces of saran wrap. There will be very little mess at the end, and no worry of crust sticking to the counter top. I usually put two on the counter, and use a third on top, moving it around to the areas of dough I’m rolling out.

6) Roll the crust is 1/8-1/4 inch (3mm) thick, fold it in half, peel away the saran wrap, and lift on to a pie or tart plate lining the fold up with the center, unfold and gently press the crust into all the corners, being careful not to stretch the crust.

7) Add your favorite filling, roll out the top crust and lay it on top. Press the layers together with a fork or make a fluted edge by pinching crust between your fingers (a picture will be better than words here). Poke a few air vents in the top crust and bake until golden brown (350 degrees for about 1 hour should be fine).

Photos by bhbryant.

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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R.I.P. Tastespotting.com

Last friday was a sad day.  My favorite food website, tastespotting.com was taken down for legal reasons.  This has been quite a blow as I’ve been gearing up for a summer of many culinary adventures.  I will dearly miss the inspiring photos of tastespotting.com.  I will search for inspiration elsewhere, but I fear nothing will quite compare.

Quick update. In my internet search to find the real reason behind the demise of tastespotting, I ran across foodgawker.com.  Spread the word and hopefully it will take off as well!

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 1:37 pm  Comments (1)