Drunken Pepper Pie – It’s a Beautiful Thing

IMG_3155a
This recipe is a riff on an old classic in the Maine Windjammer fleet – Congo Bars.  Usually made for lunch and scarfed up by mid-afternoon, this recipe is amped up for a dinner dessert with the addition of both Ancho chili powder and Kentucky Bourbon.  Both give a punch and a depth that makes the perfect cross between comfort dessert and swanky dessert.  As with the bar recipe, the pie recipe is much better slightly underdone than even the smallest bit overdone.  Of course, this recipe is for one pie, whereas on the Riggin, I’m making 3 or 4 pies at at time, hence the several pies in the photos below.

Drunken Pepper Pie
Pie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unflavored vodka
2 tablespoons ice cold water (or more)

Combine the flour, salt, and butter into a medium bowl; cut in well with a pastry knife.
Add vodka and water and mix until dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball.  Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove and roll onto a floured board to at least 12 inches in diameter.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and pinch the edges.  Let rest in the refrigerator again until the pie batter is done.

Makes 1 crust

Pie Batter
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Kentucky Bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the brown sugar and butter over low heat.  Cool slightly so that the pan is comfortable to touch and then add the bourbon and vanilla extract.  Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour, baking powder, ancho chili powder, and salt into the sugar and butter mixture and stir.  When the dry ingredients are completely incorporated, add the chocolate chips.

Spatula the pie batter into the prepared pie shell and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown.  If a fork poked into the center comes out slightly gooey this is okay.

Cool slightly and serve while still warm with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.

Serves 8 to 12

Brown Sugar Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and beat with a whisk until soft peaks form.

IMG_3164a

IMG_3172a

IMG_3170a

Annie
Getting excited to go sailing!  You should come with us this summer!

Clementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake

Elizabeth’s favorite flavors are chocolate and orange and so for her birthday in late March, can you guess what sort of cake she asked for?  Knowing that Easter was on it’s way, and also knowing that while SHE got her cake, WE didn’t get our cake, I decided to make it again and this time for our Easter dinner crowd.

This cake is lovely for a couple of reasons.  The oil and sour cream make it a forgiving batter that once baked into a cake, stays forever moist.   The clementine zest, orange extract and Grand Marnier ensure that the cake is infused with orange flavor at several different levels.  Lastly, the bright orange garnish of the clementine lends an eye-catching splash of happy color and tang.

IMG_9815-001aClementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake
Cake:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons clementine zest; about 3 clementines
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 teaspoons orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 clementines, sliced thinly and halved for garnish

Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment and a large mixing bowl combine sugar, zest, eggs and canola oil on low speed.  Measure out the rest of the wet ingredients in one liquid measuring container and measure all of the dry ingredients into a sifter.  Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the mixing bowl ending with wet.

Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the edges of the cake have pulled away from the sides of the pan a little and a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.

Glaze:
Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate continue to melt.  When the chocolate is fully melted, add the sour cream and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

To Assemble:
To assemble the cake, remove the cooled cakes from their pans and transfer one to a serving platter.  Spread 1/2 of the glaze onto the top of the cake and rim with clementines so that you will be able to see the rinds.  Repeat the process with the second cake.  The glaze is a little easier to deal with if it has cooled somewhat, but don’t wait until it has cooled completely as it will set up.  Garnish with clementine halves and serve.

Serves 12 to 16

IMG_9833-001a

IMG_9843-001a

Annie
Gonna get me that last slice…

Blizzard Cake – Lemon Roulade with Blueberries and Cream

For our family, the winter is a time of much needed hibernation.  Our summers are busy, intense, focused (and lets not forget FUN), however, every second has a name from the middle of May to the middle of October.  This sort of intensity requires an equal and opposite energy, which is what winters in Maine are designed for in our house.

As you may have heard, our New England winter has had more than it’s fair share of snow this year, which fits perfectly into our hibernation mode.  Those years where it doesn’t snow much are just a little bit harder to sink into.  We CAN go out all the time.  There are very few snow days, the phone rings more, the possibilities for a day are endless.

Not true when it’s blowing 30 knots from the North East and the snow has been falling for hours with no end in sight.  Those days are p.j. days, cozy days, baking days, writing days.  They are slow because the choices are limited, meetings are cancelled and the urge to knit increases 10-fold.  The permission to have a meandering freedom about the day is exactly what a family needs when their summers are as packed as ours are.

Our days are on somewhat of a repeat.  Snow, shovel, bake, knit, write, snow, shovel, cook, knit, write.  Repeat. I find myself in the minority, where the continual wildness followed by a hoary, sunny calm is energizing.  Interspersed with a snow shoe and a horse ride, the dormancy is like a cozy sweater with a long, soft scarf wrapped around my neck.  Comforting, calm, creative and cozy.

This cake, Blizzard Roulade with Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Cream,  is named after the first blizzard that blew through our winter, but certainly not the last.  As I write, another 8 to 12 inches is falling on our world.  Maybe I’ll go bake another cake.

Annie
Cozy and calm

IMG_8811-001a
Lay the cake out flat on the towel.
IMG_8836-001a
Spread blueberry jam and lemon curd. Roll gently.
IMG_8840-001a
Final roll. Anchor with a toothpick if needed.
IMG_8914-001a
Delicious frosting.
IMG_8920-001a
Can’t resist. Who caught that on camera?

Citrus – As Colorful As Spring, Only Closer

The holidays are over and the color now seems to leach out of the landscape as the lights are down, the ribbons are recycled and the decorations stowed.  Outdoors is a poor place to be searching for color this time of year, so the inspiration and the delight needs to come from a different source.

Likewise, the gem-hued berries, the sunny-colored corn and the brightly adorned peppers are also a memory from last year’s garden.  Luckily, we have citrus to console us until the weather turns and once again we can delight in the rainbows that are produced in our gardens and our outdoor mural.

Moroccan Chicken

This week’s column – Broiled Grapefruit; Chocolate Orange Pound Cake; Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Kalamata Olives – is all about this healthy, versatile fruit.  Just as welcome in cakes as in a main course dish.

Annie
Getting my Vitamin C

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”

HomegrownPears1

To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Annie
Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Bûche de Noël – A Traditional Favorite

This recipe is a combination of both a Julia Child and Ellen Barnes recipe.  Julia Child’s cookbook “Baking with Julia” is a classic I enjoy returning to again and again.  Ellen Barnes is a former windjammer owner and one of my mentor’s.  Her cookbook is called “The Taber Cookbook” and the well worn pages of my copy were hand-sewn together once the plastic spiral binding disintegrated.  Clearly a cookbook I treasure.

Bûche de Noël

I began making Bûche de Noël for Christmas dessert over 10 years ago when the girls and I wanted a baking project that was a little less intense than making our own gingerbread house from scratch, an event that will live in infamy in our house for the overwhelm meltdowns this effort produced.  Needless to say, it takes a special 5 year old to handle the construction and then collapse of a gingerbread house.  Maybe a special adult too as ours might have ended up in the trash…

Anyway, that was a long time ago and we have held to our Bûche de Noël making with eager joy.  While it, in our household, is an easier and more welcome project than gingerbread, it is not for the faint of heart.  Also, I would say that if you don’t have all the tools – pastry bag with tips, baking sheet, pastry knife, that maybe you’d just forgo this project.  It’s rare for me to say this, but the tools make this project SO much easier.

Bûche de Noël mushrooms

Bûche de Noël

Bûche de Noël

This cake is inspired by a recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook “Baking with Julia.”

Cake:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus a little extra for the pan), melted
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Rum Syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons rum

Mocha Cream Frosting:
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
4 egg yolks
2 cups soft butter
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
4 tablespoons rum

Meringue Mushrooms:
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Decorative Frosting:
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon or more of milk

Pine sprigs
Pomegranate seeds

Cake:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter into a 1-quart bowl; set aside.

Put the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the salt in to sifter and sift the ingredients onto a piece of waxed paper; set aside.

Put the eggs and the remaining sugar into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  Holding the whisk attachment from the mixer in your hand, beat the mixture to blend the ingredients.  With the bowl and whisk attachment in place, whip the mixture on medium speed until it is airy, pale, and tripled  in volume, like softly whipped cream, 4 to 5 minutes.  You’ll know that the eggs are properly whipped when you lift the whisk and the mixture falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface for about 10 seconds.  If the ribbon immediately sinks into the mixture, continue whipping for a few more minutes.  Pour in the vanilla extract during eh last moments of whipping.

Detach the bowl from the mixer.  Sprinkle about one third of the sifted flour mixture over the batter.  Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula, stopping as soon as the flour is incorporated.   Fold in the rest of the flour in 2 more additions.  (This is the point at which the batter is at its most fragile, so fold gingerly.)

Brush the extra butter onto a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet that has a rim.  Cover with parchment paper and scrape the batter onto the sheet, smoothing out with the spatula.  Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan.

Dust a large kitchen towel with powdered sugar.  Invert the baking sheet onto the towel and cool slightly.  Before it is completely cooled, roll the cake (with the towel) up into a log.

Rum Syrup:
Boil the sugar and water together until syrupy, about 3 minutes. Cool and add the rum.

Mocha Cream Frosting:
Boil the sugar and water together until 240 degree on a candy thermometer or until the soft ball stage. Beat the egg yolks until fluffy. Add the sugar and water mixture gradually while beating and continue until mixture is cool. Add the butter bit by bit until it has all been incorporated. Beat in the chocolate, coffee and rum.

Meringue Mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add the salt and cream of tartar and beat well. Add the sugar gradually and add the vanilla. Continue beating until mixture is glossy and stiff but not dry. Cover a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet with waxed paper and using a pastry bag, pipe the mushrooms tops and stems onto the sheet. Bake about 1 hour or until the meringues are dry. When you are ready to work with them, gently assemble by pressing the mushroom caps onto the stems. Lightly dust the tops with cocoa powder.

Decorative Frosting:
Cream the butter and add 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and milk until fluffy. Add the salt and vanilla and then the remaining sugar and milk, alternating between the two. Beat until frosting stands in stiff peaks. Transfer to a pastry bag.

To Assemble:
Unroll the cake and peel the parchment paper off. Use half of the Mocha Cream Frosting and spread evenly over the cake. Using the towel to help you, roll the cake up snuggly without causing the frosting to squeeze out of the ends. Poke toothpicks into the final edge to keep it from unrolling. Make a diagonal cut about 1/3 of the way down and snug that cut up to the side of the log to make it look like the v in a branch. Spread the rest of the Mocha Cream Frosting on the top and sides, leaving the ends frosting free. Pipe the Decorative Frosting on all of the ends and any place you’d like to make a decoration. Add the Meringue Mushrooms to the sides in clusters. Decorate with pine sprigs and pomegranate seeds.

Annie
Post your cakes so I can see!

Photo credit: Ella Finger

Lemon Curd Cheesecake – A Bake Ahead Holiday Dessert

The tricks to making a successful cheesecake are simple.  They also make sense when you understand the reason behind them.

Lemon Curd Cheesecakes

Eggs, a major component of cheesecakes, don’t like to be heated quickly or subject to high heat.  Instead they like to be handled gently and with a little tender loving care.  They freak out when the heat is too fast or too high, curdling or puffing up, both of which we don’t want in a cheesecake.  This is why having all ingredients at room temperature to begin with helps.  Another trick is some sort of water – either in the form of steam or a water bath, to mitigate the formation of a crust and to gentle the heat.  Lastly, letting the cheesecake cool down in the oven helps gentle the change in heat and prevents those craters we don’t want to see in our cheesecakes.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake

The recipes that ran in the Portland Press Herald today, Vanilla Cheesecake and Lemon Curd Cheesecake, are both favorites in our family.  There I also write about how to freeze and thaw cheesecakes, making them a perfect make-ahead dessert.  The Lemon Curd Cheesecake has been a holiday dessert for years, appeasing those who are done with the chocolate overload.

Annie
Happy baking!

Blood Orange Marmalade – It’s not too late!

Citrus season is almost over, but as I write, the last (or I’m hoping the last!) big winter storm is raging outside and any sort of canning seems like just the thing to keep the house toasty warm.  I know when summer rolls around I’ll be so happy to have these gem-like jars of coral-colored goodness for our guests to slather on biscuits or muffins in the morning or for an afternoon snack.

Blood Orange Marmalade 2

This recipe for blood orange marmalade is a combination of Alton Brown’s and Margaret Yardley Potter’s and is as easy as pie.  The initial inspiration came when cozied up last night with At Home on the Range a cookbook presented by Elizabeth Gilbert and written by her great-grandmother Margaret Yardley Potter.

At Home on the Range

I’m in love with this no-nonsense woman who is far before her time when it comes to honoring ingredients and the flavor of the food she creates.  The recipes are more of a guide and written as my grandmother wrote her recipes rather than the exacting format more popular today.  It’s how I cook and it’s a book that I’m loving spending time with.  (Buy your local copy here at Hello, Hello Books!)

Blood Orange Marmalade 1

And for the more exacting formula:

Blood Orange Marmalade
1 3/4 pound blood oranges; about 5 medium oranges
1 lemon, zested and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
10, 8-ounce canning jars with lids

Wash thoroughly and slice the oranges into very thin slivers with either a sharp knife or a mandoline removing the seeds along the way.  Quarter the slices and transfer to a large stock pot.   Add the lemon zest, juice and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook for about 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.  Stop here and refrigerate the oranges and continue the next day OR continue on with the rest of the recipe right off.

Place a small plate into the freezer.

While the oranges are cooking, prepare a large water bath with either a canning basket or a cake rack on the bottom.  Add the jars and lids to the water and make sure they are covered with at least 1 inch of water.  Cover with a lid.  Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let sit until you are ready to fill the jars.

When the oranges are soft, add the sugar and return to a full boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 222 to 223 degrees.  To make sure, place 1 teaspoon of marmalade on the plate in the freezer and wait 30 seconds.  If the marmalade still runs when you tip the plate sideways, it’s not done.

Remove the jars and lids carefully from the water bath and set upright on a towel.  Place a funnel over the jars and ladle marmalade filling the jars with 1/2-inch clearance at the top.  Wipe any remaining marmalade off the edge, cover with lid to just hand tight and return to the water bath in either the canning basket or on top of the cake rack.  Boil for 10 minutes and remove from water onto a towel.

Now comes the fun part.  Wait for each lid to pop.  This is your reward for a job well done.  (Well, and eating the goodness you just created.)

Annie
Orange you glad I shared this recipe?

French Apple Cake – I Wouldn’t Change a Thing!

Most of the time when I follow a baking recipe, I have to change something.  It might be the extract or the zest or the alcohol or the fruit that I change, but I must change something.  When I made this recipe, for some reason, I just followed like a sheep in a herd and I’m so glad I did.  It’s lovely.  It’s delicious.  With coffee, with tea, by itself.  I’m a fan.

IMG_9873-001a

French Apple Cake
Published September 1, 2012,  Cook’s Illustrated.
Serves 8 to 10

The microwaved apples should be pliable but not completely soft when cooked. To test for doneness, take one apple slice and try to bend it. If it snaps in half, it’s too firm; microwave it for an additional 30 seconds and test again. If Calvados is unavailable, 1 tablespoon of apple brandy or white rum can be substituted.
Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon Calvados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with Calvados and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.
3. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.
5. Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1¼ hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges, and serve.

Annie
This is me, not changing a thing

Chocolate Ginger Cookies for Boarding

It’s a tradition on the Riggin to have homemade cookies with coffee or tea for boarding.  These are a fun batch I made this boarding and they were perfect for a foggy, chilly evening at the dock!

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Thick & Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies
A faster way to get warm cookies in your mouth is to make the dough, wait 5 minutes for it to set a little and roll it into a log. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it. When you are ready for a few cookies, cut 1/2 inch rounds off of the log and bake for a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for.

You can also use this recipe to make bars – simply spread the dough evenly in a greased 9 x 13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes.

16 ounces semisweet chocolate (either chips or coarsely chopped)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. Set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla lightly with fork; sprinkle in the coffee powder and stir until dissolved. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the egg mixture. Add the chocolate and ginger and beat until combined. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into the mixture and beat until just combined. Do not overmix.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until it firms up to a fudge-like consistency. Line 2 cookie pans with parchment paper. Form 1-inch balls and place them 1 1/2 inches apart on the cookie pan. Bake about 10 minutes, turning the cookie pans about halfway through. Cool on racks.

Makes 2 dozen