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A Not So Proper English Crumble September 1, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Recipes.
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My friend Cathy and I made this blackberry/peach crumble with only one emergency email to England for advice.

To my mind, heaven on earth is a piece of pie for breakfast. So when I went to Suffolk, England last May for a week, I was only too happy to find a gooseberry crumble waiting on the counter with my name on it.

Americans are more familiar with fruit cobbler, or a fool, or a grunt, depending on what region of the country you live in.  I’d never even heard of a crumble, but dang it was good!  My friend Lesley showed me how to make one –  a rhubarb crumble, which is the hands down favorite in England. According to her, all school girls in England learn to make a “proper” crumble. So when they talk about passing their “A” levels, they’re talking about being able to make “A” proper crumble.

When I was back visiting my friend Cathy in Kansas City, we decided to see if we make one ourselves with some blackberries from Cathy’s garden and peaches. It was delicious and her family devoured it (with a little help from me).

A Not-So-Proper English Crumble

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The Filling
4 c. of fruit (pretty much the same as you’d use for a pie) Strawberry/rhubarb is a sure combination
1/4 to 1/2 c. sugar (rhubarb requires more – I tend to go light on the sugar)
If you’re so inclined, you can put a squirt of lemon juice in or a pinch of cinnamon.
Mix and put in an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 ceramic dish.

For the crumble:
1 cup flour
3 oz. butter straight from the fridge, the colder the better.
3 oz. sugar
pinch of salt
1  handful or  1/4 to 1/3 cup of uncooked oatmeal

To make the crumble:  Cut butter into squares and combine with flour. The key is to work quickly while the butter is cold. Work out the butter lumps using your thumb and index and middle fingers. It’s sort of a “show me the money gesture.” Keep your ring finger and pinky out of the action.

Stir the  sugar into the mix and add a scoop of oatmeal. I used half a packet of instant oatmeal with flax the other day. Lesley used muesli cereal.

Sprinkle the crumble on top of the fruit, but don’t tap it down. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. It will turn just slightly golden. It’s great served with vanilla ice cream, but I like it best the next day. There’s no day after that cause it’s all gone. Enjoy!

Summer Means Sangria July 27, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Recipes.
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sangria My first experience with sangria put me off the stuff for 20 years. My college roommates, Mary and Elisse, mixed up a batch in the bathtub of our apartment for a party. It was either one very small bathtub or one very big party. Gallons of cheap jug wine with apples bobbing and orange slices floating on top. What was that subtle aftertaste – Ajax? But my husband Richard makes killer sangria, which is what you get to drink if you come to my house. Richard’s one of those people who doesn’t need a recipe. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. He’s an alchemist in the kitchen. Since I do need a recipe, when he made sangria the other night, I made him stop and measure everything he was “throwing” into the mix. According to Richard, the exact amounts aren’t all that important “because alcohol covers up any indiscretions.”  He also said when it comes to ingredients, the cheaper the better. We tried the sangria at Gus’s Barbecue the other night, and I dare say it was just a notch above Richard’s. But my alchemist quickly figured out they’d added some Southern Comfort, though the waitress said she’s wasn’t allowed to tell what was in it. So that’s the newest addition to the recipe and it rocks. One pitcher serves 6 (at two glasses apiece). The pitcher goes fast, so you might want to have ingredients for more than one batch.
Richard’s Sangria also known as “Jan-gria!”
1  bottle red wine (cheaper the better)
2 oz. Triple Sec
2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Southern Comfort
10 oz. seltzer
2 oranges
1 apple
1/3 c. sugar
fresh mint (optional, but it’s dang good)
Directions:  In a cup, combine 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. water.  Put in microwave until sugar dissolves and forms “simple syrup.”  Add to pitcher along with the juice from 1 orange (seeds removed), brandy, Triple Sec, Southern Comfort, red wine, and seltzer. Slice 1 orange, then cut slices into quarters Slice 1 apple, cutting away midsection with seeds Add fruit, lots of ice, and a sprig of fresh mint.  Enjoy! Photo Credit:  Jan Marshall

Killer Christmas Cookies December 23, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Holidays.
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In the beginning there was butter, sugar, and an egg. And these simple ingredients begat Christmas Cookies. Or to put an evolutionary twist on it, while YOUR ancestors began life in a primordial chemical soup, MINE did their oozing in primordial cookie dough. And as soon as my people (as in, I’ll have my people call your people) were able to crawl onto land and stand upright, they began making Christmas cookies. The End (or almost).

I thought I’d post one of my recipes for Christmas cookies. The cookies in the photo were baked by a student’s mother. They were too beautiful to eat, but I ate them anyway. I took a picture of them first though, because just like Dexter, I like to keep a trophy of my “kills.”

My all-time favorite recipe for the holidays are the Pecan Puffs from Joy of Cooking. My cookbook automatically falls open to this grease-stained page. The cookies are billed as “rich and devastating.”  Say no more.

Pecan Puffs

This recipe makes about forty 1  1/2 inch balls, but since I’m one of those people who loves to eat cookie dough, I’ve taken to always making a double recipe.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Beat until soft:                      1/2  c. butter

Add and blend until creamy:                          2 T. of sugar +  1 t. vanilla

Blend in the food processor, but not TOO much                 1 cup pecans

Add                                                                           1 cup of Cake Flour

Note:  I’m usually too lazy to go out and buy Cake Flour so measure 1 cup regular flour less 2 T. (per the Joy of Cooking Substitutions page)  

Stir the pecans and the flour into the butter mixture. Roll the dough into small balls. Place the balls on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. (Don’t expect them to look brown. While they are still hot, roll them in confectioners’ sugar. Lick your fingers and you’re done!

Yes We Pecan! November 26, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Recipes.
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I love pecan pie, but these squares are just as good AND easier to make. The recipe is from Cookies – Food Writers Favorites.  I like these because they’re lighter on the corn syrup so you don’t lapse into a Karo coma.  The only time I messed this recipe up was when I didn’t grease the pan well enough and pressed the crust in too tightly.  I had to chisel the squares out, but worked off some of the calories to come. Enjoy!
Pecan Pie Squares
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour                 1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. granulated sugar                       1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten                          1 T. butter, melted
1 c. granulated sugar                           1 t. vanilla
1 c. light corn syrup                             2 c. chopped pecans
For Crust:  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and butter. Mix on medium speed of electric mixer until mixture resembles coarse meal. (This can also be done in a food processor). Press crust mixture firmly into a greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.  Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
For Filling:  In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and pecans.
Pour filling over baked crust.  Return to 350-degree oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until filling is just set.  Let cool before cutting into squares.

Pie to Die For August 9, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Recipes.
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I’ve already specified that when I die, I want my pie crust recipe read aloud at my memorial service. This will assure a standing room crowd, and if that’s what it takes, hey, I can live with that. But I can’t live without pie.

It was my love of pie that got me into trouble in the first place. My mother had baked a cherry pie for my paternal grandfather who was visiting from California with wife #3. While they were at the racetrack (my mother would die if I didn’t mention that she has never placed a bet in her entire life and it was the only time she ever went to the racetrack), I came along and saw the pie cooling on the stove. I ate a big piece. My mother called home and mentioned something about the pie. Hey, I didn’t know it was “for company.”

Panicked, I found my mom’s yellowed recipe for cherry pie. I’d seen her make it a zillion times so how hard could it be? I made the crust from scratch and even stirred the red food coloring into the can of cherries to give them that radioactive red glow, just like I’d seen my mother do. Then I ate what was left of the original pie to hide the evidence. No one was the wiser. On that day, a pie fiend was born. If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but if you teach a man to make pie…you get the idea.

In college, I stopped by to see my friend Cathy and found her chopping some exotic vegetable (or was it a fruit?) that she’d harvested from her garden. She called it rhubarb. I was still under the impression that all fruit came from cans so this was a revelation. I ate my first piece of rhubarb pie and it was love at first bite. I jilted cherry for my new favorite, strawberry-rhubarb, which I believe is proof there is heaven on earth.

I upped my game after my mom sent me a church cookbook titled “My Cup Runneth Over.” It included a sprinkling of scripture and admonitions to add a half jar of marshmallow cream here and a can of mushroom soup there. Somewhere mixed in with all those recipes that called for Jell-o and canned pineapple slices, I found what was to become MY pie crust recipe. Hallelujah!

Over the years, I’ve branched out a bit. I can now make a wicked pecan pie and a variation that involves three kinds of nuts. One year, for Christmas, my husband bought me a Mexican lime tree and I learned to make a Key Lime pie with a kick, even though it has a lowly graham cracker crust. I once happened upon my son Ian standing in the garage just as he was finishing off the last bite of an entire Key Lime pie. Obviously, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree and when it does, it’s into a waiting crust.

When my sons were growing up, Taylor liked a banana cream pie for his birthday and Ian held out for a frozen mud pie. No cake for us, thank you. Pie is in our DNA.

When we moved to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula outside Seattle, I was ecstatic when I realized the vacant lot next door was overgrown with blackberry bushes. I gave Taylor and Ian a small red tin pail with instructions to pick enough berries for a pie. How was I to know that blackberry bushes have thorns? When they returned they were covered with scratches and welts, but even worse, they hadn’t collected enough blackberries to make a pie.

I told them to follow me and I’d show them how it was done. The vacant lot hadn’t been graded and the bushes and grass hid this fact. When I leaned over to reach a plump blackberry, I felt my foot slowly sliding down into what seemed to be a bottomless pit. It kept going and going. It was the only time in my life I’ve ever done the splits. And there I sat, unable to get up but unwilling to set down the tin pail holding the precious berries. The boys ran to get their dad who, trying not to laugh, extricated me from this indelicate pose. I then drove to the supermarket and paid $4 for a small box of blackberries and considered it a steal.

So, I make pie to die for, but not literally. Since I haven’t set the date for my memorial service and you probably already have something planned, I thought I’d share MY pie crust recipe with you along with instructions on how to make one incredible strawberry/rhubarb pie. I’ll even throw in the calories for free! Enjoy!

Perfect Pie Crust

Note;  Makes about 4 single crusts/that’s 2 pies if you don’t eat any dough! ( I have cut this recipe in half and given my dogs half the egg to make their coats shiny.)

Ingredients:  3 cups flour, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 cups Crisco, 1 egg (beaten), 5 T. COLD water (put ice cubes in a bowl of water), 1 T. vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar.

Sift four and salt; cut in Crisco with a fork until fine.  Make a “well” in flour mixture; add rest of ingredients. Stir until well blended.  Form dough into balls.  Roll it out between sheets of floured wax paper.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Ingredients:  2 cups of strawberries, halved, 2 cups of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (2-3 stalks), 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1 T. grated/chopped orange rind,

1-2 Tbs. butter, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

In a large bowl, put all ingredients in first paragraph and stir gently until blended.  Turn the fruit into the pie shell.  Dot with the butter then add a lattice top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 10 minutes .  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Best served warm with vanilla ice cream.  This pie tastes just as good the next day.

Photo credit:  Pie in the Sky by Kentee on flickr.