Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pear-Raspberry Heart Pies: Sweets for your Sweet

So, every once in a while, I completely loose my mind and decide to make a Martha Stewart recipe, despite the fact that I do have plans at some point during the next week. This very thing happened the night Mike was getting back from Ecuador, and which just so happened to be the Wednesday after Valentines Day. For whatever reason, I decided that I was not only going to spend all day running errands in Manhattan, something that usually exhausts me to the point of collapse, but I was also going to spend the evening making pesto, kimchi pancakes, and heart-shaped pies. Obviously, something had short-circuited in my brain.

Further, it's worth noting that these were not a regular old Martha Stewart Everyday Food deal. Oh no. These are from Martha Stewart Living (for which I got a free subscription from my JetBlue miles. What?). The "Living" in MSL means that in order to make anything from the magazine you must commit your life to making your own flower pots, infusing your own tea, and making pies in shapes other than "round"; i.e. you do not have a job. Luckily for me, I do not have a job. Well, one that pays me, anyway.

To make these pies I toiled away for five hours pain-stakingly rolling dough I cut by hand, tenderizing each individual raspberry with a gentle squeeze, and carefully positioning each granule of finishing sugar. Okay, okay. I'm bluffing. These were not all that hard to make; they're just time-consuming because you have to fridge the dough a couple of different times.

In addition to being relatively easy, these pies could also work with any larger-sized cookie cutter you have, so don't worry if you don't feel like getting all mushy and nummy with your snookums. As you can see, I also made an owl, which came out just as well and will not cause you to say something with pie you're not ready to say with your words. Or something.

As a testament to their deliciousness, I didn't get to eat even one of these! So, apparently, they are good. The recipe is pretty straight-forward, though I might make a bit more of the filling next time, just to make them extra plump and lovely.

Pear-Raspberry Heart Pies
From Martha Stewart Living, February 2010
Makes 10 (or 9 and 1 owl)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
2 firm, ripe pears (1 pound), such as Anjou or Bartlett, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup fresh raspberries, coarsely chopped
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
sanding sugar, for sprinkling


1. Make the pastry: Pulse flour, salt, and granulated sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 5 seconds.
2. Evenly drizzle ice water over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together, about 10 seconds. Turn out dough onto plastic wrap, and wrap. Shape into a disk. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
3. Make the filling: Toss pears with lemon juice. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, and toss to coat. Cook, adding granulated sugar a little at a time, until pears begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in raspberries.
4. Divide dough in half, and roll out each piece to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain pear-raspberry filling in a sieve. Cut out 20 hearts from dough using a 4-inch cutter (I found mine at Sur La Table), transferring them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly brush rims of half the hearts with egg wash, and top each with 4 heaping teaspoons filling. Top with remaining hearts, and gently press around sides to seal.
6. Brush pie tops with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kimchi Pancakes: A Qualified Success

I grew up in a house with a considerable taste for all things pickled and salty. We always had a jar of spicy pepperoncini in the fridge, and on holidays Mum's family, especially, always had an elaborate spread of pickled watermelon rinds, olives, cornichons, etc. So I guess it's no wonder that I took to kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) like white on paper. The first few times I had it, I ate it plain along with dinner at Korean restaurants. My love grew when, about a year ago, I made the Amateur Gourmet's fabulous Kimchi Fried Rice on one especially monetarily desperate evening.

Recently, at the Greenpoint Food Market, I had the good fortune to try Kimchi Pancakes from Bing Means Pancakes. These were very similar to scallion pancakes--light and chewy pancakes with a delightful crunch from the handmade kimchi. Afterward, I couldn't stop thinking about them, and, on my next visit, I was sorely disappointed that Bing had either packed up early or had not come at all. My craving was in high gear and getting desperate, so, as you can imagine, I was excited to see this blog feature a NYTimes recipe for them.

I was a little put off by the inclusion of potato starch in the ingredient list. What was it? Would I have to trek all over hell and creation to find it? Would I ever use it again? Or would it sit on my shelf for years, only to be picked up during cabinet clean-outs, accompanied by the question: "What in God's Name did I buy this for?" Well, I don't know if it was luck, or if Polish people use a lot of potato starch, but, just as I was giving up on finding it, and was even looking up a different recipe on my phone, I took one last look at the baking shelf--and there it was. Eye Level. Srsly. Right in front of me, in very nifty packaging that should have caught my eye right away.

I can't tell if this is sincerely retro or faux retro, but I don't care. Love. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, potato starch smells like potatoes but looks like cornstrach. And no, I don't have any idea what else to do with it.

Ultimately, this recipe was a little weird. Once I had all the ingredients mixed together, except for the kimchi, I had a very, very dry looking batter. I was really concerned that I was about to have a giant fail. But, almost magically adding the kimchi and its juices made the batter just as goopy as I wanted it to be. Bizarre.

My pancakes, while yummy and craving-dampening, did not come out as uniform as the blogger's, nor were they even close to the heaven of the GFM ones. The level of satisfaction I gained from them would, normally, encourage me to add them to my "oh shit it's 9pm on a Sunday and only the bodega is open" dinner arsenal. However, though my corner store has very good kimchi, I feel like expecting them to carry potato starch is a little far-fetched. So, I probably won't be making these again. The search for a good kimchi pancake recipe continues....

Here is the NYTimes recipe, if you're interested:


1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon minced scallion

1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds


1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 egg

2 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, sliced thinly

1 1/2 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder or 1/2 tablespoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup prepared cabbage kimchi, cut in 3-inch-long pieces

2 tablespoons kimchi juice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil.

1. Make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, scallion, sesame seeds and one-half tablespoon water. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, potato starch and egg until smooth. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper powder, salt, kimchi and its juice. Mix well. Batter will be pale pink.

3. Place an 8- or 9-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. When oil is hot, pour in one-third of the pancake batter. Fry until golden and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Lift pancake with a spatula, add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and swirl it. Flip pancake and fry other side until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip again, without adding oil, and fry for 1 minute. Flip one more time and fry 1 to 2 minutes. Pancake should be dark gold.

4. Repeat with remaining batter and oil, making 3 pancakes. Remove to a large round plate and cut each pancake into 6 wedges. Serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: 3 pancakes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

My friend Molly hosted a dinner party on Tuesday for a couple of us ladies. In between chatting about NPR, knitting clubs and health care, we managed to eat a fantastic meal. Molly made Mark Bittman's recently posted Scallop Gumbo. This is a "lighter" gumbo than the traditional ones (usually containing sausages and either shrimp or chicken), and still manages to be rich and satisfying due to a well-developed roux. Instead of using the recommended larger sea scallops, Molly used smaller bay scallops which worked perfectly and required no slicing.

Fun Fact: the scallop is the State Shell of New York. No bull!

Doesn't Molly's table look gorgeous?

For my contribution, I made the aforementioned biscuits (a word I ALWAYS spell "buiscuts") from this month's Bon Appetit. These guys are monsters--the magazine suggests making ham sandwiches from them--but, of course, their decadence is part of their appeal.

I don't have a baking tray big enough to accommodate all that dough at once, so I baked them on two sheets, one on the lower rack and one above, and rotated them half-way through baking. I'd also recommend keep a close watch on them: mine took way less than 18 minutes (more like 12). And, most importantly, make sure to fry up an extra piece of bacon for the inevitable kitchen gnome who always seems to make off with (at least) one slice every time.

As a bonus, the leftovers (if there are any) make a killer egg sandwich, somewhat reminiscent of this one that's been going around the internets--except that I couldn't poach an egg to save my life.

I pretty much stuck to the recipe this time, but I imagine that other combinations of cheese/herb/cured ham would work beautifully. My only change was not using bread flour because I didn't feel like hauling it from the store.

Cheddar, Bacon and Fresh Chive Biscuits
Bon Appetit February 2010, adapted slightly due to laziness

6 thick-cut bacon slices
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus melted butter for brushing
2 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk

Position rack just above center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then chop coarsely.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter cubes. Blend until coarse meal forms, about 30 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Add cheddar cheese, fresh chives, and chopped bacon; toss to blend. Gradually add buttermilk, stirring to moisten evenly (batter will feel sticky), adding more buttermilk if needed.

Using lightly floured hands, drop generous 1/2 cup batter for each biscuit onto prepared baking sheet, spacing batter mounds about 2 inches apart.

Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Brush biscuits lightly with melted butter. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve biscuits warm or at room temperature with honey, if desired.