Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blueberry Pie

Pie is one of the simplest and most delicious things I can think of, unfortunately it can be frustrating as well. So many things can go wrong with a pie. The dough could be too wet and stick to the counter as you roll it out, or too dry and crumble as you try to place it in the pan. If the filling is too wet it will fall out of the pie as you try to serve it. There are just so many things you have to worry about when making a pie, but I've found a method that works for me. I think the key to making a good pie is just taking it slowly and having patience, something which can be trying but is extremely important. Other than patience, there is a general formula for the filling, and the pie dough becomes easier with practice.
To begin, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and shortening in a large bowl. Keep mixing until the ingredients look crumbly.
Next cut in the butter until some is almost completely combined and the rest is the size of peas.
Add just enough water to moisten the dough, but not enough to make it too sticky. It should hold its shape when squeezed.
In a separate bowl combine blueberries (thawed, if using frozen berries), sugar, and flour. 
Roll out enough dough for one crust and place in pie pan. Poke several light holes in the dough with a fork.
Pour blueberry mixture into prepared bottom crust. Dot the top with two tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with water so the top will stick.

Roll out the dough for the top crust. Place on top of the pie and cut off the excess dough. Fold the edge under and crimp. Brush the top with milk or half and half, then sprinkle with sugar.
Cut 4 to 8 holes in the top crust to vent steam as the pie cooks. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet (preheated, if using a metal pie tin) and place on the bottom rack in the oven, preheated to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown, the filling is bubbling, and the bottom crust is cooked.

Blueberry Pie

For the crust:
1/2 recipe "Flaky Pie Dough"

For the filling:
5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Milk or half and half
sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 400 degrees, along with a foil lined baking sheet.

Roll out the bottom crust, place in pie pan, and dock with fork. Combine filling ingredients and pour into prepared bottom crust. Dot the top with butter and brush the sides with water. Roll out top crust and place it on the pie; cut off excess dough. Crimp edges and brush the top of the pie with milk or half and half, then sprinkle with sugar. Cut several holes to vent the steam and place pie on preheated foil lined baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 40 to 50 more minutes. The pie should be golden brown on top, the filling should be bubbling, and the bottom crust shouldn't be soggy or limp. Serve with vanilla ice cream, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Asiago Cheese Bagels

I have to admit, one of my favorite places on Earth is Panera Bread. Everything there is delicious, especially the bagels. A little while ago I set out to recreate their Asiago Cheese Bagels, which I cannot get enough of. I've made them twice and I have noticed a difference between the ingredients and the final products. When made with a block of hand grated Asiago, the bagels were full of cheese lined nooks and crannies. The tops were bubbly and the bottoms crisp and buttery. On the other hand, the bagels made with pre-shredded Asiago cheese were full of the cheese flavor, but had a lackluster texture when compared with the first batch. The already small pieces of cheese did not stand up to the kneading and were broken up a little too much. I highly recommend buying a block of Asiago cheese and grating it yourself to attain the perfect Asiago Cheese Bagel. Be careful, once you make these it may ruin the Panera bagels for you.

Asiago Cheese Bagels

Adapted from Baking with Julia

Makes 8 to 10 bagels.

For the dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 packet
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water 80 to 90 degrees F)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups (approximately) bread flour
2/3 cup (5.3 oz) freshly grated Asiago cheese (Grated on the largest holes of a box grater, pre-grated/pre-shredded is not recommended)

For the water bath:
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the topping:
1 egg white mixed with
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup (4 oz) to 2/3 cup (5.3 oz) freshly grated Asiago cheese

Whisk yeast into 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar and let rest until creamy and foamy.
While waiting for the yeast, mix together the remaining water and shortening so it can soften. Add yeast mixture, sugar, and salt.
Stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stopping when the dough is soft, sticky, and very hard to stir.  Turn dough out onto a floured board and gently make an indentation in the top (be sure not to make a hole, just a sort of dough bowl) fill the indentation with the grated cheese and close up the hole around it. Knead for 5 to 6 minutes until smooth and springy.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for an hour, or until doubled in size.
After the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate and cover again with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight, if more convenient.
When ready to bake the bagels,  preheat oven to 500 degrees F, cover cookie sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place a shallow roasting pan on the oven floor to preheat as well, this will be used to create steam while the bagels bake. Set a stockpot or dutch oven 1/2 filled with water on the stove to boil. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add sugar and baking soda.
In the meantime, divide the dough in half and return one half to the fridge. Divide the remaining half into 4 or 5 pieces, depending on how large you want the bagels to be. Working with one piece at a time, pull up the dough from the bottom to the top and tucking it in to form a tight round ball. Poke a hole in the middle of the dough ball, right from top to bottom, and gently stretch the dough until the hole has a 2 inch diameter. Let rest 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon or spatula lower the bagels into the boiling water. Do not crowd the bagels, two or three at a time is fine. Boil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side then remove to prepared cookie sheets. Brush top and sides with egg and water mixture and sprinkle a tablespoon of  Asiago cheese on top of each.
Put 1/2 cup of ice water into a measuring cup. Put bagels into the oven on the bottom rack and toss the ice water into the roasting pan. Immediately close oven door and do not open for at least 5 minutes. Turn temperature down to 450 degrees and bake for 20 to 27 minutes. While this batch is baking, shape, rest, boil, glaze, and top the remaining bagels as you did with the first batch. The bagels should be golden brown and the cheese should be sizzling. After removing the finished bagels from the oven, return oven temperature to 500 degrees.  Bake the remaining bagels as before, adding new ice water to the roasting pan.
These bagels can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer. I think they are best sliced and toasted with plain cream cheese on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cherry Turnovers

What is it that makes cherries taste so good? Is it the tartness? The sweetness? I think it must be a combination of the two. Cherry desserts are a favorite in my house, so making cherry turnovers was a no-brainer. It was also an accident, as there were not enough cherries left to make a whole pie. Cherry turnovers are like easy little individual pies that take half as much time in the oven. They freeze remarkably well, so it's a simple dessert to have on hand in an emergency. Or whenever you'd like to have a turnover.

All of the turnover recipes that I found called for a puff pastry crust, but I didn't have any on hand. I used pie crust  and it worked perfectly well, so I don't plan on ever bothering with puff pastry for turnovers again. Here's the recipe:

Cherry Turnovers
Makes 8 individual turnovers.

For the crust:
1/2 "Flaky Pie Dough" recipe, keep the other half in the freezer for another recipe

For the filling:
2 cups frozen sour cherries (make sure the ingredients are only cherries, no sugar added)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar depending on how tart the cherries are
4 tablespoons water mixed with
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the glue and topping:
1 egg beaten with
1 tablespoon of water

Sugar for sprinkling


In a small saucepan cook the cherries and sugar over medium heat until just simmering. Add cornstarch and water mixture while stirring constantly. Cook 8 to 10 minutes until thickened. Taste filling to make sure the sugar level is where you want it, then remove from stove to cool.
Roll out the pie dough into a 16x8 inch rectangle. Then using a pizza cutter or knife cut the dough into eight 4x4 inch squares.
Place two tablespoons of cherry filling on the middle of each square and brush egg wash on two adjoining sides. Fold the corner with no egg wash over the filling and onto the opposite corner, creating a triangle. Crimp the edges with a fork, and remove the turnovers to a foil and cooking spray lined cookie sheet. Place in the freezer to firm up for at least an hour or up to 3 months. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F, brush the tops with egg wash or half and half and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the turnovers look golden brown and the pie dough is cooked on the top and bottom.
Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An introduction and some pie crust

There are times in one's life when it is better to leave well enough alone, in a way this is one of them. I'm currently a high school student dreaming about attending the Culinary Institute of America, but far from able to realize that dream. Until I am, it is best for me to keep baking as a hobby, which is not a bad compromise all in all. So, I hereby Christen this blog my in-between bakery, Petite Adventures in Baking. I hope you enjoy the adventure too!

One of my favorite baking books is Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. It has everything from cakes and breads to brownies and pies. It is arranged in the most logical way, the first recipe being a pie crust. This recipe is one of my two favorite pie crust recipes, and when prepared carefully it never fails. After many tests, I've found that the most dependable way to prepare the dough is by hand with a pastry blender. Sure, a food processor makes quick work of the task, but I find that it does not offer the same degree of control. As the name suggests, the butter in this pie dough creates an incredibly flaky crust, but the shortening makes it tender and literally melt-in-your-mouth texture. Ms. Greenspan, could we please be friends? Without further ado, here is the magical recipe.

Flaky Pie Dough

Adapted from Baking with Julia

Makes enough dough for two double crust pies or 16 turnovers

5 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt*
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter*, chilled and diced
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup cold water

* I usually use salted butter and decrease amount of salt to a teaspoon or so.

Ina large, wide bowl combine flour, sugar, and salt. Stir with a fork until sugar and salt are evenly distributed. Add shortening in chunks while mixing with a pastry blender. Then all of the shortening has been added, the dough should have a crumbly consistency. Add the butter in the same way, but stop mixing when the butter chunks are the size of peas. Stir in some water with a wooden spoon until the dough sticks together when squeezed, but is not too wet. Cut in half (or quarters, depending on intended use) and chill. The dough keeps well in the freezer, but remember to thaw in the fridge overnight before you plan to use it.