Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Meatball Calzones


I've said it before, and I will say it again, the No-Knead Pizza Dough recipe from My Pizza by bread baking extraordinaire Jim Lahey is the best and easiest pizza dough recipe, and the only pizza dough I will make. It requires minimal effort, and has the best texture and flavor, the result of a long, slow rise.

It's obviously great for pizzas, but I've also used it for stromboli and calzones. These meatball calzones are my favorite to make. I usually have a stash of homemade turkey meatballs in my freezer, which are great for dinner emergencies.

This recipe is simple enough to make on a weeknight, because the dough will be prepared ahead of time. Either mix the dough (no kneading required, obviously) and let it rise for about 18 hours, then divide, shape and bake, or you can shape the dough into balls up to a few days ahead of time and refrigerate. Then assembly is a cinch.

I like to make a bed of provolone cheese on the bottom before topping with the meatballs and sauce. This creates a gooey, cheesy barrier and prevents the sauce from making the bottom of the dough soggy (this can be a somewhat wet and sticky dough, so always err on the side of excessive flour on your board if you are noticing it's difficult to work with).

Ready to bake!

And speaking of dough, did I mention how much I LOVE this pizza dough? The texture and flavor is out of this world! Crispy and chewy with a more mature flavor due to the long rise. I can't say enough about this pizza dough. Just trust me on this.

These meatballs calzones kick the butt of any spaghetti and meatballs, or even meatball sandwiches in my book. They are easy and straight-forward to make, and the texture really can't be beat! I've been making these calzones for years, without ever measuring the ingredients, and finally decided to write down my technique so y'all can share in the joy of these marvelous calzones.

I know the recipe looks simple, but that's why it's so good, and the icing on the proverbial cake is the exceptional(ly easy) pizza dough. Enjoy!

Meatball Calzones
Makes 4 calzones

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe No-Knead Pizza Dough, shaped into 4 balls
All purpose flour, for dusting
4 slices provolone cheese, halved
12 meatballs (golf ball-size, not jumbo), preferably homemade, sliced 1/4-inch thick (I used homemade turkey meatballs I had previously made and frozen)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

In a small bowl (or right in the measuring cup), combine the crushed tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Take one ball of the dough and generously flour it, your hands, and the work surface. Them press it down and gently stretch it out. Supporting the disk with your knuckles toward the outer edge and lifting it about the work surface, keep stretching the dough by rotating it with your knuckles, gently pulling it wider and wider until the disk reaches 8 inches. Alternatively, stretch the dough on the work surface by massaging it into a roundish disk about 10 to 12 inches, but don't handle it more than necessary. This dough can be on the sticky side, so be generous with your flour as needed.

Place 2 provolone cheese slice halves overlapping on one half of the dough, leaving approximately a 1/2-inch border along the edge. Top with 3 sliced meatballs, 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce, and 1/2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Fold over the naked half of the dough to enclose it like a book. Pinch and pleat the edges to seal. Use a large spatula to gently set the half-moon shaped calzone onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the 3 remaining balls of dough, and the remaining filling ingredients.

Brush olive oil over the top of each calzone, and cut a couple of small slits on top to vent. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden. You can also broil the calzones for a couple additional minutes after baking to get an extra golden crust. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving, as the filling will be very hot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Pinci (or Pici)


I love handling dough, whether it's while baking fresh bread, shaping Asian dumplings, pleating pie crust, or rolling fresh pasta or gnocchi. There's something truly therapeutic about kneading, rolling, and/or shaping dough. Making gnocchi or other hand-shaped pasta is a unique experience, because believe it or not there are so many different kinds depending on the region or even village in Italy. It's interesting to see how different these little dumplings are based on geographic location.

Tuscany, for example, is where pinci or pici derives from. These long, thick, rustic noodles are approximately the thickness of a pencil, and have a fantastic chewy texture from the combination of semolina and all-purpose flours.

The dough is rolled out flat, and then cut into strips before rolling each to yield long, imperfect strands. Whether you call then pinci or pici, these are a cross between dumplings and noodles, and they are certainly delicious!

Traditionally served with tomato sauce or meat ragu (the type of meat varies), pinci are fun to make and even more fun to eat. I made a decadent tomato sauce emulsified with butter, and infused with onion, garlic, and a bit of rosemary. the sauce is velvety smooth, and cloaks the noodles beautifully. Both the pinci and sauce freeze well for nearly-last-minute weeknight meals.

Serves 6
(From Pasta by Hand)

255 g/1 1/2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting
255 g/1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
255 g/1 cup + 1 tablespoon warm water, plus more as needed
Tomato sauce (recipe follows)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, and salt at medium speed. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon or mix on medium speed until a cohesive but not sticky dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, and knead with your hands or on medium speed until the dough is smooth and soft without being sticky or dry, about 8 minutes more. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour. With a rolling pin, roll the dough on an unfloured work surface into a flat sheet ¹⁄8 in (4 mm) thick, and then cut into ¹⁄8-in- (4-mm-) wide strips. With your hands, roll one strip back and forth on the work surface into a fat spaghetti-like strand. Put the pinci on the prepared baking sheets and shape the remaining dough. Make sure that the pinci don’t touch or they will stick together. (To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days, or freeze on the baking sheets and transfer to an airtight container. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.)

Bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the pinci and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Simmer until slightly al dente, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove immediately with tongs and finish with your choice of sauce. Serve right away.

Tomato Sauce
Makes 3 cups
(From Pasta by Hand)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, halved
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups (1.2 kg) canned whole peeled tomatoes, pureed and strained (I used an equivalent combination of ground peeled tomatoes and tomato sauce)
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for serving (I omitted the extra for serving)
Kosher salt

In a medium pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, rosemary, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. If the onion begins to brown, lower the heat. Add the tomatoes and butter and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thick and soft but not pasty, about 45 minutes. The butter should emulsify into the sauce. Season with salt. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the sauce into the strainer. Discard the solids in the strainer. (To store, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or until fully thawed.)

To finish pinci or gnocchi with sauce, for each serving, warm about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the tomato sauce in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbsp butter per serving, depending on how naughty you feel, and gently simmer until the bubbles get large and the sauce is not watery along the edges of the pan. The sauce should be thick and silky, not dry or pasty. Add the cooked pinci or gnocchi and simmer for 1 minute to let them absorb the flavor of the sauce. Spoon into serving bowls and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve right away.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Wild Mushroom Frittata with Cheddar, Green Onions, and Peas


Breakfast for dinner, anyone? Or just plain breakfast? A frittata is one of the easiest ways to prepare eggs. It's almost like a giant baked omelet, or a less rich crustless quiche (quiche usually contains tons of cream and/or milk, while a frittata does not).

This particular recipe is meatless, and yet still packed with plenty of protein from the eggs and cheese. The wild mushrooms provide a meaty flavor without the meat, and the diced potatoes fill in the blanks, along with vibrant green peas, and mild scallions.

A weeknight meal through and through, this frittata uses a single pan, so less cleanup. Although it is designed to serve 2, it could easily serve 4 people, especially if you pair it with a side salad or cup of soup.

Wild Mushroom Frittata with Cheddar, Green Onions, and Peas
Serves 2 (could easily serve 4 if paired with a side salad or cup of soup)
(From One Pan, Two Plates)

6 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-in/6-mm dice
4 green onions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
10 ounces/280 g mixed wild mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, and oyster, brushed clean and sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup/70 g frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup/55 g shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the broiler with the rack in the second position from the top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/2 tsp salt, a few grinds of pepper, the nutmeg, and cayenne.

In a 12-in/30.5-cm ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter is melted and hot, add the potatoes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes, stirring every now and then, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and another sprinkle of salt and pepper and continue to cook and stir until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are dry, about 4 minutes. Add the peas and cook until all of the veggies are tender and the peas are warmed through, another minute or two. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spread the filling evenly over the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Pour the eggs evenly over the vegetables in the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes, then remove the lid and transfer the pan to the broiler. Broil the frittata until the top is lightly browned and the eggs have firmed up in the center, about 4 minutes. To test, press the center of the frittata lightly with your finger. If it feels firm, it's done.

Remove the frittata from the oven and let it rest for 3 minutes on a wire rack on the countertop to continue to firm up before cutting it into wedges. It will be puffy when it comes out of the oven but will deflate and become firmer as it cools. Serve the frittata hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Don Gondola Grilled Cheese with Celery Puree Soup


This meal came together through necessity. I had tomatoes that were starting to over-ripen, and celery beginning to age in the refrigerator. The result was a delicious grilled cheese and soup pairing.

Although one doesn't really NEED a recipe for grilled cheese, I absolutely love the Grilled Cheese Kitchen cookbook, and have used it frequently since I got it. Even though I've shared a few recipes, I highly encourage any grilled cheese lovers to purchase the book, as it contains many fantastic grilled cheese recipes, along with soups, and macaroni and cheeses.

This particular grilled cheese has a bit of Italian flair between the pesto, provolone cheese, and salami. Add some thinly sliced tomatoes, slather garlic-infused butter over slices of Italian bread, and it's the perfect grilled cheese when you want some added protein. I personally love salami, and used a traditional Genoa salami in my sandwich, but you could use another variety. I also made a basic and more traditional pesto than the basil-lavender pesto mentioned in the recipe.

I halved the soup recipe, but included the original quantities below. I had a box of beef broth open in the fridge, so I used that and topped off with a bit of water to make up the difference. I omitted the cream for a slightly lighter result. The soup reminded me a bit of vichyssoise or French potato-leek soup, but with celery instead of leeks. The onion and garlic made up for the lack of leeks. I recommend using a vegetable peeler to peel the celery prior to chopping. It will remove the fibers and yield a smoother soup.

Although tomato soup is a more common pairing for grilled cheese, I thought this soup was delicious and worked well with the sandwich. It definitely has a nice potato base, and since celery has a pretty neutral flavor, it doesn't really punch you in the face. You can definitely include the cream for added richness, but I left it out, and still enjoyed the soup very much.

Don Gondola Grilled Cheese
Serves 1
(From Grilled Cheese Kitchen)

1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 slices Italian loaf
1 teaspoon Basil-Lavender Pesto (regular pesto is fine too)
2 slices provolone cheese (young, plain provolone, not aged or smoked)
2 ounces [55 g] thinly sliced salami (we like salume finocchiona, a Tuscan salami made with fennel)
2 or 3 slices small ripe plum tomato (about 1/4 in [6 mm] thick)

Heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter and garlic powder until well blended. Spread the garlic butter on one side of each bread slice, dividing it evenly. Place one slice, buttered-side down, on a clean cutting board. Spread with the pesto. Layer one slice of the provolone, the salami, tomato slices, and then the second slice of provolone on top. Finish with the second slice of bread, buttered-side up.

Using a wide spatula, place the sandwich in the pan, cover, and cook until the bottom is nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is browned and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes longer. Cut the sandwich in half, if desired, and serve immediately.

Celery Puree Soup
Serves 6 as a side dish
(From Grilled Cheese Kitchen)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium head celery, leafy tops and tough base removed, stalks coarsely chopped (I recommend using a vegetable peeler to remove the celery fibers prior to chopping--it will yield a smoother soup with less effort than straining)
1/2 pound [230 g] Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup [120 ml] dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups [960 ml] chicken stock (I used beef broth and a bit of water)
1/3 cup [80 ml] heavy cream (I omitted this)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small soup pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, potatoes, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and are translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and thyme to the vegetables, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often, until the wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover, and bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup into a smooth purée in the pot. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, purée the soup in a blender, working in batches on low speed. Remove the plug from the lid, cover the lid with a clean towel, and hold down the lid while blending, or the hot soup will blow the lid off and make a mess in the kitchen.) Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Manti Dumplings


It's no question that my favorite food in the entire world is my beloved grandmother's manti. They are truly a labor of love to make, and the whole family usually gets involved assembly line style to make for efficient work. Our family recipe for manti is perhaps my favorite recipe on the blog, not only because it's my favorite dish, but because it's the recipe that has garnered the most positive feedback from fellow Armenians, both through blog comments and emails, letting me know how this recipe has connected readers back with their own memories of making and eating manti, and yet others who have tried the recipe and found it tasted exactly of their own youthful memories. I have also brought our manti into the kitchen at Union Square Cafe in New York City, which was my privilege.

But like I said, it's very time consuming to make. I started brainstorming ideas of ways to bring the flavors of manti onto my plate with a bit less of the effort (and no, I'm not going to use wonton skins like some Armenians do instead of rolling out their own dough). I came up with a couple of ideas, one of which I will share today, and another I still plan on testing out in the near future.

Enter my new and original Manti Dumplings, a redundant title as manti in their original form are decidedly dumplings. Yet I'm taking the flavor profile and meshing it with a traditional Asian-style dumpling as its doughy vehicle for consumption.

The filling is identical to that of my grandmother's manti, but with the addition of chicken broth to loosen up the ground beef and make for a juicier result. Chicken broth plays an important role in our manti. Typically, manti is baked in the oven and then drowned in chicken broth before it finishes baking. It then absorbs some of the broth, yielding a crunchy/chewy/soft texture, while also yielding a bit of a brothy base for serving. This is also why I elected to pan-fry these dumplings with chicken broth instead of the water that is normally used when cooking Asian dumplings with this method.

The dipping sauce is obviously the same sauce we use to top our manti, a mixture of yogurt and garlic. A final sprinkling of sumac atop the dipping sauce, and we have a true flavor replica of our original recipe. The only difference is the dumplings are larger, and the texture is a bit different, more chewy than our muse.

If you love manti, if you love dumplings, or if you simply love delicious food, please try this recipe! I'm so excited to share it with all of you, as it's one of my favorite inventions, a real twist on the original while still capturing everything I have always loved about this family favorite. Even though it's still time consuming to roll out your own dumpling wrappers, it really makes all the difference, and it's still faster than making traditional manti by hand. Trust me.

Manti Dumplings
Makes 32 dumplings, serving 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a snack or starter
(Dough and assembly from Asian Dumplings)

8 ounces ground beef
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 tablespoons minced onion or shallot
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
About 3/4 cup just-boiled water (boil water, then let it sit for a minute off the heat before measuring)

Yogurt-Garlic Dipping Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 large clove garlic, minced or crushed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water (or as needed for proper consistency)
Big pinch kosher salt
Ground sumac

Canola or peanut oil, if pan-frying
About 1 cup chicken broth

To make the filling, mix the beef, chicken broth, onion, parsley, and seasonings in a medium bowl until well-combined. The filling can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.

To make the dough, place a large mixing bowl over a damp paper towel on your work surface, to keep in place while mixing. Add the flour and make a well. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour while you add the water in a steady stream. Mix together until you have a lot of lumpy bits, then knead the hot dough in the bowl until the dough comes together. Add water by the teaspoon if the dough does not come together.

Continue kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface (only flour if necessary, and do so sparingly) for a couple more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (my mixing bowl was very large so I finished kneading directly in the bowl and it was just fine). The dough should bounce back when pressed with your finger, but leave a light impression of your finger. Place dough in a zip-top bag, seal tightly, pressing out excess air, and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the bag and soften. After resting, the dough can be used right away, or refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before using.

To make the dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients except for the sumac in a small mixing bowl. Adjust the amount of water as needed to achieve desired texture (some yogurts are thicker or thinner than others). The sauce can be prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated.

To assemble the dumplings, remove the dough from the bag, turning the bag inside out if the dough is sticky. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut it in quarters. Put three-quarters back in the bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it closed to prevent drying.

Roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick log and cut into 8 pieces (cut in half, then cut each half in half, and so on to create pieces that are even in size. The tapered end pieces should be cut slightly larger). If your pieces are oval, stand them on one of the cut ends and gently squeeze with your fingers to make them round, like a scallop. Take each piece of dough and press each cut end in flour, lightly pressing the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

Next, flatten each dough disk into a thin circle, about 1/8 inch thick, either with a tortilla press (lined with plastic wrap), or with a heavy flat-bottomed object like a frying pan (also lined with plastic). Alternatively, use a dowel (which is a good lightweight rolling pin alternative for fast and flexible dumpling making) to lightly roll out each disc into an 1/8 inch thick circle.

To finish the wrappers, place wrappers one at a time on your work surface, and flour only if sticky. Imagine a quarter-size circle in the center of the dough. This is what the Chinese call the "belly" of the wrapper. You want to create a wrapper that is larger than its current size, but still retaining a thick "belly" in the center. This ensures an even distribution of dough when the dumpling is sealed. Use the rolling pin to apply pressure to the outer 1/2-to-3/4-inch border of the wrapper. Roll the rolling pin in short downward strokes with one hand while the other hand turns the wrapper in the opposite direction. Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. When a batch of wrappers is formed, fill them before making wrappers out of the other portions of dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if planning to refrigerate dumplings for several hours, also dust with flour to prevent sticking).  Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand and scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a flat mound and keeping a 1/2-to-3/4-inch border on all sides.

To make "pea pod" shapes, fold the edge of the wrapper closest to you to meet the top edge and pinch together to seal well. Place on your work surface and press gently to steady the dumpling and make it sit flat. Fold the sealed edges of the dumpling to make a series of pleats from one end to the other.

Place finished dumplings on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and dough, spacing out dumplings about 1/2 inch apart. Keep the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel.

When all the dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours and can be cooked straight from the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze them on their baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and frozen for up to 1 month. To cook after freezing, partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.

To pan-fry the dumplings, use a medium or large nonstick skillet (or cook two batches at the same time using two pans). Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil for a medium skillet and 2 tablespoons for a large one. Place the dumplings 1 at a time, sealed edges up, in a winding circle pattern. The dumplings can touch. Medium skillets will generally fit 12 to 14 dumplings, large skillets will fit 16 to 18 dumplings. Fry the dumplings for 1 to 2 minutes until they are golden or light brown on the bottom.

Holding the lid close to the skillet to lessen splatter, use a measuring cup to add chicken broth to a depth of roughly 1/4 inch (this will vary depending on the size of the pan, but I used about 1/2 cup water to cook half the dumplings in a large skillet). The broth will immediately sputter and boil vigorously, Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, lower the heat to medium, and let it bubble away for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is mostly gone. When you hear sizzling noises, remove the lid as most of the broth is now gone. Let the dumplings fry for another 1 or 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and crisp. Turn off the heat and wait until the sizzling stops before using a spatula to transfer dumplings to a serving plate. Display them with their bottoms facing up so they remain crisp.

Serve dumplings with the yogurt-garlic dipping sauce in individual dipping sauce dishes, and sprinkle the top of each serving of sauce with sumac before dipping.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cherry Bakewell Birthday Cake for Harry Potter


In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia put Dudley on a strict diet. Harry informs his friends of the severe diet imposed on the whole family, and his friends in turn send him a variety of birthday cakes.

There are quite a few cakes featured in the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, which showcases cakes that Harry may have received from his comrades. The one that my friend Camille decided to make to celebrate Harry Potter's birthday last week was the Cherry Bakewell Cake from Hermione.

This Cherry Bakewell Cake imitates the flavors of the famous Bakewell Tart. It's an almond cake with cherry preserves filling, and a decadent butter frosting on top. This is definitely more of a European style cake, less fluffy than an American counterpart. The cake layers are relatively dense with a firm crumb, offset by the sweet and tart filling and rich frosting.

Almond is the most prevalent flavor here, both through the ground almonds and almond extract in the cake batter. Camille suggests cutting the frosting recipe in half, as it was much more than what was needed to frost just the top of the cake, even with some generous piping detail along the edges. The frosting is quite rich, so a nice thin layer on top is more than enough.

Cherry Bakewell Cake (from Hermione)
Serves 8
(From the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook)

Almond Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

Butter Frosting: (Camille suggests halving the frosting recipe below, as it makes much more than you'll need)
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk

To Finish the Cake:
1/2 cup cherry preserves (Camille suggests an extra tablespoon or two)
Maraschino cherries, for decorating
Toasted sliced almonds, for decorated (Camille omitted this)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each until incorporated, and scraping down the sides as needed. Add the almond extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing on the lowest speed to combine. Finish by scraping down and folding the batter with a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans (it will be thick) and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cake feels soft but firm when touched lightly in the center or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.

For the frosting, beat all the frosting ingredients together until smooth, creamy, and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed, about 7 minutes.

To assemble the cake, place 1 cake top-side down on a cardboard round. Spread the cherry preserves on top of the cake all the way to the edges. Top with the second cake top-side up. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting on top of the cake. Place the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitting with a star tip, and pipe a border around the edges of the cake. Line the inside of the border with maraschino cherries placed about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the middle space with toasted sliced almonds.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Chicken and Mushroom Pies for Harry Potter


*Update 8/1/19* I made these pies again for Harry Potter's birthday this year with some alterations from the baking technique used last year. They turned out PERFECTLY! The flavor was spot on, just as last year, but the pies baked up more golden and had a much sturdier crust that was easier to remove from the pans. All the adjustments have been updated to the recipe below. The photos in the post with the exception of the broken pies (for evidence) have been updated. Yay!

This past Tuesday was Harry Potter's birthday, so of course this Ravenclaw and her Hufflepuff friend, Camille, had to celebrate! Last year we made bangers and mash and rock cakes from the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. This year we tried a couple different recipes from the same book.

Just a quick note, although I think this is a really cool cookbook with recipes of dishes mentioned throughout all the Harry Potter books, Camille and I both agree that some of the recipes aren't well-tested, and we have come up with some tweaks to improve them. For example, these beef and mushroom pies were adapted so significantly from the book, they are basically an entirely different recipe. The quantities in the filling (more than doubled), the sizes of the dough circles, and cooking times have all changed from the original.

For Tuesday's festivities I contributed the entree, while Camille made dessert. I'll be sharing the dessert in a future post. For the entree I decided to make individual pies again, but this time made one of the other variations in the book, featuring a chicken and mushroom filling. What's odd is that both this recipe and the beef and mushroom one both needed to have the filling quantities essentially doubled, but this recipe was closer to having the right size dough circles, while the beef one was way off. I preferred the baking technique for the beef pies over the one for the chicken pies, and have noted the difference in the recipe below. I found those had a firmer and more golden crust, which was easier to remove from the pans.

Why is this so important, you ask? Well, this is what happens when your crust is a bit too tender, even though you baked the pie at least 10 minutes longer than the recipe says. It breaks when you try to remove it from the pan. Oops!

Fortunately after having a couple incidents of leaking pies, I quickly came up with a plan B, and grabbed some ramekins to house these pies, since I had baked these a day ahead and planned to transport them to Camille's for Harry Potter's birthday the following day. The ramekins really saved the day, and make these delicate pies easier to reheat without making a mess. I never had a similar issue with the beef pies, so I think the baking technique really makes the difference here.

The ones on the right were the biggest victims, but I felt safer putting all the pies into ramekins for transportation

So what makes these chicken and mushroom pies so special? Well, they are not unlike American chicken pot pies, but without the carrots, celery, peas, and optional potatoes. It's really a much simpler filling that focuses solely on the chicken and mushroom. The filling is not boring by any means, and was perfectly seasoned and super comforting.

These little pies are SO GOOD, and a great way to celebrate Harry Potter's birthday in the future, or simply the next time you are looking for comfort on your plate.

Stay tuned next week for Harry's birthday cake recipe!

Chicken and Mushroom Pies
Makes 6 pies
(Heavily adapted from the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook)

Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into pieces (I use Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup cold water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 egg beaten

Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening pieces and toss to coat with the flour, then flatten the butter and shortening pieces between your fingers until there are pea-sized pieces of butter and shortening throughout the flour. Sprinkled 1/2 cup of cold water over the mixture, and gently use a rubber spatula or bowl scraper to hydrate the flour until the mixture sticks together. Add more water by the tablespoonful as needed until the dough holds together. Divide the dough in half, form into two disks, and wrap each disk with plastic wrap. Chill at least two hours or preferably overnight.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme, then sprinkle the flour over and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Slowly pour in the chicken broth while stirring. Cook until the mixture thickens (it will continue to thicken as it bakes). Add the chopped chicken breast, stir, and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and broth is thick. Adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl or container and cool completely. You can do this step a day ahead of time, and refrigerate the filling until needed.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. On a generously floured surface roll out each of the discs to about 1/8-inch thickness (it will be easier to cut the large circles if you aim for a 7-inch wide rectangle instead big circle like you'd normally do for a large pie). You will need to cut out 6 larger circles measuring about 6 1/2-inches in diameter, and 6 smaller circles at 3 3/4-inch in diameter. For the larger circles you can trace a knife around a plate or saucer. For the smaller circles, use a circular dough cutter or trace the top of the glass. You will likely need to re-roll the scraps from both disks of dough one or more times in order to cut out enough circles.

Cut a small wedge from one side of the circle, and then fit the large circles into the cups of a jumbo sized muffin pan. Press the cut edges together to seal once the dough is fitted into the cup. This will keep you from having a rumpled piece of dough inside the cup, and you'll want those removed bits of dough for your scrap pile to re-roll later. You can also patch up with scraps of dough as needed if you accidentally cut the wedge too deep.

Fill each of the dough-lined muffin cups generously will the filling, about 1/2 cup into each. Take the smaller dough circles and brush the edges with a little water, then lay the smaller circles over the filling, and use your fingers to press and seal the dough. Crimp the edges if you'd like. Brush the tops of the pies with the egg wash, and use a sharp knife to cut a few slits to form vents. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue baking another 30 to 35 minutes until golden and bubbly.

Remove from the oven and use a small offset spatula to gently pop each of the pies out of the muffin cups. You could also flip over the pan, but this could be dangerous if any of the pie tops are a little loose. These pies can be cooled, individually frozen, and reheated at a later time.


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