TWD: Double Crusted Blueberry Pie

Double crusted blueberry pie

Double crusted blueberry pie

Nothing says 4th of July like good ol’ fashioned apple pie. Well this week, we’re doing a twist on that and making blueberry pie instead. Blueberries are in season right now in southern California so they’re perfect for this recipe.

Blueberries

Blueberries

First of all, I used my trusted Sherry Yard’s Pie dough recipe. Her pie dough is very flaky and rises just right every time. I cut and froze the butter and then used my stand mixer to cut it into the dough.

This is what it looks like once the dough comes together and chilled it overnight.

The next day I rolled out the dough into two ~12″ rounds. One of them goes in the pie plate as the bottom crust. Then you add the bread crumbs and blueberries mixed with the sugar/flour mixture.

Finally you add the top crust and flute the edges. I added a sprinkling of raw turbinado sugar for an extra bit of crunch. In my haste I forgot to take a picture of the assembled pie before baking. I realized this after the pie was already in the oven so this picture is blurry. Sorry!

About 45 minutes later, tada! Blueberry pie. The pie looked really tantalizing as it came out of the oven with the juices bubbling and the scent of ripe berries. Mmmm…

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

Our guests and I gulfed this baby down in a hurry. I didn’t even have a chance to take a picture of an individual slice of pie. I also made some Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream but that escaped the camera as well. I’ll have to be faster with my camera trigger-finger next time.

4th of July weekend cookoff: Roasted Tilapia, Lemon Butter Shrimp, Ratatouille

I hope everyone had a nice Fourth of July weekend.  With family and friends over, it gives me a chance to do what I like best – COOK!  I made roasted Tilapia as the main course.

Roasted Tilapia

Roasted Tilapia

This fish was a two-pounder.  Cooking it to the right doneness was a little tricky.  The key is to cook it enough so that the meat will easily separate from the bone.

I also made some sauteed Lemon Butter Shrimp.  The flavor of lemon, thyme, basil, and butter is divine.  And I love caramelizing the shrimp to a gorgeous golden glow.

Lemon Butter Shrimp

Lemon Butter Shrimp

And finally I made a traditional French Ratatatouille.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

I was inspired by the movie of the same title.  Hey if a rat can make it, I can too!  A ratatouille is a homestyle vegetable stew made of seasonal summer vegetables.  I used eggplant, shallots, sweet red peppers, and tomatoes.  For garnish I used basil and thyme.

Ratatouille Mise en place

Ratatouille Mise en place

Shallots

Shallots

Sweet Peppers added to Ratatouille

Sweet Peppers added to Ratatouille

TWD: Honey Nut Scones

Honey Nut Scones

So I couldn’t swing cheddar and dried apples this week so I substituted Honey and Pecans for them.  To be honest, I don’t think I’ve had a proper scone before.  I mean sure, I’ve had a scone-like muffin from a corner bakery before, but if you asked me to point out the scone in a lineup of breakfast muffins, I would be stumped!

On to the recipe.  The batter consisted of a liquid made of eggs, honey, and milk.  The dried ingredients were made up of unblanched flour, whole wheat flour (healthy!), baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

I really enjoyed making this batter by hand.  First I cut the pieces of frozen butter into the dried ingredients with my fingers.  I felt very in touch with my food when doing this.  You want to try to break the pieces of butter into small pieces.  This makes the scone flaky. Next I added the liquid and stirred it in with a fork.  Finally, I kneaded the dough lightly until everything came together.

Scone batter

Next I divided the dough into wedges with my pizza cutter.

Scone batter cut up into wedges

And into the oven they went.  20 minutes later they were all done.

Scones fresh from the oven

The scones were light and tasted great with a hint of honey.  By themselves they were a little dry but they’d be perfect for breakfast with a little honey and butter and a cup of coffee.

This was a fun and quick recipe.  I would definitely make it again for a weekend breakfast with family and friends.

TWD: Peppermint Cream Puff Ring

Cream puffs were a pretty big hit here in the US a few years back. The “cream puff-only shop” that Dorie mentions is the Japanese chain “Beard Papa’s”. It was very very popular when it first arrived. But now it’s just another dessert shop trying to compete against the likes of PinkBerry.

I liked the idea of making a minty cream filling. Luckily living in Southern California affords me the luxury of having fresh fruits and produce all year round. My local farmer’s market has some really fresh and fragrant mint leaves. They made for a super minty pastry cream.

Mint infused Cream

The pastry dough or Pate a choux was fun to make. I like making dough using only my hands and conventional old-fashioned tools. It makes me feel more in touch with the food. I also think that it’s good preparation in case you need to whip something up at a moments notice without any equipment nearby.

Pate a choux or cream puff pastry

Cream puff pastry wheel

Baked cream puff pastry wheel

After baking the pate a choux wheel, I didn’t want to assemble the dessert right away so I froze the dough. I think the dough sunk slightly after it cooled. Cutting the top section off was a little tricky, but luckily my serrated knife came to my rescue and all was ok.

Once the pastry was filled with cream, I topped it off with chocolate glaze and some toasted almonds.

I had some leftover pate a choux so I piped some cream puffs for fun.

Caramel Souffle

What do you do with leftover caramel? Turn it into a caramel sauce and make some souffles of course!

Caramel Souffles

Caramel Souffle

Caramel Peanut-topped Brownie Cake

I baked this cake to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Before I bake a dessert for someone, I try to find out the likes and dislikes. This particular friend has a fondness for caramel and nuts.

I baked the brownie cake base the day before the party. I didn’t have a springform pan so I used a regular 9″ cake pan. I buttered the pan, dusted the bottom and sides with flour, and then lined the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper. After baking the cake and letting it cool, the cake popped right out. No sticky mess at all.

Naked

The next day, I made the caramel-peanut topping. Dorie’s tip to judge the doneness of the caramel came in handy. She says that the caramel is done when it turns an amber color when dripped onto a white plate. The color and consistency of the sauce was perfect.

Caramel-peanut topped brownie cake

Unfortunately, I had to leave the party early so I didn’t get to taste any of the cake. I guess that’s a good excuse to make another one!

TWD: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

This is the kind of tart that I hope to one day try in France. It was my first time baking a tart crust. Ok, I’ll be honest here. I actually used Sherry Yard‘s Sweet Dough (Pate Sucre) recipe. Her pie dough recipe comes out perfectly every time so I’ve been dying to try out her sweet dough recipe. Sorry Dorie, I’ll try your recipe next time!

Making the dough was a challenge. After refrigerating the dough overnight, when I went to shape it, it kept crumbling into little pieces. My guess is that I may have under-kneaded it the day before. I didn’t want to over-knead and end up with bread dough. So I kneaded the dough some more, and chilled it for another night. The next morning the dough behaved and stayed in one piece. I then carefully rolled it out to fit the tart molds. The edges would crumble and I had to patch them all around the brim. After baking and cooling the crust, it was very delicate. I had to be extra careful slicing it with my serrated knife.

Tart crust

I got the strawberries from my local farmer’s market. For the jam I used Trader Joe’s Organic Strawberry preserves.

The tart turned out great! The crust was crisp and not overly sweet. The strawberries were just right. I topped it off with whipped cream. Bon appetit!

La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

Stir fried pork with mystery eggplant like veg

I got this neato green eggplant-shaped veggie at the Farmer’s Market today.  I think the sign said “Opa” but in this case Google was not my friend and couldn’t tell me what it was.  I’m a regular at this market so the nice farmer let me have one on the house.

So we had some pork in the fridge and I did a stir-fry of the two.  The veggie has the texture of a Chinese “Si Gua”.  Sorry, I don’t know the English translation.  It’s very light and somewhat soggy.  Almost like cooked cucumber.  It paired well with the pork for a clean and healthy stir-fry.

Stir fried pork with \"Opa\" (Mystery eggplant like veggie)

Manila Clams with Black Bean Sauce

Here’s my take on Clams with Black Bean Sauce.  This is a Chinese stir fry standard.  I adapted the recipe from Ming Tsai’s cookbook, Simply Ming.

Clams with Black Bean Sauce

This dish turned out okay.  But the only problem was that I used canned chicken broth and the flavor of the broth totally overpowered the dish.  In my haste, I didn’t realize that I used regular broth, not the low sodium variety.  So the clams ended up taking like canned broth.  So that’s more incentive to make my own chicken broth next time.  I also experimented with Thai basil.  I still prefer the taste of regular Italian basil.

French Chocolate Brownies

I just got a new baking cookbook: “Baking: From my home to yours” by Dorie Greenspan.

For my first recipe I decided to make brownies (my first time making them). I used bittersweet chocolate for these. The brownies are topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and dark chocolate shavings. I made the creme fraiche myself. It was 4 days old and a little odorous but it created a nice tartness to balance against the sweetness of the brownie.

I also added rum-infused raisins to the brownies for an extra kick. I love how the raisins pop in your mouth. The only problem I encountered was trying to flambe the raisins.  They just wouldn’t burn.  But luckily they still turned out plump and juicy in the end.

French Chocolate Brownie with creme fraiche and chocolate shavings

French Chocolate Brownie with creme fraiche and more chocolate shavings