experiments in cooking

Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

Cherry Moos: Not Quite Like Grandma Used to Make

For Christmas Eve this year, Chris’s mom and I planned a German Mennonite supper of chicken noodle soup, zwiebach, and cherry moos (pronounced moze.) I volunteered to bring the zwiebach (all I had to do was thaw some rolls I froze in November) and to make the cherry moos as part of my education in traditional German Mennonite cooking.

Cherry moos are essentially a cherry soup or thin cherry pudding. I’d had cherry moos only once before, the Christmas Eve when I met Chris’s grandma Dorothy Weber 10 years ago. So I had a vague idea of what they should look and taste like.

Without the German gastronomical experience, I confess, I found the idea of plain cherry soup to be missing something. It wouldn’t sound odd to me if I’d grown up eating cherry moos, I’m sure. But I am who I am. So I decided to add my own touch to the cherry moos.

When my parents serve strawberries and cream, they serve the fruit over broken pieces of pie crust, which is eaten scooped up with the fruit like crackers crumbled into soup. That gave me the idea for making pie crust Christmas shapes to eat with the cherry moos. I figured it would be like a deconstructed cherry pie.

“Could you eat cherry moos over cookies or a crust?” I asked Chris.

He gave me a weird look. But after a moment he said, “I don’t know. That might be okay.”

And that was all I needed to forge ahead with my plan to make some “holiday pastry crisps” to serve with the cherry moos.

Other than adding some pastry as an accompaniment for the cherry moos, I intended to stay completely true to Chris’s grandmother’s cherry moos recipe. I read over the recipe several times before Christmas Eve. It didn’t look difficult.

But when I went in the kitchen on Christmas Eve to start cooking, it suddenly occurred to me, rather late in the game, that I didn’t have an important ingredient in my cabinets: cherries.

I sent Chris, armed with a cell phone to call me with questions, out to Russ’s Market to buy two cans of cherries. He called me a few minutes later.

“What kind of cherries am I supposed to buy?” he asked.

I looked at the recipe.

“The recipe says 1 quart fruit in syrup,” I said.

“Well, there are two kinds here,” Chris said. “Tart red cherries and dark cherries.”

“I have no idea which,” I said.

“You’re sure the recipe doesn’t say?”

“Nope, it doesn’t,” I said.

There was silence on the other end of the line. Clearly we were at an impasse.

“How about dark cherries?” I said. “They sound good.”

“Okay!” said Chris, sounding relieved.

As soon as he got home with the cherries, I got to work. The recipe was easy to follow. And while the cherry moos were stewing on the stove, I made my pastry crisps. Then we put everything into portable containers and took it over to Chris’s mom’s house.

After dinner, I brought out bowls of steaming, purple cherry moos and stood a couple of pastry crisps in each bowl. I hoped the cherry moos tasted right, but only Chris and his parents would know.

Chris took a bite. His mother took a bite.

Quietly, everyone took a few bites. But no one said anything.

The silence seemed significant.

“Well, how do they taste?” I said.

“It’s … good,” said Chris. But he sounded puzzled. And I wasn’t convinced.

“Yes, it’s good,” Chris’s mom agreed. But she’s so nice, she’d say it was good if it was the worst thing she’d ever tasted.

“You can serve cherry moos cold,” said Chris’s dad.

As we were not discussing the temperature of the dish, this non sequitor seemed to be a hint that the cherry moos were not all that they should be.

“It’s not right, is it?” I blurted out. “Just say it.”

“No … It’s … good …” said Chris.

“Then why are you saying it that way?” I asked.

“Something is different,” he said.

Bad is different,” I said. “I knew it!”

“No, not bad,” said Chris. “Let me think …”

Then inspiration hit him.

“The cherries!” he said. “You used dark cherries.”

“You said you didn’t know which to buy,” I said.

“I know, but I think maybe you’re supposed to use the tart cherries,” he said.

“I wish you’d remembered this earlier,” I said.

“But this is good!” said Chris. “Now that I know why they’re different, I think they’re fine.”

I looked at Chris’s mom.

“I like it this way,” she said. And she said it very firmly, not like when you serve her meat that is underdone or overdone and she says she likes it but you know she couldn’t possibly like it, really.

I must have still looked downcast, because she added, “I suppose my mother and grandmother used the tart cherries, but I don’t think they had canned dark cherries available back then.”

“I wanted to make it the way you remembered,” I said.

“No worries!” said Chris. “And you know some people make moos with plum. I bet it tastes like this.”

But it wasn’t plum moos I wanted to make for Christmas Eve.

On the plus side, the “holiday pastry crisps” added a nice texture to the dish, as well as a nice visual contrast to the deep color of the cherry moos.

We had several pastry crisps left over, so I froze them to serve with the next batch of cherry moos I make. And I will get them right next time.

Below are Grandma Weber’s recipe for Cherry Moos and my recipe for Holiday Pastry Crisps.

Cherry Moos

Combine:

1 quart fruit in syrup (traditionally, tart red cherries are used)

3 cups additional water or milk (can use 1 cup cream)

½ cup honey or sugar

Cook slowly until fruit is soft.

Combine in small bowl:

4–5 T flour

Additional honey or sugar if needed

1 cup milk or cream

Mix to a smooth paste. Dip out some of the hot fruit mixture and stir into paste; then slowly pour mixture back into the fruit, stirring constantly. Continue cooking over low heat until thickened. Serve warm or cold.

[Sarah’s note: May serve over shortbread, pie pastry, or, in warmer months, over ice cream.]

 

Holiday Pastry Crisps

1 pie crust (premade refrigerated crust is fine)

Sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let the pie crust sit out for a few minutes or take the chill off it by microwaving it for a few seconds. Roll out the pie crust, then cut out shapes with cookie cutters. (I cut out stars and Christmas trees.) Reroll the dough and cut out shapes until it is used up. Place shapes on a cookie sheet, either greased or ungreased. Sprinkle shapes lightly with sugar. Bake approximately 8–10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from pan and cool.

Serve crisps with cherry moos or strawberries and cream. Dip the crisps into the fruit mixture like a cracker into soup.

Blueberry Crunch Coffeecake, Slightly Blackened

Recently I came across an entry for “Blueberry Crunch Coffeecake” in my Joy of Cooking and had to stop. The name alone made my mouth water. Blueberries? Crunchy coffeecake? It had to be good. The recipe began: “The batter for this superb coffeecake is mixed like biscuit dough. Brown sugar and almonds in the bottom of the pan are transformed into a cloak of crunchy toffee over a tender coffeecake.”

Ah, how could I resist a cloak of crunchy toffee over a tender coffeecake?

Of course, I decided to plan a Sunday night breakfast supper around it: biscuits and gravy; my friend Abby’s egg, cheese and hash brown casserole; fruit; and, to crown it all, the coffeecake.

I love coffeecake. Back a year ago when I was beginning to count calories to lose the 50 pounds I did eventually lose, I stood looking sadly at a box of Krusteaz streusel coffeecake mix in my cabinet and nearly crying because I wouldn’t get to indulge in huge slices of coffeecake on a regular basis anymore. But now that I’ve lost the weight and learned to control my portion size, I can enjoy a slice coffeecake from time to time.

This would be the first coffeecake I’d made myself since losing the weight. And I was going to celebrate every moment.

The celebration had some rough moments:

First, I couldn’t find a pan of the exact right size. My loaf pans were all a little too big or too small and I had to settle on a glass loaf pan that was slightly too big.

Second, I didn’t have enough blueberries and had to send Chris to the store to buy more while I was mixing the batter.

Finally, I couldn’t decide if the cake was done and wound up burning the almond-and-brown-sugar topping at the corners of the cake.

After inverting the cake and discovering the burnt corners, I put my hands on my hips and frowned at the cake, grimacing.

Abby looked at me.

“You know, I’ve seen a recipe for a burnt brown sugar cake in one of my cookbooks,” she said. “So say you did it on purpose.”

I thought about it. Abby was right. There was no reason to let a few burnt almonds derail my coffeecake celebration. So I sliced it up and served it, warm cake and juicy berries and blackened toffee cloak and all.

Chris protested when I handed him a slice. “I just ate a plateful of biscuits and gravy and egg casserole!” he complained.

“Eat the coffeecake,” I urged.

“But I’m not hungry …”

“EAT THE CAKE!” I said, smiling.

There was a pause. Chris put a hand to his stomach. Then, determinedly, he lifted his fork.

“It looks delicious,” he said feebly.

And he ate the cake.

“Now wasn’t that good?” I said.

Chris didn’t say much. I’m not sure he could move. So I looked at Drew, Abby’s husband.

“Nice topping!” Drew said.

Abby makes a lot of new dishes and cakes. Drew knows what not to say.

All things considered, it was a marvelous celebration.

Blueberry Crunch Coffeecake

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 ½ by 4 ½ (6-cup) loaf pan. Combine and sprinkle in the bottom of the pan:

¼ cup sliced almonds

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

Whisk together thoroughly into a large bowl:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Add:

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Cut in the butter with 2 knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Do not allow the butter to melt or form a blended paste with the flour. Whisk together in another bowl:

1 large egg

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour over the flour mixture and stir until about three quarters of the dry ingredients are moistened. Add:

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the berries are distributed. Spoon the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (other than juice from the berries), 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges, if necessary, and invert onto the rack. Serve warm or, for the crunchiest topping, let cool before serving.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Slaw, and Chocolate Cake

Pulled pork sandwiches, slaw, and chocolate cake—sound good to you?

It ought to. But it’s not just good food—it’s visionary.

Don’t scoff. Every few months, I embark on a new project to improve my life, to move me toward the vision of the person I really want to be. And things like pulled pork sandwiches, slaw, and chocolate cake are part of that vision.

See, a lot of these projects have to do with my management of our home. Actively working to improve my cooking and baking skills is just the latest project. One year ago, I started making monthly menus, because I was tired of standing in my kitchen after work every night, staring blankly around a kitchen full of food and coming up with no ideas on what to make for supper. And two years ago, I started keeping a budget, tracking all my spending, paying down debt, and living more frugally.

Oh, and then there’s the hospitality project. I guess it’s not exactly a project, but “hospitality” is part of my vision. I want to be someone who entertains regularly. I want friends to come over looking forward to tasty, home-cooked meals. Which I will have made from good, affordable ingredients purchased within a budget, planned carefully as part of an organized menu that makes everyone happy and is easy to follow.

All these projects—these efforts to fulfill my vision—have become ongoing habits, and they naturally intersect. So when I read through the weekly grocery sale papers I get by email (frugality), I look for sale items I can build into my pre-planned menu (menu organization) that will challenge or strengthen my cooking skills (kitchen savvy) and enable me to entertain guests properly (hospitality).

Several weeks ago, I decided it was time to invite to dinner some friends we haven’t had over in more than a year. I contacted the wife and settled on a date. Then I started to plan a menu, even though the date was a few weeks ahead.

Here were some of my considerations:

  • Our friends have five people in their family. We have four. What could I make to serve nine people easily?
  • What was on sale that I could buy ahead in order to make an affordable meal?
  • What menu would both challenge and strengthen my cooking skills?

I made a list of a number of possible main dishes. Then I checked that week’s sale ad and found that SuperSaver had pork butt roasts on sale. I would have to buy two roasts to get the advertised special, but if it turned out to be too much food for our guests, cooked pork freezes and reheats easily. I settled on pulled pork sandwiches, and because I knew my friend makes most of her own bread, I asked if she could bring homemade sandwich rolls.

Next, flipping through my Joy of Cooking, I found a simple recipe for hot apple slaw. I had a surplus of apples in my basement, so I wouldn’t have to buy any apples—just cabbage, which is inexpensive. The recipe called for cider vinegar, and I had only rice vinegar on hand, but I did some research on substitutions for cider vinegar and decided I could use the rice vinegar and add a splash of apple juice.

Next, I made a short list of simple desserts for which I had ingredients on hand and asked Chris to pick from the list. He picked chocolate cake, so I planned to make a sour cream fudge cake with homemade chocolate icing.

Here was the final menu:

  • Pulled pork sandwiches served with BBQ sauce
  • Homemade sandwich rolls (brought by my friend)
  • Hot apple slaw
  • Scalloped potatoes (brought by my friend)
  • Sour cream fudge cake with chocolate icing (all made from scratch)

And here’s what I had to do for the meal:

Pulled Pork

I did not have experience slow cooking two large pork roasts, although I’ve done one before. I had to borrow my mother-in-law’s oblong roasting oven and stack the roasts side by side.

First, I had to finish defrosting the roasts and used my microwave’s Defrost setting to do so. Then I rubbed each roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stood them in the roasting oven. I did not add any water. I cooked the roasts at 350 degrees for two hours, then turned the oven down to 250 and cooked them seven hours long. At 5:45 I moved the roast to a large serving bowl and shredded it with a fork. Dish done!

Hot Apple Slaw

This was a brand-new dish for me, and I have never cooked with cabbage—or used caraway seeds, which I had in my cabinet although I’d never used them. The recipe called for frying bacon in a skillet and then using the hot fat for the rest of the slaw. Instead, I melted bacon fat I keep on hand, but you could skip the bacon fat altogether and use oil. Anyway, I melted the bacon fat and then added three tablespoons of rice vinegar, a splash of apple juice, two tablespoons of water, one tablespoon of brown sugar, and one teaspoon of lightly crushed caraway seeds. (I put the seeds in a plastic bag and used a meat tenderizer mallet to beat them, a process that didn’t pulverize them but did release their aroma.)  When this mixture came to a boil, I added three cups of finely chopped red cabbage (turned out to be easy to chop) and one finely chopped peeled apple. I combined all ingredients and then cooked the mixture for two more minutes. Next I transferred the slaw to a serving dish and garnished it with real bacon pieces. Dish done!

Sour Cream Fudge Cake with Chocolate Icing (all made from scratch)

This cake was easy to make, but to make it really work I had to sift all the dry ingredients using the old sifter my mother-in-law gave me, and I had to save one fourth a cup of coffee from my breakfast that morning to add as a liquid ingredient. The cake took only 25 minutes to bake perfectly—good height, good texture, nice and moist. Dish done!

The biggest challenge I had with this cake was selecting an icing. I don’t much enjoy thick frostings. I wanted something chocolate. I didn’t want anything super sweet. I wanted something easy. I wanted an icing that would keep frozen so I could make a large batch and reuse it later for another dessert. And I wanted something that didn’t call for any ingredients or tools I didn’t have, which ruled out, among others, recipes requiring a double boiler or milk chocolate.

After evaluating all the frostings and icings in my Joy of Cooking, I selected a Chocolate Glaze that turned out to be a nice, dark chocolate icing: not too thick, not too thin, not too sweet, and easy to make. Plus, any unused glaze can be frozen for up to six months. I’m telling you, I am never going to buy store-bought frosting again.

So my family and our friends ate all this food, and we had multiple bags of pork left over.

But does it really matter? Am I crazy for putting so much thought into a single meal?

I used to think that spending a lot of time planning a meal was pointless. I mean, you eat it, and then it’s gone. And you still have the dirty dishes to do. But here’s the truth: I enjoyed every minute of the planning process, I enjoyed cooking, I enjoyed serving our friends, I enjoyed eating my own food, and right now I am enjoying thinking back on the whole thing.

I tested and improved my cooking and baking skills. I had food left over for later. I didn’t waste money on expensive convenience foods I could make myself. I served fresh food instead of processed junk. I gave people I love a good meal.

There was nothing pointless about it.

Pulled pork sandwiches, slaw and chocolate cake really are visionary. You think I’m crazy, you come over and we’ll talk about it over some cake.

Delicious Mashed Apples, aka Homemade Apple Sauce

I have no idea what motivated some cook years and years ago to take perfectly good stewed sliced apples and put extra time and effort into mashing them up and calling them applesauce. Really, homemade apple sauce is just stewed apples with another name. But someone somewhere decided that mashing those stewed apples was an excellent idea. And, over the years, I’ve discovered that a number of women I know have, unlike me, made homemade apple sauce at one time or another.

They obviously saw the attraction. I never did, until recently. The apple sauce at the store was good enough for me. But over recent weeks, I began to think I might try taking stewed apples to another level and make my very own apple sauce.

It sounds so rustic, so authentic. “Oh, my dear, you buy your apple sauce at the store? Not me, oh no. I make my own apple sauce—from real apples that I picked in an orchard. Yes, this apple sauce is the real thing.”

Of course, as anyone who has made homemade apple sauce should know, store-bought apple sauce and homemade apple sauce are two different foods, really. I imagine that you can get your homemade apple sauce to resemble store-bought apple sauce if you really, really spend time and effort on it. But really—admit it—your average homemade apple sauce is stewed apples that, for whatever reason, possibly boredom, a cook has decided to mash up.

I did it with a potato masher. But let me back up: First I cored and sliced six apples, a mix of Jonathan, Honeycrisp, and Empire. I dumped them in a large skillet and added a ½ cup of apple juice, some lemon juice, and cinnamon. Then I let them simmer over low heat (stirring often) for approximately 20 minutes, mixed in ½ cup Splenda and ½ tsp. nutmeg, and removed the apples from the heat. Then I mashed them up.

I don’t why I needed to mash them up. As I’ve said, I don’t know why anyone originally thought that mashing stewed apples would improve on the dish. Even if you were toothless, it wouldn’t be easier to eat mashed apples than regular stewed apples. But mash them I did, because I didn’t want to be left out of the Homemade Apple Sauce Club.

The resulting mashed apples—not apple sauce, that’s the stuff in the jar that I bought at Walmart—were delicious, I have to admit. Last night I served them warm, as a side dish to accompany French bread pizza. Tonight we are going to eat more of the mashed apples, chilled, with chicken fillet sandwiches.

Anyway, now I can say I’ve done it. I have made mashed apples—okay, apple sauce, to those of you who think it should be called that. And I am now rustic and authentic and all that enviable stuff.

Also, I am now going to find some poor person who has not made mashed-up homemade apple sauce before and make her feel that she is missing out. She really is, poor thing.

Apple Day: Honeycrisp Apples, My New Apple Peeler, and a Molasses Apple Pandowdy

The Orchard – Run on the Honeycrisps

Beautiful Melrose Apples at Martin's Hillside Orchard.

Last week I got an email update from Martin’s Hillside Orchard that several varieties of apples had ripened, including early-season Fujis, Empires, Jonathans, and Honeycrisps. So I immediately planned a Saturday-morning family trip to the orchard, with the intention of using the freshly picked apples and my new rotary apple peeler/slicer/corer to make an apple dessert Saturday afternoon—a new dessert, of course. The one I had in mind was an old-fashioned apple pandowdy described in The Joy of Cooking. Chris loves apples and apple desserts, so he didn’t require much persuasion for the trip, even though he hates getting up on Saturday mornings.

Around 10:30 Saturday morning, all four of us were finally in the car on the way to the orchard, located about 15 minutes north of Lincoln, Neb. As we neared the driveway to the orchard, it became clear that the two cars behind us were also going to the orchard.

Chris was a little worried. “They’re going to take all the apples!” he said. So we had to rush from the car to the orchard, knowing there was a chance Jonah and Neeley would slow us down. So I made Jonah run along beside me and Chris tried to carry Neeley as fast as he could.

I found Alex Martin, the orchard owner, in the Apple Barn. I saw, happily, that we had beat the other two carloads of people into the building. So I got the first chance to ask Alex where to find the apple varieties we were interested in picking. As we turned to walk down the hill to the trees, the people behind us said to Alex, excitedly, “We’re looking for the Honeycrisps.”

As Alex began to describe where to find them, Chris and I exchanged glances. These Honeycrisps must be something good.

We made our way to the Honeycrisps first ourselves, curious. I’d never had one, myself. They were pretty apples, that’s for sure. I think we must have picked a couple dozen of them, exclaiming every time we got a “good one.” It wasn’t long before other people came running along the row. I had to haul Neeley out of the way as they rushed past. Chris heard one young man shout, “He said there’s more of them further down!” And the crowd ran by.

“Forget the other apples,” said Chris. “They’re all about the Honeycrisps.”

Sure enough, as we moved through the orchard to pick a few early Fujis (there weren’t many), some Empires (a new variety to us), and a fair number of Jonathans, we never crossed paths with another human. They were all in the Honeycrisp row.

“Those things must be really good,” I said.

In the end, we purchased $22.50 worth of apples. Back at the car, I noticed one of the Honeycrisps had been slightly damaged in the picking process. It was a huge apple—must have been about 10 ounces. I offered it to Jonah. “Do you want an apple?” I said.

Jonah’s eyes grew huge as he gazed at the apple. “Uh—yeah!” he said.

“It’s a big apple,” I said. “You’ll have to share it with your brother.”

“Okay,” he said.

In the car, secure in his booster seat, Jonah took a bite. “Mmmm!” he said. He took several more bites.

“Want apple!” said Neeley.

So I handed the giant apple from Jonah to Neeley.

“Mmmm!” said Neeley.

All the way back to Lincoln, Jonah and Neeley passed the apple back and forth. Juice dripped down onto Neeley’s jacket until it was soaked. And Jonah kept giggling and saying things like “I like this apple!” and “I’m eating a BIG apple!” and “Neeley likes the apple too!”

Finally I turned around and Jonah handed me the core.

“You ate it all!” I said, wonderingly. “It must have been really good.”

“Yeah!” he said, and added, “Can I have an apple with lunch?”

So we all had apples with lunch.

The Apple Peeler

After lunch, I put Neeley in his bed for a nap and went to the kitchen to try out my new apple peeler. Since Joy of Cooking suggested Empire apples for the pandowdy, I fit an Empire onto the apparatus and turned the handle. In less than 10 seconds, the apple was completely peeled, cored, and sliced. And I was in love with my new gadget.

Because I was squealing and yelling “Come look at this!” Jonah came running into the kitchen to see. He begged to take a turn. It was so easy, he personally peeled the rest of the apples I needed for the pandowdy.

I have never seen such a cool kitchen tool in my life. Why had I never seen one used before? Oh, if only my mom could have had one when I was a child. She would have loved it.

The Apple Pandowdy

I’ve wanted to try an apple pandowdy for several weeks now. An apple pandowdy is like a deep-dish pie—just fruit filling in a dish and a top crust—no bottom crust. According to The Joy of Cooking, it’s traditionally sweetened with molasses. For the one I made on Saturday, I used half molasses and half brown sugar, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, allspice, and a pre-made Great Value pie crust.

I used a 10-inch decorative pie pan for the baking dish. Per the Joy of Cooking instructions, I baked the pandowdy for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, then took it out of the oven, turned the oven down to 350, and cut the crust into two inch sections (like you would a brownie). Then I pressed the edges of the crust pieces down into the apple filling to allow the juices to come through, and I also spooned some of the molasses/apple jelly that was already bubbling up over the top of the crust and spread it over the surface of the crust. Next I returned the dish to the oven and baked it about 30 minutes more.

Early in the assembly process, I did make a mistake; the recipe called for ¼ tsp of cinnamon and ¼ tsp of nutmeg, but I added ½ tsp of both because I picked up the wrong measuring spoon. Fortunately, some people really like cinnamon and fall spices, so the pandowdy was a success even with the extra cinnamon and nutmeg. A friend who tried it Sunday at lunch said something about the fragrant spices—she’s a cinnamon lover.

Now, since pre-made pie crusts come in sets of two, I’ve got one more Great Value pie crust left to use. I will probably try an Apple Galette this week—which is essentially a rustic pie or apple pizza. And I cannot wait to use my new apple peeler again. I thank God for gadgets like this one—I really do.

My First Pie – Peach Raspberry Pie

This past Saturday, I made the first pie I’ve ever made on my own in my entire life–a peach-raspberry pie made with fresh fruit from Martin’s Hillside Orchard just north of Lincoln.

I have to confess right up front that I used a storebought pie crust. I’ve been a little dough-shy since my last run-in with making a shortbread crust. I do know the mistake I made with that crust–adding sugar to sweeten it, which resulted in making it sticky and unmanageable. But even knowing what went wrong, I’m not yet ready to try another crust, so storebought it is, until I work up a little pluck. I am determined to try a crust again this fall. Just not yet.

I used a Joy of Cooking recipe for the pie; I use Joy of Cooking  recipes when they aren’t too complicated, because they do offer a lot of details around the fundamentals of cooking that I don’t find in recipes elsewhere.

The best tip I got on preparing the topping was to drop the peaches in boiling water for approximately one minute so that the skin would peel off easily. It worked like a dream. For the rest of my life, I will never peel peaches without boiling them first.

Last week, with baking pies on my mind, I did a fair bit of research online about the best temperature at which to bake a pie. Most recipes seem to call for baking the pie at 350 or 375 for at least an hour. Some recipes call for baking the pie at a higher temperature for 20-30 minutes and then lowering it to 350. This recipe was one of the latter, directing me to bake the pie at 425 for 30 minutes and then at 350 for 25-35 minutes more. In this case, I found that after lowering the temperature to 350, the pie was done in just 15 additional minutes, for a total baking time of 45 minutes.

In the process of making the pie, I discovered that I don’t own a 9-inch glass pie pan. I had to settle for a 10-inch pan, which did, as I had worried it would, result in juice from the filling bubbling up and over the crust which just wasn’t quite big enough for the pan. Fortunately, I had placed the pie on a baking sheet for the last half of the baking, and the baking sheet caught all the overflow. I faced quite a bit of work afterward getting peach-raspberry jelly off the baking sheet and pie pan, but better baked-on pie filling on those dishes than on the bottom of my stove.

I did make one mistake that I will not make again: adding too much lemon as a result of misreading the recipe. In fact, I tripled the amount of lemon juice. Which is probably why the finished pie was a little on the tart side–very tasty, but tart.

My next pie to try: apple pie. But first I want a fancy rotary apple peeler to avoid the nightmare of peeling apples by hand, something that I don’t think I’ve ever done. Currently I am waiting on a gift card for Bed, Bath & Beyond to arrive so I can get one.

All Good but the Crispy Garlic

Last night I tried two new dishes: angel hair pasta with olive oil and garlic, and a raspberry crunch (adapted from a cranberry crunch recipe).

The angel hair pasta was a side dish for salmon baked in lemon sauce. My Joy of Cooking warned me not to add cheese to the pasta dish, and I’m glad I didn’t. The fish and pasta went together well. The only problem I had was that the recipe instructed me to saute the garlic for about two minutes, but within just one minute it was browned and crisp. So we had a bit of crispy garlic  texture in our pasta.

The raspberry crunch also was based on a Joy of Cooking recipe. It was extremely easy to put together, and featured my favorite new baking ingredient: oatmeal. The recipe was originally a “cranberry crunch,” but I substituted raspberries for cranberries and cut back on the amount of added sugar. I also had slightly less than the 1 cup of brown sugar called for–about 3/4 cup, so I scaled back the other dry ingredients slightly as well and had to settle for less topping on top of the raspberries. I made sure the bottom crust. Also, I fortunately have an 8×8 pan, which the recipe is written for.

After dinner, I threw out the leftover pasta. We convinced Jonah to suck up a noodle or two, but Neeley wouldn’t touch it, so there was a lot left, and I don’t much like reheated pasta. I hope to eat more of the raspberry crunch tonight, however–and perhaps it will be firm enough, now that it is cool, to cut into bars as the recipe suggests–but I have my doubts.

Joy of Cooking‘s Cranberry [or raspberry] Crunch

Butter an 8″x8″ baking dish.

Combine:
1 c old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
1 c packed dark brown sugar (I had only light brown sugar)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt. (I used only 1/4 teaspoon, with the salty apple crisp I made recently so fresh in my mind)

Add:
8 T (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

Cut the butter into the dry mixture until it’s crumbly but holds together when pressed. Spread half the mixture over the bottom of the baking dish, and press very gently with your hand, packing it very slightly.

Cover with:
3 c fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over. (I used raspberries) 

Sprinkle with:
1/2 c sugar. (I used approximately 1/3 cup sugar) 

Top the sugar-sprinkled cranberries with the remaining crumb mixture. Bake until the fruit is tender and the crunch is firm and well-browned, about 50-60 minutes. Let cool for 20-30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.

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