Steak and Mushroom Pie

This dish has been one of those ideas that I have wanted to be able to make for years, but each time I attempted a version of it, it was horribly disappointing.  Raw crust, soupy filling, bland flavor, I experienced all of the problems trying to make this dish work. I made a treacle tart for the first time earlier this week, and that recipe used a crust ratio of 2:1 flour to butter, so I decided to try out that ratio and see what happened. They also blind baked their crust, and egg washed it, so I decided to give that a go too.  At long last, I have unlocked the meat pie achievement for a pie lives up to every one of my hopes, dreams and aspirations for this dish.  I mean, look at it!

No runny filling, the crust is sturdy, yet not cardboardy or tough.

 

 

Since this has been a ten year search for this method, I am going to be sure to save this for future pie purposes.  Most of this recipe will be focused on the construction methods-the specific filling and flavor profile is your call, but what makes this work is the crust method and the filling consistency.

 

Ingredients

For crust (it’s in metric, because that’s what I used for this.   Feel free to convert as needed):

  • 226g butter (two sticks, cold)
  • 50 g shortening
  • 550g AP flour
  • Big pinch salt
  • Ice water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)

For filling (or use a very thick stew of your choice):

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2.5 lbs beef roast, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2/3 cup peas
  • 2 tbsp butter or bacon drippings
  • 4 tbsp flour (plus more, to thicken)
  • Herbs, salt, pepper and garlic, as needed
  • Stock, as needed

Method

Prepare the filling. Toss the beef in the flour, season as desired.  Melt butter in large skillet, and brown beef.  Add onions, saute until translucent. Add carrots and mushrooms.  Season again (this will be a theme).  You need enough liquid in here to cook the carrots, but you don’t want it runny.  The mushrooms and beef should give off enough so you don’t need to add stock, but if it’s really dry at this stage, add stock (or wine or beer).  Cover and simmer 1 hour.  Add peas, adjust seasoning.   Cook another 30 minutes. Remove lid, check thickness.  If you can’t make a pile of the filling on one side of the pan and have it stay there, it’s not thick enough.  Make a flour and cold water (or cold stock) slurry, and thicken up your stew until it’s as thick as possible.  You won’t get a ton of thickening while it bakes, so now is the time to hit this consistency.  Once the stew is thickened, and the flavors are as you like them, let the filling cool slightly.

While your filling cooks, make your crust.  Cut butter into flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add salt, and slowly add water until the mixture holds together.  Wrap in plastic and stash in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (this can be done up to 24 hours ahead of time).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 9″ deep dish pie pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Take crust out of fridge, and use 2/3rds of it for the bottom crust.   Roll crust out to at least 1/4″ thick (thicker is better-you need the structural support).  Place crust into pan, dock bottom and sides.  Line crust bottom with parchment and use pie weights.  Blind bake crust for 15-20 minutes.  Scramble egg with 1 tbsp water. Remove from oven, remove weights and parchment, and brush with egg wash. Bake another 5 minutes.  Roll remaining 1/3rd of the crust out for the top crust.

Fill blind baked crust with your stew until it’s level with the top of the dish.  Brush edges with egg wash, and place top crust on pie, gently pressing the edge closed.  Brush top crust with egg wash, and make vent slits.  Bake 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

At this point, I am now planning all of the different kinds of pies I can make with this method.  It would make a fantastic crust for chicken pot pie, so long as the filling is thick enough.

 

Weeknight dinner rolls

I am going to start this post with an entirely banal statement.  Homemade bread is amazing.  I know I’m not staking out a highly contentious position with this, but I feel like I need to make my position on this topic clear from the beginning.  Unfortunately, good yeast breads tend to take longer than I want to devote to cooking on a week night, so I’ve been relying on the take and bake loaves of bread from the local Kroger.  These are all well and good for the crusty bread fix, but there’s nothing quite like a fresh pan of rolls.  On a whim, I looked around on Pinterest and found a one hour buttermilk dinner rolls recipe and decided to try it out last week.  The results were promising, but a little dense and pale in our oven. I made the recipe again yesterday with a few tweaks, and we have a winner.

Buttermilk dinner rolls

Buttermilk dinner rolls

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups AP flour
    • (EDIT: For wheat rolls, use 3 cups AP flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Method

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the dry ingredients (including yeast), and stir briefly to combine.  In a microwave-safe container, mix the buttermilk, butter (sliced into smaller pieces) and water.  Heat until butter is melted.  With the dough hook attached and mixer running, slowly add in the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  When combined, turn speed up to medium low until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If it’s too dry after a couple of minutes, add another tablespoon of buttermilk, and if it’s too wet, add some flour.  It is better to err on the side of sticky.  When the dough has had about 5 minutes on the mixer, remove the hook, cover the bowl and stash in a warm place for 10 minutes.  This allows the dough to relax a little bit before you shape the rolls.  While you’re rising the dough, preheat the oven to 170 degrees F, or as low as it will go.  After your 10 minutes are up, turn the dough out onto an oiled board, and shape into rolls (I like breaking it into twelve rolls).  Place rolls in a greased 9″x13″ pan, turn OFF the oven, cover the tray and allow the rolls to rise in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When the rolls have risen, remove them from the oven (VERY IMPORTANT) and preheat to 400 degrees F.   Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, covering them loosely with aluminum foil if they start to brown too much.  Remove from the oven and allow them to cool as long as you can before consuming in a frenzy of butter and crumbs.

 

img_5011

 

While they do take a little longer than an hour with these modifications (about 75 minutes), the results are worth it.  These are light, fluffy rolls that are great with dinner, or as rolls for sandwiches.  This is definitely going to be entering our bread rotation in a big way.   It’s also a short enough process that I can make the dough, and let them rise and bake while we’re working on the rest of dinner, which makes these absolutely manageable as a weeknight bread option.

 

Cherry Pie

Chris’ favorite pie is pumpkin.  Without question, if I offer to make a pumpkin pie, he is on board with that idea.  His second favorite is cherry pie.   I always had reservations making a cherry pie, because most of the time, cherries weren’t in season, pitting cherries is a pain anyway, and the only other available option was the bright red canned cherry pie filling.  Also, most of the other fruit pies I have made end up being fruit soups.  Not anymore. We have started going to Sam’s Club regularly for some basics, and while browsing their freezer section one time, I saw huge bags of frozen sweet cherries.  Thinking in terms of smoothies, I grabbed a bag, and then promptly forgot about it in the freezer for 4 months.  Oops. Eventually, I found the cherry pie recipe here.  I decided to make it for Pi day, and wow.  We both loved the results. It has a very straightforward cherry fruit flavor, and is not nearly as cloyingly sweet as most of the canned fillings.  You also get more fruit, which is always nice in a fruit pie.  Unfortunately, the first time I made it I didn’t remember to get a photo of it for the blog.  So I made it again today.  Now, I cheated and used store-bought pie crust, but if you have a fantastic pie crust recipe, feel free to use that.

IMG_3483

Ingredients

Pie crust (enough for 1 double crust pie)

48 oz frozen dark sweet cherries (if you can find tart cherries, that would be better, but those are hard to find here)

3/4 cup sugar (a little less if you want a less sweet pie, down to 1/2 cup, or more if you’re using tart cherries-up to 1 cup)

5 tbsp corn starch (may need a little more, depending on how juicy your cherries are) (tapioca can be used as well, just use 1 tbsp less than the corn starch)

Pinch of salt

Splash of vanilla (optional)

1 tbsp butter

1 egg, for egg wash

Method

Prepare your pie crusts according to your recipe, or buy them.  Set them aside while you mix the cherries (still frozen is fine) with the sugar, salt, vanilla and cornstarch.  It will look something like this.

Mmm...crunchy.

Mmm…crunchy.

Set the bowl out for an hour and let the cherries thaw and soak into the starch.  If you’re impatient (like I am), then pull out a medium saucepan, pour the whole kit and caboodle into that and bring to a simmer.  It will start out looking cloudy

Foggy liquid

Foggy liquid

Once is comes up to a simmer, let it simmer gently for 5 minutes or so.  It should thicken and clear, looking something like this.

Steamy, but clearer.

Steamy, but clearer.

Let it cool while you deal with the crust.  Preheat your oven to 425 and roll out your bottom crust.  This is enough filling for a deep dish 9″ pie pan, so plan accordingly.  Once you have your bottom crust in place, pour in the filling and dot the top of the filling with the broken apart butter.   Top the pie with your second crust (I like lattice, but you can use a full crust if you like, just remember to leave some vent holes).  Brush the entire crust with egg wash, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Remember to put a tray under the pie pan-it may drip a little bit.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 375 and bake another half hour.  The filling should be bubbling gently.  Remove and let cool for several hours, until fully set and at room temperature.

Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you must, or just enjoy a piece unadorned.   At some point, I am going to try this same method with a blueberry pie, or a peach and blueberry pie. When I do that, I will report any positive results here.

Baked Banana Oatmeal

I enjoy a nice bowl of oatmeal in the morning.  What I don’t like is getting hungry at 10 because I just had one of those instant oatmeal packets instead of something more substantial. Since I tend to be a bit of a zombie most mornings, these baked oatmeal recipes are definitely the way to go during the work week.  They keep me full until lunch, they taste way better than the packets, and I can even successfully reheat a bowl before I have coffee.  When I made this recipe, I had two brown bananas and a plantain that was getting long in the tooth as well, so that’s what I used.  The plantain didn’t mash as neatly as the banana, but I do like the bites of fruit that survived.  If you don’t typically have plantains, just stick with bananas.  I also decided that you really can’t have too much banana flavor, so I added the 99 bananas (banana liqueur) to amp up that aspect.  You can leave that out, or add some banana extract instead.  Once I had pulled out the 99 banana, I also grabbed the dark rum, because why not make this taste like bananas fosters?

It tastes like oatmeal mixed with bananas fosters. Mmmm

It tastes like oatmeal mixed with bananas fosters. Mmmm

Ingredients (serves 8)

3 bananas, very ripe

2 eggs

1 3/4 cup milk

2 tbsp 99 bananas

2 tbsp dark rum

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 3/4 cup instant oatmeal

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup oat flour (optional, I like a firmer baked oatmeal)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

grate of nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas, add the rest of the wet ingredients.  Add sugar and spices and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients, mix, and pour into a greased 8″x 8″ pan.  Bake 45 minutes, or until set through.  Remove and cool slightly.  Can be served warm with milk, or you can stash it in the fridge and reheat it throughout the week.  I like adding about half a cup of milk and zapping it in the microwave for a minute. I have also reheated a bowl with a handful of fresh blueberries mixed it.  It helps mix things up and keeps it from getting too boring.  If you need something sweet, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or butterscotch chips would go well.

Baked black forest oatmeal

In my continuing effort to find new and interested uses for the massive bags of quick cooking oats I have, I decided to put on my mad scientist lab coat and experiment.  I have seen a variety of baked berry and fruit oatmeals floating around Pinterest and Facebook, but none that would use the 21oz can of cherry pie filling I was hoping to use (I have found a much better recipe for cherry pie, which I will hopefully get around to posting once I get some better pictures of a pie).  As a result of this experimentation, last night I created baked black forest oatmeal.

*Lightning crash. Wolf howl*

*Lightning crash. Wolf howl*

Ok, so that may be a bit dramatic. It’s basically a chocolate and cherry baked oatmeal, with some chocolate bits on top, and if you want a more complete black forest cake type experience, you can certainly serve it with whipped cream (even booze-spiked whipped cream). I wasn’t really intending to make a black forest oatmeal variant, as I was just throwing stuff in a bowl, but this was the end result.  It’s tasty enough that I may want to remember how the heck I got there in the future, so up on the blog it goes.  Chris is really not a fruit+chocolate person, so he’s pretty lukewarm on it, but if you like black forest cake (and like eating cake for breakfast), this may be worth a try.

Ingredients (for 12 generous servings)

1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch processed-I used Dutch this time)

4 cups quick cook oats

2 cups rolled oats

2 tbsp (depending on your tastes) vanilla extract

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup white chocolate chips

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas, then add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir until combined.  Add in the cocoa powder and mix well,  Once the mixture is well combined, stir in the oats until coated.  Pour into a greased 9″x13″ tray, and top with both kinds of chocolate chips.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until oatmeal is set.  It can be served warm, or just stash it in the fridge and heat individual servings.  I like to reheat it with a good pour of milk over it, but it’s actually pretty tasty just as is.  If you want to use frozen cherries instead of the pie filling, go for it, but you’ll want to add some more milk and some sweetener of some sort (1/2 cup sugar, maybe? That’s just a guess at amount).   Similarly, if you don’t have bananas that you desperately need to get rid of, you can probably use an extra egg, 1/4 cup sugar and a couple of tablespoons of canola oil or melted butter instead (at least, that’s what I’d try first as a sub for those).

Lemon Blueberry scones

As part of the continuing effort to catch up the blog, here’s a recipe I tried a while back that I just haven’t gotten up yet.  These are fantastic scones, light and fluffy on the inside, with a zippy lemon glaze. I originally came across this recipe on the Baking Bites blog, and made it as soon as I could.  These go together quickly, and I have made both the full sized scones, and half sized scones, and both work beautifully.

lemon blueberry scones

 

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients, then cut in butter.  Rub the butter into the flour (or use a food processor) until mixture resembles coarse corn meal.  Add in milk, zest and lemon juice and stir to combine. Divide dough in half, and place half on well floured board.  Pat into a round, and press half of the blueberries into the dough.  Fold the dough over a couple of times until the blueberries are mostly distributed.  Cut the dough round into 4 wedges and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Bake 18-25 minutes, until scones are a lovely  golden brown on top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  While they are cooling, mix 1/2 cup confectioners sugar with a tablespoon of vanilla extract and sufficient lemon juice to create an icing.  If you’re using more than 3 tbsp of juice, use water to finish the dilution.  Once the scones are mostly cool, drizzle with glaze and allow to set.  Devour with milk, tea or coffee.

 

Gingerbread Cookies

As is my usual tradition, every Christmas, I make a whole slew of cookies.  One of my absolute favorites, are the gingerbread.  Now, I know gingerbread cookies get some bad PR, ginger and molasses are rough ingredients for a sweet, but there is still something entirely captivating about a spicy chewy gingerbread cookie.  I have tried several recipes over the years, hoping to find one that lives up to all of my gingerbread expectations.  Sadly, many of them were acceptable, but otherwise unremarkable.  That changed this year.  I found a recipe at the Brown Eyed Baker, and wow.  These are fantastic cookies.  The trick really is the equal parts cinnamon and ginger.  Most recipes have a spice ratio that is heavily skewed toward the ginger.  Upping the cinnamon really reinforces the spicy heat of ginger and lets the sweetness of the molasses really shine through.

A note on the recipe: The original called for all AP flour, but I was out when I made these (oops!). I used a 2:1 mixture of bread and cake flour, and it worked fantastically, so I think I may just keep that change.  Also, I forgot to add the last ounce of butter (oops again!) and they still turned out great.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (dark would be better, but I used light and it was fine)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (I used the Penzey’s cinnamon blend)
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 oz butter, cut into pieces and softened slightly
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp milk

Method

Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade in place. Add in the butter, and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal.  With the processor running, slowly pour in the milk and molasses and combine until a dough forms.  You may need to scrape down the sides and bust apart a large dough ball to get an even mix at this point.  Pause the processor and poke it if it looks like it needs it.  At this point, you have a couple of options.  You need to chill the dough, so you can either roll it thin between parchment, and put it in the freezer, or just slide it in a plastic zip top bag and stash it in the fridge.  If you have several hours or days, fridge is the way to go.  If you need cookies NOW, freeze it for 10-15 minutes.

Once your dough is chilled, and you’re ready to make cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whenever I roll out cookies, I use a mixture of 1:1 flour and confectioners sugar to flour the board.  You keep things from sticking, and your cookies don’t end up super floury.  It’s a win-win.  So, if you want chewy cookies, roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, use your favorite cookie cutters and place on a parchment, or baking mat lined tray.  (Now, you don’t HAVE to use Star Wars cookie cutters, but wouldn’t it be better if you did?)

Gingerbread cookies 2

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on tray for a few minutes then remove to cooling rack until room temperature.  At this point you can decorate, or just consume with gleeful abandon.