November 26th, 2011
There was a shortage of carving pumpkins this year, thanks to some inclement late summer weather. So for Hallowe’en this year I bought a pair of petite pie pumpkins to make Jack O’ Lanterns. Only I was too tired to carve them. They sat on my kitchen shelf for nearly a month before I decided to use them in a Thanksgiving pie.
This was the first time I’d ever used real pumpkins — not canned. According to the directions I found online, the first step was to cut the pumpkins open and scrape out the seeds and pulp.
I washed the seeds and put them aside to dry out and roast the next day.
Apparently it doesn’t really matter how you cook the remaining pumpkin flesh. Microwave, oven, or steamer. Steamer seemed the best choice in my tiny garret kitchen.
After about 20 minutes, the pumpkin was dark and soft and fragrant. As soon as the pieces were cool enough to hold, I scraped it off the skin.
It looked a little stringy at first, but after a good stir with the fork, voila!
I needed 2 cups of pumpkin (plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and spices to taste) for my pie filling. I had about 2 and a half cups in all, so I put the remainder away for later. I poured the mixture into my crust and . . .
January 9th, 2011
I ran into a rather good deal on McIntosh apples this week, and since they aren’t terribly nice for eating, I decided to bake something. I’m still a bit shy of traditional pies after our recent excesses, so my first thought was for apple dumplings. I hied me to the Feeding America Collection and started hunting down receipts. In the midst of all the apple dumplings, boiled and baked and everything in between, I came across this intriguing item in Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book by Catherine Beecher, c. 1845, for Spiced Apple Tarts:
I began by peeling, coring, and slicing 5 or 6 McIntosh apples, plus 1 Granny Smith for flavor. I then proceeded to stew them in a bit of water plus 1 Tablespoon cognac. When they were nice and soft (only about 10 minutes as my stove was too hot), I put them through a sieve. For all practical purposes, it’s applesauce.
Then I added a squeeze of lemon juice — I’d intended to put in the grated lemon rind but got lazy. I spiced it well with liberal amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg (being out of all my other baking spices and desperately in need of a trip to Chelsea Market) and sweetened it with a few teaspoonfuls of blackstrap molasses.
Miss Beecher recommends using a light crust, so I chose my favorite modern tart crust.
1/4 lb butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup flour
Bring butter and cream cheese nearly to room temperature. Cream together until light and fluffy. Stir in flour. Form into ball and refrigerate for 1 hour. Divide into 6 pieces for large sized individual tarts, 12 pieces for muffin-tin sized tarts, or 24 pieces for mini-muffin sized tarts. Spread dough into bottom of tart pans with your fingers. Fill and bake, or for cold fillings, pierce the bottom of each tart with a fork and bake blind for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
I used a set of 6 tart pans that I’ve been meaning to send back to my dear friend (and chef/confectioner extraordinaire) Marla for some time. She sent them filled with 6 of the most delicious homemade-from-scratch pies all the way from California last fall. Using the tins one more time made me feel as though Marla might just drop in for tea and tarts — and I do wish she could!
I was nervous that the wetness of the filling might prevent the tart dough from crisping properly, but my fears were unfounded. The applesauce cooked down a bit as the tarts baked, taking on a delightful, almost apple-butter-like texture. And the crust was firm, flaky, and nicely browned after 20-25 minutes.
They were delicious. The man I cook for enjoyed his portion very much, though expressed a wish for whipped cream, in which I heartily concur. I’ll probably make some to accompany the remaining tarts. Or we can do like Jack Kerouac and simply empty the cream pitcher over them (a story my almost-beatnik husband — they still know him by sight at Caffe Trieste– is fond of relating whenever I serve him pie).
December 18th, 2010
I’ve been baking too much lately. It all started with Thanksgiving, when I decided to break our tradition of substituting pumpkin ice cream for the pumpkin pie. For some reason, I really wanted to make a pie this year.
Served cold with lots of fresh whipped cream, it seems to have jarred something loose in my psyche. In the past two weeks, I’ve made two more pumpkin pies, a chocolate cake, and a pan of bread pudding (though I ended up throwing most of that away). Read on…