She’s my… |Bourbon Cherry Pie

It’s no secret that one of my favourite things about summer is eating myself sick on stone fruit. I spend all winter dreaming of grilled peaches, poached nectarines and tiny plums

So, when my market was selling cartons of cherries before Christmas, I went a little crazy. Let’s be honest, I don’t make great choices under pressure. What I really wanted, was the recipe for Varnish on King’s Cherry Whiskey Sour, which is probably my favourite cocktail of all time. Sadly, Jamie isn’t giving up the goods, so I settled for putting that cocktail into pie form which was probably just as delicious, and with slightly fewer next-day regrets.

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Pie is a kind of dish that you walk away from feeling accomplished. No one can ever accuse you of it coming from a box, or ‘cheating’ in any way. From having to pit the cherries, to wait for the dough to chill, you earn this pie every step of the way. Should you have any worries that it’s a lot of effort for nought, let me assure you that the final result is nothing short of completely worth it.

Yeah, you bet I played Warren on repeat while I make this sucker. There was hip swaying, and kitchen dancing, and a rollicking good time was had by all (me). In fact, I heartily suggest that you do the same.

 

Vanilla Bourbon Cherry Pie

From Half Baked Harvest

1.3 kilos fresh cherries, pitted (I really only had about 900g, which was fine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed from the pod
zest from 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
demerara sugar or granulated sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

 

Make your favourite pastry recipe – mine is this one from Smitten Kitchen, and it’s perfect. It’s pretty much foolproof, so if you’re a beginner, it’s a great place to start.

Once dough is chilled, let it sit on your bench for 5 minutes or so to soften enough to be rolled. Grease/butter a 22cm/9-inch pie dish, and heat your oven to 220 degrees C.

On a floured bench top, roll out one half of the dough to a 30cm/12 inch round. Very carefully, lift it into your pie dish. Trim any excess dough from around the edges, then prick the base all over with a fork.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a floured bench in to a 30cm/12 inch round. Transfer onto baking paper.

To decorate the crust: now, it’s up to you how you do this – you can punch stars or holes into the crust, or cut it into strips and go the traditional weave crust – be creative, this is the fun part! If you’d like ideas, check out here. Once done, place the dough in the fridge to firm up.

Add the cherries, sugar, cornflour, bourbon, vanilla and lemon zest in a large bowl, and toss them together to make sure it’s really well combined. Scrape the fruit and all the delicious juices into the pie dish.

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Carefully place your pie crust over the pie and remove the baking paper. Crimp the bottom and top crusts together to seal in all the goodness, then brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Whack the whole thing back in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm.

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When ready to bake, place the pie dish on a baking tray (this catches any spills when the pie bubbles up and makes your oven easier to clean – trust me on this), and bake for around 30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C, and bake for another 50-60 minutes to get the juices bubbling.

Leave to cool on a wire rack for a good 4 hours before tucking in, and serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

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And that’s why I’m not allowed to play with fire

Accident prone. Klutz. Breaker of nice things. Danger to self and society. I get called a lot of things, and they’re usually all true.

I set fire to my hair once. Ok, ok! I’ve done it twice. Both times were accidents though, much like the time I singed off the tips of my eyelashes. What?! Don’t look at me like that, it could have happened to anybody. All I’m saying is, don’t use a stove-top kettle with a hangover. And curling irons are dangerous. As are aerosol cans and gas stove tops.

I don’t normally like to advocate burning things. Pyromania is bad, mmkay?

HOWEVER. There is an exception to the rule in butter. Sweet jeebus, burnt butter is a miracle ingredient that makes everything taste better. Even butter better is that it has both sweet and savoury applications. That’s right, it goes just as well in pasta dishes as it does in cakes.

Remember how I accidentally ended up with 5 kilos of carrots, and it resulted in epic carrot soup? Well, I also accidentally found myself in possession of 2 kilos of apples. Thus, apple pie.

I’m a little afraid of making proper pies, so instead, I make galettes. It’s all the key ingredients of pie, but easy and ‘rustic’. The simple step of browning the butter before adding it to the apples kind of makes you wonder why you never thought of it before.

With 48 hours to go until Spring, and Winter taking its dying breaths, this weekend is the perfect time to give this a go.

Brown Butter Apple Galette

From White on Rice Couple

2 sheets of puff pastry, or my favourite recipe here
340g unsalted butter
9 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
65g caster sugar
100g packed brown sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (the fresh stuff, not from a bottle)

Preheat oven to 220°C

Add the butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter for a couple of minutes until it starts to foam, and then turn brown. The butter will take on a slightly nutty, toasted smell. Once this happens, remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss together the apple slices in a large bowl with the sugars and flour, until the apple is well coated. Once the butter has cooled, add it to the apples, making sure you scrape in all the little brown bits (because they’re delicious!). Add the lemon juice, and toss again to coat. Set aside.

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Roll out the dough between two pieces of baking paper until evenly round and about half a centimeter thick. Add half of the apples to the middle of the dough, spreading them out evenly and leaving a border around the edge of about 5cm.

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Fold the edge of the dough over the apples, creasing if need be. Repeat with the remaining dough and apples.

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Brush the edges of the dough with cream, milk or a whisked egg, and sprinkle with a little more sugar, and then a little bit of flaked salt.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 180°C and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Leaves and Autumn and Pie! Oh My!

I’m beginning to get what people see in Autumn.

I didn’t really get it at first, it was this kind of nothing season before all that beautiful winter rain kicks in. I’m a fan of lounge room fort building, weekends in pajamas and jumping in puddles. At least I would be, except every time I wistfully proclaim that I want a pair of wellies, Wade says no. Totally not a team player.

Taken out the front of work last week…

But this Autumn thing has stuff going for it. I’m beginning to enjoy the briskness in the evenings (not in the morning. Makes it hard to get out of bed, thus making me late for work. Sorry, Boss), but still warm in the middle of the day. Pretty things to wear in the shops. Boots. Adding blankets. Changing colours on leaves. It’s all rather lovely, when you think about it.

The other good thing is, of course, the change in the kinds of food you’re craving. It’s a little less of the clean, light flavours, they start to deepen, become richer. Slow cookers are being dusted off, shanks and roasts are being purchased, robust flavours are starting to take over.

I set about this evening to make pie. Who doesn’t love pie? They’re both big and little, sweet and savoury. There’s no flaw here, only pie-filled winning. Huzzah. The best part about this one is that it’s ‘free form’. Calling something free form, or ‘rustic’, is the fancy, foodie way of saying that we can’t be arsed making it look perfect. This is a win for you playing at home because it means you don’t have to learn some ridiculous presentation technique. However it comes together for you, that’s how it’s meant to look. Run with it.

The flavours here aren’t complex, nor do they have that winter heaviness. The herbs are perfect companions for chicken, and the chorizo kicks it up a notch. The perfect stepping stone for the winter yet to come.

Chicken, Chorizo & Potato Pie

From Australian Good Taste Magazine

400g potatoes, cut into 4cm pieces
2 tsp olive oil
500g chicken thighs, diced
1 chorizo, sliced
1 leek, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 sprigs frest thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemart, leaves picked
2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, whisked

1) Place the potatoes in a pot of boiling water. Cook until just tender, drain and refresh in cold water.

2) While the potatoes boil, heat the oil in a fry pan. Brown the chicken in batches for a couple of minutes. Set the chicken aside in a large mixing bowl. Cook the chorizo for a couple of minutes each side, until golden. Throw the leek, rosemary and thyme into the pan and stir until the leek softens. Add the potatoes and cook for 1 minute, stirring to combine all the ingredients. Add the leek and chorizo mix to the chicken, season with pepper and combine. Set aside to cool a little, about 30 minutes.

3) Heat the oven to 200*c. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place one sheet of pastry on the tray, and spoon half of the mixture into the middle, leaving a border of about an inch. Fold up the sides around the mixture and brush the edges with egg yolk. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

4) Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Note: Only brown the chicken, it will finish cooking in the oven. I’d recommend chicken thighs over breast, as the breast dries out pretty quickly. Be generous with herbs, as always. I also threw in a handful of mushrooms, just because I had them and I could.

What do you love about Autumn? Or are you not a fan?

Weather gone… Well, seasonal.

According to the calendar, summer has had its time in the sun, and handed over the seasonal reigns to Autumn.
Apparently, it forgot to sign out with the Bureau of Meteorology, but we’ll leave them to sort out the paperwork on that.

Produce, however, is a little less flexible in its schedule, and so we start to say goodbye to my beloved summer fruit. Soon, there will be no more peaches, with their rolling juices and slightly fuzzy skin. No more nectarines, confusing me in the supermarket because they look far too similar to peaches. Lychees gorged on by the bowlful late at night.  Blueberries that get absent-mindedly devoured mid afternoon at my desk.

Somehow, while our days remain ungodly warm, winter clothes have slipped into the windows of stores. Air conditioning is no longer the deciding factor on whether or not you sleep tonight (though still essential, Mr Barnett). And rather sneakily, I feel the need for slow stewed meats, filling soups and warm desserts. Damn you. Did not see this coming.

Taking the last of my favourite summer fruits, and baking them into a winter pie seemed the only answer.
Take the challenge of making the pastry yourself. It terrified me the first time I tried too, but it’s so much easier than you think!

Peach, Blueberry and Crème Fraîche Pie

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

1/2 recipe All-Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough or 2 sheets of puff pastry

Crumble
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 to 6 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Filling
4 or 5 medium yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons crème fraîche

1. Roll out pastry to about 1/2cm thick and fit into a regular pie dish. Trim edge to 1cm; fold under and crimp however you like. Prick base of pie all over with a fork. Leave it in the freezer for a half hour. Preheat the oven to 200*c while base chills.
If you’re using puff pastry,  lay one over the other (making a star shape), and trim any excess.

2. In a small bowl, mix icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour, baking powder and salt. Throw in the bits of chopped cold butter, and with your fingers or a fork, work the mixture until it looks crumbly. Add more flour a tablespoon at a time if it needs it. Set aside (leave in the fridge if you have a hot kitchen so the butter doesn’t melt and ruin your awesome crumbling skillz).

3. Cover the pie pastry in foil, and cover the base with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, carefully remove weights and foil and then return to the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°c.

4. Sprinkle the peaches and blueberries with salt and sugar. Toss to coat evenly.

Spread two tablespoons crème fraîche on the bottom of the pie shell, then sprinkle with a third of the crumble. Place fruit on top (now is your chance to practice your CWA decorating skills!). Drizzle what’s left of the crème fraîche over the fruit, and top with crumble.

5. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the crème fraîche starts to bubble and the crumble is golden. If the edges of the pie brown too quickly, cover them with foil.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes, or keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

 

P.S. This weekend. The Araluen Fremantle Chilli Festival. Do it.

Rain, Top Smells and Apple Pie Cookies

I woke up on Tuesday at 5:30am.

This is unusual for several reasons:
1. I’m not a morning person. Like, at all. Left to my own body clock, I’m hard pressed to be awake before 11am. I worked really hard (and by really hard, I mean not at all) to earn my nickname Housecat.

2. I was woken by noise. I’m a fairly heavy sleeper. There’s a story of me sleeping through a cyclone as a kid.

Now, this noise that woke me from my glorious, heavy slumber?
Rain. Proper, fat droplet rain. The good kind.
When you consider that only 48 hours before, I woke to crystal-clear, cloudless blue skies and 35* heat, this was a remarkable turn around in weather fortunes. But, thus is Perth’s spring weather. A little on the unpredictable side.
As I lay there, I realised not only could you hear the rain, but you could smell it.
Rain would make my top 10 favourite smells, easy. And then, in that way that only happens when you’re half asleep, my brain kind of took off. Smellsmellsmell. What else do I like?
Jasmine, for one. Puppies. Onion. Garlic. Bacon. Put them together in a frying pan, and it’s my olfactory heaven. But there’s something about pulling baked goods out of the oven. Hot biscuits, pies, tarts. It’s all sugary, crumbly delightfulness, that will easily bring a grown man to his knees. And then *bam* I knew what I had to make.
Apple Pie Cookies.
It’s apple. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Sugar. It’s a pie, but it’s a biscuit. It’s basically The Best Idea Ever.
This recipe from Smitten Kitchen had caught my eye a couple of days earlier, and I couldn’t resist. And frankly, you shouldn’t either.

Now. For those of you playing at home, this is what we are getting ourselves in for:
It’s sweet (obviously), but it’s not too sweet. This is a good thing.
It’s a lot of biscuit/crust, not a lot of filling. But enough to get its point across.
It’s brilliant with a cuppa, because that’s what just about all the women I work with paired it with, and what the girls from my local cafe instantly made themselves.

I hadn’t made pastry before (CHALLENGE ACCEPTED), so I followed that part of the recipe to the letter. Except I forgot to check the pantry before I started cooking, so there was a trip to the supermarket for more flour (this recipe only needed 3 trips, win!) midway through. But that’s ok.
I like this because it lends itself to experimentation. Other fruits? Spices? What happens if we whack in a couple of chocolate chips… Oooh, I like that idea.

Here we go…

Apple Pie Cookies
Adapted (slightly) from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Crust
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus more for dusting surfaces, dipping fork, rolling pin
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup water, very cold

Filling
3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
A pinch of any other spices you like in your apple pie

To finish
1 large egg

Additional stuff
A couple baking sheets covered with parchment paper
Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)
Two round cookie cutters of different sizes. I used 2 7/8-inch and 1 4/5-inch rounds. You’ll want to make sure there’s at least a 3/4-inch different in the sizes, as you’ll need the extra margin to crimp your dough.

Make your pie dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. (You’ll want to chop your butter into small bits first.) Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days. [Even more detailed pie dough instructions in this post, check it out!]

Meanwhile, get everything else together: Line up five small dishes. In the first one, pour some water. Leave the second one empty; you’ll use it for your apples in a bit. In the third one, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other spices you like in your pie, such as a pinch of cloves. In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping. In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth.

So many bowls...

On a well-floured counter, roll out your pie dough pretty thin, a little shy of 1/8-inch thick. Lift and rotate your dough as you roll it, to ensure that it rolls out evenly and so you can be sure it’s not sticking in any place. [More rolling tips here!] Use the larger of your two cookie cutters [mine was 2 7/8-inch) to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Once you’ve finished the first packet, repeat the process with the second packet of dough

Prepare your apples: Peel your apples. Cut thin (1/8-inch thick) slices from one side of whole apple, stopping when you hit the core. Repeat on opposite side. You can get about 10 usable slices from each side of a small-medium-ish apple. OR, you could use a mandolin, which is what I did. Use the smaller of your two cookie cutters (mine was about 1 2/3 inches) to cut the apples into cute little discs that will fit inside your pie cookies. Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if you find that they’re browning quickly.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.

And now, assemble away! Grab your first disc of chilled dough and lightly dampen it on one side with the water. This is to help it seal. Take your first disc of apple and toss it in the cinnamon spice sugar. Place it on the damp side of the bottom disk. Place a second disc of dough on top; I found it easiest to seal it by picking the whole thing up (this is when you’ll be glad that your dough is cold and semi-firm; if it’s soft and getting sticky, chill it until it’s easy to pick up) and press the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers. Back on the floured counter, cut decorative slits in your “pies”. Dip your fork in the flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges. Brush your cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with additional spice/sugar mix. Replace on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others.

Battle stations

Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like. (If this is your first batch, peer in at them at 20 minutes, to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot.) Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating them. Safety first, kids. No one likes a burnt tongue. No one.

*Trumpet fanfare*

Annnd done

If you can, serve them warm, because that’s when they are The Shizz, but they were great cold, too.
Keep them in an airtight container, provided they don’t get inhaled immediately. I’m looking at you, housemates.