Friday, June 24, 2011

Blueberry Pie

Ah June, hockey season is finally over and blueberries are in season, fresh and abundant at the grocery store. On the day that the Stanley Cup would finally be handed over to either Boston or Vancouver I came across the most amazing looking blueberries while shopping. We were having friends over to watch the game and I decided that I would make a blueberry pie for dessert. Normally making a blueberry pie wouldn't even enter my mind (hubby doesn't like blueberries, or most fruit for that matter) but I had recently purchased Martha Stewart's Pie and Tarts and remembered an amazing looking blueberry pie in the book. Martha's version has a latticed topped pie but I find the process of proper "latticing", i.e. weaving the strips of dough, too time consuming so I opted for an easier method of just rolling out the dough and cutting out leaf patterns, with my nifty leaf pattern cutters from William Sonoma that would provide vents to allow the steam to escape and the leaf cutouts would be "glued" over the crust for a decorative finish.

The filling is so easy! Just wash the berries and pick through for any bad ones (I think I discarded only one from a 2 lb. container) and add some sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon juice. This is far easier than making apple pie (which hubby loves - he likes apples) which eliminates the peeling and chopping. The blueberries are piled onto a pastry lined pie plate and topped with the decorative pastry.

The pie is fluted and brushed with milk and sprinkled with a dusting of sugar. Martha brushes her pastry with an egg wash but I find my method also works well. The pie is baked in a hot 400 degree oven for 20 minutes and then the temperature is lowered to 350 degrees and baked for 55 minutes more.

It comes out of the oven golden and beautiful, with some of the bubbling filling oozing from the vents.

After my son had a slice he asked me why I've never made blueberry pie before. Our friends enjoyed it as well, though they weren't happy at all that Vancouver had lost. Hubby on the other hand was so thrilled that Boston won (he was rooting for an original six team) he didn't even notice the pie.

Blueberry Pie

(Pate Brisee)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water.

Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor (or whisk together by hand in a bowl). Add butter, and pulse (or quickly cut in with a pastry blender or your fingertips) until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some larger pieces remaining. Drizzle 1/4 cup water over mixture. Pulse (or mix with a fork) until mixture just begins to hold together. If dough is too dry, add 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse ( or mix with a fork).

Divide dough in half onto tow pieces of plastic wrap. Gather into two balls, wrap loosely in plastic, and press each into a disk using a rolling pin. Refrigerate until firm, well wrapped in plastic, 1 hour or up to 1 day. (Dough can be frozen up to 3 months; thaw in refrigerator before using.

Shortening Variation: Replace 1/2 cup of butter with 1/2 cup of cold vegetable shortening cut into to small pieces.


2 lbs. (about 7 cups) fresh blueberries, picked over and rinsed.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large egg yolk, for egg wash (I used milk or cream)
1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough to 13-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large bowl, toss together berries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and lemon juice until combined. Pour mixture into pie plate piling in center.

On lightly floured surface, roll out remaining disk of dough to 13-inch round. To make lattice, cut dough into ten 1-inch wide strips using a fluted pastry wheel. Lightly brush edge of dough in pie plate with water. Carefully arrange dough strips on top, weaving to form a lattice. Trim dough to a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under as desired, and crimp with a fork. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and cream for egg wash; brush on top of dough strips and edge of pie shell. Generously sprinkle with sanding sugar. Refrigerate or freeze pie until firm, about 30 minutes.

Transfer pie plate3 to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and bake until crust begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat o 350 F. Continue baking until crust is deep golden brown and juices bubble, 55 minutes more. (If crust browns too quickly, tent pie with foil.) Transfer pie to a wire rack; let cool completely, at least 3 hours, before serving.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Alpine Baguettes - Alpler Baguette

These wonderful baguettes by Clemens Walch who has a bakery at the base of a ski slope in Lech in the beautiful Austrian Alps are so good that Daniel Leader included the recipe in his book Local Breads. I was drawn to this bread because of my favourite mixture of seeds in the dough, mainly sunflower, pumpkin, flax and sesame along with some rolled oats.

The seeds and rolled oats are soaked the night before to plump up and soften.

The recipe has a small amount of German rye sourdough which gives the bread a slight tang. Daniel Leader gives instruction for developing a rye sourdough culture but I have to admit that I cheated here. Making his rye sourdough culture from scratch would have meant waiting for almost two weeks to develop and I just didn't have the patience for that so I used my regular sourdough culture and refreshed it a couple of times with rye flour and water. By then there was enough rye flour in the culture that I was pretty confident that it would work as well.

The one problem I found in the recipe was the high hydration. The dough was quite wet and even after 15 minutes of mixing with the KitchenAid the gluten wasn't developing as I thought it should. I will confess that I ran out of bread flour and had to use unbleached flour so this may have caused the problem but I just added more flour along with a handful of rye flour and the dough came together just fine. It still had to be poured out of the mixer into a rising container but after a two hour rise it was manageable on a well floured surface. Next time I'll try decreasing the amount of water used to soaked the seeds and oats. I preshaped the divided dough by folding rectangles of dough into thirds and allowed them to rest covered for 10 minutes.

After the rest they were easily shaped into long baguettes, covered and allowed to rise for another 40 minutes or until they looked puffy and light.

They baked up beautifully and they crackled nicely when they were removed from the oven, a sign that they were ready.

This recipe is definately a keeper, as a matter of fact I now keep a rye culture in my fridge along with the regular sourdough culture.

The crumb is lovely and toothsome with a nice crisp crust. The only complaint I had with this bread was that there was not enough salt for my taste, so next time I'll have to remember to add a bit more salt and it will be perfect. I really like this bread alot.

Alpine Baguettes

Yield: 3 thick baguettes, ~12 inches long (368 g each)

100 g mature, 100% hydration rye sourdough
28 g rolled oats
28 g sunflower seeds
28 g pumpkin seeds
28 g flax seeds
28 g sesame seeds
525 g water, divided
5 g instant yeast
500 g unbleached bread flour
10 g sea salt
Refresh the rye sourdough 12 to 24 hours before mixing. Also, pour the rolled oats and seeds into a bowl and cover them with 175 g water. Soak them overnight, so that they swell and soften.

When you are ready to mix the final dough, pour the remaining 350 g water into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast, bread flour, soaked oasts and seeds, and salt with a rubber spatula. Stir down the rye sourdough and add it to the mixture. Stir well to combine.

Use the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-low speed (3 on a KitchenAid mixer) for 8 minutes. Turn off the machine and scrape the hook and the sides of the bowl. Drape a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes. Turn the mixer back on to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic 5 to 7 minutes more.

Transfer the dough to an oiled container. Cover it and let is rise until it has doubled in volume (2 to 2 1/2 hours).

An hour before baking preheat the oven to 450 F with a baking stone and steam pan.

Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Flatten one piece of dough into a rectangle and fold it into thirds like a business letter. Turn it smooth side up. Repeat this process with the other two pieces. Cover the piece lightly and let rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

Shape the pieces of dough into a baguette about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Dust a piece of parchment paper with flour and place the baguettes on it, seam side down, about three inches apart. Cover lightly. Proof the baguettes at room temperature until they are puffy and light, 30-40 minutes.

Slide the baguettes into the oven. Bake them with steam for 10-15 minutes and without steam for another 10-15. Turn the oven off and leave the baguettes in for another 5-10 minutes. Let the loaves cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. These are delicious enjoyed warm.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Way back in the sixties my mother used to make a cake that was called the Salami Cake. It was made with a chocolate batter and broken biscuits, the kind that you would serve with tea. The broken biscuits were mixed until well coated with the batter and then rolled into a cyclinder wrapped in aluminum foil and refrigeratered until firm. When the roll was sliced it resembled salami, the broken cookies looked like the bits of fat in salami. I used to really like it but like so many recipes this one was lost and forgotten about until this recipe for Chocolate Biscuit Cake which was featured on the Oprah show on the day William and Kate were married brought back memories of the Salami Cake.

This cake was made for Prince William as a groom's cake because it was his favourite cake. I decided to make it because it reminded me so much of the cake I had loved.

The biscuits are broken into almond sized pieces

Butter and sugar are whipped until very light and then the melted dark chocolate is mixed into the mixture.

An egg is added and mixed until well incorporated.

The cookies are added to the batter and mixed until well combined and then the mixture is poured into a greased 6 inch cake pan. I used a springform pan which worked very well.

The cake is refrigerated for a few hours. Meanwhile more dark chocolate is melted and put aside to frost the cake when it has set.

It looks very nice. However the cake doesn't slice nicely. I probably did not compress it enough into the pan. The chocolate coating is also hard and brittle so getting a nice clean slice was impossible.

Nonetheless it was well received by my family including my mother who was over for dinner.

My son said it reminded him of dobosh, a multi layered chocolate torte that is a favourite around here. My husband who wasn't going to try a piece decided to give it a try when he heard that it was similar to dobosh torte and liked it. It was very different from the cake I had known as it wasn't as easy to slice and the distinct almond flavour in the salami cake was missing here. I was glad I tried it, though I don't know that I would make it again. Then again I just might as I have a feeling my family may request this cake again.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake
by former royal chef Darren McGrady

Servings: Makes one 6-inch round cake (8 portions)


1/2 tsp. butter , for greasing
8 ounces Rich tea biscuits
4 ounces unsalted butter , softened
4 ounces granulated sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate , for the cake
1 egg
8 ounces dark chocolate , for coating
1 ounce chocolate , for decorating
To make cake: Lightly grease a 6" x 2 1/2" cake ring and place on a tray on a sheet of parchment paper.

Break each of the biscuits into almond-size pieces by hand and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture starts to lighten.

Melt the 4 ounces of dark chocolate and add to the butter mixture while constantly stirring.

Beat the egg into the mixture.

Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all of the gaps on the bottom of the ring because this will be the top when it is unmolded.

Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

To coat and decorate: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it stand while you melt the 8 ounces of dark chocolate.

Slide the ring off the cake and turn it upside down onto a cake wire.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and smooth the top and sides using a palette knife.

Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.

Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where the chocolate has stuck to the cake wire and lift it onto a tea plate.

Melt the remaining 1 ounce of chocolate and use to decorate the top of the cake.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I know that panettone is a Christmas sweet bread and we are well into spring but I woke up with such a graving for a slice of this sweet bread that I just had to bake one up. There was no time to bake a superior panettone made with a pre-ferment; that would have meant waiting another day so I had no choice but to refer to a reliable straight dough recipe from Canada's Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt. I only use my bread machine to mix the dough and then I proceed as with any bread and bake it in the oven. This recipe is simple to make as you just dump all the ingredients in the mixing chamber of the bread machine. The bread is scented with a grating of lemon rind, cardamon and marsala and studded with plump raisins. I omitted the currants and candied citron and added more raisins. The marsala isn't part of the recipe but it adds so much to the panettone's flavour. Sometimes I soak the raisins in the Marsala before adding them to the dough but there was no time for that. I had bought dry milk a while ago as it saves you the step of scalding milk so I thought I would try it out in this recipe and substituted the cup of milk with a cup of water and 1/4 cup of dry milk and hoped for the best.

The dough is lovely and soft and rolled into a ball and placed in a panettone pan.

I proofed my dough in large plastic bags where it is left alone for a while.

When I checked it the dough had risen well over the top of the pan. I've made this recipe many times and I don't remember the rise being so significant. I think the dry milk contributed to the awsome rise.

The oven spring was also significant and I was rewarded with this lovely tall, domed sweet bread. Before baking I had to adjust the rack to the bottom of the oven to allow room for the dough to rise and not hit the top of the oven.

A trick I discovered was to invert the panettone into the pan to cool. The top crust is strong enough to support the panettone and hold it in place without sinking back into the pan. If you cool it in an upright position the panettone can collapse onto itself while it is still warm. Some books suggest using a pillow to support a cooling panettone but this method works as well.

When the panettone was still warm I sliced into it and I was quite pleased with the crumb. I could now finally have a slice with a cup of coffee. My graving was sated.

Italian Panettone

1 cup (242 gr.) milk or 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup dry milk

1 egg

2 tbsp. (42 gr.) honey

1 tsp. salt (I used 1-1/4 tsp.)

2 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. marsala

3-1/4 cups (460 gr.) all-purpose or bread flour

1/2 tsp. cardamon

2 tsp. bread machine yeast (instant yeast)

1/2 cup raisins, (plumped in 3 tbsp. brandy or marsala)

1/2 cup currants

1/3 cup candied citron

Measure all ingredients except currants, raisins and citron into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Insert pan into the oven chamber. Select Sweet Cycle. Add currants, raisins and citron at the "add ingredient" signal.

I use the dough cycle and allow the dough to rise twice and then shape it into a ball in place it in a panettone pan. I allow it to rise until doubled and then bake it in a 350 F. oven for about 40 minutes or until the top is golden dark brown. If the top is browing to quickly then tent it with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Cool as shown above and enjoy.