Peanut Butter and Honey Granola

peanut butter and honey granola
When family or friends face challenging circumstances, it is easy to say things like “everything happens for a reason”—but guess what? Things don’t. They happen, and then you deal with them. So when family in Seattle needed help, my mom and I headed north to take care of easy stuff so they could focus on their challenge.

While there, I got into a daily rhythm of [click to continue…]

Plum Jam

plum jam on toast

My parent’s backyard plum harvest is short and sweet—leave the Bay Area the wrong week in June or July and you miss it completely. And if no one is around to claim the fruit, it all goes to the birds.

A couple of weeks ago when I was watching their house and taking care of King Henry, the family cardigan welsh corgi, the plum tree was entering its peak harvest level. I took action: in the morning, I’d go out and pick all the ripe fruit, which was smaller this year than last because of the drought. I ate plums plain (over the sink to catch the juices dripping off my face) or sliced them up and put them on yogurt or in galettes.

By the end of the week, I still had a lot of plums, and most wouldn’t keep much longer in the refrigerator. It felt wrong for me to be the only one in the family to enjoy them. It’s been a tough summer for us. The least I could do was sweeten the pot a bit by preserving some plums.

2 plums

So I made plum jam the easy way. [click to continue…]

How to Make Galettes

galettes
I’ve been on an “everything is better with pie dough” kick lately, and apparently I’m far from alone, especially when it comes to galettes. Just the other day, my friend Cecile ran this post on Facebook:

“Galettes are definitely the pastry of summer 2015 when 6 friends in 5 different cities post instagrams of galettes over the past 2 days. Where is my galette, I ask you?”

Cecile, since you are in Chicago and I’m all the way out on the West Coast, I can’t help you directly with this request. Indirectly, I can tell you how to make one of these casual hand-shaped fruit-in-pie crust desserts. It is so much easier than it appears (and much easier than pie).

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sorting out best practices. Last week in California, Sam, Robin, and Jana came over and sampled a few. I had picked a bunch of small, tart plums, and at first didn’t get the balance of sugar-to-fruit correct. The first was way too tart. I learned, adjusted, and made one that was pretty close to perfect. A strawberry one made with a rye flour crust was also decent enough to go back for seconds. Today, as I type this out from a rental cottage in Seattle, I hit near galette nirvana with a blueberry and peach combo.

Thinking back to last week’s tasting with the amigos, the crazy part was that two of them confessed to not liking pie. I prodded. It turns out that to them, the ratio of fruit to crust in an average pie is all off. There is just too much fruit, and the bottom crust is sort of mush, if anything. But a galette, they decided, had the perfect balance of fruit to crust. And the crust holds its shape, even when covered with fruit. When making galettes, even when they turn out completely ugly with juices oozing everywhere, it is hard to go wrong.

I will never give up on pie, but lately it’s hard to get me to stop messing around with galettes. They can be made in small and large shapes, they bake faster (thus heating up the house for less time), and they are easy to freeze, if you need to preserve the season of a particular summer fruit for a bit longer.

A few tricks I’ve learned: [click to continue…]

How to Make Pie Crust

Pie dough primer

Hunger is a good motivator. In high school, I taught myself how to make pie crust because it would guarantee that I’d get to eat pie.

It’s funny to think about someone like me experiencing a growth spurt. I’m 5’2 on a good day; I’ve never woken up with the kind of leg pain that my taller relatives experienced as they shot a foot or so above me. But in high school, I was hungry all the time, packing two sandwiches for lunch because one wouldn’t be enough to dull the pangs that came calling every hour. This was the kind of eating behavior of someone who was destined to be 6’2.

Being a soccer-fanatic-always-in-motion tomboy had something to do with it, but my hunger also had a lot to do with how much I loved food. It wasn’t just the eating; it was the making. I was in awe of food that I didn’t know how to make. When a girl in my high school class said she had spent the weekend baking pie, my first thought was that she must possess incredible baking talent. My next thought: could I learn how to bake pie, too? 

Yes, of course. The first hurdle I had to get over was the idea that pie crust is impossibly difficult to make. My mom always stuck to crisps and crumbles and pies were the domain of the inimitable SandyB of blueberry pie fame, which is one of the reasons pie took on such a mythical place in my dessert imagination. There are many ways to approach making pie, and all good ones have merit.

There are also countless ways to screw up pie, too, and through the years I’ve made nearly every mistake. Getting comfortable with pie dough takes practice, but not an insurmountable amount. Like any dough, you get a sense of what it’s supposed to feel and look like at certain stages, cutting out the need to follow a recipe. I have made off-the-cuff pie in rental cabins and friends’ apartments using wine bottles as rolling pins and the results have always been edible, if not downright delicious. Being able to pull this off is much easier than my high school self would have believed. There aren’t any secrets. You just need to have some common sense and a near-foolproof formula for pie dough in your back pocket.

Here, how to make + master pie crust: [click to continue…]

Summer = Blueberry Pie

blueberry pie
Most people I know love apple pie above all other fruit pies. When I was little and we lived in the southern Philippines, apples were hard to come by. So the expat community got its fix by seasoning sliced, underripe mangoes with cinnamon and sugar and baking them in pie crust. That’s how much Americans missed their American pie: rather than do without, they got resourceful. Or just plain faked it.

[click to continue…]

How to Use Radish Leaves

Radish greens
Root-to-stalk cooking is not a new idea. Tara Duggan even has a book out on the subject. A few years ago, I wrote about how this way of reducing waste in the kitchen had even trickled into desserts, with pastry chefs using as much of the fruit (and vegetable) as they could. Kady Yon made use of carrot peels by crisping them up for a dessert garnish. The carrot tops also became garnish. Kim Schwenke went whole-pumpkin, thinking of all the things she could do with the skin, pulp, and seeds. And Patrick Fahy infused custard with apricot and cherry pits.

Grocery stores don’t always provide the best produce for root-to-stalk cooking. Sometimes beet greens are mangled by the time you get them home. That can be the case with radishes, too, with the leaves stuck together, on the verge of turning to slime. But maybe it’s because it’s early summer, or I’m hitting the store at the right time, but lately the greens have been anything but mangled or old. The radish greens (pictured above) were stunning. And they tasted good, too—nice and bright. How could I throw them all away?

So I didn’t. Instead, I [click to continue…]

Candied Brown Butter and Cocoa Hazelnuts

brown butter candied hazelnuts

One of the amazing things about egg whites is that you can freeze them for a year and they’ll be OK. Actually, they might even be better than OK. I learned this from Mindy Segal, who pointed out that old egg whites make better meringues than fresh-outta-the-shell egg whites. She said it’s even fine to leave whites at room temperature overnight before using them as long as the room isn’t too warm.

This was good news, because I had a few baggies of egg whites in my freezer left over from the times I needed only the yolks to make citrus curd or cookies when testing recipes for Cookie Love. (BTW, if you have extra egg whites, freeze them two at a time in plastic sandwich bags. Whites from large eggs are roughly 30 grams each, so if you have a bunch of egg whites frozen in a block, use this measurement to weigh out the whites needed for the recipe.) For the past year, they had become buried behind more captivating ingredients, like teff flour, sesame seeds, and walnuts. It was time for me to do something about the situation.

Figuring out what to do next was the easy part. Flourless, a naturally gluten-free baking book by Nicole Spiridakis, has a lot of ideas that I’ve been wanting to try out, and [click to continue…]