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Summer peach pie

Peach pie

July is the perfect time for summer peaches. I found some fantastic Jersey peaches near Ocean City, NJ, for $1 a pound (not something you can find on the island of Manhattan) and since you need several pounds of peaches for this pie, it was a great find.

The subtle sweet flavor of summer peaches are a great canvas for a pie. I like to keep my peach pie relatively straight forward, as peach juice can easily be overpowered by stronger flavors (save your cinnamon for fall!).

I recently made this pie with an almond crumb topping. I would also be great as a traditional double crust pie. Enjoy!

Summer Peach Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie

Ingredients
One double crust dough recipe, or single crust (if using optional crumb topping recipe below), recipe here
3 pounds ripe local peaches (approximately 10), halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

To pre-bake the pie crust
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out ½ of a double crust pie dough recipe and pre-bake with pie weights for 20 minutes, as directed here. Set aside to cool. Keep oven preheated to 425 while you assemble the pie.

To assemble the pie
Combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the sliced peaches and gently toss until combine and peaches are coated. Pour the peaches into the prepared pie shell, mounding slightly in the center. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the peaches (recipe below) or roll out the second half of the pie dough, lay over the peaches, vent, brush with egg wash (one egg, beaten with a pinch of salt) and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie on foil lined baking sheet and place on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover the crust of the pie with foil to prevent it from burning while cooking.

Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 40- 50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown all over and the filling is bubbling over.

Cool the pie completely at room temperature and store, uncovered (to keep the topping crisp!) at room temperature. Enjoy within 48 hours, or refrigerate for a longer shelf life. Serve it with your favorite ice cream, or this recipe for Sour ice cream.

Crumb topping (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut in pieces
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or other chopped nut of choice)

Combine the flour with the sugar and salt.  Add the cold butter and mix with your fingertips, gently crushing the bits of butter until they are broken into smaller pebbles and the mixture resembles a streusel. Gently toss in the nuts. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Peach pie with sour ice cream

Sour ice cream

Peach pie with sour ice cream

Sounds weird, right? Wrong! Sour (cream) ice cream is velvety smooth and a perfect complement to sweet desserts.

I needed something tart to accompany a sweet peach pie and wanted to go beyond popular flavors like crème fraisch to try something different. As it turns out, sour cream freezes well due to its high fat content and tastes divine.

After some googling and kitchen experimenting, I have an incredibly easy, flavor-packed recipe to share. No crème anglaise, no eggs, no forethought. You just need a blender, a few hours, an ice cream maker and viola!

I recently paired this ice cream with a summer peach pie (recipe coming this week!), however, you can pair it with any sweet pie, including blackberry, blueberry or apple in the fall.

Sour Cream Ice Cream
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, July 2009

Ingredients
1 16 oz container of sour cream (do not use reduced fat)
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the ice cream
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Chill the ice cream base in the refrigerator until very cold (at least one hour), then freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Sweet cherry pie

Cherry pie

I love summer pies. From early summer berries to juicy stone fruit, there are so many options. I was contemplating what to make for a Fourth of July barbeque and realized I had never made a cherry pie. It sounded like a fun and festive challenge.

What I love about cherry pie is that the cherries hold their shape nicely throughout the cooking process. This pie won’t look like a mushy mess when you cut into it. The cherries cook through and release their juices without falling apart, making it a very attractive slice. Since cherries are a relatively juicy fruit, this double bake method works well for the crust.

A cherry pitter is a great tool to have, but it won’t save you the mess of cherry juice.  Pitting them by hand works just fine, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a volunteer who will split the task with you (thanks Tom!).

This is a great base recipe for you to play around with. Consider adding in another flavor you love, such as ginger, kirsh, almond extract, lemon zest, etc.  I went with a stars theme for the Fourth of July, but you can do a full top crust, lattice crust, or use any cookie cutter to cut out shapes and decorate the pie anyway you like.

Bon appétit!

Sweet Cherry Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie

Pie Ingredients
1 double crust pie dough separated into two disks, recipe here
5 cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted (about 2 ½ – 3 pounds unpitted)
4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten with a dash of salt
Sugar in the raw (or regular refined sugar), for sprinkling

To pre-bake the crust
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out one disk of pie dough (1/2 the recipe) and pre-bake with pie weights, as directed here. Set aside to cool. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees.

To make the pie
Stir together the cherries, cornstarch, sugar, salt and lemon juice gently in a large bowl, set aside.

Once the pie crust is out of the oven, remove the pie weights and spoon in the cherry filling. Dot the top of the filling with small pieces of cold butter. Roll out the remaining disk of dough (or cut into shapes and lattice crust) and place over the filling, crimping the edges as desired. Make sure to vent the top crust with a couple of slits or openings. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar.

I would recommend covering the crust of the pie with foil, like this, to prevent it from burning while cooking. You can choose to add the foil now, or keep an eye on the color of the crust and add the foil once its reach a desired golden brown color. I prefer the latter.

Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 25 – 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and you can see the filling bubble up. Remove the pie and cool completely on a rack.

New York City is on fire right now! When you’re in the heat of summer, who wants to turn on the oven? I mean, I do, but I usually get in trouble for competing with the air conditioner. So instead, I turn my kitchen into an ice cream shop.

Whether you’re making gelato, ice cream or sorbetto, they are all a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. My friend Mary bought me the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto and I’m having a lot of fun exploring its recipes.

I love this gelato recipe because it’s so versatile. This particular combination was inspired by what I had in my kitchen at the time, which was fresh basil and a few pints of berries. Feel free to experiment with whatever is in your kitchen right now. For instance, substitute blackberries instead of raspberries or diced strawberries instead of blueberries. Make a blueberry or raspberry only recipe by doubling the below syrups. The sky is the limit!

It’s always great to prepare ice cream bases (and syrups) one day ahead of time, if possible, to ensure all of your components are as cold as possible before you churn. Make sure you set up your ice cream machine in a cool place. I actually churn ice cream in my bedroom because it’s the coolest room in my apartment and my galley kitchen tends to feel like a sauna in the summer.

Enjoy, and stay cool!

Berry Basil Gelato

Basil Gelato Base
Base recipe inspired by the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto
Makes approximately 1 quart of gelato (enough to fill a home ice cream maker)

Ingredients
2 cups whole milk
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

In a saucepan, bring the 2 cups of milk to a boil. Turn off the heat, add a handful (to taste) of fresh basil leaves and cover the saucepan tightly with plastic wrap. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out the basil leaves and pour the milk back into the saucepan. Add the cream to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.

Meanwhile, in a heat-proof bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt together until completely smooth and pale yellow in color.

When the milk mixture has reached a temperature of 170 F, or when tiny bubbles begin to form around the edges, temper it into the egg mixture by slowing pouring approximately half of the milk mixture into the eggs while whisking constantly (see tempering guide here). Pour all of the custard back into the saucepan and cook, stirring continuously over medium-low heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and reaches 185 F. Do not boil.

Immediately pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a clean, cool bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Once cooled, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight or until very cold, approximately 4-6 hours.

Blueberry sauce

Ingredients
1 pint blueberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons of sugar

Place the blueberries in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice and toss until combined. Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place the blueberries over medium-low heat and cook until the blueberries pop and soften and the syrup starts to thicken, approximately 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a cool bowl, cover and chill until very cold, about 1-2 hours.

Raspberry sauce

Ingredients
1 pint of raspberries
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and puree. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a cool bowl and discard the seeds and solids. Cover and chill until very cold, about 1-2 hours.

Berry Basil Gelato

Basil gelato base
Raspberry sauce
Blueberry sauce

Combine half of the ice cream base with the blueberry sauce in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the blueberry mixture back to the basil base by whisking until combined. Whisk in the raspberry sauce until combined. Process the gelato according to manufacturer’s instructions (approximately20-25 minutes), then freeze for 4-6 hours before consuming.

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Me and chef Kir, my level 3 chef instructor

Long time, no write! Forgive me for my brief sabbatical. A LOT has happened in the last month and unfortunately my blog writing was pushed to the back burner.

I’m back now and wanted to share that I officially graduated from the French Culinary Institute with a grand diploma in Classic Pastry Arts! Yahooooo! Nine months sure flew by.

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It’s official!

I’m very excited to embark on a new chapter in my life and hope to work on more catering/wedding projects over the next couple of months (call me!). I’ll also be getting back into the swing of writing (gelato recipe coming up!).

In the meantime, I thought I’d share photos of a few of my final projects. Enjoy!

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My wedding cake project, which had a Barcelona theme for a wedding in Park Guell, Barcelona

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Flower close up

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My final sugar showpiece, which had to showcase espresso bon bons, a classic genoise cake (in this case covered in green marzipan) and palmiers

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My final presentation, awaiting my judge Zac Young, contestant on Top Chef Just Desserts

Oh, and I had to throw this one in here. One of many memories from the best meal of my life.

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One of several sweet endings to our celebration dinner at Daniel – exquisite

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Blackberry pie

I can’t quite explain my recent interest in fruit pies, other than the fact that I can’t WAIT for summer and I’m in culinary school, which means I spend all of my time thinking about food.  Plus, I was beginning to feel like me and my kitchen aide mixer were in need of some serious bonding. Oh, and I had an extra round of dough leftover from last week’s pie fun, which left me with a serious urge to experiment further with crumb toppings.

While I would be perfectly happy eating a rhubarb pie each week for the rest of my life, I thought a new recipe might be appreciated among this audience. Also, I couldn’t justify another $20 spent on rhubarb (really?! $10 a pound NYC?).

I entered Trader Joe’s with an open mind and empty basket and left with loads of fresh blackberries, a couple of oranges, some really nice walnuts and a six pack of Simpler Times.

When I arrived home, I realized that I have never made a blackberry pie before. After gathering dozens of recipes and my online research, I dove right in.

I can now tell you from experience that blackberries are not to be overlooked when it comes to fruit pies. If you don’t believe me, take Mario Batali’s word for it.  They have a nice tart flavor that really balances out their naturally sweet juices.

Enjoy!

Blackberry pie
Yields one 9-inch pie

Pie Ingredients
1/2 recipe (one dough round) of pie dough, recipe here
6 cups fresh blackberries
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pie dough and pre-bake with pie weights, as directed here. Set aside to cool. Turn oven up to 450 degrees.


Crumble Topping Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut in pieces
¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional, any desired nut will work)

Combine the flour with the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  Add the cold butter and mix with your fingertips, gently crushly the bits of butter until they are broken into smaller pebbles and the mixture resembles a streusel. Gently toss in the walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Assemble the Pie
Toss the blackberries with the lemon juice in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and orange zest. Sprinkle over the blackberries and toss until combined.

Pour the blackberry mixture into the prepared, slightly pre-baked pie crust, mounding blackberries slightly in the center of the pie. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the blackberries, slight pressing it in to secure it.

Place the pie on foil lined baking sheet and place on a rack in the lower third of the oven. I would recommend covering the crust of the pie with foil, like this, to prevent it from burning while cooking. You can choose to add the foil now, or keep an eye on the color of the crust and add the foil once its reach a desired golden brown color.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 45- 50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown all over and the filling is bubbling over.

Cool the pie completely at room temperature and store, uncovered (to keep the topping crisp!) at room temperature. Enjoy within 48 hours, or refrigerate for a longer shelf life.

Rhubarb pie with ginger crumble

Rhubarb – a sure sign that spring has sprung.  My mother-in-law, Virginia, first introduced me to Rhubarb Pie when I was a teenager. These days, I become a grocery store stalker as soon as April hits, waiting for the first sign of this long, pink vegetable. It’s an especially daunting task in NYC, where demand is high and supply always seems to be low.

It took me only three trips to find my first batch of spring rhubarb this year. Unfortunately, both A&P and Whole Foods disappointed, but Garden of Eden (a small market on 23rd street) had a fresh, untouched pile of beautiful, young rhubarb. I felt like the first person to cross the finish line as the cashier fumbled to find a code for this strange vegetable and then quizzed me about what it was and why I was buying it. Lucky for her, I was more than happy to share.

People tend to pair rhubarb with strawberries or other berries (Blubarb anyone? Yum!). Those of you who like a sweeter pie will especially love the flavor that natural berry juice can bring to this tart plant. Give this prize-winning Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie a try.

Personally, I love the flavor of a pure Rhubarb Pie. It’s easy to overpower the rhubarb with other berries or excessive sugar in hybrid pies. You’ll find that this recipe calls for just enough sugar to sweeten the rhubarb without eliminating its naturally tart flavor.

I love this streusel topping. It’s a nice cross between a pie and crumble – the best of both worlds. If you prefer a double crust pie, forgo the crumble recipe and use the full dough recipe below.

Pair this pie with unsweetened, freshly whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.  I love it with Ginger Ice Cream.

Happy spring everyone!


Twice-Baked Fluffy Pie Crust

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields one double layer pie crust

Ingredients
1 cup very cold water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Instructions
Fill a cup with water and a few ice cubes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt until combined. Sprinkle the small pieces of chilled butter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender (or two forks), work the butter into the flour mixture until all of the butter pieces are the size of small peas and the mixture is combined and crumbly. It’s ok if the mixture is slightly uneven.

Drizzle 1/2 cup cold water over the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gather the dough together. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed, to bring the dough together. Gather the mixture together with your hands into one neat mound.

Divide the dough into two even mounds and form each mound into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours (or up to one week).

If you use the crumb topping, you will only need one disk of dough. Feel free to use the other disk for another pie, tart, or to make hand pies like these. The dough can stay in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for a month. Just make sure it’s tightly wrapped.

When you’re ready to make this pie, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place one dough disk on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12 inch circle, about 3/8-inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch pie place. Line dough with foil and weigh it down with pie weights, dry rice or dry beans. Bake until crust is light golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

When you remove the crust from the oven, increase the oven’s temperature to 450 degrees (unless you are making a double crust pie, in which case you should turn the oven down to 375 degrees). While crust is baking, prepare the pie filling.


Ginger Rhubarb Pie
Yields enough filling for one, 9-inch pie

Ingredients
1 3/4 pounds (about 10 stalks) of rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces, like these
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger (optional)
Pinch of salt

Instructions
Place chopped rhubarb in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Sprinkle the dry ingredients evenly over the rhubarb and gently stir to evenly coat the rhubarb. Set bowl aside while you make the crumble.


Ginger Crumble
Topping

Yields enough topping for one, 9-inch pie 

Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut in pieces

Instructions
Combine the flour with the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  Add the cold butter and mix with your fingertips, gently crushly the bits of butter until they are broken into smaller pebbles and the mixture resembles a streusel. Set aside.

To Assemble the Pie
Gently stir the rhubarb filling to refresh it. Pour the filling into the pie shell and even it out with your fingers, slightly mounding it in the center. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the rhubarb, slight pressing it in to secure it.

Place the pie on foil lined baking sheet and place on a rack in the lower third of the oven. I would recommend covering the crust of the pie with foil, like this, to prevent it from burning while cooking. Feel free to add the foil now, or keep an eye on the color of the crust and add the foil once its reach a desired golden brown color.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 50- 60 minutes or until the pie is golden brown all over and the filling is bubbling over.

Cool the pie completely at room temperature and store, uncovered (to keep the topping crisp!) at room temperature. Enjoy within 48 hours, or refrigerate for a longer shelf life.

*NOTE – If you opt for a double layer pie, pre-bake the shell as instructed above, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees. The pie can be baked at 375 degrees for the duration, approximately 60-75 minutes.