Category Archives: dessert

Mini “Magic” Coconut Pie Plus a Chocolate Variation

NOTE: I corrected the amount of flour listed in the recipe below as I realized I had written it incorrectly as the full (rather than the halved) recipe amount.

I had plans for a coconut dessert this weekend, as well as the chili etc., but it didn’t happen. I still had a coconut craving when I got home from work today, though, so I made a “Magic” coconut pie.

What does the term refer to, you may ask? Well, it’s one of those dishes in which all the ingredients are whisked together and then, during baking, they separate into a crust, filling and some sort of top. And because I didn’t want to be eating it daily – and doesn’t that sound familiar – I decided to scale down the recipe, which supposedly serves six, to half that. I had to do a couple of adjustments since my shredded coconut was unsweetened, and I used melted margarine instead of butter. I’m posting the revised recipe below.

Mini ‘Magic’ Coconut Pie – serves 3 (2 is more realistic)

2 tbsp  flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp  baking powder
1/4 cup  sweetened shredded coconut*
6 tbsp (1/4 cup and 2 tbsp) milk
2 tbsp melted butter**
pinch of salt**
1 egg
1 tsp  vanilla extract

* Replaced the sweetened shredded coconut with unsweetened coconut and an additional tbsp of sugar
** Replaced the melted butter and salt with just melted margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium sized bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a whisk or hand blender. Pour into a buttered and floured 5 1/4-inch wide pie dish. Place on a baking sheet in case of spills.

Bake in a 350 deg F oven for 35 min or until golden brown and set. (You may want to test with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.)

Let cool, slice and serve with a scoop of sweetened whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream or gelato.

Chocolate Variation: Substitute 1 tbsp of cocoa powder for 1 tbsp of the flour in the recipe above.

NOTE: Visual progress of the pie

After 20 minutes, the pie showed little change.
After 25 minutes, it’s puffed up to almost double in size, there’s cracking on the surface, which is pale. The custard inside seems moist.
After 30 minutes, the surface of the pie has darkened somewhat and the custard seen through the cracks seems more set.
After 35 minutes, a toothpick inserted into the ‘custard’ filling comes out clean and the top is nicely browned.
Upon removal from the oven, the pie slowly deflates and about half an hour later, there is a definite depression in the central 2/3 of the pie.

The crust is defined but a bit soft and not like a ‘regular’ pie crust. Taste-wise, it’s delicious. And not overly sweet.

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Pie Crust – Blind Baking Techniques

Lots of pictures but I think the results are worth it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

First, I want to say that I HATE blind baking.

I know how to do it. I HAVE done it. I have a jar of chickpeas set aside for the purpose. A single layer of the chickpeas over a round of parchment paper works pretty well.

But I don’t LIKE the concept.

I’ve attempted the alternative … DOCKING.

Here’s what I started with. Now, using the tines of a fork, prick the pie crust all over. The base AND the sides. (Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.)  And then bake as long as your recipe calls for. Then cool and fill.

And here’s the result … shrinking and bubbling up of the pie crust resulting in a shriveled up pie shell. NOT pretty.

But there’s a THIRD option. I found the technique on the King Arthur Flour website.

Blind baking using  a second pie pan of the same size and laying it over the pie crust.

Then you FLIP THE TWO PANS OVER and bake.

Here’s a picture of a mini aluminum pie plate and a regular sized metal pie plate ready to go into the oven.

After your chosen bake time, flip the two pans back over, remove the pie plate on top and THEN dock. (I forgot to do this in this case.) And complete baking. I covered the full sized pie crust with a round of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the pie plate on top

I probably baked this a bit too long but I forgot that it continues cooking when you take it out of the oven.

Flip/dock or just docking … which would YOU use?

Pi Day – Foolproof Lemon Meringue Pie

I haven’t made lemon meringue pie in ages, but after my LJ friend, Spikesgirl, mentioned making one, recently, I got SUCH a craving that I couldn’t resist making one too. Of course, that meant that I was going to have to eat an entire pie before it went bad … or I got so sick of eating it that I had to pitch the leftovers.

Then I had a BRILLIANT idea.

Scale down the recipe and make a couple of mini pies.

Well, the best laid plans and all that.

I tried a new recipe for the filling/meringue since it was easier to halve but it still made more filling than would fit into the two mini pies I had pre-baked, so I filled a 7 1/4-inch pie shell, and snacked on the rest of the filling.

Lemon Meringue Pie – baked for 20 minutes until the meringue tips were golden brown.

I lasted a bit over an hour and then I just had to cut into the pie. Conclusion … DELICIOUS.

PS: I did NOT know it was Pi Day.

February Wrap-Up

ANOTHER PICTURE HEAVY POST WARNING:

February’s been a month of snow and rain and cooking.

I’ve already posted a number of things but there have been meals and dishes produced to nourish the body even if they were not post-worthy on their own or repeats of previous posts.

No-knead sourdough with a bit of ground rolled oats added to make for a taste boost. Toasted and spread with peanut butter … a delicious breakfast addition or snack.

I also made another loaf of sourdough quinoa for sandwiches.

I tried out a recipe for Chipotle Yum Yum Sauce posted on “The Frugal Housewifeblog and used it on pork roast and on poached eggs served on toasted sourdough bread … a sort of Tex-Mex eggs Benedict. Fast and easy to make and delicious.  I’m sure I’ll think of other ways to use it in the future.

Devilled eggs made with the Yum Yum sauce in place of the mayonnaise … so good

Meals and stuff

Creamy beef tortellini soup

Teriyaki baked salmon

Japanese chicken and tofu curry (using prepared roux) over rice

Chinese sausage rice bowl

Sliced bread/baguette pizza

Grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup … I added a couple of strips of cooked bacon to the sandwich as well.

Fried eggs, Polish sausage, cream cheese breakfast or lunch

Puff pastry filled with sweetened whipped cream and fresh blackberries

Blackberry lemonade

 

Experiment: Mini Cheesecakes

Recently I had a cookie fail … a type of spritz cookies (ETA: they’re actually called meat grinder cookies) from a Hungarian recipe. I used an old cookie press that I inherited from my mom, but the dough was so stiff that I almost broke my thumbs trying to push it through the decorative nozzles. I finally gave up after forcing out about a dozen of each kind of cookie and threw away the rest of the dough. (I had added red gel food colour and cocoa powder to equal portions of the dough.) Even worse, the finished cookies were dry and tasteless.

In an effort to turn lemons into lemonade, I decided to grind up the cookies and use the ground crumbs as a base for individual cheesecakes.

I had about 1/2 cup of chocolate cookie crumbs to which I added 3 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp of melted butter. After distributing the crumbs (3 tbsp each) among four 4 inch diameter disposable aluminum pot pie tins, I tamped the crumbs down with the base of a glass and baked the crusts for 8 minutes at 350 deg F, filled the cooled crusts with the cheesecake mixture made from one 8 oz package of cream cheese (I used the cheesecake recipe on the Philadelphia cream cheese box) and baked the cheesecakes until set (~20 min at 350 deg F). The chocolate half of the cheesecake based had 1 tbsp of sifted cocoa powder stirred into the mixture and I found the resulting mini cheesecakes somewhat dry compared to the vanilla cheesecakes. I decided to be economical and only fill the tins half way up, assuming that the cheesecake batter would souffle up during baking but it remained decidedly flat.

On the positive side, the cheesecakes were more palatable than the cookies. Though they won’t replace the mini cheesecakes I make with ‘Nilla wafers bases.

January Wrap Up

WARNING: Picture heavy post

The first month of the new year is almost gone and, while I ate well, I’ve had to be very frugal in my grocery shopping. Which meant foraging in my freezer for things I bought in more affluent days. Some of the meals were very simple while others were a bit more fussy.

Fried pork chop with leftover butternut squash

Ready-made frozen potato, cheddar and bacon filled pierogies sauteed in onions, topped with sour cream and served with Debrecener sausage

Buffalo Chicken wings – Two pounds of wings dressed with sauces/dips included in the box. Added bagged, frozen hashed brown potato patties and salad

 

Chicken Cutlet Caesar Salad – Leftover cutlet, home made croutons and shredded cheddar for extra texture and flavour

Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausage) Steamed Rice

One of my favourite dim sum dishes is sticky/glutinous rice lotus leaf wraps (lo mai gai). Along with chunks of steamed chicken, small chunks of Chinese sausage (lap cheong), Chinese mushroom and scallions are also found in the wrap. I remember pieces of hard boiled egg … but that seems to have disappeared. When I ran across a package of those tasty sausages, I picked it up with the vague idea of making something similar. Instead, I just added them to the top of a pot of rice before cooking it and let the fat melt and flavour the rice. Then I chopped up the sausages, and stirred them, along with green onion and soy sauce, into the rice. A spoonful of sambal oelek for spice and I had a fast and delicious rice bowl for lunch or supper.

Cheese “Boats” or Pies aka Fatayer Jebneh or Khachapuri

Some years ago I made fatayer, a Middle Eastern yeast based pastry which may be shaped in a variety of ways and filled with meat, spinach, mushroom or cheese. Left as flat rounds or mini ‘pizzas’ the dough may be topped with a za’atar paste (a spice mixture made up of thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seed) or a ground meat mixture. The meat ones are called ‘sfeeha’.

Cheese Pies (Fatayer Jebneh) – makes 20 6″ oval cheese pies

Use ~2 oz/56.7 gm per fatayer

To make the dough

3 cups flour, divided (2 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (see note)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tbsp granular yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water

For the cheese filling

2 cups crumbled paneer, ricotta or feta cheese  (or some combination)
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced green onion (~2)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Proof the yeast by mixing it with the 2 tsp of sugar and warm water in a cup; the yeast should foam and bubble. If it doesn’t then it has gone bad and you need to replace it with new package.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of the flour, salt and baking powder (if using) until combined.

Add the oil and then rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips.

Add the yogurt and the water/yeast mixture and knead the dough until it forms a smooth soft ball that doesn’t stick to your hands, using the reserved flour as needed. (TIP: lift the dough and slam it into the table 7-10 times during kneading. That will give your baked goods that fluffy interior.)

Oil a bowl with a little olive oil, place dough inside, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Push down the dough and then cut into half. Roll each half into a sausage shape and cut into 10 even sized portions. Roll the 20 pieces of dough into balls and cover them with a clean towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each dough ball into an elongated oval shape 5-6″ long. Place 1 rounded tbsp of the cheese filling in the middle of the oval, leaving about 1/2″ around the margin.

Fold one edge of the dough over and press it with your finger tips to seal it. Fold over the opposite side and tuck the dough under the pastry boat. Repeat on the opposite side.

Once you’re done shaping the pastry gently press the top folds down to adhere the dough to the cheese. This helps to prevent the pastry boats from opening up when you bake them

Brush the pastries with milk, egg wash or olive oil to give them a beautiful golden color when they bake.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Rest the pastries for 10-15 minutes after shaping before baking them.

Bake on the lower-middle rack for 15-20 min until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.

Note: If you are going to consume the fatayer soon after baking, keep the baking powder (increases the fluffiness of the dough and allows it to rise better in the oven). If you plan on storing them or eating them over a couple of days omit the baking powder because the fatayer remain softer and more chewy when they are cooled and stored without the baking powder. (Baking powder results in the baked goods hardening a little when they are cold)

 

Recently, I learned about a similar cheese topped pastry called khachapuri made in Georgia (the Caucasus mountains). I was intrigued by the shaping, so I used the same dough and a similar filling (ricotta, cheddar and feta cheese, green onion, salt and pepper)  I’d used to make the fatayer and played with the dough. They looked pretty good (and tasted delicious) but I need to work on my shaping as the boats opened up during baking. NOTE: The cheeses were all frozen and bagged 2-3 months ago so I wanted to use them up.

 

 

Dessert made with leftover pastry from the chicken pot pies

Butter tarts with raisins

Blind baked mini pie shell filled with orange curd and topped with sweetened whipped cream

 

Egg Whites … Sweet and Savoury

I often have extra egg whites to deal with and, though meringues are fast and easy to make, I wanted to switch things up, so I decided to make an egg white omelette.

OMELETTE PICTURE FAIL WARNING:

Turning the omelette out onto the plate was a disaster. I was SURE it was freed up in the frying pan, but it turned out it was still attached, and fell apart. So I dressed it up with more sliced avocados… delicious. Next time I have extra egg whites, I’m going to make this again.

Three Egg White Omelette – serves one

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil (if not using sauteed veggies)
3 egg whites
1/2 tbsp water
pinch of salt
grind of black pepper

Fillings – amounts are estimates

1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 thinly sliced green onion
1-2 strips of red or green pepper, diced
sauteed mushrooms
2-3 oz sauteed spinach
1-2 slices grilled tomatoes or 1/4 cup sauted diced tomatoes
diced avocados

In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, water, and a pinch salt and pepper, just until frothy. Lightly coat a medium nonstick skillet or omelet pan with cooking spray (or EVOO) and heat the skillet over medium heat. Add the egg whites, swirling to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until set, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using a rubber scraper lift the eggs up and let the runny uncooked egg flow underneath.

Spoon filling onto half of the omelette, fold over the empty half, and slide the finished omelette onto a serving plate.

PICSPAM: I posted some pretty pink meringue pictures to make up for the less than photogenic omelette above. Enjoy.

I just listed the ingredients for the meringues cause everyone should know how to make them already. And if you don’t, you can search back on my LJ (or blog) for recipes I’ve posted.

Three Egg White Meringues/Pavlovas – flavoured and with colour trim

3 egg whites
3/4 cups of white sugar
pinch of salt
3 1/3 tbsp Jello powder (optional)
1 tbsp white vinegar
gel colouring paste (optional decoration used on piping bag)

 

Greek Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

During a pre-Christmas visit, my SIL mentioned a syrup soaked cake that my mother had made years ago. She had discussed the dish with a work colleague who was curious about the dish but didn’t have a lot of recipe details to share with her. Since it had been a long time since I’d tasted the dessert myself, I was vague on details, but I thought it contained semolina. My nephew, however, thought it was finely ground cornmeal. His memory has been proven to be better than mine, in the past, but I thought I was right this time.

My mom never wrote down any of her recipes and I had, over the years, done some web searches for dishes that I remembered having eaten and liked. I was pretty sure I had saved something similar on one of those searches so I checked my hard drive, before I went web surfing again.

I ran across a recipe for a Greek semolina cake, with orange syrup, from “The Spruce” website, called “revani/ravani” which I thought I’d give a try. A similar dish, with Arabic/Algerian origins, is known as “basbousa”.

Since I was only cooking for one, I decided to scale down the recipe, designed to be baked in a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, and baked it in an 8 by 8 inch disposable aluminum baking pan.

Greek Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup – served with a spoonful of sweetened whipping cream

Just before folding the beaten egg whites into the rest of the batter.

Ready to bake

The baked cake after soaking in the syrup.

Cut and decorated with sliced almonds. It turned out well, though I decided to get creative in my cutting, and ended up touching the top of the cake, while it was soaking in the syrup, with my flexible cutting board which I was using as a guide. It took the top layer off the cake … so the result wasn’t as pretty as I hoped. And my cutting design was disappointing.

Conclusion: An easy to make cake, tasty and moist. The texture isn’t as ‘grainy’ as I remember my mom’s being. Maybe she used a coarser semolina grind, #2 not the finely ground #1, that the recipe called for.

If making this cake again, I’d cut it into 2 inch squares and not scale down the soaking syrup, since there wasn’t enough to get to the center of the cake.

Happy New Year (2018) … Plain and Fancy

My last post of 2017 is a testament to the diversity of cooking … plain home style cooking made with basic ingredients and fancy dishes that you’ll find in elegant restaurants or serve to special guests at your table.

Paprika Potatoes – a PLAIN Hungarian inspired potato dish commonly served in the home kitchen and often meatless. If you want something more meaty, add the pork sausage of your choice, smoked or cured. Hungarian kolbasz (sausages) are delicious but you can use Polish sausages (kielbasa) or Romanian carnati afumati (smoked sausages).

The dish is not a stew but you may leave it more ‘soupy’ if you want to have something to dip into with fresh, crusty bread.

Paprika Potatoes (Paprikas Krumpli) – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 pound (500 gm) potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 pound (~250 gm) cubed or thinly sliced sausages, cut in half if too big
1/4 -1/2 (1/4 cup) sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red), cubed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice or one medium sized tomato, peeled and diced
1 cup ham broth, or water or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste
1 1/2-2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion in the bacon fat until it starts to pick up some colour, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced sausage and continue sauteing until it renders out some of the fat and picks up some colour as well, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced pepper and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.

Push the contents to one side and if the pan seems dry, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the cleared area. Add the paprika and toast for a minute or so. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and stir through to coat with the paprika.

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the contents and then pour the broth over everything. The broth should almost cover the potatoes and sausages. Bring the contents of the saute pan to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir gently after 5-10 minutes to make sure that all the potatoes are in contact with the broth.

Test to see if the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and continue simmering if the contents are too soupy. If they’re too dry, add a bit more water and cook for another minute or so.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve.

This is actually a very simple dessert, even though it looks FANCYpuff pastry split and filled with pastry cream. It’s the presentation that makes it special. The French version (millefeuille or Napoleons) uses an icing sugar glaze and a decorative drizzle of melted chocolate. The Hungarian version (kremes) has a very thick custard cream filling, often with gelatin added to give it a firmer texture. I chose a simple Romanian version (cemsnit, krempita or placinta cu crema de vanilie ) with a light dusting of icing sugar on top.

Custard Squares

Puff Pastry Squares – Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8th of an inch thick, cut into desired size (2 1/2 inches by 4 inches) and bake in a preheated 400 deg F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown in colour.

Cool and split in half. Fill as desired.

Tester vanilla custard square

I’m sure I posted the pastry cream filling before but this is a thicker version.

Thick Pastry Cream Filling

2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (or 2 cups if you don’t want it TOO thick) milk, warmed slightly
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

Beat whole eggs and yolks slightly in a separate bowl.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in the beaten eggs.

Gradually whisk in the warm milk.

Place the sauce pan on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils; boil and stir 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in the butter a bit at a time. (NOTE: If your mixture is a bit lumpy, strain through a fine metal sieve.)

Place a sheet of saran wrap over the filling so that it touches the surface, preventing the formation of a skin.

Cool to room temperature.

A Comfort Meal for Christmas … Pot Roast

Cooking for one is a challenge during the holidays. You want something special but an elaborate spread is time consuming and can be expensive. The roast below was economical and the long braising time turned a tough piece of beef into a tender and tasty main course.

The outside roast I cooked was small (1.2 kg) so the cooking time was shorter than in the recipe that inspired it. And, while it was braising, there was plenty of time to make the side dishes. I added some new, Christmas-inspired, treats to the meal to make it special.

Purchased Egg nog with a shot of brandy and a grating of fresh nutmeg

Pot Roast, mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, pot veggies and salad

Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream and Mincemeat Kolach

The mincemeat ice cream was a simple variation of the cranberry sauce one I made a while ago. To save time, I’ve posted the recipe below.

Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream – makes 3 1/2 – 4 cups

3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup mincemeat, plus another tbsp or 2 for marbling
1 tbsp brandy

In a large cold bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, brandy and the mincemeat.

Add a scoop or two of the whipped cream to the bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and fold in to lighten the mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream as gently as possible.

Scoop half of the ice cream mixture into a freezer safe container. Place several dollops of mincemeat over the ice cream. Scoop the rest of the ice cream mixture into the container. Place a few more dollops of mincemeat over the top. With a butter knife gently marble the mincemeat into the ice cream. Put the lid on the container and place into freezer for a minimum of 8 hrs or overnight.

Cranberry Sauce Variation: Replace the mincemeat in the recipe above with home made or jarred cranberry sauce. Use whatever alcohol you prefer … Cointreau or Grand Marnier bring out the orange notes in the cranberry sauce recipe I used.

Cooking the pot roast – The roast is seasoned with salt and pepper and seared before continuing with the rest of the braise.

The pot roast was tender after 3 hrs but it could have been cooked for another half hour if desired.

Mushroom gravy made with sauteed white mushrooms and strained braising liquid.