Cran-apple Pie for Pi Day
Yesterday, my SIL gave me a head’s up that my brother was stopping over with a treat today. I kind of forgot that tomorrow (Feb 16) is Paczki Day. Paczki are glorified filled donuts for those who are not in the know.
So, when I got up to snow, with more snow predicted through the day AND into tomorrow, well, I couldn’t be TOO cranky.
I’ve sent an email to the gentleman who shovels my snow to book a visit after it’s all done. I haven’t heard from him yet but he’s got three weeks off so I’m hoping for timely shovelling.
In the meantime, I’ve got coffee and donuts to make my day.
I’ll post a picture … whenever.
I ended up with six apple filled paczki.
The Castella cake is a light sponge cake popular in Japan and seems to be sold often as a plain bar cake. It is classified as a kind of ‘wagashi‘ or Japanese traditional confectionery, according to Wikipedia.
I found a recipe on Youtube that seemed simple enough and flavoured with orange juice and zest for a unique touch.
Of course, with such a simple palate to work with, adding garnishes like fruits and berries and sauces seems obvious. The cake itself is only slightly sweetened. This plating used fresh raspberries and raspberry coulis combining the tartness of the fresh berries with the sweet raspberry sauce.
The recipe was transcribed from the ingredients given in the Youtube video and the instructions described what I actually did to achieve the results above.
Orange Cotton Sponge Cake/Castella Cake – 18 cm x 18 cm x 6 cm/8 inch square glass pan, ended up 4 cm/1 1/4 inches tall after cooling and some shrinking
Egg Yolk Mixture
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
50 ml/3 tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil
65 ml orange juice
2-3 tbsp orange zest
75 gm cake flour**
Egg White Mixture
5 egg whites
60 gm caster sugar (try increasing sugar to 90-100 gm)
1/4 tsp lemon juice
** I didn’t have any cake flour so I substituted it with 60 gm all purpose flour (Canadian Red Roses, 13% protein) and 15 gm cornstarch sifted together.
Oil the glass pan and line it carefully with two cross-wise strips of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the 5 egg yolks and the whole egg. Add the vegetable oil. Whisk in the orange juice. Add the zest.
Sift in the cake flour. Whisk in gently until you have a homogeneous mixture.
In a large bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the lemon juice and sugar and beat until you have stiff peaks. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the egg yolk mixture. Add the rest of the whites and gently fold in.
Preheat the oven to 140 deg C/285 deg F.
Smooth the surface using an off-set spatula. Place the pan into a larger pan for a water bath and fill with water about 3 cm/1 inch deep.
Bake 70-80 min. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean and dry, the cake is done.
Remove the pan from the oven and then the cake pan from water bath. Bang the pan firmly on the counter (to set the cake??).
Let the cake pan rest for 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack before removing the cake from the cake pan. Peel off the parchment paper. Let cool to room temperature before cutting.
This is the pizza I made today. It was delicious. Just my usual pizza dough, frozen, thawed in the fridge overnight and baked today. I threw everything I had on top. Hot Italian sausages, spicy pepperoni, green pepper, mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese on a jarred portabello mushroom sauce.
And this is a Japanese orange Castella/sponge cake I made back in May. I’ve wanted to make a Castella cake for a while and this was the result. Because it’s a very simple, barely sweet, cake, it benefits from some garnishes. I had no fresh berries or mint so I put a scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top, warmed up some plum jam and diluted it with water and poured it over the top.
I really should do a proper post of this cake, one of these days.
I hadn’t planned on doing any Christmas baking because I still had a mini pumpkin pie in the freezer from Thanksgiving. Then, I changed my mind, because it was Christmas, after all.
So I went rooting around my pantry and freezer to see what I could find.
In the freezer, I found a half package of cranberries, left over from making a half batch of cranberry sauce, so I made a fast and easy cranberry loaf.
Cranberry-Orange Quick Bread – makes 1 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan
~1 1/2 cups/170 gm frozen cranberries, partially thawed and cut in half
1 tsp flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly oil or butter the loaf pan. (See NOTE below.)
Toss the cranberries with the flour and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
Stir the web ingredients into the dry ingredients just until mixed. Gently fold in the cranberries. Pour the batter into your loaf pan.
Bake for 45 min to an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out cleanly.
Cool in pan set onto wire cooling rack, to room temperature then slice and serve.
NOTE: My loaf pans are bigger than this so I used a disposable aluminum loaf pan, filled about half way. The excess batter was baked in the wells of a medium sized muffin tin. Both the loaf pan and 3-4 of the muffin tin wells were oiled lightly. The loaf pan took about 55 min to bake while the muffins took 20-25 min.
There were dried cranberries in a jar in the pantry so I used them to make cranberry-orange short-bread cookies.
I was going to be fancy and dip part of the short-breads in chocolate but after tasting the short-breads plain, I decided they didn’t need any embellishment.
Cranberry-Orange Short-breads – makes 28 1 inch wide x 2 1/4 inch long x 1/2 inch thick bars.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 cup/ 227 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup icing or powdered sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
castor sugar, optional
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add the chopped cranberries and toss through to coat. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, icing sugar, vanilla and almond (if using) extract, and orange zest, with a hand mixer.
Add the flour/cranberry mixture to the butter mixture and beat at a low speed with the hand mixer until well incorporated, 3-5 min, and then give it another minute or two at a higher speed until it holds together into a ball.
Divide the dough into two even parts. Pat each portion into a 7 inch by 4 1/2 inch rectangle. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut each section into 14 x 1 inch wide x 2 1/4 inch long x 1/2 inch thick bars. Alternatively, roll each section of dough into a one inch diameter log, about 7 inch long, wrap with plastic food wrap and refrigerate until firm. Cut into half inch coins.
Bake at 325 deg F/160 deg C for approximately 30 minutes, or until dry and firm but still pale.
Transfer to a wire cooling rack until cool. Serve.
I’ve gotten more adventurous in trying out new fruits as I’ve gotten older.
Not DURIAN level adventurous, but persimmons are pretty adventurous for someone whose teens were limited to eating apples, pears, oranges … and grapes.
Persimmons are fairly innocuous in appearance even though the one I bought, a Fuyu persimmon, bears an uncanny resemblance to my deadly foe, the tomato. An orange tomato, but still, it’s a TOMATO. If you want to know how to process this fruit for eating, check out this Youtube video.
I was going to try and eat it out of hand, after peeling and cutting it in wedges, but the brief taste left me singularly unimpressed. It actually smelled great, very floral, but the taste was kind of … meh! Bland and just barely sweet. Not sour. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of tang. Just boring. I didn’t spend a LOT of money for this pretty sizeable fruit ($1.69 CDN for a 237 gm beauty) but I didn’t want to turn it into as smoothie or just pitch it.
So I did some net-surfing.
And the result was a persimmon puree gelee. I used some of the gelee to top a basic vanilla panna cotta. The rest of the gelee was allowed to set by itself in a pretty glass and garnished with freshly whipped sweetened whipped cream. The gelee was tastier than eating the fruit plain, after adding some sugar and lemon juice to give it a bit more flavour, but as a topping for the panna cotta, it wasn’t bad at all. Would I buy it again? Probably not. There are a lot more fruits out there to try.
PS: I ‘borrowed’ the fruity fruit part of the title of this post from the “emmymadeinjapan” Youtube channel playlist, Fruity Fruits.
I haven’t bought a can of pumpkin puree in six to seven years but I decided to make my first ever pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, so I picked up a can. It was even on sale.
But before attempting the pumpkin pie, I made something that I haven’t tasted for even longer … pumpkin fudge. My first taste of that rather unique flavour came from the seasonal fudge that my brother made for my SIL’s chocolate store. It was an unexpectedly tasty candy and I hoped to be able to make something similar. My results weren’t bad but not as amazing as the one I remember. Of course, my cranberry fudge wasn’t as good as his either. Maybe one day.
Pumpkin Tart and Fudge
I made a couple of half batches (400-420 gm) of pumpkin fudge using this recipe. I over-cooked the first batch because I don’t have an accurate candy thermometer, so I had to use the soft ball test. It may have been a bit crumbly but it was tasty and I ate the whole thing in no time at all. For the second batch, I may have under-cooked it JUST a bit but some judicious stirring once I had poured the fudge into the pan and I got it to where it should be.
The half batch of pumpkin pie filling I made used Chef John’s recipe from Food Wishes, and filled a couple of mini pie crust shells (6 inch diameter) and two tart shells made in muffin tins.
And, lest you think that all I made with that pumpkin puree was desserts, I also made a batch of creamy red lentil and pumpkin soup using about a cup of the puree.
Once you can make a pie crust/pastry, the possible fillings are endless.
I thought I’d include both a fruit and a custard type pie in this post.
Nectarines are delicious … sweet and juicy and a very good price in season. Instead of making a pastry top crust, I used a crumble. It’s something I’ve got to work on. Delicious but not as pretty as I would have liked. I didn’t bother peeling the nectarines.
I have no idea where the name of this pie comes from … there are many explanations for how Chess pie got its name. But however the name came about, the result is tasty. I used the recipe I found here. Half the recipe for the filling was enough for two mini (6 inch diameter) pies. I had some extra filling so I baked the custard in a small oiled ramekin.
Because you can never have ENOUGH pie crust recipes, I gave this one a try … half unsalted butter and half lard. The blogger who posted the recipe, used shortening, which I didn’t have, as she claims that using the two different fats takes advantage of the best characteristics of each.
Sweet Pie … apple and quince filling
I haven’t bought quinces in years and at the exorbitant price of the imported ones ($2.49 each), I wasn’t about to make a whole pie out of them. But, I was able to combine one perfectly poached quince (green bumpy looking fruit on the right in the picture below) with three Braeburn apples (on sale at $1.15 a pound) to produce a tasty filling to test out my latest pie crust recipe.
The pie recipe I used was based on this one with some changes. I’ve included it below so it’s all in one place.
Apple-Quince Pie – makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 6 generously or 8 more moderately
pie pastry, enough for a top and bottom crust
1-2 lg quinces, peeled and diced *
1 cup water
3-4 tbsp honey
pinch of salt
Rest of Filling
3-4 lg apples, peeled and diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
* 1 quince (~250 gm)
** 3 apples (~675 gm), Braeburns
Poaching the quince/s
Combine the water, sugar, salt and diced quince(s). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the quinces are crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit to a large bowl and let cool. Continue cooking the liquid, uncovered, until it reduces to about 1/4 cup.
Preheat the oven to 500 deg F with a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf level.
Making the filling
In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Add the chopped apples to the bowl with the cooled quince. Sprinkle the sugar/flour/spice mixture over the fruit and gently stir in the thickened quince liquid. Pour the filling into the pie bottom.
Add the top crust, seal and crimp the edges. Cut slashes in the crust.
Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet, turn the heat down to 425 deg F and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 375 deg F and continue cooking until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, another 45-55 min.
Remove the pie pan to a cooling rack until it’s come to room temperature. Refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hrs and preferably overnight before cutting into the pie.
Savoury Tart … spinach and paneer (cheese) tart
Because I’m a cheap frugal home cook, I rolled out the trimmings from the apple and quince pie to form a top crust for a spinach and paneer tart. For the base, I used a mini pie shell from the freezer. It was made with the leftover pastry from my PREVIOUS pie bake … a nectarine crumble.
I wasn’t sure how much filling I would need so I threw together something that came out pretty well.
Spinach and Paneer Tart – makes 1 mini pie, enough for 2 generous servings
pie pastry, enough for a bottom crust, divided in half
1/2 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (~64 gm)
140 gm paneer cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
2 tbsp whipping cream, or regular milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.
Preheat oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit. Adjust the shelf in the oven so it’s at the lowest position. Place a baking sheet in the oven so that it will preheat as well.
Roll out the dough for the base. Line a disposable aluminum mini pie tin leaving about 1/2 inch of excess pastry. Roll out the top so there’s about an inch of excess pastry.
Assemble the filling ingredients. Fill the base, add the top crust, folding over and crimping closed. Cut several slits for the steam to escape.
Place the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
REVIEW: I found that the pie crust recipe lived up to its name … it IS both flaky and buttery. It’s easy to make, tasty and will remain in my recipe collection. The fillings of both the sweet and savoury variations were delicious as well.