Friday, September 28, 2012

Autumn Pear~Cranberry Pie

A few years ago, I had a fetish for collecting pears to the point of one Christmas I made over fifty in paper mache' to decorate our tree (they're packed away!)  I even baked gingerbread pears, along with some partridges, and placed them on this beautiful platter my daughters gave me for the holidays.
Today, I was having a yearning for something pear and a pie was my choice--actually, my hubby's who loves pie, even better than cake.
It's another one of those fall fruits that often takes second place behind apple and pumpkin, but I think it deserves it's rightful place, right along side. My grandson, Ari agrees;

from the time Ari was big enough to eat pears, it's been one of his favorites.  Here he is at almost 8 months...
...and enjoying one as a snack with the last hike he took with his mama, April 2010.
When I joined him and his dad for apple picking a few years ago, Ari headed right for the pear tree! He's definitely as much a pear lover as I am:-D

Perfect Pie Dough
4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup shortening
1/2 ice cold water
1 large egg
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, first mix all the dry ingredients.  Then, add the shortening, while the mixer is running, a tablespoon at a time.  Finally, mix all the wet ingredients together in a 2 cup measure and again, while the mixer is running add them slowly.
 Transfer all the dough to a lightly floured board and knead until smooth.
 Shape into a log and cut in half, then half again.
Flatten each one to a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator to chill several hours, but the best thing about this dough (besides no matter how many times you roll it out, it remains so flakey!) it freezes beautifully for up to 6 months.
You can make up pie dough now and have plenty on hand for Thanksgiving and the holidays.

Autumn Pear~Cranberry Pie
8-10 pears (I used a mixture of Bartlett and Bosc)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Pie Filling Enhancer
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Peel, core and slice pears.  
This is my favorite Pear Slicer I got free by sending in a sales receipt a few years ago to the National Pear Organization.
 Place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (you can substitute the Pie Filling Enhancer for 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch (cornflour). Mix gently with a spatula.
Preheat oven to 400F-degrees.  Roll out one of the disks of dough and place in a 9-inch pan.  Flute edges if desired, then add the filling.  In lieu of a top crust, I cut out leaves and a pear to top the fruit with.  I also sprinkled some green sugar on top, but honestly, it looks a little weird and I think next time, I'll stick to my usual plain sugar:-D
My latest gadget...wish I had thought of it.  The perfect under the pie shield.  The center keeps the pie plate elevated so heat is distributed evenly...and it catches the spills of all your fruit pies!

Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375F-degrees and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes more, covering the edges with a shield if they're browning too quickly.
Bubbling juices and the intoxicating aroma of vanilla and pear, made it hard to wait for it to cool completely.  Now, if I just had some vanilla ice cream--oh well, I'll savor the simple enjoyment of warm pie on this cool night. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cranberry~Apple Cider Oatmeal Cookies

Pumpkin patches are abundant in our landscape now, but here in the Pacific Northwest, there are two other crops we associate with Fall--apples and cranberries.  Our state has led the country in apple production since the 1920s and it's no wonder with our favorable climate conditions. In addition to apples, cranberries, which are one of the three fruits indigenous to the North America, are grown in both Washington and Oregon (as well as, Massachusetts and New Jersey).  Those flavours are what I associate with the changing season and what I chose to include in an oatmeal cookie just perfect for afternoon tea or sharing with your children after school to hear about their day.

Cranberry~Apple Cider Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light (or dark) firmly packed brown sugar
4 T Boiled Cider *

1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal (don't use the Quick-Cook)
1 1/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, chopped

* If you want to make your own boiled cider--place 4 cups of apple cider in a 2 quart sauce pan.  On medium/low heat, cook the cider slowly reducing it down to about 1/2 to 3/4 cup.  The consistency should resemble maple syrup when you're done.  Cool completely before adding the 4 tablespoons to the cookie batter.  Boiled cider is also a wonderful addition to apple pie filling!

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and boiled cider.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat again to combine.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  Use a 2-3Tablespoon Scoop to measure out the dough onto the baking sheet, spacing about 2-inches apart.  Bake in the preheated oven for 13-15 minutes, until golden brown and the cookies are completely set (no "wetness" on top). 
Cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.  These cookies pack a lot of Fall flavour and sure to be a winner.  
One of my favorite things to give (and send to the grands) are cookies.  Creating your packaging to match the season just makes it even more special.  Enjoy! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Skillet Flatbread

 I arrived home a few days ago, but with household chores and just getting organized again, I hadn't done any baking.  However, when this recipe appeared from King Arthur Flour in my inbox today, I was enticed to make up a batch.  Skillet Flatbread reminded me so much of something my mother used to make; she called it fried bread and it was the "leftover" yeast dough from a bread or roll recipe or sometimes, just it's own recipe!  Although this recipe doesn't have yeast in it, by resting the dough, you still get a light and airy texture inside as if it did. 

It was a perfect choice to make since I was back at the airport this morning to retrieve my hubby, who had also been away for business (and a side trip to see our grandson--lucky duck!)  I made him a veggie chicken patty and for me a BLT--I'm still loving the fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market and added lettuce and veggie bacon.  The recipe gives a couple of variations by substituting some of the all-purpose flour for rye flour or adding some Italian herbs to make these into mini pizzas--can't you just imagine your children enjoying that!

Skillet Flatbread (recipe from King Arthur Flour)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 T vegetable oil or olive oil 
1 cup icy cold water

2-3 T vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, measure out the dry ingredients and mix together.  Add your choice of oil into the cold water and add to the dry ingredients. (I had to add an additional 2 T of cold water to get a moist, but not sticky dough).
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
When the time is up, divide the dough into 10 or 12 pieces.  Roll into a ball and dust with flour.  Roll out with a rolling pin or pat with your fingers to a circle.

Heat a heavy skillet and add the oil.  When the oil is glistening, add 3 or 4 rounds and cooks a few minutes on each side over medium/low heat.
Remove to a rack, lined with paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  I didn't split these to make our sandwiches, but rather used two flatbreads.  

I'm determined to keep a life balance in spite of the workload I have ahead of today, after I made us lunch, I just sat on the porch admiring the beauty of Fall unfolding. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words

Happy Grandson
Sweet Granddaughter
...and believing in rainbows! 
I've been away for work, but will be flying home tomorrow.  Counting my blessings keeps me grounded.  Happy Thursday to all of my dear blog friends, XOXO

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Scones

There's nothing else like a cinnamon bun, especially in the Fall. The distinctive aroma of cinnamon fills the air on those cool mornings, but when time is short, it's not always possible to wait for yeast dough to rise, so the next best thing is taking that memory and transferring it to something that bakes up quicker--Scones.

A scone is a quick bread, hailing from Scotland and has been part of my baking experience with the passing of my great grandmother's recipe to me.  Here in the United States you can find scones most everywhere, but I have to say, after traveling to Great Britain for our 25th anniversary in 1993, I learned the correct way to pronounce what I had been baking all those years.  Here's the verse that will help you too:

"I asked the maid in dulcet tone,
To order me a buttered scone.
The silly girl has been and gone,
And ordered me a buttered scone."

My mornings (and days) have been pretty hectic with work, but I have my three favorite characters who probably appreciate my baking the least the day-old goodies.
Meet Heckle and Jeckle

...and Jake 
As soon as the sun is up, they're waiting for a treat and honestly, since I don't use preservatives, it makes me feel good that I'm not just throwing out my baked goods.

Cinnamon Bun Scones
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (or grated)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 T cinnamon

4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/3 + 1 T granulated sugar
2 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, grated
1 cup dried cranberries (raisins or currants)
1/2 tsp. ground Tahitian vanilla powder
1 large egg + half-&-half to equal 1 3/4 cup of liquid

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. light Karo syrup
2-3 T very warm water

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the grated unsalted butter and mix just until the butter is dispersed in the dry ingredients.  You should still have some piece of butter throughout.
Add the cranberries (or your choice of dried fruit) and the ground Vanilla Bean powder.  If you don't have powder, add two teaspoons of vanilla extract to the liquid measure with the cream and egg.

In a 2-cup measure, beat the egg lightly with a fork, then, add the half-&-half to measure 1 3/4 cups of liquid.  While the mixer is running on low (speed #2), slowing add the liquid to the dry ingredients.  As soon as the dough comes together, stop the machine and scrape the "shaggy" dough onto a lightly floured board.
Very carefully, knead the dough to a smooth disk, then roll out to a 12" x 17" x 1/4" thick rectangle, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the board and the rolling pin.
Arrange the filling over the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch border clean of filling around.  Use an off-set spatula to spread the filling over the dough.

I started with the long side away from me and tightly rolled the dough towards me, using a bench scraper to make sure it wasn't sticking to the board.
Cut the "log" in half, then each half into 6 pieces.  I placed six scones on each baking sheet, pressing lightly with my fingers to flatten each one.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes on two racks, then switch pans--the upper pan to the lower rack, the lower pan to the upper rack, and bake another 7-10 minutes until golden brown.

Let cool slightly while you make up the glaze.  Pour the glaze over the still warm scones, drizzling as shown.

Now brew a pot of tea and invite your best friends to partake--catching up with what everybody has been up to this week...

...thank goodness for all my blogging friends who share what they've been up too.  It really does make me feel like we're a family. Enjoy!