Salted Maple Pie

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So it seems like our cookbook club is the only thing that’s keeping us blogging this fall… I guess that’s a good thing! We’re still really enjoying participating and are loving the variety of cookbooks selected. For November, we’re cooking (or baking as it were!) through Sister Pie, by Lisa Ludwinski. The selection is certainly appropriate, given how pies abound during November and December. Ask Selim about this; he feels VERY strongly about the necessity of pie on your Thanksgiving table! We’re still reluctant bakers over here, so it’s good we had the book selected for us. Maybe one day we’ll finally feel comfortable with baking. But until that day, we’ll keep following baking instructions to the letter! That’s a great thing about this book – there are very detailed instructions about all aspects of creating the pies and especially the dough. Which we definitely appreciated. So there’s very little that we changed about this recipe from the original.

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So our first selection from this cookbook jumped out to both of us. Salted Maple Pie – how could we resist?! Selim loves maple, and I love anything sweet that’s salted. We spent a lovely but chilly weekend with some friends in the mountains and this was a perfect dessert! Decadently sweet, with great maple flavor and perfectly topped with salt! It’s a perfect dessert for these cool, late-fall, almost-the-holidays weekends. And it’d definitely be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving spread. One big note though: making this pie is time-consuming, with several resting/cooling periods. So I’d advise reading the instructions all the way through before starting!

So after all this work, what’d we think? We all loved the flavor! The crust was nice and flaky – I think we were successful in not overworking it. A tough crust was a common complaint in the Cookbook Club Facebook group, and the consensus is that overworking the dough is the problem. The texture was not quite what we were expecting. We both thought it would be like a pumpkin pie, but it’s more custard-y than that. Selim kept describing it as “eggy,” and I think the texture through him off a little bit. Full confession though. We only let it cool for an hour (instead of the prescribed 4-6 hours) before digging into it. The filling definitely had set a little better by morning when we had some more for breakfast. Sooo… edible and delicious as soon as it’s cool, but better after sitting for awhile!

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Salted Maple Pie

(Minimally adapted from Sister Pie)
Ingredients: 
  • Crust dough:
    • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup butter, very cold
    • 3 tbsp cold water*
    • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar*
  •  Filling
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted & cooled
    • 1 cup maple syrup
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Etc
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • Flaky salt
Instructions:
  1. Place your stick of butter in the freezer for ~20 minutes prior to getting started.
  2. *Take a 1/4 measuring cup and fill with just an inch or so water and place in the freezer too.
  3. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients – flour, sugar, and salt. Working quickly, use a box grater and grate the butter from the freezer into the bowl. Stop a few times and gently incorporate the butter with the dry ingredients.
  4. *Get that measuring cup with the now-frozen water. Add the apple cider vinegar and then fill up the rest of the way with water. Add this mixture to the bowl.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl, pushing dough from one side of the bowl to another, until there are no longer any pools of liquid. Now switch to your hands -“scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers… to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients.” Keep doing this until you have a fairly combined dough ball. Don’t overwork it – stop when the ball is just holding itself together.
  6. Remove from the bowl and pat down into a thick disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  7. Now it’s time to roll out the dough. Lightly flour the counter. Using your rolling pin, “press and roll along the edge of the [dough] round one single time, enlarging the circle. After each press of the edge, rotate the disc 45 degrees.” Now place the rolling pin in the center of the dough and rolling outwards. Keep rotating the dough disc and rolling outwards from the center until the dough reaches a diameter of 12-13 inches.
  8. Invert your pie pan in the center of the dough circle. Cut out a circle of dough with ~3 inches of dough outside of the pie dish. Flip the pie dish back right side up. Gently fold the dough in half, place in into the dish, and unfold.
  9. Next you should crimp the crust. Or don’t. We didn’t quite figure this out. You’re on your own for this step. Good luck!
  10. Place the crust in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
  11. Ok, now we blind bake the crust. Preheat your oven 450 degrees. Place a large piece of aluminum foil inside the pie dough and fill it up with dry beans. Bake for 25-27 minutes on a cookie sheet. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the aluminum foil and beans.
  12. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  13. Now we’re moving on to the filling. Whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, heavy cream, and vanilla. Then slowly pour the egg mixture in the maple mixture, stirring until just combined.
  14. Brush the pie crust with the beaten egg. Then fill it with the maple mixture.
  15. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until just the center jiggles slightly when the pie pan is shaken. (Ours took the full hour.)
  16. Place the pie on a wire rack to cool for 4-6 hours. Once cool, top with the flaky salt.
Direct quotes come from Sister Pie. I quoted where I thought her explicit directions were important or hard to paraphrase.

Chaat Masala Smashed Potatoes

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Tonight we made our second recipe from October’s cookbook club selection – Indian-ish! Participating in the cookbook club has already expanded our cooking horizons and we’ve only been doing it for about 6 weeks. The first one this month was Indian-ish Chicken Breasts. We tweaked this recipe a little, but the Indian(ish) flavors are definitely still there. This side dish is definitely spicy and full of flavor. It was close to being too spicy for me, so if spice is intimidating, maybe cut down to one serrano pepper or eliminate altogether. We also cooked with chaat masala for the first time here, which is always fun! We love trying new (to us) ingredients! Selim grew up eating a lot of Indian food, but I didn’t so these were different flavors for me especially. Side note, the original recipe called for topping the potatoes with fresh chopped cilantro. We (cough, Selim) may or may not have accidentally bought parsley instead of cilantro, but we think it’s probably great here, so we left it in the recipe even though we didn’t taste it that way.*

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Chaat Masala Smashed Potatoes

(Adapted from Indian-ish)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb baby red potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp minced/grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 Serrano peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp chaat masala
  • Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped*
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake potatoes on a cookie sheet for ~45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings. After dicing the pepper and onion, place them in a bowl and cover with the vinegar to macerate for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Once cooked, pierce each potato with a knife and then smash each with the back of a large utensil.
  4. Top the potatoes with a sprinkle of salt, then a dollop of yogurt on each potato, and evenly divided portions of the ginger, peppers, and onions. Then sprinkle with the chaat masala and generously top with cilantro.

Sausages & Roasted Veggies in Agrodolce

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Today’s the last day of September and therefore the last day of our first month of the Kitchn Cookbook Club. We did an even better job than anticipated of cooking through Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat. We shared our Pasta with Clams & Sausage and Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Cream, but we also made a gorgeous salad from her Avocado Salad Matrix, a nice roast whole chicken, and some green beans that we didn’t love. We still have a few more recipes bookmarked – the Butternut Squash and Brussel Sprouts in Agrodolce, the Autumn Panzanella Salad, and the Vietnamese Cucumber Salad in particular. We clearly won’t get to all of them before the end of the month, given that we only have a few hours of September left, but for dinner tonight we riffed on the squash and sprouts recipe.

The dish as written is vegetarian and would make a beautiful side dish – Samin says she serves it on her Thanksgiving spread! (Selim wants to do the same!) We decided to throw some sausages in the oven with the veggies to make it a full meal with a protein. I was initially attracted to the recipe because of the vinegar. I love vinegar and have learned from this book how the punch of acid improves most dishes by brightening other flavors. And now, I know what agrodolce means! “Agro” + “dolce” = “sour” + “sweet” in Italian. At its most basic, an agrodolce is a sauce of vinegar and sugar. It can be adjusted in many different ways – various vinegars, subbing honey or syrups for the sugar, and adding other ingredients, like herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, olives, and basically anything else!

We both loved this recipe and plan to add it to the regular rotation. The roasting and the vinegar really brought out the inherent sweetness of the vegetables. The sausages were a welcome addition and their fattiness stood up well to the vinegar. The end result is a little messy, but really delicious. We both independently thought that it would have been better if we’d cut the squash into cubes, instead of slicing as the original recommended. I think we’ll try that next time, but left the recipe with the sliced recommendation since that’s how we made it.*

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Sausages & Roasted Veggies in Agrodolce

(Adapted from Salt Fat Acid Heat)
Ingredients:
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 lb brussel sprouts
  • 5 Italian sausages
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh mint leaves
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice the squash in half, scoop out any seeds, and slice into crescents*. Halve these if too large. Place in a large bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat and ~ 1/4 tsp salt and a few turns of fresh ground black pepper. Spread out in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet.
  3. Halve the brussel sprouts and do the same as above with additional olive oil, a pinch of salt, and pepper. Place them on a second lined cookie sheet.
  4. Place the sausages on another sheet, or on one of the previous ones if there is room without crowding. (Mine fit easily with the brussel sprouts.)
  5. Place the veggies and sausages in the the oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning and adjusting the position of the cookie sheets in the oven about halfway through so everything roasts evenly. [Keep a close eye out towards the end – the brussel sprouts may cook faster than the squash. We like ours on the burnt side of crispy, but you may want to take them out about 5 minutes earlier.]
  6. Meanwhile, submerge the onions in the vinegar to macerate while everything is cooking (at least 20 minutes).
  7. In another small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp olive oil, sugar, red pepper flakes, and garlic.
  8. Once the veggies are cooked, place them in large bowl. Slice the sausages into bite-sized rounds and place in the bowl as well. Whisk the onions and vinegar into the olive oil mixture and then, once well-combined, pour the mixture into the large bowl. Toss to coat.
  9. Serve on a platter topped with additional salt if needed and a handful of torn mint leaves.
Serves 4

Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Cream

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In our last post, we mentioned how we started participating in the Kitchn’s Cookbook Club. Our first recipe was an amazing success, so we’re dipping our toes into a dessert today! This recipe is originally published as a cake, but we decided to make cupcakes instead. (Samin encourages that in the recipe, so don’t worry, we’re not improvising too much!)

The cake portion turned out well – nice and chocolately with a good texture and moistness. We really liked the combination of the chocolate cake with the rosewater icing. We personally love rosewater, but it can definitely be a polarizing ingredient. Using 3/4 tsp of rosewater in this recipe gave it a discernible rosewater flavor, but isn’t overwhelming. If you’re a rosewater novice, maybe start with a little less. Another update: I still don’t know how to ice cupcakes. I tried. Sorry. At least they taste good.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Rose Cream

(Adapted from Salt Fat Acid Heat)
Ingredients: 
  • Cupcakes
    • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 neutral oil
    • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
    • 2 eggs, room temperature & whisked
  • Cream
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 3/4 tsp rosewater
    • Optional: a drop or two of red food coloring, to give you pink icing
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in top third of oven. Place cupcake liners in a cupcake tin.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients for the cupcakes: cocoa powder, sugar, salt, flour, and baking soda.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the wet ingredients: vanilla, oil, boiling water, and eggs.
  4. With mixer running, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Mix until the thin batter comes together.
  5. Divide the batter into the cupcake molds, filling roughly 2/3s full.
  6. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the whipped cream frosting. Refrigerate the mixing bowl and whisk attachment for at least 20 minutes.
  8. Then start by whipping the cream and rosewater together over medium-high speed until beginning to thicken. Then slowly add the powdered sugar with the machine still running. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
  9. Frost the cooled cupcakes with the cream frosting, either by spreading with a knife or by piping on top.
Makes ~18 cupcakes

Pasta with Clams & Sausage

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On Instagram a few weeks back, The Kitchn announced that they were creating a virtual cookbook club (ie: a book club, but with cookbooks…). I got really excited! I love cookbooks, trying new recipes, and getting inspired from different sources, but honestly sometimes I’m a little lazy about it. Frankly, a lot of times it’s easier to browse Pinterest or google “what should I make for dinner tonight?” I always am telling myself that I need to use my cookbooks more and trying to reign myself in from buying all the beautiful new ones. So, I joined The Kitchn Cookbook Club and have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of the first selection. And finally it arrived!

The first book selected was Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. I was excited, like most of the group – Salt Fat Acid Heat has become a little bit of a cultural phenomenon. Ms. Nosrat now has a Netflix show, a column in the NYT magazine, and obviously a very popular book! This cookbook is less of a cookbook than most. It’s mostly an educational manual of food science with recipes and some general guidelines. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book – I learned a lot about some of the science of cooking! Honestly, I need to reread some of it to get these principles ingrained in my head even better. Now for my unpopular opinion – I found it a little disappointing as a cookbook. And really, she’s not going for traditional cookbook here so maybe that’s the point. But I was hoping for a bit more in terms of recipes. None the less, I really enjoyed the recipe I selected and had fun making it!

{Side note: if you’re interested in participating in the cookbook club, you can either request to join the FB group “Kitchn’s Cookbook Club,” or use/follow the hashtag #kitchncookbookclub on Instagram.}

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I love clams and have always loved traditional spaghetti alle vongole! My favorite part of the recipe section of the book is the fact that she shares variations of many of the recipes – the addition of the sausage was a variation that sounded excellent to me! I made a handful of adjustments, based on our tastes and my laziness (only cooking the clams one way instead of two). Most dramatically, I made homemade pasta, which was delicious in this recipe, but definitely makes it more of a two person endeavor and adds to your cooking time. [If you don’t want to make your own pasta with this recipe – skip all of the pasta-making steps, cook it in boiling water until just less than al dente, and then add it to the sauce as below.] I also added the lemon zest and omitted the lemon juice, added a little Aleppo pepper, and cooked the sausage in a separate pan. I was concerned that the sausage would release too much fat if I kept it in the main pot, but it probably would have been fine in retrospect. I really loved this dish! It has a great briny flavor without being too salty! I think I did a good job with all of the elements and can definitely see why she uses this recipe in the book about salt, fat, acid, and heat! They were all in beautiful harmony here!

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Pasta with Clams & Sausage

(Adapted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat)
Ingredients: 
  • Pasta
    • 2 cups AP flour
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Clams & Sausage
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced & reserving the root ends
    • 1 bunch parsley (3 whole sprigs & 1/4 cup finely chopped)
    • 4 lb littleneck clams
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 1/2 lb ground spicy Italian sausage
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
    • 1 lemon, zested
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 2oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the pasta: on a clean, dry counter-top or in a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack the eggs into that center well/crater.
  2. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. Now add the olive oil.
  3. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  4. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  5. Cut into spaghetti (or linguine or whatever pasta shape you desire). [Follow your particular pasta roller/cutter’s instructions for doing these things.] Tip: keep your hands and the surface of the dough lightly floured during this process.
  6. Now get to work on the clams/sausage/sauce. In one pan, cook the sausage until cooked through. Then remove to the side and drain of excess oil.
  7. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in another large pan. Add the root ends of the onion, 3 sprigs of parsley, and one layer of clams. Pour in the white wine and cover. Steam for 3-4 minutes, until clams open.
  8. Remove the clams to the side with tongs or a slotted spoon and repeat until all of the clams are cooked. Discard any clams that do not open.
  9. Strain cooking liquid and set aside. Once the clams are cool enough to handle, remove from shells and coarsely chop. Place the chopped clams into the cooking liquid.
  10. Now, generously salt and bring another pot of water to a boil.
  11. Rinse the pan, then heat another 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the diced onion, a pinch of salt, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes. Follow this with the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for just another 2 minutes.
  12. Now return the chopped clams and liquid to the pan, along with the lemon zest and sausage. Allow to cook together for 5 minutes over medium heat and then taste.
  13. Once the pot of water is boiling, add the noodles and cook for only 1-2 minutes. After this time, move the noodles into the pan with the clams, sausage, and liquid. (Reserve the pasta water.) Allow the noodles to continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring to coat the noodles with the liquid and spread out the. Add additional pasta water if needed to keep it nice and juicy.
  14. Taste and adjust for salt, acid, and spiciness as desired. Add butter and Parmesan cheese, stir them to melt and coat the pasta.
  15. Serve topped with chopped parsley and more Parmesan if desired.
Serves 4-6