pie + tart recipes, sweet recipes

french pastry in the kitchen: blueberry galette

blueberry galette

You are thirty-six and this is your life. There was a time when you sat on the ledge, knees pressed up against the glass, waiting for the gloaming. Nightfall is your time. On the radio the disc-jockey plays “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” and you turn the volume up to ten. Many of your friends tell you that you’re like this — a volume ten. In response, you feign agreement. Create diversions. Down the hall the motley lot open and slam metal doors, kicking tight shirts out of the closet, busy in the thick of a pre-game, sloe-gin buzz. You are past the Zima stage and knee-deep in Absolut. You haven’t yet acquired a taste for wine because vodka is cheap and always gets the job done. Inside your room your roommate plays puppeteer; she plays out the night before she hits the gates, flashes her ID. She’s deliberate this way. She folds the creases in her shirts this way.

You contemplate escape. A house in the woods. Four walls, a thatched roof, a little garden that grows beets. But then you remember you hate beets and the fiction is ruined, so you listen to your roommate drone on about this boy on the crew team, and this puts you to thinking of Brooklyn and how the word crew held an entirely different meaning. You’re so quiet, so withdrawn into the recesses of the glass, watching all of your friends travel in packs toward the bar that sells fifty-cent drafts that you don’t notice your roommate shaking your shoulder. What do you think?

What if this, this life, was not what was intended? What if we were meant for something other? Felicia, you’re funny, she says. Everyone seems to think you’re funny. Everyone but you. You wonder if this friendship will last beyond the confines of four years in the Bronx.

Your roommate plays “The Fly” and shimmies her hips, and you decide that you like the bloody song better.

Years later you’re in bar called 1020. It’s turning out to be one of those nights that starts one way and ends another. You’re wearing this plaid wool skirt and red sweater and someone asks you if you know how to shoot pool. In response you say that pool was your mother’s game — you don’t touch the stuff. You’re funny. Did anyone ever tell you that? On the way to the bathroom you bump into the woman who will alter you. She will be the one on the phone that day in February when you tell her that you have the shakes. That you’ve got to quit the drink. That there’s no other way. And she will pull you out of the dark country and into the light — this woman will alter. Organizational managers call these people change agents. But that night you exchange an excuse me, because it’s not yet time. You’re not ready for her, yet.

A few years later you meet her again, in Russia, and you talk about pills. You trade black-outs and highs like baseball cards. She annoys you with the constant gum-smacking and penchant for erratic fidgeting, but something about her unnerves you, puts your heart on pause, and for the next six years she is the whole of your world.

You remember that cab ride downtown and how you both fall back on old stories to fill the large spaces. Over the past few months the ground has opened up between the two of you — you can feel the reverberation, the splintering, the fissuring — and you can’t stop it. There was a definitive moment when you stopped needing her; you must have become a stranger to her, barely an apparition of the single self you both used to be. And the one story you both long to tell — the heartbreaking ending to the story of us — you couldn’t. Where are the words? How do we form them? How do you measure the end of a great love? How do you quietly drift? So instead you tell a story, like you always do, and she says, You’re funny. But this is not.

And when your mother phones, a crackling voice over a telephone line, a voice of over a decade past, it is your college roommate who makes you watch funny movies until you laugh out the tears. It’s she who listens as you weep into a phone receiver, and holds your hard through the dark spaces. She is the one friend who you never imagined would endure, but does. She is the one friend who is a constant, the beloved who remains.

You are thirty-six and this is your life. And you think about your dearest friend, Elizabeth, who is that great quiet love that has not altered. And as you bake this pastry, you somehow think of all of this — the past and present and back again — and how this one friend knew you when you thought it smart to dump wisticher sauce in an Italian lasagna.

Look how far you’ve come.

Blueberry Crumble Galette (Recipe courtesy of Country Cleaver), with alterations.
INGREDIENTS
Pie Crust: 1 9-in pie
3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
6 tbsp butter, cut into cubes and frozen
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup iced water

Pie Filling:
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp rhubarb (or maple) syrup
1 egg white, for brushing pie crust

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup rolled oats
5 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

For Pie Crust:
Although you can blitz this to the size of small peas in a food processor, inspired by old memories, I decided to give this a go by hand. In a large bowl, cut the dough with a pastry cutter or use a fork and spoon. What you’re trying to do is incorporate the butter, flour and water until a dough starts to form. Once you have a mass that starts to cling together, remove the dough form from the bowl. On a well-floured surface, knead together dough for 2-3 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface until the crust is about 12″ in diameter. Place dough onto a large square of parchment paper and set parchment and rolled dough into a large cookie sheet.

Filling:
In the middle of the round of pie crust, pour the blueberry mixture into the middle. Corral blueberries into the middle in a mound. Fold outer edges of the pie crust over the berries to contain them. Brush edges of the pie crust with egg whites.

Crumble Topping:
In a medium bowl, combine all crumble topping ingredients by hand by massaging the butter into the oat and sugar mixture. You want the consistency of fat peas. Pour over the blueberry galette and allow to fall into the cracks and crevices of the blueberries.

Bake galette in the cast iron for about 30 minutes or until the crumble and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the cast iron once it has been removed from the oven. Slice while warm and serve with ice cream.

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lovely living

spinning + brunching in new york city!

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Spend a lazy weekend in New York, and you’ll spy a parade of pooches and hoards of people dining al fresco, eating brunch. Back in the day brunch was simply another excuse to get drunk during the day, but now that I’ve embarked on a life free of alcohol I’ve been more discerning about the places I want to patron because I can’t realize on the taste bud anesthesia that only a bottle of wine can bring.

A creature of habit, I tend to cleave a handful of haunts — many of which are within walking distance of my gym. After years of ranting about the EVILS of spinning, I found myself taking a class with my friend and falling rapturously in love. Once I got over the pain of sitting on an uncomfortable bike for 45 minutes I began to feel energized, re-charged and cleansed after my cycling class. There’s something cathartic about being in a dark room, pushing yourself to your limits — being on the verge — and then leaving, soaking wet, and stepping out into the warm light of day.

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For the past few weeks I’ve made in my routine to start my Saturday with a cycle class and a brunch catch-up with a close friend. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Doma Na Rohu. From the hand-crafted ceramic mugs and dishes to the cranberry tea on tap to the fluffy eggs and lingonberry preserves, there’s no shortage of flavor in this airy, rustic brunch spot. You’ll find the freshest ingredients, local produce, organic eggs and a menu that’s full on flavor and easy on your pocket.

But if you’re looking for the hot hotcake spot, look no further than Clinton Street Bakery. A LES institution, you’ll find the fluffiest pancakes (they whip their whites into a mousse-like consistency to get aerated cakes), locally-sourced ingredients, and the finest chicken and waffles you’ve ever laid your eyes on. Granted the wait is Odyssean, but believe me when I say that the hotcakes, carefully crafted crumble muffins, and applewood smoked bacon ARE WORTH IT. What I love about Clinton Street Bakery is the lack of trickery. They’re not trying to re-invent breakfast, they’re not trying to be a hero — their goal is simply to make the classics BETTER.

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bravery in the kitchen: strawberry rhubarb crumble

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Know that my intentions were pure and virtuous as I hit the kitchen on a sweltering Saturday, inspired by my all-day food styling class, in pursuit of a crumble. I’d purchased fresh rhubarb and strawberries from the farmer’s market and I was delirious about creating a recipe, from scratch.

And then it all fell apart.

It might be helpful to recognize that some glassware can’t be used in the oven. Mid-way through the baking process, I checked on the crumble to find shards of glass scattered inside the oven, and filling oozed on the rack. Naturally, as one would expect, my smoke alarm went off, my cat fled into the bedroom, and I spent the greater part of ten minutes on top of a chair swatting at said alarm with a towel.

I’m not done. Not by a long shot.

I tried to place the half-baked crumble into another dish and it was a HOT MESS. Literally. I also found it somewhat suspicious that there was entirely too much liquid compared to the dry ingredients, and it dawned on me that I’d used TOO MUCH FRUIT. And like any good baker, I fell into a deep denial, shoved my crap pie back into the oven and set the timer.

Unfortunately, the crumble wasn’t the masterpiece I expected. It was tasty and much better cold, but the filling completely overpowered the crust and the appearance — well, not even a Canon 5D Mark III can make this a beauty. SIGH.

After another round of tinkering, I got the adjustments right but it was entirely too dark to snap a photo. However, the day wasn’t lost because I created something from scratch, I conceived of a new way to make a crumble and I had fun doing it. Often we see perfect and pristine photographs of earthy delights, yet a great deal of us FAIL in the kitchen. And I think it’s important to show and share those mishaps, as well. We should do more of it.

So, after much grief and joy, I present…The Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble.

INGREDIENTS
For the Crumble:
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup oats (please don’t use instant oats or oatmeal)
1/3 cup plain Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp butter

For the Filling:
2 cups chopped rhubarb, chopped 1/2 inch dice
2 cups strawberries, chopped in half, stems removed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp rhubarb syrup
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat your oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients and add stir in the yoghurt with a wooden spoon and spatula. With your hands, work the cold butter into the mixture until you get the consistency of large clumps of peas. You want to ensure that the dry ingredients bind and cohere, so while the yoghurt is a terrific start, the butter will give you that tight bind and incredible flavor, which makes a crumble sing. Once the topping is ready set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss the rhubarb and strawberries with the syrup, vinegar and sugar until all of the fruit is completely covered.

In a 9inch pie dish, add the filling and ensure that it is evenly distributed in the dish. Add the crumble and bake at 375F for 45 minutes until your topping is crispy and golden and your filling is bubbling and oozing.

Serve hot with ice-cream!

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pie + tart recipes sweet recipes
new york eats

sweet eats: ovenly: greenpoint, brooklyn

Ovenly is the sort of place I’d open if I had money in the bank and a penchant for dealing with people like me who come in and fawn over the pastries, snap copious amounts of photographs and chat vanilla crumble crusts with the owner. Ovenly is the sort of place people dream of owning — a postage stamp of real estate that is home to domed pistachio muffins, passion iced-teas and piping-hot strawberry pie. Who can resist a pie cooling? Not me, I assure you, and I’m glad I made the ODYSSEAN trek from my home in Brooklyn to Greenpoint (ah, the G TRAIN JOYS!) — the word-of-mouth on this kitchen is that good.

From minimalist, ceramic tables and elegant iron chairs to a counter chockfull of crumbling chocolate chip cookies samples, dusted with sea salt for good measure, you’ll feel as if you’re in a home away from home — if only your home were this cool and fragrant with pastry. Although the space begs you to settle down with a newspaper, the goods are the true stars of the proverbial show. Currant rosemary scones are subtly sweet and woody, peanut butter cookies are crumbly and perfect, and the honey mustard in the cheddar scones truly delivers maximum flavor. You’ll find unexpected flavor combinations and texture plays, and you can taste the love that went into each scone, the care imbued in each cookie. The goods are golden.

Simply put Ovenly is absolutely, unequivocally, worth the trek. Check out their website for more information, and if you’re in Brooklyn make Ovenly your essential dessert visit.

foodie finds

a day of magic: cooking + food styling with la tartine gourmande @ haven’s kitchen, nyc

tartine

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Today was a day worth photographing, literally. This morning I woke giddy, tossed the comforter aside and got my camera ready for a full day of snapping, savoring, and styling with one of my revered home cooks, La Tartine Gourmande. It was 2007 when I discovered her site, and I remembered poring over her recipes, awestruck by the freshness of the photography, the whimsy of the styling (the bowls!), and recipes that were always, simply, delovely. As a self-taught baker and improvisational cook, I found Béatrice Peltre intimidating, unattainable — she was French!, she had a camera worth coveting, and was making pastries I’d only dreamed of baking. But over the years I followed her evolution, and witnessed photos that were less stylized and more rustic and elegant. And in the time I grew as well. I had quietly mastered yeast, perfected the chocolate mousse and burned a few cookies and toughened some muffins along the way.

I also shifted from a simple point-and-shoot camera to a complicated DSLR, and learned the meaning of the words: aperture, depth of field, ISO, f/stop, shooting raw, bokeh — and as one would expect, I fumbled and got frustrated and took hundreds and hundreds of photographs to find my hero. Someone once told me that being a photographer isn’t necessarily about tools and technique, rather it is about falling rapturously in love with your subject. So I guess it’s safe to say that this blog has become an ode to food, a sonnet about its color, texture, shape and taste.

However, love is tough and tricky and tumultuous, and I sometimes find myself furious that I didn’t capture the right shot; I wasn’t able to show you through a photograph how hearty that multi-grain loaf was. How the preserves practically melted into the loaf. HOW I TOOK A PICTURE OF A JAR OF JAM WITH ITS GODDAMN PRICE-TAG AFFIXED FRONT AND CENTER.

CLASSY.

So instead of the usual routine, I invested in an all-day food styling and photography class with one of my culinary loves at Haven’s Kitchen. And from the moment I set foot in the simple, refined space, I started swooning. From the lavender bundles and lemon soaps to vintage white restaurant plates and artisanal teas to stacks of fabric napkins and peonies tied with twine, you can’t help but want to pack up your bags and set up a pup-tent in the kitchen. Suffice to say, Haven’s Kitchen is a foodies’ paradise.

And then there was Bea — and she was charming, self-effacing, French, kind, patient, and obsessed with all the details. Over the course of the day I learned that I should always shoot with an ISO of 100 while always, always adjusting my aperture and shutter speed. Olive oil can provide sheen, while a spray bottle and ice-bath are perfection for keeping veggies crisp and mouth-watering. I learned that food composition was about simplicity, lack of clutter, and a determined focus — it’s never helpful to have your eyes distracted by too much color, texture and contrast. And most of all, I learned that while I adore Bea’s photos, the photos I take are from my perspective, my point-of-view, and are sometimes a little over-exposed. I like the white-out, the freshness of it. I love colors that pop a little more than they should, and today I experimented (as you can see from the PILES OF PHOTOS in this post) with a tripod (oh my), with darker lighting, and with a lot of cropping.

But let’s not forget the food! There was so much of it. From piles of French, Australian and UK magazines showcasing the stylings of the world’s greatest gastronomic art directors to the strawberry tiramisus and piles of tartines made with ricotta and heaps of vegetables and buttery prosciutto, I found myself shooting and consuming delicious, flavorful food.

Not only do I absolutely need to fix everything in Bea’s cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, I need to ferret out inspiration from all sorts of places. I need to experiment, to play, to fail — all of this will lead me to what’s next.

I believe this to be true.

So what do you guys think of the photos? I’d love to hear your thoughts + feedback + TIPS!

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epic eats: smorgasburg: williamsburg, brooklyn

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Nothing brings me greater joy than food. Nothing widens my eyes, quickens my breath and puts my heart on pause more than the sound of slippery noodles, of coffee being brewed on a waterfront, of a knife cleaving through paper-thin beef to then smack a board with precision. Would you believe that the sounds of chewing and sighing are my symphony? So imagine my delight, my GODDAMN glee, when I finally made the trek to Williamsburg to check out the much-revered foodie’s paradise, Smorgasburg.

Can we cue the angels, the bright white lights and the doves, please?

An open-air market on the Williamsburg waterfront, you’ll find the frontier of great food: dozens of bakers, purveyors, butchers, BBQ’ers, and those who are passionate about unique eats. From the juicy, char-grilled Dumont Burgers to The Meat Hook’s savory homemade sausages, burgers, chickens and beef dogs (utter perfection!) to Anarchy in a Jar — a line of fresh preserves (the wild blueberry STOLE MY HEART) with the smartest of monikers (e.g. “Easy Like Sunday Morning”), I’ve only just begun my siren song to the perfection that is this food-lover’s mecca. I spent a few hours sampling kale chips, sipping on rhubarb syrup, getting my tongue burnt on hot tempeh, marveling over a gussied-up version of pigs in a blanket (think flaky pastry dough meets tender sausage link), washing down said burn with watermelon lemonade, wondering if I’d ever try an oyster because the ones served up by Brooklyn Oysters looked pretty damn good, slurping on slippery noodles that tasted of soy sauce and peanuts, getting lost in a heady haze of fragrant Colombian food, having a fan-girl moment when I met the proprietor of Salty Road (The Cooking Channel featured her exquisite taffy hand-rolling skills), realizing that bakers are the sweetest lot going, and Krumville Bakeshop is quickly shifting my opinion of gluten-free baked goods with its unctuous and chewy chocolate chip walnut cookies — and writing, well, gushing, well, rhapsodizing in a run-on sentence.

Perhaps this is what love is. The thing that makes your heart race and your hands go wild. But I’ll let the pictures tell the story of my love affair, and how it’s growing with the passage of each day.

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new york eats

savor this sip: toby’s estate coffee: williamsburg, brooklyn

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I’ve got a secret to confess. On the weekends I’ll watch hours of The Cooking Channel, comforted by those who I call The Romantics. These are a series of shows where you watch artisans at work — bakers kneading dough and filling it with strawberries and balsamic vinegar, home cooks dicing up rhubarb and serving it in a tender, crumbling coffee cake. And there’s always the requisite patron sipping coffee, a newspaper splayed across a wooden table. Flakes of almond croissant caught in one’s hair. They spend lazy Saturdays in a local coffee shop while I try to navigate the cleaners, the gym, the post office, the market, and the one million errands I’ve compressed into a few short hours because come Sunday it’s back to work all over again.

There was a time when I was part of this leisurely lot — a whole year I spent trying to find what was next. Wholly uninspired, burnt out by the publishing industry, and a career spent bumping from one digital marketing job to another, I hadn’t found a place I could call home, albeit for a little while. I knew that this time was a tremendous luxury, a gift I gave to myself — in part due to an advance I’d received due to some film interest for my memoir (remember that thing? AGES ago, it seems) — but I knew that this gift of time was one I would likely not see again.

That year was a strange, wonderful, quiet, tumultuous, awakening.

Back then I remembered an evening I’d spent partying in a bar downtown and how I slept through my stop on the Long Island Rail Road. In the dark recesses of night, I found myself in a sleepy town, groggy, wallet gone. I raced out of the train and into a taxi, and after an hour of winding roads I woke my dad and begged him for cash for the cab. The next day I woke, hungover, having to negotiate a temporary card because I was due to fly out to Aruba that evening. I remember my father shaking his head, sad, and said the car smelled of drink, you and your damn wine lips, and when would I ever get my life together? Dial down the drama? Stop being a hot, organized, highly-functioning mess?

Sometimes I was frightened of all the nights I couldn’t remember. There were evenings in Prague, gone. Time lost. Blacked out. Erased. Locked in a box.

During the year I took off I recalled too many of this scenes, which made me wince, but also made me proud of the person I had become, and although I was sober I still found myself asking what’s next? I was that girl in the coffee shop, back in a c-curve over a laptop, hatching plans.

Today, looking back on all of this, I’m grateful for that year and all of the anxiety and gifts (and credit card debt) it brought me. Although I adore my job, yet know it won’t be the career I’ll have for the remainder of my days, I’ve decided to focus on RIGHT NOW rather than what’s NEXT.

And today that meant a newspaper and artisanal coffee at Toby’s Estate Coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I don’t normally go to Williamsburg, as it takes a YEAR and a trip back to Manhattan to get home again, but my curiosity for the killer eats and serious coffee sent me running for the L train. My foodie bud, @mike_white, directed me toward this fantastic Aussie café and roastery. Toby’s is home to the city’s first pressure-controlling Strada machine by La Mazorca, which churns out rich, enveloping espresso. What I love about this open, airy, curious space is the open bar where you can see your Brazilian or Ethiopian coffee being freshly brewed, drip by drip. After getting my coffee, some Australian sponge cake (think a chocolate exterior covered with coconut with a fruit filling on the inside) and a freshly baked almond croissant, I decamped on a long wooden bench, sharing my lunch and newspaper with the other patrons practicing leisure.

Who cared that I needed to pack for a flight to Dallas? Who cared that I needed to shop for the week? All that mattered was the here and the now and a cover story on Fiona Apple.

Even if your life is frenetic (and I know frenzy all too well), I invite you to be one of The Romantics, even if it’s for an hour in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.

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new york eats

bake this now: the virtuous multigrain loaf

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There’s nothing more gratifying than having a friend slathering a hot slice of bread — bread you made with your own two hands — with blueberry preserves. I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face, but I love baking because in a world that is so digital, so virtual, this is one of the few tactile hobbies left. Baking forces discipline, and the best loaves of bread are usually made with a few ounces of strength and sweat while you knead on a sweltering May day.

Yesterday I was determine to make a slew of recipes that mixed the virtuous and the comforting. From my truffle kale macaroni and cheese (so soothing!) to this hearty grain loaf, my oven operated in overdrive. You will love this loaf not only because it’s healthy, but the bread is chewy, yielding, perfect for warm almond butter, creamy Irish butter or chilled blueberry preserves. My friend and I stood in my kitchen slicing bread and eating, eating, eating, and it was wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Pastry Affair, with slight modifications. Happy Blogging Anniversary!
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons blueberry flax seed
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoons salt
12 ounces barely warm water
Sunflower seeds, flax seed, and oats, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), whisk together the flours, oats, seeds, yeast, and salt. Gradually add the water and mix until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and will not come together, add small amounts of water until it does. Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add flour until it becomes workable. Knead the dough for ten minutes, or until elastic. If you have a stand mixer with a dough attachment, you only need to knead this in the mixer for 5-6 minutes, until the dough becomes springy and elastic.

Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 2-3 hours. Punch down the dough and allow it to set for another 10 minutes before turning out the dough onto a clean surface. Shape the dough into a log or cylinder, trying to keep the dough an even thickness. Place the dough into a 9×5-inch loaf pan sprinkle with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and oats. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow it to rise for another 30-40 minutes, or until it doubles in volume.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and allow to cool down before slicing.

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bread recipes