Sunday, November 18, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Cranberry Crostata, A Dear Ruth Letter, and {Five Cranberry Recipes You'll Love}

There are three types of people. Those who like to cook. Those who like to bake. Those who say things like "I forgot to eat." We won't worry about the last. They were probably born on another planet.

I love to cook. It's forgiving. You can do your own thing. Add a pinch of this or a dash of that. I find the whole chopping and stirring bit therapeutic. For the most part, everyone usually says they really enjoy my cooking.

I love desserts. They are my one true weakness. I do not love to bake. Cookies, yes. Cakes, maybe. Rolling out dough, absolutely not. However, I love dessert and get this, my family and friends say they like my baked goods better than my cooking. It's like a curse.

So, I tried my hand at Ruth's Cranberry Crostata and this is what I have to say about it.

Dear Ruth,

Your Cranberry Pecan Crostata sounds delicious, original, and perfect for Thanksgiving. I hadn't baked in awhile and I thought I had the required level of patience to approach this recipe. I bought the fresh cranberries. I gathered the ingredients for the filling. The filling is on the stove, but it's nowhere near done in the time you indicated so I cook it longer. There is a fine line when the filling is perfect and apparently I missed it, Ruth. I have cranberry jelly, but I suppose I can deal with that.

Slightly frustrated I get out the flour (I hate getting out that messy flour, Ruth). It's not your fault. It's mine. I have no patience already. I'm already gritting my teeth, Ruth. I start reading the recipe for the dough (You'd think I'd have learned to read the recipe first, Ruth). I'm now frustrated because I thought I was making pastry dough and therefore needed cold butter, but now I'm reading that the dough is like a cookie dough, and therefore the butter needs to be room temperature.

Losing all patience, and shrugging my shoulders, I place the butter in a bowl and microwave it a touch to soften it slightly. Making the dough is easy, but there is flour on my counter and that sets me off.  I DO NOT LIKE FLOUR ON MY COUNTER. It's not your fault, Ruth. It's mine. 

I am starting to approach a whole new level of "I don't care", but I get out my plastic wrap and form disks rather easily. I think I've got this down now. I put that pesky flour back in the pantry out of my sight. I can't be bothered to look at it anymore. I've got 30 minutes for the dough to refrigerate. I have 30 minutes to calm down and gather myself. I can do this.

While the dough is doing what it does in the fridge, I gather my cookbook and set about writing my post. It is at this point when I read the recipe in its entirety for the first time. I realize that I don't have a springform pan. Then I realize that this crostata also requires latticework. I shove the cookbook away from me in total disgust. I realize that there is no amount of time that will cause me to calm down now. Baking requires patience, skills, and equipment that I simply do not have!

I write the post. I decided that I will not use a springform pan and I will not do latticework. I brainstorm while I approach a whole new level of baker's angst. I declare I will never bake again. I decide I will make two small rustic crostata. You know, filling in the center with the dough folded up all rustic and nice over the filling. Just like Giada makes. It'll be fine.

It's going to be fabulous I tell myself. I get the dough out of the fridge and place my rolling pin in my hand with high hopes. I will not roll this dough on my countertop because I cannot be bothered with messy countertops so I roll my dough out on the plastic wrap. I place the dough on the cookie sheet and all is right with the world. I artfully add the cranberry filling and spread it around like I'm God's gift to baking. Then I start trying to fold the dough into the center to cover the filling.



I grab my trusty little Pampered Chef spatula with the sharp edge and I angrily start slapping the dough up over the sides of the filling. The dough is breaking and the filling is oozing out the sides and getting messy. The dough gets stickier and stickier and I care less and less as I slap that dough up over the sides of the filling.

Dear God! The second crostata is even worse because I was dumb enough to let that dough sit out while I slapped the first one together. I care even less about the second one, Ruth. I slapped that dough over the sides of the filling with a fury of a 1000 men going to battle!

Looking at the second one caused me to laugh in a maniacal way. I scared the children, Ruth. I become even more angered when I realize that my dough is bare. I feel as though I should be brushing it with egg or butter and sprinkling it with some fancy baker's sugar. Why is the dough bare, Ruth? Filled with the rage of 10,000 lunatics, I remember buying some fancy Bourbon Vanilla Sugar and I throw it haphazardly over the tops of both crostata. 

I'm not lying, Ruth. I threw those crostata in the oven uttering all kinds of nasty words. The pans hit the back of the oven and bounced back on the racks with a vengeance. I got some satisfaction from that.

When I pulled them out of the oven they looked beautiful and rustic and I recovered. "I can't wait to have a slice", I said to myself. I don't even want to tell you what happened after I discovered one of the kids ate all of the vanilla ice cream.

When I finally recovered from the Vanilla Ice Cream Debacle of 2018, and got my hands on some vanilla ice cream, I sat down to enjoy a slice and you know what, Ruth? It was all worth it. Every bit of it. The messy flour, the sticky dough, the nasty words. Even the trip to the store for more ice cream. It was all worth it. This Cranberry Crostata could take on any shape, it could have beautiful latticework, or it could be slapped together. Either way, it is a sweet, tart, flaky cookie dough delight with ice cream on top and I love it!


P.S. The dough really could use a brush of egg yolk or butter to help it turn a nice golden brown.

P.P.S. You shouldn't really waste the zest of the orange. Save it and sprinkle it over the top.

Cranberry Pecan Crostata
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl

1/2 cup pecans
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 orange
4 ounces apricot preserves
12 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 lemon

*Note: I omitted the pecans because I'm not a fan of nuts in my desserts. I also do not have a springform pan so I basically did my own thing and made two rustic crostatas, without lattice tops because that is way too fussy for me!

The nice thing about this particular tart is that the crust is essentially cookie dough, which means that this tart is as good on day two as on day one. You can make it ahead of time- or really enjoy the leftovers.

Gently toast the pecans in a small skillet until they're fragrant, allow them to cool, then grind them fairly fine. (I skipped this step as I'm not a fan of nuts in my desserts).*

Beat the butter with 1/2 cup sugar until very light. Add the egg, the ground pecans (if using), a pinch of salt, the vanilla, and the flour. Grate in the zest of the lemon and mix well.

Form into two disks, wrap in waxed paper and chill for 30 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, cook the raw cranberries with the juice of the orange, the apricot preserves, and the other 1/2 cup of sugar, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Roll out one disk of dough into a 12-inch circle. Don't worry too much about this step; the dough will tear, but you can just press it into a 9-inch springform pan, bringing the sides up about 1/2 inch.  Spread the cranberry filling onto the crust.

Roll out the remaining disk on a sheet of waxed paper, put it on a sheet pan, and cut it into 8 to 10 strips. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes, which will make the next step easier.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375F for about 45 minutes until golden. 

Set on a rack to cool for half an hour, then remove the sides of the springform pan. Cool completely, on the rack, before serving.

 Five Cranberry Recipes You Will Love
(click on the recipe titles to be directed to the original post and recipe)

A Very Happy Thanksgiving Holiday to everyone celebrating!!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Oatmeal Brûlée with Macerated Berries

 Sunday morning. Pajamas. Soft baked oatmeal. Creamy custard.
Handheld blowtorch. Crispety-crunchety sugar crust. Colorful berries. Morning glories.

I love oatmeal and when I laid eyes on this recipe I instantly became enamoured. Oatmeal with a crispety-crunchety sugar crust on top? How brilliant! I mean, why hadn't I thought of it before?

As I started putting the dish together I started to wonder about the custard. It seemed heavy with egg. How was this going to work out? Was the custard going to be creamy or eggy? I instantly knew that this dish would go one of two ways: absolutely delicious or not so great.

Consider a few things before making this dish. Find a shallow bowl, one that will produce a thin layer of oatmeal and a thin layer of custard. Pay attention to how thick your layer of custard is. You don't want a thick layer of custard here. Lastly, and most importantly, pay attention to how long you bake your dish. Times below are a guide. All ovens are different. The goal is to warm the custard and allow it to be cooked through where it is safe to eat, but also to remain somewhat creamy without setting. If you allow your custard to set, then you are going to have a layer of oatmeal topped with an odd eggy layer with sugar and berries on top, which is not so great! I know be..cause it happened to me!

I made this dish twice because I thought it was probably worth perfecting, and it was! My second try yielded perfection! Satisfying oatmeal with a creamy custard topped with a crunchy sugar crust and glorious berries. It's delicous fresh out of the oven and also cold straight out of the fridge! Try it and see for yourself.

Oatmeal Brûlée with Macerated Berries
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4

3-1/4 cups water
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered strawberries
1/4 cup Champagne 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Special Equipment: a blowtorch

Macerate the Berries: Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small saucepan and heat over moderately high heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Gently stir together berries, Champagne, mint, and sugar syrup in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 4 hours. *Berries can macerate for up to 1 day.

Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400F.

Make the Custard: Whisk 1/4 cup cream in a small bowl until it just holds stiff peaks. Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, and remaining 14 cup cream in another small bowl, then gently whisk in whipped cream until smooth.

Assemble and bake the Brulees: Bring remaining 3 cups water and salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in oats and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and tender, about 5 minutes. Divide oatmeal among four flameproof soup plates or shallow bowls and smooth with the back of a spoon. Allow the oatmeal to cool slightly before pouring the custard on top or you will start to cook the egg in your custard. Pour custard over oatmeal. Put bowls on oven racks and bake, switching position halfway through baking, *careful not to let the custard completely set or it will become eggy, about 10 minutes. (Or transfer oatmeal to a very shallow 2-quart baking dish and cover with custard. Bake in middle of oven until set, 10 to 15 minutes.).

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon remaining granulated sugar evenly over each custard. Caramelize topping on one bowl at a time with a blowtorch, moving flame evenly back and forth, until sugar is melted and caramelized. With a slotted spoon, mound some berries in center of each brulee. Serve with remaining berries on the side.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Shirred Eggs Over Potato Puree {Comfort Food Extraordinaire}

The Ruth Reichl recipe. The must make at the top of my list. Welcoming egg with ozzing yolk. Silky buttery potato puree. Best enjoyed with a spoon. Soft and comforting. Belly warming. Comfort food extraordinaire. One for the books.
"When you want to be really, really good to yourself,take the time to make this soft egg, gently cooked on a pillow of butter-rich potatoes. Then eat it very slowly, with a spoon. Each bite reminds you why you're glad to be alive." - Ruth Reichl in My Kitchen Year

Shirred Eggs with Potato Puree
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4

4-5 young Yukon Gold potatoes (about a pound)
3/4 cup cream
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
chives, bacon, cheese, for garnish*

Peel the potatoes and cut them into half-inch slices.Put them in a pot,cover them with an inch of cold water, and add a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring the water to a boil, reduce it to a ere burble, and cook for 20 minutes, until the flesh offers no resistance when you pierce it with a fork. 

Drain the potatoes and put them through a ricer. Or mash them really well with a potato masher. In a pinch, use a fork. Season with a light shower of salt and pepper.

Melt the butter and stir in half a cup of cream. Now comes the fun part. Whisk the cream mixture into the potatoes and watch them turn into a smooth, seductive puree. Season to taste, doing your best not to gobble them all up.

Heat oven to 375 and put a kettle of water on to boil. Butter 4 little ramekins and put about a half an inch of potato puree in each. Now gently crack an egg on top of each (being careful not to break the yolks). Set the ramekins into a deep baking dish and pour the boiling water around them (being careful not to splash the mixture or yourself). Set the dish in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the whites have begun to set.

Spoon a tablespoon of the cream over the egg in each ramekin and bake for another 5 minutes or so, or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are runny. Garnish with flakes of salt, bits of chopped chive, or if you're inclined to true indulgence, crispy crumbles of bacon.