Tuesday, October 26, 2010

five views from mount battie

Today is our last day in Camden. I think it's both happy and sad.  I don't have time to write about it now...we're in the midst of insane amounts of packing, but I am going to leave you with a view from Mount Battie from (almost) every month we were here (I couldn't find one from August, although I know we hiked it then).  Look at how the view changes through the seasons; it's pretty cool.

Mount Battie in May 

Mount Battie in June

Mount Battie in July

 Mount Battie in September

Mount Battie in early October 

Mount Battie in mid October

Mount Battie in late October

So, I thought about getting all cheesy and trying to relate the images to our time in Camden...like so young and naive at first and burned out at the end, but obviously decided that wasn't a great idea.  Gotta get back to packing! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

pumpkin whoopie pies from tasty kitchen/dinah

One of the most difficult aspects of living/studying abroad (especially for a significant amount of time) is that you start to miss American foods.  Seriously.  You wish it wouldn't happen.  You wish you could go on loving the local delicacies without so much as a second thought about the foods you'd left behind.  Unfortunately, (at least for me) this was not the case. I'm kind of embarrassed/ashamed to admit it, but after awhile I would have given anything for a good cheeseburger or pancake.

That being said, it should come as no surprise that some of my most vivid memories from my year in France involve American food.  Just when the homesickness really started to set in, Dinah and I went on a trek to find the rather elusive, potentially mythical American Grocery Store.  We probably could have looked up the address online, but there was some joy to be had in the hunt.  When we finally found it, we were overwhelmed by this funny mix of Lucky Charms and Fluff and Duncan Hines cake mixes set in a distinctively Parisian setting.  A small shop, with shelves filled floor to ceiling.

After spending a good while swooning over the American foods I wouldn't even consume in America, Dinah and I settled upon splitting a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  (You see, American food in Paris also comes with a hefty price tag.)  And it was so delicious.  Probably not the best carrot cake I've ever had (my grandmother made a pretty mean one), but at the time I'm sure I would have told you otherwise.

As the year continued, we found a few more occasions to have American food.  In the spring, Mike, another student in the program, received a care package from his parents that included the biggest jar of peanut butter you've ever seen, fluff, and American bread.  He, extremely generously, brought it to school where almost all 40 of us joyously sat down to the most delicious pb and fluff sandwiches of our lives.  Later, there would be copious amounts of pizzas to go, which got Dinah and me quite a few stares in the metro, TexMex for my birthday (complete with Heinz ketchup---such a treat!) and vanilla milkshakes.

These memories are some of the best of my time abroad; remembering them will always make me smile.  The enjoyment of eating this food is amplified when you're abroad, because it always feels a bit sneaky or like you're breaking the rules.

So, when Dinah wrote to me from Italy (she's studying abroad again), asking me to make the Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Whoopie pies, so could live vicariously through me, I happily obliged.  Of course, right now it's funny to think of what I wouldn't give to trade places with Dinah and get my hands on some delicious gelato and pizza.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
added to Tasty Kitchen by cakedutchess

For the cakes:
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 whole large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth.  With a mixer on medium speed, beat in the eggs, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract.  Fold in the flour mixture.

Drop 12 large mounds of batter onto each parchment lined baking sheets (mine didn't make quite this many).  Make sure to space evenly.  With floured fingers, gently press down on the center of each mound to flatten out a bit (I didn't do this).  Bake for about 10 minutes or until springy to the touch.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely (if you can wait that long).

Frosting: Beat the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioner's sugar, salt and vanilla and mix on low speed until blended. Then beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until fluffy.

Spread the flat side of half of the cakes with the frosting and top with the other half of the cakes. Enjoy!

things are winding down

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ina garten's pear, apple & cranberry crisp

And the winner of the best apple crisp goes to....drumroll please....Ina Garten! Of course!  I sort of knew this would be the best recipe all along and saved it for last.  Because that way the others wouldn't need to pale in comparison. Unfortunately, we didn't really take any pictures of it.  Sometimes I think you can tell how good a recipe is based on the number of pictures we have.  When it's really, really good, well we kind of forget about the pictures because we're so busy....eating.  So you're going to have to deal with pictures from sea glass hunting:

This apple crisp had the most depth of flavor, which I think has a lot to do with the use of orange and lemon zest.  To be totally honest with you, I was a bit nervous about the orange zest part, because I'm not always the biggest fan of orange flavor.  But it was delicious.  Absolutely delicious.  

The crumble topping was also delicious.  Not too crunchy, not too soggy.  It is this topping that Dan and I have decided we would try next time on the sour cream apple pie.  It maybe didn't get quite as golden brown as I would have liked to see, but once I took a bite, I forgot all about it.  Here's your picture, finally:

pear, apple & cranberry crisp
from the barefoot contessa at home

2 lbs ripe Bosc pears (about 4 pears)
2 lbs firm Macoun apples (about 6 apples...and we, once again, used Northern Spies)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

for the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 lb (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Peel and core the pears and apples and cut them into large chunks.  Place the fruit in a large bowl and toss with the cranberries, zests, juices, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Pour into a 9x12x2 inch baking dish.

For the topping, combine flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is in large crumbles.  (Or mix with your hands in a medium bowl.) Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

Place the dish on a parchment lined baking sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

sour cream apple pie

The other apple pie I made was a sour cream apple pie (sorry, Dinah, still not the Barefoot Contessa's!).  The combination of flavors sounded very tempting, but I was nervous about how it would turn out.  The recipe also dictates that the pie should be served cold, which kind of eliminates one of my favorite parts of savoring warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  BUT, this apple pie is really good and totally worth the lack of warmth.  Especially if you live somewhere where it's not freezing cold yet...this could be a nice alternative to your traditional apple pie.

I always have such a hard time throwing away apple peels.  They're so good and (I think) contain most of the apple's nutrients.  Ugh it pains me to throw them in our compost pile.  Does anyone know of something to do with the peels other than eat them as you go?  I have been doing this until my stomach starts to hurt. 

Did I mention yet that this pie is relatively easy to make? It's not nearly as involved as the first recipe I shared with you.  AND, it is topped with crumble (as you'll see below) and comes with its own simple crust recipe, which involves pressing the crust into a pie plate: a step that totally eliminates my inabilities to adequately roll out a pie crust. Yay!  Don't you love it when recipes don't make you feel like an idiot?

The crumble topping ended up being a bit crunchier than I had expected.  I'm not sure if we should have taken the pie out earlier or not, but Dan and I both agreed that we liked the topping from Ina Garten's take on an apple crisp (recipe to be posted soon), that we would like to substitute that crumble in this recipe the next time around.

The pie kind of looks cheesecake-y, but I don't really remember it as tasting that way.  We made last week, so already the memories are fuzzy.  I need to be better about posting!

Sour Cream Apple Pie 
from Maine Ingredients

1 cup flour
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter

6 large McIntosh apples (we used Northern Spies)
1 2/3 cups sour cream (I added about 1/2 cup of ricotta, because I ran out of sour cream)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped walnuts (we had pecans)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine crust ingredients. Blend well with pastry cutter.  Press into 9-inch pan. 

Peel, core, and slice the apples.  Combine sour cream, sugar, egg, flour, vanilla and salt.  Mix well.  Stir in apples. Pour mixture into pie crust.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes.

While pie is baking, combine all topping ingredients.  Mix well.  Spoon over baked pie.  Bake and additional 15 minutes.  Serve cold.