Sunday, March 31, 2013

Italian Grain Pie

I've only made this once before but my daughter brought her boy friend home for the weekend and I thought I'd do it as a tribute to a holiday we don't actually celebrate.  It takes forever to do but it's worth the time and effort.  It has a very unusual flavor, is dense and rich and definitely not for those who don't do gluten.  I'm going to post the pics first and the recipe after.

whole grains, soaking in water. this is kamut and a little brown rice

grain cooked, drained and cooling

 rubbing sweet butter into the flour for the rich crust

the crust has the yolks of three eggs, from local hens

crust divided into halves, ready to chill

lattice top on and ready for the oven

out of the oven and cooling

ready to serve, garnished with fresh violets

2 C plain flour
1/2 C sugar
pinch of salt
3 yolks
3 T cream
1 T cold water
stick of sweet butter, softened

Sift all the dry ingredients together, rub the butter in, add the yolks, then the liquid. Form two balls of dough, allow them to chill.

Let 3/4 of a pound of whole grains soak in fresh water for about half an hour.  I use kamut wheat, but this time I was 2 ounces short and added in the rice. Cook it in enough water to cover it for about an hour, until soft. Drain it. Put 1/2 whole milk in the same pot. Add 1 T sugar and bring to a boil. Put the cooked grain back in, stir it up and cook for 3 mins. Let the grain cool to room temperature.

Roll out one of the balls of crust and put it into a buttered pie pan.  Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the following:
1 1/2 pounds of ricotta cheese
1 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C sugar
6 yolks

Add to cooked grains.

Combine the following:
1 t grated orange peel
1 T cinnamon
1 T orange juice
1 T candied citron

Add to cooked grain mixture.

Beat 4 egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold them into the grain mixture. Pour into crust. Use the second ball of crust and make a nice lattice on top. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and let the pie set for 1/2 hour in the warmth.

There was enough filling and crust to do a second pie, without the lattice top. I haven't worked out the amounts for a single pie, so plan to give one to a friend.  A very good friend.

Serve it warm, with softly whipped fresh cream.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Staying with the Cake Motif

I used to do decorated cakes all the time but haven't done much of that lately. But my dear sister-in-law asked me to help her with her daughter's wedding cake a few years back and since then I've helped with a few other food-related jobs.

This is the baby-shower cake for the same daughter a couple of months ago.  I keep all my pastry bags and couplers and tips in a white tin and throw that and some favorite spatulas into a bag when we're headed down to her place.

My personal preference is for a more dense and robust cake but I certainly enjoy wielding the pastry bag full of shortening/butter/powdered sugar icing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Birthday Cake

I love old Grange cookbooks. I have one that is called "Our Favorite Grange Recipes" and it was compiled in the late 1960s. The cover features a drawing of a smiling farmer with a bushel basket of vegetables. The sub-title is "a Collection of Rural Recipes Which Have Made Grange Cooking Famous Throughout the West Since 1870."

That pretty much says it all.

The cake recipes run the gamut from what we'd call in the South "white-trash cooking" (lots of processed ingredients thrown together in a "creative" way) to old-school deliciousness. I chose Midnight Cake for my birthday and made a double recipe for four layers.  Here it is--

1/2 C butter
1 1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 t. soda
1 C hot water
1/2 C cocoa
1 1/2 C cake flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla

Cream butter, add sugar gradually, beat well. Add eggs and beat one minute. Add hot water to cocoa and mix until smooth. Add cocoa mixture to eggs and sugar. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture, beating well. Add vanilla. Bake 20 mins at 350.

I used regular cocoa for the first batch and dark cocoa for the second which gave it a subtle variegated look when stacked. It is a very tender cake and you would be wise to let the cooked cake rest in the pans for 5 minutes of so and then cover your cooling rack with parchment or waxed paper before turning the layers out.

The icing also came from this book. It is the last icing recipe in the section.

Chocolate Fudge Icing
1 C light brown sugar
1/4 C milk
3 T butter
3 T cocoa
Boil the above ingredients for 3 minutes, remove from hear and add 1 1/2 C sifted powdered sugar and 1 t. vanilla. (and I needed an extra  T. milk to make the icing the right consistency). Beat until firm.

Then you have to ice the cake fast.  It took three batches to get the level of coverage I like for a four layer cake.  I'd do one--ice like a maniac.  Do another, ditto. And again.  Serve stingy little slices because it is very, very rich.

It is a very firm frosting--a good keeper,as they say. The taste is extraordinary--so unlike the crap frosting on grocery store cakes or the garbage that comes out of a can.

Next time--and there will be a next time--I'm going to do a sour cherry filling for the layers. Same icing. A slash of whipped cream on the slice, as you serve.  On the photo above, I rolled out some little dabs of this firm frosting and stuck them in a circle on top of the cake.  I broke up a bar of crystalized honey infused organic chocolate and stuck a piece in each dab.  Sifted a little powdered sugar on the top and it looked a little like a stone circle in a light snow.