Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blueberry Nectarine Pie

Nectarines?  Really?  Nectarines?  Don't they mean peaches?  Prior to trying this recipe, I had never heard of or even thought of using nectarines in a pie.  But really what is the difference between the two?  Not much really.  Genetically they are extremely similar.  Peaches are fuzzy, nectarines are not.    Beyond that, nectarines have a bit more nutritional value with more Vitamin A and C and potassium.  And as far as pies are concerned, taste is the only thing that matters, and they basically taste the same, do they not?

I had planned to do this recipe while at home last week but time escaped (as it usually does) and I found myself copying the recipe and packing it in the car for our trip to central California this week.  I was hoping to employ the baking expertise of my mother-in-law as well as the babysitting expertise of my sister-in-law.  Pies have never been my friend in the baking world.   My crusts are always difficult to rollout regardless of what recipe I use.   It's always in pieces with jagged edges and holes.  I have never gotten the crust to look like pictures in recipe books.  How do they make it look like pizza dough anyway?  And believe me I have tried almost all the tricks in the books (except for a marble counter- is that the key?  a marble counter?).  

We picked up local, fresh nectarines and blueberries at the grocery store; the nectarines were not as ripe as I was hoping but as the recipe called for cooking them, I figured it wouldn't matter too much.   My mother-in-law picked a lemon from her tree for the zest and juice (gotta love California).  The filling was simple and easy to prepare and definitely needed that lemon juice as it was cloyingly sweet without it. 

The crust calls for a mixture of shortening and butter.  I tend to avoid shortening at all costs in my baking as it scares me to eat it. Had I been home, I may have tried all butter but my mother-in-law had a container of Crisco right there in the pantry so I figured, this one time will be ok, right?  I mixed everything by hand and it came together easily even in 97 degree heat.  Rolling it out, I had my same old troubles: jagged edges, holes in the middle, transfer mishaps.  I patched it altogether and even had to roll the top crust twice- yikes.  It looked rather perfect, but I feared the crust would be as tough and hard as all my previous pie attempts.

It baked for the full 50 minutes the recipe called for and the house smelled amazing.  We had the patience to let it cool mostly because warm pie at 4pm in central California sounds almost miserable.  At 7pm, it was almost divine.  

This crust recipe worked!  It remained flaky and light despite the double rolling and all the patching.  The flavor balanced the filling well with a healthy amount of salt but it did lack a bit of the all butter creaminess.  Overall, I think I have found a winning crust recipe if I can bring myself to use shortening again.  Maybe I can justify it by always using nectarines instead of peaches.

And here is Rhiannon cheering on her favorite Olympians.

As a side note, I did indeed complete the Semolina Bread recipe from 2 weeks ago but never got around to completing a post about it... maybe I'll post in the next week.

Here are the links for the recipes:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hazelnut Biscotti

Biscotti, biscotti, biscotti.  How I love thee.  How I love to be able to eat a cookie in the morning and not feel the least bit guilty!   Because of this, I have made a number of biscotti recipes over the years and have also come to love how simple they are to make.  These hazelnut numbers were definitely easy, but they did require an extra step of peeling and toasting hazelnuts (which I would normally not bother with, since it goes against the whole point of simplicity).  

To peel or skin the hazelnuts usually requires a lot rubbing with towels and even with a lot of effort the skins usually stay on.  This recipe uses a baking soda bath to get the skins off and it works just fabulously (but I did read from one of our other group members that it can stain pots- so be sure to use an old or aluminum pot if you do this).  

In the peeling process.

Once the hazelnuts were ready then it was a simple batter, shaped into sticky logs, and baked.   Once they cooled a bit, they were sliced and baked again to get that crispiness so particular to biscotti.  The recipe suggested baking these on cooling racks to avoid having to flip them all over halfway through the second baking period, but I only have one cooling rack and had to do it the old fashioned way.  Not a big deal.

The sticky logs prior to the first baking.
Logs cooling, ready to be cut.

To check out this recipe follow these links:
Katrina of Baking and Boys

And I have decided to include a picture and maybe a little tidbit of Rhiannon with my twice monthly blog entries since I am "Baking with Rhiannon".  I thought it might be nice to note her progress along with all my baking progress.  So here she is....

Car camping at the coast.
She's almost 9 months.  She's eating tons of food (not the biscotti, but maybe they would make good teething biscuits?) and starting to commando crawl all over the place.  Time to re-babyproof...