December 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
We’ve moved! We’re trying to figure out how the internet works, and to get le blog forwarded. In the meantime, please visit our new and newly fancy site at http://www.dillywheats.com.
December 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
There are some incredible things about being back in the US that I still haven’t gotten over. Internet speeds, for one thing (streaming 30 Rock and HIMYM for free? who needs a TV anymore? not this guy!) Standard American portion sizes are another. Seriously folks, there is a Mexican place near my apartment that serves scrumptious $7 burritos that are literally the size of a baby. Also, having more beer choices than “dark,” “light,” and “really light” has been nice. Then again, I knew all of these obesity-inducing phenomena were waiting for me upon re-entry and I fully expected to overindulge in them upon my return (check and double-check, thankyouverymuch). However, much akin to the miracle of Pandora Radio, there are some things I didn’t know how much I had missed until I got them back. And in the food department, that thing was sweet potatoes.
“Sweet potatoes?” You might say. It’s true. Turns out I love them. Like love-love them, and ever since I’ve re-discovered them you’d be lucky to find a day where I don’t have them sitting in my fridge. See, the sweet potatoes in Central America (yes, they exist) are sort of the wonky, lame cousin of the sweet potato we’re used to. For starters, the buggers are purple on the outside (truth bomb) and white on the inside, with a slightly sweet but not-quite-sweet-enough taste that’s just sadly bland. The consistency is that of a regular white potato, rather than the super-soft and fibrous texture that make orange sweet potatoes so good for mashing up and dousing with butter. It sucks, is what I’m trying to tell you. Coming home to a Trader Joe’s full of ‘Murican sweet taters was a sight for sore eyes. I haven’t looked back since.
While it turns out that I’m newly obsessed with US sweet potatoes, of course I’d find a way to incorporate them into a baked good. Sweet potato pie was a real hit at Thanksgiving (foreshadowing? what!?) and had the added bonus of getting to use an old family recipe, but is ultimately a bit time-consuming for a random weeknight baking foray. Thus, I discovered sweet potato bread through adapting a recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It’s a quickbread like any other, but the moist sweet potato makes it dense and rich without relying on buckets of butter. The color is also gorgeous. Side note: adding golden raisins to this is not a mistake. No, not a mistake at all.
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) cold butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup milk (preferably whole)
1 cup mashed baked sweet potato
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.
2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into bits, then use a fork, 2 knives, or your fingers to cut or rub it into the dry ingredients until there are no pieces bigger than a small pea. (You can use a food processor for this step, which makes it quite easy, but you should not use a food processor for the remaining steps or the bread will be tough.)
3. Beat together the milk and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten; do not beat and do not mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the sweet potato, raisins and the nuts, then pour and spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
December 5, 2012 § 1 Comment
Although cranberry sauce isn’t my favorite part of Thanksgiving, it’s certainly safe to say that without it, Thanksgiving dinner would just be another meal of meat and potatoes—at least as far as I’m concerned. My mom makes cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries, oranges, and lemon zest—it’s more lively and distinct than the muddled, slightly dirty flavor of the canned stuff (sacrilege!). When I was in college, I studied, one fall semester, in Paris, and our program director held Thanksgiving dinner at his apartment. I ferreted out a bag of fresh cranberries, which are uncommon in France (and probably most of Europe, though I haven’t checked) from a small American-food-store in the Marais—the store also sold peanut butter, boxed macaroni and cheese, and marshmallows. The bag cost me nearly 12 American dollars, which was a lot for a broke college student struggling with a less-than-friendly exchange rate, but in my mind it was worth it: I would have cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.
Around 10 o’clock on Thanksgiving night, I was still traipsing around some unknown part of Paris, no minutes left on my pay-as-you-go phone, not a single cab willing to give me a ride anywhere (“But it’s Thanksgiving!” doesn’t have much effect on Parisian cab drivers, turns out), and decidedly put out. I had written down the wrong address and initially had ended up, plastic bowl full of cranberry sauce in hand, in front of a long-ago closed locksmith’s.
The whole thing was very disappointing, I’ll say that much. I finally did make it to the director’s apartment, though most of the meal was gone and people were mostly lounging on the couches, basking in the post-meal haze. I had a plate of pie and cranberry sauce.
This is sort of a transitional dessert (or breakfast, depending on its accompaniment). It’s a week or two after Thanksgiving, but I’m certainly not yet ready to give up the cranberries, and it takes full advantage of wintery pears, cinnamon, and ginger. It’s also very, very easy, and looks pretty enough in a bowl to bring to a party.
I’ve adapted the recipe from several different sources: Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Deb Perlman of Smitten Kitchen all have versions. This one features ginger and cinnamon, and some cornstarch to thicken the fruit juices. Make sure your pears are ripe (almost gushy) so that they soften enough during baking. For breakfast, serve with yogurt. For dessert, serve with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Pear, Cranberry, and Apple Crisp (makes about 8-9 servings, depending on your appetite)
4 bartlett pears, sliced
1 golden delicious apple, sliced
about 2 c fresh cranberries
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1 t vanilla
1/4 c cornstarch
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 c flour (I used whole wheat because it’s what I had on hand—this worked nicely, I thought, and the whole-wheatiness was pretty undetectable)
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 c rolled oats
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
In a 9×12 in baking dish, combine the fruit, sprinkling the lemon juice and vanilla on top. In a separate bowl, combine the sugars, salt, and cornstarch. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the fruit and toss to combine.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients for the filling, and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Drizzle in the butter and mix until thoroughly combined. The mixture should be crumbly, and will hold together if pressed.
Cover the fruit with the oatmeal topping, and place the dish in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or as long as it takes for the juices to bubble through the top. May be served directly out of the oven.
November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
I know I haven’t been here in awhile. I’m about to type something that, I think, is the lamest thing in the world. But it’s true, so here goes: I’ve been really busy!
I can’t stand that. Everyone is busy. Everyone does all kinds of things that keep them from doing other things like baking and writing and taking pictures that they think they ought to post on the internet. So, I’m sorry.
In case you’re curious, I’ve been busy trying to be a high-school teacher. When I decided to abandon the PhD track in favor of the slightly more humble pursuit of teaching 14-18 year-olds about social studies, many of the most important people in my life warned me about how challenging and time-consuming the first year of teaching is. I scoffed. I AM A WORKAHOLIC! I laughed. I HAVE BEEN IN SCHOOL FOREVER! ALL I DO IS WORK! I WAS IN LAW SCHOOL ONCE! I CAN HANDLE WORK!
The arrogance. The hubris. I did not know how much work this whole endeavor would entail. I suppose I didn’t really understand that working at something you care about will inevitably take more time and energy than working at something you do not care about. Example: I did not give a flying-you-know-what whether or not my Master’s thesis would turn out to be publishable. I therefore didn’t wake up at 5:15 in the morning thinking about how I needed to polish my topic sentences or further buttress my ever-so-nuanced historical arguments or ferret out that one remaining piece of esoteric historical evidence. Oh how things have changed. One of the classes I’m teaching in U.S. Civics, and I’m convinced (probably not only out of arrogance and hubris this time, but narcissism and inflated self-importance as well) that if I don’t properly plan this or that lesson, my students, on the cusp of adulthood as they are, will not be equipped with the tools necessary to living up to their limitless (an impossible task—I understand) potential as citizens of the United States of America. They have the potential, you see, to dig us out of the dismal trench of civic apathy that we as American citizens are currently sitting in. They can MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. But first, they have to know how a bill gets turned into a law, what the Fourteenth Amendment says and why, and what the difference between socialism and communism is. What I’m saying is, now I wake up at 5:15 in the morning. To work.
Well I guess that sounds like a lot of histrionic bluster and that who the f cares just bake a damn pie already. Okay fine well I did. I made a couple, in fact, thankyouverymuch, and I made them ahead of time, froze them (freezing the pie actually does wonders for the flakiness of your pie crust, FYI), and brought them to my family’s house for Thanksgiving.
It was a good day. I went on a good run through a bunch of mountainside farmland, I sat around and read (I just started Last Night in Twisted River, which is the latest book by John Irving, who I really really like, not least of all because he writes about food in a way that only someone who loves cooking and eating can), and I did a minimal amount of kitchen work. Mostly I just sat and watched my younger sister’s boyfriend Jamey de-seed a pomegranate. He wanted to have something to do.
Anyway, so I don’t have much more than that. Today I am kind of regretting living in Salt Lake City, because the valley is very inverted and the air quality is so bad that running outside feels like what I imagine smoking a full pack of cigarettes would be like. On days like this I really miss Chicago. But, my students are learning about the First Amendment, and they seem to care, so all in all I can’t complain. I will be back soon with some actual baking and instructions on how to do it.
September 11, 2012 § 3 Comments
A lot has happened.
For example: I moved to Salt Lake City. I lived out of a van for three weeks (more fun than it sounds). I took a job teaching (!). Also I left graduate school.
Now, I grew up in Salt Lake. And in many ways I remember my middle and high school years as one, long, desperate effort to get out. And I did! Boy did I ever. I moved clear across the damn country and spent four years as far away from Salt Lake City as one could get without actually getting on a boat.
Not satisfied with my sojourn, I then moved to Chicago, for four years of loving, very dearly, a very flat city.
Yowza. Both of those photos just sort of tugged at my heartstrings, I have to admit. Have you been to Chicago? You should go. September and October are the perfect months for Chicago. The oppressive, bring-an-extra-shirt heat lifts, the Lake is at its most perfect blue (whitecaps! sailboats! the most architecturally crisp skyline one could hope for!), the leaves start to turn, and you feel like you’ve truly made it—like you’ve really found the most lovely city in the world.
Oh wait, then winter hits. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOGERS FREEZE?
Robbed of the pleasure that is Chicago’s autumnal beauty, you may then find yourself undistracted from the comparative tedium of things like writing a dissertation proposal, or studying for comprehensive exams, or preparing conference abstracts. What I mean is, with its stark landscapes and bitterly cold winds and not much for playing outside (not in the flatlands, anyway), a Chicago winter can be something of an, er, clarifying season.
Then, in the dead of winter, this past January, Bethany, dearest Bethany, came to visit.
Yeah! Bethany was still living in Costa Rica at the time, so I appreciated the visit all the more. We saw a movie, we drove around, we went to brunch, we talked about boys, and we went to bars. During one particularly, yes, clarifying conversation, Bethany said, “Well you don’t actually have to be a grad student. You can like, do something else if you want.” (Or something of that ilk.)
Utterly stunned by the brilliance of Bethany’s observation, I started to look for teaching jobs in places with mountains (actually I may have had a strong beer first). For I had recently started climbing, and, may I just say? Dear friends? Don’t start rock climbing unless you can afford to upend your life and move across the country, back to the hometown you thought you’d left for good, at least partially for the sake of, for lack of a better term, shredding le gnar. Le gnar, as it turns out, is an addictive thing.
Six or so months later, and Cristyn and I found ourselves driving across the country (Cristyn for the first time, as mentioned previously, and me, back, after eight years away), headed back to Salt Lake—a city, conveniently, with teaching jobs and mountains. Go figure.
So now, here I find myself—spending many nights at my parents’ house in a small town in the mountains near Salt Lake, climbing when I can (that was what the three weeks in a van were for, in case you were still wondering about that), teaching, and, since the dust has settled a bit, making this pie.
I made this this past Sunday. Bruce, a dear friend of the family who has been coming around, making homemade ice cream and playing guitars with my dad since I can remember, was in for the afternoon. So this pie was accompanied by—you guessed it—homemade ice cream made with honey and raw milk from the local dairy and eggs from my parents’ chickens, June and Emmylou. (Bruce says store-bought ice cream is poison. After being reminded of what his ice cream tastes like, I’m inclined to believe him.) May I just say? I’m glad I’m home.
Well! On with it, yes? (Blah blah blah I’m sure you’re so interested in reading about my life when you could actually be learning about how to make the pie mentioned in the title of this post.) After much ado, and some months away, I give you! DEEP-DISH PEACH PIE, À LA MODE ET À LA LILLIAN.
Pie can be intimidating! Well. Mostly pie crust can be intimidating. DO NOT BE AFRAID. You can do it. I did it, and for a long time I avoided pie crust like I avoid scrubbing the bathtub. I basically followed this tutorial, which I’ve used a few times before and which has not yet let me down. I especially like it because it instructs the baker to use all butter. Some might protest, saying no! You must use shortening as well! But I don’t really know what shortening is, and therefore am kind of afraid of it (isn’t that just the natural way of things?), and I also think in this case the fear is justified. Butter, on the other hand, well I think that’s something we can all get behind.
Pie crust is actually pretty straightforward: you just need to keep everything very cold (even the flour), and work quickly.
After cutting the butter into the flour, drizzling it with ice water, and pulling the crumbly dough together, you’ll then divide your dough in two, and wrap both parts in plastic wrap. Deep dish-peach pie only uses one crust, for the pie’s lid (think chicken pot pie but with fruit), so the other half is still in my parents’ fridge, waiting to be made into another pie this weekend.
While you’re waiting for the dough to chill (about two hours), make the pie’s filling. For best results use fresh peaches–I probably don’t need to tell you this but you should make this in either July, August, or September. This past weekend was the Peach Festival in Brigham City, Utah, meaning these peaches were absolutely, undeniably, perfect.
Deep-dish Peach Pie, adapted loosely from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book
One modification to the tutorial mentioned above: after the dough has chilled, roll it out between two heavily floured pieces of parchment paper. This makes rotating the dough as you roll much easier, and it also allows you to use the parchment paper to drape the dough over the pie.
1/2 all-butter pie crust, rolled out
8-10 medium yellow peaches
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
4 T flour
1/2 c butter
Preheat your oven to 450. Set an oven-proof cup or mug in the center of a 2 1/2-to -3 inch-deep casserole dish—the mug or cup will keep the crust from collapsing into the pie. While oven is preheating, slice your peaches and place them in the dish. Squeeze the lemon over the peaches. In a small bowl, combine the sugars, salt, cinnamon, and flour. Dust over the peaches, and stir so that the fruit is coated (your hands will work well here). Dot the peaches with butter.
Lay the pie crust, parchment-side-up, over the dish. Carefully peel back the parchment paper, sealing up any tears. Crimp the edges of the crust around the dish, and perforate the crust with a fork.
Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes, until you see the edges of the crust start to brown. (Watch the pie carefully here!) Then, cover the edges of the crust with foil, and reduce the heat to 350. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden-brown color and the juices begin to bubble out of the perforations. Pie should cool for about 45 minutes before serving, but no one will blame you if you eat the whole thing 30 minutes or so early.
Serve with Bruce’s homemade ice cream.