July 24, 2013

Cookies for Muffin

The blog has been moved to a new site!  Please update your email subscriptions!


July 08, 2013

Corn Fritters

Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  As we drive back from the beach, our skin tight from laying in the sun all day, hair still damp from salty ocean water and sand clinging between sunscreen-slicked fingers and toes we pull off the Belt Parkway and drive along Emmons Avenue.  The smell of salt water still fills my head.
Driving along the bay, restaurant after restaurant, across from the fishing boats that take you on day trips is Roll 'N' Roaster.

The place looks like it hasn't changed a single thing since the day it opened.  I love places like that.  To some they may look tattered and old, but to me there is history in those places... Stories to be told.
Every person I've ever talked to about this particular place has stories of going there as a child and the first thing they say is "It looks like it did when I was young".

The plastic bench seats, the Formica tabletops, the dangling heat lamps.  All the same.

There is comfort in that, in things not changing.  So many things in the world change at such a rapid pace we can barely keep up.  You buy a new cell phone and six months later, there is a new, better version of it hitting the market with lines of people wrapped around city blocks camping out to get it.
I like my old things.  They are worn and weathered, but there is history there.
There are memories attached to those old things, those old places. 

Stories of going there with parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles...
Maybe that is partly why I loved going there so much.  There was a story with every visit,  it was part of a ritual and it was almost always, after the beach. 
The order, however, never changes:  roast beef sandwich, corn fritters and orangeade. 

Corn Fritters

2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 - 1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
oil for frying (canola or peanut suggested; roughly 2 quarts, depending on size of pot)

In a deep, heavy pot, heat oil to 350 - 360 degrees.   In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk and melted butter together.  Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and whisk to combine.

Stir in corn kernels.

Carefully drop batter into hot oil by the spoonful or using a small cookie scoop.  Drop as close to the surface of the oil as possible to avoid a splash.  The corn will "pop" a bit causing the oil to spatter, so be careful when turning fritters in the oil.

Let fritters cook until golden brown, turning them every so often so they brown all over.   Remove from oil with a slotted spoon (or spider) and set on a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.

Serve immediately, preferably with an ice cold beer and a sweet & spicy dipping sauce.

I made them plain here, but here is a short list of suggested mix-ins:
- crumbled bacon
- crab
- bell peppers
- cheese
- lobster
- hot peppers

July 02, 2013

Cherry Hand Pies

Do you remember your favorite childhood treat?  Mine was Hostess Cherry Pies.  Cloyingly sweet cherry pie filling encased in a lackluster pastry shell coated with a cavity-inducing glaze of white icing.  To think of eating one now does absolutely nothing for me, but the 10 year old version of me would slap me right across the face for such condescension.

It was my favorite of all the pies we had growing up, and believe me, there was no shortage.  On holidays there was the obligatory pumpkin, but once in awhile we were allowed to weigh in on this topic and when the opportunity presented itself, I always chimed in "CHERRY"!
(as I got older, and still to this day... it is peach)

Whenever stone fruit season rolls around, I, like most people, buy pounds of cherries, peaches, plums and nectarines...  and then am in a frenzy to use them up before they go bad.   It's like my Mom has always told me "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach".  I guess they still are. 

So, I find myself with a few pounds of cherries and I had a flashback to walking into Floyd's.
It was a little store on the walk home from school, almost more of a lean-to it was so small.

There was a creaky, old, wooden screen door that would slap shut with a "thwack" every time you walked in, paint barely clinging to it.
The floors resembled a patchwork quilt, tiles being replaced as needed, never all at once.
The cooler near the front hummed loudly as the compressor kicked on and off,  a reminder of where he kept the frozen treats.
Rows of cans and boxes lined up, fluorescent lighting sputtering and buzzing above me.  Being greeted by a gentle smile, always a smile.  My grandmother knew him and therefore, he knew us.  I remember buying bazooka gum for a nickel in that little store.  And Hostess cherry pies.

These portable packages would also be a perfect addition to a picnic basket or say a 4th of July gathering?   Just stack them up on a plate and let people help themselves.  No need for utensils, plates or clean-up, which in my opinion is the best thing about these.  They are little pockets of goodness.

Cherry Hand Pies
makes 18 -20 pies

For the Crust:
(crust recipe from Smitten Kitchen, just barely fussed with)

3 3/4 cups (470 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 1/2  tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2  teaspoons fine sea salt
12 ounces unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

Whisk together flour, zest, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas. 
Gently stir in 3/4 cup buttermilk with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a bit of a mass forms, then knead it two or three times to form a ball.
If it doesn’t come together, add remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does, then gently knead again. (I had to add all of the remaining 1/4 cup)
Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days.  (Life got in the way & mine was in there for 3 days... It was fine)

Egg Wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water.  If you want to dust the top with sugar, you will also need sanding sugar or any coarse sugar.
-prepare egg wash, get out the pastry brush & set aside.

Cherry Filling:
3 cups pitted cherries, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds whole cherries)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
juice of half a lemon

Combine the cherries, sugar and salt in a medium pot over medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
Increase heat slightly to bring to a simmer for 5 more minutes. 
In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in a few teaspoons of the cherry juice from the pot and stir until smooth.
Pour the cornstarch mixture back into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 6 to 8 more minutes). Turn off heat and add lemon juice.  Stir to combine.
Transfer to a non-metal bowl and allow to cool.

Assembly line:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Generously flour the counter top, then unwrap one of your disks of dough.  Gently begin rolling it out, starting from the center and pushing outward.  The dough will be pretty firm when you begin, so be patient, but it will warm quickly, so not too patient!
Keep rolling from the center out, turning the dough as you go, until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  If the butter in the dough begins to get too warm and it starts to stick to the pin or gets goopy, slide it onto a baking sheet and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.
Once dough is rolled out, cut out with a 2 1/2 - 3 inch cutter, whatever shape you have, or use a knife and cut into squares.  I only had a round cutter of the appropriate size, so that's what I used.
Lightly brush half of your circles or squares with the egg wash, taking care to get the edges, cut vents in the center of the other half of your circles/squares.  Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the egg washed halves and top with the vented pieces. (don't overfill!)  Seal with your fingertips or press with a fork along the edges.
Brush with the egg wash on top and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Chill in refrigerator before baking if dough begins to get mushy.  Repeat with remaining disk of dough, filling, etc.
Place on baking sheet 1 - 2 inches apart and bake for 15 - 18 minutes until golden and puffed.

Eat. Repeat.