Archive for September, 2012

Favorite Shots: Eye (In False)

False eyelashes are the funnest.


Pipe Dream #140: To Feed Families Everywhere – Three Cheese, Potato & Carameli(s)ed Onion Pie

Well. Isn’t that luscious.

That was literally my first thought on seeing this picture, and this pie is not even full of whipped cream.

This is the kind of savory pie that will feed a crowd. This is the kind of pie that hits the spot on those chilly fall nights. This is the kind of pie that you eat for Sunday lunch because you know you can take a 3-hour nap afterward. What, you never do that? Ok, whatever. But still, this could feed your family for a week, probably.

The preparation process was fairly involved given the amount of chopping and grating required. (Luckily, no incidents occurred.) Read the recipe carefully, and do all possible prep a day ahead if you can.

I didn’t use the Stilton or Gruyère cheese called for in the recipe because I had an abundance of other random cheeses in the fridge. Cheese freaks, we are. However, I think this pie really would have benefited from the flavor of a stronger cheese; it was a bit bland with the Swiss I used. If you make this, try it with the Stilton. Or maybe a bleu?

Also, this is a real English pie! I felt a little bit like James Herriot digging into it. Not that there were any bovine hindquarters anywhere near, but he does have a way with describing the different English fare he experiences. The pastry itself was a little finnicky to make (most pastry is save these), but it was well worth the effort. Super flaky and delicious.

I had a bit of leftover pastry, so I cut it up and made little flowers for the top. This is actually the reason I am even qualifying this recipe for my blog. If it had been less cutesy, probably all of my baking followers would have written me off and never visited again. Probably.

Like I said, super flaky.

Feeding families errwhere,


Three Cheese, Potato & Caramelised Onion Pie

Adapted from The Great British Bakeoff

For the pastry:
150 g/5 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
200 g/7 oz all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp white vinegar
about 150 ml/5 fl oz cold water

For the filling:
30 g/1 oz butter
280 g/10 oz onions, peeled, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sugar
930 g/2 lb 1 oz potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
140 g/5 oz crème fraîche (or sour cream)
4 tbsp heavy cream
100 g/3½ oz mature cheddar, grated
100 g/3½ oz Stilton, crumbled*
100 g/3½ oz Gruyère, grated*
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten

*Note that I used Swiss and what I think was a Pecorino Romano in place of the Stilton and Gruyère. It would have been more flavorful with the Stilton.
Preparation method:
1. To make the pastry, place the butter into a bowl and mash with a fork until soft and creamy. Divide the mixture into four equal portions.
2. Place the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Take one portion of the butter mixture and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the vinegar and mix it in using a blunt
knife. Add just enough cold water to form a dough then turn it out onto a floured work surface.
3. Shape the dough into a rectangle and roll it out to a thickness of about 1 cm/½ in. Gently lift the pastry with your fingers and allow it to shrink back a little.
4. Cut another portion of the butter mixture into small pieces using a palette knife and dot it over the pastry, being careful not to get it too close to the edges. Fold the pastry into thirds, rubbing off any excess flour as you do so, cover in cling film and place in the fridge for five minutes.
5. Take the pastry from the fridge. Repeat steps 3 and 4 using the remaining butter. If any fat shows through the pastry, scatter over a little more flour.
6. Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll once more into a rectangle about 1 cm/½ in thick, fold into thirds and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the butter in a wide pan and add the onions, salt and sugar. Fry over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes, or until the onions are lightly caramelised. Remove
the pan from the heat and set aside.
8. Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling, salted water for eight minutes, drain well then set aside.
9. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7, with a rack is just above the middle of the oven and a baking tray underneath to catch any filling that might escape during cooking.
10. Mix the crème fraîche, cream and cheddar in a small bowl. Mix together the Stilton and Gruyère in a separate bowl.
11. Layer one quarter of the potatoes, a third of the onions and a third of the Stilton/Gruyère mixture in the bottom of a large pie dish. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper and grated
12. Repeat step 11, working from the outside of the pie dish into the middle to achieve a domed effect, seasoning as you go, then pour over half the cream/cheddar mixture. Repeat this step then cover
the filling with the remaining potato, ensuring none of the cream mixture is visible.
13. Take the pastry from the fridge and place on a floured work surface. Roll out in one direction only, turn 45 degrees and roll again until you have a piece of pastry that is a little larger than the pie dish. Lift
the pastry with your fingers to allow it to shrink back a little.
14. Cut thin strips from each edge of the pastry and use a little egg wash to stick each one to the rim of the pie dish. Brush each strip with beaten egg and carefully place the pastry over the filling, pressing it down on the pastry strips to make a good seal.
15. Take a fork and press down gently around the edges of the pie. Use any off-cuts of pastry to decorate the pie then brush the top with the remaining egg wash. Cut a small cross in the top of the pie
to let the steam escape.
16. Transfer the pie to the oven and bake for 30 minutes then reduce the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake the pie for one hour or until golden-brown.

Produce Aplenty

There has been an abundance of produce in this house. With free access to a pear and an apple tree and a multitude of unused 5 gallon paint pails, my family has been gettin’ a little crazed. Stay tuned on the fruit front. I have a killer apple crumble coming your way.

And look at all the pretty heirloom tomatoes from the garden! The best ones were the, ahem, chocolate cherry tomatoes, easily the sweetest tomato I’ve ever eaten…

And then there were these striped beauties. And the tomatoes in these shots are just the tip of the lattice. So many tomatoes. So little time.

Get pickin,’ :]



Pipe Dream #139: To Be Smart At Science – Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Chocolate SMBC

Some bloggers are so cool. They are, like, actually serious bakers/scientists. They know about why we should use unsalted butter. They can tell you why one cake method makes for a denser outcome than another. Or why you should bake things at a different temperature if you live in a high altitude mansion.

They could probably also tell you why every time I try this chocolate cupcakes recipe, I fail it. I think it is because I overfill the liners, but I can’t be sure because I’m not one of those really smart scientist bloggers. In fact, I had to rename the first attempt something like “Hot Lava Marshmallow Epic Fail.” It was an “epic” fail because I made these back in 2008, and that’s what all the cool kids said all the time.

Don’t get me wrong. Hot Lava Marshmallow Epic Fail was delicious. It was a giant mess of exploded chocolate cake and marshmallow frosting that absolutely would not stiffen up. Probably for a number of reasons. But I wanted to get it right this time.

Of course, I still overfilled the liners. But not so much that they exploded, so I guess we’re working in baby steps here. This chocolate cake recipe has sour cream in it (fun!), which makes for a slightly tangy cake. It’s not bad at all; very light and not so chocolate-y that you feel like you are eating ganache. Martha uses the flat tops of these cupcakes to make huge peaks of a marshmallow frosting that is subsequently dipped in chocolate. They look fab, but given my track record with these, I figured that going for massive dip cone swirls was a little ambitious.

Instead, I paired these with a little SMBC recipe I made up. Basically, it is just SMBC with liquid chocolate mixed in. Light cupcake, light frosting, light heart. I used the famous Wilton 1M tip to make the rose piping.

Will someone please try Martha Stewart’s original recipe with the dip cone swirls? Maybe you will do this a lot better than me. I’d love to know your tricks.

Until the next rainy day,


Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes

from the book “Cupcakes!” via Martha Stewart — and heaven knows I am leaving it exactly as she wrote it because I have no insights on how to make it better…

makes 12 cupcakes

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Prepare the batter: Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl, and set it over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir chocolate until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat, and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl as needed, until light and fluffy. On low speed, mix in melted chocolate. Increase speed to medium, and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, and beat until mixture is creamy and color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in sour cream. On low speed, add half of reserved flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Mix in 1/2 cup water. Add remaining flour mixture, and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each liner with enough batter to come 1/8 inch from top, about 1/3 cup. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool in pan for 10 minutes.
  5. Use a small knife to loosen any tops stuck to the pan. Carefully invert cupcakes onto the wire rack. Turn cupcakes right side up, and let cool completely.

For the chocolate SMBC:

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces liquid baking chocolate*
*I am going to call this “liquid baking chocolate.” It was Hershey’s, but I forgot the exact product name. If you don’t have this on hand, I believe you could melt some chocolate and whisk it in, too. Careful not to burn it, though. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each one, or melt in a double boiler.
Combine the sugar and egg whites in a double boiler. Heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is warm and you can no longer feel sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers. This should be about 160 degrees F.
Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer and beat on medium high until white, doubled in size and completely cool. Add the salt and vanilla. Chunk up the butter, and add a few tablespoons at a time. Then just whip it good. It might look like it has split, but fear not, you just need to whip it until it comes together.
When the mixture is smooth, turn your mixer to low and whisk in the chocolate until well incorporated. Voila!

Favorite Shots: Keepin’ It Real

This is my real family. And this is how our family Christmas card picture taking session went.

Also, I have been loving diptychs. I’m probably out of style.


Sessy’s Senior Pics

She is just a bombshell, no? Easiest girl to shoot evaaaa.

Lovin’ it,


I have writer’s block, I think – Walnut Toffees

All right. Here it is. Tuesday. And another attempt at caramel.

This one is all right. Only all right, though. I had some walnuts to use up. I had some condensed milk open from something else I was whipping up.

The caramels weren’t very soft when they were cooled. I preferred them straight out of the freezer. They kind of shatter in your mouth and then get chewy. It reminds me of this one Canadian toffee (or English, maybe?) that my mum used to get when we were little.

Today is just today. There’s always tomorrow. Ok. Ok bye. I think I have writer’s block. You could gift these. That would be cute. But they’re not that good.


Walnut Toffee


2 cups white sugar
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
2 cups evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Line a 9×13 pan with parchment. (I halved the recipe and used a smaller pan.) Butter the parchment. Boil sugar, salt and corn syrup to 245 degrees, stirring occasionally. Add butter and evaporated milk gradually so that the mixture does not stop boiling, stirring constantly. Boil until the thermometer reaches 240 degrees F, being careful not to scorch the caramel. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and nuts.  Pour into greased pan. When caramel is cool and firm, cut and wrap with waxed paper squares. Store in the refrigerator (or freezer, if you like a shatter-y caramel).


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