Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do We Own a Fire Extinguisher?

Can you smell the Thanksgiving in these pies?

Those are the words with which I greeted Terry this evening. But more on that later.

Today was my favorite day of my vacation so far. And not just because of the fire extinguisher incident. Actually, it's because today was productive, fun, and mellow.

Since I wanted to keep things somewhat easy today (we're attempting a private little Turkey Trot 10K tomorrow!), I hopped on the elliptical for 20 minutes at level 7 (forward 7 minutes, backward 3, repeat), then on the treadmill for 20 minutes. On the treadmill, I walked at 4.5 miles per hour at an incline of 6 for 10 minutes, then ran at 6 miles per hour with no incline for 10 minutes. After my cardio, I did a few lat pull downs and bicep curls and called it a day.

Today I had to go to Costco. What was I thinking? I had the whole week off; why did I wait until the day before Thanksgiving, with all the traffic and insane shoppers? Surprisingly, I maneuvered the crowds at Costco like a pro (the trick: Give up any hope of parking near the actual entrance. Find the furthest row and park there), but Ralph's gave me a good challenge. Thankfully, I made it out and home alive and didn't have to leave the house the rest of the day.

The rest of the day involved making Thanksgiving desserts while watching West Side Story. I made two pies and cream cheese swirl brownies.

Pie Crust
I searched all week to find the right pie crust to try. Fun fact: I made my very first from-scratch pie crust today! I got my food processor in August, so I was putting it off until the processor could work its pulsing magic. Lately I've completely switched to whole-wheat flour, but for Thanksgiving I went with all-purpose to really get that perfect texture. My recipe of choice came courtesy of Melissa D'Arabian, mostly because I wanted to at least avoid vegetable shortening. Her pie crust recipe is here, and I can tell you from eating the raw dough that it is fantastic! (By the way, the pie crust in embedded in another recipe, which I have tried and which is also delicious - but a major splurge!)

Blackberry Pie
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, pie-wise, this one is my specialty. I absolutely love blackberries, and my mom once told me that fresh fruit pie for breakfast is completely acceptable. That's really all I need to know.
My blackberry pie

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 pie crust recipe (makes two crusts, for top and bottom)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss the blackberries with the flour mixture until all the berries are evenly covered. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one of the crusts and fill with the berry-flour mixture. Roll out the second pie crust and slice into 3/4-inch strips. Create a lattice pattern atop the berries, pinch the edges, and, if desired, use a fork to create a presentable edge. Whisk the egg and milk in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash on the top and edges of the crust. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. 

Bake the pie at 375 degrees. For the first 25 minutes, cover the pie with foil and cut out a circle so that the center of your pie is uncovered. After that, remove the foil and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes more, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie
I used Julia Child's pumpkin pie recipe, and I am super excited about it! I cut it in half to yield one nine-inch pie. You can find the recipe here.

Julia's pumpkin pie

It was during the pumpkin pie-baking that I noticed a bit of smoke in the kitchen. And then I noticed a LOT of smoke. I figured out that the deliciously buttery crust was actually dripping butter onto the bottom of the oven, causing a good amount of smoke. I placed a cookie sheet under the pie to catch the drips and nervously kept an eye on the smoke. Meanwhile, I opened all the windows, turned on the fans, and even opened our front door. My neighbors were super excited to see me in my adorable outfit: black workout shorts, grey long sleeve UCLA shirt, yellow and blue fuzzy socks, and pink apron covered in flour. I am awesome.

This was the point at which I called Terry to ask about the fire extinguisher.

Thankfully, the cookie sheet stopped the smoke, and all was fine by the time Terry got home. But it's great to keep things interesting around the holidays, right?

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
I used to buy Ghiradelli's box mix to make brownies, but when we switched to nonprocessed foods I had to cut them out. Sadly, I've never found a homemade recipe that gets anywhere close to the texture and taste of Ghiradelli, but these brownies almost got there! I may try the chocolate without the cream cheese to see just how close I can get.

Cream cheese swirl brownies

From Chocolate (McFadden and France):

  • 8 ounces plain chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
For the cream cheese part:
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3.4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (I just use a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring constantly until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until blended. Fold in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the chocolate mixture, vanilla, and walnuts. Measure out two cups of this chocolate mixture and set aside.

To make the cream cheese part, cream the butter and cream cheese in a bowl. Add the sugar; beat well. Add the eggs, flour, and vanilla. 

Spread the bigger bowl of chocolate in a greased 13x9 pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate layer. Drop spoonfuls of the reserved 2 cups of the chocolate mixture on top. 

With a butter knife, swirl the mixtures to create a "marble" look. Bake for 30-40 minutes. 

I found these brownies to be a little dry, but ultimately delicious. I hope Terry's family will like them tomorrow! I'll also provide reviews on the pies after we try them.

In the midst of my baking extravaganza, I threw together a pizza crust for tonight's dinner. When Terry got home, I cooked up a pretty yummy pizza!

Breakfast Pizza for Dinner
Serves 4
  • 1 whole wheat pizza crust recipe
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 8 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
Make your pizza crust and allow to rise, then roll out onto a pizza stone or cookie sheet. Saute the onions in a small pan with the olive oil. Cook and crumble the sausages. Top the crust with the tomato sauce, cheese, sausage crumbles, and onion. Then crack the two eggs on top of the whole thing. 

Bake the pizza at 500 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, the cheese is melted, and the eggs are just barely cooked through. Cut and serve immediately!

Cracked egg on pizza is a winner!

Terry and I really loved this new pizza recipe. It was super quick, too! Perfect after a tiring (but fun!) day of baking. 

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving! I'd love to hear what recipes you enjoy most and what you're looking forward to this time of year. Have a safe and happy holiday!


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