Summer’s End Blueberry Pie

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Sadly, it is time to say goodbye to summer and all the sweet berries that I enjoy those warm months. I comfort myself with the thought of apple season, hot soup, and cool nights… especially when we are having our warmest summer weather now that is is September. But I digress. I wanted to close out the season with a pie that epitomizes summer: a Lattice-top Blueberry Pie. Go grab some berries and get to work before they are all gone.

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The filling is easy. Toss berries together with lemon juice and then sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Put in crust and dot with butter.

For the lattice crust, I made mine directly on top of the pie. But I recommend making your lattice crust on a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan until you get the hang of it. If the dough softens too much you can pop it in the fridge to chill before continuing. And don’t worry too much if your lattice isn’t perfect. It’ll still look beautiful. When finished, chill again while you make the pie. Then invert the whole crust onto the pie.

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Of course, if this seems like too much work, you can put a whole pie crust on top of your pie. Just be sure to cut some air vents in the crust or use a small round cookie cutter to cut out small holes in a decorative pattern. Either way, it’ll be delicious and gone before you know it.

Lattice-top Blueberry Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

two 9-inch pie crusts (this is the link to my recipe)
6 cups blueberries, washed and picked over
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.To prepare crusts: On a lightly floured surface, roll one pie dough disk with a floured rolling pin into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Fold in half and half again and carefully lift into a 9-inch pie plate. Unfold and chill for at least 30 minutes. Take second disk of dough and on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Using a fluted pastry wheel or knife and a ruler to guide you, cut dough into 12 strips about 3/4-inch wide. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, lay 6 strips about 3/4 inch apart. Fold back every other strip more than halfway. In the center place another strip perpendicular to the strips on the bottom. Unfold the strips and fold back the other 3 strips. Lay a second top strip down and unfold the bottom strips. Repeat this process on both side of the crust with the remaining top strips. Gently press down where the strips overlap to help seal the dough in place. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while making the filling.

2. Place a sheet pan in the oven on a rack and preheat to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss blueberries with lemon juice.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Add to blueberries and toss well.

4. Scrape the blueberry filling into your pie plate. Dot with butter pieces. Remove your lattice and let sit a few minutes until malleable. With the parchment still attached, invert the lattice crust onto the pie. Carefully peel parchment off of crust. Roll the overhanging dough under the bottom crust edge and press to seal. Crimp edges.

5. Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg with about 1 Tbsp of water. Brush over crust. Sprinkle sugar over crust. Put the pie in the oven on the preheated sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake about 30 minutes more, or until lattice is browned and filling is bubbling. If lattice is browning before pie is finished baking, cover it loosely with foil.

6. Let cool on a rack to room temperature before serving.

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Macaroons: Chocolate Chip or Lime

 

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Macaroons are a cinch to  make. By macaroon I mean the American macaroon, which is typically a mixture of egg whites and shredded coconut shaped into balls and baked. The French version, though delicious, is a little more complicated with meringue and piping and cream fillings involved.

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When I wanted a simple cookie recipe to make at school this past week, my Chocolate Chip Macaroon immediately came to mind. I usually make them during the holidays. I am not sure why I don’t make them the rest of the year considering how quick and easy they are to make. But now that I have the recipe out, I don’t plan to file it away again.

The macaroon was a great cookie to make with kids because it is essentially a 4 step process: measure, mix, form balls, and bake. The children can do almost all of the work with just a little guidance.

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The hardest part for the children was separating the eggs. One boy was able to open the egg shell and catch the yolk in the half shell. I taught the other children to carefully break the egg into a small bowl and very gently lift the yolk out.  The children loved squishing together the coconut balls. Then we baked the cookies until lightly browned. Crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Yum!

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At home, I whipped up a more grown-up version of the macaroon— a lime flavored one. Perfect for those who don’t like to mix coconut and chocolate (ahem, Dana). Prep time took less than 10 minutes. Can’t beat that. With summer on the way, I think I’ll keep this recipe handy. Might even go nicely with a mojito…

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Chocolate Chip Macaroons

Makes about 2 dozen

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
pinch of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, mix together all ingredients with a fork.

2. With hands, shape bite-size balls of coconut mixture, about 1-inch round. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Will keep in an airtight container for several days.

 

Lime Macaroons

Follow Chocolate Chip Macaroon recipe with the following changes:

1. Substitute 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice for the vanilla extract

2. Add 1 Tbsp. lime zest (about 1 1/2 limes)

 

 

 

 

 

Bread Baking with Kids

sliced bread

 

Baking bread is as much science as it is cooking. And this is especially true when working and cooking with 4- and 5-year-olds like I do. Check out my guest blog post about baking bread with preschoolers at my colleague’s blogspot, playfullylearning. Dana is a talented, creative and inspiring teacher who writes about the many interesting ways we teach in her classroom. And you’ll get an easy and good bread recipe to add to your repertoire. Check it out.

Homemade Granola

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Yes, this is another granola recipe. And maybe you already have a recipe you like, but this one is worth a try. It is my family’s favorite cold cereal. It is crunchy, spiced and just sweet enough to satisfy all the picky eaters in my home. And, really, granola makes such a good breakfast that it won’t hurt to make a batch. Plus, it is so much heartier than boxed cereals that I don’t feel guilty about not cooking breakfast when I tell my kids to hurry up and grab a bowl of granola. We typically just pour some milk over our granola but it is also perfect sprinkled over yogurt. I like it so much I even find myself snacking on it when mid-afternoon or late-night hunger overtakes me (I’m enjoying some as I write).

My only caution is that it is easy to eat with your eyes. Many times my kids have filled a bowl with granola and then dumped half of it in the garbage because they were too full. I hate to see good food go to waste. Plus, in the back of my mind, I am calculating how many breakfasts and snacks were just wasted and how much sooner I’ll need to make more granola. Ridiculous but true, so don’t go there; scoop lightly.

When I make granola, I get out my largest bowl and I triple the recipe. I prefer to stash a large batch on top of my  fridge than to make a new one every week. Not that it takes that long to make; it doesn’t. Maybe a half-hour hands on time and then about 40 minutes in the oven. But if I can save myself an hour or so a week, I’ll triple the recipe.

Once I have my largest bowl out, I mix up the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. I pour the wet ingredients into the well and then stir until well-combined. Next I coat my sheetpans with cooking spray and spread the granola out on them. One recipe makes 1 half sheetpan (12″ x 17″) .

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Then I bake the granola, pulling out the sheetpans about every 10 minutes. The edges will be browning so mix up the granola to ensure more even browning. About 30 minutes into the baking, I add my coconut flakes and sliced almonds to the sheetpans. They brown a lot faster than the granola and so need less oven time. Continue baking for about another 10 minutes, until the granola is just lightly browned. You do have to watch it. I got distracted once. My nose finally called me back to the oven and I had dark brown (burned) granola and it was not good. No one ate it.

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After the granola is baked, I pour it back into the same mixing bowl (don’t even bother washing it). I add my dried fruit— whatever I happen to have in the cupboards, typically raisins, cranberries and cherries— and toss to combine. Then I grab a small bowl and do a taste-test.

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Homemade Granola   image

Makes about 7 cups

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (I use a combination of both)
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups dried fruit

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the water, oil and honey/maple syrup. Stir to combine.

2. Spread out on a greased sheetpan and bake for 30 minutes, pulling out the sheetpan every 10 minutes to stir the granola. After 30 minutes, add the almonds and coconut flakes. Continue baking until granola is lightly browned, about another 10 minutes.

3. Pour granola back into large mixing bowl. Add dried fruit and stir to combine. Cool and then store in an airtight container.

Gingersnaps— A Winter Antidote

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Gingersnaps are sweet and spicy with just enough warmth to make them a perfect winter cookie.

I make these gingersnaps every year at the holidays. This year I noticed how popular they were both for the adult and the kid set. I made a mental note to make them again soon— because why wait another year for a yummy cookie! Last week I made them for Valentine’s Day and may have started a new tradition. I typically gravitate towards a chocolate dessert for this February holiday, but the kids already receive so many chocolate treats that I decided to pull out my gingersnap recipe. It was a big hit, again. We each enjoyed a couple for dessert (along with a few candies) and then we brought the remaining 50 or so cookies on a visit with cousins. They were gobbled up within a day.

This recipe originated with my Aunt Trish who sent me a recipe for Ginger Sugar Cookies. At the time, I was on a search for a good gingersnap recipe— one that was both crisp and chewy and had just the right hint of spices. I made a few adjustments to the recipe my aunt sent me and came up with the one below. I love the results and hope you do too. Try it. I bet those you feed will be glad you did.

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After chilling the dough, I use a teaspoon to measure out enough dough for a 1/2″ ball.

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Roll each ball of dough in granulated sugar.

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Flatten the dough ball with the bottom of a glass.

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Bake and enjoy.

Gingersnaps

Makes 5-6 dozen

8 Tbsp. (1/2 cup) margarine
4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 cups (10 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1  1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1  1/2 tsp. salt

1. Melt margarine and butter. Let cool slightly. In bowl of an electric mixer, put the sugars and molasses. Add the melted margarine/butter and egg and beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Whisk to combine. Add to butter mixture and beat until just combined. Chill dough for at least a couple of hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Roll dough into 1/2″ balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and place about 2″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased). Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each ball of dough. If dough sticks to glass, dip the glass in granulated sugar before pressing down on cookie.

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are crackled looking and barely browned.

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Squares

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Squares

I have a friend who loves peanut butter. I’d say I like peanut butter–with chocolate, or on bread with some homemade jam or bananas or apples. But my friend loves peanut butter in many, many forms. So in December when I started thinking about a little gift for her, I thought I’d bake something, of course, and that something would have to have peanut butter in it. But I am a bit selfish when it comes to my baking. I don’t like to bake something unless I want to eat it too. And the only way I eat peanut butter in dessert is if it is paired with chocolate. So this led me to Chocolate-Peanut Butter Squares. They are little morsels of goodness and so easy to make I had to share.

I did say that I had these gift-giving intentions back in December. Well, I was pulled way off course in December and here I am in the second week of January still trying to catch up. Luckily, I have an understanding friend and I think these homemade treats might be even more appreciated now that the steady flow of Christmas cookies has died down. I know my kids appreciated them. They walked in the door, took a sniff and immediately asked what I had made. They begged for taste tests and heartily approved of the results. (Just heard from my friend that she had to hide a few squares so her kids didn’t eat them all.)

This recipe was passed on years ago from another friend, Suzie. I have tweaked it a bit, but the basics have remained the same. It is a simple, no-bake recipe. It takes a little muscle to coax together the sugars, butter and peanut butter. Getting the squares out of the pan takes a little effort too. You’ll need to slide a small off-set cake spatula under the squares to release the peanut butter from the pan. Other than that, this recipe is very easy and well worth the half-hour it’ll take you.

Here are the steps in pictures:

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Squares

Makes about 48 small squares  IMG_0090

7 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped or morsels
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter

1. Melt chocolates and 1 Tbsp. butter over double boiler until smooth.

2. In large bowl, stir sugars and salt together. Cut butter into dry ingredients. Add peanut butter and mix until sandy.

3. Press peanut butter mixture into bottom of a greased 9″ pan. Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter. Chill to set.

4. Use a sharp knife to slice into squares. Run a small, flexible cake spatula under the squares before lifting out of the pan. I cut and lifted out 2 rows at a time. Share and enjoy!

Upside-Down Cakes

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Cranberry-Streusel Upside-Down Cake/ photo courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine

For some delicious winter cakes I created, check out the most recent issue of Fine Cooking magazine. It is on newsstands now or you can find my recipes for Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake, Orange-Almond Upside-Down Cake and
Tropical Upside-Down Cake
through the Fine Cooking website.

I had a lot of fun creating these recipes, mostly because there was a lot of tasting going on. Hope you have as much fun as I did baking and eating.