Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pie Pumpkin Custard Pies for Hallowe'en!!

Yum, here is a well lighted close up of the finished creamy, deliciousness of a fruity, spice spiked, vanilla infused pumpkin bowl of divinity!!
...and here is the uncooked pumpkin custard 'pie' before she heads off into the oven for a nice, warm bake...nestled in her little padding of aluminium foil to keep her steady as she blows!!

THE RECIPE (again from an ancient copy of British Country Living)

1 6" pie pumpkin, halved and cleaned
soft salted butter...a large pat (like me)
2 large eggs whisked together
10 fl oz US (½ pt UK) heavy/double cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon...more if you like I am not a big fan of cinnamon
½ teaspoon at least of freshly grated nutmeg...I do really like nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
1 teaspoon almond essence/extract
2 heaped tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger
2 heaped tablespoons candied orange peel...(I did my own and added lemon juice to the water and sugar when it was boiling down...tasted great)
2 heaped tablespoons currants
3 heaped tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons of rum if you like, then it's like baked eggnog with fruit added in!...I didn’t use it because I don’t have any rum!!

1. Heat oven to 400F
2. Mix together in a jug, ready to pour, the cream, eggs, sugar, spices, ginger, candied peel, currants, other words everything but the pumpkins and butter...let it sit a while to steep the flavours.
3. Slather the cut and cleaned pumpkins with the soft butter and sprinkle sugar over the rims...then slash the insides of the pumpkins criss-crossedy, sit them in crumpled up pieces of aluminium foil in a baking pan/on a cookie sheet so you can keep them level - basically make a 'nest' of foil for them to sit securely in.
4. Put the EMPTY pumpkin halves in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and place a on a level surface - pour in the custard and spoon in the solids from the bottom of the jug but do not overfill - the custard expands a little when baking, if you have extra put into a ramekin and bake in a bain marie/water bath.
6. If you like grate more fresh nutmeg over the custards.
7. Bake again for about another 20-25 minutes until the custard is almost completely set...I find the custard is so much smoother if you remove it from the oven when it still jiggles a tiny bit in the will continue to cook as it cools...if you catch it just right, which hooray I did, this custard is as smooth as the divine creme brulee I used to eat at Dean and Deluca in NY!!!
8. Allow to cool till just warm.
9. WOW...mine turned out really light, smooth and beautifully flavoured...bon chance with yours!!! little pumpkin custard already made some new friends!!
Oh no!!! Who is that tapping on the window on this perfect Hallowe'en night in Maine??? Still blustery, balmy, full moon...doesn't get any better than this!! 

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Happy All Hallow's Eve!!

from the dead centre of Belfast, Maine!!It's the perfect Fall Halloween day here today in little ole Belfast...blustery, windy, warm, leaves tumbling around, slightly misty...a delicious day to go trick o' treating ...I'll be making Pumpkin Custards later today and will post asap, ie today, for your delictation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I've started taking pictures of the beautiful Autumn landscape and I can't stop!!

Here is a picture of Camden, Maine. A lovely little village on Penobscot Bay. A few years ago a friend of mine was over from Blighty and when we drove through Camden she said (and here I am dating myself dreadfully) "Wow this reminds me of Peyton Place" ...sure enough a couple of weeks later I find out IT IS Peyton Place...they did indeed set the series here!! Isn't this a delicious Main street looking up onto Mount Battie...which by the way has a big star on the top at Christmas of my favourtie things. I saw the star picture in Down East magazine many moons ago and thought to myself "I want to live there" and here I am driving back and forth past it now and again...Belfast is about 20 miles further up the Bay!!
Another pic in Camden in front of the Church on Main Street.
Belfast cemetery again...the colours are deepening...YEA!!! no power lines, another good thing about photographing in a graveyard!!
General gorgeous treeness......
The foliage has been very much in the yellow (a beautiful glowing yellow, not acidy at all), burnt-orange, umber, ochre palette this season...not much pink or red but still absolutely amazing......I am awe struck by some of the trees I see, they just leave me breathless....thanks Mother Nature, good show!!

Here is a dusk picture of the field in front of our house...not a great pic in terms of light, but very atmospheric I think....
...and finally a view from the top of Blueberry Hill next to our house as dusk falls and the colours seem to literally start to glow...honestly it's just like being in a Maxfield Parrish painting, I kid you not!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"An apple pie without some cheese is like a hug without a squeeze!"

Here are some of the ingredients for a Lancashire Apple Pie that I made for Great Maine Apple Day which was, admittedly, yesterday October 24th...BUT maybe I bought my apples yesterday and I am continuing the celebration today?? Possible right?

Here is the list of Maine ingredients: 

Apples...Blue Pearmain, Fireside and Winesap...don't know the orchard names, sorry! 

Organic apple cider from The Apple Farm, Fairfield, Maine

Kate's Butter, Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Sonnental Dairy raw milk cheese, Buggy Whip extra sharp cheddar, Smyrna, Maine

Egg yolk, Bowden's, Waldoboro

anything else is from out of state

THE RECIPE, from a very old issue of the best magazine in the universe...British Country basically a Brit version of the French tarte tatin, an upside down apple tart... made with a cheese pastry crust for a delicious counterpoint...ta dah!! 

Pie filling:
1 1/4 lbs assorted sweet and tart, hard, preferably local, apples cut into slices

finely grated zest of one lemon, preferably Meyer

2 oz butter

2 oz sugar

4 fl oz apple cider (apple juice for Brits!)

6 oz white, unbleached flour

3 oz butter

3 oz freshly grated hard cheese of your choice...I like extra sharp cheddar but you can use whatever you think your tastebuds would like so long as it is of a similar texture and hardness to cheddar.

pinch of salt if you use unsalted butter...say it with me “I always use salted butter cos I like the taste”

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of cold water

1 tablespoon of sugar

(For US/UK weight conversions etc please visit Sue Pallett's website where all will be revealed)

Make the pastry first so it can rest for a while in the fridgerdator...that’s what I call it and I’m sticking to it!

1. Sift flour, salt, sugar together and then blend in the butter until the mix resembles ground almonds...I really like the process of baking so I do everything by hand...if you are not doing it in a processor I suggest putting the butter in the freezer for a while before you start making the pastry and then grate the butter into the flour mix so there is less hand working and the pastry doesn’t warm want to keep it as cold as possible.

2. Stir in the grated cheese.

3. Then stir in the egg/water and gently bind together with your hands.....basically just very gently squush it together until it forms a ball...

4. Wrap, I don't like plastic wrap so I wrap mine in parchment paper, the ball of dough and put it in the fridgerdator for at least an hour - the longer the better - the colder it gets the better the flakiness.

Assemble the filling:
1. Grease heartily a 8-81/2" glass pie dish with lovely butter.

2. Peel, core and slice the apples...I do all this in a bowl of cold, lemoned water so the apples don’t turn brown before I use them, I keep the slices in the lemon water 'til I need them and then drain them before use and shake out in a colander so they aren’t watery.

3. Melt butter, sugar and apple cider in a pan together and heat til bubbling...reduce by about 2/3 thirds 'til it is nice and syrupy.

4. Cool syrup somewhat then pour into the base of the pie dish.

5. Pile in the apples somewhat evenly and press down...they shouldn’t be too high....

6. Roll out the cooled pastry to a circle just bigger then your pie dish and lay over the apples.

7. Press down on the apples and even up the edge...poke holes in the top to let out the steam and keep the pastry crisp.

8. Bake on a lipped case the juices flow a 400F oven for about 40 minutes until the pastry is evenly browned and glorious.

I used a glass pie dish so I could see how the apples were...they did look like there was a lot of juice bubbling in there but it didn’t turn out to be so much in the end, I think the heat made it expand and look like more than it actually was.

9.THE TRICKY PART, where it can all go awry!!
Let the pie cool for a while...I left it about 15 minutes, then put an appropriately large enough plate over the pastry, take a deep breath and invert the pie onto the plate...I was very happy mine came out very easily and looked quite nice, I have seen Joolia do this and the whole thing feel apart all over the place...I think it depends on how your apples stand up to the pressure..if they are fluffy, mushy apples they’ll just turn to apple sauce, that’s why you need to start with nice, crispy hard varieties.
The pie fresh from the oven...
The pie sliced and served naked...really it is kind of an apple pizza isn't it? The apples were perfectly cooked, retained their tang and shape, were nicely sweet and a great complement to the very cheesy, savoury and crumbly crust.
Do give it a try...and here for autumn is a poem to contemplate whilst you eat your
Lancashire Apple Pie

John Keats (1785-1821)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o’erbrimme’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while they hook
Spares the next swath and all its twin-ed flower;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with a patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the sounds of Spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, - thou hast thy music too,
While barr-ed clouds bloom the soft dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The beauty that is Maine in the Fall

The last couple of days here in Mane have been those pristine, bright, crispy, clean BIG BLUE sky days...perfect for wandering in cemeteries to look at the autumnal foliage...above is the cemetery in Belfast, such a lovely place
WOW!!!! Looking up through the trees at the sky is so super-real, the colour palette looks like some of the footage in the movie "Contact", anyone remember that? and these photographs have not been altered in any way via lenses or photoshop......really!!! I have to be honest and admit I am really chuffed (pleased) with them!! Tee hee!!

This is at the Camden cemetery, above and below, which is backed up by the Camden awfully pretty spot too.....

One of the famous Belfast angels against the gorgeous yellow leaves
Who wouldn't want a sweet little kitten asleep on their final resting place....I think maybe mine would be a puppy though!!