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Savory Autumn Crostata

Everyone needs a little something to warm up their bellies for the Thanksgiving feast…a little nosh, a little nibble.  Savory Autumn Crostata with butternut squash, onion, apple and blue cheese is perfect.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole.  She
chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata.  She used her own experience as a source,
as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced (1 stick)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large baking apple
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash (about 3/4 pound), halved, seeded, and skin on
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, root end trimmed but intact
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1⁄3 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

Now that the recipe is out of the way…let’s move on to the good stuff…

Start prepping your veggies.  The good news is there is no need to peel the butternut squash.  I had a nice small squash which worked out perfectly for slices.  When cutting your onion, leave the root end intact, only trimming away the root threads.  Core and slice the apple with the idea being to make all the slices about the same size and thickness.

Actually…first, make the dough.  Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse a couple of times until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few bean-size bits of butter in it.  Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times more…it just hast to be damp enough to stick together.  If the dough seems very dry, add up to 1 tablespoon of cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing briefly. Remove the blade and bring the dough together by hand. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough into a large disk, and dusting generously with flour.  All those wonderful creamy dots – yep, you guessed right…it’s butter!  Don’t be afraid, as this is what makes a crust flaky and lovely.  Remember to work with your dough quickly and as little as possible…if the butter melts…your crust is toast!

Put all the squash, onion and apple slices into a bowl, and pour the melted butter over the top.  Toss in the herbs, and season with salt and pepper, toss or mix them gently so each piece is coated perfectly in buttah!

Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and about 2 -3 inches wider in diameter than you would like the finished crostata to be.  Place the dough on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet and spread the mustard over the dough, leaving a 1-1½ inch border.

Beginning on the outside, alternate slices of squash, apple and onion in a circle, tucking them close together.

Continue layering it all into the center of the circle as well using smaller pieces to fill in the holes.  Next, fold in the sides, pleating where necessary to contain the filling.

Press the edges down gently and tuck any pointy pieces of onion or apple back down into the crostata.  Place in a 400° oven until the crust is golden brown and flaky, about 55 minutes.

While the crostata is baking…it’s time to get the blue cheese out…any blue will work…stilton would be especially delicious…and I used a roquefort.

After the 55 minutes, pull the crostata out of the oven.

Crumble the cheese using a fork and scatter over the top of the crostata.

Place the crostata back in the oven for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Let is cool for a few minutes, slice it into wedges and serve.  It can also be served room temperature as well.  Enjoy and be sure to save a little bit of room for Turkey and fixin’s!

Spiced Sugar Doughnuts!


I couldn’t wait…I had to take a bite…and then several more.  These are seriously good.  But c’mon…who could say no to homemade doughnuts…?  My neighbors couldn’t…my husband couldn’t, I couldn’t, and my poor office mates who receive many-a-baked-good…could not say no!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Recipe thanks to Alton Brown

Yeast Doughnuts!

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening, approximately 1/3 cup
  • 2 packages instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
  • Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying (1 to 1/2 gallons, depending on fryer)

Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.

Bet you didn’t know what fresh nutmeg looked like, did you?  It looks like a nut with very pretty insides once you start to grate it.  Fresh nutmeg was a revelation to me when I was living in France…it’s all they use.  The nuts left whole will keep for quite a while, and it is a much fresher taste than the already grated stuff you find in the spice aisle.

Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.

Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or pastry ring and using a 7/8-inch ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side.

Transfer to a cooling rack or paper towels placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for a few minutes before rolling in your spiced sugar.

The makings of spiced sugar – ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, I added just a touch of black pepper as well.

Mix it all together and once the doughnuts have cooled off, drop the doughnuts in the sugar and shake, roll, toss…whatever you need to do to coat them in wonderful delicious spiced sugary goodness.

Don’t forget to sample your finished product – very important step.  Pile high on platter, marvel at your work and then deliver to whomever is deserving of such love in the form of pure doughnutty heaven.

Quick Pickled Daikon with Lemon

I don’t like radishes.  I know…believe me, I would like to enjoy the simple Parisian pleasure of sliced radishes sprinkled with fleur de sel on a buttered slice of baguette.  But I just. don’t. like. them!  I do like daikon radish pickles (as of last week), and I’m guessing you will too.

Recipe thanks to Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.  I had to have this book when I saw it.  It seemed a little ambitious as I don’t have a long and successful history of canning, preserving and pickling…but I want to…and that is what counts.  (At least, that is what I tell myself!)

Quick Pickled Daikon with Lemon
adapted from Karen Solomon, Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it

1 1/2 pounds daikon, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
3 pieces lemon zest, about 2-inches long

The recipe is super simple and just takes a bit of time.  Start by slicing the radish thinly – in hindsight, I would slice a little thicker – think dill pickle slices.

Once sliced, toss them with 1/4 cup of kosher salt and let them sit in a colander or strainer for at least 15 minutes over a bowl or the sink.

While you are waiting on the radish slices, you can prep all the other ingredients.  Sesame oil, honey, rice vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and lemon zest.

Juice the lemon – and please use a fresh lemon…it makes such a big difference in your final product.

Mix together the oil and vinegar.

Add in the honey.

After letting the radish slices sit all mixed up with the kosher salt, rinse them off in cold water.  Next, lay out the slices on a clean tea towel in a single layer.

Roll up the towel, pressing gently to help dry the radish slices.

Unroll the tea towel and peel all the slices off.

In the meantime, chop up the garlic and add to the ingredient mixture along with the lemon juice.  Add the daikon to the bowl.

Mix well and then add in the lemon zest.

Place in a clean, rust free jar (or jars) and seal it up.  Let it sit for at least an hour before sampling and the pickles will keep at least a month in the fridge.

I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and they retain a nice crunch…with just a little tang.

Perfect to be served alongside a banh mi sandwich or with sushi.


Fresh Tomato Sauce Pasta with Wilted Spinach

Dinner last week…

Chop up some fresh tomatoes, dice an onion and a few garlic cloves…add it all to a hot pot with some olive oil and butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Purée the sauce, add in a little basil, season again, add fresh cooked pasta and serve it up.  I wilted a little spinach with some garlic and threw it on top with w a little grated Parmesan.


Weeknight Herb Roast Chicken

Roasting a chicken…although daunting in name is really quite simple…and easily done on a weeknight.  A roast chicken also provides leftovers a-plenty for the rest of the week’s lunches.

This recipe is a take on an Ina Garten recipe for the Perfect Roast Chicken.  First, remove giblets from the cavity.  Cut up vegetables, including new potatoes, carrots and red onions…and place them in the roasting pan with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Preheat the oven to 425º F and begin seasoning the chicken.

Use whatever herbs you have on hand – and use them liberally.  I tucked two large basil leaves under the skin on the breasts, and tucked a few chunks of onion and carrot into the chicken cavity along with some butter, a sizable amount of salt, some pepper and a few sprigs of rosemary and basil leaves.  Make sure to season the outside of the chicken with salt, pepper, herbs and rub the skin with a little softened butter as well.  Tuck the wings underneath and then tie the legs together (or use high-tech hot pink silicon bindings like I did).

While you wait for your chicken to roast, why not enjoy some of the last tomatoes of the year (yep, we’ve still got them…not trying to brag!) in a refreshing caprese salad drizzled with some Arbequina olive oil and some aged balsamic vinegar.

The chicken will only take between 60 to 90 minutes…you can check it with a thermometer, or wiggle the drumstick, or check to see if the juices run clear – really whatever you’re comfortable with.  You can always crank on the broiler for the last few minutes if the skin doesn’t look deliciously toasty, crispy and caramel in color.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to let rest.

At this point you can check the vegetables for doneness and seasoning.

Carve up the chicken and bring to the table along with the vegetables for serving.  I had a surplus of green beans from our CSA – so I quick-roasted them with a little olive oil on high heat once the chicken came out of the oven.

Sit down and enjoy.  (And then enjoy for lunch the next day as chicken salad, or as a pasta salad with chicken, or slice for a chicken sandwich, etc. – you get the idea!)


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