Archives for category: Pastry

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Last night in Portland, I overheard a local ask my friend Dan if he’d like to play in a Star Wars tennis club. A what? They play tennis dressed up like characters from Star Wars.

I thought I was in an episode of Portlandia, Maine edition.

I was in this lovely ocean town for approximately 36 hours this weekend, following a museum publishing seminar in Boston. My friend has been living there for the past year clerking for a judge and I promised to go. It’s only a two-hour bus ride from Boston, on a coach bus that played the movie The Never-Ending Story.

There is kombucha on tap at nearly every bar. The ‘buch is from a place called UFF (Urban Farm Fermentory), “an experimental urban farm, fermentation factory, and community engagement hub.” They do 2-oz pours in little mason jars for $1 each or bring your own growler. Naturally.

We basically ate for two days, with other non-food activities sprinkled in between.

We did donuts from the Holy Donut. Potato-based. We tried the chocolate and sea salt; sweet potato and ginger; and a special whiskey-and-bacon for Father’s Day. The sweet potato was my favorite.

We did the aforementioned kombucha.

(He) did beer. It is a beer-lover’s dream town. A beer called “lunch” and one called “dinner” and one called “mita” he was all excited about from Rising Tide Brewery.

We did world cup + barbecue at this place called Salvage BBQ where an inexplicable number of people cheered loudly for England in the game against Italy Saturday.

We met up with friends and biked around Peaks Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland where we picnicked on greens from a farm in New Hampshire and local radishes.

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We did bagels: Scratch, to be precise. I felt like I was in Brooklyn there for a minute because the line snaked out the door. A recent online review boasts: “your bagels made my first trimester much easier.” These are out of this world but kind of the opposite of a Montreal-style bagel. More airy and the dough pulls apart, it’s like a soft roll. Sea salt is the hands-down winner. Tastes like there are olives in the dough but I’m told there are not, they’re just that briny and delicious.

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We did coffee. Tandem. Started by the folks who opened Blue Bottle in Brooklyn. It was lovely and sparse and Vien the barista shook my hand and Pavement was playing on a record in the background. A guy named Will (I think) was roasting the beans right next to where your coffee is being poured over in ceramic Japanese cone filters. It sounds precious but it’s not. Just attention to detail and no fuss. The tiny glass of fizzy water that accompanied my friend’s espresso was ever-so-slightly carbonated, not too harsh on the palate. Vien also seemed to know every person’s order that walked in the door, except mine of course. I have a feeling if I went back tomorrow though he’d say, “Decaf americano with steamed milk?”

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Spicy ramen at a place called Pai Men Miyake downtown. And charred Brussels sprouts, house-made kimchi, and tofu buns with spicy mayo. All white people working in the kitchen and serving. Definitely not in New York City anymore.

We did lobster rolls. From the famous Eventide Oyster Co. restaurant. Brown-butter lobster roll in a steamed bun. And a dozen Maine oysters with horseradish ice as a garnish. A house-made ice cream sandwich for dessert (even the vanilla ice cream was made in house which impressed me because they’ve got enough to keep busy what with all the shellfish shucking and all).

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We did more world cup + barbecue at Salvage, to watch Argentina beat Bosnia. Side of pulled pork and pickles.

With the amount of bakeries, bars, restaurants, cafes, donut shops, jerky shops, the ratio of food purveyor to residents must be something on the order of 1:1. I asked my friend what do folks do for a living here? His anecdotal answer, not surprisingly, was mostly food service.

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It is said that moving is one of life’s biggest stressors. Moving and cooking is particularly challenging. Your cutting boards are packed away. You can’t remember where you stashed your favorite knife. You tossed all the half-bags of flours, dried beans, and pastas from your pantry and need to start over. (I should’ve kept that buckwheat flour.)

But moving is a chance to start over, to recycle reams of old bills and pay stubs, donate books and embarrassing shoes worn to first job interviews, re-order surroundings and re-sort the mind. Packing is revealing. It had been three years since my last move, and this would be my fifth apartment in Brooklyn in nine years. I came across car registration paperwork from the city of Cambridge c. 2005; acceptance and rejection letters to grad school; final papers from my senior year of college. Stacks of business cards from a job I haven’t had in years! Why had I been holding onto this stuff all these apartments later? It’s interesting that, with each move, you become willing to throw more and more away. The half-life of my nostalgia seems to be about 8-10 years. So, yes, I’m just now tossing birthday cards from 2006 (not the pretty handmade ones) and more Verizon flip phones than I care to admit.

I spent days eating cheap takeout amid boxes and boxes, just like in the movies. And around Day 5 I’d had enough. I dug out a couple of pans and utensils and made my inaugural meal. Kosheri from the first Ottolenghi cookbook. A humble meal really. Basmati rice that’s toasted with cinnamon and nutmeg, mixed with lentils, and served either with a tomato sauce or yogurt and cucumbers. Topped off with crunchy fried onions, the best part. It tasted so good. I felt brought back to life a little.

I’ve never been to Glasserie in Greenpoint. And I moved to Ditmas Park which might as well be another country from North Brooklyn. There are probably more people between me and Greenpoint than in the entire state of Vermont. (Population of Vermont: roughly 600,000; population of Brooklyn: roughly 2 million). But one day I hope to eat there, after a long journey on the Q, then the L, then the G train. And once there, I will eat cardamom sugar buns, pickled prunes, pistachios with kaffir lime leaf. I hear their flaky bread is divine. So until I can make it to the old glass factory building on Commercial Street, this homemade version will have to do. Not bad for having moved one week ago.

Glasserie’s Flaky Bread
via Bon Appétit

1 tsp salt
3 c all-purpose flour (or 2 c all-p, 1 c whole wheat)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (I used cultured butter) + more at room temp for brushing
Good crunchy sea salt, like Maldon
Olive oil

Combine the salt and flour in a large bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix well. Add 3/4 c water and combine. Kneed the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, until the dough is shiny and soft. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in a warm spot for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces and shape into balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet, cover with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Working with 1 piece at a time, roll out balls on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin into very thin rounds or ovals (about 9″ in diameter). If the dough bounces back, cover with plastic and let rest a few additional minutes.

Brush the tops of the rounds with room-temperature butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Roll up each round onto itself to create a long thin rope then wind each rope around itself, creating a tight coil.

Working with 1 coil at a time, roll out on an unfloured surface to 10″ rounds, no more than 1/8″ thick. Stack as you go, separating with parchment paper brushed with oil to make things easier.

Heat a large cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. And one at a time, brush both sides of the dough with more room-temperature butter and cook until lightly blistered and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool and sprinkle with more sea salt.

Serve plain, with shakshuka, your favorite jam, avocado, labneh, hummus, the possibilities are endless really. Next time I’d toast some sesame and poppy seeds and add this to the dough before rolling out, or fresh herbs.

You can also roll out the coils and freeze, wrapped tightly, up to one month. Cook from frozen, adding an additional 1-2 minutes cooking time.

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A couple of weeks ago I came across this article for hortopita, and being the cooking masochist/enthusiast that I am, decided that would be just the task to tackle this weekend. Or, more like, the idea of making a savory pie filled with greens and herbs in a semolina-olive oil crust sounded like perfection to me. I was not, I repeat not, intimidated by making my own phyllo dough. Without a stand mixer.

There’s a fun video you can watch of Diane Kochilas, the mostly Greece-based food writer and cooking instructor, showing Mark Bittman how one makes hortopita and rolls out the phyllo. Turns out it’s the same technique as for this Turkish walnut pastry I made back in the fall, whereby you use a dowel rather than a rolling pin, gently applying pressure along the dowel as you flatten the dough. (Don’t be intimidated though because a rolling pin works fine as well.)

After my coop shift on Friday—which consisted of 2 1/2 hours of packaging black mission figs, raw whole cashews, and organic dried mango—I stalked the produce aisle looking for the brightest greenest greens (sweet, not bitter, according to Kochilas) and wondering how it would all fit in my bicycle pannier without overflowing downhill onto Vanderbilt Avenue.

Below is the recipe of what I ended up making, adapted from the original. I think it came out rather well for my first try. (I politely devoured my first piece standing up in the kitchen.) You need neither the stand mixer the original recipe calls for (but by all means use it if you have one) nor the exact list of greens and herbs. For instance I had neither pumpkin nor butternut squash so I used shredded carrots. I think this would be a pretty forgiving recipe should you substitute one green for another or can’t quite manage to find the hartwort. Opa!

(As a bonus, this is one of those foods I find perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacking…)

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Hortopita

For the phyllo dough:

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 c semolina flour, finely ground, like Bob’s Red Mill
1 scant tsp salt
1 1/4 c water
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl
1 tbsp lemon juice (or you can use red-wine vinegar)
Flour for rolling out the pastry

For the filling:

Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 c)
2 red onions, chopped
3 carrots, shredded
2 bunches Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c fresh dill, chopped
1 c fennel fronds, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1 small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped
Coarse sea salt
1/4 c feta cheese (optional)

To prepare the phyllo dough I followed these instructions except mixed the dough by hand rather than with a mixer, kneading it for about 10 minutes.

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To prepare the filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat a large skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the onions until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a bowl.

In the same skillet, heat an additional 2 tbsp olive oil, then wilt the chard and spinach and transfer to the bowl. (You may have to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your skillet.) Add the herbs to the bowl mixture, and salt this mixture generously. Transfer to a large colander and let drain for at least ten minutes, pressing lightly to get out any remaining liquid. Transfer back to the bowl. Add the feta and gently combine, if using.

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Assembling:

Lightly oil a 15-inch round pan or a shallow, rectangular roasting or sheet pan. Roll out the first dough ball (you will have 4) on a lightly-floured surface, so that it is slightly larger than your pan. Transfer to the pan, leaving about 2 inches hanging over the edges. Brush with olive oil. Roll out the second round of dough, transfer on top of the first layer of dough, and brush this with olive oil as well. Spread the filling evenly over the phyllo.

Repeat the process for the third and fourth sheets of phyllo, placing the layers on top and brushing with olive oil. Score the pie into serving pieces without cutting through to the bottom. Transfer to the oven and bake on the center rack for 40 to 50 minutes or until the pie is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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