Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

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Last week I re-entered surgical residency full time after a 2 year “research break”.  It was an abrupt transition going from ~40 hours a week, mostly at a desk, to over 80 hours at the hospital last week running around and operating.  By the end of the week I was exhausted!!!  But luckily I had the whole 4th of July weekend off to relax so I decided to recharge with a little baking and food photography.

Several weeks ago I took a one day food photography workshop with my food blog idol, Betty Liu, and Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm.  The workshop was amazing and I learned so many new tips and techniques for food styling-who knew crumbs were such a great styling prop?  Here are a few of my favorites from the workshop:

I was eager to test out my new food styling skills on my own so after a quick trip to Home Goods for some new props, I got down to work this weekend.  And what else to make for the 4th of July than pie???  Correction…mini pies??? (I think I have previously confessed my love for all foods that are miniature.)  I decided to go with blueberry pie and mixed it up a touch by adding cardamom and cinnamon…and then I got super patriotic by cutting out stars and stripes to decorate the pies.  The results were adorable and delicious!  Hope you all had a great 4th of July.  Feel free to comment below and tell me what you made!

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Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Cardamom Blueberry filling:

3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
2 1/2 tablespoon water (divided)
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch

1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling

For the crust: Mix flour, sugar,  and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

For the filling: Add blueberries, sugar, lemon, 1 Tbs water, cardamom pods (make sure to count how many you add so you know how many to retrieve later!), and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan. Alternatively, you can place cardamom and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth for easier retrieval. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture breaks down and starts to liquefy, about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove and discard all 10 cardamom pods and cinnamon stick- you may want to use a utensil so you don’t burn yourself!.  Mix corn starch and remaining 1.5 Tbs water together and then add to the blueberry mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely (may be done in the refrigerator).

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Assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one ball of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface. Use a 2.5-3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles for the pie. You should have about 10 circles depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Place these, evenly spaced, on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spoon some of the blueberry mixture into the center of the circle. Be careful not to place too much blueberry filling or the pies will overflow when the top is placed.

Brush the beaten egg around the edges. Roll out the second ball of dough and cut out the same number of pie circles. Cut a hole (or other shape!) in the middle and then make several slits in the pie circle to vent the pie while cooking. Place this circle of dough over the blueberry filling and use a fork to crimp the pie edges together. Brush the tops with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking racks. Enjoy!

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Independence Day Oatmeal Cream Pies: White Chocolate, Blueberry, Oatmeal Cookies with Raspberry Filling

Happy belated 4th of July!  I’m going to make this post short and sweet as I try to get back into the work week after a great 4th of July weekend!

The great thing about having this blog is that it forces me to be creative.  My default for the 4th of July is usually a pie (and I made one of those too this year…just couldn’t help myself).  Pies are usually pretty quick and easy to make, and with so much great fuit in season in July, they are the perfect BBQ dessert!

However, I hadn’t blogged in a while (sorry) so I decided to dig into my creative side and create a new 4th of July themed cookie.  Insprired by red, white and blue, I created my own version of an Oatmeal Cream Pie (my favorite dessert snack as a kid).  I hate raisins in anything (except for Joanne Chang’s carrot cake) so those were out.  Instead I replaced them with dried blueberries and white chocolate chips.  To make these taste lighter and more summery, I replaced the nutmeg and cinnamon called for in the original recipe with lemon zest.  Finally, I made a raspberry frosting for the filling (first seen on the blog here) to complete the traditional 4th of July red, white, and blue theme!  While my triple berry crostata was the first dessert to go, the cookies were a success…a few even dug in before the pork and burgers!

White Chocolate, Blueberry, Oatmeal Cream Pies with Raspberry Filling

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon
1 3/4 cup old –fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
1 cup dried blueberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest, making sure there are no lumps of baking soda. Stir in the oats, dried blueberries and white chocolate chips.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly combined. On low speed, or by hand, gradually add the flour and oat mixture to the creamed butter, mixing until completely incorporated.

Chill the batter a few hours or overnight, covered. (This step is optional, although recommended)

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Scoop out 1 Tbs balls of cookie dough and bake until just browning, about 9-10 minutes.  Let cool completely on wire racks.

Raspberry Filling

12 oz raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter at room temperature
4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, divided

Heat raspberries in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries are broken down. Pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Strain raspberry puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Return puree to the saucepan and simmer over low heat until reduced slightly so you end up with about 1/2 cup of raspberry puree (about 3-5 minutes). Let sit at room temperature for about an hour and then chill in refrigerator 1-2 hours until cool and thick. Can be made 1-2 days ahead of time.

In a stand-mixer with a whip attachment, whip the butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar until combined. Add the raspberry mixture (1/2 cup) and mix to combine. Gradually add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients. Continue to whip for 1-2 minutes until frosting is lighter in color.

Assembly

Once cookies are completely cooled, pipe (or spread, but piping looks prettier!) a generous teaspoon of raspberry frosting onto the bottom side cookie. Place another cookie on top and gently press down until frosting reaches the edges of the cookie.  Enjoy! (Warning: you will have extra frosting!)

Mini Blueberry Thyme Crostatas

Alas, the cold weather is finally gone and we seem to have fast forwarded through spring and into summer with the blink of an eye.  While I really shouldn’t complain about the heat after our awful winter…it is really hot!!! Especially when you have no air conditioning because your building is fixing your pipes through June (insert sad violin melody here).

So to welcome “summer”, and full embrace the heat, I decided to warm up my steamy apartment a little more by baking! (Clearly I have my priorities straight.)  Blueberries are one of my favorite summer fruits (along with raspberries, strawberries, peaches, cherries watermelon…) and they were on sale at my local Whole Foods (Paycheck) so I decided to adapt one of my favorite crostata recipes.

The original recipe is for an apple crostata but last summer I substituted apples for peaches with a beautiful result.  This time I decided to go mini (yes, I have an obsession with mini desserts) with blueberries as the star, minus the buttery streusel.  Could it be that I’m trying to bake a little healthier? Or maybe I just got lazy…  I love using herbs and citrus in baking so I added some lemon zest to the crust and some fresh thyme to the blueberries.

They are delicious on their own, or if you want to increase your daily calcium and vitamin D intake, you can top with a whipped mascarpone cream (equal parts whipping cream and mascarpone, whipped until thick and creamy and flavored with a touch of powdered sugar and vanilla).

Final note to self: Making pie dough in 80+ weather with no AC is a little difficult and requires much refrigeration in between steps.  Best to avoid, if possible, until AC situation remedied!  Try ice cream instead 🙂

Mini Blueberry Thyme Crostatas

(makes about 5 crostatas)

Crust: (Adapted from Kosher by Design cookbook)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Blueberry Thyme Filling:

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs flour
1 Tbs cornstarch
dash of cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Egg wash:

1 egg mixed with 1 Tbs water

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough just comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Chill  for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the blueberries:

Mix all of the above ingredients together.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough out until it reaches 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 6 inch rounds, I used a bowl as my guide.  After cutting the first 2-3 rounds, you’ll need to re-roll the scraps to cut more.  If dough becomes too soft and difficult to roll, refrigerate again for about 10 minutes.  You should get 5 small circles.

Spoon blueberry filling into the center, leaving at least a 1 inch border.  Be careful not to overfill, you will likely have leftover filling.

Fold the edges over the filling, covering about an inch of filling all around.  Make sure to seal any seams so it stays folded while baking.  Brush the crust with the egg wash.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and blueberries are bubbling.  (If crust browns too quickly, you can cover crust with tinfoil with center cut out.)  Remove from oven and cool for at least one hour.  Enjoy!

Blueberry Buttermilk Tart

Although I did not win at Powerball this past week, I did come into a bit of luck this weekend when one of my rare days off fell on one of the most gorgeous weekends of summer.  My friend and I decided to take full advantage of the sun and the fact that I have a car for the month (thanks mom!) and headed to Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA.  After 4 hours of sun, we decided to head back to Boston but made a detour on the way stopping at Russell Orchards for wine tasting (fruit wines), berry picking and cider donuts!  I was a little disappointed that raspberry picking was over, but they had ample blueberries and blackberries for picking (and tasting along the way).

With a pint of freshly picked blueberries in hand, I scoured epicurious.com for summer blueberry recipes and came across this Blueberry Buttermilk Tart.  Although it was published in 1990, it had some recent rave reviews from home bakers that have continued to make this throughout the years.  It starts with a butter tart shell that is blind baked and is then filled with fresh blueberries and a buttermilk lemon custard-like filling.  I will admit that the recipe was not perfect for me.  I had a little difficulty with the tart dough and ended up having to patch several areas that cracked and ripped as I transferred it to the tart pan after rolling.  In addition, the filling took a little longer than the stated time to set and although the outcome was delicious, I would have left mine in an extra 5 minutes in hindsight.  Even with these slight flaws, it is a scrumptious summer dessert and great for berry picking experiments!

Stay tuned for how I used my blackberries in my next post!

Click here for the recipe. Continue reading