26 August 2011

Petite Pasties - Mini Meat Pies for Afternoon Tea

Petite pasties (pronounced pass-tees, not paste-ees like the va-va-voom kind) are a lot more fiddly than full-size pasties, so I don't make them as often--in fact, only for very special afternoon teas. And I recently had just such an occasion. Five of us British film and television buffs got together for a full day of it--the entire fourth season of Lark Rise to Candleford, episodes interspersed with lots of tea, food and champagne throughout the day.

As much as I loved Lark Rise to Candleford, afternoon tea was the highlight of my day. I had assembled a half-batch of petite pasties the day before and placed them on a half-sheet pan, covered them with foil and put them in the freezer. Two hours before serving, I took the pasties out to thaw. Half an hour before teatime, I popped them in the oven. They could probably be baked frozen; I've just never done it.

These little pasties are not what some of my ancestors carried into the mines of northern England. One (or ten!) of these will not make a meal for a hard-working miner! I make about three per person for afternoon tea (such a Delightful Repast), in addition to several tea sandwiches per person, not to mentions scones and various treats. We ladies work up a good appetite viewing/talking from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.! Comfort food, comfort film, comfort day.

Update 12/07/16: For how to throw an afternoon tea party and a roundup of afternoon tea recipes, see Afternoon Tea Party Tips.

Petite Pasties

(Makes 36 petite pasties)

Meat Filling

1.25 pounds skirt steak, cut into slivers, all fat chunks and membrane removed (leaving 1 pound or so)
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup water

Pastry for Petite Pasties (food processor* method) Make recipe twice.

2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces/354 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes
2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
Ice water to make 2/3 cup liquid

1 In bottom of double-boiler, bring an inch or so of water (6 cups in mine) to a boil. Hand mince the beef, discarding any gristly or fibrous bits and large hunks of fat. Coat with flour, salt, pepper and marjoram. Place in top of double-boiler. Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and water. Put lid on pan and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, no stirring or checking necessary. No browning, no nothing. Just put the lid on it and forget about it for 2 hours. Really, I mean it, just go away and leave it alone!

2 Allow meat to cool completely before assembling pasties. While cooling, make pastry. Rather than make a huge batch of pastry, I prefer to make it in two batches, making this pastry recipe twice.

3 With metal blade in place, add flour, salt and baking powder to work bowl of food processor. Turn on for three seconds to combine. Add half the frozen butter and process for 10 seconds or until mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add remaining butter and pulse for six 1-second pulses, or until the frozen butter is the size of small peas.

4 In 2/3-cup measure, combine lemon juice or vinegar with ice water. Pour over all of flour mixture; pulse for six 1-second pulses or just until dough forms large clumps; do not over-process. (The amount of water you will need depends on your climate and the moisture content of your flour. You may not need to use quite as much water as I do.)

5 Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap (clingfilm) and flatten slightly into a 6-inch square; double wrap; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. (Let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.)

6 Repeat for second batch.

* I have the DLC-10E, which (understandably after all this time--I've had it since I was very young) is no longer available. See Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless and other currently available models.

7 Working with one batch of dough at a time, on lightly floured 12x24-inch piece of parchment, roll out pastry to 11x22-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Place dough on baking sheets and place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes. With the Wilton Comfort Grip Round Cookie Cutter (3 3/8 inches) or other approximately 3 1/2-inch round cutter, cut each rectangle of pastry into 18 rounds.

8 Divide the meat filling in half and work with one batch of pastry at a time. Divide the filling among the 18 rounds, using about 2 teaspoons for each; don't overfill. Fold pastry rounds to form half moons and crimp edges. Brush with beaten egg (if desired) and place on large baking sheet (I use a half-sheet pan). Chill until ready to bake.

9 Preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6. Right before the pasties go into the oven, use a fork to make three lines of little holes in the top of each. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Serve hot. Pass gravy and Daddy’s or HP Sauce, if desired; but I love them just as they are.

19 August 2011

Recession Cake - Not Quite Depression Cake - Vegan Applesauce Spice Cake

Vegan Applesauce Spice Cake - Depression Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

Recession Cake is my new name for this recipe I developed years ago after a discussion with my Aunt Irene about an old recipe she had from the time of the Great Depression. Of course, I could never have served anything called Depression Cake to my parents. It was kind of a sore subject when I was growing up.

As a child, I dreaded anyone mentioning The Depression. Even though it was ancient history long before my time, it still had a grip on my father. If anyone mentioned the subject and my mother joined in the conversation at all, my father (whose experience had been so much worse) would feel compelled to jump in and tell her (and everyone within range) that she didn't know anything about it! The way that vein popped up on his face, I was always afraid he was going to have a stroke or something! Anyway ... back to the cake ...

Milk, butter, eggs and sugar were hard to come by for many people during those years. Homemakers learned to bake with smaller amounts, or even none, of those ingredients. Raisins and apples were often used to make up for some of the sugar. They came to be called depression cakes. Talk about comfort food--the most basic cake must have been a real treat.

Starting with my aunt's recipe, I experimented with the concept until I came up with a recipe that had the lightness of a cake made with eggs. I make it with all organic ingredients and serve it to everyone, not just vegans, no explanations necessary--it "passes" easily for a "regular" cake! Of course, back then they didn't have organic canola oil and would have used solid shortening or so-called vegetable oil.

It's delicious plain, and a mere dusting of powdered sugar is pretty enough, but I like to serve it with a little organic whipped cream. After all, this is only the Great Recession, not the Great Depression! I'd love to hear your comments on the cake, that era, vegan cooking, your parents' favorite recurring arguments, whatever!

Vegan Applesauce Spice Cake AKA Recession Cake

(Makes one 10-inch round layer)

2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces/198 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 cup raisins OR 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (I use Santa Cruz Organic)
1/2 cup organic oil of your choice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, optional

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Grease well and lightly flour one 10-inch round pan (or one 9-inch, not 8-inch, square pan).

2 In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, soda, salt and spices. Stir in the raisins and walnuts, separating the raisins. Add the applesauce, oil, and vanilla. Blend well. No electric mixer needed.

3 Pour into prepared pan. Bake at for about 35 minutes or until it tests done.

4 Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for an hour. 


12 August 2011

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Chocolate frozen yogurt made with cocoa couldn't be easier (dissolves just fine without heat), and it's soooo good! The addition of a little alcohol improves the texture of homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt, something about preventing ice crystals and keeping it from freezing quite so hard, but it's optional. I think the coffee liqueur adds another dimension to the chocolate flavor, but if you don't use alcoholic beverages just add a couple tablespoons of strongly brewed coffee instead.

Someday I would like to buy the Cuisinart ICE-50BC with the built-in compressor. I'm perfectly happy with the ICE-21, but the ICE-50BC would mean no mixing bowl to pre-freeze and no waiting between batches. Of course, it's a lot more expensive! Hmm ... maybe I'll stay with what I've got. I keep the bowl in the freezer at all times so it's always ready to go. And I could get a second bowl if I wanted to make more than one batch.

Homemade frozen yogurt is quickly becoming my summer comfort food! What's yours? If you haven't tried my Strawberry Frozen Yogurt yet, try it next, right after you make this one!

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

(Makes about 5 cups)

1 32-ounce container organic plain nonfat yogurt
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
2 tablespoons Kahlua or coffee liqueur, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Strain the yogurt (I used Straus Family Creamery) for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. You can use cheesecloth in a colander set over a bowl. I just happen to have found, way in the back on a very high shelf in my kitchen, a set of two 16-ounce yogurt strainers I didn't even know I had! Getting all that extra liquid out of the yogurt will keep your finished product from being too icy.

2 In medium bowl (I use 2-quart glass measure), whisk together sugar, cocoa and salt. Gradually whisk in milk, smoothing out any lumps.

3 Add strained yogurt and remaining ingredients; whisk until thoroughly mixed and sugar is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

4 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

5 Transfer the soft frozen yogurt to a freezer-safe airtight container and place in freezer for at least 2 hours. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

05 August 2011

Restaurant Review - Brunch at Culina at Four Seasons Los Angeles

"Roughing it" isn't my idea of travel. If I'm not going to be staying in a really nice place and dining well, I'd really rather stay home! On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of having brunch in Culina Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Didn't stay there though (maybe someday ... over the rainbow ... sigh), just spent a leisurely couple of hours in Culina, thanks to a gift certificate for Sunday Brunch for Two.

And what a brunch it was! I've never been a big buffet brunch kinda gal. I can't eat much at one sitting, so it's kind of wasted on me. And I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by all the choices and just get three things. But since this is no ordinary brunch buffet and it was going to be an opportunity to try many different dishes, I came up with a strategy. To sample many things without stuffing myself or wasting food--two things I hate--I would definitely need a plan! I decided a two-bite serving size would be about right.

Culina is famous for its crudo bar (an Italian take on the sushi bar), so I assumed raw fish would be on the menu. I don't eat raw fish or meat, so I could eliminate that entire category. Perhaps I would try up to three cooked fish dishes, three meats, three poultry, three pastas, one egg dish, nine vegetables and salads, three fruits, three desserts. Hmm ... 28 foods times two bites each equals 56 bites ... sounds like a normal meal.

Well, I wasn't counting on the dim sum station! Or the cheese station! As if I needed to even know about another wonderful high-fat cheese. Saint Andre is a soft, buttery cow's milk cheese made with extra heavy (triple) cream. Of course, there was an omelet station, Belgian waffles, bacon and sausages. The carving station had prime rib, lamb and pork.

I focused on the vegetables and salads (As you can tell from the photo, we couldn't be bothered to "compose" our plates!) and particularly enjoyed the heirloom eggplant, heirloom squash ... well, you get the idea. I steered clear of the breads because I'm a hopeless breadaholic, though I did allow myself one tiny piece of focaccia to go with the eggplant.

If I could offer one suggestion it would be to make the food labels/signs a bit larger with larger type. Nobody wants to have to put their reading glasses on to go through a buffet. Two things that really impressed me: Used plates and flatware were promptly removed and clean flatware set. And when I ordered my tea (which was very good, by the way), the server asked if I would like milk for it. I know, those seem such simple things, but they are often neglected. It's a pity they don't do afternoon tea; I'm sure they would do it well.