Sunday, January 26, 2014

Warm Puff Pastry on a Snowday in the Cold, Cold Chill of the Ohio Countryside

Guest post by Renee Ergazos, 

I am not sure which description fits Renee better: musicologist or foodologist.  Renee and her husband, Mark (an accomplished artist, guitar maker and sculptor), live out in the country with their two girls, both friends with our daughter.  It is commonplace to call their place and get from Renee the latest; which includes an overview of some wild recipe she just tried --- an ancient liqueur made of some herb or fruit that only grows on their property and takes nine days to make --- and the music she and Mark and the kids are jamming to, such as some hard-to-find Melvins bootleg.

Liqueurs aside, Renee also does some great cooking. Here is one for those crazy about pastry!  


Apricot Pastries
The snow is up to our doorway, the hawks have come out of the woods to boldly perch and hunt directly above our bird feeder, and the state route we live on is deserted except for the plows, snowmobiles, and the occasional ambulance.

I am tolerating this weather by relishing in the freedom of no deadlines, no social obligations, a basement stocked with wine and liqueurs, and enjoying the time to bake.

Mark and the girls have been holding a Kings-in-the-Corner tournament and we have been trying to share the iPod nicely as a family. My baking soundtrack usually includes Zappa's "Muffin Man" and some early Bowie.

I had a few fresh apricots on hand and I always keep puff pastry sheets (Pepperidge Farm) in the freezer.  Puff pastry is so versatile, convenient, available everywhere. 


1. Thaw the puff pastry sheet for about an hour on the counter, draped in a clean cloth.
2. Quarter apricots and lightly saute over medium heat in approx a teaspoon of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar for a few minutes.
3. Place pastry sheet on lightly floured surface, lightly give a few rolls with a rolling pin, cut into 6-8 squares, or a use a biscuit cutter.
4. Brush pastry with beaten egg, place approx a teaspoon of the apricot jelly and then an apricot slice or two on the jelly. I used Trader Joes low sugar apricot jelly for these pastries.
5. Fold in any shape you wish. Brush all folded over areas with egg also.
6. Bake on parchment or a Silpad on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven, middle rack, for approx 20 minutes, til top of pastries are golden brown. Some jelly will flow out during cooking, you can crack the burnt sugars off the pastry or eat them like delicious bitter caramel (I stir it into coffee).

7. This recipe should be considered more of a guideline or inspiration as it can adapted to almost any berry or stone fruit used with many types of jelly (raspberry jelly with apple slices is a great pairing).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Twelve Days of Fruitcake

Hello everyone!

Here is another post by Chris Edmonson.

Poor fruitcake.  America has wrecked its reputation.  Once the original wedding cake recipe and still very popular in Europe, it became a joke in 20th century culture.  Not that it doesn’t deserve it, because in fact I’ve had some terrible ones.  

But, my friends, once you’ve had English fruitcake, you will see the light.  And it was with this revelation that I knew it wasn’t the fruitcake’s fault, it was the substandard ingredients and America’s infatuation with sugar that made it so awful.  It is my quest to make one that my family looks forward to eating at Christmas.

My friend Marsha lived in Britain some years ago, and it was with her recipe from a British friend that we began our FP (fruitcake project) about seven years ago.

To begin, we double the recipe to produce two cakes, varying the type of fruit and nuts over the years, changing the booze for a better flavor booster, and generally muck about with whatever ingredients the season makes available in our supermarkets.  Our 5.5 pounds of dried/glacee fruits and nuts include raisins, currants, cherries, lemon and orange rind, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and ginger.  Some years we add mango or apricots.  

The first years we experimented with light and dark rums, switching the brands and decided that we liked scotch whiskey better than rum.  Brought up on cheap scotch, it was a new world for me to find a decent bottle under $20.00 that we could split to bathe our cakes from early November to Christmas Eve. 

Each year we have a different result -- each seem a marked improvement.  At least people tell me that they like it, but they could  be lying for all I know.

But there is one big problem for me – I HATE the red and green cherries, the tasteless, gooey  fruit that scream corn syrup.  One year we left them out --  alas, it didn’t help.  I missed the cherries, but I still HATED them. “This doesn’t make any sense” said my husband, shaking his head.  

November 2013 arrives and I shake out the batter-splattered recipe, determined to find a better way.  It is, I realize now, the poor offerings in our stores.  You may recall the tin of Lyle’s black treacle I lugged home from Shropshire --  I set it on the table and stare at the beautiful red tin.  

My eureka moment arrives: there must be real, “home glazed” fruit out there on the intertubes. And there is! website is the ticket.  Colorful, fun, amazing reviews of the huge array of nuts and fruits of all kinds from a family company in Newark, NJ.  In three generations, Grandpa’s shop is today’s Food Channel success! 

 I am convinced that, along with magic of black treacle, will bring honest-to-goodness happiness. I order eight pounds of fruit, including glazed red cherries “so good one can eat them out of the bag.”

The fruit arrives in two days, in a box so hilarious that I laugh out loud.  Inside is fruity goodness in amazing packaging.  
So follow the photos to see our happy baking day.  

Our nuts this year are toasted hazelnuts and pecans;  the fruit includes currants, glazed cherries, candied citron, orange peel, and ginger.  The black treacle made all the difference in the world. 

We are willing to share the recipe with anyone brave enough to bake it for 2014.

The photo I don’t have is one of slices of cake, showing the beautiful interior, served with a cup of tea or eggnog, which is how it MUST be consumed.

Happy New Year, 2014!  Eat well, and love one another.