Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pie Sisters, Georgetown

I'm no longer in denial that my love of pie has recently been gaining on my love of cupcakes. Unsurprisingly, I think this is because I love them for the same reasons: portability, nostalgia, and virtually endless flavor combinations.

And when it comes to pie, I think nostaligia is the key; as Washingtonian dining editor Todd Kliman recently opined in his hilariously observant rant against the deconstructed pie trend, "Do you really want your confections to awaken an intellectual appreciation of what can be done with flour, sugar, and berries? Wouldn’t you rather make me swoon over every bite? Send me back to my childhood on sugary waves of nostalgia?"

And nostaliga is what you'll find in spades when you step into Pie Sisters, a new gourmet, pies-only bakery in Georgetown. Full of wood accents, candles, live music and pie, you can't help but want to stay and reminisce when the server at the counter ask, "Would you like a glass of milk with that?" I have to say, it pretty much takes an act of God to get me to go to Georgetown, but this heavenly pie is worth the trip.

Mmm...sugary waves of nostalgia...
Serving up whole pies and "cuppies" (pie served in a cupcake-shaped crust--it's like they know me!) Pie Sisters offers up all the traditional flavors as well as seasonal favorites and a savory option. If you're enjoying your pie in-house, take them up on the offer to have it heated. Trust me. Thinking they would simply stick my cuppies into the microwave, I was pleasantly surprised when they were popped into the convection oven and served piping hot. For a double scoop of nostalgia, you can also have it a la mode.

Though the cuppies are a little pricey, it's a great way to sample several flavors and not feel like you're eating the equivalent of an entire pie by yourself. For the next party when everyone expects you to show up with cupcakes, mix it up a little by ordering ahead and bringing a Pie Sisters pie instead. They even come in a glass dish so just say it's homemade...you don't have to elaborate exactly whose home it was made in ;)  I tried the Chocolate Pecan and Classic Apple on my trip and will definitely be back for more! 

If you go
Pie Sisters
3423 M St.
Washington DC, 20007

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chocolate and Cream Cheese Red Velvet Doughnuts

I know what you're thinking, "But no one likes the cake doughnuts!" It's true, like the kid always picked last for kickball, it seems as if the sad cake doughnut is always the last to go whenever someone brings in a box of doughnuts to the office. But anyone who says cake doughnuts are boring simply suffers from a lack of imagination. From cinnamon sugar, to powdered sugar, to glazes, frosting and nuts, cake doughnuts--like their cake brethren--are easily adapted to any topping combo your heart desires. I will admit that cake doughnuts usually fail because they're dense and quickly dry out, but because this recipe uses cake flour, these red velvet rings come out soft and fluffy, closer to a bite of cake than a true doughnut.

While I try to stay away from recipes that require special equipment, you will need a doughnut pan for this recipe. I was lucky enough to get one for Christmas but you can also buy them from most stores like Target, Michael's, Walmart, Sur La Table or directly from Wilton. So, while I think I'll have to try out a few more recipes to decide whether these fauxnuts are worth skipping an early morning run to the Krispy Kreme, at least I can say I've crossed off one of my 2012 Baking Resolutions! One down, three to go...

A couple of notes: As always with red velvet, be sure to add PLENTY of food coloring. You could use a pastry bad to pipe the batter into your doughnut pan, but I found a spoon to be just as easy and less mess. The chocolate glaze I used calls for a tablespoon of *gasp* corn syrup--if you're on the super-anti-corn-syrup bandwagon you could easily use ganache instead by melting chocolate into heated cream.  The following glaze recipes make enough for all 10 doughnuts so halve the recipe if you plan to use both...or just make double the doughnuts :)

Red Velvet Cake Doughnuts
     from How Sweet It Is, makes 10 doughnuts
1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk + 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking powder, then mix with a spoon. Add in buttermilk and egg, mixing to combine. Stir in butter.

3. In a small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar together, then add in vanilla. Add the mixture to the doughnut batter, then stir in red food coloring.

4. Fill each doughnut mold 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 7-8 minutes, then let cool for 5 minutes before removing.

Whipped Cream Cheese Glaze
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4-5 tablespoons heavy cream, or more depending on texture

In a bowl, whisk cream cheese vigorously until it smoothes out. Add in sugar, vanilla and cream one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. This glaze will be a bit thicker (almost like a thin frosting), so add more or less cream depending on your desired consistency.

Chocolate Glaze
1/4 Semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 tablespoon hot water

Combine chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 1 minute. Stir until completely melted, then add 1 tablespoon hot water or more depending on desired consistency.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

White Chocolate Nutella Raspberry Bread Pudding

I know it may be Superbowl Sunday, but February 5th also happens to be World Nutella Day--a celebration that is a least as important in my book.

Nutella isn't as prevalent in the U.S. as it is overseas, but it's definitely starting to catch on, and once you've had a taste I promise you'll be scouring the shelves of your local grocery store for a jar to take home.  If you've never had the pleasure of tasting Nutella and wondered if you're missing out on something, the answer is yes. Sorry. With the consistency of peanut butter, but made from chocolate and hazelnut, Nutella is the perfect compliment to everything from fruit, to ice cream, to plain old toast.  And with no artificial colors or preservatives, it's arguably better for you than some of the other things you might be having with your breakfast.

Nutella holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of noshing on warm Nutella crepes on the street corners of Paris, and I also have a weakness for anything hazelnut, so I may be just slightly biased. but seriously, try it. You can thank me next year when you're celebrating World Nutella Day :)

P.S. Guys, Valentine's Day is coming up and this is super easy to make, just saying...

A couple of notes: 1) This recipe calls for Brioche but I used Challah--any dense bread you can find will work. 2) The recipe below also calls for "tempering," this just means once the liquids have been heated, to add a little bit to the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl before combining all of it back into the cream mixture.  This simply heats the egg yolks a little bit to keep them from scrambling when you add them to the hot liquid.

White Chocolate Nutella Raspberry Bread Pudding
     adapted from Todd English for HSN

1/2 loaf brioche cut into 1/2" cubes
6 oz. raspberries
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean scraped
6 oz. white chocolate
3 oz. Nutella
4 egg yolks
2 oz. sugar

Nutella Cream Sauce
4 oz. heavy cream
4 oz. Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place half of bread cubes into a 9x13 baking dish (or 9x9 for a denser pudding). Sprinkle over 6 oz. raspberries. Top with remaining bread cubes.

2. Heat milk, cream and vanilla in a pan over medium heat until just warm.  Temper hot liquids into the egg yolks and sugar then pour into the warm cream mixture.

3. Whisk Nutella and white chocolate into the cream mixture until melted, pour over bread cubes and raspberries. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat remaining cream and whisk in Nutella until melted. Pour sauce over finished pudding.