Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pie Workshop, Wednesday Nov 7

Writing after the fact, last evening's Pie Workshop was great fun.  Nine students made 6 beef & veggie pies, 5 berry-berry pies, and 4 veggie & cheese quiches.  They played with creative crust designs, baked pies and took them home.  We couldn't bake them all, in spite of running the workshop more than 30 minutes longer, so students brought some of the pies home unbaked, destined either for a late evening bake-off, or a freezer stay.
I am amused to report that by the time I had made a crust for one of my own pie plates, all the fillings had been made into pies (bravo!), so I brought my crust dough home, whipped a bag of frozen apple pie filling out, thawed it in a warm water bath, and pulled a nice pie from the oven before 11 pm.
Just to re-cap simple instructions for pie:
2 cups flour + 1 tsp salt;
1/2 cup oil + 1/4 cup milk + 2 tsp water (H2O is an "altitude adjustment", approx 1 tsp / 4k.ft +);
pour liquids into dry ingredients, mix quickly with a fork until flour is absorbed - use hands to finish mixing.
shape dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger for the bottom crust.
roll larger ball between two sheets of waxed paper or parchment until it is circular, and larger in diameter than your pie plate by 3 inches.  remove top sheet of paper, flip crust into pie plate and shape, leaving even excess around all the edges, then remove bottom sheet of waxed paper.  set aside.
roll smaller ball the same way, though diameter can be just 1 1/2" larger than pie plate.
pour filling evenly into pie plate, spreading to minimize gaps, and filling just to the level you are confident will avoid oven spillover when the filling cooks.
remove top sheet of paper from top crust and flip onto pie, centering so that edge overlap is balanced all around the pie.  remove bottom sheet of paper and press edges of both crusts together, shaping as desired into finished pie. alternatively, top crust may be cut into strips or other shapes and used to decorate the pie any way you like.
Filling, Fruit:
3 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen berries per 9" pie, or 5 cups per deep-dish 9", or shallow 11" pie;
1/4 cup max of brown sugar per cup of fruit - I usually cut this in half, but not last night!
Lime zest and juice from one lime per pie
1 Tbs Corn starch and/or Tapioca per cup of fruit.
Filling, Beef & Veggie:
saute' garlic, onions, ground beef and chopped veggies in oil with salt and spices to taste (last evening we used Herbs de Provence, alder-smoked sea salt, and smoky Turkish pepper or "Urfa Biber"), anything you like.
measure volume of filling mixture, and make gravy using liquid from sauteing meat & veggies, plus pre-made beef broth, totaling 1/4 cup of liquid per cup of filling.  measure 2 tsp of corn starch per cup of pie filling, and mix with a small amount of the cold broth, until a thin, smooth paste is formed, then mix with all the broth in a saucepan, and stir while heating, until gravy thickens.  mix gravy with beef and veggies, ready to make into pies.  taste and adjust spices to suit.
Filling, Quiche:
saute garlic, onions, mushrooms and peppers in oil with desired spices, them mix 1 1/2 cups of this with 8 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup of cheese.  add diced fresh tomato or other veggies not pre-cooked as desired.  pour filling into pie plate with lower crust only, and decorate top of egg mixture with sun-dried tomatoes, diced scallions, cheese or whatever suits your fancy.

bake pies in oven at 375°F for between 45 and 60 minutes.  when you have more than one pie in the oven, baking times may need to increase.  judge finished pie by the brown-ness of the crust edge.  with practice you can detect a perfectly finished pie, just with your sense of smell.

It's easy to find pie recipes on the internet, which you can follow verbatim, or use for inspiration for experimentation.  One thing for certain, your family and friends will enjoy your pie adventures, even if you do make a mess of the kitchen.

Happy Holidays and Happy Pies!
Michael Thompson

MT-RecipeCalc spreadsheet for great vegetarian foods

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Artisan Bread Class at Rock Bottom Ranch, Oct. 24, 2012

My second Artisan Bread Class was attended by 12 students on Wednesday evening, Oct 24.  We succeeded with everyone mixing dough, shaping loaves, and baking them.  We reviewed the creation and maintenance of bread cultures.  To recap:
Bread Culture may be started from an existing culture, from airborne yeast microbes (by leaving a mixture of flour and water exposed to the air for about 3 - 5 days), or from yeast cultures such as dry bread yeast, or beer yeast left in the bottom of a bottle of homebrew.  Bread culture is fed with flour and water, in an approximate proportion of 2-3 : 1.
Sweet Culture may be started from an existing culture, from airborne yeast microbes, or from commercial yeast.  Sweet Culture is fed with flour, milk (cow, soy or nut milks), and sugar, in an approximate proportion of 2-3 : 1.0 : 0.5.
When using cultures often, you can keep them fairly "thin", but when you are going away for a week or two, feed the culture with more flour, making it "thick", so the culture has plenty of food to keep it healthy.
The oatmeal mix I use to add moisture and texture to bread and pancakes is made from one cup "Bob's Red Mill Ten-Grain Cereal", one cup "Steel Cut Oats", five cups water, and one teaspoon of salt, brought to a boil, then simmered while stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens to desired consistency, then covered with the heat off until cooled.
Here are links to my recipes for the Sweet Culture:
Sourdough Oatmeal Pancakes
Sourdough Oatmeal Coffee Cake

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Canning Workshop - Saturday Oct 6, 2012

ACES Rock Bottom Ranch Managers Caitlin Bourassa and Peter Arthur are hosting a Canning Workshop from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. You may sign up by calling 970.927.6760, or registering Online.For a preview of the recipes, download my RecipeCalc file for the full scoop on the ingredients and instructions we will follow, for Pickled Red Beets, Lemon-Ginger Marmalade, and Peach Salsa  (Apple-Pear Sauce will replace salsa, due to market conditions).
As a student, you'll need to bring a cutting board, paring knife, an apron and a pair of rubber gloves, if you want to handle the hot stuff.  We'll provide all the ingredients, tools and guidance required to complete three projects and send you home with a jar of each, including labels.
What Fun!  Hope to see You there!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sourdough Bread

Tom Baker, owner of Loaf, a small artisan bakery in Birmingham England, tells us how it's done!

The Starter from Old Dead Eye on Vimeo.
Tom Baker's "Loaf" Cooking School and Community Bakery in Birmingham, England:

Friday, July 20, 2012

PIE BAKING CLASS at Rock Bottom Ranch, August 23

What’s a young Dad to do, with two daughters at home and a wife who travels for work?  Learn to cook, of course!
Michael Thompson learned the art of pie baking from his wife Jan, when she was traveling, their preschool daughters wanted Mom’s pie, and would settle for nothing less. With a late night overseas phone call, Dad got the job done, and has enjoyed the art of pie baking ever since.  Their daughters are now grown and on their own, and are also accomplished pie bakers.
Jan’s pie crust recipe is simple, easy to make, and delicious.  It can be adjusted to be partly whole wheat, and it works very well for savory and sweet pies.  Michael, who taught a sourdough bread class at Rock Bottom Ranch in February 2012, is returning to share this art with you.  Here’s how the class will run:
Students will bring one or two pie plates to class (glass, tin or foil, any size), along with a roller (straight-sided wine bottle will do) and a bowl or two of filling, which can be savory or sweet.  Feel free to be creative, or follow one of MT's recipes:
Meat & Veggie Pie:
For a standard 9" pie plate:  1/2 pound ground beef , 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 onion, 1 red beet, 2 carrots, 2 cups chopped greens, 1 cup broth, 3 Tbs corn starch, salt, pepper, spices to taste.  Saute ground beef in pan with a few drops of olive oil, stirring until lightly browned and finely grained, remove, drain and set aside.  Finely dice garlic and saute in olive oil, add chopped onion, peeled and chopped beets and carrots, and saute until onions are clear.  Add chopped greens, salt, pepper and other spices, lower heat, and mix in corn starch and half of the broth, and stir until mixture begins to thicken.  Taste and adjust spices as desired.  Continue stirring while slowly adding remaining broth, then stir until mixture begins to boil, then turn off heat, cover and let cool.  Bring to class with pie plates and roller, ready to make pie.
Fruit Pie:
For a standard 9" pie plate: 3 cups fruit*, 2Tbs lemon or lime juice, spices, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, thickener**:
*Apple:  6 - 7 medium apples cored and chopped, citrus juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, **3 Tbs corn starch;
*Peach:  8 - 10 peaches, citrus juice, brown sugar, 1/4 tsp almond or vanilla extract, **3 Tbs tapioca;
*Cherry:  3 cups pitted fresh cherries, cut in half, citrus juice, brown sugar,  1/4 tsp vanilla extract,  , **3 Tbs corn starch, tapioca or arrowroot powder;
*Strawberry/Rhubarb:  3 cups chopped fresh strawberries and rhubarb stalks (3:1), citrus juice, 1 cup brown sugar,  1/4 tsp vanilla extract,  , **3 Tbs corn starch, tapioca or arrowroot powder;
During the class, we will discuss the various thickeners used in pies, which are best for what kinds of pie, and how to make various different crusts.  Students will go home with the pie(s) they made, ready to bake at home, or freeze for baking later.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bread Baking Workshop!

Workshop Students hard at work!
It was great fun having the bread baking workshop, and I hope everyone is enjoying their new skills.  Check out the next baking day at the Carbondale Community Oven, Saturday March 10, oven fired and ready by 1:00 pm, behind the Third Street Center!
Dylan's home bread baked
Batch #1 out of the oven

"Sweet Bread Culture" for:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Food Movies!

I have sent to Mary, Gloria and Eileen these two films about the food we eat, how and why to improve the sources of food we use.  I hope your three families will view them soon, and pass them along to Kathleen, John and Daniel, and they will share them with Mom and Ann.  Here are trailers for the films:
So NOW WHAT?  Am I suggesting that we all abandon eating meat, and make everyone eat only organic produce?  No!  I'm still eating meat and fish, but in far lower quantities, and trying more vegetarian recipes.  My good friend Sam Gordon, after having heart bypass surgery in his 40's, has long been practicing this diet of meat moderation and healthy plants, and he has shared a few recipes with me.  I have added a few more, and put them all into a spreadsheet (each recipe on a different tab along the bottom), which you can download by clicking this link:
Our favorites are the Hummus (both garbanzo and fava bean, which we call bean pate'), the Baba Ganoush and the Schoog, all middle eastern dishes that are very nutritious.
One final video, Food Network Chef Alton Brown (my favorite food geek) on the many ways to cook with Garbanzo Beans, and the history of this nutritious legume.
Love, Michael