Rough Puff Nutella Pear Pie

So, have you heard of “rough puff” pastry? Sometimes it’s called “blitz” pastry? I hadn’t! I’ve made normal puff pastry before but didn’t realize there was a shortcut version.

It all started when I had this amazing apple pie at one of my fave cafes here in Chicago, Third Coast Cafe and Wine Bar.

Awesome apple pie a la mode at Third Coast Cafe and Wine Bar in Chicago

Awesome apple pie a la mode at Third Coast Cafe and Wine Bar in Chicago

The crust is just delicious. It’s not a normal pie crust as far as I can tell. But it’s not really a puff pastry, either. It seemed like just a puffier pie crust. So I googled “puffy pie crust” and discovered this whole other world of pastry called rough puff. Rough puff is quicker and less puffy than puff pastry. It wasn’t THAT MUCH quicker to make than the normal kind. But I like it better, so there’s that.

ANYHOW, I think maybe it’s more a European-ish thing because a lot of the recipes I found online were written in European measurements. Seeing as how the metric system never really caught on here, I searched around for one I could read. There were a few but ultimately I just made up my own. I got the gist of puff pastry years ago when I made the real kind from The Joy Of Cooking (one of the only times I read the “about” section) so I felt comfortable doing my own thing here. Basically puff pastry gets puffy because you make lots of layers of flour and butter- you roll it and then fold it, and roll it and fold it a million times to create these invisible flaky layers that magically puff up when they’re cooked. Something about water or steam or something makes that happen, I’m not really sure, I’m not a physicist. So, anyway, this is really easy to make, it just takes some time- really it’s just a lot of waiting for the dough to chill again after rolling it each time. You can figure out how to entertain yourself while waiting. I don’t know, maybe by harassing your cats or watching a marathon of that new Charlie Sheen show. But seriously, don’t buy that frozen brand name crap anymore. It’s yukky with weird ingredients. Make this instead.

You’ll need the following:

A big bowl, preferably metal, that you’ve chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes or so.

A pastry cutter or a couple of knives. Usually when I make doughs I use my fingers but I think it’s pretty important not to get the dough warm at all here so use something metal to cut the butter into the flour.

A rolling pin, wine bottle, or some other creative item you’ve repurposed to roll out the dough.

A place to roll out the dough. It’s not going to get super huge but you’ll need a space that’s at least 20×12. If you have a marble pastry board, that’s just dandy, otherwise a kitchen counter or table will work. I miss my marble pastry board.

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup of very cold butter. Some recipes even recommend freezing it and then grating it into the recipe. I didn’t  do that. Mine was just cold from the fridge. The butter is important here so get the good expensive kind. I’m sure some of you have access to locally grown, pasture raised, manually churned, artisan $20 butter so go ahead and use that. The rest of you can just get the mass marketed Irish one.

5 or 6 TBS ice water (since it’s winter, the water that came out of my tap was pretty darned cold so I just used that).

Sift together the flour and salt into the bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces then toss it into the flour and use the knives to cut it in. It should not be fully incorporated. Do it fast so it (a) doesn’t get warm, and (b) so it doesn’t get too worked over which will cause it to get sort of tough.

Use the knives to cut the butter into the flour. This is about how it should look when you're done.

Use the knives to cut the butter into the flour. This is about how it should look when you're done. I probably should have made some of the butter pieces a little smaller now that I'm looking at it.

Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over flour mixture and gently stir it with a fork until the water is incorporated.

Test the dough by squeezing a small handful together. It should stay together without crumbling. If it seems too crumbly, add another tablespoon of water, stirring with the fork until it’s just incorporated. I did have to use 6 TBS myself.  Ultimately it should hold together without crumbling, but also without being at all sticky or wet.

Gather the whole thing together and form it into an approximate 5-inch square, wrap it  in plastic wrap, then chill it until firm, about 30 minutes. It will look lumpy and streaked with butter. Like mine.

Streaky, lumpy, ready to chill rough puff pastry dough.

Streaky, lumpy, ready to chill rough puff pastry dough.

Go watch Charlie Sheen.

Once the dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin (or your implement of choice) into a 15- by- 8-inch rectangle. Put the dough with the short side nearest you, then fold it into thirds like a letter: bottom third up and top third down over dough. If you want to be all Martha Stewart about it and make it perfect you can. Or you can do it all irregular like me.

Rollin' rollin' rollin', pastry dough!

Rollin' rollin' rollin', pastry dough!

Fold it like a letter. A letter. LOL.

Fold it like a letter. A letter. LOL.

Rewrap the dough and chill it another 30 minutes.

After that chilling, do the same thing with the rolling, folding and chilling at least 2 more times. The more times you do it, the more puffy it will be. Do it like 10 times and you’ll have regular puff pastry.

The last time you’ve done it, when you’re sick of doing it, and want to make the pie already, just chill it an hour. You can also keep this dough chillin’ in the fri-age for a couple days if you don’t want to use it right away. Once you’re ready, just roll it out to the shape of whatever you’re going to make. You’re really supposed to chill it AGAIN at this point but I had had just about enough of Mr. Sheen and wanted to get on with it so I didn’t.

This rough puff exercise was mainly so I could unlock the mystery of the Third Coast Cafe and Wine Bar pie crust (God forbid I just ask them). I hadn’t really taken it as far as to firmly decide what I was going to do with the dough till it was made. I didn’t have any apples, but I did have some pears and some Nutella. That sounded like a good combo. I used a pie pan even tho it’s not really going to be a pie per se, because that’s the only pan I have.  I peeled and sliced 4 pears and tossed them in a little lemon juice. Then I rolled out the dough, spread some Nutella on the bottom, topped it with the pears, and folded the dough sort of around and over it for a “rustic” pie. I sprinkled some sugar over the top of the dough because the Third Coast pie seems to have some sort of sugery topping on it. But doh, I also messily got some sugar on the pie plate. Don’t do this. Be less messy. The sugar melts and burns and gets all unpleasant on the pie plate.

I spread some Nutella on the bottom of the pie.

I spread some Nutella on the bottom of the pie.

Then I topped it with some pears.

Then I topped it with some pears.

Then folded and wrapped it. Not handling it too much or it would get tough!

Then folded and wrapped it. Not handling it too much or it would get tough!

 

I baked it at 375 for about 40 minutes, checking it often.

Rough Puff Nutella Pear Pie

Rough Puff Nutella Pear Pie

I thought it would be really good warm from the oven so we had some with vanilla ice cream. It was good, but not as good as I had hoped.

So I covered it with foil and left it on the counter overnight.

It was MUCH better this morning. At room temperature. For breakfast. Really delicious.

A slice of rough puff Nutella pear pie

A slice of rough puff Nutella pear pie

So, this was really good and all, but it’s still not the crust from the pie I was searching for. The quest continues.

Mashed winter squash

Orange squashes are supposedly a superfood so I want to eat more of them. I like mashed things and of course anything that has butter and sugar in it, so I found this recipe in The Joy Of Cooking for mashed winter squash. Like the chicken I made before, it’s sort of a no-brainer and doesn’t really need a recipe, but who knows, maybe I’ll learn something new about squash.

Joy calls for whole winter squash that’s been cut up and skin left on- I bought it already cut up and skinned because I am lazy. And because I thought that’s all Trader Joe’s had—when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that they had the whole ones, I quietly snuck away and didn’t look (I’m sure it’s like 10 times cheaper in whole form). It’s hard to cut up butternut squash (I do not recommend it) so it’s better if I just pretend they don’t have it!

Pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe's

Pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe's

Now, to make pureed or mashed squash normally I would boil it. But no, Joy calls for baking it at 375 degrees. Sort of…with water. So, like steaming it in the oven? I dunno, but I did it anyway. I was supposed to put the cut-up squash onto a rimmed baking sheet then add 1/4 inch of water and cover with foil. First of all that sounds messy and easy to spill—seriously, 1/4 inch of water on a rimmed baking sheet is practically to the top! And second, I don’t have a rimmed baking sheet. So I used a pie pan. The squash fit perfectly in the pie pan! And the 1/4 inch of water was not anywhere near the top, so no spillage risk.

Joy says that “if desired” halfway through cooking you can brush some butter and sprinkle some brown sugar and nutmeg (or another spice) on it. Well, OF COURSE I “desire” to do this, but since I’m going to be mashing it with butter and brown sugar later, I’ll just leave it alone for now. I wonder if doing that halfway through would add some depth to the flavor. Or if it would just caramelize and get weird and lumpy when mashing later. I dunno, maybe next time I’ll try it. It took about 40 minutes to get to the tender point.

Wow, so this recipe calls for lots of things! Some are optional. Here’s what I opted to use. Since my kitchen is SO SMALL you also get to see things that aren’t in the recipe but are in the kitchen. Like onions. And bananas.

All the stuff needed to make delicious mashed squash.

All the stuff needed to make delicious mashed squash.

I bet you’re curious now, huh? What is all that stuff? You’ll see.

Ok so Joy says to mash the squash with a fork or masher. Then, for every cup of squash mix in 1 TBS butter, 1 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup (I used brown sugar), 1/4th tsp salt, 1/8th tsp ground ginger, 1/8th tsp ground cinnamon (optional). Then you’re supposed to beat it well with  warm heavy cream or orange juice (doesn’t say how much but just to make a soft, smooth puree, also I am going to use a little of both). Then serve it sprinkled with (optional) raisins or chopped nuts. Raisins OR chopped nuts? As if those are interchangeable. Gross. Raisins. I don’t have any chopped nuts laying around, so no on those.  Also optional topping: 1/4 cup well drained crushed pineapple. I have fresh pineapple here! So, what the heck. Let. Us. Do. This. Thing.

All the ingredients, ready to mix.

All the ingredients, ready to mix.

I used a hand mixer to puree the squash. It came out tasty but a strange texture. Not smooth. Not sure if I didn’t cook it long enough or what. I pureed it for like ever and the texture never got any better. Also, it was a bit on the thin side. I probably used too much juice/cream. But the flavor was really good. The pineapple was good, made it sort of festive. It wouldn’t lose much without it, tho. Then again, whenever you can get extra fruit into your diet, you should. Spices like cinnamon and ginger, too for that matter.

Festive pineapple topping.

Festive pineapple topping.

Served with leftover chicken and some green beans.

Served with leftover chicken and some green beans.

 

How I made a roast chicken this time

I don’t remember when I first started making roast chicken but I wasn’t like a teenager or anything. I doubt I was even in college.  It always seemed intimidating and whole chickens are sort of scary and weird. But eventually I started making them and they are, of course, really easy. They’re what I make when I am feeling exceptionally lazy. I usually just rub some butter, or drizzle some olive oil (when I’m feeling even too lazy to get my hands dirty), some salt and pepper on a whole chicken, plop it in a 400 degree oven for an hour or so and call it good. It IS good, I don’t just call it that.

But part of my “new years resolutions” was going to be to “cook everything from The Joy Of Cooking!” LOL. I had a plan to discuss how good the book is (it really is!) and how bloggers don’t get into the why’s and how’s and all that as well as this ancient text does (which is also totally true- later I’ll tell you about my revelation about crepes). But, I am just not a commiter. I don’t commit long term to anything ever. To cook everything from Joy Of Cooking, or even to only cook from it is hideously limiting. Plus it’s already being done.

ANYWAY, I thought, well, if I’m not going to cook everything from Joy, maybe I’ll cook a few things from it. Starting with roast chicken. Why I felt the need to reinvent the wheel on that, I don’t really know. It was sort of half baked I guess. Ha, half baked. Get it? Ya.

So, here’s how I did it:

Joy Of Cooking said to use 3/4 tsp dried thyme, some lemon zest (I didn’t have any zest), garlic, crushed red pepper flakes (smoked paprika sounded better to me! Take that, Rombauer), and salt. Whatevs.

I took some dried thyme (about a tsp), some smoked paprika (maybe a TPS or so?- I don’t know, I didn’t measure it, if you want to do this I’m sure you can figure it out!), and two cloves of garlic, pressed. Put them in a bowl, then swirled in about 4 swirls of olive oil.

Joy Of Cooking did not say to mix olive oil into this mixture. Ooops.

Joy Of Cooking said to preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Apparently we’re going to turn it down later for some reason. There’s a whole section “About Roasting Poultry” that I was supposed to have read before embarking on this recipe, and that probably explains why, but I didn’t read it so don’t know (didn’t I just say I liked the book because of all the explanations? I guess I just like having the option to educate myself more than the actual education).

The spice mixture, along with a bottle of cheap red wine, and the whole chicken. The wine does not get used in this recipe, at least not on the chicken..

The spice mixture, along with a bottle of cheap red wine, and the whole chicken. The wine does not get used in this recipe, at least not on the chicken.

I accidentally stepped in front of the light and got this shot- ooooh ominous.

I accidentally stepped in front of the light and got this shot- ooooh ominous shadows

Ok, back to the recipe. Here's the mixture with the olive oil added to it.

Ok, back to the recipe. Here's the mixture with the olive oil added to it.

The mixture was supposed to be carefully put under the skin of the chicken. Fine. Well, ok, I sorta did that. But the olive oil made it tricky to do. I did manage to loosen the skin and spoon some of the mixture under the main part of the chicken. But then it occurred to me that I should do the legs, too. That seemed overly tedious and too hard to do- the legs are small and I wasn’t sure how I’d separate the skin without tearing it. Plus now the whole thing started to seem like just too much! So I just poured the rest of the mixture over the chicken and brushed it all on there really well. Of course the spices are probably going to cause it to burn. It might not be pretty but it will be tasty (I know this because I’ve done it before). Then I got on a chair to take the battery out of the smoke detector. Don’t do this, it’s dangerous! Oh, hey, the battery is already out of the smoke detector. So ANYHOW, here’s the chicken ready for the oven.

The chicken ready to be roasted.

The chicken ready to be roasted.

See that pretty red Le Creuset? My brother got it for me for Christmas one year. It had a pretty lid and the whole thing was just so darn pretty I could never bring myself to use it. Then in one of our many moves, the lid broke and from then on I felt perfectly fine using it and getting it all gunked up with burnt on chicken, etc. I don’t think it’s technically a roasting pan but it works great.

Ok, so I think the oven is sufficiently preheated so I put the chicken in (middle rack, of course), and turned down the heat to 350. How I’ll get a decent roast chicken at 350 is a mystery to me, but we’ll see.

At this point I had to stop and take a picture of my ridiculously cute cats.

Gus and Cookie Puss

Gus and Cookie Puss

OK! The chicken is done! How do I know? Why, I have an instant read thermometer, that’s how. This is something you must have- it’s the only way to tell if your chicken is cooked. When you stab it in the middle part and it reaches 160 degrees, it’s done (Joy of Cooking says 180 in the thigh- I’ve always done 160 in the middle and it’s always been perfectly done).  It took about an hour and 15 minutes. And hey! It wasn’t burnt! The skin wasn’t as crispy as when I cook it at 400 but it was still tasty.

When the chicken reaches 160 degrees it's done.

When the chicken reaches 160 degrees it's done.

Then I usually let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Joy makes no mention of resting (unless it’s in that “About” section). But everyone knows you have to let it rest!!

Yum! I put a little of the pan drippings over it. I may go back to the regular way of doing it, but the smoked paprika was a nice addition, so maybe I’ll figure out a way of adding it without burning the skin.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Five Things I Did…in the last two days

1. Went to the RV and Motorhome Hall Of Fame in Elkhart, IN.

2. Found a vintage ad for our trailer model.

3. Ate a delicious meal at White Palace Grill in Chicago.

4. Took pictures of Cookie Puss

5. Took a picture of Cookie Puss and Gus snuggling.