Archive for November, 2010

November 21, 2010

Gluten -free Pumpkin Cheesecake

This year I am going to my grandparents for Thanksgiving. My grandma has a gluten allergy so I wanted to make something she could also enjoy. Gluten is in so many things so making something is challenging. If you have read an Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen you’d know that corn is in things you would never have imagined. Wheat is another item that is in many things we eat. And if it is not specifically included in the food, it could have been processed in a plant that also processes wheat items – thus contamination! Oh the dilemmas of the commercial food industry! (another topic) However, all of that made me extremely conscious of the ingredients and brands I used (and I checked with my grandma on the ingredient list as well, which if you are not a person who is well versed in gluten free cooking, and you are cooking for someone with an allergy do give them your ingredient list with the specific brands you used so they can make sure it is all ok). You can also email the companies and ask about the gluten content of their products.

For this recipe I used my Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe of which the cheesecake filling was already gluten free without alteration. NOTE: some cheesecake recipes call for flour – I never use flour in mine, but that is a gluten no, no (if you didn’t already know). The only thing I had to alter was the crust, I used Trader Joe’s gluten free gingersnaps for this recipe. There are gluten free graham crackers and other cookies out there as well. I use McCormick spices, which I remembered my grandma told me that she contacted McCormick and confirmed no gluten was contained in their spices.  The sound of gingersnaps with the pumpkin sounded very holiday-like and boy was it fantastic. (I substituted half in half for the heavy cream, and Greek yogurt for sour cream. Those substitutions made a slight difference. I realized at the last minute that I didn’t have enough heavy cream and that my sour cream had dip in it instead of sour cream).

2 c ground Trader Joes Gluten Free Gingersnaps
2T. brown sugar (or granulated) C&H
5T. melted butter

IN a food processor, process the gingersnaps until they are a fine crumb. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and press into the bottom of a spring form pan or a deep pie dish. Bake @ 375 degrees for 7 minutes or so.

3- 8oz. pkgs cream cheese (Philadelphia) (softened)
3/4c granulated sugar (C&H)
1T vanilla (Spice Island)
5 eggs
1/8 cup heavy cream

BEAT cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and make sure the egg is incorporated well before adding the next egg. Beat in whipping cream.

15 oz can pumpkin puree (Libbys)
¼ t. ground ginger (McCormick)
1 ½ t ground cinnamon (McCormick)
¼ t. ground nutmeg (McCormick)
¼ t. ground cloves (McCormick)
1/8 c. sour cream

Whisk the pumpkin mixture together, then fold into cheesecake filling.

BAKE cheesecake at 300-degrees for 1 hour and 5-10 min (or until middle set). I allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven, with the oven off and the door propped open. This helps prevent all those cracks and craters you can get in your cheesecakes when the hot cheesecake hits the cool air outside the oven. I read that slowly cooling a cheesecake can prevent some of that cracking and so far it appears to work for me. Cooking the cheesecake at 300 instead of 325 cooks it slower and more gentle. I have used water baths which makes the cheese cake creamier and without a water bath the cheese cake gets more dry with a crumblier texture – this is all about what you prefer.

November 14, 2010

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is from I did not alter the recipe except I used a different pie crust recipe. Today I have been working on Thanksgiving and deciding what desserts I will be making. There is another (but very time consuming) recipe on my “to try list,”  it is a three layered pumpkin custard, whipped cream and mousse pie. Should it turn out I will post that pie as well. As for this caramel pumpkin pie, it came out fantastic! Caramel adds a kick to this pie, if you make this pie and did not tell anyone it is caramel pumpkin everyone would probably just think you make the best tasting pumpkin pie. Just tell them you used a “secret” ingredient!

I had some left over filling because my pie crust shrunk more than I anticipated so I put the rest of the filling into custard dishes and cooked them for 30-35 minutes. You could make the whole recipe into custard dishes rather than a pie. Caramel Pumpkin Custard.

1c. sugar
1/3 c. water
2 c. heavy cream
15oz can 100% pure pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 ¼ tsp. ginger
1 ¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-pie crust (precooked)

Preheat oven to 375°

Make Caramel:
Stir sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat bring the sugar to a simmer, and cook until the sugar turns to a golden brown color. (do not burn the sugar it will become bitter!) Do not stir during this part just swirl the pan a little and wipe down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in cold water if the sugar sticks to the sides of the pan. Stir in 1 cup of heavy cream and stir the mixture until the caramel is dissolved, it will boil vigourously. Stir in remaining cup of cream and bring the mixture to a simmer, turn off the heat.

Whisk together the pumpkin and spices in a large bowl. Whisk in the hot cream mixture, then whisk in the eggs stirring until well combined.

Pour filling into cooled pie crust and cook for 55-60 minutes. The center will look slightly wet but the edges will be puffed and cooked. Allow to cool on a rack for 2 hours, during this time the pie will continue to set.

Apparently pumpkin pie is a “soft crust” pie which means you don’t pre-cook the crust, instead pour the filling into the uncooked crust and bake the pie all at once. While that is ok, I have found I really like the texture and flavor of a pre-cooked pie crust – in pumpkin pie or not.  Apparently the people over at Gourmet feel the same as me as their recipe calls for a pre-cooked crust. BUT if you prefer soft crust then by all means, you do not have to pre-cook the crust in this recipe.

Praline Topping
1/2 stick cold butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2T flour
1/2 cup coarsley chopped pecans

Mix the flour and brown sugar, then with a pastry blender or fork cut in the butter. Stir in the coarsely chopped pecans and sprinkle the mixture over the pumpkin pie before baking.

Caramel Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Streusel

November 13, 2010

Pie Crust (Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)

(Updated 11/21/10)

Thank you Thomas Keller for this pie crust recipe. Pie crust can be difficult and it will probably take you a couple tries to get it right, if it’s your first time. Thomas Keller is the famed chef/owner of the restaurant the French Laundry in Yountville near Napa California, and owner of Per Se restaurant in New York (along with numerous others).  I purchased Keller’s cookbook ad hoc at home, which include recipes Keller makes for his family at home, and now at Keller’s family style restaurant, Ad Hoc. Recipes in this book are sometimes difficult, he is after all the chef and owner of two restaurants with 3-star Michelin guide ratings (top rating) and considered one of the top 50 restaurants in the world! So I did not anticipate the recipes to be anything less than fantastic and step-intensive. It is what I like to do, challenge myself to become a better cook. This book is not for those who are looking for the fast easy meals, it’s for those serious about the process of cooking and learning to be better. Not to say there aren’t recipes in this cook book that are simple. One of those simple recipes is pie crust – but can I really call any type of dough recipe simple? Maybe not for everyone.

Many of you may know I am not much of a baker, however I think I am actually beginning to break of out that and becoming a pretty good baker, so hopefully I won’t be able to say this much longer. In the past my attempts at homemade pie crust have been plausible attempts at best. My journeys with doughs and breads are very cautious and I follow baking recipes very rigidly, because baking is very scientific.  And now we have come to my relationship with baking – which is complicated. I cook by throwing together ingredients that I think work together. I know when I read a recipe I can deviate from it quite a bit, and I know how to use certain techniques and apply it to a multitude of ingredients. Baking is a very structured use of fat, flour, and a leavening agent and of course adding other ingredients which determine the final product – breads, cakes, pastries, brownies, etc.  All which I love and I do enjoy the baking process.  It’s very difficult to explain to someone how pie dough should feel or how bread dough should bounce back. Until you experience it for yourself (a number of times) I know I am not sure if it really is the way the dough should look and feel.  However, the more I bake the more I realize that while the basic ingredients are virtually static I can play with the measurements to get different results and this is the only way I will learn.

After my past experience with pie crust and my two attempts this particular day, I decided to get daring and add more water than what the recipe called for in this recipe. I remembered back to my bread making class with Peter Reinhart in Reno, he told the class he had to alter his own recipe to add more water because our environment was drier than he was used to.  Yet another hurdle in baking! The environment in which the recipe in a cookbook was developed may be completely different from your environment, which also lends to my cautiousness when thinking about baking!  You have to have some kind of intuition and understanding of the scientific parts of cooking to know when you may not have to let your dough rise as long, or when to add more water or less leavening. It’s complicated! (Updated: Thus, I always fall back on my good friend (our relationship is strictly me with his book or Good Eats on the tv) Alton Brown. I will trust anything this guy tells me – he gets down to the scientific part of food/cooking/baking and it helps my understanding with how cooking and baking work. I was perusing Alton’s baking book and read his section on pie crust. His advice was to use as little water as possible to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. So out the door my “more water” method went, not that my crust didn’t come out, but it shrunk substantially and I was looking for a fix for that. The other suggestion of Alton – keep all your equipment and ingredients very cold! I will redo with this tips in mind and will post updated photos).

  • 2 ½ c. flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (10 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ice water in a spray bottle

You can make this dough with your hands, a pastry blender, or by pulsing in a food processor with a dough blade. (knead with your hands though)

Straight from the fridge, cut the butter into cubes and place in your bowl then stick it all in the freezer for about 15 min. In another bowl, mix the salt and flour. Add the cubes of very cold butter and toss with the flour to coat. Then start working the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are no larger than pea size.  Spray the surface of your flour with just enough to wet the flour with water pulse a few times until the dough just holds together when pinched.  Add more water if the dough is too dry and crumbly, but be careful of the water it’s not good for the flakiness of your crust – per Alton Brown use as little water as possible. 

Do this part with your hands if you used a food processor: Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated.  Divide the dough in half and shape into a 1” thick disk. Wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour (more time is fine too)– the dough can be stored in the freezer for later use at this point as well, just move it to the refrigerator the day before you want to use the dough.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator allow the dough to sit for a few minutes at room temperature. I placed the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap it is easier to work with and lightly dusted my rolling-pin and the dough with flour.

Roll out the dough to a 13”-14” round, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Roll from the center, rotating the dough about a half inch frequently and adding a little flour to the dough to prevent from sticking to the rolling-pin.

Flip the dough (dough-side) onto one hand (keeping the plastic wrap attached) And lay into your pie plate. I used a Quiche pan, but you can use any pie plate you wish. Gently press the dough into the corners and up the sides of the dish, remove the plastic wrap.

Pie Dough

SIDE NOTE: Some recipes you will want to pre-cook the pie dough, Keller’s recipe did not include instructions on precooking so here are my directions: 375° – cover the pie crust with foil and pour pie weights (dried beans) onto the foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is light brown. Then remove the foil and weights and cook until the crust is lightly browned on the bottom. Ready to use!

Just an example of the pie crust in use…

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

November 1, 2010

Pan Dripping Turkey Gravy

This recipe is a traditional type pan dripping gravy, with a twist. The turkey stock is made with roasted turkey wings to add depth to the stock. This gravy recipe is a collaboration of difference sources. I was watching Tyler Florence on Food Network one year and Tyler made gravy with a roasted turkey wing stock and I have made my stock for gravy with a roasted turkey wing stock ever since. Roasting wings is much easier than making an enitire roasted turkey or chicken. The wings have a lot of flavor so you will not miss out on using the entire bird. The base for my gravy I learned from my mom, which she learned from my grandmother. The milk idea I picked up from a friend one Thanksgiving and the brown gravy mix I have heard numerous people say they add to their gravy for added depth. So this recipe is a melting pot of tips and tricks I have picked up over the years. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

Turkey Stock:

  • 2 Turkey Wings
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • water
  • salt and pepper


  • pan drippings from roasted turkey
  • butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups turkey stock (see above)
  • 1 packet brown gravy mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Roast wings for 2 ½ hours.
  3. Chop onion, celery, carrots and sauté in butter.
  4. Add thyme bay leaf and wings (with drippings from the roasting pan). Cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim any foam and reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours until the water reduces.
  5. Strain off the solids and cool the stock if you will freeze it, or use it right away.

Turkey Stock

  1. GRAVY:Once you remove your roasted turkey from the pan, place the whole roasting pan over the med-low heat on the stovetop (my roasting pan takes up two burners so I turn both on med-low heat). Or transfer the pan drippings to a pot.
  2. Once the pan drippings are bubbly add enough butter to make about ½ cup of fat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring frequently about 2 minutes.
  3. Once the roux is golden brown whisk in the turkey stock, milk and gravy mix packet, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. (I add the milk to help cut the greasiness from the turkey drippings but keep the flavor of the drippings).
  4. Simmer until the gravy has thickened to your likeness, about 10 minutes.
I submitted this recipe for a contest with Food52 which all winners will be added to the Food 52 cookbook that results from the year of contests. As well as the chance to win some money to Williams Sonoma, and other gift packages from Viking cookeware, and OXO. Wish me luck! Hope you try this gravy this holiday season, it’s super good! I will be making my wing stock shortly!