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sour cherry almond crumble pie [smitten kitchen]

At some point, I think I’m going to have to rename this blog Attempts to Recreate Every Smittenkitchen Recipe Ever, because Deb is just 100% my go-to for desserts–especially fruit-based ones. I made her strawberry graham ice box cake for a Memorial Day cookout (post coming at some point), and when I found myself with 4+ pounds of freshly-picked tart cherries on my hands a few weeks ago, I knew I had to jump on this sour cherry pie with almond crumble.

Seriously, Deb, have you ever made a fruit dessert that isn’t incredible?

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This is everything a cherry pie is supposed to be. Ever-reliable, ever-flaky, buttery pie crust holds up more than 2 full pounds of tart, juicy, bright red cherries, each one a bursting nugget of sour-sweet joy. Top it all off with a nutty, warm crumble, and you have an absolutely irresistible slice of pure summer. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream while it’s piping hot, or eat it the next morning right out of the fridge with a cup of coffee. This pie does not disappoint at any temperature.

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Pro tip: if you’re pitting fresh cherries, do yourself a favor and grab a straw to help the process. If you’re like me, you’ll stab your fingers at least a few times, but the speedup will absolutely be worth it. (Special shoutout to the boyfriend for not only taking me to the farm to pick these cherries and helping me make the crumble, but also for destroying his fingertips with me to pit over 2 lbs of these beauties.)

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And really, the cherries are the star of this show. While I’m pretty sure I could eat that crumble by the spoonful, the almond-oat crunch and melt-in-your-mouth dough are just the supporting actors in a tart cherry extravaganza.

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And when I say “supporting”, I really should clarify: buttery and nutty goodness aside, there are not many doughs in the world that could physically support this weight of pure summer fruit. This crust, alas, is not among that short list, and it is quite difficult to plate a clean slice. But hey, who’s mad about a few spilled cherries?

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Tart cherry season is still going strong in most parts, so get yourself a pint or three while the getting’s good and heed the calls of this plate of summer’s joy.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why my photos look a little funny, it’s because these were all taken on my phone. Simple side effects of baking while traveling light; I didn’t have my camera on me. Lucky for us, photo quality has no effects on the taste of pie. 😉

***

To anyone else currently listening to the last bits of a nearby fireworks display, or wishing that your neighbors’ kids would stop popping firecrackers in the parking lot after 10 pm, or perhaps even (carefully) lighting a few of your own: Happy Fourth of July! I hope you all celebrated with the appropriate company of good food, good friends, and ample pie. Here’s to another year of doing our parts to make our country the best it can be.

classic pumpkin pie [alton brown]

I am learning the hard way that Atlanta doesn’t do fall.

The weather this past week was still pushing 80, which is nothing short of pure insanity for someone who has spent her whole life near the 40°N line.

My calendar says that it’s nearly November, but I can still wear shorts to class.

Seriously, what is wrong with this place?

If the weather won’t cooperate, I will turn my kitchen into fall instead. I’ve been roasting vegetables and making hearty soups, drinking crisp apple cider and sipping piping hot tea in the mornings when the warmth of the sun has only just kissed the city and I can briefly, fleetingly pretend that I need to wear boots today.

And then, of course, there is pie.

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What is fall without fresh pies? It’s like fall without apple picking (see: my fridge still full of Galas and Arkansas Blacks), or worse, like fall without Halloween.

This aromatic pie filling comes from Alton Brown, poured over the ever-reliable all-butter crust from smitten kitchen (thank you, Deb!). You can absolutely make it with canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!) instead of fresh pumpkin puree, but going with the fresh stuff will give you a more subtle, earthy flavor.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you: I barely did anything to make this pie. The boyfriend was visiting for the weekend, and while I had my nose buried in problem sets all day, he roasted and pureed the pumpkin, prepped and chilled the pie dough, and whisked together the eggs and brown sugar. I stepped in momentarily to spice and finish the filling and to roll out the crust, but the actual baking was all done by him while I was in class. So really, I cannot take any credit for the need to eat multiple pieces of this deliciousness in a row.

I can, however, tell you how to make this pie yourself.

Step one: Go pumpkin picking. Hunt for pumpkins still on the vine, so that you can have the joy of clipping one off yourself, stem still bright green when you place it on your counter at home and promptly forget about it for weeks.

Grab a pie pumpkin from the store at the farm too. Bring it home and stare at it longingly until your need for pie overwhelms your senses.

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Step two: Clean and roast your perfect and adorable pie pumpkin until your kitchen smells heavenly. As with any good roasted squash, just a touch of olive oil and salt will do the trick. Stick your nose in the still-steaming pumpkin and contemplate abandoning the pie and just eating it with a spoon. Make the right choice for your future self and make the pie dough instead while you wait for the pumpkin to cool.

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Step three: Puree your pumpkin and parbake your crust. Do this twice, because you accidentally skimped on the dough the first time and you ended up with a shrunken crust that couldn’t possibly hold enough delicious filling. Ponder your options for the funny-looking crust while the second one sits in the oven, even though you know you’ll most likely just eat it as is or with some jam.

Step four: Make your pie filling. Warm the puree over the stove, marveling over the slop-plop of the heat trying to escape through the thick pumpkin. Stir in half-and-half and the just-right blend of spices that make you think of tall socks, crunching leaves, changing winds, and daylight savings. Whisk together some eggs and sugar and slowly, carefully, combine the two mixtures while imagining how funny your pie would be if you accidentally scrambled your eggs before baking.

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Step five: Bake the pie. Try to do work. Smell the unadulterated aroma of fall filling your aparment and stop fooling yourself. Keep checking the timer and the oven, forgotten textbook still lying open on the coffee table. Jiggle the pie. Wonder what “just jiggles in the middle” really looks like. (If you have to ask, it’s not there yet.) Immediately remove the pie at the right amount of jiggle and admire it, feeling your heart warm. Anxiously wait until it’s cool enough that you won’t irrevocably burn yourself trying to eat it.

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Step six: Cut the pie. Eat the pie. Share the pie. Love the pie.

Or, in my case, thank your boyfriend for making the pie before promptly scarfing down a piece and losing yourself in the taste of the season you so desperately crave.

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Admittedly, my filling-to-crust ratio is not right. I still sometimes roll out wonky pie crusts that aren’t of uniform thickness, and looking at the photos makes me think I should’ve used the full batch of filling even though it would’ve nearly touched the brim of the crust. Midterms on the brain clearly do not help with important baking decisions.

As for the spice mix, I estimated and adjusted in a small bowl until it smelled right to me, so feel free to experiment depending on just how much of a nutmeg person you are.

Let me know if you make the pie, or if you have another quintessentially fall recipe that I must try as I attempt to convince the temperature to drop before Thanksgiving. 

classic pumpkin pie
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 unbaked 9-in pie crust, or enough dough for the base of the pie
  2. 16 oz fresh pumpkin puree
  3. 1 cup half-and-half
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  6. 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  7. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  8. 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  9. 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  10. 2 large eggs
  11. 1 large egg yolk
For the crust
  1. If starting with pie dough, roll out enough crust for a 9" base with some dough hanging over the edges of your pan.
  2. Trim and crimp the crust as desired, then chill it in the fridge while you preheat your oven to 425F.
  3. Parbake for 12 minutes, weighing down the center of the crust with pie weights, pennies, or uncooked beans (I used dry lentils).
For the filling/to assemble
  1. Set your oven to 300F.
  2. Heat the pumpkin puree in a medium saucepan. If it's very thick, it won't get to a simmer, but heat it until you can see the steam escaping as you stir it.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Adjust to taste/smell.
  4. Add the half-and-half and spice mix to the puree and stir well. Remove mixture from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until very smooth and shiny.
  6. Add the pumpkin mixture to the sugar and eggs, starting with a small amount and whisking frequently so as not to cook the eggs with the warm pumpkin.
  7. Pour the filling into the still-warm crust. Place in the oven on a baking sheet (in case of spillage).
  8. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the sides of the filling are set but the pie still jiggles just in the center.
  9. Let cool (let it cool!) before slicing and serving.
Notes
  1. The pie will be arguably even better the day after it is baked, but will start to get stale after 2-3 days.
Adapted from Alton Brown
Adapted from Alton Brown
tlc. | tender love and cupcakes. http://tenderloveandcupcakes.com/

chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread [food52]

Winter is a cookie season.

December, yes, with its holiday cookies and cookie swaps and neat little DIY boxes tied with ribbon and full of festivity–but winter, as a whole, is a season for warm cookies fresh out of the oven, paired with a piping hot cup of black tea with milk. Even though Chicago can’t decide whether or not winter is actually happening this year, I dream of gooey, melting chocolate chunks and sugar-dusted buttery crumble.

Then again, maybe this is just me developing a shortbread obsession this season.

Over winter break, I made a grand total of seven different kinds of cookies, five of which were variations of shortbread. I have zero regrets about this, for the record, and I doubt any of my friends and family do, either.

One was a repeat recipe: chewy coconut lime sugar cookies, enhanced this time by rubbing lime zest into the sugar I used for rolling. The remaining six, however, were all new ventures. I didn’t properly photograph all of them, but I’ll be unrolling the ones I did, hopefully in time for you all to try them out before spring starts appearing.

We start the lineup with easily my favorite of them all: chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread, recipe courtesy of Food52.

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These rich cookies are shockingly easy to make, yet bursting with flavor. Melt-in-your-mouth, crumbs-on-your shirt shortbread is made even better with the bright green, buttery crunch of fresh chopped pistachios and a smooth and generous coating of semisweet chocolate.

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Ever since my stay in Turkey, I’ve been craving a good pistachio dessert. Pistachio ice cream, pistachio-and-cream-filled pastry, and even pure pistachio paste–Turkey just knows how to turn these little nuts into an intense and luxurious experience.

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And let me tell you: with nearly a full cup of chopped nuts, these cookies do not skimp on the pistachio experience.

If you buy your nuts in small packages at a standard grocery store, this recipe could get expensive. I highly recommend trying something like Costco or a South Asian/Middle Eastern grocery store to buy nuts in bulk. Much more affordable, and who doesn’t want a bag of leftover pistachios to munch on?

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As for the chocolate-dipped part: you don’t need a double boiler, and you don’t need super high-quality chocolate for these to be absolutely delicious. I melted dark chocolate chunks (not chips!) in the microwave in 15-second bursts, and that was perfect for coating half of each cookie in a thick, smooth layer of chocolate that hardened nicely after a few hours.

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I sent some of these home with the boyfriend after he visited, but to be honest, I mostly ate them myself. Like I said: zero regrets.

***

To my UChicago friends, happy 8th week! And to everyone else, happy last week of February! May the remainder of your winter be crisp and cookie-worthy.

 

chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/4 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 cup butter
  5. 1/3 cup sugar
  6. 1/2 plus 1/3 cups raw unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in 1/2 cup pistachios and vanilla extract.
  4. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
  5. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into logs 2-3 inches long (~20 of them). Place on lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake until just golden around the edges, 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  7. Melt chocolate (in a double boiler or in the microwave, carefully), stirring until smooth. Place remaining 1/3 cup pistachios in a shallow bowl.
  8. Dip one end of each cooled cookie into the melted chocolate, covering about 1/3 of the cookie. Let excess chocolate drip off.
  9. Roll chocolate-covered end in chopped pistachios, then place on a clean sheet of wax paper or a cooling rack.
  10. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until chocolate has hardened--at least one hour.
  11. Cookies will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week (if you can make them last that long).
Adapted from Food52
Adapted from Food52
tlc. | tender love and cupcakes. http://tenderloveandcupcakes.com/