Archive for October, 2009

Apple Pie Bars

October 30, 2009


Sometimes you need a lot of treats.  Maybe you are having a big party or have a weekend’s worth of events coming up and want to bring something to each one.  Or perhaps you are incredibly well-organized and want to stock your freezer full for the family that is coming over the holidays, plus still have something to give to your kids’ teachers.

If any of the above fits you, I would advise you to make these Apple Pie Bars.  If you like the look of them but don’t know what you would do with 48 of them, I would not advise you to make them.  I made them for last weekend’s yoga retreat and I only brought about half of them and then only about half of them got eaten.  I felt like everywhere I looked in my life there were apple pie bars.  They were like little bunnies, just multiplying and multiplying.

This is not to take anything away from what is a really lovely treat.  It’s really like a slice of apple pie but in pick-up-and-eat bar form.  Aside from the task of peeling and slicing 12 apples, it’s not a lot of work for a lot of bars.  I didn’t freeze mine, but the recipe says you can and wouldn’t it be nice to have a big batch to pull from now and then?  The recipe also says you can make them up to four days ahead and keep them at room temperature but I will tell you that the crust gets a little soggy after a day or two.  No flavor is compromised, just not as crisp.


One Year Ago:  Zucchini Soup

Apple Pie Bars
Adapted from Food and Wine
Makes 48 large bars

Whenever I bake with apples, I almost always use Granny Smith.  They are readily available and while they are not what I would choose to eat out of hand, they are wonderful for baking.  I like that they keep their structure more than other apples (i.e. don’t become mush) and I also like that they are on the tart side.  To me, apple desserts should have some play on sweet and sour.

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds) – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup water, as necessary

3/4 cup walnuts
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

1.  Make the crust.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms.  Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and 1/2 inch up the side in an even layer.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and set.  Let cool on a rack.

2.  Meanwhile, make the filling.  In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/2 cup of the light brown sugar.  Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet.  Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching.

3.  Make the topping.  Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8minutes.  Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts.  In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.

4.  Spread the apple filling over the crust.  scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer.  Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking.  Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

Make ahead: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for a month.

Tomato Leek Soup

October 29, 2009


The season for comfort food has started.  Just as comfort means different things to different people, comfort food is different for everyone.  For me, the thing that jumps to the top of my list is grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  Yes, I remember my mom making this for us (I now have the electric griddle she used to use) but when I really remember eating it was in camp.  I was always ravenous on those summer days; days that, living in the Pacific Northwest, weren’t always so summery.  The lunches where grilled cheese and tomato soup was served were some of my favorites.  The soup was just Campbell’s and the sandwiches were mostly bread with just a bit of cheese, and every single one of them was slightly burned.  But I didn’t care.  Dipping the sandwich in the hot soup was something that gave me great pleasure.


Just after I started cooking for myself, I found a recipe for Tomato and Leek soup.  They suggested serving the soup with a grilled goat cheese sandwich made on egg bread.  A Dana Treat classic meal was born.  Over the years, I have served this soup with sandwiches on homemade challah probably 20 times.  It is Randy’s number one most favorite meal.  The soup is so good, it doesn’t need the sandwich, but it sure is a nice food memory for so many people.  You can, of course, make a regular grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese and white bread and still have fun dipping.

Last weekend, I did another yoga retreat with my incredible friend Jen.  (You can see previous posts here and here.)  This time, unlike the past two, I was able to stay for the whole day – no brothers in the hospital and no birthday dinner waiting for me.  And what a treat it was.  From the moment I stepped in my car to head to the ferry, to the moment I drove off the ferry back in Seattle, it was an amazing day.  (There was a Sounders soccer game that evening, so the traffic-filled drive home was not amazing.)  The weather was beautiful, all the women there were so welcoming and wonderful, the yoga was intoxicating, and it was such an incredible treat to spend the day on myself.  Every busy person out there knows what I am talking about.

I didn’t have to think too hard about what to make for everyone’s lunch.  The trick was keeping it from Randy that I was making his favorite food and he wasn’t going to be able to have any of it.  He found out after the fact and made a big show of being the victim.  I make all this wonderful food for other people and not for him.  He said this as his leftover choices were roasted pear galette, a leek frittata, or a tomato and goat cheese tart.  Poor guy.

By the way, here is me and my new haircut.


Tomato Leek Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 6-8

I almost always use an immersion blender when puréeing any kind of soup and it works great here.  So if you have one, use that.  I always use canned tomatoes in this soup.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
4 pounds chopped tomatoes
3 1/2 cups vegetables stock
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp. dried
1/3 cup whipping cream
6 tbsp. tomato paste
4 tsp. minced garlic

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add chopped leeks; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add all the other ingredients.  Simmer one hour, stirring occasionally.  Coarsely purée using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.)

Holly B’s Lemon Sour Cream Muffins

October 28, 2009


Blind date set-ups in the movies invariably feature a well meaning person describing their friend as “nice”.  Or having a “great personality”.  We in the film audience know those are cue words for not-so-easy-on-the-eyes, right?  But, in real life, what if a date really is nice and they do have a great personality?  As I got older and realized that “cute” could only take me so far, nice and great personality sounded pretty good.  (As it happens, I got all three.)

These muffins are kind of the food equivalent of those set-up dates.  They are not going to win any beauty contests and if they were placed next to something else – anything else – you would probably just pass them by.  But they are lemon sour cream muffins.  In 12 muffins, you will find 1 1/2 cups of sour cream and a full stick of butter.  The tops are dipped into a lemon juice and sugar glaze which takes them from very nice cakes to Wow! – sweet, tart, and super moist all at once.


I tried taking decent photos of these modest muffins, but they didn’t end up looking like anything that would make a reader of this blog jump up and head to the kitchen.  My kids were in the dining room with me (where the majority of Dana Treat photos are taken) and they thought it was very funny to pretend to eat them.  These shots are better than the food porn equivalent of just muffins.  The funny thing is, the only reason they were slightly interested is because they thought the muffins were cupcakes.

Although I told myself I would not mess with Holly’s recipes so I could accurately portray what a wonderful cookbook this is, I just had to change a little something here.  She instructs you to put all the dry ingredients right on top of the wet without mixing them first, but I think they need a good toss in a separate bowl first.  If you have those giant sized muffin tins, this recipe will fill 12 of those.  If you have standard tins, it will make 18.  (I found this out the hard way when I crammed all the dough into 12 standard sized and there was much oozing.)

You can buy a copy of Holly’s cookbook by visiting this site.

Lemon Sour Cream Muffins
Adapted from With Love and Butter
Makes 12 large or 18 medium muffins

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
Grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Lemon Glaze
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F and position the rack in the middle.  Butter the rims of your muffin tin(s) and line the cups with papers (or grease generously).

Whip together the sour cream, milk, melted butter, egg and and egg yolk, zest, and lemon juice in a blender (or use a beater or whisk), then pour into a big bowl.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then add dry ingredients to the big bowl.  Mix just until smooth and combined.  Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

Bake the muffins 10 minutes, turn the pan, and bake 5 more minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick; bake a few minutes longer if still gooey on top.  Bake until just done – these muffins are best before they get at all brown.  Remove the muffin tin to a rack to cool while you prepare the lemon glaze.

Mix the lemon juice and sugar and warm in the microwave (about 1 minute) or on the stove until the sugar dissolves.  Stir again.  Holding each muffin at the bottom, dip the top into the warm glaze.  Let stand a moment before serving to absorb the glaze.

Some of the Best Bread You Will Ever Eat

October 27, 2009


Everyone who is afraid of making bread, please raise your hand.

Well, I wish I could see you and then I wish I could come into your kitchen, hold your hand, and make this bread with you.  There are a few reasons for this.  One, after my experience last week, I’d love to meet more people who read this blog.  Two, I would like to help dispel the myth that bread is scary and hard to make.  Three, I would love to share the joy and wonder that is bread baking.  And four, maybe you would let me take some of the bread home because mine is all gone.


I know – yeast.  Eeeek!  But it does. not. have. to. be. so!  I have made this bread countless times and it always turns out perfectly.  It has nothing to do with my experience or any kind of “magic” – it’s just a terrific recipe and it’s easy.  Really.

The one thing you will need here is time.  This bread has four rising times, the longest being two hours and the shortest being ten minutes. The process will take five hours from beginning to end but almost all of that is rising time.  Your hands-on time (like with most bread) is maybe half an hour and even that is split into small increments.  Take advantage of one of those rainy days where you are just home and take the leap.  Maybe you are also making a big pot of soup or a lasagna or something that is going to keep you in the kitchen for a few hours.  The dough will keep you company while you work.


And at the end of it all you get two gigantic loaves of the most fragrant, soft yet dense, and slightly sweet bread you can imagine.  It freezes incredibly well so you can enjoy one loaf and save the other for another time.  My very favorite way to eat it is completely plain – it’s that good.  But it also makes terrific french toast, bread pudding and grilled goat cheese sandwiches which you then serve with homemade Tomato and Leek soup.  Recipe for that one coming soon.

A couple of notes.  I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to make this dough.  I use the paddle attachment to mix everything together, and about halfway through adding the flour, I switch to the dough hook.  Once all the flour is added (and I think 6 cups is just about spot-on), I let it mix for about 5 minutes.  Dough that is sufficiently kneaded should feel like your ear lobe. A perfect place to let your dough rise is in the oven.  Turn it on to it’s lowest setting and then turn it off after just a few minutes.  Just that little bit of heat (plus no draft) will make it nice and cozy in there.  When you need to heat the oven to bake the bread, place the loaves on the stovetop where they will still get residual heat.


Braided Challah
Adapted from Food and Wine
Makes 2 large loaves

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 110°)
1/3 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, thinly sliced, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. honey
2 1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
About 6 cups bread flour
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk and 1 tbsp. water

1.  In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water with the pinch of sugar and let stand until creamy and starting to bubble.  In a medium saucepan, combine the sliced butter and the milk.  Warm over low heat just until the butter melts. Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and the honey and slat.  Pour the milk mixture into a large bowl and stir in the dissolved yeast and the 4 eggs.

2.  Stir in just enough of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to form a dense dough that doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding only as much flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.

3.  Brush a large bowl with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter.  Transfer the dough to the buttered bowl and brush the top with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough is doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

4.  Punch down the dough, then cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk again, about 1 1/4 hours.

5.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half.  Cover one half with plastic wrap and divide the other half into  3 equal pieces.  Using lightly floured hands, roll each piece into a 10-inch long rope with tapered ends.

6.  Arrange the 3 ropes side by side pointing toward you and just touching.  Starting in the middle and working toward your body, braid the ropes together, bringing the outside ropes over the center one.  Pinch the ends to seal and tuck them under.  Turn the loaf around and repeat with the other half, this time braiding the outer ropes under the center one.  Seal the ends, tuck them under and transfer the loaf to a prepared baking sheet; gently plump the loaf with your hands.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Cover the loaves with kitchen towels and let rise for 35 minutes.

7.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Mix the remaining egg, egg yolk, and tablespoon of water together to make a glaze.  Brush the loaves with the egg glaze.  Let stand uncovered for 10 minutes, then brush again with the glaze.  Bake the loaves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching the pans halfway through baking, for 35-45 minutes, or until they are golden, feel light when lifted and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Loosely cover the loaves with foil if they become too brown during baking.  Transfer to a rack and let cool thoroughly before slicing.

Feeling Like a Rock Star

October 25, 2009


A few months ago, I got a lovely email from a guy who reads my blog.  He and his partner live in Seattle and a big birthday was coming up.  He wondered if I would cook a dinner for them as a surprise for his partner.  I was touched and said yes right away.  Many emails went back and forth figuring out dates and menu ideas.  Through it all this guy was such a joy to work with.  He only had two requests.  Mexican Brownies had to be the treat and I had to keep the whole thing a secret.

Menu ideas went around and around in my head.  I obsess about menus for people I know, let alone strangers.  Ultimately, I decided it was best to let the season guide me.  I turned to my trusty Macrina Bakery cookbook for yet another of Leslie Mackie’s amazing savory galette recipes.  This one had a ricotta and goat cheese base with sauteed pears topping it.  I made a butternut squash soup that had just a bit of wild rice in each bowl, and I made broccoli and cauliflower with a mustard chive butter.  And the brownies of course.

Coincidentally, we had friends over for dinner that same night so I made double the amount of everything and we were able to enjoy the meal as well.  I was a tad worried that the galette might be too sweet for a main course but it was really wonderful.  I was recently tempted to try a different crust recipe after reading a post by Sarah at In Praise of Leftovers (she is a galette master), but after tasting this one once more, I’ve got to stay loyal.  It is so incredibly easy to put together and is probably the flakiest dough I have ever tasted.


Have you ever felt like a rock star?  I haven’t had the experience too often, but I highly recommend it.  Thursday afternoon I arrived at their place and called from downstairs to ask for help bringing up the food.  As they walked out the front door, his partner took one look at me and his hands flew to his face as his jaw dropped.  He recognized me from my photos here and as the reality of what was coming set in, he got really excited.  I got to hear how they found me (thank you Amy B.!) and all the dishes they have tried, and loved, from this site.  He told me, “I feel like I’m meeting a rock star.”  And that was probably the best thing I heard all week.  Because yes, sometimes my children do make me feel like a rock star (“Yay Mommy!”) but more often than not, they make me feel like a roadie.


One Year Ago:  Gnocchi with Winter Squash and Seared Radicchio

Roasted Pear Galette with Chèvre and Pomegranates
Adapted from Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook
Serves 8-10

The amount of dough in the following recipe will make two of these large galettes.  Use one half and freeze the other.  I love having it on hand in the freezer.

2 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and halved
Canola oil
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups goat cheese
3 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. chopped thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 recipe Flaky Pie Dough (recipe follows), chilled
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 tsp. water

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Preheat a large skillet (preferably non-stick) to medium-high heat.  Cut pear halves in to 1/2-inch thick slices.  Brush both sides of the slices with canola oil and lay them in the hot pan.  Turn the slices over as soon as they begin to turn brown, you don’t want to cook the fruit all the way through.  Once they other side is slightly brown, lay the pear slices on a sheet of parchment paper and set aside to cool.

Combine ricotta, goat cheese, eggs, salt, thyme, and rosemary in a large bowl.  Season with a little pepper and mix well with a whisk.  Set aside.

Form chilled pie dough into a ball and place it on a floured work surface.  Flatten the ball slightly and roll it into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick.  Roll the dough over the rolling pin and unroll it onto the prepared baking sheet.  Spoon ricotta mixture onto center of circle and flatten leaving a 2-inch border around the edges.  Lift border on top of the filling, tucking and folding the dough to create a gathered, or pleated, finish.  Lift each of the folds up and brush underneath with egg wash to seal the crust.  Brush all exposed dough with egg wash, then place the galette in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Remove tart from refrigerator and bake on center rack of the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove tart from oven and lay the cooled pear slices on top of the tart.  Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Let cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.  Garnish the tart with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.  The galette is best served slightly warm.  Wrap any leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

(DT: You can make the dough up to 4 days ahead, the cheese filling one day ahead, and can seed the pomegranate one day ahead.  This make putting it together a breeze.  The whole thing can be assembled and baked 6 hours ahead of serving.  Reheat in a 375°F oven for 10-15 minutes.)

Flaky Pie Dough
Makes enough for 2 double-crusted (9-inch) pies, or 2 galettes

I always make pie dough in my food processor, but this amount is too much for it, so I do it by hand with a pastry blender.

5 1/4 cups flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt

12 tbsp. (1
1/2 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and toss together. Add butter and cut it into the flour until the texture is coarse and crumbly. You can use a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers. Cut the shortening up and add it in small pieces. Cut in the shortening until the dough is crumbly again. Add ice water and mix just until the dough sticks together when pinched. Pull dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a block. Cut it in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or wrap it again in foil and store in the freezer. One day before you are going to use frozen dough, transfer it to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw there overnight.

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