It Tastes Like Fall: Savory Popovers, Lattice-Topped Apple Pie, and Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
The October-November selection for Cook the Books is The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. It was a quick read and, unsurprisingly, full of culinary inspiration.
On the Page
The City Baker is Olivia Rawlings, nickname Livvy, who is a pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive dinner club in Boston. When she inadvertently sets the club on fire with her flambéed dessert one evening, she finds herself without a job, without her (married) boyfriend, and without a future. She flees to Guthrie, Vermont where her best friend, Hannah, lives. There Livvy lands a job baking at the Sugar Maple Inn and moves into the sugaring cottage in the back with her dog named Salty.
Soon she discovers the real reason Margaret hired her; Margaret wants to settle a score by reclaiming the blue ribbon status at the annual country fair apple pie contest. Livvy soon finds herself settling into country living and meets Martin McCracken, a Guthrie native who has been in Seattle for several hears. Martin is home to take care of his ailing father.
The stage is set for drama - the pie baking contest - and romance - Livvy and Martin sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Okay you get the idea. This is a quick, breezy read that's perfect for the season. As you can imagine, there is a lot of food in this novel.
Savory Popovers: Cheesy Chive Popovers
Click for the recipe.
As Olivia and Alfred are brainstorming the menu for a dinner at the inn, Livvy suggests...
“I could make popovers,” I offered. Alfred closed his eyes. “With chives?” I smiled. “Done.”
Lattice-Topped Apple Pie
Click for the recipe.
Apple pies show up several times in the plot. First, that's the pie that Margaret has Livvy make during her audition. One of Margaret's ulterior motives in hiring Livvy: to win the annual pie-baking contest! Then Livvy bakes up an entire bake-shop worth of pies when she is invited to Thanksgiving dinner.
"I began with the basics—double-crust apple, sweet potato, bourbon pecan. A friend from the Cape had just sent me a crate of fresh cranberries, so I added a cranberry with crumb. Then an old-fashioned custard pie that I thought Margaret would enjoy."
Instead of a double-crust apple, I baked a lattice-topped apple pie.
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
If you have followed me through at least one cycle of all the season, you probably know how much I love all things pumpkin. I am not talking about Pumpkin Spice Latte kinda pumpkin. I mean real pumpkins!
So this passage called my name...
The next morning I made a test batch of pumpkin crème brûlée. While the milk scalded on the stove, I whisked together egg yolks and pureed pumpkin, the bright orange mixture brilliant against the blue bowl. As I poured the milk slowly into the bowl, whisking all the while, a cloud of cinnamon and ginger wafted up, filling the kitchen with the scent of fall.
1/3 cup organic granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
2 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon zest from 1 organic orange
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
4 to 6 ramekins or small, oven-proof mugs
3 Tablespoons organic granulated sugar
Also needed: blender or food processor, culinary torch
Cream the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until pale yellow and thickened. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine heavy whipping cream, orange zest and spices in a saucepan and heat on medium, until bubbles begin to form along the edge of the pan, just before it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla paste and pumpkin purée. Then whisk in the egg yolk mixture, whisking until smooth.
Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, if desired. Portion evenly into ramekins.Bake i n a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until no liquid appears when you jiggle the jars, approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
When you're ready to torch them, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on top of each custard. Using a small butane torch, hover a flame over the sugar, moving it around until the sugar caramelizes.
That's a wrap on my offering for this edition of #CooktheBooks. If you are inclined to join in the fun, you still have nearly two months to read and get into the kitchen to whip up an inspired dish. Join us!