Bourbon-Cherry Hand Pies

DSCN2255How’s your 4th of July party planning coming along?  Are you like me, racking your brain for a clever and patriotic dessert sure to delight the masses?  You can never go wrong with a flag cake made of strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream, because, really, who doesn’t like (nay, love) berries ‘n cream?  However, if you’re looking for something that tackles Americana from a slightly different angle, I think that I may have a solution.

Well… seeing as Americans love pie, bourbon is a distinctly American liquor, and cherries are presently in season, hows about we make a bourbon and cherry pie?  Did you just start playing “Cherry Pie” by Warrant in your head?  I did.  To kick things up a notch, why not make them single-serve hand pies, too?  Yes, please.

I’m a fan of any cherry for the purposes of making pie, but for this go-around, I went with bing cherries.  Their deep crimson color is particularly eye-catching, and they’re not quite as sweet at Rainiers or as tart as pie cherries.  This subdued sweetness wonderfully pairs with the vanilla notes in bourbon.  This pie will turn out like the edible version of a Manhattan.  Very American, indeed.

Bourbon-Cherry Handpies

Makes 6 hand pies

Filling Ingredients:

1.5 lbs bing cherries (or the cherries of your choosing), pitted and halved

3 oz. bourbon

1/3 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

2 Tbs. flour

Crust Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

Toppings:

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

To Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and butter.  Using either a pastry blender or your fingers, blend the butter into the flour until it’s reduced to pea-sized pieces and the mixture resembles course oatmeal.  Create a small well in the center of the mixture, and add about half of the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Using a large spatula, combine the buttermilk and flour mixture.  Continue adding the buttermilk, about 1 Tbs. at a time, until the mixture comes together in a shaggy ball.  You may have to use your hands to get it all to stick together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To Make the Filling:

In a medium bowl, combine the pitted and halved cherries and the bourbon.  Allow the cherries to soak in the bourbon for at least an hour or, preferably, overnight.  Toss the cherries every once in a while to make sure that they are evenly coated in bourbon.  Just before using, add the 1/3 cup sugar and flour, stirring to combine.  Set aside until ready to use.

To Assemble the Pies:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roll out the chilled crust dough until about 1/4″ thin.  Using a hand pie mold (I found one for $6 at Target) or a 5″ cookie cutter, cut six circles out of the dough.  Using your finger, wet the perimeter of the circles with water; this will help the pies stay shut when you fold them over.  Fill each pie with 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the pie filling.  Fold over the pie crust, creating a semi-circle.  Use your fingers to pinch and crease the pie closed.

Transfer the hand pies to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Brush each pie with buttermilk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Use a small knife to cut 1″ slits in the top of each pie.  Bake the pies for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool on a baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Weekend Events for the Basketball-Averse

Happy Hump Day!  We’re halfway through the week and just days away from the weekend!

It’s gearing up to be a big weekend here in the Lilac City, due, in no small part, to Hoopfest.  Are you playing this year?  If so, for fun or to win (or both)?  Either way, good luck!  If you’re not planning on joining the masses downtown, fear not, for there are so many other great events going on this weekend!  The forecast calls for beautiful weather, so this should be an excellent weekend to get out and see the sights!  Check out just a few events that are going on around the area this weekend:

  • Selkirk Abbey Brewing Company’s First Anniversary Party– Go wish a happy birthday to Post Falls’ Belgian-themed gem!  Selkirk Abbey specializes in Belgian-style ales, ranging from saisons to quads to IPAs and beyond.  The party takes place at the brewery (6180 E Seltice Way, Post Falls, ID) and will feature music, food, and two special release beers.  I had the pleasure of sampling one of these beers, St. Joseph, during my last visit to the brewery (read about it here), and, let me tell you, it’s amazing and will probably make all of your dreams come true.  Truly, it’s magical.  Bonus: St. Joseph in bottles is currently available for pre-sale and will also be available for sale at the party.  I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I encourage you to try it.
  • Bikes, Brews & BBQs– The Kootenai County Fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene, ID will be taken over by Bikes, Brews & BBQs this Saturday.  The event is exactly what it the name implies: there will be motocross and BMX races, a beer garden featuring a number of local and regional breweries (they’ll have wine available, too), and a barbecue competition open to both professional and amateur grill-masters.  Entrance to the festival itself is free, tickets for the brewfest are $8, and there’s a brewfest/motocross combo ticket available for $18.  A full day of fun and entertainment await you just over the state line!
  • Spokane on the Rocks– Got an hour or two to kill between games at Hoopfest?  From 10am-8pm on Saturday, the Spokane Convention Center will be hosting Spokane on the Rocks, a festival featuring over 20 Northwest distilleries and breweries and their best products.  The event will also feature live music and air conditioning.  Tickets are $10 (available at the door and online) and include three samples of beer or spirits (or two non-alcoholic beverages).  Happy day drinking!
  • Strawberry Celebration– As indicated by the offerings at the farmers markets, fresh fruit season is upon us.  Might I add, it couldn’t come soon enough!  Both this weekend (June 29-30) and next weekend (July 6-7), Green Bluff is throwing its annual Strawberry Celebration, where citizens from across the land are invited to head up north and pick to their hearts’ content.  Before you head up there, be sure to check Green Bluff’s website to determine which farms you want to visit, and don’t forget to stop at the Harvest House on your way out for an ice cream cone!
  • Drift & Drags– Do you wanna go fast?  Would you settle for watching others go fast?  On Friday and Saturday (June 28-29), head on out to the Spokane County Raceway to watch some real-life Fast and Furious action and watch drivers test their skills on the drift course or test their speed on the drag strip.  The gates open at 6pm on Friday and at 2pm on Satuday, and spectator tickets are $12.
  • Old Time Farm Days Did you know that Spokane has a farm museum?  Yeah, it’s totally a thing!  From 9am-3pm on Saturday, June 29, the North Spokane Farm Museum (6223 W. Ridgeway Rd., Deer Park, WA) will feature events such as tractor pulls, barrel races, and live demonstrations at the annual Old Time Farm Days celebration.  Bust out your overalls, and get ready to get your farm on!

So many great events to choose from, and only a few days in which to prepare for them!  Enjoy the rest of your week, and have a great weekend!

Day Out: Casper Fry

DSCN2232Just about everyone has one of those T-shirts with a terrible pun or a slightly (or heavily) crass phrase that makes readers either giggle or cringe.  My mom certainly has one.  It was obtained during moonshine-tasting extravaganza in Tennessee and reads “put the south in your mouth.”  She wears it with surprising frequency and hilarious pride.  It was all I could think about whilst reviewing the cocktail menu at Spokane’s own taste of the South, Casper Fry.

Named after the owners’ great/great-great grandfather, Casper Fry’s classic, locally inclined values harken back to a time before supermarkets and convenience stores, when produce was only available when it was locally in season and chefs were able to pick out exactly which steer to use for dinner that night (gruesome, but great, too).  A large chalkboard mounted on one of the exposed brick walls lists each and every local purveyor and which products come from which source.  The well-stocked bar proudly displays all manner of whiskey, including several brands of bourbon and moonshine, and is made all the more tempting by the additional offering of absinthe and the occasional appearance of a few small Woodinville Whiskey “Age Your Own” whiskey barrels (my family has one, and it’s way fun).  Steampunk-style furniture and the lack of superfluous artwork lend a utilitarian air to the wide-open space and emphasizes the points that Casper Fry lets its food do the talking and speaks for the restaurant as a whole.

shrimp po'boy

shrimp po’boy

On this particular visit, I went with my Texas born-and-raised granddad.  I mentioned to him that prior to visiting Casper Fry, I’d never tried grits before.  He reacted with shock and proudly declared, “I’m from Texas.  We eat grits all the time.”  As I myself lived in Texas for a few months a couple of summers ago, I, too, was surprised that I’d not jumped on the grits bandwagon earlier.  Better late than never, I suppose.  That said, it’s almost mandated that a Southern-style restaurant offer their own version of shrimp and grits, and Casper Fry is not exception.  Served with a hefty handful of monstrous prawns; roasted okra, peppers, and asparagus; a bit of ham; and cheddar red mule grits, this kickin’ dish will fill your mouth with the most savory spices and your head with visions of the French Quarter in no time at all.  If you’re more of a hands-on diner, they’ve got just the thing: the shrimp po’boy is full to bursting with four crispy fried shrimp, as well as fresh red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce.  Drizzled with sweet chili aoili, this behemoth of a sandwich is sure to satisfy even the most voracious appetite.

Omaha sour

Omaha sour

No trip to Casper Fry is complete without a bourbon or absinthe-laden cocktail.  For those feeling both fancy and dangerous, the Corpse Reviver may be just what you need to shake your day up.  Served in a small coupe glass, this mysterious green libation is  sweet, tart, and old-timey as can be.  Made with gin, lemon juice, Dolin Blanc, Cointreau, and absinthe, you won’t be able to resist clinking glasses with your pals and adding a slight drawl to your speech.  For the whiskey-inclined and absinthe-curious, I recommend the Omaha Sour.  This little number involves both bourbon and absinthe, as well as a bit of syrup and lime juice.  As fun as cocktails are, nothing compares to the calming simplicity of a beer, and Casper Fry’s got you covered there, too: they have several taps, including local breweries such as No-Li and Iron Goat, ready to slake persnickety drinkers’ thirsts.

Last Saturday, Casper Fry celebrated its one year anniversary, and I can only imagine that there will be many more anniversary parties to come for this treasure of the Perry St. neighborhood.  Within the past several years, the neighborhood has really turned around and is now home to numerous flourishing businesses and restaurants and a weekly farmers market.  With the upcoming addition of the South Perry Brewing Company, the neighborhood is all but guaranteed to continue to thrive.  Without a doubt, Casper Fry’s arrival and success have had terrific influences on the neighborhood, not only in terms of economy, but in introducing a bit of southern flare to Inland Northwest.  You will, truly, want to put the south in your mouth.

Apricot Galette

DSCN2240If any fruit can best be described as precocious, it’s got to be the apricot, or at least that’s what its etymological roots claim.  As of late, I’m mildly obsessed with Bon Appetit‘s “Eat Your Words” series, which extrapolates the origins of the names of various foods.  The word “apricot” has the same roots as the word “precocious”, largely due to its ripening earlier in the season than other stone fruits.  In my opinion, apricots’ early maturation couldn’t come soon enough.

All spring, I’ve been taunted by my favorite food blogs, most of whom have been featuring recipes that incorporate the freshest fruits and berries of the season.  This is great, but there’s a catch: most of these bloggers are based in southern California, where fruits ripen substantially earlier that they do up here in Washington.  See my dilemma?  However, my patience has finally paid off with the appearances of the season’s first apricots and cherries at the local farmers markets.  Their most welcome debut could not come soon enough.

Now that the long-awaited apricots are here, what to do with them?  I’m all for snacking on them as-is, though that would likely result in their disappearing in a startling short amount of time.  So as to maximize everyone’s enjoyment of them (and prevent my own raw apricot binge), let’s bake those precocious little treasures up.  Because the lazy days of summer are upon us, what better vessel for a couple of pounds of fresh apricots than a good ol’ lazy pie AKA a galette?  This will be the apricots’ time to shine, so other than a couple of spices and a nice, flaky buttermilk crust, we’ll not be doing much for them, and that’s OK.  Being the early-in-the-season overachievers that they are, I’m sure the apricots can handle it.

Apricot Galette

Serves 8

Crust Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (optional: substitute 1/2 cup all-purpose for 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/4 tsp. salt

10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/2 cup + 2 Tbs. buttermilk, separated

1 Tbs. raw or granulated sugar

Filling Ingredients:

2 lbs. apricots, pitted and halved

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbs. pure maple syrup

1/3 cup rolled oats

To Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour(s), salt, and butter.  Using either a pastry blender or your fingers, blend the butter into the flour until it’s reduced to pea-sized pieces and the mixture resembles course oatmeal.  Create a small well in the center of the mixture, and add about half of the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Using a large spatula, combine the buttermilk and flour mixture.  Continue adding the buttermilk, about 1 Tbs. at a time, until the mixture comes together in a shaggy ball.  You may have to use your hands to get it all to stick together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To Make the Filling:

In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Using a fork, mix all of the ingredients until well-combined.  In a large mixing bowl, add the halved apricots.  Pour the brown sugar mixture into the apricots, and gently stir to coat the apricots in the sugar mixture.  Allow to sit for about ten minutes before filling proceeding.

To Bake the Galette:

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Roll out the chilled dough into a rough circle about 12″-14″ in diameter.  Transfer the rolled-out dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I suggest using a baking sheet with raised edges that will trap any apricot juices that escape your galette.  Pour the apricot mixture into the center of the dough.  Fold the edges of the dough over the apricots, pinching the creases of the dough and leaving the center of the galette open.  Brush 2 Tbs. over the crust, then sprinkle with either raw or granulated sugar.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown and the apricots are tender.  Allow the galette to cool on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Mini Banana-Maple Bundt

DSCN2224Whether secretly or overtly, everyone kind of likes to be wooed by another.  It’s nice to be wanted, and it’s flattering that another person is willing to put the effort into trying to convince you to like him or her.  The social dance performed during a typical courtship is entertaining to observers, riveting to friends whose advice is sought, and a source of great anxiety to participants.

However, wooing doesn’t always have to be romantic: it can be strictly platonic and still be cause for anxiousness.  For example, if you’re buying a new car, what does the salesman do if not to try to politely (or, sometimes, not) persuade you that this car is absolutely perfect for you and that you’d look so good driving the more expensive convertible option?  When a role changes actors (I’m looking at you, Doctor Who), the burden falls on the newbie to charm audiences into feeling comfortable with the transition and assured that it’s for the better.  The woo-er knows that he has a lot to gain or lose depending on his performance and its reception by the woo-ee.  The woo-ee knows this, too, and gets to feel extra special that it all rides on her decision.  This is starting to sounds a bit like the plots of a number of reality TV competitions, but you get the idea.

In the baking world, it’s no secret that bundt cakes are constantly wanting be wooed.  Wooed out of their pans, that is.  It’s a source of great frustration and aggravation amongst so, so many bakers when you put so much hard work into the preparation of a bundt cake, only to have it rip apart when you try to get it out of the pan.  It’s a cruel joke on the part of your cake.  Sure, it’ll still taste the same, but it’s not nearly as pretty.  So, it needs to be wooed.  Don’t pressure it; just be patient and give it time to cool down.  It’s been in that hot oven for what felt like ages, and it needs to unwind.  When suitable time has passed (for the cake, not for you), ever so gently, flip the pan over.  Don’t beat it (that would be mean); just let it wiggle its way out in its own good time.  And… done.  Your wooing efforts have paid off in the form of one whole, unbroken bundt cake.  Well done.

Mini Banana-Maple Bundt

Adapted from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook

Makes 2-3 miniature bundt cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup cake flour

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of cloves

1/8 tsp. baking soda

2 egg whites, beaten until fluffy

1 ripe banana, mashed

1/4 cup buttermilk

3 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

2 tsp. orange zest (optional)

To Make the Bundt Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the two egg whites until fluffy.  Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, vanilla extract, oil, maple syrup, buttermilk, and orange zest if using.  Mix until well combined.

In a third mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir to combine.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour all of the wet ingredients except for the beaten egg whites into the well.  Use a spatula to combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the egg whites and, if using, chopped nuts.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan, and fill the pan to about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  Allow the bundt to cool for at least 20 minutes before inverting.  Be patient, and allow the cake to work its way out on its own.  Garnish with a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Enjoy!