sweets

italian plum pie

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

Hello!

I’m writing you this week from Brussels. Beau and I are staying with friends and recharging between the Paris photography workshop we hosted and the retreat we’re leading in Portugal. Since we arrived, our days have mostly involved sleeping late, cooking with all the gorgeous fall produce, leisurely meals with friends and long walks through the forest. Needless to say, I do not want to leave.

Where Paris was cosmopolitan, sexy, hectic and loud, Brussels is slow and quiet. It’s a city of austere northern architecture and moody blue-grey skies and daily rain showers that necessitate frequent stops for coffee or tea. Our friends live in a lovely, rambling old house with creaky floorboards and cozy reading nooks and two friendly cats (who have been known simply as Le Blanc and Le Noir for as long as I can remember).

Image: Olaiya Land

All this comfort and sleep and home-cooked food makes me feel like a new person. The woman who obsesses about going to the gym and cleaning the house and Instagram analytics has vacated the premises. In her place is someone who sleeps until 11am, thinks walking is exercise enough and dips her French fries in mayonnaise (because, Belgium).

I’ve traveled enough to know that this supremely relaxed, well-rested version of myself won’t stick around forever. But that’s not the point. The important thing is stepping outside my day-to-day stresses and tribulations for long enough to gain perspective on what really matters.

This is the main reason I travel.

Image: Olaiya Land

Don’t get me wrong: the museums and wine and pains au chocolat are pretty compelling reasons, too. But the main thing is how foreign places create a space for me to slow down, reconnect with myself and do more of the things that bring me pleasure. Which in turn allows me to have more creative ideas, be inspired to head in new directions and be a better human, all around.

In this vein of taking time to recharge and do more things that bring us joy, I have a pie recipe for you this week.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

There’s a sensual pleasure to baking a pie from scratch. Mixing the dough by hand and rolling it out evenly. Smelling and tasting the tart, floral fruit as you season the filling. The satisfaction of weaving the top into place and crimping the edges in whatever pattern pleases you most. Arguably the best part is sitting down to eat the first still-warm slice with a melty scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Seen from this vantage point, a home-baked pie is like a work of art and a mini-vacation rolled into one; a space to slow down and settle into yourself that can be achieved within the four walls of your own kitchen.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Italian Plum Pie

  • 1 recipe flaky pie dough (see below)
  • 2 lbs (900g) firm-ripe Italian prune plums (or other plums, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 lb (450g) firm-ripe peaches (this is roughly 2 medium peaches)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 9 tablespoons (120g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

Flaky Pie Dough

  • 1 lb + 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 cup cold water

  • 1 whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (or 3 tablespoons cream or milk), to glaze

  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar (regular old sugar will work, too)

*Notes: If peaches aren’t available when you get around to baking this pie, you can use all plums or substitute figs for the peaches.

- I have a step-by-step tutorial for making pie dough with pictures here. (Scroll to the bottom of the post.)

- I also tried this pie with this Easiest Pie Crust Ever from Yossy over at Apt 2B Baking Co. This crust uses only flour, butter and cream cheese and comes together quickly and easily in a food processor. The tang of the cream cheese is a nice compliment to stone fruit. It’s a great option if you need to save time or are nervous about making the crust 100% by hand.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

For the crust: Before you begin, make sure your butter, lard and cold water have been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If the weather is warm or your kitchen tends to be toasty, chill your flour as well.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Separate the pieces of chilled butter and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Do the same with the lard. When all the pieces of fat have been coated in flour, pick up a piece of butter or lard between your thumb and first two fingers. Slide your thumb over the butter or lard while pressing down on it in order to form a long, thin strip. Drop this strip back into the bowl so it becomes coated with flour. Continue until all the pieces of butter and lard have been flattened. Some of the flakes will break and the dough will take on a slightly crumbly or sandy appearance, which is just fine. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to re-chill the fat.

Drizzle the cold water and vinegar onto the chilled flour and fat mixture, tossing constantly with a flexible silicone or rubber spatula or a large spoon. Continue adding water until the mixture is moist enough to form a dough when you pinch it together. If you have used ¾ cup of water and the dough seems dry, give it a few more turns with your spatula or spoon and then pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough. Squeeze it and see if it wants to come together into a dough.  If it is too crumbly and won’t form a dough, add a bit more water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the mixture forms a dough when you pinch it together.

Turn out the dough (it will be shaggy) onto a large work surface and gather it together into a ball. Do not knead it as this will toughen the dough. Divide it in half with a bench scraper or knife. Form each half into a ball and then flatten each ball into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap or parchement and chill for at least an hour before rolling. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or placed in a resealable bag and frozen for up to 2 months.  If frozen, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Place the dough into a pie plate. Lift and press it into the edges of the plate.  Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim and crimp the edges of your crust and place the pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut out a circle roughly 1 inch larger than the top diameter of your pie plate.  For a latticed pie, cut this circle into wide strips.  Place the strips on a plate and refrigerate while you make the filling.

When you are ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.  

For the filling: Cut the plums into quarters if they're large or halves if they're small, discarding the pits. Cut the peaches into 1-inch thick slices. Place the fruit in a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice, sugar, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Toss the fruit and any juices that have collected in the bowl with the cornstarch, mixing well to break up any clumps of cornstarch.

Baking the pie: Pour the fruit mixture into your well-chilled or frozen bottom crust. Place the dough strips from the refrigerator on top of the fruit, weaving them into a lattice pattern. Trim the edges to overhang by ¾ inch. Fold the top edges of the lattice over the bottom crust, tuck the edges under and crimp to seal the edges. Place the filled and topped pie back in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. 

(I know. There’s a lot of chilling and freezing and waiting around. But taking the time to par-freeze your pie will help keep your crust from slumping in the oven.)

Brush the top crust with the egg wash (or cream or milk) and then sprinkle with the sugar. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the crust is dark golden brown, about 45-60 minutes longer. You want to make sure you can see the filling bubbling up through the lattice or the cornstarch won’t set the filling and it will be runny. The top crust should be deep golden-brown when the pie is done. If you feel like it’s starting to burn, loosely tent aluminum foil over the pie and continue to bake until the juices bubble.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before serving. (The longer you let it cool, the easier it will be to slice.)

Serves 6-8.

grapefruit vanilla bean trifle

Image: Olaiya Land

In the dreary days of February, my mind turns to spring dreams. Green grass and tiny daffodils elbowing their way up through the soil. The season's first asparagus stalks and baby morels. Raspberries. Strawberries. Apricots! Easter hams and rhubarb pies.

All of which leaves me feeling rather let down when I come back down to Earth and remember we’re still sailing through the mid-winter doldrums.

Image: Olaiya Land

This is a time of year that requires extra creativity in the kitchen. The novelty of autumn’s bounty of apples, pears and squash is long gone. Tender spring things are still weeks away. And Kale, popular and Instagram-friendly as it is, can only take you so far.

Luckily, this is the month we are given citrus.

Image: Olaiya Land

Jewel-toned citrus in all its shapes and forms is the answer to the culinary blues. Bright and subtly floral, it’s the winter ingredient that tricks our palettes into thinking spring is nearly here. 

Sweet-tart grapefruit is my very favorite member of the citrus family. It's annual appearance at the grocery store never fails to brighten my day. Sort of like a beloved uncle who comes around once a year with bad jokes and pocketfulls of candy. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

It’s difficult to improve upon a perfectly ripe grapefruit section scooped straight from the rind. But as I looked around our kitchen at the mounting piles of grapefruit, I decided it was time to kick things up a notch and transform my winter citrus bounty into something a touch more fancified. 

Which leads us to this Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Trifle. It’s a delicious pile of controlled chaos--towering layers of cake, cream, meringue and citrus that collapse into a fluffy, creamy mess when you scoop them into your bowl. This is the sort of dessert that will help you shake off a winter funk. The sort of dish that will make you forget winter all together.

At least until you reach the bottom of the trifle dish.

Image: Olaiya Land

Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Trifle

  • 5 large, ripe grapefruit (I used a mix of red, pink, gold and white grapefruit)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Curd, chilled (see below)
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Bean Meringues (see below)
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake, cooled completely (see below)


*Note: This trifle is most beautiful right after you assemble it, before the citrus can release any juices. But it is about a gazillion times more delicious the next day. I recommend you make this a day in advance and store it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. Leave off the last layer of meringue crumbles until right before you serve it so they stay crunchy.

- Almost all the components of this trifle can be made in advance. The cake can be baked up to 2 days in advance. The curd can be made up to a week in advance. The merengues can be baked a week or more in advance if you bake them fairly dry and store them in an airtight container. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit. Cut the flesh into supremes over a medium bowl so you catch all the juices. (Here’s a video on how to do it.) Set aside.

Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the sugar and beat to stiff peaks using the whisk attachment. (You can also use a hand beater or a wire whisk and a mixing bowl.) Take care not to over beat the cream--you want it stiff, but not grainy. Gently fold the chilled grapefruit curd into the whipped cream until only a few faint streaks of yellow remain. 

Cut the cooled cake into roughly 1-inch pieces. Arrange the cake pieces in the bottom of a trifle dish or large bowl in a tight layer. Depending on the size of your dish, you may not use all the cake pieces. You can freeze them for another use, or--my favorite option--snack on them alongside your afternoon cup of coffee or tea. 

Spread half the grapefruit cream mixture over the cake. Arrange half the grapefruit sections over the cream. (Take care to lift them from their juices with your fingers or a slotted spoon so the trifle isn’t too wet.) Crumble a layer of meringue pieces over the grapefruit. Spread the rest of the grapefruit cream over the meringue and top with the rest of the grapefruit sections. Crumble additional pieces of meringue over the trifle just before serving.

Serves 8-10.


Grapefruit Curd

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest (from 1 large grapefruit--grate an additional 2 teaspoons zest for the olive oil cake, below)
  • ¾ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice 
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 4 large yolks (save the yolks from your meringues for this)
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces


Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the juices, zest, sugar, eggs and salt  in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often with a heatproof spatula, until just warm to the touch. Add 1 piece of the butter and cook, stirring constantly with the spatula to prevent scorching, until the butter is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining 9 pieces of butter. 

Continue to cook, stirring often until the curd has thickened and is beginning to bubble, about 1 minute longer. 

Strain the curd into the bowl and discard the zest and any bits of cooked egg. Cool for 15 minutes then place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill in the refrigerator until very cold, at least 4 hours.

The curd will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.

Makes about 3 cups.


Vanilla Bean Meringues

  • 9 oz superfine sugar (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 vanilla bean (I used a Tahitian vanilla bean since they are beautifully floral)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 oz egg whites (from about 5 large eggs)--reserve the yolks for curd
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar


Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250° F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. 

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the vanilla seeds to the bowl with the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar; this will keep the vanilla from clumping together in the meringues. Add the cornstarch and salt. Whisk to combine and break up any clumps.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes.

Increase the speed a little and slowly sprinkle in the sugar mixture. It should take you about a minute or more; adding the sugar too quickly or before the eggs form soft peaks will result in a less stable meringue that might spread or weep. A minute or so after all of the sugar mixture has been added, add the vinegar. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the meringue forms very stiff peaks, 5-8 minutes longer. You will know the meringue is stiff enough when it will hold the whisk attachment perfectly upright with no other support.  

Spoon the meringue into 6 heaping mounds, each about 4 inches wide on the parchment-lined sheet pan (be sure they aren’t touching). If you want drier, crunchier meringues, use the back of a spoon to flatten each meringue a bit so they are thinner. If you like more marshmallowy meringues, leave them as fluffy mounds.

Bake the meringues until they are crisp and dry to the touch on the outside but still white (not golden or cracked), about 80-90 minutes for flat meringues and about 2 hours for thick ones. Check on the meringues periodically to make sure they aren’t coloring or cracking. If they are, rotate the sheet pan and reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

When the meringues are done, turn off the oven and let the meringues cool completely in the oven. If you're not using them right away, store the cooled meringues in a tightly sealed container (I like a large mason jar). They will keep for a week or two, depending on how dry they are cooked, in a well-sealed container.

Makes 6 large meringues.
 


Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake
Adapted slightly from Yossy Arefi

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) fruity olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (55g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole-milk kefir or buttermilk, at room temperature (I used kefir)


Follow this recipe, omitting the rosemary and substituting 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest for the lemon zest.



toasted buckwheat granola with tahini and dark chocolate

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

Hello people!

Today’s the day! It's the final post in the holiday blognanza I put together for you with Megan from Cream + Honey! In case you missed them, you can check out our previous posts here:

Every year, I like to share an easy last-minute edible holiday gift recipe with you. This year, I’ve got this Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate. This one goes out to all the procrastinators among us (including myself) who are scrambling for a last-minute homemade gift idea. And to all you overachievers who want to spread a little extra holiday cheer! Whichever camp you fall into, you most definitely need to make this granola.

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

In an effort to switch things up this year, I dialed back the oats in my go-to granola formula and decided to throw in a generous amount of lightly toasted buckwheat groats. This turned out to be a pretty good move on my part (thank you Alison Roman for the inspiration) because the buckwheat lent an earthy complexity to this granola and made it extra crunchy and sog-proof. 

I hate getting hungry halfway through my morning, so to make this more filling, I added protein-packed quinoa to the mix. I’ve got hazelnuts in there too because, duh, I AM OBSESSED WITH HAZELNUTS. (I might lay off the hazelnuts in the new year. Can’t make any promises though…). 

Lastly, I’ll admit that the super sexy tahini + dark chocolate combo could be considered showboating (mostly by people who eat bran flakes for breakfast). In my defense, however, it elevates this way beyond your basic bulk-bin affair and turns it into the sort of granola your brunch guests will ooh! and ah! about and your children will fight over. (Don’t blame me, blame the chocolate.)

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land
Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

This takes about 15 minutes of active time plus 50 minutes in the oven, which gives you just enough time to whip up a batch of Megan’s Amaro Sprtiz Punch and kick the holiday weekend off in boozy style!

I myself will most likely be subsisting on handfuls of this granola over the next 48 hours as I attempt to distribute the last of my holiday baked goods, prep the house for our AirBnB guests (so nerve racking!) and pack my bags for Paris.

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not sure if I’ll have time to post before the new year, so I’ll take this opportunity to tell you how immensely grateful I am to all of you who joined my workshops, followed my adventures on Instagram and stopped by to read this blog. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Your kindness and support over the past year mean so much to me. 

I wish you a beautiful, restful and delicious holiday and I can’t wait to see you in 2018!

XOXO!

Olaiya


Toasted Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 2 cups raw buckwheat groats
  • 3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup raw hulled sesame seeds
  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ cup avocado oil, refined coconut oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup rice bran syrup or agave
  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shaved dark chocolate (I used Callebaut 60%)

*Note: There are two kinds of buckwheat groats--raw (or lightly toasted) and darkly toasted (also known as kasha). For this recipe you want raw or lightly toasted buckwheat groats since they're going in the oven for quite a while. These will be green or light brown and shouldn't have much of a scent to them. It's pretty easy to distinguish from kasha which is dark brown or reddish brown and has a nutty, toasted smell to it. If you can't find raw buckwheat groats where you live, feel free to substitute more oats or a mix of other dry ingredients like flax seeds, raw sunflower seeds, spelt flakes, etc.

 

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land
Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

Preheat your oven to 300° F.

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the sharp edge of the knife to scrape the seeds from the pod. Add the seeds to the sugar and use your fingers to rub the vanilla into the sugar, breaking up any clumps. Place the buckwheat, oats, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, quinoa, cardamom and salt in a large bowl. Add the vanilla sugar and stir to combine thoroughly.

Combine the oils, syrups and tahini in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are completely coated.

Divide the granola between two parchment-lined sheet pans. Spread the granola out and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating the pans and stirring the granola every 15 minutes or so. You want to remove the granola from the oven when it's golden brown. Don't worry if it's not completely dry; it will crisp up as it sits. Place the sheet pans on wire racks to cool. When the granola is completely cool, stir in the shaved chocolate. 

Transfer the granola to an airtight container (I like a big mason jar) and store in a cool dry place. Tightly covered, the granola will keep for several weeks.

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land