Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Purple Sweet Potato Pie: An Exercise in Multisensory Baking

Baking engages every sense. We use our eyes to select ingredients and observe their transformation as they are combined. We listen to the sound of sugar hissing as it is poured into a bowl. We use our hands to work dough, sometimes noticing an uncanny resemblance to a body part or human flesh. We smell the aroma of butter, flour, sugar and eggs, and are immediately transported to another time; a time when small hands firmly grasped mixer beaters coated in raw pastry, our mouths whetted by appetites larger than paltry batter could yield. We felt the granular texture of sugar and the grit of grain against our butter moistened tongues. Years later we wonder; is there really any greater pleasure than this?

Ingredients are important for the quality and variety of experience they bring to the palate. When ingredients are particularly vibrant in color the multisensory experience of baking grows more expansive and transports the senses. In the case of the Stokes® Purple Sweet Potato the benefits extend beyond vision and taste; the potatoes contain a high concentration of the phytochemical anthocyanin, the same beneficial antioxidant found in blueberries. Watching the potato ricer exude deep purple strands has a way of making the sides of one's mouth curl up in a smile, a gentle reminder that baking can be fun and beautiful.

Purple Sweet Potato Pie
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: Two Pies

·        4 cups Stokes® Purple Sweet Potatoes (baked, cooled and mashed with a ricer)
·        1 cup dark muscovado sugar (firmly packed)
·        1 cup light coconut milk
·        2 tbsp. dark rum
·        1 tsp. vanilla
·        4 large omega-3 eggs
·        4 tbsp. cornstarch
·        1 tbsp. ground China cassia cinnamon
·        1 tsp. ground cardamom
·        1 tsp. ground nutmeg
·        1 tsp. non-iodized sea salt
·        (2) Arrowhead Mills® prepared 9-inch Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Preparing the Potatoes
·        The day before you make the pie prepare 5 medium Stokes® Purple Sweet Potatoes for baking.
·        Preheat oven to 400F.
·        Gently rinse each potato using your fingers to rub off any surface dirt. Pat potatoes dry with a paper towel and check the potatoes to make sure they aren’t bruised, (if they are cut out what can’t be used and discard).
·       Using the tines of a fork poke holes in the surface of the potato. Wrap in aluminum foil with the poked side facing up. This will allow air to escape and prevent the potato from bursting in the oven.
·        Bake for 50-60 minutes at 400 degrees. When done, open the foil carefully (the purple juice can stain clothing and hands) and allow each potato to cool before re-wrapping and placing in the refrigerator overnight.

Preparing the Pies
·        Preheat oven to 325F.
·        Remove the skins from the potatoes and cut into half inch slices. Fill a potato ricer to the half point and mash the potatoes through the ricer, putting pressure on the ends of the handles for maximum efficiency. Repeat until you can fill your mixing bowl with four cups of mashed potatoes.
·        In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, dark rum, vanilla, and light coconut milk.
·        Add dark muscovado sugar, corn starch, China cassia cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt to the liquid mixture and mix well.
·        Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and incorporate.
·        Using a ladle fill two pie crusts with the sweet potato custard, smoothing the tops with the end of the ladle to ensure even baking.
·        Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
·        Cool on a rack for at least an hour.
·        Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Serve with a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt and garnish with pecans.

Sweet potatoes are tubers and are related to the Morning Glory family of plants.

Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes are available at select Whole Foods stores. You can also purchase them online. 

Glass Petal Smoke recommends the OXO® Ricer. Its ergonomic design makes it a pleasure to work with.

Okinawa Sweet Potatoes are less purple than the Stokes® and possess a flavor profile nuanced with spice. They will work in this recipe (as will regular sweet potatoes) and are available at Melissa's.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Orange Blossom Crumiri

Orange Blossom and Saffron were introduced to Italian taste buds by the Moors. As with many exotic ingredients from the east, they are considered aphrodisiac. The commingling of flavors in Crumiri (a classic Italian shortbread cookie) with exotic Orange Blossom and Saffron makes history come to life on the taste buds. One bite of these cookies and you'll agree; history never tasted so good.

Orange Blossom Crumiri
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: approximately six dozen

·        2 cups Hecker’s® All-Purpose Flour
·        ⅔ cups Arrowhead Mills® Organic Yellow Cornmeal
·        ½ teaspoon non-iodized sea salt
·        ½ cup (plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted Land O’ Lakes® Butter, at room temperature
·        ½ cup (plus 3 tablespoons) organic cane sugar
·        2 large eggs, at room temperature
·        4 drops food grade Neroli (orange blossom) oil*
·        zest of one small organic orange (blood orange if in season)
·        10 threads of saffron bled in a tablespoon of hot water
·        ¼ teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract

·        Divide oven racks into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F.
·        Line two baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.
·        In a medium mixing bowl, sift and combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Mix well with a large silicone spatula.
·        Soften butter in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. It should be softened (not warm or transparent) when it is done.
·        Zest one small organic orange using a Microplane® zester.
·        Cream together butter, orange zest, Neroli oil and sugar. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, saffron and vanilla extract.
·        Add the butter mixture to the egg mixture and incorporate.
·        Combine wet ingredients with dry ones. Work the dough with the spatula for two minutes. The dough should be slightly resistant (not too tacky or hard).
·        Shape one teaspoonful of dough at a time by placing it between your hands and rolling it between the centers of your palms, pressing down very slightly. Place onto baking sheet in seven rows of five cookies each.
·        Bake for 15 minutes, turning and reversing trays from top to bottom at 7.5 minutes and continuing to bake for another 7.5 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.
·        Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
·        Store in an airtight container.

Flavor and Fragrance Seduction Tip:

Odin 2 Owari is a refreshing unisex fragrance inspired by citrus. Glass Petal Smoke suggests sharing Orange Blossom Crumiri with someone you love while wearing Odin 2 Owari (the fragrance pays homage to Neroil in it's heart notes). Add two mimosas for imbibing and a memorable flavor and fragrance combination will be yours (among other things).

Neroli and Orange Blossom are one and the same.

*If you don’t have access to food grade Neroli Oil you may use a tablespoon of Cortas® Orange Blossom Water (slightly more to taste if you enjoy the floralcy). Food grade Neroli Oil (which is steam distilled) is available from Enfleurage.

Not all essential oils are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration. Even those that are must be used with caution. They are highly concentrated and may cause damage to the lining of the esophagus and/or composite tooth fillings if used improperly (too high a dose). If you wish to make an extract from a GRAS essential oil you may do so at a ratio of 3% (3 drops of essential oil to 100 drops of high proof vodka). Always consult the FDA GRAS list to make sure you are using safe materials in cooking/baking. The list is currently in section 582.20 of the FDA code.

Absolutes (fragrant materials that aren't cold pressed or steam distilled) are not recommended for consumption as they have traces of the solvent hexane which is used to extract the essence.

Brian Eno, a musician/composer, is a big fan of essential oils. He's dedicated a full-length ambient recording to Neroli.

Orange Blossom fractal art by AZDude.

Cookies for Cancer is a charity that helps raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research. Think about making a donation of time &/or money to this cause; even if you just have milk money.

Glass Petal Smoke's recipe for Bergamot Crumiri can be found here.