Monday, March 14, 2011

Purple Potato Pirate Pie

I have a confession to make; I'm related to William "Captain" Kidd by marriage. This fact has been a source of amusement for friends and new acquaintances, as well as polite assertions of innocence ("he was framed") by family members. It's a fact that intrigues me as much as the tale my Aunt Jean used to tell of my paternal great grandmother who was known for dispensing wisdom and arranging marriages in a small Polish town. 

Sometimes family stories have a way of getting into what you eat. Though I don't have recipes from my great grandmother (Edouard De Pomiane's "The Jews of Poland: Recollections and Recipes" might offer a clue) it's easy to find out what European pirates enjoyed as a result of their seafaring ways. Salamagundia hodgepodge of chopped meat, anchovies, onions, eggs, vinegar, oil and spicesis well known. Dessert is another story though honey cake seems to show up occasionally and makes sense when one thinks of honey's ability to preserve food when combined with spices.

The immediate thought that comes to mind for most people considering the foodways of pirates is what the scallywags drank. Rum was extremely popular, though beer, grog, sherry, brandy and port are other documented favorites. Since I am a Kydd by marriage (K"y"dd when the family moved from Scotland to England) and pirates were known to travel and trade in spices, I've decided to use dark rum, dark muscovado sugar and a spice mixture of my own creation to make a decadent sweet potato pie. Though my connection to Captain Kidd is tenuous at best, I think he'd enjoy the rich color of the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato and relish each bite as he would his treasured drink.

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

·      4 cups Stokes® Purple Sweet Potatoes (baked, cooled and mashed with a ricer)
·      1 cup India Tree® Dark Muscovado Sugar (firmly packed, can use brown sugar if not available)
·      1 cup light coconut milk
·      4 tbsp. dark rum*
·      2 tsp. Mexican vanilla extract
·      4 large omega-3 eggs
·      4 tbsp. cornstarch
·      2 tsp. ground China cassia cinnamon
·      1 tsp. ground ginger
·      1 tsp. ground mace
·      ½ tsp. ground allspice
·      ½ tsp. ground cloves
·      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 and mix well.
·      In a small bowl sift China cassia cinnamon, ginger, mace, allspice and cloves. Add salt and cornstarch and mix thoroughly. Add the spice mixture to the wet mixture.
·      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 whipped cream.

The North Carolina farmers who grow the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato used to be tobacco farmers. Their story is an interesting one. The Stokes Purple contains high concentrations of the phytochemical anthocyanin and is a variety of sweet potato native to North Carolina. When you buy them you support good health and local farming practices. You can buy Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes at Whole Foods stores or you can purchase them online.

The best dark rum for Purple Potato Pirate Pie is one that has been used to soak raisins for pastry work. The resulting infusion contains the essence of dried fruit which adds flavor. You can make Glass Petal Smoke's Rum Raisin Scones and save the remaining dark rum for Purple Potato Pirate Pie (or Glass Petal Smoke's original Purple Sweet Potato Pie recipe).

Dark muscovado sugar has an intense aromatic bouquet. Unlike regular brown sugar (which has been washed, rinsed and colored) dark muscovado sugar retains all of the molasses and minerals present in sugar. This is immediately evident when you open up the bag and are greeted by a bouquet that includes notes of molasses, burnt caramel, coffee, oak, tobacco, cloves and chocolate. Dark muscovado sugar is the sugar of choice for making genuine rum hence its inclusion in this recipe.

Mexican Vanilla Extract is extraordinarily fragrant and high in vanillin (a naturally occurring molecule in vanilla bean responsible for its rich, creamy character). An eight ounce bottle costs $6.50 though you may want to buy a larger size to economize if you bake often. Certified Iranian Sargol Saffron available online. Glass Petal Smoke utilizes this spice in G√Ęteau Baiser De Safran (Saffron Kiss Cake).

Curious about the history of Captain William Kidd? Read "The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd," by  Richard Zacks. You can find an excerpt here.

September 19th is National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Talk Like a Pirate is the go-to site for fans of pirate history. It includes a Pirate-English generator.

The painting that accompanies this post is titled "Captain Kidd in New York Harbor".  It  was painted in 1920 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"O" is for Osmanthus: Explorations in Cake

Osmanthus is an ingredient that is gradually becoming familiar to the American palate. The dried blossoms are redolent of apricot, lemon and blonde leather, the later of which may seem unusual to the uninitiated palate. Saffron has the same animalic quality as osmanthus, but its leather note is rounded out by impressions of hay, honeyed musk, and almonds. How an ingredient is used in food preparation determines the way we perceive its flavor. The leatheric aspect of osmanthus is easily tempered when the blossoms are used to flavor tea or fowl, but osmanthus is especially delicious and well-tamed when used to make an infused sugar for pastry.

Making an infused sugar using osmanthus is quite simple. Dried osmanthus blossoms are combined with coarse grade sugar. The two ingredients are then ground together and allowed to macerate for at least a week. Glass Petal Smoke's recipe for Osmanthus Teacake makes use of this technique so you can experience the flavor of osmanthus. There's an added health benefit too; osmanthus blossoms are rich in carotenoid antioxidants. Go ahead. Have your cake and eat it too.

Osmanthus Teacake
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd 
Serves 9-12

·      2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
·      ¼ cup golden flaxseed meal
·      1½ teaspoons baking powder (non-aluminum)
·      ¼ teaspoon baking soda
·      ½ teaspoon sea salt (non-iodized)
·      ½ cup raw cane (or turbinado) sugar for infused sugar
·      ½ cup dried Osmanthus petals for infused sugar
·      1 cup low fat, low sodium buttermilk (room temperature)
·      1 tablespoon almond extract
·      2 large eggs (slightly beaten, room temperature)
·      cup sweet unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
·      3 ounces golden raisins

Directions for Making Infused Sugar:
·      Layer sugar and flowers in a spice grinder or mini food processor.
·      Grind ingredients together making sure that the sugar remains crystallized (over-grinding produces a powder). The result should be a sugar evenly tinged with the color of the flowers.
·      Store in a sealed glass jar until ready to use.

·      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
·      Grease one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (or three 5.75 x 3 inch loaf pans) with cooking spray.
·      In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sugar and flaxseed meal, blending well.
·      In a medium sized bowl, mix eggs, melted butter and extract.  Add buttermilk and incorporate.  If using dried fruit, add it to the wet mixture.
·      Make a well in the center of the bowl with the dry ingredients and add wet ones.  Combine wet and dry ingredients together, folding gently with a silicone spatula.  Be careful not to over mix.
·      Pour batter into prepared pans and spread evenly.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes (30 – 35 minutes from smaller loaves), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. 
·      Cool for ten minutes.  Remove from pans and place on wire rack to continue cooling.  Refrigerate or freeze for future use.  The large loaf yields 10-12 slices, the smaller loaf yields 5-6 slices.

Dried Osmanthus Petals are available online from TeaSpring. The quality is superb and any flowers not used for baking can be infused with green tea for a delicious drink. Ten Ren Tea also carries Osmanthus, but dirt and particulate matter show up in this brand and it is not recommended.

Photograph of "Listening to Osmanthus," by Michelle Krell Kydd.