Friday, August 27, 2010

August Daring Bakers Challenge - Brown Butter Pound Cake Two Ways

Make yourself comfy, because it is that time of the month again!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I was so excited to read this challenge. I have been very curious about browned butter for quite some time now, but have always been too afraid to try it. While there were some daring bakers who were less excited to have a second ice cream based challenge in a row, to me, there is no such thing as too much ice cream, especially now that I know how amazing the homemade variety is. So between the brown butter and the ice cream, I could not wait to dive right into this challenge.

So I didn't.

Wait, that is. For the first time ever, I started this challenge the day after it was posted. So I am so excited to finally be able to share it with you.

The first step was to decide which of the two desserts I was going to make with my brown butter pound cake. This was easy. They both looked great - I was going to make both. There was no question about that.

The second step was to make the brown butter. This was a little harder, at least mentally, before actually starting. Browning butter was always something that worried me a bit, since there is only a fine line between browning butter and burning it. A line I have always been nervous to cross. And this recipe called for two and a half sticks of butter. That is a lot of butter to risk. But this was the perfect opportunity, so I got started.

The process of browning butter is actually quite simple, as long as you watch it carefully.
The butter is melted over medium heat, and then heated further until the milk solids begin to toast, darkening to a nice brown and giving off a delicious, nutty aroma. At this point, I placed the entire pot into a pan that I had set aside, filled with cold water. This was to immediately stop the cooking process to make sure that the butter didn't cross that line into "burned" territory. The beautiful, golden, aromatic butter was then transferred to a bowl and placed into the freezer to cool for use in the pound cake. I love how you can actually see the layers in the butter, with the dark milk solids on the bottom.

While the butter was cooling, little miss and I got started preparing the dry ingredients for the brown butter pound cake. She absolutely loves measuring, pouring and mixing.

The batter came together absolutely beautifully, and had such a beautiful color and smell, thanks to the brown butter. Needless to say, I was very encouraged, even at this stage, about the entire challenge. I mean, if just the batter for the first element looked this good, that had to mean good things for the rest of the challenge.

Once the cake was done, it was time to choose which dessert I was going to make first. I chose the Baked Alaska, for no other reason than I actually had a plan for the egg yolks that I would wind up with as a result of making the meringue. I actually had some vanilla ice cream left over from last month's bombe challenge. As lucky timing would have it, I had made the ice cream late in the month for that challenge, and was preparing this challenge early, so the ice cream was only one week "leftover." I decided to convert it to cookies and cream for use in this challenge, just to change things up a bit. Little miss helped me crush Oreo cookies, then mix them into the vanilla ice cream. We then lined two of little miss's small-sized bowls with plastic wrap and used them as molds for the ice cream. These were placed into the freezer to get nice and solid, to be ready for the construction of the final dessert. I then used another of these bowls as the guide for cutting out the cake, onto which these ice cream rounds would rest. Then, when the time came to put it all together, I whipped up some meringue.

To put the dessert together, the molded ice cream is turned out onto the cake rounds. Then the whole thing is covered in the prepared meringue. The meringue can be piped on or, as I did, spread onto the ice cream and cake, making sure that the entire dessert is fully covered. I then put the meringue covered domes back into the freezer until dessert time, just waiting for the finishing touch. Once dinner was done, it was time to pop these guys into a very (VERY) hot oven for just a couple of minutes to toast the meringue. The meringue (plus the extra freezer time...) insulates the ice cream enough to keep it from melting, despite the 500 degree oven temperature. The resutly was a beautifully toasted Baked Alaska. Little miss was absolutely amazed that I was putting ice cream in the oven, and was more than happy to be a taste tester for the finished product. It got major thumbs up all around.

Baked Alaska completed (and thoroughly enjoyed), I was able to then turn my attention to the second dessert option. In cutting the pound cake for the Baked Alaskas, I had reserved half to be used to create ice cream petit fours.

For the petit fours, I decided to use the leftover caramel ice cream from last month's challenge. I had just enough, and, as luck would have it, had a complimentary flavor-combination idea to use it. The given recipe for petit fours was something like a chocolate-enrobed ice cream sandwich, with the brown butter pound cake as the "bread" for the sandwich. With the combination of caramel ice cream and the chocolate covering, I was really getting "candy bar" vibes, so that was my inspiration for my petit fours. After carefully splitting the pound cake in half, I proceeded to spread chocolate sauce on one half and caramel sauce (the same caramel sauce ipe recthat I had used as the topping for my apple pierogi) on the other. I then put the caramel ice cream in the middle and, as quickly as possible, closed up my "sandwich" to re-freeze in the freezer. As you can see, I had the same problem with the caramel ice cream here as I did in the apple pie bombe - it melts. Fast. And becomes just a little bit messy. As quickly as I could, I wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap and put it back into the freezer. As for the mess on the counter? Little miss was more than happy to help me clean it up... as only a four year old can...

After several hours in the freezer, it was time to cut the sandwich into cubes to be covered in chocolate. The caramel sauce actuall froze to be pretty hard, which made cutting the layers cleanly a little bit tricky, but I soon had about a dozen sandwich squares, ready to be covered in chocolatey goodness. For some reason, my sauce came out very thin, so we actually double-dipped them, hoping for a nice, clean chocolate coating. The result wasn't quite what I had hoped for, but I must say - the combination of melty caramel ice cream and thin chocolate coating made the pound cake extra moist, even after time in the freezer, and the results were super delicious. What was lost in presentation points, I certainly think was made up for in taste points.

Elissa, I cannot thank you enough for such an awesome challenge. Thank you for helping me get over my fear of brown butter, thank you for the amazing brown butter pound cake recipe (oh yes, that will be made again!), and for the fun chance to exercise dessert creativity with both dessert options. This was a really great challenge.

I highly recommend checking out the beautiful, creative and delicious looking desserts made by the other Daring Bakers this month.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Last week, little miss specifically requested that we have artichokes as our vegetable with dinner one night. This really came kind of out of the blue to me - I had, believe it or not, never actually handled a fresh artichoke before, and had no idea how to actually prepare one. The only artichokes I'd eaten before were artichoke hearts that had already been cut, prepared, and were in a jar of some kind of prepared marinade. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised by her request. Surprised, but absolutely ready and willing to give it a shot. I mean, how many four year olds specifically request a vegetable they've never tried before? There was pretty much no way to say no.

So a few days later, at our local Produce Junction, little miss helped me pick out two artichokes. They were two for a dollar, so double the fun, right? Now, as I said, I have never handled fresh artichokes before, so I had no clue how to pick out a good one... I tried to look for ones that were neither tightly closed nor totally "bloomed" open, and ones that didn't look visibly browned or bruised. I figured those were good rules of thumb, right? Regardless of my cluelessness, little miss was thrilled with our purchase.

Once I got the artichokes home, I had the challenge of figuring out what, exactly, to do with them. Most of the recipes that I found are for boiling them, which I am sure is the easiest way to go about cooking them. Unfortunately, my big pot was spoken for that night, so I went in search of a recipe for roasting the artichokes. I managed to find a couple, but was not completely convinced by any of them. That is mostly due to, well, my complete lack of knowledge about what fresh artichokes even taste like. So what I decided to do was create my own way of preparing them, based on a little bit of each recipe that I had read.

The first thing I did was to trim the tops of the artichokes (as every recipe indicated) and then quartering them. The main reason for quartering, rather than halving them, as most recipes indicated, was to cut down the cooking time. I also tried to remove as much of the fuzzy "choke" (something I had no idea even existed mere hours prior to this effort...) from each piece as I could. I decided that my main flavorings would be lemon, salt and pepper, with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I lightly oiled my pan, laid each section of artichoke on a thin slice of lemon, squeezed extra lemon juice on top with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, and gave the tops a light drizzling of olive oil. I was pretty pleased with how these looked as I covered the pan with foil and popped it into the oven.

After about half an hour, I peeled back the foil to check on the artichokes. Again, never having cooked these in any way before, I wasn't positive exactly how to check for done-ness, but they felt much softer to the touch, smelled good, and had definitely browned a bit, so I took a guess that they were ready.

So how did they turn out? To be honest, I would have to try them again, and probably a couple of different ways, to really know for sure, but the crowd here seemed very pleased with them. We each started with one wedge, and both daddy and little miss finished theirs very quickly and immediately asked for seconds. I definitely took that as a good sign. It made a nice side for our pasta and meatballs, and, though it seemed like quite a bit of effort for the amount of actual, edible artichoke, it was very fun and I was glad to try something new.

If anyone reading has any artichoke experience, or a really great way of preparing it, please share it here - I definitely want to try this again and am very open to suggestions!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

So little miss and I were invited to a friend's house earlier this week for a play date. We were so excited, because we haven't had the chance to get together with these friends in quite some time.

As you have read, I hate to arrive anywhere empty handed, and seeing friends you haven't seen in a while is always cause for celebration, so I wanted to find something fun to bring. I knew I wanted to do something with bananas, and I love the combination of bananas and peanut butter, so I started my search there. So when I came across this recipe, I knew it would be a winner. First of all, you are pretty much guaranteed to love just about anything you make from that blog. Seriously. Secondly, it's muffins made with bananas, peanut butter and chocolate chips. It just had to be good.

As little miss whisked together the dry ingredients, I mashed the bananas and mixed the wet ingredients. She was fascinated by the way the brown sugar would get caught in the whisk, which made it pretty funny to watch. She did lend a hand with the banana mashing, too, but was very reluctant to let go of the whisk, so mainly stuck with that.

Once the wet and dry ingredients were gently folded together, it was time to add the chocolate chips, a task that little miss took very seriously. The first thing that she wanted to do was to count the chocolate chips. Mostly to know how many extras would be available for taste testing. As if the recipe calls for a specific number of chips, rather than a measurement... but, again, it was super fun to watch. And she did manage to taste test a chip or two...

The batter came together really quickly, and was soon divided into the muffin tin, ready to go into the oven. The recipe calls for the batter to be evenly distributed among the 12 cups of the muffin tin. This made for some very generously filled muffin cups (and, in fact, left enough extra batter for an extra mini-cake-sized muffin, guaranteeing that daddy would get a taste, too - score!).

Once these went into the oven, little miss and I got ourselves ready for our playdate. The smell of these cooking was definitely motivation enough for little miss to pick out her clothes, get dressed, and even help me straighten up the livig room, waiting for the timer to beep.

When these came out of the oven, we were both really excited. They rose beautifully, had really great color and smelled fantastic. We couldn't wait to share them with our friends.

And let me say, they did not disappoint. They were so good that I actually considered making a second batch this morning... I refrained, but only because I already had plans for the oven that I knew I shouldn't push off. But I can guarantee that these will be made again in the very near future.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
(from Noble Pig)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 large, ripe bananas, mashed - enough for 1 1/4 cups mashed banana
1 cup milk
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. If using cupcake liners, spray those, too. Note that this recipe makes 18 muffins.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon to combine.
In another mixing bowl, combine mashed banana, milk, peanut butter, egg, oil and vanilla and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the combined dry ingredients and mix together just enough to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill sprayed muffin tin, filling each well 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August Daring Cooks Challenge - Pierogi

For the first time ever, the Daring Cooks challenge was something I had made before, but don't think that that stopped me from being super excited about the challenge. On the contrary - when I saw the announcement for this month's challenge, I couldn't wait to get started.

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

As you may remember, I made pierogi for the first time about two months ago. The whole family loved them, and I even said at the time that I was really looking forward to trying them again and playing around with different fillings. So when this challenge was announced, I was so excited to have the opportunity not only to make them again, but to get really creative with them.

The first thing that I did was to try to think of a fun, locally inspired filling... The closest major city to us is Philadelphia, so I tried to think of something Philly-inspired... Philadelphia cream cheese, maybe? Or maybe something inspired by Hershey's chocolate, since Hershey is not too far away?

And that is when it hit me. What is the quintessential Philly meal? The cheese steak. That's what I would make. Philly cheese steak pierogi.

Once I had the idea, I couldn't wait to get started. And little miss couldn't wait to help. The first thing that we did was to prepare the dough. As usual, little miss is more than happy to dive right into to almost any cooking project, particularly one that allows her to use her hands. We used the same dough recipe that we used the last time, as it was almost identical to one of the recommended recipes in the challenge, because I was actually curious if it would come out a little better now that I had a touch more familiarity with it. I think that wound up being a good choice, as that gave me a boost of confidence going into it.

Once the dough was ready and chilling in the fridge, it was time to get started on the filling. I have made cheese steaks before, and used the same process for these, with the exception of adding extra chopped onions and making sure that the meat and cheese was chopped well enough to be able to spoon into the dough rounds. Little miss loves to help me handle the rotary grater, so the task of grating the cheese was delegated accordingly.

For the meat, I always use frozen minute steak, which I crumble into the pan, then just keep it moving to make sure that it cooks evenly and doesn't burn. Once the meat is cooked and drained, I load it up with the cheese and cover the pot for just a minute to let it melt in. I seriously could eat it right out of the pan at this point.

But I restrained myself, and little miss and I proceeded to use the prepared (and slightly cooled) meat and cheese to fill our dough rounds. Adequately filled, each dough round was folded over and expertly crimped by my very proficient sous chef.

When it came to cooking the pierogi, I stuck with my usual double-cooking method of first boiling the dumplings and then frying them to make them nice and crispy. Because I was making cheese steak pierogi, I sauteed extra sweet onion in the pan prior to adding the boiled dumplings.

So how did they come out?

In a word, DELICIOUS. And yes, so good that the caps are totally necessary. I served these with sour cream (not exactly a Philly standard, but hey...), and they were absolutely the perfect meal (yes, with a veggie and a side salad...). These will absolutely, positively be made again.

But what do you have for dessert after a meal like that? Why, more pierogi!

Philly being the birthplace of America and all, what is more American than apple pie? Yes, it was the inspiration for last month's Daring Bakers swiss roll bombe, but I actually planned ahead and made extra apple compote specifically so that I could try my hand at dessert pierogi.

Once again, little miss was happy to help me fill, fold and crimp the pierogi. Which was a big help, since rolling, filling and shaping that many pierogi all in one go can get very, very monotonous. There is nothing like a four-year-old sous chef to make sure you stay on your game!

I wanted to make some kind of sauce or topping to go with these, and what goes better with apples than caramel? (okay, yes, MANY things go well with apples, but work with me here...) I chose this caramel sauce, since it looked simple, straightforward, and like it would be a good accompaniment to the pierogi. Having pretty much overcome my fear of melting sugar over the last few challenges, I got right to work (busying my sous chef elsewhere for this part). And, okay, I know this is cheezy, but in photographing the process, it looked like the sugar was pretty glad to be turning into caramel. I mean, look at that heart? Ahem.

The caramel sauce came out beautifully. I know I have tried a few recently, but this one is definitely a keeper. It had a nice, smooth texture and had just the right level of sweetness.

Like the cheese steak pierogi, I first boiled the apple pierogi, then carefully fried them in butter with a generous sprinkling of cinamon sugar.

All I can say about these is that I wish I had thought of them sooner. Seriously, we had trouble deciding which pierogi we liked better, and all agreed that having pierogi for both dinner and dessert was not only not as weird as it first sounded, but made for a really fun and delicious dinner.

LizG and Anula, thank you so much for this challenge. I so appreciated the chance to play wih pierogi, and look forward to trying many other variations in the near future.

If you want to see some of the other amazing and creative ideas cooked up by the other Daring Cooks, check them out here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peaches, Parts 2, 3, 4 and half of 5

So yesterday was a very peachy day. As luck would have it (well, baking luck, anyway), yesterday was a rainy, stormy, stay inside kind of day. Which lined up perfectly for the fact that we had just picked many, many pounds of peaches. So right after breakfast, we set to work turning those peaches into as many things as we could manage in a single day.

The first endeavor was preserves. I don't buy many store-bought jams or preserves anymore, as almost all of them contain high fructose corn syrup, and those that don't, don't go on sale all that often. So jam or preserves is always my first plan when we go fruit picking these days. The first step was to peel the peaches. I have tried (unsuccessfully) in the past the method of boiling the peaches for a minute, then plunging them into ice water. From all accounts, the peel should just slip right off, if this is done properly. Apparently, I'd never done it properly before... But I tried again yesterday, since I knew I would be peeling a ton of peaches anyway, and had slightly better luck. It works best with peaches that are really ripe. I still had to pull out my trusty vegetable peeler for some of the more stubborn peaches, but this helped quite a bit.

I chose to try a pectin-free preserves recipe, which had all of three ingredients - peaches, sugar and lemon juice. I used six cups of chopped peaches, three cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon. I mixed all of the ingredients together, let them sit for a little over an hour to develop a nice, natural syrup, than cooked the mixture for a very long time. I boiled the fruit for only a couple of minutes, but then simmered the whole mix (stirring frequently) for about and hour and a half.

The results were very pretty, a little thinner than traditional jams, and much sweeter than I had expected, considering I chose a recipe that called for half as much sugar as most of the other recipes out there. But I now have fresh preserves in the fridge waiting to be used for sandwiches, spreads and anything else I care to try.

As the jam was cooking, little miss and I decided to try a much more instant- gratification recipe, so we grabbed a couple of peaches, a couple of bananas and our mini blender. Yup - what could be better for a mid-morning snack than peach-banana smoothies? One peach, one banana, a scoop of yogurt and lots of ice. Little miss chose to use the ice cubes that we had made out of juice, while I chose boring old water-based ice cubes, but both smoothies came out deliciously, and made a really refreshing (not to mention healthy!) snack.

By the time we finished lunch and ducked out between the rain drops to run a quick errand, we were ready to try yet another peach recipe. I mean, the box still had plenty of peaches left in it, so why not? After a few minutes of online searching, I decided to try my hand at making peach scones. I am not sure why that recipe spoke to me so much - I have never made scones before, and haven't ever really had much love for scones, but for some reason, it just sounded perfect. So more peeling, more chopping, and this time, since there was no simmering involved, little miss was very hands on in the process. She absolutely loved incorporating the butter into the dry ingredients, diligently searching out any additional clumps in need of pinching and rubbing. See? Who needs a food processor.

The dough was actually very sticky (so little miss also had the pleasure of sprinkling both the dough and mommy's hands with hands-full of flour...), but finally came together into a nice round, which we cut into wedges and sprinkled with coarse, raw sugar.

I had actually intended to save these for breakfast for today, maybe even make a nice glaze to drizzle over them, but they looked and smelled so good that we just had to break into them for dessert from dinner last night. Let me tell you - these have converted me to a scone fan. They are definitely worth the sticky mess of making them, and I can't wait to try different flavors.


That was a lot of peaches. But I wasn't done yet. Parts 2, 3 and 4 complete, I still had one more recipe that needed to be started.

My sister had borrowed David Lebovitz's amazing book, The Perfect Scoop, for various and sundry reasons, from the bookstore where she works. As I was flipping through the pages, trying not to drool, I saw a recipe for peach ice cream. Which, I admit, was a good part of my inspiration for going peach picking in the first place. So before packing in my peeler and putting away the cutting board, I decided to prep the cream mixture for the ice cream. This lovely mixture spent all night in the refrigerator chilling out, and will shortly be popped into the freezer, to be diligently mixed every half hour for the first half of my day today. I love knowing that I can make creamy, delicious ice cream without an ice cream maker! So stay tuned to see if I was indeed able to make the perfect scoop of peach ice cream as part 5 of my peach endeavors.

Peach Scones
(from Sugar Plum)

1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup finely chopped peach (peeled)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, cold
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large sheet pan with cooking spray.
Whisk together egg, milk and honey in a small bowl, until well combined. Stir in peach.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, until well combined. Add the butter in, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, until the mixture resembles pea-sized lumps. Stir in milk mixture until dough comes together, being careful not to overwork.
Place dough on a floured surface and form a ball, picking up a little bit of flour as you do it. Pat into a round, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the round into eight equal triangles (you can use a pizza cutter), then transfer the triangles to the baking sheet and sprinkle them with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 2-25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Peaches, Part 1

Is there anything better than fresh picked fruit? Not too much, if you ask me. We are lucky enough to have a great orchard pretty close by, where we try to go pretty often between the Spring and Fall, to pick everything from strawberries (May) to apples (October). This late in the summer, what is in season is peaches.

Little miss loves to pick fruit. She loves that you are allowed (encouraged, in fact!) to taste what you pick, too. And, lucky for me, she also really likes to find new recipes incorporating whatever it is that is in season that we go and pick. Which is why we wind up picking quite a bit... and today was no exception.

I have big plans for these peaches. If I can resist eating them all, since they look and smell so good even just sitting in that box in the kitchen.

We had a hard time stopping today, too, once we really hit our picking stride. I mean, how can you resist a tree full of these?

Stay tuned to see what these turn into!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Yesterday was a fun summer day - some fun, laid back errands in the morning, lots of time in the pool, and a bit of lazing about in the afternoon. The only problem (and I use that term very loosely here...) came up when it was time to figure out what to have for dinner. We didn't have a plan, and didn't even really feel like doing too much work.

So the first thing we did was ask little miss what she wanted for dinner. Her response? Mac & cheese. While we did consider making the boxed stuff, I couldn't, in good conscience and with 45 minutes still before dinner time, justify using powdered cheese sauce and preparing a dinner chock full of preservatives. So I decided to make a half-batch from scratch. Water boiling for the noodles, daddy suggested that we have hot dogs with our mac & cheese. Great idea! But we had no hot dog rolls. Which was fine for little miss, who usually eats her hot dogs plain, but daddy and I like ours in a bun... Not to be deterred, I looked in the fridge and found a tube of crescent rolls. Well, since I was making the mac & cheese from scratch, we earned a non-healthy aspect to our dinner - we cut the crescent roll dough into strips and wrapped up the hot dogs. The only question left was a veggie. Daddy quickly got to work peeling some cucumbers and halving some cherry tomatoes - automatic fresh salad!

Not only did this all come together quickly and easily, but it turned into a pretty delicious dinner! Not to shabby for a total "should we order pizza?" kind of night!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

There is something fun about one-pot meals. You know, where the meat, veggie and starch are all in the same dish. The thing is, the name "one-pot meal" is generally a misnomer - if you consider everything that goes into getting all of those pieces into that one pot, you generally wind up with a full sink of dishes. This was definitely the case for tonight's one-pot meal of chicken pot pie.

While I know that there are many easier paths that can be taken to make chicken pot pie, I decided to go all out and go from scratch today, from using fresh veggies to making my own crust. So I guess that sink full of dishes is pretty much my own fault...

The first step was to make the pie crust, since it can rest in the fridge while the rest of the prep work was being done. While I made the crust, little miss got a head start on prepping the veggies by shucking some fresh corn for me. I usually make my pie crusts by hand, since I don't have a food processor, whisking the dry ingredients and cutting in the butter with knives. Today I decided to use my KitchenAid mixer, just to take one manual step out of the process. It worked out beautifully, and when the dough went into the fridge (and all of the corn silk was cleaned up), little miss and I took a break and played outside for a while.

The rest of the prep work largely consisted of chopping, between the chicken, onions, sweet potatoes (which I steamed a little to soften) and carrots (which I boiled first, also to soften them up). I fit all this chopping in between reading books and playing a variety of games.

When it was finally time to actually pull the dish together, though, it was nice to have all of the work (and half of the dishes) behind me. A little butter, a little flour, some chicken stock and some milk, in addition to the chopped chicken and veggies, and the filling was ready to go.

All that was left was to top the dish with the crust. Most chicken pot pie recipes call for the pies to be made in individual sized portions or, at the largest, in regular pie plates, and I think the top crust is the reason for that. I made my pie family style, in a 9" x 13" pan, and let me tell you - rolling and maneuvering a single pie crust to cover that is not necessarily fun or easy, but little miss and I managed, and soon the pie was in the oven.

Because of the larger size of my dish, I wasn't quite sure how long it would take to cook. Most pot pie recipes call for about 25 minutes. Mine took closer to 30 or 35 minutes, and the filling leaked out around the crust a bit, but by dinner time, it looked and smelled delicious, so we were excited to dig in.

In our family, we always serve pot pie with rice, and tonight, I also served a side of corn, since, despite little miss's fantastic prep work, we forgot to mix the cooked and cut corn into the filling. Tonight, those sides were perfect, since my sauce thinned out a lot during the pie's time in the oven. That aside, though, this came out really well - the flavor was exactly what we had in mind when we put this on the week's meal plan, the crust was delicious and flaky, and the meal was devoured by all three of us. It was definitely worth all of the dishes.
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