Buttery Bruschetta

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Before we get started, some clarity on a pet peeve: its brus-SKE-tta. I even have proof. All hail the internet!

The one recipe I have always drooled over from Julie & Julia isn’t even a Julia Child one– it’s that fantastic looking fried bread masterpiece that she throws together before deciding to embark on her epic journey. The bread is browned to perfection, but still remains soft; the tomatoes ooze with salty, basil-y delight; and the expressions of joy coming from Julie’s husband when he stuffs bite after bite into his face? Well, that’s just beautiful. I don’t think that man had to act an ounce in that scene, the lucky son of a …..

The key for me was avoiding the crunchy, toast-like outcome one often finds in bruschetta. I wanted a slight crisp on the outside with a warm, soft inside, so that it wouldn’t cut up my mouth but still provide me with a satisfying bite. Pan-frying over a fairly moderate temperature with butter seemed to do the trick. Because, really– when does butter NOT do the trick?

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Buttery Bruschetta

1 soft baguette, cut into 1″ slices (I went with a half-baked option because I wanted absolutely no crustiness to get in the way of my vision and baguettes tend to be a bit rough around the edges)
4 T butter
3-4 medium tomatoes, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped into small 1″ pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 T fresh basil, sliced thinly
1 T balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 t salt
pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, basil, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and add the tomatoes, stirring thoroughly so that the tomatoes are coated in the dressing. Taste and add salt if needed. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the butter over medium with some salt. When melted, throw in a clove of garlic and cook for a minute. Remove the garlic and place the bread slices down, swirling in the butter. You may need to do this in a couple of batches. Make sure that your bread doesn’t dry out and start to toast– add more butter if you need to and don’t be shy. It will take about 4-5 minutes per side to brown. When the bread has browned on both sides, remove and lay out in a single layer on a large plate. Spoon the tomatoes over and top with extra basil. Serve immediately (wait too long and the bread will become soggy).

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Summer Peach and Apricot Pie

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Pies are a beautiful thing. When I passed the fresh apricot bin in the grocery store the other night, I couldn’t resist picking up some to turn onto a bed of crust and deliciousness. The peaches were calling to me, too, so here we have a combo of some of my favorite summer fruit treats.

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I was lucky enough to have some pie last week that had marzipan incorporated into the filling, which completely blew my mind. It was fairly subtle, but oh so dreamy. Ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg play supporting roles here, but the real shocker is the crust.

It’s made with vodka. I felt like a real lush walking into the store this morning at 9am and picking up a flask-sized bottle of the cheapest stuff on the shelf, but Cook’s Illustrated has never steered me wrong and this case was no exception. The beauty of it is that it prevents too much gluten from forming, which allows you to add additional liquid without making the crust tough. That little extra liquid makes the dough easier to roll out and your life more enjoyable. The alcohol completely evaporates during cooking and there is no taste of it left in the final product.

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Two things to be extra cautious about when dealing with pie crust: temperature and geometry. The fats and liquids MUST be cold (this is not a drill) and the dough discs you form should be as round as possible.

Summer Peach and Apricot Pie

Crust from Cook’s Illustrated

Innards inspired by Cook’s Illustrated, Martha Stewart, and Suzie

Crust

2.5 c flour
1 t salt
2 T sugar
12 T unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1/2 shortening, cut into 4 pieces and chilled {do not substitute the shortening for butter. It is very key in getting the right texture)
1/4 water, chilled
1/4 vodka, chilled (do not substitute)

In a food processor, process 1.5 c of the flour, salt, and sugar until incorporated, about 2 1-sec pulses. Sprinkle the butter and shortening over the mixture and process for 15 seconds, or until the mixture resembles cottage cheese. Fluff the dough and distribute it evenly around the blade, then add the rest of the flour. Go another 4 to 6 1-second pulses, or until the dough mass breaks up a bit. Empty into a mixing bowl, sprinkle with the water and vodka, and press together gently with a rubber spatula. When it is sticky and comes together, divide it in two, press each ball into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. If the later, let stand for about 3o min at room temperature when ready to use.

On a heavily floured surface (and with plenty of flour on top of the dough), roll out one of the dough discs. Be gentle and only go one “forward and back” motion with your rolling pin at a time, turning the dough 45 degrees between each roll. When you have a 9-in round, flip the dough over (using the rolling pin to support it) and continue rolling without moving the dough (just angle the rolling pin in order to make it all even). When you have a 12-in round, gently fold the dough into quarters and transfer it to the pie dish. Unfold it and pick up the outer edge in order to work the dough down into the crease of the pie pan. Place the dish into the fridge while you work on the filling.

Filling

3 large, ripe peaches
12-15 apricots
1 c sugar
1 T lemon juice
3-5 T tapioca or potato starch (if your fruit is very juicy, use more starch)
pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ground ginger
1/2 c marzipan

Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath for the peaches. Score the bottom of each peach with a paring knife, making a small “X”. Place the peaches in the boiling water for 1 minute (more or less depending on the ripeness of the peach) and remove with a slotted spoon into the ice bath. After a couple of minutes, use a paring knife to peel away the skin from each peach. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, lemon juice, starch, and spices. Cut the peaches and apricots into half-inch (you should have about 8 cups when all is said and done) and add to the mixing bowl.  Mix everything together so that the peaches and apricots are well coated with syrupy goodness.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and place a baking sheet on the middle rack.

Roll the marzipan into a ball and roll it out to a 9″ round on the floured work surface from the dough. Take the pie dish with the dough out and place the marzipan on top of the bottom crust layer, so that it will be under the filling. Pour the filling in and take out the other disc of dough from the refrigerator. Using the same method as before, roll out to a 12″ round and place over the pie and filling. Cut the edges so that you have about 1″ hanging off. Tuck this edge under itself, as if the edge of the crust was diving back into the pie dish. Using your thumb and forefingers, flute the edge all the way around. Brush the top with water and sprinkle with 1 T granulated sugar. Place the pie on the baking sheet in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is starting to brown. Reduce again to 375, rotate the pan and bake an additional 25-30 minutes, until the pie is bubbly and golden brown. Let rest on a cooling rack for 2 ish hours.

Muy bueno.

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