Thursday, October 17, 2019

Savory Pie: Butternut, Spinach, and Blue Cheese

This recipe is inspired by "Sophie's Four Seasons Individual Pies" from the Great British Bake Off. I thought the filling looked very tasty and the original is already free of onion and garlic.

This is pretty easy to make but somewhat time consuming. You could use a pre-made frozen pie crust to save time.

I baked and mixed the filling ingredients and made the pie crust dough the day before and then did all of the baking the next day.

Makes 1 9-10 inch pie


Pie Crust (or buy a pre-made frozen crust)
500 g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt (leave out if using salted butter)
250 g unsalted butter
120 ml ice cold water

Butternut Squash Preparation
600 g butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded, and cut into 1cm pieces)
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground coriander or cumin
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 ½ Tbsp honey (if solid, warm so it can be mixed easily)

Spinach Preparation
200 g baby spinach leaves
10 g salted butter

Blue Cheese Mixture
175 g blue cheese or 175 g goat's cheese
2 Tbsp sour cream (or crème fraîche)
¼ tsp salt (adjust to taste), if using goat's cheese start with ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper (adjust to taste)

9-10 inch pie pan or straight sided pan
Baking parchment
Baking sheet
Roasting pan
Largish mixing bowl
Medium to large saucepan


Pie Crust

Cut the butter into 1 cm pieces and cut or rub into the flour. If you have a food processor or stand mixer use them to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If not, use your hands to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Slowly mix in the ice cold water until the dough just comes together, you likely will not use all of the water.

Form the dough into a ball, press into a thick disc, wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

If using a pre-made crust, move it from the freezer to the fridge at this point.

After 2 hours (or the next day):
Preheat the oven to 400F

Roll the dough out thinly on a piece of parchment paper. Line the pie tin with the dough, letting some dough hang over the edge of of the tin.

Put the pie tin on a baking sheet (to keep the dough from falling off into your oven), cover the edge of the crust with foil or a pie protector, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the base is golden.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork right when it comes out of the oven to help it lie flat and cut off any extra dough hanging off the edge of the pie tin. Use a sharp knife and work carefully or you might tear a larger piece off than you mean to.

Set aside to cool. Bring the left over dough into a disc, wrap in parchment, and put the the refrigerator to chill.

Butternut Squash Mixture
Preheat the oven to 400F and line the roasting pan with baking parchment.

Peel and de-seed the squash. Weigh out 600g and set the rest aside. Cube the 600 g of squash into 1 cm pieces and put into a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Mix the oil, coriander (or cumin), rosemary and honey together and pour over the squash.

Stir the squash until well covered by the oil mixture.

Pour the squash mixture into the roasting pan and spread the squash out so it is only one layer deep.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until just tender. Don't over bake as the squash will be baked a 2nd time in the pie.

Spinach Mixture

While the squash is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Rinse the spinach

Add the spinach to the butter and cook down until all of the spinach is wilted and very dark green.

Move the spinach to a colander and squeeze as much of the liquid out as you can. You can also roll the spinach in several pieces of paper towel and squeeze out over the sink. The more thorough you are with this step the better the pie will turn out.

Leave in the colander to to continue to drain.

Blue Cheese Mixture

Crumble the blue cheese into a mixing bowl, stir in the sour cream and the salt and pepper to taste (taste as you go as the cheese can be different batch to batch).

Final Filling Steps
Preheat the oven to 180C/160Fan/350F/Gas4

Add the spinach to the Blue Cheese mixture and stir until well combined. Add the butternut squash and mix until the squash is evenly distributed.

Roll out the remaining pie dough and make strips for the lattice and edging.

Fill the cooled pie crust with the filling, use the strips of pie dough to make a lattice across the top and around the edge.

Optional: For a shinier finish, beat an egg and brush the across the edge of the crust and the lattice.

Bake for 35-65 minutes. After 30 min start checking every 5-10 minutes. If the crust edge starts to brown to quickly, cover with foil or pie protector. As the pie cooks, look for the filling to start to dry out (if liquid is still actively bubbling up keep baking) and the lattice to brown.

When baked, remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Can be served warm or cold and will firm up more as it cools.

Store in the refrigerator.

Inspired by: Sophie's Four Seasons Individual Pies

Butternut squash, spinach, cheese pie with homemade pie crust in a cake pan.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Soul Cake

I found a Soul Cake Bake project online and while the actual project had closed by the time I found it, I thought it would be fun to try to construct my own recipe using the same 17th Century Soul Cake recipe the project used as the jumping off point for their competition.

It took me four tries to come up with a recipe that was both edible and tasty. I tried to stay as close as possible to the original recipe but did decide to use modern yeast instead of trying to source Ale Barm. From what I read Ale Barm was used as yeast to make bread and other risen doughs.

For each of my test versions I made half a recipe, so as not to waste too much of my ingredients.

The first version I made, I did not knead or prove and I put the wine (sack) straight in-- thinking they might be more like cakes. However those turned out like golf balls, with a doughy middle and dried out, but not really cooked exterior. The flavor seemed promising but tasted very strongly of raw alcohol and since I don't drink, was not very nice.

The second version, I heated the wine to help cook off some of the alcohol taste and I kneaded the dough briefly before letting it prove for about an hour and a half. Then I formed it into balls, cutting a cross in the top of each one before baking. The flavor of these was much better but the texture was still to dense and doughy.

For the third version, I decided to add the spices to the wine while I was heating it, to give a bit more depth to the flavor. I also kneaded it for longer and let it prove for about an hour (it doesn't really grow the same way bread dough does but an hour seems to be about right for it). After the first prove,  I divided the dough in to 4 pieces and added a different dried fruit to each piece (dried apples, currants, blueberries, and cranberries). I then divided each piece into 3 smaller balls, put dried fruit in the shape of a cross on each bun (so I would know which ones had which fruits), let them prove for about 20 minutes and then baked them. This batch was quite yummy.

For the fourth try I doubled the recipe and used just the currants as my fruit as I found that the other fruits didn't taste as good or tended to overwhelm the bun. The dough turned out much more wet that test 3 and while the resulting buns were edible the weren't as good as round 3.

For the fifth and final round I took some of the water out and that fixed the problem.  I baked a batch for a party and folks really seemed to like them.

Here is the original 17th C recipe followed by my final recipe.

Original Recipe
Take flower & sugar & nutmeg, & cloves & mace & sweet butter & sack & a little ale barm, beat your spice & put in your butter & your sack, cold, then work it well all to gether & make it in little cakes & so bake them, if you will … you may put some saffron into them or fruit (Elinor Fettiplace’s Household Book, compiled around 1604)

My Final Recipe

90g brown sugar
40g unsalted butter

400g plain flour

10g fast-acting yeast
50ml warm water

150ml Maderia wine
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp mace

80g currants or other dried fruit


Note; you want the wine mixture cooled and most of the dough ready before you mix the yeast mixture. If you start the yeast mixture too early it will use up some of its rising power before it gets into the dough an if you don't let the wine mixture cool it could kill the yeast. It's a bit of a balancing act with the timing.

Put the wine and spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil then set aside to cool. It should be below 90F before it is mixed into the dough. If needed, put it in the refrigerator to cool.

Cream the butter and 85g of the sugar together.

Mix 5g of the sugar in the warm water (between 80-90F) and add the yeast. Let the yeast solution sit until it starts to foam. Don't start the yeast solution early.

Mix the flour into the butter/sugar mixture.

Add the spiced wine to the flour/butter/sugar mixture and stir until just combined.

Add the yeast mixture in last, stir until well mixed, then knead until the dough starts to become elastic.

Prove the dough for about an hour. It won't rise a lot but it does need this resting time.

If you are using a dried fruit other than currants, make sure to cut them up into currant sized pieces.

Knead the currants into the dough and form into 16 balls. Put five currants on the top of each ball in the shape of a cross and flatten the balls into 2cm high discs. They will spring back a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350F

Leave the cakes to rest/prove for 20-30 minutes

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and they sound hollow when their base is tapped.

Inspired by: Soul Cake Bake

Test 3 of my Soul Cake recipe with the four different fruits used.
(from R-L Cinnamon-Apple, blueberry, currant, cranberry)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Cream Cheese Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

I used the Carrot Orange and Spice Cake recipe as the basis for these Pumpkin Cheese Cake muffins.


11-12 muffin cups

100g unsalted butter
110g light brown muscovado sugar
2 large free-range eggs
¼ tsp orange extract

180g all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg

160g pumpkin puree
50 ml juice from an orange
optional 80g walnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Mixture
4oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp powdered sugar (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/360F/Gas 4. Line the muffin tins.

Cream Cheese Mixture:
Make the cream cheese mixture by whipping together the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Set aside until the muffin batter is ready.

For the Muffin Batter:
Melt the butter in a saucepan then whisk in the sugar, eggs and orange oil until smooth and well combined.

Add the zest of one orange to the pumpkin puree. If using nuts, add them here.

Sift the flour, baking soda and ground spices into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the salt and baking powder.

Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until combined. Fold in the pumpkin mixture.

Scoop the mixture into the muffin tins. Fill each cup ¾ full. Place about ½-1 Tbsp of the cream cheese mixture in the top center of the muffin batter.

Bake for 18-22 minutes

Leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Don't let them fully cool in the tins or the bottom of the muffins might be soggy.

Mushroom Gravy

My simple vegetarian mushroom gravy recipe.

800 g  cremini mushrooms
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp salted butter
2 Tbsp flour
300 ml milk

Clean and chop the mushrooms in to roughtly 1/2 in pices and cook in the vebetable oil.

Set the mushrooms aside.

Using the same pan, add the butter and heat until the butter foams. Cook the flour in the butter and musrhoom remnants until it's a golden. Add the 1/3 of the milk at a time, stiring or whisking until well combined before adding the next part of the milk.

This makes about 200 ml of a farily thick gravy.

Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushroms are warm and mixed through the gravy.

Add more milk or water to thin if desired.

Optional: cook up some vegetarian sausage and add it to the gravy.