Thursday, October 29, 2015

Blueberry Pie with Polenta Shortcake Crust #FridayPieDay

A buttery polenta shortcake crust filled with fresh blueberries makes a beautiful dessert for family but it’s pretty enough for special guests.

When I was in university studying journalism with some public relations and graphic design thrown in, we still used picas (1 pica=12 point) as a measure of column width. We talked about leading (the space between the lines of type) and kerning (the space between the letters) and column inches. I’m guessing that those designing newspapers still do. What I didn’t realize is that the origin of the word pica is connected with another of my favorite words: Pie!

"magpie," mid-13c. (late 12c. as a surname), from Old French pie (13c.), from Latin pica "magpie" (see magpie). In 16c., a wily pie was a "cunning person." Source: EtymOnline

Yeah, I’m kind of a word wonk. One of my favorite parts of reading cookbooks, magazines and blogs from other countries is learning all the different ways we refer to the same sorts of dishes, like pies and tarts. Even the variety of things that are called pie, both savory and sweet, baked and fried, handheld or baked in a pie plate, is enormous.

Last January I was blessed with the gift of the digital UK edition of delicious. magazine for my birthday. Each month I scroll through the gorgeous photographs and mark the recipes I’d like to try, either as written or adapted to our own tastes. As soon as I saw the recipe they called Blueberry Polenta Shortcake, I said to myself, “Shortcake?! That’s pie! It has two crusts!”

Adapted from delicious. magazine, UK digital edition, August 2015

For the crust:
1 2/3 cups or 210g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup or 150g chilled unsalted butter
1/2 cup or 100g polenta or fine cornmeal
2/3 cup or 150g fine sugar
Finely grated zest 1 large orange
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

For the filling:
2 1/2 cups or 340g fresh blueberries, plus a couple extra for decoration
5 teaspoons sugar
Good pinch salt
1 heaped tablespoon polenta or fine cornmeal

To sprinkle on before baking
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C. Use some non-stick spray or a little oil to grease the inside of your 9 in or 23cm spring form pan. Cut a piece of parchment just bigger than the base so you can cover up past where the sides and bottom of the pan join.

Cut the butter into cubes and add it to your food processor with the flour, baking powder and salt. Pulse until you have sandy looking crumbs.

Add in the polenta, sugar and orange zest and pulse again briefly.

Add in the egg mixed with the orange juice and pulse again until a dough starts to form.

Tip it out onto a floured surface. It's going to look fairly crumbly but should hang together as you knead it.

Knead it a turn or two.

Cut a little more than 1/3 of the dough or 250g off and wrap it with cling film. Put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Press the rest of the dough into the bottom and at least an inch or 2cm the sides of your prepared baking pan. Just keep working on it till it's nice and even.

Remove all little stems, if any, from your blueberries and pour them into the bottom crust.

Mix the good pinch of salt with the sugar and heaped spoon of polenta then sprinkle them over the blueberries.

Draw a circle the size of your baking pan on a large piece of baking parchment. Roll the chilled dough out between that one and another piece of parchment until it’s a little bigger than the circle. Try to peel the parchment off. If it’s too sticky, pop the rolled dough back into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

Cut the dough out around the circle and peel one side of the parchment off.

Turn the pastry over and gently ease the pastry circle onto the blueberries and bottom crust, pressing down gently to remove air from underneath. Push the crust in at the sides, peeling the top parchment sheet off as you go.

Decorate with a few more blueberries, if desired, and sprinkle on the demerara sugar. As you can see, I also made some little balls with the pastry scraps but they just baked into the crust so you really don't need to bother.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes or until the top crust is golden.

Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then run a thin knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the crust.

Open the spring form pan and carefully remove the pie to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before cutting.

The golden bottom


This blueberry pie with polenta shortcake crust is my contribution to this month's Friday Pie Day, the brilliant creation of Heather from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen. (Formerly girlichef.)

I am pleased to join her on the last Friday of each month for pie and crust recipes, techniques, tools of the trade, and other inspiration.

This month Heather is sharing a round up of beautiful pies that would perfect for your Thanksgiving celebration! Do go over and have a look.

For more information and recipes, please check out her #FridayPieDay page!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stuffing Bread with Dried Cranberries

The perfect bread for turkey sandwiches or to use for stuffing, this tender flavorful loaf also slices up beautifully for Thanksgiving breakfast toast that hints of the delicious dinner to come later.

If you’ve been reading along here for a while, you know that I like to bake bread. I love the smell of the yeast as it comes back to life in a little warm water. I love the heft of an enriched dough as I knead it and the springy bounce as I spin it in the oiled bowl of my mixer in preparation for the first rise. But the very best part of baking bread is the way the whole house smells as the bread bakes. When my girls were still living at home, nothing brought them out of their rooms and downstairs faster than the aroma of bread in the oven. Well, and the eating, of course!

But I understand that not everyone feels they have time to bake bread. So it is my great pleasure to introduce you to a book that solves the “no time to bake” problem. Make Ahead Bread divides the process into manageable parts, allowing you to make the dough ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator overnight or even for a day or two, depending on the recipe, until you are ready to bake and enjoy.

Make Ahead Bread was written by the witty and knowledgeable Donna Currie of Cookistry, a blog you might already be familiar with. If you aren’t, do go over and say howdy. Donna never fails to crack me up with her quips and I often had to watch that I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee in the morning when she shared the antics of her husband, Bob, because he could make me snort coffee out of my nose. Sadly, Bob passed away suddenly just a few weeks ago. In typical food blogger fashion, a group of us decided we’d honor his memory by helping Donna promote her bread book, a project he deeply supported, as he did all of Donna’s endeavors, hopefully sending a few customers her way through the power of social media.

I’m not just recommending this book to be nice though. I really love it! I am quite the cookbook junkie but I’d like to tell you that this was THE ONLY cookbook I asked for for my birthday this year! Yep, it’s that special. I was so delighted when my mom arrived in Dubai with Make Ahead Bread that I couldn’t help but share a photo of me and it on Facebook.

I haven’t shared recipes from it before now but I have special permission from Donna to share this one and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! You can get your own copy of Make Ahead Bread at better bookstores as well as on*

This recipe is from Make Ahead Bread – 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day © Donna Currie. Used by permission. (I’ve added the metric adaptations.)

1 cup or 240ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) or 318g bread flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup or 35g dried cranberries
Non-stick baking spray (the kind with flour in it)

Note: I had to subsitute fresh herbs so I doubled the amount since dried herbs are always stronger in flavor than fresh. Another confession, I wasn’t reading with my cheater glasses so I thought it was 1 tablespoon of both parsley and chives. I don’t think the extra chives were a bad thing though since I’m a fan.

On Prep Day
1. Combine all the ingredients and knead by hand (mix first in a large bowl, then turn out and knead) or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, until dough is elastic.

2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or place it in a large plastic bag and seal the ends. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Going into the refrigerator.

The next day after a long, slow rise in the cold. 
On Baking Day
1. Spray the 9x5-in or approx. 23x13cm bread pan with baking spray. (I also chose to line the pan with parchment for easy clean up, something Donna mentions in the introductory part of her book as an option.)

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a rough 8 in or 20cm square. Fold the top half to about the middle of the dough and press the edge down to secure it. Fold the top over again, this time to within about an inch or so of the bottom. Press the edge to deal. Now pull the bottom of the dough up to meet the dough roll you‘ve created and seal the seam. Pinch the ends closed and place the dough, seam side down, in the prepared pan.

3. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. The dough is ready when it has risen about an inch or 2 centimeters over the top of the pan, about 1 hour in a warm room.

4. About 30 minutes before the loaf is fully risen, heat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.

5. When the dough has risen, remove the plastic. Bake until the bread is richly browned and the internal temperature of the loaf reaches 195°F or °90.5C on an instant read thermometer, about 55 minutes. Remove the bread form the pan and cool completely on a rack before slicing.


The hardest part of this whole recipe? Finding space for the dough bowl in my ridiculously overstuffed refrigerator.

Make this bread. Buy Make Ahead Bread.* You won’t be sorry!

Check out the fabulous list of breads we've baked for Donna from her book:

UPDATE: Win your own copy of Make Ahead Bread
Follow this link to enter:

*Affiliate links.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Roasted Onion Brie Muffins #MuffinMonday

Roasted onions lend a subtle sweetness to this savory cheesy Brie muffin complemented by the added herby freshness of rosemary.

The other night I roasted a big pile of onions with just this muffin in mind for the leftovers. But since I know how we are about roasted onions, I actually removed the one cup from the serving dish before it even made it to the dining table and hide it in the refrigerator. (A small bowl of roasted onions left vulnerably open on the countertop will be emptied in no time in our house, just a pinch at a time. The same goes for crumbled bacon, grated cheddar and toasted pecans.) It was a good move, as it turns out, because we ate every last crunchy, succulent bite of the onions that were on the table.

Savory muffins may not be everyone’s choice for breakfast, but they sure make a great accompaniment to soup for a light lunch or dinner. These guys with roasted onions and Brie would be as happy on your holiday buffet table as they would be on a TV tray for a cozy night in.

2 sprigs fresh rosemary plus more to garnish if desired
1 cup or 125g roasted onions (from this recipe or your favorite)
2 1/2 cups or 315g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 oz or 200g Brie
1/3 cup or 80ml canola or other light oil
1 cup or 240ml buttermilk
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by lightly rubbing it with oil or use non-stick spray to coat. Or if you have silicone liners, those work too.

Mince your rosemary leaves and roughly chop your roasted onions.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and minced rosemary.

Cut the outside rinds off of the Brie pointe (if it has any) but you can leave the top and bottom on. Cut the Brie into cubes.

Reserve 12 bigger pieces for topping each muffin before baking then add the rest of the Brie a few pieces at a time to the flour mixture, stirring between additions, so that they are coated by the flour and won’t stick back together.

Add in the chopped roasted onions and stir again to coat them with flour.

Whisk together the oil, eggs and buttermilk in a smaller mixing bowl.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ones and stir a couple of times, until just combined.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups and top with the reserved cubes of Brie and some rosemary leaves, if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.


I am delighted to have six muffins to share with you today! Which one will you bake first?

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Braised Venison with Plums

Lean but flavorful, venison benefits from long, slow cooking. The hint of sweetness from the lovely plums pairs beautifully with the lean meat, creating a rich gravy that can be served over rice, potatoes or pasta for an even heartier meal.

It's almost deer hunting season where I come from so I know a lot of folks will have their freezers well stocked before too long. In Dubai, if I want to cook venison, it comes from farms in Australia where the deer roam freely and are completely pasture fed and free from antibiotics or growth hormones. Many years ago, on a holiday in Tasmania, I booked my family to stay overnight on a deer farm. As we drove up the long and winding dirt road to the farmhouse, the deer ran away swiftly as a herd, reminding me more of a school of fish underwater, so fluid, graceful and in sync were their movements. We never did get photos of the skittish deer (understandably!) but dinner that night in our tiny house was a spontaneous meal of foraged wild mushrooms and venison fillets I bought from the farmer, then simply pan-fried. He gave me a quick tour of the spotless abattoir and the area where they hung the meat to age as well. The place is called Deerfield Farm and I'm pleased to say it's still in business, although under new management.

The little B&B sign cracked me up. Our tiny house was it! 

It’s such a lean meat that venison is best cooked either quickly like in a stir fry and served medium rare or braised, that is to say, fried lightly and then cooked long and slow in a closed container.  Since our Sunday Supper theme this week is Warming Trends, we are sharing recipes that will warm you up, from stews and soups to hot beverages and desserts, so you know I had to go the braised route.

I served this delicious warming dish over pasta but it would work as well with mashed root vegetables or rice or even atop soft polenta.

1 lb 9 oz or 710g venison
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
Bacon drippings or olive oil for frying meat
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
5 dark red plums (Mine weighed 13 1/4 oz or 375g)
1/2 cup or 120ml red vermouth
1 3/4 cups or 410ml beef stock
Several sprigs fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons corn starch

Trim your meat of any silverside and gristle and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Season the meat with a good sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Now sprinkle on your flour and then toss the pieces around gently to coat.

Chop your onion and garlic. Quarter the plums and remove the stones.

In a skillet over a medium to high heat, brown the meat in batches in a little bacon fat or olive oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove each batch as it browns and continue until all the pieces are done.

Add the chopped onions and garlic to pan and sauté until lightly colored and all the sticky stuff on the pan has loosened.

Add half of the sautéed onion and garlic mixture to the bottom of your slow cooker. Then add half of the browned meat along with any juices that have collected in the bowl. Follow those with half of the quartered plums. Sprinkle on half of your fresh thyme.

Repeat with the other half of everything.

Add in the vermouth and the stock.

Cook on low for about six hours without removing the lid. Go get cozy in front of a fireplace if you’ve got one, pour yourself a cup of tea or cocoa and read a good book until the whole house starts smelling wonderful.

Almost done now!

Remove meat and plums with slotted spoon, leaving behind the liquid.

Mix the cornstarch with a little cool water to make a paste.  Add a little of the hot slow cooker liquid into the cornstarch slurry. Add it all back into the slow cooker.

Put the lid back on and turn the slow cooker up to high for about 30 minutes, stirring periodically till the sauce thickens. Return the venison and plums to the pot and warm through. Taste for salt and pepper and add more if necessary.

Serve over wide egg noodles and garnish with some more fresh thyme.


Many thanks to today’s Sunday Supper host, T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbley. It's not actually cold yet where I live but I LOVE this theme. Enjoying warming foods is yet another reason why God created air conditioning.

Main Dishes and Soups