Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Pit-falls of Dreams

The smell of baking fruit fills the air. In 5 minutes I can pull my peach and cherry crisp out of the oven and serve it up to my family with vanilla ice cream. A delicious end to a day that involved my family eating a marginally produced, preservative filled food product. My mom is visiting and she can't stand for anyone to say the words, "I'm hungry" I try to discourage the words being said by simply asking if they are truly hungry, or do they just want to eat. If the insist they are truly hungry, then I offer a piece of fruit, (maybe an aprium?) some cheese, or nuts, but my mom orders a pizza. If you've read my previous post you know I don't dislike pizza, it's just the kind of pizza that I'd rather not have my family eating. Back to the crisp. In Blythe, California where I'm from, peaches are in season. My parents brought us not only a bag of peaches from Peach Blossom Ranch, but 3 jars of peach jelly that my mom and aunt made - mmm! I was in Blythe at the beginning of April and went to Peach Blossom Ranch in the hopes that harvesting may be happening earlier this year, but to my disappointment Lee Lindsay, Peach Blossom proprietor, informed us that the peaches were likely to come off around mother's day. I knew that. I was just hoping for a peach! About a month ago I had a dream, I was at the farmer's market and all the farmer's stalls were filled with baskets of stone fruits. Peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, apricots - the gorgeous shades of oranges, reds, and violets were like a heated sunset, but instead of looking skyward my eyes darted around trying to see what different varieties were available and who had tastings. I remember waking up and being sad, because I knew that I still had a couple more months before stone fruits became part of my family's fruit choices. Last Saturday it happened, one vendor had apriums. The smallish, lightly fuzzed, peach colored fruit with a ruddy blush tastes like a juicy apricot. I bought 2 pounds and ate one (piece not pound) on the way home. Dreams do come true! The following week I bought another 2 pounds and 1/2 pound of cherries even though they didn't enter my subconscious the way their larger pitted relatives did. I'm looking forward to this Saturday - I know more will come.

About Crisps:
A crisp is a baked fruit dessert with a sweet crispy topping. I've made a few different recipes with different combinations of fruit. The topping also varies between recipes, some calling for oatmeal or nuts. I recently found a recipe where the topping is simply flour, white sugar, brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon, salt, and butter. What ever the fruit is all you really need to do is slice it and toss it with some sugar - the amount will depend upon how sweet your fruit is - lemon zest, and flour. The fruit goes into the baking dish and gets covered with the topping. If you like more crunch to your dessert you should add chopped nuts or oatmeal, but I really liked the simple, cake-like effect of just the flour, sugars and butter. You could always omit or add any spices that pair with the fruit. Nutmeg in the topping adds depth to a plum, or dark berry crisp. You should also try grilling it - I hope you aren't picturing slice of fruit sliding through a grill! Use a metal pan, and cover the crisp with foil. My husband usually sets it off to the side while he's grilling the main course, then moves in to the center of the grill to finish cooking while we eat dinner. It's nice, especially in the summer so we don't have to turn on the oven. Summer's around the corner and tastes delicious.


As a working mother of four I thought that writing was the last thing I'd be doing, but here I am! I wanted to share with anyone who wants to know, what it's like for me to feed my family of seven, me, my husband, my brother (17) my son (16) and 3 daughters (9, 4, and 1).

I think I started writing this first entry on Friday, April 23, 2010 the day of my daughter's school's Multicultural Day. Trying to figure out how my husband (who had a 3 o'clock meeting) or I could pick up our 2 younger daughters, in time for one of us to make it to my 9 year old daughter's performance was starting involve time travel, so I decided to leave work early. I left work at 12 o'clock, picked up from the sitter, and made it to the performance at 1:30. Did I mention this was a Friday? So being able to see my 3 youngest offspring earlier than usual, which involved seeing one of them dance the "Hoedown Throwdown" was not foremost in my mind. Pervading my thoughts was - dinner. On Fridays we make pizza. During the school year we buy pizza dough from Trader Joe's, and during holiday breaks and in the summer when I don't work during the day, I make dough. Getting off work early, and in turn getting home early would allow me to make dough! I was thrilled at this opportunity! So as each grade level presented their practiced routines - the best being my daughter's line dance - my thoughts were (insert guilt here) of flour to yeast ratios, and white whole wheat flour versus all purpose...

About pizza dough:
I have been trying to perfect my pizza dough recipe over the past couple years. Two favorites recipes I combine, one from MS Baking Handbook and the other from William Sonoma Kid's Baking, results in a dough that is consistently tender, with a nice chew when baked, holding up well to heavier toppings. I think dissolving the yeast, with a little sugar, in half of the water that you will use, and let that sit for at least 10 minutes, works the best. I also add honey, something I read in a Ina Garten recipe. I love the flavor it gives the dough. I stir the flour, olive oil, salt and honey together first in a big bowl with a wooden spoon - this is where I begin to center myself. The smell of flour alone creates in me an inexplicable calm. Then the yeast mixture followed by additional water all stirred until a shaggy dough forms. I dump it out and add more flour until it is kneadable. No I don't think that's a word either. Once it's smooth, I've tried different things here - on the counter covered with the bowl to rise for an hour, or back in the bowl covered with a towel for an hour - not sure which works better yet. Then I divide the dough in to 4 or 6 pieces depending on how much I made and let those sit on the counter covered with a towel (the thin flour sack kind) for at least 15 minutes. It's a beautiful, meditative process that I think because, unlike making a loaf of bread, where it is meant to be tasted alone to see how good it is, pizza dough is always tasted with other elements so the pressure for perfection is not really there. Pressure stinks - making pizza dough does not.