May 27, 2010

{may daring bakers: piece montée}

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

This months challenge at first glance was very intimidating. First of all, the title of the recipe was french and then a little googling of what piece montée (aka. croquembouche "crunch in the mouth") looks like revealed these towering masterpieces of puff pastries. The requirements of the challenge were that we had to make our own pate a choux (puff pastry) and crème patissiere (filling). We were allowed to experiment with the flavors of the filling.  Thankfully it was actually a relatively simple process to create the puff pastries and fillings. I say relatively simple because not everything puffed like it was supposed to...I think it had something to do with the humidity in the air today with all the rain we've been having. In the end I was fairly pleased with how everything turned out. I chose to try a few flavors: vanilla, chocolate and rum. My favorite was the chocolate.

Now, my boyfriend and I are continuing our efforts to source everything we eat from within a 100 mile radius, as well as, use up any leftover pantry items we might have had before beginning this locavore challenge. For the challenges of daring bakers, I have decided that I will do my very best to continue using local ingredients, but if I must purchase an item or two from the store, well then I must. For this challenge the only things I had to get as extra were the soy milk and chocolate. My boyfriend pointed out after the fact that we did have cocoa powder that I could have used, but I forgot about it and bought semisweet chocolate chips instead. Other than that, the eggs, flour, butter were all local and all other ingredients I had in my pantry.

It took me a while to find a flour mill that was local, but Virginia happens to have a few of them. Wades Mill is a stone ground flour mill that is a little less than an hour away from our home. Its a lovely drive down a skinny road that passes a winery and several other farms all with green rolling hills. I could totally live out there! (after the jump I've shared a few pictures from the mill and the drive) As I pulled up I saw a large water wheel that I learned is a working power source for grinding some of the flour with the rest being electrically powered. The woman I met in the little shop was very passionate informative of all sorts of issues facing the local farmers. Having worked in the farming industry the majority of her life, she had a lot to say about the issues they face with the term organic. I won't go into it here, but it was really a great experience getting to chat with her. I think thats become one of my favorite things about doing the locavore challenge; getting to speak with the farmers themselves. Anyway, I digress, back to the flour. They have a wide variety of flours you can purchase either online or at the store. Since shipping is almost more than the cost of the flour and I was driving that direction anyway, I chose to stop by. I picked up whole wheat bread flour and whole wheat pastry flour which I used for this month's challenge. So far its been very tasty! I'm still learning the proportion of flour to liquid so that what I make doesn't come out too dense, but I can honestly say its pretty freakin delicious.

Recipe and pics after the jump

May 26, 2010

{strawberry limeade}

Okay, I realize this beverage is not entirely a locavore recipe. We splurged and bought limes to make margaritas the other week and I had some leftover that needed to be used soon. On Tuesday I picked up some deliciously fresh strawberries, so I chose to pair the two and create this refreshing drink. I absolutely loved the color and the flavor was incredible. So light and refreshing. Now, it wouldn't be us if I didn't add a little rum to the mix! It is perfect on its own if you would rather have it non-alcoholic, but the rum doesn't hurt. It also would have been just fine to leave out the limes or exchange them for lemons. As long as you've got strawberries, you can't go wrong.

Recipe after the jump

May 24, 2010

{strawberry rhubarb pie}

FINALLY!! Strawberries are beginning to appear in our farmers market! I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. For two months of seeing only green items, I am thrilled to have some color on my plate. In honor of our first strawberries, I chose to make a dessert. Rhubarb is also in season right now so at the farmers market we picked up a couple pints of strawberries and a bunch of rhubarb to make a pie.

Recipe and pics after the jump