River Farm

August 8, 2011

Pie Time

Filed under: local,uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 9:19 am

Clambake is around the corner. The annual pie bake-off has begun! This year, I plan on baking 2 each of apple, peach blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, rhubarb custard, blueberry cranberry, and Shaker lemon.

peach blueberry pie

Pie making can be very intimidating because, as I can attest, lots of things can go wrong. Why did anybody ever think a crust underneath a couple pounds of fruit would actually bake into crispy perfection? Or that humid New England fruit season would be a good time to bake anything? Having made several dozens of pies, I now share my most helpful pie-baking tricks. And despite the many pitfalls, making homemade pie is absolutely worth it.

1. Replace half the water in your pie dough recipe with chilled vodka
This comes from Cooks’ Illustrated, and though I  do not always use their recipe exemplifying the rule, I apply the rule to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s flaky cream cheese pie crust recipe (yes, I find cream cheese off-putting in desserts, except here). The vodka gives your pie dough the malleability necessary to roll it out, but evaporates quickly during baking for a flaky rather than gummy pie crust.

2. Freeze the whole thing
Baking homemade pie from the freezer allows you time to assemble up to a month in advance, and keeps your so-carefully crimped crust from wilting in the oven. It is also a great way to use surplus fruit at its ripest. If you are preparing and baking on the same day, I recommend at least 30 minutes in the freezer to firm up the crust before baking.  Add about 30 minutes to the baking time for a fully frozen pie, or about 10 minutes for a partially frozen pie.

3. Glaze the crust
The simplest step of all, and the most visually rewarding. For a glistening, bronzed, and crisp upper crust: brush it with a beaten egg and sprinkle liberally with sugar before baking (or before freezing). Why would anybody not do this? I implore you to do this!

4. Bake on a preheated sheet pan
Place a foil-lined sheet pan on the oven rack before you turn the oven on; its heat will help bake the bottom crust. Or, put the pie directly on the oven floor for the first 10 minutes of its baking time for a crispy under-crust.

pastry board

January 31, 2011


Filed under: recipe — Tags: , — admin @ 10:00 am

We sure have had our fair share of snow this winter. But we’ve gathered our friends and lifted our spirits with a belated Christmas & birthday shindig! In keeping with the weather, I’ve made these snow capped cupcakes!

skiier cupcake

I invariably turn to Rose Levy Beranbaum for reliable cake recipes. These cupcakes are made from her all-occasion downy yellow cake and vanilla mousseline buttercream with Oreo rubble.  I am a true champion of European style buttercream, and promise that once you have the technique down, you will see little reason to make any other type of frosting.

The wee tiny skiers and St. Bernards (complete with minuscule barrels, brandy not included), are good old fashioned Micro Machines. Remember those? Thanks, Ebay. If only they made little Maremma figurines…

frosting mountain peak

st. bernard to the rescue

Success! Spirits lifted!

September 26, 2010

Banana and Honey Pudding Cake

Filed under: honey,recipe — Tags: , , , — admin @ 6:31 pm

I harbor a deep and abiding love of pudding cakes. After the joyous ease of preparation, a pudding cake may not be much to look at, but its magnificence lies in its texture. Both textures, the light cake on top and the rich custard hiding beneath. It is equally comforting when eaten warm with ice cream, or cold with macerated fresh fruit, and is adaptable to any season.

banana honey pudding cake

Pudding cake relies on acid in the batter to bake up with a stable cake layer and a tender custard. This is usually lemon or orange, but I’ve taken a shine to less common flavorings such as grapefruit, buttermilk, or molasses. This version is flavored with the tangy-sweet combination of buttermilk, banana, and honey.

When baking with bananas I follow one cardinal rule to achieve maximum banana flavor, and I’ll pass it along to you. Ready? Roast the banana first, in its skin. I extract the requisite number of fruits from my stash of frozen overripe bananas, sit them as-is on a foil lined tray, and bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes, until brown, fragrant, and oozing grossly. If I could make this step imperative for every banana bread in the world, I truly would.

Banana and Honey Pudding Cake

4-6 servings from one 8″ square pan, one 9″ round cake pan, six ramekins, or something that hold 1 1/2 quarts

2 very ripe bananas, fresh or frozen
1/4 C honey, River Farm’s own
2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 C flour
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 C buttermilk
3 eggs, separated
1 egg white
2 T sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the pan of your choice, then place inside a larger roasting pan for the hot water bath the cake will bake in.

Roast the bananas in their skins on a foil lined sheet for 8-10 minutes (or about 15 minutes if they’re frozen), until fragrant, brown, and soft. Set aside to cool slightly. Slide them out of their skins ( yes, bizarre) and thoroughly mash in a medium bowl.

Stir the honey and melted butter into the mashed banana, followed by the flour and salt. Combine the buttermilk and egg yolks in a small bowl, then stir into the banana mixture.

Using a stand mixer, handheld mixer, or raw forearm power, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating just to stiff peaks.

Carefully fold in the egg whites into the banana mixture. Ladle the batter into the prepared pan(s), and fill the larger roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the baking pan(s). Bake ramekins for 25 minutes, or a larger pan for 40 minutes, until cake is puffed and springs back when gently touched. Remove from the oven and rest in the hot water bath for 10 minutes. The pudding cake may be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

banana honey pudding cake

August 11, 2010

Honey Milk Custard & Ginger Cookies

Filed under: honey,recipe — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:48 pm

honey milk custard

This silky, rich, and creamy custard comes from Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts, a beautifully photographed and inspirational cookbook. It provides strikingly vibrant, flavorsome, and often simple recipes for fruit at its peak of freshness. All the fruits I’ve recently gleaned at their peak have gone into seven pies this week (more about that later), and after such a quantity of fruit and pastry, I was taken with Ms. Madison’s recipe for a simple honey custard.

Seeking something spicy and toothsome as an accompaniment, I recalled David Lebovitz’s Nonfat Gingersnaps, also in his new book. They do not have a snappy crisp texture, but they are certainly snappy in their flavor. To save the honey custard from competing with the darker flavor of molasses in the cookies, I replaced the molasses with honey. Honey’s hygroscopic quality attracts moisture and it is not typically a good candidate for sweetening cookies, particularly on such a humid summer day – but the honey worked wonderfully in this soft and chewy ginger variety. Don’t tell anybody they are nonfat though, for fear of driving off those people who believe fat = flavor (such as myself); these beauties are perfectly flavorful and a great counterpoint to the rich custard.

chewy honey gingersnaps

honey ginger cookies, honey custard

Honey Milk Custard

from Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts
serves 6

2 C milk
1 C cream
1/2 C honey
pinch sea salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg

Bring the milk, cream, honey, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes to reduce the milk and concentrate the flavor. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk to combine.

Preheat the over to 350°F.  Bring a kettle of water to boil for the hot water bath the custard will bake in. Place 6 ramekins in a larger baking dish with 1-3″ sides.

Stir the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a spouted measuring cup. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and sprinkle with nutmeg. Place the baking tray in the oven, and pour the just-boiling water into the dish around the ramekins, until it reaches 1″ up their side.

Bake until very nearly set, about 45 minutes. Remove the custards from the hot water bath and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Honey Ginger Cookies

adapted from David Lebovitz
makes 22 cookies

1 C light brown sugar, packed
1/4 C ripe banana (the original recipe specifies applesauce, but the pantry was bare in that particular and banana worked splendidly)
1/3 C honey
2 1/4 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1 1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t salt
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 C candied ginger, finely chopped

1/2 C cinnamon sugar for rolling

Beat the brown sugar, banana, and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

Add the egg whites to the honey mixture one at a time. Scrape down the sides and add the dry ingredients, mixing at low speed until just combined. Stir in the candied ginger, and chill the batter well (up to a week).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scoop the batter in tablespoon-sized rounds, roll into balls with wet hands, and douse in a small bowl of the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 13 minutes (peek after 10, as honey can burn), until almost set at the center. Cool, and enjoy! Will keep in an airtight container for 5 days.

July 23, 2010

plum cake

Filed under: uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 7:54 pm

plum cake

July 15, 2010

Backyard Berry Tartelettes

Filed under: lavender,recipe — Tags: , , , — admin @ 2:27 pm

backyard berry tartelettes

The backyard is brimming with ripe berries. The raspberry, blueberry, and gooseberry bushes are laden, and the expectation of blackberries and thimbleberries fills me with joy. Fresh summer berries have no better gustatory match than lavender, making this a doubly exciting season at River Farm. A perfect union of flavor to break in my adorable new tartelette pans!

Backyard Berry Tartelettes with Lavender Pastry Cream

make 8 tartelettes (or one 9″ tart)

Pâte Sablée
1/2 C raw almonds, or pistachios
1/4 C sugar
7 T unsalted butter
1 C flour
big pinch salt
big pinch fresh nutmeg
1 egg, beaten

In a food processor, blend the nuts and sugar until thoroughly ground. Add the butter and process until smoothly combined. Add the flour, salt, and nutmeg and combine with 10 one-second pulses, until mixture is no larger than pea-sized rubble. Add the egg and process just until combined. Scrape the dough onto some plastic wrap, bundle it up nicely, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Divide the pâte sablée into 8 pieces and press into the tartelette pans. Bake for 15 minutes, until the tart shells take on some color and become fragrant.

Lavender Pastry Cream

1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 T cornstarch
1 C half and half
1/4 C sugar
3 T fresh lavender blossoms (or 1 1/5 T dried culinary lavender)
pinch salt
1 T butter

fresh berries, about 3 C or as many as you can pile on the tartelettes
confectioners sugar for sprinkling about

Combine the egg, yolks, and a dash of the half & half in a medium bowl. Add the cornstarch and whisk gently until combined.

In a medium saucepan, combine the half & half, sugar, lavender, and salt. Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Slowly pour the hot half & half mixture into the egg mixture, whisking steadily to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk continuously over medium-low heat until glossy and thick. Off heat, stir in the butter.

Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve. Divide it amongst the tartelette shells and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.

Heap the berries decoratively on the tartelettes and sprinkle with confectioners sugar if you please. Refrigerate until dessert time; these are best eaten within a few hours of assembly.

berry and lavender pastry cream tarts

June 30, 2010

Honey Kissed Corn Muffins

Filed under: honey,local,recipe — Tags: , , , — admin @ 9:06 pm

Hereabouts in Rhode Island we participate in a long and glorious culinary tradition. We celebrate the johnny cake, the clam fritter, and the fried scallop. Some have come to fisticuffs over cornbread recipes, and the locals know that Indian pudding does not contain any Wampanoag. Fueling these cornmeal customs are Kenyon’s Grist Mill, which has been producing stone ground meal and flour on the same spot in West Kingston since 1696, and Gray’s Grist Mill in Adamsville, specializing in milling local Narragansett Indian Flint Corn. The corn meal produced at these mills is wonderfully flavorful and preservative-free, and should be refrigerated for utmost freshness.

Today we turned a muffin hankering into tasty reality of stone ground cornmeal laced with our own River Farm honey. Maybe one day soon we’ll introduce you to the mysterious and seldom-seen anadama bread, but we are very protective of our traditions around here.

honied butter

Honey Kissed Corn Muffins

makes 10
1 ¼ C all-purpose flour
1 C stone ground cornmeal, yellow, white, or blue
2 ½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
1 egg
¼ C honey
1 t grated orange zest
4 T butter, melted and cooled
1 ¼ C buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter muffin tins to accommodate 10 muffins, or line with paper muffin cups. (Go ahead and melt your butter now so that it has a chance to cool, because if you’re like me you’ll forget.)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until pale. Add the honey and orange zest and continue whisking until fully blended and fluffy. Thoroughly whisk in the melted butter, followed by the buttermilk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture. Use a spatula to gently but efficiently blend them together. Be careful not to overmix – lumpy but evenly moistened batter is perfect. Use a spoon to distribute the batter amongst the muffin cups, mounding it up to make for real glorious muffin domes. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden-domed. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Enjoy with honied butter, below, or jam.

honey kissed corn muffins

Whipped Honied Butter

8 oz (½ C) unsalted butter, softened
3 T honey
big pinch salt

While the muffins bake, beat the butter with an electric beater or stand mixer until pale and creamy. Add the salt and slowly drizzle in the honey, continuing to beat until uniformly combined and fluffy. Refrigerate until needed (or keep deliciously soft at room temperature).

June 28, 2010

A Saturday at the Coastal Growers’ Market

Filed under: local — Tags: , , , , — Elena @ 3:16 pm

Last Saturday I took an exciting trip to the Coastal Growers’ Market located at Casey Farm, on Boston Neck Road in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. The market occurs every  Saturday from 9-12 in the morning and will be open from May 15  through October 30. It was a lot of fun to go and see all the local products and eat some yummy food.


farmstead cheeses

vendor tents



tomato plants

zephyr farm's veggies