Dani Goes South.

Sweets

The Peach Truck's Fried Peach Hand Pies

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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Two weekends ago, we went to Ben’s parent's’ house about an hour outside of town, and picked roughly 45 peaches to take home off their booming peach tree. The stars (and nature) seemed to perfectly align, as I was recently sent an early copy of The Peach Truck Cookbook to share a recipe or two from. In my humble opinion, there are a few things that make a cookbook amazingly inspiring. First, being the story. I feel like with cookbooks, we often get so lost in the recipes, I see people flipping through the forward or the pre-recipe stories that are full of subtle, beautiful inspiration. Then, we have photos that make you want to eat all of the foods through the book, using only your face. Finally, we have wisdom. PASS ME THOSE HELPFUL TIDBITS. I’m like Ms. Pacman with helpful tidbits! I’ll eat them up all day long whilst avoiding those ghosts. Everyone has methods that are uniquely theirs, honed by culture, tradition, hell, even the way we operate our bodies.

The Peach Truck cookbook offers all the aforementioned things that add up to an inspiring cookbook in spades. Truly, one I’ll covet each peach season for years and years to come. What I really enjoyed about Jessica and Stephen’s story, is that among the elements that made me dream of an idyllic farm life, they were not shy in talking about the stark struggle of farming. Beautiful in both its bounty, and its brutality, I found this book to be such a lovely metaphor for life. Certain trees look like they’re thriving, only not to deliver what was visibly promised. Other trees look like they’re struggling for life, and then give the best fruit of the season. They came onto the Nashville scene where people had already-established, long-term relationships with the farming community. They had to slow-grow it. Make connections. Put themselves out there, even when they were unsure of the outcome. Metaphors for life, wrapped in the most delicious fruit of the season. Very clever, indeed.

The recipes in this book are so stunning, I had the hardest time choosing what to make first. Ultimately, the fried peach hand pies won the household vote (of 2). Perfect pie dough half-moons get folded over bright, gently spiced peach compote, which, by the way, would be incredible on biscuits, scones, waffles- INSERT PASTRY HERE - You’ll be glad you have extra on hand.

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Begin by making your compote. This whole process, begins with slicing peaches, which is way easier after blanching them. Simply bring a large pot of water to a boil, and in the underside of each peach, delicately make an “X” with a paring knife, being careful not to pierce the flesh. With a large bowl of ice water standing by, blanch the peaches for about 30 seconds, before transferring to an ice bath to cool. After they are cool, peel and slice your peaches until you have about 2 cups.

To make the filling, pace the peach slices in a medium saucepan. Add the lemon juice, granulated sugar, and cardamom. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Break up the peaches slightly with a spoon. Mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl, and pour the mixture into the pan with the peach mixture. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter until it hs melted. Cover and chill for 2 hours, or until cold.

Next is the pie dough! Place the flour and salt in a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine. Add the shortening and butter; pulse eight times, or until the mixture resembles large peas. Add 10 tablespoons of the ice water, and pulse eight times, or until the mixture starts to come together, adding additional water as necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time. Squeeze a small amount of dough in your hand. If it holds together, you’re good to go. If it crumbles apart, add more water. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

To make the pies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out one dough disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8” thickness. Using a round cutter, cut out six, 5” rounds. Place the rounds on one of the baking sheets, and refrigerate. Repeat with second dough disk.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the chilled filling in the center of each dough round. Do not overfill! No one wants compote floating in oil, am I right? You will want a minimum of 1 inch of exposed dough around the edges. Using a brush or your finger, wet half of the outer edge of the circle with water to help the dough seal. Carefully fold the dough in half to make a half-moon shape, pressing the edges to seal. Use the tines of a fork to crimp and secure the edges. Refrigerate the hand pies while heating the oil.

Fill a Dutch oven or deep skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set it nearby. Carefully place 3 or 4 hand pies at a time in the hot oil and fry until deep golden brown, about 6 minutes, turning as necessary to ensure even browning. Drain the hand pies on the paper towels and dust with powdered sugar (I also dusted with cinnamon sugar, because I can never leave well enough, or in this case, amazing enough, alone). Serve the same day, warm or at room temperature.

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These pies are like artisan-style apple hand pies (you know the ones), but with the brightest summery notes. I highly recommend serving with some vanilla ice cream for dipping because, again, I’m excessive. I strongly suggest pre-ordering this sincere gem of a cookbook. I’ve got my eye on the fish tacos with peach pico next. Thank you to Jessica and Stephen for letting me share one of your beautiful recipes in advance!

Fried Peach Hand Pies

(Makes 12)

Filling

2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 2 cups)

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 tbs cornstarch

1 tbs cold salted butter

Crust

5 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c plus 2 tbs cubed, cold shortening

6 tbs cold unsalted butter, cubed

10 to 16 tbs ice water

Vegetable oil, for frying

Powdered sugar, for dusting

The Easiest and Only Strawberry Shortcake You'll Ever Need

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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In today's episode of "things my mom tells me to do about food", we have strawberry shortcake. I am not in the practice of not taking my mom's advice, and she's been telling me how much I "NEED" to make strawberry shortcake with Bon Appetit's shortcake recipe for about a year. Not unlike me in my teen years, it took a minute for me to get around to taking her advice, but when I did, everything instantly fell into place, because these bad boys are *clap* that *clap* good *final clap*. It's also fitting that this recipe comes just in time for Mother's Day, because well, I'm partial, but my mom just so happens to be the absolute best. 

Let's talk shortcake. This could not be a farther cry from that produce section "angel food cake" gar-bazhe that seems to sneak its way into many a casual function. Listen, I'm not saying it's the worst; I'm simply saying we can totally do waaaay better, and it's not even that hard. These shortcakes are tender, have that perfectly crunchy, sugary texture on top, with an unexpected added delicious layer of texture from cornmeal. I posted on my Instagram stories yesterday that these call for 2 hard boiled egg yolks, which is literally the only fussy step of this whole shebang. I say, throw a few extra eggs in your pot, and call it meal prep. Multitasking: The thing no one's really that good at, but everyone claims to be pretty good at... Am I right, or am I right? 

In a food processor, combine your two flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and egg yolks, and pulse a few times to combine. Add your cold butter, and pulse until it's in pea-sized pieces. Slowly, drizzle in 2/3 cups of  your heavy cream as you pulse the machine. Just pulse until the dough barely combines. Turn your dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and lightly knead until combined into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 25 minutes. 

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In a food processor, combine your two flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and egg yolks, and pulse a few times to combine. Add your cold butter, and pulse until it's in pea-sized pieces. Slowly, drizzle in 2/3 cups of  your heavy cream as you pulse the machine. Just pulse until the dough barely combines. Turn your dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and lightly knead until combined into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 25 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 350F. In a large bowl, add your halved/quartered strawberries, along with 1/3 a cup of sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. Toss to combine, then cover, and refrigerate. 

To a parchment-lined baking sheet, add your dough, in 1/3 cup scoops, rolling them into a ball with your hands, and slightly flattening the bottoms as you set them down. Alternatively, you can use a 2 oz ice cream scoop, but mine just happened to be dirty, which is just really a window into our ice cream consumption around here. Brush the tops of your shortcakes with the remaining 2 tbs cream, and give each one a healthy dusting of sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes. I believe mine were right at 26. 

Make your whipped cream. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/2 a teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip until peaks form, but it's still soft and not over-whipped. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

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These are truly the most tender, perfectly crumbly, buttery, sugary shortcakes. Seriously, simplicity times one HUNDO. Who the hell doesn't love a warm shortcake, with bright, juicy, summery berries and freshly whipped cream? Do you know them? Disown them immediately. Love your mom, do something nice, take your vitamins, make these shortcakes - all things you should do, forever and ever, amen. I think your mom would agree.

This recipe was sponsored by my mom, who literally has sponsored my life. Happy impending mother's day to all! 

Strawberry Shortcakes

(Shortcake recipe from Bon Appetit)

Serves 6

For the Shortcakes

2 hard-boiled egg yolks, cooled

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

3 tbs fine ground cornmeal, or semolina flour

1 tbs baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbs granulated sugar

6 tbs unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces

2/3 cup, plus 2 tbs heavy cream

Granulated or sanding sugar for sprinkling on top

For the Strawberries

1 1/2 quarts strawberries, halved, quartered if large

Juice of half a lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, cold

3 tbs confectioner's sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Creme Brulee

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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The time has finally come for dresses, warm-night-walks, laying next to lakes and oceans (with copious SPF), and coconut scented EVERYTHING. I can hardly contain my excitement- though, I won't lie to you: my first Texas summer kicked my ass. Within 2 days of moving here my legs were covered, and I mean COVERED in 60+ (I counted) mosquito bites. I remember crying to Ben "THIS IS NOT WHAT I MOVED HERE FOR!!!!" I'm laughing now, but at the time...I was NAT having it., to say the least. Luckily, this summer we are planning ahead with a few getaways on the docket we couldn't be more excited for- one being Maui. YAAAAS. I actually haven't been since my junior year of high school (Wow, that sentence makes me feel old!), and my wheels are already turning with outfit ideas, where to grab the best poke, and thoughts of pina coladas by the pool (again, with copious SPF). 

Since we've got a few months until said Hawaiian getaway, I'm bringing a healthy dose of island flavors home with these coconut creme brulees. You guys, I kid you not, this dessert tastes like a straight-up vacation. Vanilla-flecked coconut custard is our base for a crunchy, caramelized, sugar shell, and charred pineapple and strawberries. I almost named this pina colada creme brulee, but truth be told, it tastes equally like a lava flow so I was torn between the two. Please grab your nearest tropical button-down, and accompany me to coconut creme brulee town.

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Preheat your oven to 325F. Scrape the seeds from 2 vanilla beans, and reserve the pods. To a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, add your coconut milk, cream, vanilla bean seeds and pods, and coconut extract. Choosing the right coconut extract is key here, and this is kind of the one situation I'm going to advise you to go tacky, and stick with that imitation coconut, baby-doll! It truly brings all of those being on a beach, smelling sunscreen vibes, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve here. Don't go with the real stuff. It's too subtle. Again, literally the one time I'll probably ever say that sentence, hah!

Bring to a boil, and remove from the heat immediately once brought to a boil. Whisk together your eggs, along with 5 tbs of your sugar until well combined. Slowly whisk the heated cream mixture into your eggs and sugar, making sure to stir constantly. Try and add a little at a time as your whisking so you temper your eggs, and don't scramble them. Divide your mixture among 4-5 heat-safe ramekins placed in a baking dish. If you want, you could probably divide this mixture into 6-7 smaller vessels. You would just need to adjust your baking times accordingly. Pour enough warm water into the baking dish so that it goes halfway up your ramekins. 

Bake until the center of your creme brulee is just about set. Since the bake time is directly related to the height of your vessel, bake 10 minutes for every half inch of height. Example: For a 2 inch vessel, bake the creme brulees for 40 minutes. 

After baking, remove from the water bath, and allow to completely cool before transferring to the refrigerator. Allow to refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving, although, you can totally leave them in the fridge overnight, and torch them immediately before serving.

Speaking of torching, for that portion of the program, simply sprinkle each ramekin of cooled custard with a heaping tablespoon of granulated sugar, and light it up!  

To serve, I kept with the general vacation vibes of this creme brulee, and torched up some strawberries and pineapple, because, as per previous mention, I wanted this to taste like an island cocktail, sans booze. However, feel free to make some freshly whipped cream, switch up the fruit sitch, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar- something chocolate would even be amazing here. This isn't really a space for rules. 

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The custard is so perfectly cool, light and creamy, it seems like it's been whipped for hours, but in reality, it comes together in a flash, and is such a good compliment to the hot, crunchy, sugar. The light torching of the fruit releases their sugars, and gets them macerating quickly, and almost becomes a super light sauce as you're eating it. Not mad. 

Speaking of vacays, I'm off to a quick little getaway in San Clemente, CA, and couldn't be more excited! I get to hang with most of my fam, and we're even taking a little unprecedented trip to Disneyland with all the cousins and their littles- I'm SO. EXCITED. Especially, because this will be my niece's first Disney trip (!!!)- I can't wait to watch her cute little face on every ride!

Do you guys have any fun warm-weather plans on the docket? I would loooove to hear (not mad at a Maui recommendation, either)! 

Coconut Creme Brulee

Adapted from Damaris Phillips

Serves 4-6

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 Vanilla beans, seeds scraped, pods reserved

4 large eggs

1 tsp imitation coconut extract

8-9 tbs sugar

Fresh fruit such as pineapple and strawberries, to serve (optional) 

Key Lime Vanilla Bean Pie With the Butteriest Graham Cracker Crust

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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Not all desserts are created equally, am I right? I've mentioned before that I don't have the hugest sweet tooth, so when it comes to dessert, I'm surprisingly persnickety. First of all, when it comes to me actually making a dessert, I am reeeeeally good at talking myself out of doing it, and maybe making pasta instead. Measuring? Ick. Team eyeball-it like an old world Italian g-ma all. Day. Long. Cake decorating? Do I not have enough anxiety to contend with?! I do not require unicorn horns on my treats, nor do I want a rainbow bagel, and if I ever purchase fondant, well, then we'll know I've really lost myself. All of this said, I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who love sifting and measuring, who perfect their piping to a T. In truth, I envy you!! I want to take quite a few pages out of your book...(and leave the ones regarding cake pops and fondant). 

I digress...

I began this by saying not all desserts are created equal, and I stand by this. However, there are a scant handful of treats that have captured my heart, and you best believe I'll attempt to make them kewt and new just for yew. Under this sweet lil' umbrella resides my longtime bud, key lime pie. Creamy, tart lime custard married to crumbly graham cracker crust- what's not to love? Well, how about juicing one million tiny limes? Yeah. I'm not into it, either. So, with saving you and I from that in mind, I give to you: Key lime pie, hold the keys.  

As though that's not already cutting down on our heavy lifting, aside from the oven, this is a total food processor situation- graham cracker crust, filling, and all! There are benefits to this, beyond cutting down on dishes (which is high up there on the silver linings roster for your girl, and if you don't have a dishwasher, I've been there MULTIPLE times, and I applaud you all day every day).

First off, the aforementioned food processor sitch makes for the crumbliest, most buttery pie crust. Truth be told, when I first made this, I mumbled "shit" repeatedly to myself, while taking it out of the pie plate because I was certain I over-pulsed the crumbs, and made a base of essentially, sand, meaning that the whole thing was sure to crumble. Much to my surprise and delight, it held PERFECTLY, and the butter permeated throughout every crumb. So essentially, my "shit's" took an immediate 180 and made their way to "fuck yes-ville". I really love when that happens in culinary situations. Like, almost more than anything. This is the pie crust to reignite any lost love of graham cracker crust, AKA, the unsung hero of pie-town. So, in addition to the food processor giving our crust the pulverizing strong-arm it needs, it also whips our custard into perfectly fluffy shape, ensuring the smoothest filling ever. The vanilla bean is the sleeper hit of this whole shebang, though. It scents the pie beautifully, and frankly who the hell is mad at a vanilla bean fleck-studded pie?! Guys, I don't say this outright often, but this is JUST. SO. GOOD. I'm clearly chatty; let's make this already!

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Preheat your oven oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse your graham crackers (about 3 sleeves worth) until they resemble sand. Add your sugar, and stream in your melted, salted butter, and pulse quite a few times to combine. You want it to be the consistency of wet sand. I used a pie plate with a removable bottom, but that isn't a requirement. Just press your crumbs evenly into your chosen pie plate- I love using a wide jar for this. Place in the oven, and bake for about 13 minutes, or until it just starts to get golden-brown.

In your food processor, combine your egg yolks with your condensed milk, and pulse thoroughly to combine. Add your lime zest, lime juice, and paste from your vanilla beans. Puree for about 1 minute. When done, the filling should look slightly aerated, and fully combined.

When your crust is done, allow to cool to slightly warm, and add your filling. Return to oven, and bake for about 15-18 minutes, returning to a rack to cool. Once cool, place in the fridge until fully chilled, or overnight, which is what I opted for. 

Serve with freshly whipped cream- I just whipped 1/2 cup cream with about 4-5 tbs sugar, and extra lime zest.

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Listen, rarely have I met a key lime pie- sans key or otherwise that I have disliked. However, this one, guys...This one stands alone. The filling is so incredibly light and creamy with all the punch of fresh lime tartness you'd expect from key lime pie, but with the unexpected rounded accent of the vanilla bean. It's a subtle change, but in my book, a game changer. I really hope you make this when you're just in the mood for something happy. Hey, maybe throw it in your Easter repertoire! I bet no one will be mad you did. 

Vanilla Bean Key Lime Pie, Sans Key, With the Butteriest Graham Cracker Crust

For the graham cracker crust:

About 1 1/4 cups graham crackers 

4 tbs granulated sugar

5 tbs salted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 can sweetened, condensed milk

5 egg yolks (if they're super large, go for 4, but my organics seemed on the smaller side)

1/2 cup lime juice, from 4-5 limes

Zest of 2 limes

2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped