You too can “Pate a Choux”…this one’s for you Mam-aw!

IMG_1437My Mam-aw was an amazing cook! Her personality and culinary skills were both “Sweet and Savory”. She made Sunday dinners that were equivalent to Thanksgiving every week. She never asked anyone to bring a dish or assist her with preparation. My Mam-aw just found great joy by having her family gather around the dining room table each week to simply share great food and conversation. These nights created some of my very best childhood memories and one of the very first memories I have of cooking with her was making “Pate a Choux”.

Although “Pate a Choux”, like my Mam-aw, could be both Sweet and Savory, it was her “go to” for Bridal and Baby Showers. She would make a tray and stuff them with her homemade Chicken Salad, which made for an amazing and creative little sandwich.

Of course you can easily morph them into amazing desserts by stuffing them with homemade Pastry Cream, Whipped Cream, fresh Fruit…the sky is the limit here. Get creative! Honestly, my favorite way to enjoy them is hot, right out of the oven just by themselves. Their taste and texture somewhat similar to a Pop Over.

I know the name alone and its’ pronunciation is a bit intimidating, but I assure you that this “PUFF” is one of the easiest and most versatile recipes to make and even store for later use. All you need to know are some key tricks to insure success and you too will be able to “Pate a Choux”.

RECIPE
1 cup butter
2 cups water
pinch salt and sugar
2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In 2 quart pot, combine the butter, water, salt and sugar. I hate sifting so just whisk together the flour and baking powder. Once the water and butter come to a rolling boil, dump the flour mixture in all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon or paddle to incorporate until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. *STIR VIGOROUSLY UNTIL IT FORMS A BALL .

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl or standing mixer equipped with the paddle attachment. *MIX THE DOUGH FOR A MINUTE OR SO TO RELEASE SOME OF THE HEAT. Add the eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next. Beat until the dough gets thick and ribbony.

Line your baking pan with parchment paper and either using an ice cream scooper spoon dough onto pan with proper spacing for expansion. Transfer pan to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 25 minutes longer. *DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN, not even once, DURING THE ENTIRE COOKING TIME.

Use when cool, or freeze, wrapped in a plastic bag, for 2-3 months.

Italian Easter Pie…Oh My!

Right after graduating from college, I had the privilege to work with a wonderful Italian woman named Jean.  She was a fabulous cook and her specialties included, of course, traditional Italian dishes.  It was Jean who turned me onto the tradition of the Italian Easter Pie!

Now, I am married to a wonderful Sicilian man whose mother was one of the best cooks on the planet, but the Italian Easter Pie, thanks to Jean, was a recipe that I was able to introduce to them.  In fact, in contains all of their “favorite ingredients”, but what is the history behind it?

Since Easter is preceded by Lent, which is a time of fasting, particularly from meat on Fridays, Easter Sunday is a time to celebrate and indulge.  For Italians, the celebration includes the rich, cheesy, quiche-like Italian Easter pie filled with eggs, cheese and Italian meats.  Depending on the region, Easter Pie has many different names and recipes.  In Naples they call it “pastiera” and it is made with ricotta and whole grains to symbolize rebirth.

Sicilians make it with macaroni, pork, cheese and eggs.  Calabrians prefer ham, sausage, hard cooked eggs, mozzarella and ricotta.  “Pasqualina” as they call it in Liguria contains spinach, ricotta, cheese and eggs.  From Umbria to Marches, the pie is really more of a bread.

No matter what you call it, where and when you eat it or the combination of ingredients you choose to fold into it, Italian Easter Pie is a delicious addition to any brunch, lunch or holiday celebration.

RECIPE

For the crust:

• 2 cups all purpose flour
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 sticks butter
• 2 eggs

For the filling:

• 6 eggs
• salt and pepper to taste
• 8 oz. ricotta cheese
• 2 oz. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
• 3 oz. diced  ham, I prefer capicola
• 3 oz. diced salami, I prefer sorpresssata
• 3 oz. diced pepperoni

Directions
To make the crust, mix the flour and salt and place it in the bowl of a food processor.   Cut the butter into cubes and add them one at a time to the dough.  Pulse the food processor just enough to work in the butter into the consistency of a coarse meal.  Add the eggs and pulse the dough until it comes together in a ball.  Cut the dough in half so that one half is a little bigger than the other.  The smaller half will be the top crust. Wrap each in plastic wrap and rest the dough for an hour in the fridge.

For the filling, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.  Then blend the cheese into the eggs. Dice or  julienne the meat, or put it in the food processor for a finer textured pie and add this to the egg/cheese mixture.  I usually add 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Roll out the larger piece of dough on a floured board until it will fill a 9-inch pie shell. Add the filling. Then roll out the smaller piece of dough until it will cover the top.  Crimp it around the edge to seal it.  Brush with a beaten egg wash and  poke some holes or slits in the top crust to allow the steam to vent.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.