recipe: five minute spiced crumble

When people ask me how I make up recipes "on the spot", I have to admit that most of my inspiration stems from not wanting to waste food. In fact, over the past 5 years, the only ingredient I can recall throwing out was a single head of lettuce, before heading off on vacation. Great things can happen when you're trying to be a thrifty and sustainable cook. Just this week, I came home to find a browning pear and a couple of increasingly shriveled figs. But a few minutes on the stove and some Indian-inspired spices turned these sorry looking fruits into one of the most delicious desserts I've ever invented.

Five Minute Spiced Pear and Fig Crumble

  • 1 juicy pear
  • 2-3 figs
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)
  • a pinch of sea salt (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp of your favorite granola
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin or flax seeds (optional)
  • greek yogurt (optional)
  1. Just cover the bottom of a small pot with water; bring to a simmer.
  2. While water is heating, wash and chop pear into small chunks.
  3. Add pear to simmering water.
  4. Wash and chop figs; add to pears.
  5. Add curry, rosemary and salt.
  6. Stir occasionally until fruit is warm and softened (but not mushy).
  7. Remove from heat and scoop fruit into a bowl.
  8. Top with granola, seeds and a dollop of greek yogurt.

**For elegant plating, simply add a small sprig of fresh rosemary.

recipe: the girls' guide to puff pastry

12 finished product
Making puff pastry certainly isn't neuroscience, but it definitely is one hell of a workout. Whether you're female or simply feeble-armed, this technique will facilitate all the flakiness you need, without the aching wrists and shoulder strain.

The Girls' Guide to Puff Pastry

  • 1 cup Gold Medal flour
  • 3 cups King Arthur flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, slightly softened
  1. Mix flour, salt, and 1/2 stick of softened butter in a KitchenAid or other standing mixer, using the blade attachment.
  2. Crack an egg into a liquid measuring cup. Fill the cup, still containing the egg, up to 1 1/3 cups of water. Add to Kitchen Aid.
  3. When dough forms, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into a ball and let rest, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
  5. While dough is resting, cut the remaining pound of butter into thin slices (about four lengthwise slices per stick of butter).
  6. Cut a sheet of wax paper 18 inches long and cover with butter slices. Cover with another 18 inch sheet of wax paper. Roll butter into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle, using rolling pin. Chill.
  7. Roll out rested dough into a large rectangle. Chilled butter should fill up about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dough.
  8. Place the butter in the center of the dough and fold into thirds.
  9. Roll out dough again and fold the dough “book fashion” (fold in ends to touch in the center, then close the “book”). Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill.
  10. Repeat the rolling out/book fold process four more times, chilling the dough in wax paper for 30 minutes between each rolling. Beware butter oozing out of the dough and fold all corners squarely.
  11. After last folding, chill at least 3 hours before use.

*The credit for this recipe goes to Betty Ann Donegan, long-time cooking teacher and chemist. She uses two different types of flour because the amount of gluten in flour determines the stiffness of the dough. Her recipe allows for a durable but flexible dough.