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Raspberry Rhubarb Twists

If its possible, I’d like to sneak in another rhubarb recipe even if it is September. While we never grow tired of the classic pairing of strawberries and rhubarb, I love rhubarb too much to simply let it be a sidekick to those sweet berries. Rhubarb is capable of so much more, whether its used in sweet or savory applications (such as the rhubarb chutney I had featured in an earlier blog). This pretty, long, tart piece of produce is not a one-dimensional character …. it loves the spotlight!

Perhaps, not as famous as the combination above but every bit as delicious, are raspberries and rhubarb. While cinnamon may be a more common spice to pair with rhubarb, herbal cardamom lends a warm, citrusy note and is amazing in these twists.

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Raspberry Rhubarb Twists
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Filling
Dough
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Filling
Dough
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Place rhubarb, raspberries & sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer over a low heat. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken. Turn off heat & set aside to cool.
Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast with lukewarm water or milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, combine flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
  3. Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a tea towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the removable bottom of a 10-inch tart pan on your work surface. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface; divide into thirds.
  5. Place one portion on parchment paper & roll or press out dough the size of the bottom of tart pan (10-inches). Carefully spread the circle with half of the filling mixture. Roll out the second portion to the same size & transfer with your rolling pin to top the first portion. Carefully spread it with remaining filling.
  6. Roll out third portion of dough to the same size & place it on top of the other two layers. Pinch dough around outer edge to seal. Place a small glass in center. Cut from outside edge just to the glass, forming 12 wedges.
  7. Remove the glass. Twist each wedge 3-4 times. Tuck edge under. Place bottom of tart pan (with parchment paper & pastry) inside tart pan ring. Cover & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F. If you prefer, lightly brush twists with a bit of egg wash before baking. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.
Glaze
  1. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm twists.

Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy

Tender, juicy roasted chicken leg quarters are easy to prepare and delicious. The leg quarter is made up of the thigh, drumstick and part of the back of the chicken. It’s named a quarter because it consists of about a quarter of the whole bird. The dark meat takes well to roasting and yields moist and flavorful chicken.

Asiago has long been a favorite cheese of Brion & I. It is a brilliant cheese to bake into bread for a cheesy treat or grate over soft pretzels before baking. It also works particularly well with chicken dishes.

Asiago is a whole milk cheese that originated in Northern Italy, around the Po River Valley where Italy borders Austria. Coming from the mountains, Asiago is similar to other mountain cheeses, such as Switzerland’s Gruyere or France’s Beaufort. Asiago is made in large wheels designed for long-term aging to get through tough winters. Dense and flavorful, Asiago’s flavor profile changes as time polishes the wheels over the course of several months or years. Taken from the milk of cows grazing on the grasses and wildflowers of the mountains, Asiago can have a fresh, fruity flavor or a savory, zesty taste on the palate.

This is a very simple recipe but has an amazing flavor and is well worth trying, especially if your an Asiago lover.

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Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon, blot on paper towel & set aside. Add the seasoned chicken & brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside.
  2. Add onion, mushrooms & garlic to saucepan; sauté until tender crisp & lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the thyme & flour; cook for a minute.
  4. Add the broth & deglaze the pan by scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spoon while the broth is sizzling.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix asiago cheese into the sauce & season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Add the chicken, cover with a lid or foil & roast for 15 minutes. Alternately, you can turn heat down to a medium-low & simmer on top the stove for 15 minutes.
  7. Add crumbled bacon to sauce after roasting. Serve.

Chai Spiced Sweet Rolls

Its the fall season, so bring on the chai flavored recipes! Fall can encompass many different flavors including apple, pumpkin, maple, cranberry and ginger just to name a few. To me, baked goods and chai spices are a no-brainer. Traditionally, chai is made into a tea which consists of milk, spices, sweetener and black tea. Chai spices can be used for so much more than just tea. Once you make your basic chai spice recipe, there are so many different ways to utilize it.

Chai can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper and coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.

In the winter of 2011, Brion & I traveled to Turkey for a month. That trip we were meeting up with a Trafalgar tour group in Istanbul. Arriving a day early gave us time to ‘snoop’ around a bit. Next to our hotel was a Starbucks, so we went in. When Brion ordered my coffee, they gave me a ‘Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte’ by mistake. The flavor was so incredible, I have been addicted to it ever since.

A stay in Istanbul would not be complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores are a mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to shore-front wooden villas, marble palaces in contrast to rustic stone fortresses and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. Since Turkey actually straddles two separate continents, its culture features strong elements and traditions from both east and west. At that point in time we found Turkey a relaxed country to travel in which made our time there very enjoyable.

This bread is literally like the food version of your favorite chai drink.

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Chai Spiced Sweet Rolls
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Glaze
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Dough
Glaze
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm milk (or water) & 1 tsp of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Combine yeast mixture with butter mixture; then add flour mixture. Combine then turn onto a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
  3. Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a tea towel. Place in a draft-free place to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine brown sugar & chai spices to make filling.
  5. When dough has risen, place on a lightly floured work surface & roll out into a rectangle about 12 x 16 inches in size. Spread with softened butter & sprinkle with brown sugar/spice mix.
  6. Beginning with one of the long edges, roll the dough up, pulling it first up & over the filling & working it carefully until you've created a tight log. Press/pinch along the seam to seal.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut roll in a zig-zag fashion about 2-inches apart. Place wedges on prepared baking sheet, spacing to allow room for the buns to spread a bit. With a wooden skewer, press each wedge down across the center to form their unique shape. Cover & allow to rise until oven is ready. If you wish , make a bit of egg wash & gently brush over buns before baking.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, milk & vanilla. Stir to create a smooth glaze. Once the rolls have cooled for about 10 minutes, drizzle with glaze.

Everything Spice Chicken & Fries

CELEBRATING LABOR DAY!

Labor day week-end gives us an opportunity to enjoy family & friends before summer is officially over. Although, we have not officially reached the first day of fall (Sept. 22nd), this part of the year often begins with a tinge of melancholy. Even so, there are many ways to appreciate Canada’s most sentimental season.

Part of our country’s appeal is its four season’s: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are entering the season of the fall harvest and the leaves on the trees begin their transformation to stunning shades of orange, red and yellow.

Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will play a big part in the week-end events. For some reason, ‘Chicken & Fries’ just seems like a great meal for this occasion. Ever since I started using this seasoning blend, I want to put it on everything.

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced garlic & onion and sea salt. These five ingredients aren’t necessarily the heroes of the spice world, but together they are irresistible. Move over Colonel Sanders there’s a new spice for that chicken!!

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Everything Spice Chicken & Fries
Instructions
Chicken
  1. Slice chicken into 'fingers'. In a plastic bag, combine all seasonings & spices along with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Drizzle chicken with oil then place in seasoning 'bag' & coat heavily with the mixture.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place chicken fingers on it in a single layer. Set aside in refrigerator until fries are prepared.
Fries
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Wash & slice potatoes to desired size for the fries. Toss in a large bowl with oil & seasoning; coat well. Line a baking sheet with foil paper & spread fries out on it.
Baking
  1. Place prepared chicken fingers & potato fries in preheated oven. Bake the fries for 30 minutes then flip them over & bake for another 15-20 minutes or until they are crispy. Bake tray of chicken fingers until cooked through & golden brown.
Recipe Notes
  • Alternately, chicken can be cooked in oil in a skillet if you wish.

Leeks Cordon Bleu

As my love affair with leeks continues, I just can’t imagine what took me so long to try them. It’s amazing how many ways there are to use these giant ‘onions’.

The ‘cordon bleu’ idea has been around forever and generally it features a specific cut of meat stuffed with ham and cheese. In this recipe, the leeks are wrapped in Swiss cheese & Canadian bacon, then baked in a béchamel sauce and served over steamed rice.

Though ham and Canadian bacon look and taste remarkably similar, they’re not the same thing. Ham comes from the back legs, specifically the thighs and rear end, while Canadian bacon comes from the center of the pig’s back otherwise known as the eye of the pork loin.

There are a few names for Canadian bacon which include back bacon and pea meal bacon. During the early part of the last century, yellow peas were ground up and used to coat and cure pork loin. This became known as pea meal bacon. Once cornmeal became more readily available, it was swapped out for the pea meal.

Probably the bacon most people are familiar with is American bacon, which comes from the belly of the pig and tends to be much fattier …. hence the name ‘streaky bacon’.

I have to be honest, I’ve never been a bacon lover (which probably stems back to my Dad’s home cured version !!) but I did find this meal light and tasty.

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Leeks Cordon Bleu
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Remove roots, outer leaves & tops from leeks; leave 6-inches of each leek. Cut each in half crosswise. Steam, covered 8 minutes or until tender. Wrap each leek half in 1 piece of cheese & top with 4 pieces of Canadian bacon. Place leeks in an 8-inch square baking dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  3. Place flour in a small saucepan; add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 6 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat & season with salt & pepper. Pour sauce over leeks & sprinkle with panko crumbs.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve over steamed rice.

Prune Plum ‘Rose’ Buns

I wanted to highlight the prune plum in another blog before this deliciously sweet fruit closes the summer season.

Prune plums, also known as Empress or Italian prune plums are available in Canada in late summer to early fall. When I was growing up and my mother used these ‘little gems’ in her canning and baking, I thought it was because they were available at the time. I had no idea that they played such a special part in German baking until I was an adult.

Italian plums are native to the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy, and though they are named after their country of origin, they are not a favorite there. Instead, because of the German affinity for plums, they feature in many German desserts.

When ripe, plums are wonderfully sweet with a rich complex flavor. The flesh has a greenish-amber color that turns a deep shade of fuchsia when cooked. The single pit at the center separates easily and almost fall out on their own.

Because prune plums hold their shape in baked goods and will not make the dough or batter ‘mooshy’, they work out well in these buns.

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Prune Plum 'Rose' Buns
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Course dessert
Cuisine European
Servings
BUNS
Course dessert
Cuisine European
Servings
BUNS
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Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add milk & heat until warm, but not hot. Stir in yeast. Allow yeast mixture to proof for about 10 minutes.
  2. Mix flour, sugar & salt together on low in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add both eggs & increase the mixer speed slightly. Add the yeast mixture & continue to mix until the dough forms a ball on the dough hook. There should be no dough stuck to the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead well until dough is smooth (about 10 minutes). Form dough into a ball. Grease a mixing bowl with butter & place dough in it. Cover & allow to rise until its doubled in size, about an hour.
  4. Wash plums then using a sharp knife, make a slit in the side of each plum wide enough to pop the pit out. Once pitted, toss plums in about 1/4 cup of sugar making sure to fill each plum with sugar as well.
  5. When dough has risen, remove to a floured work surface & punch down. Divide dough into 12 equal portions & form into a balls. Cover dough balls with a tea towel & let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a circle, about 5 1/2 - 6-inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut 4 diagonal slits, leaving the center intact. Place 1 plum into the center & continue shaping the rose by working your way around the circle & wrapping each of the 'petals' up & around each other, pinching as necessary to hold them together.
  7. Place into greased muffin or custard cups. Repeat with remaining dough. When all buns have been shaped, cover with greased plastic wrap & allow to rise until puffy, about 25 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  9. When buns are ready to bake, whisk together egg wash & brush over buns. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven & allow to cool in cups on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes, then remove from cups to continue cooling. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar if you wish.

Zucchini Crusted Turkey Bratwurst

Versatile & plentiful, zucchini has endless applications. To mention a ‘few’, we’ve made zucchini bread & muffins, noodles, roasted it and put it on kabobs with chicken. It’s used in curry, ratatouille, stir fry and relish, etc. etc. etc. But just when I think there’s nothing I can do different with it, another idea pops into my head.

Among the family of sausages there is perhaps none so beloved in North America as the bratwurst. There are many interpretations of bratwurst, with variations on texture, flavor, size and cooking methods. Traditional bratwurst, which is German in origin, is made with pork & veal. Turkey bratwurst is a popular alternative to this traditional kind because of its low fat content.

For this recipe, I combine ground turkey with a combination of ‘German’ bratwurst spices and formed them into long sausage shapes. The shredded zucchini/cheese ‘crust’ is wrapped around each sausage and baked. All the flavors blended so well, creating yet one more use for zucchini!

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Zucchini Crusted Turkey Bratwurst
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Zucchini Crust
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Zucchini Crust
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Instructions
Zucchini Crust
  1. Place the shredded zucchini on paper towel & sprinkle LIGHTLY with salt. Cover & blot with another piece of paper towel. Allow to sit for about an hour to release excess moisture.
  2. When zucchini is ready, place in a bowl & combine with remaining 'crust' ingredients.
Turkey Bratwurst
  1. Combine all ingredients & mix well. Divide mixture into 5 equal portions, shaping each into a 5-inch long sausage.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Divide zucchini mixture into 5 equal amounts. On a piece of plastic wrap, place a portion of the zucchini mixture & pat it into a small rectangle large enough to enclose a sausage in it. Lay a sausage on the zucchini; use the plastic wrap to help roll the sausage & enclose in the zucchini crust. Repeat with remaining sausage,
  3. Oil a piece of foil paper. Place foil on a baking sheet. Top with crusted sausages & bake for 30 minutes or until slightly browned.
  4. These are nice served with baked potatoes & corn.

Plum Blossom Pastries

Its getting to be late summer/early fall and its ‘plum season’. Plums are easy to forget it seems. They’re not the most popular of summer fruits. Plums aren’t exotic as the fig or small and cute like blueberries. Plums are just plums and we should not overlook this humble fruit. They are actually quite special …. sweet & tart, not too big and not too small.

This particular dessert uses ‘plum butter’ which is simply a concentrated plum spread made by cooking plums down to a spreadable paste. These ‘cookies’ are using ready made puff pastry to keep life simple.

Puff pastry isn’t just for croissants. Arguably, its the foundation of many, many pastries as we know them today. Its a technique that lets you enjoy warm, flaky layers of dough instead of literally everything being a ‘biscuit’.

Using this spicy filling in the puff pastry dough really added a whole new dimension.

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Plum Blossom Pastries
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Course dessert
Cuisine French, German
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Spicy Plum Butter
Course dessert
Cuisine French, German
Servings
Ingredients
Spicy Plum Butter
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Instructions
Spiced Plum Butter
  1. In a large saucepan, combine juice & plums. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat & simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Place plum mixture in a food processor & process until smooth. Press pureed mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
  2. Combine plum mixture, sugar & spices in pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes a thick paste. Cool. Any extra not used for these cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Thaw pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. From parchment paper, cut 9 pieces each about 4-inch square. In a small dish, whisk together egg & water to make egg wash.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 9 squares. Taking one square at a time, place on parchment paper squares. Brush edges with egg wash.
  3. Place about 1 tsp of the spiced plum butter in the middle of the pastry square. Bring the 4 corners together, then repeat for the sides.
  4. Shape pastry into a ball then flip. Lightly press the ball with your fingers. With a sharp knife, cut each piece into 12 equal parts from the center towards the outside edge. Leave the center part intact. Each part will become a pedal. Twist petals 45 degrees, all to the same side. The filling should be showing.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
Recipe Notes
  • Making the plum butter ahead of time definitely speeds up the cookie prep.
  • Alternately, you can probably find a nice jar of plum butter at a deli store & just add your own spices to it. Works too!

Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Spicy Raspberry Sauce

Scallops are beloved by pretty much everyone who can eat them …. they’re tender, sweet and taste ever so slightly of the sea. Being not only expensive and easy to overcook, scallops are often considered restaurant only fare.

Wild scallops feed by filtering microscopic plankton from the water. They are hand shucked immediately and frozen at sea to capture their fresh sweet flavor.

Pan-seared scallops pair well with bright, tangy flavors that contrast their meaty sweetness or in creamy dishes that emphasize their richness.

One of my go-to ‘sauces’ that I’ve used on numerous occasions on the blog, contains hot red pepper jelly. I’ve added a raspberry preserve to the jelly for a new twist on the flavor this time. The parmesan risotto brings it all together, definitely making this meal a ‘keeper’.

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Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Spicy Raspberry Sauce
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Instructions
Risotto
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook & stir diced bacon until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the bacon & reserve.
  2. In the skillet, melt the butter & sauté onion & garlic for about 4 minutes until soft & translucent. Add the rice & mix well until it is fully coated with the butter.
  3. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth & lemon/lime juice. Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, turn heat to medium low. Add one cup of broth & continuously stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, one cup at a time, with the remaining broth. This will take about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup water & take the pan off the heat once risotto is at your desired consistency. Add the parmesan cheese, reserved bacon & parsley; stir to combine. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Sauce
  1. In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Scallops
  1. Thaw scallops as directed on package. Rinse & pat dry with paper towels; season with salt & pepper. Add oil & butter to a non-stick skillet & heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté scallops by turning over once until browned & just cooked through, 4-6 minutes total.
  2. Serve over a bed of parmesan risotto & drizzle with sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • Of course, if you live where you have access to fresh scallops, your in a whole different class!!

Peach Chutney Galette

This peach chutney galette has all the flavors of a classic peach pie, plus the pop of fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar and spice.

I love chutneys and find that just about any fruit can be made into one. Each chutney is a balance of sweet, sour, savory and spice with endless variations. When it comes to the ways you can eat or serve it, a few that come to mind are:

  • Add it to a chicken sandwich
  • Serve with cured meats & cheese
  • Serve on the side with empanadas or meat pies
  • Eat it with any cooked pork meal
  • Serve with grilled sausages or roasted poultry
  • Serve it with pate
  • As a topping for warm Brie cheese
  • Mixed into Greek yogurt
  • Puree it & use as a dipping sauce
  • Served on a burger

Peaches are one of those fruits that make their way into summer chutneys so why not put some in a galette and see what develops?!

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Peach Chutney Galette
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
  2. Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, star anise, cloves, pepper, cardamom & sea salt. When mixture starts to bubble, fold in about 2 cups sliced peaches. Bring the mixture to a boil; turn down heat to a lively simmer. Cook, stirring often, 20-30 minutes, or until mixture has thickened enough to easily coat a spoon. Set aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. When chutney is cooled, preheat oven to 350 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press out chilled pastry into a 12-inch circle.
  2. In a large bowl, stir to combine remaining peaches, cooled chutney, 1/4 cup sugar & cornstarch.
  3. Spread mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold pastry over peach chutney filling, pleating to hold it in. Brush with egg wash (if using); sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake 35-45 minutes until filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Chill at least 2 hours to prevent the filling from running out. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.