Archive for November, 2009

Apple Pie

November 29, 2009

If you read my previous post you know that I planned to serve Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Apple Pie for dessert on Thanksgiving Day. Guess what? When my son asked if I was making Graham Cracker Cream Pie and I told him no I was going to try something else, he looked so sad that I changed my mind on the spot and made the Graham Cracker Cream. Sigh. He loved it, I loved it, everyone loved it. I think I will be making that pie for the rest of my life. Sigh.

Today my son, daughter, and our daughter’s boyfriend headed back to the cities. I got up early and made the Apple Pie that I intended to make on Thanksgiving day and sent half the pie down the road with them. Mmmm I bet that car smelled good! This is a variation on the pie that Anna at Cookie Madness posted about. I didn’t have time to make the crust that goes with that pie, and I had to make some adjustments to the filling as well. Even so we are very happy with this pie. My husband said, “I can’t imagine that Apple Pie could be any better than this.” I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to mess with this recipe. It is excellent apple pie. I can only imagine how much better it would be following the original recipe exactly as written.

To see the recipe the way that it’s meant to be made click here.

Here is the way I made it when I was short on time and a few ingredients.

Two Crust Shortening Based Pastry

2c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. plus 1 T. shortening
5-6 T. ice cold water

Whisk together the flour and the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening just until the clumps are about the size of peas. Use a fork to incorporate the ice water 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the dough clings together when pinched. Turn this out onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it together with your hands. Divide the dough in half. Set one half aside. Pat the remaining piece into a disk and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large enough circle to line your pie dish. I like to make this kind of pie in a Pyrex 9.5″ inch pie plate. Remove one piece of plastic wrap and line the pie dish. Remove the second piece of plastic wrap. Roll out the second piece of dough in a similar manner, but leave the plastic wrap on for now and lay it over the piece of dough and set it all aside while you make the filling.

Apple Pie Filling

3 pounds Granny Smith apples (for me this was six very large apples)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/2. c. apple juice
1 T. heavy cream
1/4 c. butter

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 T. cream

Preheat the broiler. Toss together the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a 13 x 9 inch cake pan. Broil until the apples start to brown. Stir them and repeat this until the apples are caramelized but not completely cooked. Remove from the oven and stir in the flour and the salt. When the flour and salt are incorporated stir in the apple juice and the cream.

Remove the plastic wrapped dough from the pie dish and pour the apple mixture into the pastry lined dish. Cut up 1/4 c. butter and distribute it over the filling. Remove the plastic from one side of the second piece of rolled out dough and position it over the filling. Remove the other piece of plastic wrap. Crimp the edges of the pie. Make one inch slits in the top of the pie.

Whisk together the egg and the cream. Brush the top of the pie with this mixture and sprinkle with sugar.

Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of your oven to catch drips. Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes in the center of the oven, rotating the pie half way through the cooking time. Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they’re browning too quickly. (My whole pie was looking sort of toasty at this point so I loosely placed a piece of foil over the whole thing. After 30 minutes place the pie directly on the cookie sheet and bake for another 15 minutes, until the bottom crust starts to turn golden.

Allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. (Mine hadn’t cooled nearly that long before we sliced it, but as you can see in the picture it wasn’t completely set yet.)

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

November 29, 2009

Do you spend hours looking at recipes on the Internet? I’m embarrassed to admit that I do. I love looking at food blogs, and food sites. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide what to make for dessert for Thanksgiving. I grew up with Graham Cracker Cream Pie. Have you ever heard of it? It’s a simple affair. A graham cracker crust, vanilla pudding like filling and a meringue top. I don’t know why it’s called graham cracker cream when it has a meringue top, but it is. This year I wanted to shake things up a bit and make something different, but still pleasing. My plan was to make some kind of pumpkin cheesecake, and apple pie. The search for the best sounding pumpkin cheesecake recipe began, and then I couldn’t stop. I even asked my husband and friends to intervene because I couldn’t pull myself away. I wanted a cheesecake that wasn’t mousse like, or pie like. Finally, I decided to turn to Cook’s Illustrated. The recipes are tested repeatedly, and are reliable. I also liked the that this seemed as if it would be more like cheesecake and less like pie or mousse.

The result? This was awesome. Awesome is a much overused adjective but I beg your pardon and use it here. I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. I can eat it, but I only make it to make other people happy. This dessert was loved by everyone including me, and no one missed the pumpkin pie. It was a very special treat, and such a nice change from the usual.

You should be able to see the recipe here. If you can’t let me know.

I served it with topping, but this is the last piece and it’s a couple of days later, hence no topping for the photo.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2009

I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving. We’re eating around 4 today. The rolls are baked, the pumpkin cheesecake is ready to go, the graham cracker cream pie is chilling, the cranberry sauce is gorgeous. In just a bit we’ll start all the last minute stuff. Mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, fresh fruit salad.
Hopefully there won’t be any culinary disasters at my house or at yours!

New books and some bread

November 12, 2009
Struan 009


Last month I purchased several new books. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and American Pie both by Peter Reinhart, and My Bread by Jim Lahey. The books by Peter Reinhart really grabbed my attention. I love his ‘voice’.  I was especially taken with American Pie which reads as much like a novel as it does a recipe book. I read it cover to cover and waited for my copy of his new book Artisan Bread Everyday to arrive, and when it did I read it cover to cover enjoying every detail, tip and nuance. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some bread dough.

In Artisan Bread Everyday Mr. Reinhart stated that Struan is his favorite bread and that it was his best selling bread at his bakery. I was wanting to try something totally different than the breads I’ve enjoyed so much this past year from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day, or the variations of Jim Lahey’s No Knead and Almost No Knead breads. Struan seemed like a good place to start. I had almost all of the ingredients. The only thing I was lacking was some oat or wheat bran so I added a little more oatmeal.

The bread has unbleached flour, cooked brown rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, honey, brown sugar, salt yeast, buttermilk, and water. The ingredients are mixed and then worked only slightly before allowing to rest in the refrigerator for up to four days. I found this dough to be a pleasure to work with. It was somewhere between tacky and sticky, and after it’s rest in the refrigerator the loaves were very easy to shape.

I baked the first loaf at a friend’s house yesterday, and a group of us ate it with our lunch. I baked the second loaf  this afternoon and it was enjoyed by my husband and I with our dinner. This bread is going to be wonderful toasted. It’s just a tad sweeter than I usually make my bread, but with this bread that’s not a bad thing.

I highly recommend Peter Reinhart’s books. Over time I will probably read his other books as well, and I’ll definitely be trying more recipes from the books I already own.

The recipe for this version of Struan can be found on page 90 of Artisan Breads Everyday by Peter Reinhart.

Update:  Friday morning. This morning I toasted some of this bread, and it was better than I had hoped it would be. It toasted beautifully. It was crisp and chewy at the same time. It’s about as good as toasted bread gets!

Caramel Filled Brownies

November 9, 2009
Caramel Filled Brownies 020

Caramel Filled Brownies

These are some of the most decadent brownies I’ve ever made or had the pleasure to eat. They are full of chocolate, caramel and nuts, and it just about doesn’t get any better than that!

I followed the recipe from Cookie Madness pretty closely. I used regular butter instead of unsalted butter and decreased the salt by 1/4 tsp. I had the pleasure of using Abdallah caramel instead of unwrapping individual pieces of caramel. The Abdallah caramel appeared at my local grocery store this fall and I was hoping to get a chance to bake with it before it disappears from the shelves.

Every fall my sister-in-law treats the family to caramel apples from Abdallah Candies. When I saw that they were packaging caramel apple kits, I knew how convenient the caramel would be for baking. Wouldn’t it be great if they market it year-round instead of just in the fall?

My tips for making these brownies in addition to the directions from Cookie Madness are to use a teaspoon to scoop small spoonfuls of brownie dough over the caramel layer and then spread it out.  The other tip is not to panic if you dare to cut into these before they are completely cool. They will seem very gooey if you do that, but if you’re patient and let them cool all the way and then chill them before cutting you’ll see that it all comes together in a wonderful way. It’s interesting to note that the sugar and eggs are beaten for a full three minutes in this recipe before incorporating the remaining ingredients.

I made these late yesterday afternoon, and my husband started sampling them before they were cool all the way. That’s a testament to how good they are. He says they’re even better today than they were yesterday. What I know is that they’re just wonderful today. The brownies take a little time to put together but they are definitely worth it for a special treat.

Back in the kitchen

November 3, 2009

October was as much of a whirlwind as I expected it to be. I believe I was out of town more days than I was home. All that traveling and eating out made me want to come home and eat basics. Oatmeal, fresh fruit, toast. I’m just now getting around to wanting some time in the kitchen.

An interesting recipe that I didn’t blog about but is worth sharing is this recipe for Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash from Eating Well. I love that the recipe delivers a lot of flavor without the fat and sugar from the way I usually make it. I subbed Monterery Jack for the Swiss, but otherwise pretty much followed the recipe. It’s also worth noting that it reheats well.

Today I’m going to talk about biscotti. This is not at all what I had in mind when I set out to make biscotti, but I had these ingredients and didn’t want to run to the grocery store to get other things. The Biscotti di Prato I blogged about back in January were better than these in my opinion, but I would make these again to satisfy a need for a bit of sweet, with a bit of tang, in a good crunchy satisfying cookie.

Cranberry, Chocolate Chip Biscotti with Pecans

The original recipe is from Cooking Light. I made a few modifications. I really wanted to add pecans, and I intentionally added more oil. I’m glad I did because I don’t think I would have gotten these to come together without it. Even with the added oil I had to work at it to get them to come together enough to shape into logs. I also felt they would be a little blah without something more in the way of flavoring so I added some cinnamon. My original plan was to drizzle these with white chocolate but I decided they didn’t need it, and I’m saving the white chocolate for another recipe another day.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Biscotti with Pecans (adapted by Sue)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with non stick baking parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla, and eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are thoroughly wet. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the cranberries, chocolate chips, and pecans and mix until evenly distributed.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and mix the ingredients with your hands until bigger chunks start to cling together. Divide the dough in half and make two rolls each about 8 inches in length. Transfer the rolls to the parchment paper and press the logs into pieces that are about 1 inch thick.
Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove the logs from the oven and allow them to cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
Cut the logs at 1/2 inch intervals and stand the cookies up on the unlined baking sheet. Bake for another 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and allow to cool completely.

Yield: 26 cookies