Sunday, November 17, 2013

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

Two weeks ago, the family and I went apple picking and proceeded to pick approximately 42 pounds of apples in 15 minutes.

42 pounds of apples.

The pluses:
  • We bought them locally.
  • They are my husband's favorite variety. (Pink Lady)
  • They were only $1/lb.
  • They keep well in the fridge, so we'll have yummy apples for several months.
The minuses:
  • Our fridge is full of apples.
This apple pie helped make a dent in about 3 lbs. of them, so by my calculations, I have about 13 more apple pies to go, give or take a couple for eating. 

This is one of my most favorite apple pies. The crust is flaky and tender, and the spices balance the tartness of the apples in a really beautiful way. If the crust is ready to go, the pie can be oven ready in about 15-20 minutes, which is dangerous. Very dangerous, indeed. 

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice and chilled
  • 1/4 c. ice water (plus more as needed, added a tablespoon at a time)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar (optional) 
  • 3 lbs. of apples, such as Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Cortland, Jonathan, or a combination - peeled, cored and sliced 1/4" thick (about 6-8 medium-sized apples)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small dice
  • 1 lg. egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

For the pie dough:
In a food processor, combine the flour and salt (and sugar, if using). Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle the ice water over the dough and pulse in 1-second bursts until it just comes together. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather any crumbs and pat it into 2 disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour.

For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 425°. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of the dough to a 12" round, a scant 1/4" thick. Place the dough into a 9" to 10" deep-dish glass pie plate. Roll out the second dough to a 12" round. Transfer both to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate.

In a bowl, combine the apples with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the lemon juice and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves slightly.

Scrape the apples and any juices into the pie plate and dot with the butter. Cover with the top crust and gently press the edges together. Trim the overhanging dough to about 1" and pinch to seal. Fold the dough rim under itself and crimp decoratively. Brush the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the turnbinado sugar. Cut three small gashes in the top of the pie to vent the steam.

Bake the pie on the lowest shelf of the oven for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 365° and bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes longer, until the fruit juices are bubbling through the steam vents and the crust is deeply golden on the top and bottom; cover the pie loosely with foil halfway through baking to keep it from getting too dark. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Source: Slightly adapted from Food & Wine, originally contributed by Sassafras Bakery

Monday, April 1, 2013

Homemade Do-si-dos

And the season of sweet little girls peddling their cookie crack has descended upon us again. My adorable nieces are the cookie pushers of the family, so we have an inside track. I'm not as obsessed as others I've seen. A friend of mine (and former boss) had to do her cookie pick-up in a shroud of secrecy as no one was allowed to know the actual number of boxes she ordered during G.S. cookie time. If you have a freezer set aside for Girl Scout cookies, you might have a problem. :)

Thin Mints have been my forever favorite. I do love a good Samoa, but if I have to pick a box or two (and you know I do), Thin Mints are the chosen ones. This year, in an exercise of self-control, I limited us to a box each, plus one "share" box. I picked the usual, and Nate picked his usual, Do-si-dos. And the box for sharing? Thin Mints. Because I share, just not well.

And then there are these. These are what Do-si-dos wish they tasted like. They have the same peanut buttery, oatmeal enhanced cookie outside and a peanut butter creamy inside, but are leagues above and beyond anything the overpriced boxes could ever aspire to be. The cookie is rich and chewy. The filling is sweet and peanut buttery. It's pretty much the perfect peanut butter cookie. It could only possibly be improved by dipping half in melted dark chocolate. Oh be still my heart. And my arteries.

Bouchon Bakery says these are homemade Nutter Butters, but they're not. They are seriously homemade Do-si-dos. Make them. Tell me your thoughts. Be still your heart.

Homemade Do-si-dos
Yield: 24 large cookies

For the cookie dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
  • 2½ cups quick-cooking oats
For the filling:
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
  • 3 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
For cookie dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down bowl twice. At low speed, add eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until well mixed, frequently scraping down bowl. Add peanuts and oats, and mix well.

Using an ice cream scoop 2 inches in diameter, place balls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets at least three inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool and firm up, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling.

For filling: Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until very smooth.

To assemble cookies, pipe or spread a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) on underside of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat. 

Source: slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery via The New York Times

For smaller cookies, use the small #60 (2 tsp.) size scoop and bake for 8-8½ minutes. Makes about 64 sandwich cookies.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Happy 2013! We've been apart for a while, you and I, so I thought I'd make amends by introducing you to the tiramisu cupcake. Because what better way to celebrate the New Year than by tempting you to throw your diet (temporarily) out the window with the tiramisu cookie's cake-y cousin.

Let's talk this through, shall we? A delicate, spongy, egg-y cake slightly soaked with an espresso/Kahlua syrup, topped with a whipped mascarpone frosting and a dusting of cocoa powder. Worthy of a diet detour?

Uh, yeah.

But do me a favor and add just a little more of the whipped deliciousness to the top than I did.

Tiramisu Cupcakes
Yield: About 28 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 & 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. cake flour, sifted
  • 1¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 6 tbsp. milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 5 large whole eggs plus 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
For the soaking syrup:
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed very strong coffee (or espresso)
  • 3 tbsp. Kahlua
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
 For the frosting:
  • 1 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 12 oz. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  •  3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
To finish:
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk to blend; set aside.  Add the milk to a small saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the pan, and add the scraped pod to the pan as well.  Heat over medium-high heat just until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard (or rinse and save for another use).

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar.  Whisk lightly to blend.  Set the bowl over an inch or two of simmering water and heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is warm and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 minutes.  Return the bowl to the mixer base.  Whisk on high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, and able to hold a ribbon when the whisk is lifted.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture in three additions.  Stir ¾ cup of the batter into the milk mixture to thicken, then fold the milk mixture into the batter just until evenly incorporated.  Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling them about three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are set and light golden, about 20 minutes.  Transfer pans to wire racks to cool slightly before removing from the pans.

To make the soaking syrup, combine the hot coffee, Kahlua, and sugar, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Place the warm cupcakes on a wire rack and place a baking sheet underneath to catch dripping liquid.  Use a pastry brush to brush the soaking liquid onto the tops of the cupcakes, repeating until the syrup is used up.  (This took me about four or five cycles of brushing).  If necessary, poke each cupcake a few times with a wooden skewer to help the syrup soak in.  Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a separate bowl and return the mixer bowl to its base.  In the mixer bowl, combine the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Fold about a third of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture with a spatula to lighten.  Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until evenly incorporated.

Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip.  Pipe a large dollop of frosting on top of each cupcake.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Just before serving, dust the cupcakes with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Source: slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes via Annie's Eats