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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rustic Peach-Blueberry Tart

Summer has arrived, and with it comes a beautiful bounty of produce. I have been waiting ever so patiently (because really, what choice did I have?!) for peach season to begin. As strawberry season was on its way out, I lamented that loss, but kept consoling myself with the fact that peaches were just around the corner. So I do not exaggerate when I say that there was much rejoicing when Branstool Orchards announce that they would be bringing peaches to the farm market this week. There may have even been clapping and high-fiving with the kids. An overly excited response? Not if you've not had the intense pleasure of biting into a Branstool peach. {swoon}

I knew that while most of those peaches were going straight from knife to belly, a couple of them would make their way into this beautifully rustic tart I saw in "The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook" a couple days before. As luck would have it, some beautiful blueberries were also at the market this week, so it was sealed. As it was just the four of us, I actually halved the recipe (entire recipe given below), but added in an extra peach as the ones I used were a tad on the small-medium side. I didn't realize it as the picture was taken, but I'd actually cut right where the fold was, making the crust appear much thicker than it actually was throughout the rest of the tart. Sorry 'bout that. In most pieces, the fruit extended all the way to the edge of the crust. The sugar-crusted, flaky, cornmeal-enhanced crust.

I'll be honest: I fully expected the girls to pick out the fruit and juices and leave the crust.

But they didn't.

There was actually an "oh, this is so good" uttered while munching. And my oldest told me "While I don't like pie, I really like this." A win on so many levels.

Rustic Peach-Blueberry Tart
Serves: 6

  • 2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 2 c. fresh blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • The tiniest bit of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 recipe Cornmeal Crust, unbaked (recipe follows)
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
  • 2 tsp. vanilla sugar, or coarse sugar for crust
Put the peaches and blueberries in a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg, and toss to coat the fruit. Let the mixture macerate for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (or alternatively, roll out the dough directly on the parchment/silicon baking mat you will later transfer to the baking sheet. This is my preferred method as it saves me from transferring the dough after it's been formed. I was also light-handed with the flour, which made this work. If you are heavier-handed with flour, transfer after rolling.)

On a lightly floured work surface (or parchment/baking mat, if using), roll the dough into a 12"-in circle. Place the dough (and parchment) on the baking sheet.

Using a slotted spoon (reserve the fruit juices in the bowl), spoon the fruit into the center of the dough, leaving a 2" border all around. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping the dough as necessary, and press gently to seal the edges. Pour the reserved juices over the fruit.

Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve the tart warm, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Cornmeal Crust
Makes one 14" crust
  • 1 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 c. ice water, plus more if necessary
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add 1/4 c. ice water, stirring lightly with a fork until the flour is moistened, then gently knead the dough 4 to 6 times in the bowl until it comes together. You may have to add up to an additional 2 Tablespoons of water if the dough seems dry.

Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it into a thick disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. You can also freeze this dough for up to 1 month. Before using, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then let the dough cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12" circle. Bake according to instructions above.

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Strawberries

It's kind of hard for me to believe that it's not even June yet and strawberry season is about over here in the Midwest. When does that ever happen? I knew we had to get to the fields to pick some berries before the season was officially over. We chose one of the hottest days we've had this year (fail), went on one of the busier days (fail), got lost and relied on our GPS rather than our common sense (fail), and forgot water bottles (ultra-fail). Couple that with being told that it was already going to be "a tough pick", we came into the field defeated.

Not to be deterred, we listened to our children whine for over an hour while my husband and I scoured the thistle for berries. Our haul? 11 pounds of sweet, sweet berries. And their taste made all the blood, sweat, and bleeding ears worth it. I follow a number of food blogs, and one universal theme kept recurring: I had to try roasting fresh picked strawberries.

There appear to be two different methods when roasting berries: higher heat for a shorter time, or low heat for a longer time. I had the time, so I went with low and slow.

And the result? Swoon.

My girls and I loved them. My oldest actually did the happy food groan when she was eating them and said how much she loved the warm berries with the cold ice cream. My youngest polished off her sundae in record time and then both girls headed over to the stove to eat berries directly off the cookie sheet. I was even warned not to eat all the leftovers myself. Me?! Do they think I have no self-control around such deliciousness? They know me too well. :)

Roasted Strawberries
  • 2 1/2 lbs small fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup demerara sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 225°F. Wash, drain and hull strawberries. Divide berries in a single layer on one or two baking sheets  (I lined mine with parchment paper for easier clean-up). Place in the oven and slow-roast for 45 minutes. Strawberries will not release much juice during this part.

Remove from oven and sprinkle sugar evenly over the berries. Season lightly with salt and pepper (optional), and stir gently. Return pan(s) to oven and roast about 30 minutes more.

Remove pans from oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes. Strawberries will release more juice during this resting period. Transfer to a bowl or jar and use a spatula to scrape all of the sauce from the pan. Enjoy warm, or refrigerate until ready to use.

Will keep up to one week in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. In addition to all the yummy recipes linked above, I would recommend eating these berries on some pancakes or waffles, in a bowl of oatmeal, or just out of the jar.

Source: Simple Bites

Per Simple Bites: This is the basic recipe, but feel free to get creative by adding a splash of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of cardamom, or what ever complementary flavor you like. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kentucky Hot Brown

Saturday marks the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, and possibly the 50-ish year that people are going to be celebrating with a mint julep in one hand, a fork full of Kentucky Hot Brown in another, while the Derby pie waits anxiously for a hand to free up. I love food holidays.

The Hot Brown is a rich dish steeped in rich history. This open-faced sandwich was developed in the roaring 1920's by Fred Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, and was his answer to the flappers' fourth meal. Tired and hungry from a night of dancing, they would head into the restaurant for a bite to eat. Wanting to provide some variation from the standard egg and ham sandwiches they served, he developed this thing of beauty.

Mornay Sauce
Sliced Tomatoes
Sliced Hot Turkey Breast
Crusty, Toasted Bread

In that order.

It became one of his signature sandwiches and is a beloved part of Kentucky history to this day. It is also the perfect main dish to serve come Derby day.

Kentucky Hot Brown
Yield: 4 Sandwiches
  • 4 slices of toasted Texas Toast, or toasted French or Italian Bread
  • 1 lb. sliced turkey (on the slightly thicker side), warmed
  • 8 slices of roma tomatoes
  • 8 slices of thick-sliced bacon, cooked
  • Mornay sauce (can be made ahead)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Paprika and parsley (optional)
For each sandwich, place one slice of toast on an oven-safe dish. Divide the turkey evenly over the bread.
Take two slices of a Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of each turkey and toast.
Pour enough Mornay sauce to cover the dish. Add a handful of cheddar cheese to the tops.
Place entire dish under a broiler. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove it from the broiler.
Place two pieces of crispy bacon on top of the sandwich. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley (optional).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Croque Monsieur

I believe any meat/cheese sandwich is improved by serving it on grilled or toasted bread. The crunchiness of the bread often creates a lovely textural balance to the creamy cheese and tender meat. My husband is a man of simple tastes who could (and sometimes does) eat the same meal every day and be perfectly content. His sandwiches are just as delicious on untoasted bread, thankyouverymuch. For that reason, I always feel so loved when he offers to grill my sandwich. For him, it's a real act of love. :)

This is the toasted sandwich's slightly saucy cousin, pinky high in the air. It's your standard ham and cheese, but elevated to new heights by switching out the usual Swiss cheese for a creamy, nutty, and utterly delicious Gruyere cheese. The sandwich is then topped with a creamy Mornay sauce and broiled, just until bubbly. If you've never tried a Mornay sauce, it is incredibly similar to a bechamel sauce, except with the addition of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.

All put together and topped with some fresh chives, this sandwich is a thing of beauty.

Another beautiful thing?

Leftover Mornay sauce.

Which just happens to be the perfect sauce for Kentucky Hot Browns.

Oh yes. Just in time for the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. I'll be sharing that recipe with you tomorrow. In the meantime, here's how you make the sauce and assemble the sandwich:

Mornay Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk (I used 1% with no problem)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c. (approx. 2 ounces) finely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 c. (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns, and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft, but has not begun to color. 2. Remove from the heat, and add the flour in 2 batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter. Return the pan to the stove, and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn't brown. Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the milk and add the bay leaf. 3. Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth, and silky. If it's too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you'll need to whisk in a little more milk.

4. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce. Wash and dry the pan, and pour the sauce back into it. Over low heat, add the two cheeses, a little at a time, stirring until they are completely melted. Or, 5. Add the cheese into the bowl, then transfer sauce into clean pan. 6. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.

*I found leftover sauce will keep fine for 2-3 days if refrigerated. Reheat gently over low heat.

Croque Monsieur
Serves: 4
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24-32, 1/16"-thick slices
  • 12 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, sliced into 12-16, 1/16" thick slices
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position, and preheat the broiler. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Set half of the slices of bread buttered side down, and cover them with the Gruyere cheese slices, folding them back in toward the middle if they extend past the edges of the bread. Place 3-4 slices of ham in an even layer over the cheese, and put the top slice of bread over the ham, buttered side up.

Grill the sandwich, either in a pre-heated panini maker, or a heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron skillet, until golden on both sides.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and spoon the Mornay over them, leaving a 1-inch border of bread. Heat under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle the chives over the sandwich and serve.

Source: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book