Apple Pie

January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Continuing in the holiday food that I should have posted about earlier series…

I’m sure many have a deep and abiding love for apple pie. Actually, for a long time apple pie was the only type of pie that i could stand to eat. Most commercial pumpkin pies taste too much like baby food, and even our state’s famous key lime pie was too artificially enhanced for my liking.

On the other hand there was apple pie. I guess the thing is, apples are so abundant and so resistant to spoilage there isn’t much of a point in trying to use “apple flavoring.” Also, once the pie crust is cooked, there is not much left to making an apple pie except throwing some apples in there. Perhaps that is why even McDonald’s apple pies held an allure for me (not anymore though, too sweet!).

So, while Thanksgiving and Christmas normally only brings thoughts of Christmas Cake to my mind, I realized for many other people in the US apple pie was the thing to bake.

Oven Temperature: 425 F
Yield: 1 pie

Ingredients

  • 7 Apples
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom

Directions

  1. Make pie crust according to this post.
  2. In a bowl, peel, core. and slice apples
  3. Cover apples with lemon juice, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and cardamom. Mix.
  4. Set aside for about an hour, this helps the flavors to mix
  5. Place filling in crust
  6. Cover with either a plain crust with holes poked in or a lattice (tutorial!) crust.
  7. Brush the top crust with egg white and sprinkle on some sugar for style
  8. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, reduce temperature to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes. It should be nice and bubbly.
  9. Let pie cool completely about an hour before serving.

Nothing to it!

By the way, check out this gorgeous pie from Parade! Doesn’t it look scrumptious?


Yummy Gingerbread Men and Failed Gingerbread Houses

January 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

This was our second year with an unintentionally Florida themes gingerbread house. The first year I didn’t use a template, because it’s just a house right? Stick 6 squares together and that’s that. You have yourself a gingerbread house. It’s gotta be easy because on the television children do it.

So. Yeah. Not so much.

Not a single wall stood. It was a royal icing covered mess. We said that Hurricane Wilma hit the house.

This year I followed a lovely template from Martha Stewart. I printed it out. I followed the lines with a pizza cutter. It looked gorgeous in my cookie pan. After baking, we begin to put it together and all four walls stand! But there was a problem. Every time we put the roof on it fell apart. Once, we put one side of the roof on, but never both sides. This time it was Hurricane Katrina, because when it passed though Florida it mostly only damaged people’s roofs.

How do you guys get your gingerbread houses so perfect? I always seem to cause some distortion that leads to disaster!

Anyway, the gingerbread was still delicious, even if it couldn’t stand up architecturally.

My recipe was inspired by So Good and Tasty’s cookies.

Oven Temp: 350 degrees
Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses

Directions

  1. Mix flour, baking soda, cocoa, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and pepper in one bowl
  2. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time and cream after each.
  4. Add molasses and mix until completely distributed.
  5. Add dry mixture to wet mixture a bit at a time. Mix until combined, careful not to over mix.
  6. Roll dough into a ball and let cool in the fridge 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  7. Remove chilled dough and divide into two pieces.
  8. Roll out dough as in Sugar Cookie recipe , to 1/8th inch thickness.
  9. Cook 10-12 minutes.
  10. Decorate with powdered sugar or Royal Icing.

 

Pie crust for Newbs

January 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

Ok, so making pie crust isn’t that hard.

It just takes patience and lots of cool dough.

What is difficult is making croissants, which makes me think of how insane people must have been when croissants were invents because of the copious amounts of butter it involves. Seriously, what kind of food requires you to “laminate” it in butter? Of course it is totally worth it, but that is some unhealthy indulgence right there.

Anyway, making a pie crust isn’t like that. It is relatively simple, and just requires a lot of patience and cool dough.

I know this because I made my first pies this holiday season and they came out light, and flakey, and just perfectly saturated with the pie filing. So since I don’t consider myself a master chef, I know that you too can be good at pie making.

Oven Temperature: 450
Yield: 2 crusts

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter

Directions

  1. Place 1 cup of water into the freezer just before beginning your pie
  2. Mix together flour, sugar, and salt
  3. Cut up butter into small pieces and add to the flour-mixture
  4. Using a pastry blender, two knives, two forks, or your hands, cut the butter into the flour. This means you are mixing the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are the size of peas and the mixture is very shaggy and crumbly. The mixture should not be totally even, but make sure to turn the mixture over as you cut the butter. I use my hands because I don’t own a pastry blender and I learned the old school way from my mom, but if you don’t have experience with cutting butter this way you can end up melting all of your butter. You want your butter super cold and visible, melted butter leads to a tough pie crust.
  5. Take your water out of the freezer, and make sure there is no ice in it. Drizzle 1/2 cup over the butter and flour.
  6. Begin gathering the dough together (preferably not with your hands, remember we want to warm it up as little as possible, plus that water is cold!) and add small amounts of water as needed to help the dough stick together.
  7. Divide the dough in half and wrap each in plastic wrap.
  8. Chill dough for 2 hours or overnight.
  9. Flour your surface and your pin.
  10. Take out your chilled dough and flour that too. Don’t skimp or it will stick and oh man you don’t want a broken pie crust. If it does stick, use a dough scraper or a metal spatula to scrape it off of your rolling surface.
  11. Roll your dough slowly and gently. Roll out a few times, lift up the dough, and then turn it 90 degrees. Add flour. Repeat. This will take a while. If you are a weakling like me, your arms will hurt and you will wonder why you needed to make so many pies. Endure and think of the deliciousness your oven will deliver you.
  12. To trim the dough, I use a pizza cutter and add about 2-3 inches to the circumference of my pie pan.
  13. Let crust rest for 10 minutes before baking to help prevent shrinkage.
  14. To transfer, fold the pie dough into quarters loosely but first folding in half and then folding that in half again. Let it loose in your pan!
  15. Press the dough gently into the bottom of the pan, centering the dough as you go.
  16. There should be some overhang of dough over the edge of the pan. This will be your pie crust. If this is a single crust pie (like pumpkin pie) you will crimp the edges by pushing the dough into the knuckle of your pointer finger on one hand, with the thumb and pointer knuckle of the other hand, If it is a double crust, you put the top layer on after filling and crimp it then with an egg wash to help it stick.
  17. Let crust rest in the fridge 20 minutes before baking.

Blind Baking

Blind baking a pie is when you baker the pie crust before putting in the filling. Why would you do that? Well, it is mainly done when you are going to make a pie with a liquid filling that might make the crust too soggy, like pumpkin pie. You can also do it just to store the crust for later.

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the pie. Try to get an even distribution since this helps prevent the bottom from poofing up.
  3. Weigh the pie done with pie weights. Some people use commercial pie weights, some people use beans or pennies (ewwww). I used rice since it was what I had on hand. I put wax paper over the crust and then poured in rice. This is now my pie baking rice and it is chilling in the freezer.
  4. Bake pie for 30 minutes, until the crust is a light brown.
  5. If you are worried about burning the crust when baking the filling, use a pie shield or cover the crust in foil to protect it.

Woo, that was a long post!

Relax and enjoy your pie! You deserve it!

P.S. Check out Smitten Kitchen’s Pie Tutorial for awesome pictures and step by step help!


Making and Decorating with Royal Icing

January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Royal icing is a bit more complicated than making sugar cookies, even though it seems the most simple thing. Sugar, water, and some kind of egg product are all you need. I use merengue powder because I don’t trust my odds against catching salmonella, but you can also use egg whites, pasteurized eggs (Did you know this existed? I did not.), or egg powder.

The keys to a good royal icing are A) the proportion of these basic ingredients, B) their quality (for merengue powder I recommend Ateco), and C) whipping.

For a great tutorial with lost of pictures, see Bake at 350‘s post.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup merengue powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • Dash of Almond extract

Directions

  1. Combine merengue powder and nearly all of the water
  2. Beat until peaks begin to form
  3. Add powdered sugar. You are going to a whipping for a long time if you are not fortunate enough to have a stand mixer. At first it will look like sludge, but keep going. Then it will look like honey, keep going. Then it will lighten and begin to look like frosting, but keep going because you are still not done. You are done when you remove the beater and the frosting does not budge an inch as you move it around!
  4. Add extract and beat a bit more.

Coloring

I use such still icing because I use liquid food coloring. If you use gel food coloring it isn’t such an issue since it wont water the icing down, but the all-natural coloring I use only comes in liquid form. Be careful with these because they can make your icing too liquid-y and runny to work with. In order to avoid this, add the coloring a drop at a time. Your spatula should always be able to stand up on its own in your icing.

Storing

You can store the icing for immediate use in a container with a damp kitchen cloth covering it with a lid on top. For longer periods, store in the fridge in Tupperware with damp napkins inside. To keep the tips of piping bags from going hard while working, place the bags in cups with damp paper towels at the bottom.

Happy icing!

 

The Best Sugar Cookies

January 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

Sugar cookies are the most basic cookies that you can make. You probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard already, and there are no fancy techniques required. You can, however, step them up a notch with a bit of flavored extract and royal icing.

I used to hate sugar cookies. Unlike most little children i didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I missed out on the sugary delights of a lot of “kids” snacks back in the days before organic fruit gummies and dehydrated fruit rolls. Actually, I was a member of the “kid’s club” at Publix (a large supermarket chain in South Florida) when I was younger, which meant that I could get a free sugar cookie if I showed my members card to the employees at the bakery. Eventually, the lady at the bakery realized I wasn’t too excited about my free cookie and she let me choose a less cavity inducing option.

These cookies, though, taste great even with an extra dollop of sugary royal icing on top. I can’t take the praise for their deliciousness though since I took the recipe from i am baker and didn’t change a thing.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Almond Extract
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder

Oven Temperature: 350 degrees
Yield: A crazy amount of cookies.

Directions

  1. Cream sugar and butter until;l light and fluffy. Make sure to turn the mixture with a spatula and check for chunks of sugar or butter. This is a lot of butter, and it is easy to miss these things.
  2. Add eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. Mix until combined.
  3. Add vanilla and almond extract. Mix until combined.
  4. In a second bowl mix flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix to combine. Try not to mix too much, so as not to toughen the cookies.
  6. Roll dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  7. Cut dough ball into four sections. You will work with one section at a time so the butter in the dough won’t melt.
  8. Slowly and gently roll out your dough(I like my cookies thin and crisp ), turning it 90 degrees every few rolls to achieve an even layer. Add as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking or use wax paper between the rolling surface and rolling pin. These cookies are so simple that you probably wouldn’t notice the extra flour though.
  9. Cut out cookies. You can put the scraps back into the fridge to cool and roll them out after all four sections have been cut, giving them time to re-cool.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Enjoy these cookies with a bit of beautiful royal icing on top and a tall glass of milk!


My Favourite Brownie Recipe (It is on the can!)

November 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The first thing I ever learned to bake was blueberry muffins. I used the Jiffy Mix and served them with the tea I made for tea parties. I was so proud to make these muffins for my family, and I felt like a big girl!

These brownies are the second thing I learned to bake.

Ok ok I know that picture doesn’t look appetizing, but it is my fault for adding too much butter and baking powder. Despite the brownie’s ugliness, half was eaten within a few minutes of being set out.

Ingredients

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350˚F
  • Mix eggs, sugar, and melted butter, vanilla
  • In separate bowl, sift together chocolate, flour, baking powder, and salt
  • Combine wet and dry components
  • Pour into a greased pan
  • Bake 20-30 minutes

 

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