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?


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!


A Gift Guide for the Chef in Your Life

December 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again! Time to think long and hard about what to get your loved ones. Time to fantasize about all the lovely shiny gadgets that could be occupying your kitchen counter space if only your loved ones would pick up on the hint.

For you clueless loved ones who have no idea what that person in the kitchen wants, here are some suggestions.

Bob Kramer 7 inch Carbon Steel Santoku Knife

Probably the most important thing in a kitchen is a good knife. If you have a high quality chef’s knife and paring knife, you don’t really need more unless you want to get really fancy.
These knives are made to the specifications of Bob Kramer, who is one of the few people in the world who specializes in making kitchen knives by hand. Get one of these and learn how to properly sharpen you knives and you are good to go for years to come.

KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer

This is THE hot item in the food blogosphere. Honestly I salivate over this because I see all the wonderful things people can use this for and I wish I could get my hands on one. For all of your mixing needs, plus a few more (even pasta making and meat grinding!!!) if you buy accessories.

Cuisinart DLC-10S Pro Classic 7-Cup Food Processor

Another item I only dream of!

Cuisinart holds the title for starting off the food processor craze and manufacturing some of the highest quality processors. As the show says it slices, it dices, it juliennes fries!
This is like your sous chef in the kitchen, doing all those time consuming tasks that you don’t really want to. Great for the chef with little time to spare.

Microplane 40001 Stainless Steel Zester

Best zesters and grater, hands down. You got to give it to the company, they have barely changed their designs at all over the years because they already knew what worked. This zester has no handle and looks nearly identical to their original woodplane. I like it that way, plus there is no plastic to collect water or break on me. Zesting, grating, all sorts of shavings all become effortless.

The Kitchen Proper Kit from Kaufman Gifts

The chef in you life will adore you for this. It has everything. A French tapered rolling pin for precise pastry making and even pressure. Enamel-coated, long-lasting and beautiful colander and ladels. SIX (count ’em) Weck jars for all the canning you could want. And beautiful sweet smelling hand dipped beeswax candles to enjoy the thank you meal you chef will undoubtably make for such a fine gift.

AeroGarden with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit

Perhaps your chef has a green thumb. Perhaps not. Either way, the Aerogarden makes having fresh herbs ( it makes all the difference) so easy even the worst black thumb will have a thriving countertop garden.

Silpat

I never thought this could make such a difference to my kitchen routine, but it does. Less flour to keep things from sticking means more delicate, flakier, crisper dough. Plus less flour waste. Plus less environmental waste since it also replaces parchment paper. A staple.

Ozeri Digital Kitchen Scale

This is simple. Sometimes you need to weigh things instead of searching the Internet for the conversion rates of grams of coriander to tablespoons. This does that.

OXO Good Grips Dough Blender

Honestly, I use my hands because my mom did and I am cheap, but your chef is probably fancier than I am. So they will want a pastry blender to ensure that their hands don’t melt the butter in their pastries and they will come out delicious and light.

CDN Quick-Read Thermometer

Also simple. You need a thermometer. You also need to not burn yourself while taking the temperature.

Bamix Immersion Blender

This is the best immersion blender.Seriously, they invented immersion blenders so they know what they are doing. This will rip, whip, beat, puree, do whatever you need it to do. I don’t even know why people have standard blenders if they can have this.
Don’t let others fool you. I use this thing several times a day and I have burned out some of the so called high end immersion blenders. I can never stop loving my bamix.

Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer

Joined a CSA? Have an abundance of leftovers? Lazy? The Foodsaver can answer all of these problems. Preserve food by vacuum sealing and then freezing to prevent freezer burn and keep produce for years without damaging quality. Make food ahead of time and package it into individual serving bags. Use the mason jar attachment (my favorite thing) to seal jars full of dry goods.

Lodge Logic Cast Iron

Lodge is the last company to actually make cast iron in the USA and they have been doing it for generations. I received several of these as a gift and they are beautifully pre-seasoned. People pass these down as heirlooms, and although LeCreuset is beautiful enamelware, I prefer the durability of un-enameled cast iron.

Sodastream Jet Starter Kit

I consume way too much tonic and seltzer water. Between all the syrups I make, carbonated beverages disappear in no time. This item is great for people like me, and for people who are trying to kick the soda habit but just love the taste of carbonation.

Good luck shopping!


Sorrel

December 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

What is sorrel?

You probably know the plant as hibiscus. What Trinis call sorrel is not the sorrel plant, but a drink which is produced from steeped hibiscus fruit or flowers and spices.

The drink is a brilliant red color,sour, sweet, and spiced. Also, it will stain anything forever.

For Trinis, it isn’t Christmas without sorrel! I can’t remember a year without it. When I was little I couldn’t wait to smell sorrel on the stove and drink some Poncha de crème with my Christmas Cake.

We are lucky enough to have a West Indian market nearby so that we can pick up sorrel whenever we want, but during this season, the shelves are empty. I know that in nearly every West Indian house nearby someone is getting out the big sorrel pot and steeping some flowers.

Obviously, that’s what’s going on at my house.

Ingredients

  • 10z dried Sorrel (if you don’t have a West Indian market you can get it here, or if you prefer organic, here
  • 330oz Water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 piece of ginger
  • 5lbs granuated sugar
  • 5 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 liter Strawberry syrup

Directions

  1. Boil water in large pot
  2. Remove pot from heat and add dried sorrel, cinnamon, and clove
  3. Cover and leave overnight
  4. The next day, add sugar, bitters, and syrup to pot
  5. Stir to mix
  6. Strain sorrel and pour into container
  7. (optional) Flavor with rum for an alcoholic kick


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