Pie: Halloween Apple Variety

pieonblackSo, this is really just apple pie with a Halloween decoration. But, I thought it would be festive and delicious. So, I made pie.

Now, there are a million dough recipes and even more ways to make the filling. This recipe is, theoretically, from the Joy of Cooking, except that when I went to find it, it wasn’t there. So, in actuality, the dough is courtesy of Courtney Lee, via an index card I keep in the pie section of my (very beaten-up second hand) copy of Joy of Cooking.

So, if you are in a place where apple season is ongoing, go out and pick some apples and make pie! Or just buy apples at the grocery store.

Ingredients:

Dough:

Supplies

I had a lot of apples, you only need 5-6.

  • 3 Cups flour
  • 4 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 24 Tbs (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up and chilled
  • 6 Tbs ice water mixed with 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • Extra flour for rolling
  • Extra white sugar for sprinkling

Filling:

  • 5-6 Cups apples (1 medium apple is about a cup), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves

To Make the Pie:

PastryBlender

This is what it looked like before water was added. The pastry blender is pictured here.

Keep in mind that your dough will need to chill at least 45 minutes and up to overnight, so time is needed.

You can do this in a food processor, scroll all the way to the bottom for directions. I prefer to use a pastry blender: it is a lot more elbow grease but the crust is flakier and I like being able to pull it together myself. I know a lot of people that think it is unnecessary and you can get a perfectly good crust out of the food processor, should you choose that way.

Now, for the actual making of the pie:

  • Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Put the chilled cut butter all around and toss gently with the pastry blender (I keep the cut butter in the freezer until I am ready to add it).

    CombinedFlour

    This is what it looks like after water and before kneading.

  • Cut the butter into the flour mixture with the pastry working it until the butter is incorporated into the flour, it wont be quite be at breadcrumbs level but it will sort of be clumpy flour.
  • Sprinkle the water mixture over the flour (note, I added the lemon juice and water separately because my iced water was more than the 6 Tablespoons) and work in with the pastry blender. The water should make the dough start to form together. Once it starts to form little dough pieces, take the pastry blender out and either:
    • Kneed with your hands directly into the bowl, or
    • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed
  • Turn the dough into two flat, round disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and move them into the refrigerator.

CutApplesWhen the dough is chilled enough, you can start assembling:

  • Preheat oven to 450º.
  • Combine the sliced apples, brown sugar, salt, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and stir gently.
  • Roll out the pie disks on a lightly floured surface until big enough to lay into your pan. Take the slightly larger one and lay it in the pie pan as the bottom.
  • Layer the apples into the pie bottom and cover with the top pie crust.
  • Fold the bottom edges over the top and pinch together.
  • Prick top with a fork or cut in slits. If desired, make hole in middle and cover loosely with a pie dough design. I have done pumpkins and poinsettia flours with success, but you could do anything really.Prebaking
  • Sprinkle the top with the extra sugar to ensure that it browns nicely.

Bake the pie at 450º for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350º and continue baking 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until done. When done, the pie needs to cool completely in order for the filling to set (otherwise the good stuff oozes out and everyone is sad). If you like your pie warm, as I do, zap it or put it into a warm oven just before serving. And, of course, enjoy!!

What are the pie tricks that you swear by?

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Happy Halloween!!

Directions if you are using a food processor:

  • Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.
  • Set pieces of the butter all over the dry ingredients and work the processor in on-off motions just until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  • Sprinkle the water mixture over the flour and process again in on-off motions until the dough forms large clumps. Do note let it come together.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it gently to form two flat, round disks.
  • Continue as above.
  • Note: You may need to make the dough in two batches depending on the size of your food processor bowl.

It’s Apple Time!

applesSo, friends, it’s been a while. I wanted to come back with something amazing—great and new and pretty. At first, I thought a play on a Girl Scout cookie in a cupcake would be perfect; it wasn’t. And then, I thought, “Apples, how can I go wrong with apples?” Fun fact, it is not as hard as I thought to go wrong with apples.

So, instead of coming back with something awesome, I am coming back with a list of kitchen mistakes, because it is time to come back.

I moved recently. Not only to a new apartment, but also to a new city, in a new state, several hundred miles away. The biggest issue with the move has been the kitchen. In all fairness, it is not the worst kitchen ever. It is mostly functional, even if the cabinets I store my baking things are inconvenient and awkward. But, there is still that period of warming up—it is not necessarily the kitchen that is handicapped (as much as I would like to blame it) and I don’t think it is me, but we just aren’t working together. And so, my delectables turned out not been quite as intended.

Some examples:

Samoa Cupcakes: I couldn’t make the sugar caramelize so, instead of the caramel-coconut topping I had intended, I wound up with a  sugar-butter-bourbon-coconut topping on my attempted samoa cupcakes. And, the browned butter cupcakes underneath this topping were slightly too egg-y and not solid enough.

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(There are no pictures of the final product; I was too disappointed with the final product to take any at the time.)

applemuffinsApple muffins: These were made with too much liquid makes for very sticky muffins that don’t come out of the paper. Also, a lesson in how baking soda and baking powder can affect the outcome of your muffins!

Apple Pie Pockets: These were definitely the best attempt. We shall call these a work in progress. The first batch was burnt and had too little filling to crust. The second batch worked out in the filling to crust ratio, but just need to look more appetizing, and possibly need a slightly less crumble-y crust.

applesandroundsSo, what how did it go wrong? Let me count the ways:

Cupcakes: Caramel is really, really hard to make, especially without the candy thermometer. I have no idea what Deb from Smitten Kitchen meant when she said it was not that hard. I have attempted this salted caramel stuff three or four times and have only been successful once. Caramel and I have some beef (not literally, but, you know).

I attempted to make the caramel three times the night I made these cupcakes. The first time I burnt it (my bad). The second time, the sugar just wouldn’t caramelize. The third time, I attempted this Bourbon Caramel Sauce, except that it still didn’t turn brown.

So, I thought, lets add some bourbon like she did and see if it will change colors (didn’t work quite as well as I hoped). The end result: some not so pretty, but very delicious, adult Samoa cupcakes.

If I attempt again and it works, I will let you all know.

Muffins: I haven’t quite figured out the ratio of liquid to dry yet. I was worried about my muffins being too dry and sticky so I added more milk. Turns out, not such a great plan, they were a little too wet.  Also, if you forget baking soda, not only do they not rise, they also don’t brown. Weird, right!?! I have to Google that!

Apple Pie Pockets: These were clearly the most successful and, as I picked a bushel of apples, will probably be perfected. (Be on the watch for this!) So, seriously, genius idea, an individualized apple pie, how can you go wrong?

Answer: not enough filling to crust. Burning them also doesn’t help. So, when the crescent shape proved to be faulty, I moved on to disks. Much better ratio (and, not burnt). But they also didn’t brown. Maybe I just need some sugar on top? Perhaps, I should cut slits like you do on regular pie? It is time to go back to the laboratory!! (i.e. my kitchen).

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So, here it is. I am back. Nothing is perfect, and that is a-okay. Things are delicious, and at some point I will master the pretty presentation.

Chocolate Mint Wafers

IMG_3578The girl scouts are gone. They still exist, obviously, they just no longer hang out outside the grocery store on weekends and my thin mint supply has run dry. Thin mints might be the perfect cookie: I want them year round, no matter what. In the winter they go nicely with a cup of hot cocoa, peppermint hot cocoa style. In the summer they are the perfect frozen treat. In between they are whatever I am in the mood for that day. Perfection.

So, every year around this time, I find myself feeling rather sad because, inevitably, I have run out of thin mints and I want my frozen, minty, chocolately, crispy treat.

But this year, I found Ming. Ming makes cupcakesbut also cookies, and right on top of his cookie list: “Homemade Thin Mints.” So, I think mint and chocolate sounds perfect just about now.

Chocolate Mint WafersIMG_2720

Check out Ming‘s original.

Ingredients:

Cookies:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milkIMG_2732
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp mint extract (I could only find peppermint which worked perfectly!)

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp mint extract

Directions

Cookies:

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda) and set aside.

IMG_2740In stand mixer or with electronic beaters, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar until fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth (about 1 minute). Add liquids (milk, vanilla, and mint extract) and beat about a minute until everything is incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients, I do this in about three batches, and beat until mixture starts to form dough and gets pebble-y.

Take dough and form into a ball, then roll into a log about an inch to an inch and a half wide (about the width of a thin mint). Wrap the log in wax paper and move to fridge for at least 2 hours. (I would assume you could leave this overnight, but I wouldn’t leave much more because I don’t know if the log will start to pull apart or dry out.)

Slice log into thin rounds and bake on cookie sheets with parchment paper for 10-12 minutes. They will puff up slightly, but don’t really expand. Set aside to cool completely, they should get crispy as they cool.IMG_2742

Topping:

In a double boiler (or a pot in which you can set a heat-safe bowl), bring water to a simmer and melt chocolate, stirring regularly; add in mint. Coat tops of cookies (they must be completely cool because if they are still warm they will crumble into the chocolate) with chocolate by dipping or frosting with a knife or small spatula.

Set aside for chocolate to set. Possibly in the freezer so your thin mint is cold and delicious when you go to try the first one!

Have any other Girl Scout Cookies you are jonesing for? Let me know, I make no promises, but I will give it a shot!

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2820So, originally, I was going to post this before I left on vacation. But the funny thing about vacation is, that getting to it is pretty stressful. I was packed and thought I had plenty of time, and then, it turns out, my toothache was more than just a toothache and there was some dental drama before leaving.

These cookies make things slightly better. I packed them in my carry on (while still slightly warm) and took everything for my flights with me to the endontist. I warn you, if you want to pack these in little ziplock baggies, you should wait til the cool, otherwise a delicious crumbly mess is what awaits.

Regardless, it was delicious and Alex and I ate most of the cumbed bits of cookies in our first few days.

If you don’t put them in bags when they are too warm, these cookies are light and fluffy like oatmeal chocolate chip, but healthier because of the bananas and whole wheat flour I added.

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Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted slightly from Food.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup banana, ripe and mashed (approximately 2)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups oats, quick cooking
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Mix flours, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and beat well. Mix in flour mixture slowly. Add banana and vanilla and mix. Add oats and chocolate chips and stir until combined.

Place on cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake 12-15 minutes.

Made a little less than 3 dozen in heaping tablespoon size cookies.

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Enjoy! And if packing, put them in containers rather than baggies.

Breakfast Pockets

IMG_2931Happy Mother’s Day!

One of the consequences of being an adult and living on my own is that I am no longer home to make my mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. I remember the Mother’s Day when my brother taught me how to make coffee for my mom, and the Mother’s Day that I turned the eggs green. It was always a lot of fun doing something nice for her.

But, now that I am a little older, there are more delicious things that I know how to make for breakfast, including these!

My friend first introduced me to this concept as a mini chocolate croissant, but the beauty of puff pastry is that you can stick just about anything in them, and get something delicious.

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For these I took the chocolate croissant idea and added some strawberries. But you could easily swap out strawberries for other fruit. No fruit on hand? Jam would work well. Want nutella instead of chocolate, go for it?  Want dessert instead of breakfast? Try some marshmallows in with the chocolate, it is a puff pastry s’more! The possibilities are endless.

Strawberries and Chocolate Breakfast Pocket

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (ideally, do this overnight in the fridge so it is still cold)

Handfull of strawberries, cut into slices/chunksIMG_2911

Chocolate chips, or chunks of chocolate.

Egg white and sugar to brush*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Unroll puff pastry sheet and cut into 12 squares (squares are ideal so that you can make triangles, but other shapes or rectangles to roll work well too).

Rinse strawberries and then cut into chunks. You want these to be small enough to fit easily into the pocket you are making but not too small. Put strawberries and chocolate into center of square of pastry.

Whip the egg white a little and spread on 1/2 the edges of the pastry. Fold the square so that edges meet and press together with a fork, do this for all 12. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

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Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the pastries look golden and flakey. Cool slightly before eating (the insides are really hot right after they come out of the oven).

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*I ran out of eggs so I used cornstarch and water as the “glue.” This works well for sealing the edges but I wouldn’t brush the tops with in. If you don’t have egg whites just press a little sugar on top of the dough to help achieve the golden color.

Chai Orange Cupcakes (muffins)

IMG_2677With Cinco de Mayo behind us, it is time to start preparing for next weekend’s excitment: Mother’s Day. Maybe it is not as exciting as a day dedicated to margharitas and mexican food (according to Wikipedia it is actually “to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War [in parts of Mexico] and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.”) but it does have its charms.

Generally (at least in my family), Mother’s Day means food. More specifically, it means brunch. Whether you are making something for a whole gaggle of people, you are making breakfast in bed for just your mom, or you are going out, I am a firm believer that the best way to show love is with baked goods.

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I hear that there are people that do not immediately think, “This person in great, I should bake them something.” But who doesn’t love getting fresh baked goodness from another person? So, even if that is not your initial reaction, I say, show your mom you care and make her cake.

These cupcakaes are dense and spicy with just a touch of sweetness. They are practically muffins (Chai + orange sounds like breakfast and therefore these can be claimed as muffins, in my opinion). So why not make some muffin cakes for the woman who raised you?!

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Chai Orange Cupcakes

IMG_2614From my Cupcake Calendar/ the book 500 Cupcakes (Sellers Publishing, Inc.). Side note, I multiplied this by 1 1/2 to make 18, the ingredients below will make a dozen my amounts are in parenthesis to the right of the original recipe.

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

  • 2 cups cake flour, sifted (3 C)IMG_2629
  • 1 tsp baking powder (1 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp salt  (3/4 tsp)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (3 tsp)
  • 1 Tbs chai powder (1 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp)*
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (3/4 cup)
  • 2 large egg whites (3)**
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (1 cup)
  • 1 Tbs orange zest (1 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp)***

Orange Glaze****IMG_2632

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Juice squeezed from one orange juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° and line your muffin tins with liners (12 for amount on the left, 18 for amount on the right in parenthesis).

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and chai in a bowl. Beat the butter, add sugar and cream until smooth. Add egg whites slowly, beating well. Slowly add the flour mixture (this gets really dry and hard to move) and finally add the buttermilk and orange zest; mix until combined.

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Spoon the batter into cups until 2/3 full (about one big tablespoon or an ice cream scoop).

Bake cupcakes for 20-22 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool slightly (about five minutes) then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.

IMG_2692To make the icing put about 1 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl and squeeze orange juice a little bit at a time, whisking after adding, until a smooth consistency and liquidy without being too runny. When cupcakes are completely cool dip tops into glaze and set upright to harden/absorb slightly.

Notes:

* I wound up increasing this significantly. Definitely test your batter, depending on the chai powder you may need more. Mine was a “Chai Latte” and I don’t think it was particularly strong.

** If you want these to be more cake-y and less dense muffin-y, I suggest whipping these and IMG_2687folding them into the wet instead of beating them in.

*** I wound up thinking these were a little too orange-y and would maybe decrease this a little. I suggest adding slightly less and testing, it is in the last batch of additions so it is pretty easy to start with less and add more.

**** The original recipe called for a lemon cream cheese frosting. I thought it might overpower the chai cake so I went with a glaze, but if you are looking for cupcakes, the frosting will definitely help.

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Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

IMG_2017So, recently I have been pretty bad at the actual writing part of this blog. The being in my kitchen making (what I think are) delicious things, check. Taking the time to take pictures of said things, check. Actually sitting down to write the post and upload the pictures, not so much.

I made these a little while ago, but am just now getting aroung to posting. If you like chocolate, this cake is for you. The cake is rich, and dark, and crumbly.  It is sort of like devils food cake, but chocolaty-er. The supersweet buttercream frosting is the perfect pairing, providing a creamy, sweet contrast to the not-so-sweet cake.

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2/3 Cup cocoa
  • 1 Cup boiling water
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 3 eggs

Frosting:

  • 1 Cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-3 Tbs water (as needed)
  • Food Coloring

Directions:

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Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners (I got 18 out of this recipe).

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and wisk in cocoa, set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, wisk together flour and baking soda.

In a stand mixer (or in a separate bowl with electric beaters) cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in cocoa and water mixture alternately with flour.

Divide among lined cupcake pans, filling 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Set on rack to cool.

To make frosting cream butter in mixer and add sugar gradually  Add in vanilla and water as needed to reach the right consistency. Add food coloring, if desired, I used a purple gel. To create the rosette frost in a continuous swirl with a large star tip starting fromt the center and working your way out to the edges in a circular fashion.

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