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.
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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.

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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Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2537All I want is summer. I want summer like a fat kid wants cake (as the saying goes, sort of). I want to wear cute dresses and wander about outside. I want the wind to be a pleasant occurrence, rather than the the thing I curse as it whips through me. I just want to be warm without needing to be inside wrapped in layers.

There is a small possibility that I might regret these statement mid-August when I am melting in the humidity; but I never want winter the same way I want the summer to arrive. These cookies are my attempt at bringing a little bit of summer early. What says summer better than coconut?

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Modified from Jan Thompson of Fairfax, Virgina (The 47 Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World, 1983)

Ingredients:IMG_2434

  • 1 1/3 Cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanillaIMG_2448
  • 1/2 Cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

In small to medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

IMG_2470In a large bowl (or stand mixer), cream butter and sugars together. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, and salt and beat until just combined. Add coconut and chocolate chips and beat to combine.

Roll tablespoon size balls and place on baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper to ensure they slide off easily) about an inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until they appear slightly golden on top. Cool and eat!

IMG_2485Coconut Choc Chip Cookies

Quinoa Salad

IMG_2317I started making this recipe this summer when a friend of mine introduced it to me. All sorts of tasty (and healthy) dishes come out of her/her mother’s kitchen and this is no exception.

It was perfect for the summer because, after cooking, it was a high-protein salad that I enjoyed making and eating, and it tasted great chilled. Problem was, it had become such a big part of my weekly meal planning (I would make some to bring into work a couple times per week for lunch) that it was hard to give up when winter came and all I wanted was warm, comfort food to keep me going until spring.

Some foods that are meant to be cold, just don’t work as a hot dish; this is not one of them. It was perfect for winter, or for your overly-air conditioned office, because it tastes just as great warmed up! And that makes me happy because I can eat it all year long.IMG_2268

So, whether your winter is hanging on or melting away, here is a salad for you.

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 Cup cashews
  • 1/4 Cup almond slices
  • 1/2 Cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4- 1 Cup broth
  • 1 apple (I use Granny Smith because I like how tart it is and the acid keeps it browns slower than other varieties)
  • 1/2 lemon or about 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 Cup Crasins
  • Olive oil (about a Tbs)
  • Salt and PepperIMG_2228

Quinoa Salad

Preheat oven to 325º. Spread cashews and almond slices (you could really use any nuts you like, I just happen to enjoy these two) on a baking sheet and toast 10-15 minutes, rotating them every 3-5 minutes, until golden brown. When done, set aside.

While nuts are toasting, take your rinsed quinoa and put it into a medium sized sauce pot. Turn heat to medium-high and toast slightly (you can skip this step, a lot of recipes say you should toast quinoa to bring out flavor, I just think it helps it cook faster), about 3 minutes. Add 3/4 of your cup of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until all water has evaporated. If, when the water is mostly gone, the tendril-like ring has not detached from the quinoa, add the extra 1/4 cup of broth (or more if necessary) until quinoa is tender and tendrils have detached. When done, set aside to cool slightly.

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Chop your apple into 1/2 inch (or whatever size you think is bite appropriate) chunks and place in baggie with lemon juice, shake to coat. This will help your apple from browning as well as providing a nice, fresh flavor.

In medium to large size bowl, combine nuts, quinoa, apple, crasins and a drizzle of olive oil (this is just to keep everything moist and help it stay together, less is more), salt and pepper to taste.

Variations on a theme: try a handful of spinach sauteed with a dash of ground nutmeg or 1/2 cup sweet corn.

This is by far my favorite way to eat quinoa, although I have had some very tasty recipes try to take its place. How do you like your quinoa?

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The Beginning.

As someone with a day-job in publishing (even if it is just textbooks and not anything with a true plot line), I feel like no story can start without a beginning…

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There once was a girl named Michelle who lived in a small town in Massachusetts. She grew up in this small town and, as many young girls do, tried many different hobbies and interests, trying to figure out what she liked. She drew, wrote stories, designed dresses, played soccer, played basketball, ran around with friends, danced, participated in theater and tried stage crew. She refused to learn how to sail because she was convinced she would smell fishy; she later regretted this refusal. Growing up in a family of many chefs (both of the at-home and professional variety), Michelle had a basic understanding of cooking but often made nothing more than the quick snack or dinner and the occasional baked good (the kind with a recipe on the side of the box).

It was not until she met a wise, wonderful woman (I guess girl would be the proper term, since they were both in high school when they met, but hopefully she gets the reference) that she realized how wonderful it was to make something from scratch. This lovely person introduced Michelle to a whole new world of exciting possibilities. And so, for the last year of high school, they spent many an afternoon or weekend making delicious things, when they weren’t doing homework or after school activities, or watching their favorite show, Gilmore Girls.

Throughout college these two remained fast friends, despite hundreds of miles between them and vacation schedules that never quite lined up. Every trip home when the two of them were there together, there would be an afternoon or evening of Gilmore Girls and baked goods.

While Michelle missed her friend when she was away, college was a wonderful time where she met many fantastic people and made new friends, several of whom enjoyed cooking and baking, and, even, Gilmore Girls. Michelle tried out more cakes and cookies, she tried souffles and tarts, she learned the wonders of puff pastry, and got very excited about time spent in her kitchen. It was during college when a lovely boy gave her the best gift anyone could give, a KitchenAid stand mixer. Michelle named her Molly and the two of them concocted even more delicious things.

After college, Michelle returned to Massachusetts and found a job at a small textbook publisher. While she likes her job, she wishes she could spend more time in her kitchen. Then, one day, she decided she should start a blog.

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This is where the story begins (and I promise, the third person narrative ends here).