Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Pie

I'm gonna be honest. I've been cooking all day and I've had a few beers but I need to post this cranberry pie because it's awesome, I made it again tonight and no one believes in its awesomeness. This is for tomorrow when people are all: "OMG cranberry pie! Gimme recipe!!" *shoves pie into mouth*

If you've got your pie dough down, this recipe is super easy. Ya just mix the filling ingredients together in a big bowl and DONE. I highly recommend the double crust, but do what makes you happy. Today, what made me happy was a lattice crust. I've never done that before so we'll see how this one turns out. But go nuts! This is the time to experiment with maple leaf and turkey cookie cutters- or sprinkling raw sugars on top at the end after using an egg wash or maybe even a milk wash! Can you feel the enthusiasm!!

"Gobble gobble!" means HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Cranberry Pie 
Adapted from "Sampling's from Sully's Hearth"
My only thought here is to make sure to keep a double crust. The filling is fantastic with the crust and you just need to make sure that the ratio is right. Also- if your pie dish is deep, increase the filling by 50% but do not add more water. My pyrex dish above was fine with the regular recipe, but my Emile Henry pie dish needs the extra half recipe.
  • 2 balls of Pie Dough
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tbls flour
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Roll out both balls of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Use 1 to line a 9" pie plate and leave the other between the parchment paper. Place both in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and place in chilled pie shell. If desired, cut out decorative elements, then lay the rolled dough over the pie shell. Fold the edge under the lower pie shell and crimp the two layers together.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. Cool before serving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Apple Butter French Toast

The first thing I did with my apple butter was to make some french toast. I know this isn't exactly ground breaking, but it did rock my world. Especially when you have french toast for dinner. with a beer. BAM!

And have you ever tried baking bacon? I can't believe how crispy it gets. Next time I need to cook a big batch of bacon, this is surely the way to go. 

Crispy, easy bacon

Apple Butter French Toast with Oven-Bacon
Enough for 1 person

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 slices Portuguese bread
  • 2 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbls butter
  • Apple Butter
  • Maple Syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a cookie sheet with aluminium foil and place a metal cookie cooling rack on top. Place your bacon slices on the cooling rack. Bake the bacon for about 12-15 minutes or until crispy.
If your bread slices aren't stale, throw them in the oven, under the broiler, while the oven is heating up for the bacon. But sure to set your oven back to "bake" once you're done. 
Mix the eggs, milk and cinnamon in a soup bowl. This will make more than needed for 2 slices of bread, but it's hard to cost the bread otherwise. Melt the butter over medium heat in your skillet. Dunk your bread, once slice at a time, in the egg mixture, leaving about 30 seconds per side. Once the butter in your skillet has stopped foaming, transfer the bread slices. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on either side, or until cooked through and golden brown. While still warm, slather on some apple butter, normal butter and maple syrup. Serve with bacon and more maple syrup.

Apple butter, French toast AND bacon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apple Butter & Candied-Pickled Apples

I love canning. Let's just get that out there right this second. I will happily make and can jam after a full day at work if my fruit is looking dangerously ripe. You just can't understate the loveliness of homemade canned goods. When I went apple picking back in October and was able to get my hands on some fun and different varieties of apples, I wanted to do more with them then just eat 'em so after baking a pie or two, I looked around for a tasty way to can my apples. Apple butter sounded pretty good but most of the recipes I was finding began with applesauce and all the applesauce recipes are made in a crock pot. I don't happen to have a crockpot. Damn. So I started by making Candied-Pickled Apples with Star Anise because the recipe says that the apple pieces turn into little jewels and I like the thought of someone comparing apples to precious gems. 

Then I found a recipe for Apple Butter that begins with roasted apple slices and finishes in a food processor. Now that is clever! So here is what I'm gonna do- I'm going to share these recipes with you and then I'll show you what I did with them. Deal? 

Apple gems
Candied-Pickled Apples with Star Anise
Adapted from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff
Makes about 4 half-pint jars

  • 3 pieces star anise, broken up
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken up
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 pounds crisp red apples, cored and diced (no need to peel)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar

Put the spices in a piece of cheesecloth and tie tightly. Add the rest of the ingredients to a large pot (preferably a dutch oven) and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring very gently- don't break those apple pieces! Keep the pot as a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes until the syrup is thick and the apples are translucent. Discard the spices and can the apples as per canning method or keep in the fridge for a month.

Roasted Apple Butter
Adapted from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon
Makes 3.5 to 4 cups
If the end product seems a little dry from over-roasting the apples, stir in some apple cider.

8 pounds sweet apples
2 tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel, quarter and core the apples. Lightly oil a few cookie sheets and arrange your apple slices in a single row. Bake for for 2 hours or until brown and fragrant. If your oven bakes unevenly, you may want to switch the position of your cookie sheets and flip them 180 degrees about 1 hour into their time in the oven.

In a food processor or blender, puree the fruit for about 4 minutes or until very smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until everything is incorporated and the mixture is velvety. If the apples seems a little dry, add a splash of apple cider. Keeps refrigerated for about 1 month.

You can see the flavor in this Roasted Apple Butter

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fall Flowers and Leaves

I decided to try my hand at flower arranging. Frankly, I don't know the first thing about the subject, but I thought it would be fun to buy a few bunches at Trader Joe's and try my hand at making something beautiful.

For about $20 I bought a bunch of pink tulips, yellow alstroemeria, mini pumpkin branches and a bunch called "Autumn Spice" that included some protea and berry branches. I think the hardest part was choosing what to get. The flowers sold at my local grocery stores don't really stock natural or wild looking blooms so I also gathered some dried leaves from my backyard.

 I had planned on using a particular silver vase but it was nowhere to be found (I later learned it had been given away!) so I had to make due with a giant silver ice bucket. I really hadn't planned on making such a massive bouquet and I think the arrangement suffered a little because it should probably be taller. I don't think I was confident enough (and probably didn't have enough flowers) to really do this container justice, but I do love what I came up with.

I started off by using some electric tape to tape off a few lines across the top of the container to form some triangles. These really helped to keep the heavy mini pumpkin branches from toppling over. Next I added in the large proteas and then started working in the alstroemerias, tulips and finally the berry bunches and dried leaves. 

These mini pumpkins are actually from the eggplant family

The  bouquet lasted me a whole week and when I got back home on Sunday night, I picked out the wilted flowers and was able to make another much smaller bouquet with the remaining berry branches and alstroemeria (which seem to last forever).

Loving the fall

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Flame Cocktail

If you're lucky enough to work for a governmental institution or one that follows the government calendar (like so many in my neck of the woods) than you probably have tomorrow off. If you don't have the day off, maybe a cocktail will help you make it one more day. I made this cocktail almost every night last week because it is so fresh and zingy. It has a hot pepper simple syrup which adds a really nice warmth to the back of your throat. I do not like spicy foods, but this drink balances the spicy very well and makes it something fun and novel.

In planning my Thanksgiving meal this year, I keep going back to zesty, bright flavors to play a contrast to all the heavy, sweet and starchy dishes that must always be at the table. I think this drink would work really well along side say a Caramlized Onion and Bacon Dip while waiting for the cook to finish up cooking or in place of dessert for people who can't think of having anything else sweet and stodgy.

The Flame Cocktail
Inspired by a cocktail at Harth Restaurant
This cocktail does have some odd ingredients, but simple syrup is a cinch to make and I wouldn't get too caught up in the vodka flavor- just pick a vodka flavor that sounds good to you. I can attest to orient apple but I bet orange would be good too!

  • 3 oz Orient Apple vodka (try plain apple or orange vodka)
  • 1 oz Cranberry Juice
  • .75 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Hot Pepper Simple Syrup (link to a recipe I have not tried)
  • Splash of Pineapple Juice
  • Frozen cranberries (for garnish)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until the shaker is almost too cold to handle. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with frozen cranberries. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

5 Pound Caramel Apple Pie

I finally have the second part to my pie video up! If you recall the last video, I made enough pie dough for 2 double crusted pies. Well here I show you how to make the caramel apple filling for my favorite 5 Pound Caramel Apple Pie. This time I made a crumble topping for the pie but I think I'll make it a double crusted pie next time. Just can't get enough of that buttery crust!

5 Pound Caramel Apple Pie
Makes 1 9" deep dish pie
  • 2.5 pounds tart apples
  • 2.5 pounds sweet apples
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbl sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a few dashes of nutmeg
  • 2 tbl butter
Crumble Topping
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbl butter, melted
Start out by peeling, coring and slicing your apples into same sized slices. I think I cut my apples in sixes unless they were small and I just quartered them. In a large dutch over combine the apples, sugars, lemon zest, salt and cinnamon. Put over a medium flame and stir to combine. Let the apples simmer, occasionally stirring very gently, until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove pie dough from fridge to allow it about 10 minutes to warm. Place a colander over a large bowl and empty the apples into the colander. Let cool. 

Place the juice released by the apples into a small pot over a medium flame. Add sugar and keep stirring the juice until it becomes very thick and syrupy. remove from heat and add spices and butter. Stir to melt an incorporate the butter. 

Now is a good time to roll our your dough. Place the dough disk between two sheets of parchment and roll it out, making sure to rotate the dough for an even thickness. Roll the dough until it is 1.5-2 inches larger than your pie dish. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and use the bottom layer to maneuver your dough into the pie dish, with the remaining parchment now on top. If you cannot remove the parchment without breaking the dough, put everything back in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. Once the dough is in the pie dish and you've removed the parchment paper, tuck the dough into the corners of the dish. If your apples still aren't quite cool, crimp the edges of your dough: If you have a lot of overhand, fold the dough under and tuck the excess into the pie dish. I'm not going to try to explain, crimping- just watch the video! I use my index and thumb to shape the dough- but do what works for you! maybe you just want to crimp with the tines of a fork- go for it. No one will care because you made them pie!!  If you're still working on your caramel sauce or your apples aren't quite cool, put your finished pie dough back into the fridge.

Preheat oven to 425 degree. Place a baking sheet on the lowest rack of your oven.

If making the crumble, combine the sugar, flour, oatmeal, 1 egg and pinch of salt into a medium bowl and mix to combine. 

Once you've got all your component together (pie crust, filling, caramel sauce, crumble topping) it is time to assemble! Place about 1/2 your apples in the crust and top with 1/2 the caramel sauce. Add the other half of the apples and the other half of the caramel sauce on top of that. You're probably going to have to be careful about adding those apples but they will fit! Top the whole thing off with the crumble topping.

Bake your pie on the preheated baking sheet for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until everything looks brown and crispy. If for some reason your pie doesn't turn beautiful and golden, turn your broiler on for about 2 minutes. Watch that pie!!

Let your pie cool for about 2 hours before serving.