Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

Pie Preparation

Fall is back and I came up with a new version of my mom's classic apple pie and decided to share it.  Also, just to comment on my lame photography skills...I work so the only time I can take pictures is at night and it gets dark here early now.  Anyway, I figure I'll learn more as I go along and hopefully one day I'll look back upon these photos and cringe more than I do now.

Back to pie.  I've always made the same pie crust, same filling as my mom did.  The more I learned about pie, the more I've wanted to try new things.  I used this pie crust recipe from the Pioneer Woman and it's turned out great every time I've used it.  The only change I made is to use vegetable shortening in place of the lard since lard kind of grosses me out more than icky white vegetable shortening.  It's all in what you can stand to deal with.  I keep the butter and the shortening in the freezer so it's really, really cold.  If you think about it, cut the butter into cubes before you freeze it, otherwise you could grate it on a box grater or just get a sharp knife and cut it carefully. 

The secret to the filling of this pie is boiled cider.  I had never made it before but for some unknown reason, I bought some apple cider and nobody drank it which was not a surprise at all.  I don't even know what I bought it for.  Anyway, I decided to boil it down so I could use it in some unforseen project.  This was it.  I added some to the pie filling and it was really, really good.  It's the new thing in the pie.

Anyway, you shouldn't let pie scare you at all.  It's really very forgiving most of the time.  This crust recipe is not fragile.  It's almost springy so it holds together really well.  I always roll my crust out between two sheets of waxed paper.  Roll it from the center out, turning the paper as needed.  Once you get it to the right size to fit in your pan, remove the top sheet and then place it back on and flip the dough over.  Remove the bottom sheet (which is now on top).  Then I flip it over into the pie plate and adjust as necessary and remove the other waxed paper sheet.  Fill the pie and roll out the top crust.  Don't forget the vents in the top!  Those are the cuts that my Grandma and my Mom always made so now I do it too.  You can do it with tiny cutters or whatever you choose.  A quick brush of milk or heavy cream if you've got it and then into the oven.  I don't even like pie and I ate this.

I've been adding boiled cider to all of my apple desserts (well...apple crisp and apple pie).  I'm not much of a fruit dessert person but I think it makes a really big difference and it's delicious.

Apple Pie

6 cups Granny Smith Apples (or combo of apples of your choice), peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (plus some...all of my mom's recipes say plus some at the cinnamon)  I just give it an extra shake (for those who like to measure - 1 T + 1 t)
3 (or more) Tablespoons boiled cider (optional) - see instructions below
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into tiny cubes

1 pie crust (recipe below)

Prepare your pie crust as directions indicate, lining the bottom of the pie plate with dough.

Toss apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl until well combined.  Put the apples into the prepared pie crust.  Dot the top of the apples with the butter.  Top with other pie crust.  Crimp edges.  Bake at 375 for about an hour.  If the crust is browning too much, cover it lightly with foil during baking.  I find it best to put the pie in the oven on a sheet pan (preferably lined with a silpat or parchment for easy clean up).  Otherwise, the floor of your oven may suffer from overflow and that is never a good thing. It's a smoky mess.  My grandma used to say that the only good pie was one that overflowed so I stand by that and always use a silpat.

Let cool, slice and enjoy.  If you cut it too soon, all the juice runs everywhere.  Just ask my son.  He found out the hard way.  I store this in the refrigerator.

Pie Crust

This makes enough for a double crust pie

2 1/2 cups all purpose or pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar (for a fruit pie only)
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks or grated on a box grater
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening or leaf lard, cut into chunks
1/4 cup ice cold water

Place 2 cups of flour, salt, & sugar if using in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to mix.  Put in the butter and shortening and pulse until it looks like big crumbs and is starting to come together.  You can do all of this in a bowl with a pastry cutter if you want.  It's just quicker in a processor.  Now add 1/2 cup flour, pulse a couple of times and then add the water.  You just want the dough to just come together.  No overmixing.   You can take the dough out of the food processor and add the water and stir with a wooden spoon to avoid overworking the dough.  Too much messing around will lead to a tough dough.

Separate the dough into two equal pieces and flatten to a disk.  You can wrap these in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag to use later or get some waxed paper or parchment paper and roll them out right away.  If your dough is really sticky, sprinkle the paper with a bit of flour.  Roll out to the desired diameter.  Start from the center and roll outward, turning the paper as needed.  Place into pie pan and put in refrigerator while you make the filling.  Roll out second disk of dough, cut out vents if necessary.  Place on top of pie, crimp and bake!

Pie recipe is from my mom.  The boiled cider is from the Washington Post and the pie crust is barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman.  All are linked above.

Happy fall and don't be afraid of pie.  It looks impressive even if it's messy because it's homemade.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cookies 101 - Part 1

I make a lot of cookies.  Probably less than some blogger types but considerably more than the average person who never makes cookies or does it on special occasions only.  I make at least one batch a week.  Mostly two.  Gotta have those lunch box cookies and fortunately I have two teenage boys who can eat a full meal, complain about being hungry and then eat dinner.  It's a gift that they have.  Anyway, I always bring cookies to family things, school things, even just sometimes because I feel like it and I bring cookies to my friends for no reason at all.  They don't seem to mind.

Probably the biggest question I get is "why are your cookies always better than mine".  The snarky answer is because mine are filled with love.  The real answer is that you're baking them too much.  If you pull a cookie sheet out of the oven and the cookies look perfectly done (see photo), they're already too far gone.  They continue to cook on the baking sheet after you remove them from the oven so they will be over baked by the time you get them on the cooling rack.  You need to take them out when they're kind of gooey looking in the middle.  Don't be afraid of the raw middle.  It's your friend. 

That's my tip of the day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Like most people, I have lots of things that I'd like to be better at this year than last.  2014 was not a kind year to our family so I'm hoping that things will be a little smoother this year.

My first big thing to learn is how to be a better photographer.  It's readily apparent that I'm not very good at it.  Just take a look at my crumb cake pictures.  Also, it's hard to photograph food at night and since I don't get to stay home all day, sometimes I only have the evenings.  And I don't have any professional lighting.  Just a Nikon DSLR and a couple of lenses.  Anyway, that's my first thing to improve upon.

The second thing I need to do is stay away from the sugar/carbs and wine.  I have a sweet tooth like nobody's business.  It's a shame really.  I KNOW I shouldn't eat so much sugar and I exercise all the time.  Like 5 or 6 days a week and I'm not happy with myself.  (I know it's not about how you look but how you feel...still...I'm extremely hard on myself.  Always have been).  In order to help with this I'm trying to cut down on eating the sweets.  I have two teenage boys who can eat all the time so I'll still bake stuff.  I just won't eat all of it.  I also just ordered a veggie spiralizer.  It's coming tomorrow.  I realize it's probably stupid but I thought I might try it out for a replacement for spaghetti.  I'll let you know how it goes.  Could be fun.  I'm on a mission to keep my hand out of the cookie jar and far away from the carbs that don't really do much for you.  At least for a few weeks!

Besides those two things I would really like to take this year as an opportunity to entertain more and try to not flip out about all of the things that aren't perfect in my house.  Unless I win the lottery, there is always going to be something that's less than perfect.  It's just life.  I would like to have more fun this year so hopefully we can make some time to do something once or twice a month.  As I mentioned above, we had a rough time in 2014 so we're trying to make an effort to carve out some fun stuff this year.  Plus, will anyone really remember if your baseboards are perfectly dust free or will they remember that they had good food and good company?  Hopefully the latter.

My final thing I would like to improve upon is this blog.  I would love to be able to be organized enough to post a couple of times a week.  That's my goal anyway.  I'm giving myself the month of January to get things together and then I'll see how it goes.  It's good to have goals!

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and your 2015 is starting off in a positive way.  Did you make any lists or resolutions?