Sometimes, you can’t improve on a baked-from-scratch classic, like this Apple Pie. Apples, flaky pastry, and a bit of cinnamon is all that’s needed…except maybe a scoop of ice cream.
I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday and came across two videos of recipes being prepared in fast-motion. They weren’t special recipes – one was carrot cake and other was banana bread. I was astonished to realize the banana bread recipe had received over 8 million hits. Eight…million…hits – for banana bread. My blog is over 10 years old and I haven’t reached 8 million hits total, let alone for one post.
I have online presence envy.
The truth is that I’ll probably never have 8 million hits for a post. Those videos are for people who want a recipe that’s fast…and easy…with as little fuss as possible…and doesn’t require a special pan or spice…and results in something the whole family will love. Those videos are for what I call “Everyday Cooks.” You know who they are. After a full day at work, these folks are expected to arrive home and whip up something soul-satisfying and delicious day after day after day. God bless them. I could never do that – it would suck the joy of cooking right out of me.
Instead, I write for the food enthusiast, culinary explorers who learn about different cultures through preparing and eating their food, who are enamored by new ingredients or cooking techniques, and are willing to sacrifice gluten sensitivities and sugar phobias for the perfect slice of homemade apple pie. We relish the fuss – handmade crusts, apples harvested from the garden. We are a special breed, our numbers are small, but our passion is deep.
For my fellow enthusiasts…
Classic Apple Pie
This crust recipe, my favorite and from The Pioneer Woman, makes three crusts. Not sure what to do with the extra crust? Freeze it and use it for a single-crust pie later.
- 4-5 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- zest from ½ lemon
- Juice from ½ lemon
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup Crisco
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 5 Tablespoons cold water
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 3 cups All-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 Tablespoon sugar, preferably turbinado, like Sugar in the Raw
- In a medium bowl, combine apples, brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Toss to coat. Set apple filling aside.
- Chill butter and Crisco until very cold by placing both in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and Crisco to flour and pulse on/off until mixture resembles coarse meal (you can also combine the flour and fats using a pastry blender if you don’t want to drag out your processor – more effort, less clean-up). Scrape mixture into a large bowl, add egg mixture, and stir until combined. Don’t overwork dough.
- Separate the dough into thirds (If you prefer a more substantial crust, separate in half) and roll into balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill. (If you will be storing the dough in the freezer for a longer period, form dough into a disk and seal in a Ziplock bag. Thaw 20 minutes before using).
- Preheat oven to 375⁰. Sprinkle crust with a bit of flour and then, in between two sheets of waxed paper, roll out the bottom crust, starting at the center and working your way into a 11” – 12” circle. Once the dough is the correct size, peel off the top layer of waxed paper and, using the bottom sheet, transfer the dough to a 9” pie pan. Flip the dough over, peel off the bottom sheet, and gently press the dough into the pan. Go around the pie pan tucking the dough to make a clean edge. Freeze until second crust is rolled out. Roll out the second crust into a 12” circle between two sheets of waxed paper and transfer to freezer until ready to use.
- Remove the bottom crust from the freezer. Sprinkle with panko crumbs (this helps avoid a soggy bottom crust). Fill with apple mixture, but do not include any juice/liquid that may have accumulated at the bottom of the bowl; Dot filling with bits of unsalted butter. Remove top crust from freezer. Peel off top sheet of waxed paper, flip crust on top of filling, and trim top pie dough so that overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only about 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath bottom crust and crimp decoratively. Cut a few decorative vents on top of pie. Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
- Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until crust is brown and filling is bubbly. If edges brown too quickly, cover edges with foil. Cool completely on a wire rack.
This Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese elevates a humble vegetable to new heights.
Sometimes, I can’t help but equate my never-ending search for the perfect Bed and Breakfast purchase to online dating. I start out searching for geographic desirability (location is key), then I’ll notice a photo that sparks my interest, maybe smile a bit when reading the “bio” – ocean views, fireplaces, large owner’s quarters, commercial kitchen – only to be disappointed when faced with the reality. I found another Inn for sale this week in an ideal location along the Mendocino coast, only to be told by my broker that, according to the financials, it’s most likely a “lifestyle B&B” (read: not making significant income). This is the equivalent in the online dating world to “still lives with his mother.” Sigh.
Enough daydreaming for today, Julie. Back to the monotonous suburban daily grind that is slowing sucking away my soul – and the safe harbor of happiness called my kitchen. This is another recipe from Joshua McFadden’s cookbook, Six Seasons. I love that he takes humble, quotidian vegetables, like carrots and, in this case, celery, and gives them a starring role like in this crunchy celery-centric salad.
Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese
A crisp, refreshing salad that pairs well with cold poached salmon or cold roast chicken.
- 8-10 celery stalks (depending on size), leaves reserved, tough fibers peeled off, sliced on an angle, ¼ inch thick
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- ½ cup roughly chopped toasted almonds
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 oz. mild blue cheese, crumbled
- 4 Tablespoons Good quality olive oil
- Soak sliced celery pieces in a bowl of ice water for about 20 minutes to heighten crispness. Strain, pat dry, and place in a dry bowl (I dried out the same bowl).
- Add the celery leaves, dates, almonds, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss together. Season well with salt and black pepper. Adjust seasoning, if needed. At the blue cheese and olive oil. Toss gently and adjust seasoning again, adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt or pepper as needed.
- Let chill for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
On a side note, I was pleased to find my Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts featured on the Shari’s Berries site this week. Thanks for the shout out!
The other night, my friend commented that I couldn’t #deletefacebook because of this blog – I’ll lose my followers. It made me realize that my friends don’t understand the details of this
passion hobby diversion of mine (and most likely don’t care). I take that as a good sign I’m not blathering on and on about “my blog” every second or every day. In truth, Facebook only accounts for 3% of traffic to my site. Surprisingly, my primary source in 2017 was the lesser-known Fridgg, making up about 25% of visits followed by various search engines with 13%, Foodgawker with 10% and my WordPress readers with 6%. I’m a devoted fan of Fridgg, a site that doesn’t determine what photos are worthy and unworthy based on some intangible – if the submitter believes them worthy, Fridgg does, too. Food photo democracy.
2018 is shaping up a bit differently. My primary source in 2018 has been search engines (15%), closely followed by Foodgawker (13%), with WordPress and Fridgg both at 10%. Facebook is still about 3%.
This brings me to another insight – My recent Foodgawker acceptance rates, THE site that determines if your photos are “worthy.” I think I’ve finally managed to crack their submission code. The first few years, my submission acceptance hovered around 30% – actually not too bad for the gold-standard of food photo sharing sites. Now, I’m at 45%, with February’s at 83% and March’s acceptance at 87%.
87%??! I’ll take that. I’m still undecided about Facebook.
Creamy Tomato Chicken Stew
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups Gruyère cheese
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook chicken (in batches if needed) until brown on all sides. Set chicken aside. Add carrots, onions and garlic cloves to pot and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until mixture forms a golden crust at the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes with juice and stock, scraping up the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan and breaking the tomatoes apart. Heat until boiling, then return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan.
- Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Stir in cheese, cream and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and sauce over noodles, rice or polenta, sprinkled with a little more cheese, if desired.
In general, I’m not a fancy, foo foo, flavored latte kind of person. Mornings, I prefer a single cappuccino (no messing around with “caff” or “fat” or “pumps” or “Vente”) or, after dinner, a perfectly pulled single espresso with just a bit of raw sugar. When feeling especially indulgent, I may splurge on a true macchiato with an orange twist (Not to be confused with Starbuck’s bastardization, look it up).
These were my go-to hot beverages until, a few months ago, I discovered (gasp!) cardamom rose lattes at my local coffee house. Cardamom? And Rose? Decidedly foo foo, I was nonetheless hooked. If Chai was female, it would taste like this. I adore citrusy-spicy cardamom and use it often in my baking – an unexpected alternative to cinnamon and I’ve always been a fan of those delicate, rose-scented syrupy Indian sweets. Combine these two flavors with creamy steamed milk and a bit of espresso and you have an exotic spicy, floral sweet treat that can only be described as well-being in a mug.
Since returning to work, I’ve taken to making my own cardamom rose latte so I can begin each morning with this comforting, soothing brew. It makes my morning a bit brighter.
To learn more about the benefits of rose, check this out.
Inspired by a latte at my favorite local coffee house.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons cardamom
- 2 Tablespoons rose water
- To make syrup: In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water together until sugar is completely melted and mixture looks clear. Remove from heat, stir in cardamom, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain through cheesecloth and add rose water.
- To make latte: Make latte according to your machines directions. Stir in one tablespoons of syrup (or to taste) for each 8 oz. of milk. Breathe deeply and enjoy.
As pretty as they are delicious – Raspberry-Rose Viennese Whirls.
If baking is Love made edible, then these Viennese whirls are my billet-doux to St. Valentine, himself – layers of homemade raspberry-rose jam and vanilla buttercream sandwiched between delicate melt-in-your-mouth Viennese cookies. Will you be mine, Valentine?
Raspberry Rose Viennese Whirls
- 7 oz. frozen raspberries
- 7 oz. sugar
- 4 teaspoons rose water
- 9 oz. unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 ¾ oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt (not kosher salt)
- 8 oz. all-purpose flour
- 1 oz. cornstarch
- 3 ½ oz. unsalted butter, softened
- 7 oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted plus more for dusting
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Make the jam: Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a small deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add rose water. Transfer to a small container (pass it through a sieve if you’d rather not have seeds in your jam). Leave to cool and set.
- Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Using a 2” round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
- Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets. Refrigerate cookies for 15 minutes before baking (this will help cookies retain their shape).
- Bake in the center of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make Buttercream: Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until fluffy and smooth. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle.
- Assemble: Spoon a layer of jam onto the flat side of 12 of the cookies and place jam-side up on a cooling rack. Pipe an equal thickness of buttercream over the jam and sandwich with the remaining cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Share the love.