Monthly Archives: October 2014

Apple Pie

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Apple season has arrived and what better way to use apples but to bake delicious goodies!
I actually have an allergic reaction to apples in their raw form, but fortunately not when they’re cooked. So I go apple picking every year and then bake up a bunch of old and new apple recipes. Luckily, apples have a very long fridge life, so you can pick lots of apples, but not feel rushed to use them all at once.

So far this season, I’ve made two new recipes, one for apple cake and another for apple pie.
Apple pie is one of those classic desserts; although there’s so many variations on it that you can have 100 apple pies and they will all taste different.

Several years ago, I entered an Apple Custard Pie with Oatmeal Crust into an apple pie contest. It was delicious, but very different from your typical apple pie and I think it might have been a little too exotic for the judges; hence I didn’t win. But that didn’t make me stop making it in future years!

The recipe I chose this year was one I had filed in my recipe binder for quite a while, but never got around to making. It’s from a Cooking Light reader who entered an apple pie contest hosted by the magazine several years ago, where she won first prize!
I decided I’d try it out, but use a cream cheese pie crust recipe I’d also had filed for a while and wanted to try out.

The final product? Delicious! Crisp, sweet apples covered lightly in a crumble topping with a warm cinnamon flavor. The apples were slightly gooey, but without the gelatin texture that reminds me of jello in a pie that’s served in many diners.
The crust was super flavorful, having a slight tang from the cream cheese. One thing about the crust is that it calls for a 9 inch pie pan but I used a 10 inch since that’s what the filling called for. So if you don’t adjust the crust proportions like me, you might find the crust to be a bit thin and skimpy and become brown pretty fast around the edges. But I didn’t mind this because the overall pie was just that delicious! I have suggestions below for not running into this snag though. 🙂

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Apple Pie with Cream Cheese Crust

Yield: one 9 inch pie

Cream Cheese Crust:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 (4.5 oz) cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • Directions:
    • 1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; beat well at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Add milk and egg yolk; beat until well-blended. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to bowl, stirring until well-blended.
    • 2. Press mixture gently into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap, wrap up and chill for 15 minutes. Unwrap dough and roll to an 11-inch circle. (If dough is extremely sticky, you can roll dough before unwrapping it and stick it in the freezer for 5 minutes until wrap can be removed easily).
    • 3. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray or butter. Gently lift the rolled dough and insert into the dish. Center on dish and then press dough against bottom and sides of pan. Fold edges under and flute.
    • Adapted from Cooking Light 
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  • Picture of pie before being baking
  • Apple Filling:

Yield: Makes enough for a 10-inch pie

(since crust is only for 9 inch pan, you can either fill as much as possible and then bake the rest in an oven proof dish (it’ll be a mini crisp), or you can decrease the ingredients a bit; I’m not sure how much though)

scant 1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 TBP all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

7 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 7 medium)

cooking spray

Topping:

6 TBP (1 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour

3 TBP brown sugar

3 TBP chilled butter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. To prepare filling: combine sugar and next 4 ingredients through the salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle sugar mixture over apple; toss well to coat. (If you are concerned about apples turning brown, squeeze some lemon juice over them). Spoon filling into pie pan with unbaked crust.

2. To make topping, combine flour and brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut in 3 TBP butter with a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingers until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle topping over the filling on pie. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees without removing pie from oven and bake an additional 30 minutes or until apples are crisp tender.

*Crust might brown quicker than pie cooks. If this happens, you can cover the pie with fin foil while it finishes baking and/or put pie on lower rack of oven.

Adapted from Cooking Light, Susan Brackett’s First Prize recipe

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Perfect Brownies

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I’ve made a lot of great brownie recipes, but each one had at least one imperfection. Either they were too thick or thin, too fudgy and gooey, too firm and fudge-like, or too dry around the edges.

And brownies is one of those desserts that when you decide to indulge in such a rich treat, you want to make every bite worth it. I typically wouldn’t make a low-fat brownie, because why eat a brownie if it’s low-fat and won’t possess that buttery, bittersweet chocolate flavor that defines a brownie? I find some of the really good low-fat brownie recipes are almost there, but I always feel like they’re missing something, and therefore don’t satisfy my brownie craving.

Recently, I happened upon a new blog called Cookie and Kate. When I read the description and recipe for her “Very best brownies,” I decided to give them a go. It was unique in that she instructs the baker to brown the butter before mixing in the rest of the ingredients and her recipe calls for fine grain sea salt. The chocolate used for the substance of the brownies is 100% unsweetened cocoa powder and then some semi-sweet, chopped chocolate is mixed in right before the brownies are baked to enhance the chocolate flavor even more and add another textural element, gooifying the brownies more with those spots of delicious chocolate that aren’t completely melted in.

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I cut the sugar a bit, as usual, which ended up being the perfect amount. I also used all-purpose flour, as opposed to white-whole wheat called for in the recipe. Although it was said you won’t be able to taste the difference in the final product, I didn’t want to risk that wheaty flavor that might taint the brownies 🙂

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So when you bite into one of these delicious treats, you will find a brownie that is amazingly chewy, a little gooey, very moist, and fudgy with a glistening top as well as one that has a deep caramelized flavor (from the browned butter), that combines with dark, rich chocolate and hints of sea salt to make a brownie that you will savor until the last crumb.

And the part that made me over the edge happy was that the edges weren’t dry at all! They had the same moist, chewy texture as the rest of the brownies, but had an added bonus: that crusty edge!

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Perfect Brownies

Yield: one 8 inch square pan

Ingredients:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch slices

generous 1 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if has become lumpy

½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon espresso powder or very finely ground coffee (optional)

2 cold large eggs

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

⅔ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (can also try white-whole wheat flour)

1 to 2 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped (or ⅓ cup chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, making sure that the paper is long enough to go up the sides a couple of inches. Grease the parchment paper.
  2. Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a medium-sized light colored saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter, while whisking constantly, until it’s a pale golden brown and the particles suspended in it are reddish brown. This will take some time and right when you think it’s just staying the same color, you will notice a ton of little brown bits that have formed underneath the liquid butter. As soon as you spot these, about 10 minutes, take the butter off the heat and make sure it did not burn. If you did this right, you will detect a deep nutty aroma and have a lot of brownish/auburn bits on the bottom and a very light brown liquid. (If you haven’t browned butter before, I strongly suggest giving it a try! It will take your baked goods to a more complex and delicious level than before!)
  3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar immediately, this is how the crackly shiny crust/top is achieved.  Then add the cocoa powder, sea salt, baking powder and espresso powder. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula after each one. When the mixture looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the vanilla extract and the flour. Mixture will be thick and hard to stir. Stir until you no longer see streaks of flour. Then beat vigorously for 50 strokes with the wooden spoon or spatula.
  5. At this point, the mixture should be no more than slightly warm (if not, let it cool for a few more minutes). Fold in the chocolate chunks or chips.
  6. Spread the batter in the lined pan, then use a knife to make light swirls in the top of the batter. Bake on the lower rack for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool the brownies in the pan on a baking rack.
  7. Once the brownies are completely cool, lift the edges of the parchment paper and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the brownies into 16 or 25 squares.

Adapted from Cookie and Kate blog