Starry Apple Pie

It is now actually cold. Winter has set in, at least for the week. It was actually cold enough to warrant turning on the heat. We’ll see how long it lasts. In the meantime, it is perfect for enjoying the winter desserts that we all love. Rocker Dude asked for Apple Pie, with whipped cream. So though it had been a while, I pulled out my trusty dusty apple pie recipe and whipped up a nice comforting pie.

Starry Apple Pie
Starry Apple Pie

I have been making this pie for years. It’s a combination of a few recipes and it always comes out awesome. The filling has a little spice and the apples are not mushy and the crust is so delicious.

I have always used my standard 9 inch Pyrex pie plate to make all my pies, but last summer I treated myself to a deep dish pie plate with a fluted rim. This has made such a difference to my pies. The filling/crust ratio now feels more balanced, the rim holds the crust edge much better and overall, the pies come out more aesthetically pleasing.

I had filled the pie and was rolling out the top crust when I decided to make a lattice top instead of a solid top. With the extra dough, the Little Rocker and I cut out little stars to stick on top of the pie crust.

It looked great – the Little Rocker is really good at scattering the stars ;).

I added vanilla bean paste to the whipped cream so it made quite a treat when served – warmed, spiced apple pie with a pile of vanilla whipped cream on top. Perfect winter dessert.

The original Rocker Dude Family
The original Rocker Dude Family

In other news, we were witness to a lightning visit made by Rocker Dude’s sister and her youngest kid. They came to Israel for a week and we had to make the most of it. She came for the weekend as did the grandparents and we all had a great time – complete with trips to the emergency room. (What kind of trip would it be without one?)

A nice picture
A nice picture
Rocker Dude and his sister - their true selves.
Rocker Dude and his sister – their true selves.

You would think that because the Little Rocker went through all the effort of helping me with making the pie that she might actually eat it, but no. When dessert came, all she wanted was some whipped cream :). You win some, you lose some.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

Recipe:
I used a double recipe of this pie crust recipe.

Filling:
6 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced, I like to use Gala, Fuji, Pink Crispy, or Granny Smith apples
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depends on the sweetness of the apples)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 egg white

Whipped Cream:
1 250 mL pareve whipped topping or heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Mix all ingredients for the filling together, except the egg white, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out half of the dough after it has chilled and line a 9 inch pie plate, leaving a 1 inch overhang.
Place pie plate in the refrigerator and roll out the top crust.
Brush the bottom crust with egg white and pour in the filling, including all the juices. Lay the top crust over the filling and crimp the edges. Alternatively you can cut the top crust into thin strips and weave a lattice over the filling. If you have a solid top, make sure to cut some vents to allow steam to escape.
Brush the crust with egg white. Stay away from the edge as it will brown faster on its own.
If you have extra dough after you crimp the edges, feel free to cut out shapes to place on top of the crust. Brush the shapes with egg white. You can sprinkle some sugar over the top if you want.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the filling bubbles. If the crust browns before the filling is done, tent the pie with some tin foil.
While the pie is baking, whip your whipped cream ingredients together until fluffy.
Let the pie cool for at least an hour before eating.

An Apple Torte for Winter

Here we are, in the dead of winter, at probably the coldest day of the season so far (50 degrees F during the day), and it is time for an apple dessert.  Apples are at their best in the fall and winter and they deserve their day in the spotlight.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours and is absolutely delightful.  It combines the elegance of a tart with the double crust of a pie.  So basically you have a double crusted apple tart=a torte.

Apple Torte
Apple Torte

This torte is filled with applesauce.  I made it once with store bought apple sauce (oh the horror!) and added some vanilla and nutmeg and no one noticed that it wasn’t homemade.  This time I decided to go all the way and make the torte as it deserved to be made, with homemade applesauce and nuts. Yes that is right Rocker Dude – ground almonds in the filling. Rocker Dude has a a fear or maybe just a distaste of eating anything involving nuts, but I figured that because we would be having other people at the meal I could add in the nuts and I wouldn’t get too many vocal complaints ;).

I made this dessert during my usual Friday cooking rush, but made sure at least to spread out the prep so I had my crust ready and chilled in the morning, made the applesauce and chilled that so by 2 pm I was ready to assemble and bake the torte.

Apple Torte Filling

After everyone had eaten the dessert (which would probably be great with some vanilla ice cream) I got certain looks from a certain person about the nuts in the filling.  The comment made was that when you take a bite of the torte, you expect a soft filling and suddenly there is some crunch from the nuts.  I actually liked the texture it added to the torte, but a promise was extracted from me to not make it with nuts again.  So I probably won’t, at least for a while ;).

Recipe (From Baking: From my Home to Yours):

1 double recipe Sweet Tart Dough

Filling:

2 lbs. (about 5 medium) tart or tart-sweet apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider, apple juice or water
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground almonds (apparently optional)
pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt

Divide prepared tart dough into two parts.  Refrigerate one half and press the other half over the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch tart pan.  Butter a piece of aluminum foil and press is lightly against the surface of the dough.  Refrigerate for at least two hours. (Or freeze if you are in a hurry).

When the second half of the dough is chilled, roll it into a circle that is between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into a 10-inch circle and then using a shot glass as a guide, cut a hole in the center of the dough to act as a steam vent. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet a refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Fill the foil over the crust with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  You don’t want it to get too brown because you will be baking it again. Cool to room temperature.

Put the apples, brown sugar, cider and nutmeg in a medium saucepan, cover and bring to a boil.  You want the mixture to stay at a medium bubble.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until the apples are so soft that you can almost mash them with the back of a spoon.  Remove the cover and boil for five minutes more.  Add the almonds, if you are using them, and the rest of the spices.  Pour the filling into a  bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Cool. The filling can be made up to two days in advance.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fill the cooled crust with the applesauce filling. Lightly moisten the edges of the crust and lay the chilled top crust on top of the filling.  Press the edges of the crust to seal. Run a rolling pin over the top  to trim off the excess dough.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes.  Lower the oven to 350 degrees F. and cover the tart loosely with a foil tent. Continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and cool.

Apple Cranberry Pie

I know it is a bit late, but I promised you all Apple-Cranberry Pie.  So here it is.  I had intended to make it for Sukkot, but transporting a pie on the bus to be eaten a few days later is just not a good idea.  So I made it for Shabbat last week and it was delish.

 Apple-Cranberry Pie

The reason it has taken me so long to make this pie is because we have been busy over Sukkot and just now are getting back to normal.  Also, now that the holidays are over, people have come back from their travels overseas and we can see them again.

We spent most of the holiday in Jerusalem at Rocker Dude’s parents because they have a big sukkah and holidays are about family right? (Yes, yes, and food).

Being based in Jerusalem does have it’s advantages, though most of the attractions are outside the city.  We spent Shabbat of Sukkot in Beit Shemesh at our friends’ parents and had a great time there.  Thanks so much W.’s!  The Little Rocker especially loved the little fish pond outside the house and had so much fun deciding which fish belonged to which families. (Because every family has a father, mother and one baby right?)  Then on Monday we went to the Monkey Park in Ben Shemen.  I’m not sure who was more excited to go – Rocker Dude or the Little Rocker.  Rocker Dude has always had a thing for monkeys and somehow he managed to pass it on to the Little Rocker.  We obviously made sure to bring Momo, her constant simian companion, so that he could meet his cousins.  There was a section at the end where 30-40 squirrel monkeys were running loose all around the people walking through and the Little Rocker made sure to lift up Momo so that he could meet all those little monkeys.  She was most excited when she saw a baby squirrel monkey riding piggy back on the mommy monkey – now she knows I’m not crazy when I want to carry her piggy back.

We spent the last day of Sukkot, actually Simchat Torah, at our friends in Ginot Shomron and had a wonderful time.  The Little Rocker made sure to get her fair share of treats (though I have to admit that I hid most of them afterward when she wasn’t looking – saving them for prizes and things).  There was even a small horse ranch outside the town and we took the Little Rocker to go and feed the horsies.  She had a lot of fun, even if she fell down on a rock on the way and scraped her nose.  And then we came back home – finally.  It ain’t easy to be away for a week and living out of suitcases, but somehow we managed it.

We were invited out to friend’s for both Friday night and Shabbat lunch last week.  Now that the Little Rocker is older and Shabbat  comes in earlier, we can take her out at night and pretend that we have a life too ;).  I was asked by H. to bring a dessert.  Immediately I thought – “Apple-Cranberry Pie!  This is my chance!”  Now cranberries are usually a problem to find here in Israel as they are a cold weather fruit – something that doesn’t exist here (the weather I mean).  When I looked at the recipe though, one of the comments made was that the filling had a lot of liquid and the author was worried that the crust would get soggy.  So I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to use dried cranberries – problem solved!

Instead of using the pie crust that came with the recipe , I used Dorie’s Good For Almost Anything pie crust recipe.  I have used it before and we have an understanding.  I will make a good filling for it and it will behave and stay light and flaky.  It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The cranberry layer

The hardest part for me is always making the crust.  I love making pies and tarts but when I think about making the crust, all of a sudden I start getting lazy and I put off making whatever I was going to make.  That’s the point when I rethink my plan of making a pie and start looking for one-step recipes that don’t require chilling.  In my dream mansion (which will have a hover golf-cart so that we can get around all the land without messing up the gardens) I will have a huge freezer where I can make tons of pie dough and have it frozen in single-use size packages.  Then I never have to feel lazy again.  But until that magical future (hey – it could happen!) I just have to deal with what I have – i.e. a small freezer and no time.  So last week, in order to prevent the Friday afternoon laziness, I made the crust dough on Thursday night.  Go me!  Advanced preparation – woo hoo! And then when I woke up on Friday morning, I had a crust that was ready to be rolled out and used.

The apple layer

I knew that H. and Y., well especially Y., like fruity desserts, so this pie would be perfect.  The hardest part was waiting for the filling to cool before I could put it in the pie shell.  I solved that problem by watching three episodes of Pan-Am.  It is not such a bad show – kind of Mad Men-esque in that it takes place in the sixties and the characters do and say things that would get them sued today, but otherwise it is a lighter show.  They don’t deal with some of the heavy things that Mad Men deals with.  Of course, that may be because the show is only about 6 episodes in.  Rocker Dude thinks that I only like fake shows, meaning shows that don’t make you think.  But I ask you, does How I Met Your Mother really make you think? And besides, we watch Castle together and that makes you think, sort of.  The point is, that by the time the three episodes were over, it was time to pick up the Little Rocker from nursery (her first day back after vacation) and when we came home, she helped me fill the pie and cover it with the top layer of dough.  What a helper!

The pie baked really nicely and the crust came out nice and flaky and flavorful, even if I did use margarine instead of butter.  Such is Jewish life.

Thanksgiving is coming up and I encourage everyone to try this pie for their Thanksgiving meal.  It has the quintessential fall flavors of apple and cranberry and tastes delicious!

This recipe comes from Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures who took it from Cook’s Illustrated.

Recipe:

2 cups dried cranberries
1/4 cup apple or orange juice
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 1/2 pounds sweet apples (6-7 medium), peeled, cored & cut into 1/4″ thick slices
1 double crust pie dough (recipe here)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar in the raw

To make the cranberry filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries have plumped and absorbed almost all the liquid, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the water, and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To make the apple filling: In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cornstarch.  Add the apples and toss to coat thoroughly.  Microwave the apple mixture on high power for 8-10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes with a rubber spatula, until the liquid is thick and glossy and the apples have started to turn translucent around the edges.  Let the apple filling cool to room temperature.  You can microwave the apples for less time if you want more of a bite to your filling.  (Note: both fillings can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated.)

While the fillings are cooling, preheat oven to 425 F.  Place a rack in the lowest position and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack.  Roll one disk of dough into a 12-inch round on a floured surface.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough.  Spread the cooled cranberry filling in the bottom of the dough-lined pie plate.  Place the cooled apple filling on top of the cranberry layer, mounding it slightly in the center.  Roll out the second disk of dough to a 12-inch round on a floured surface.  Transfer it to the top of the pie plate.  Use kitchen shears to cut through both layers of pie dough, leaving about 1/2-inch overhang.  Fold the dough under itself so that the edge of the fold is flush with the outer rim of the pie plate.  Use your fingers to create a fluted edge or use the tines of a fork to seal the dough.  Brush the top and edges of the pie with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with the sugar in the raw.  Use a sharp paring knife to cut slits in the top crust.

Bake the pie on the preheated baking sheet until the top is light golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and continue to bake until the crust is deep golden brown, about 25-30 minutes longer.  Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

What I Have Been Up to…

It has been a while since I last posted and I am feeling the lack.  Last Tuesday, we flew to New Jersey to begin the wedding celebrations for the bro – D.  This whole thing is being spread out over three weeks so we get quite a vacation out of it.  On the other hand, I haven’t had much time to bake, and I wasn’t able to photocopy my TWD recipes for the three weeks that I will be gone so I am not participating in that.

We have been quite busy though, hence why I haven’t had time to post.  There were about 50 people at my parents’ house over the weekend and we had to prepare, and of course, be awake and social and everything – no time for jet lag.  The Little Rocker really stood up to the challenge and in only three days got back on schedule.

The Little Rocker takes a break.

When I first found out that we would be flying in to the US in August, I immediately thought about going to the Middlesex County Fair.  My family used to go every summer and we always had such fun.  I wanted to take the Little Rocker and even Rocker Dude so that he could catch a glimpse into my past.  I found the fair site online and it occurred to me that I could enter something into the baking contest.  Exciting!!  I know that it is unlikely that I might win (statistically obviously) but it is fun just to try.

It took me a good few months to decide what to make, but I finally decided on an Enclosed Apple Tart and the Tarte Noir.  I have actually made this apple tart a number of times but I haven’t yet had a chance to post it.  I really need to get around to it.  In any case, here is a picture of how it came out,

Enclosed Apple Tart

The deadline for submitting the baked goods to the fair was 5 pm today.  Because D. decided to move most of his stuff out of my parents’ house today to his new apartment, I was car-less and short some ingredients.  But Abba came to the rescue!  My dad took me to the store to stock me up (I don’t know how to drive stick, and besides, I’m not sure that my dad would let me drive his baby anyway).  So I was running a little bit late and on top of that using different materials than what I am used to, so these did not come out as well as I would have hoped.  Basically, the crust of the Tarte Noir shrank and at the last minute I decided to cut the sides off the crust and just have a bottom crust.  It actually worked out really well.

The Little Rocker found the tart crust scraps and decided to dip them in the leftover chocolate - and then just lick the chocolate off 🙂

The best part of the whole day was that I. came by to visit.  She used to live in Israel with us and only recently moved back to her parents’ house in New York, so this was a great opportunity to see her.  She has a country radio show (Country Love with Ilona – check it out) so she was just tickled pink to be able to go to a county fair, the epitome of country.

She came with me and Rocker Dude to the fairgrounds and carefully held the apple tart on her lap the whole way there (she didn’t want to hold the tarte noir and take responsibility for holding it perfectly straight –  that went to Rocker Dude – he needs a few more lessons in holding things straight.)  We got there with no mishap and submitted the two tarts.

My submission tickets to the fair.

The judging began shortly after we left, but we won’t know until Wednesday when we go to the actual fair whether I got a blue ribbon or not.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Me and I.!!!