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.

Nectarine Cardamom Vanilla Pie – for a Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday J.! To celebrate J. birthday, I was asked to make a fruit dessert.  Well hello peaches. Or nectarines. Or apricots.

Millions of peaches, peaches for me.
Millions of peaches, peaches for me.

J. is kind of an old soul stuck in a young body. Or as he puts it, in an old body. What is it with men and feeling older than they are? Isn’t it better to feel young and spry? It’s a mental game people! J. is also a longtime fan of The Unappreciated Baker (thanks!) and a lover of all things fruity desserty. And so, for his birthday – fruit dessert! Coincidentally, I love fruit desserts as well :).

Nectarines!
Nectarines!

Going back to nectarines.  I like to bake with nectarines as opposed to peaches because then I don’t have to worry about peeling them.  While I don’t mind the fuzzy peach peel in my desserts, others do. So if I bake with them, I need to peel them.  Due to the special occasion, I broke out my mini pie plates so that everyone could enjoy their very own peach pie.

Pie crusts ready to be filled.
Pie crusts ready to be filled.

I thought about going with my tried and true pie recipe, but then I thought about changing it up a bit – after all, isn’t that the point of this blog? To try new things. I found a recipe that flavored the peaches with vanilla and cardamom, not a combination I have used before with peaches. Testing time!

One pie all filled up.
One pie all filled up.

I did stick with my tried and true pie crust recipe, because, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With my regular double crust recipe I had enough dough for eight crusts and seven lattices. One ended up being a snack on Friday afternoon :).

The Little Rocker and I snacked on the sample and we enjoyed it a lot.  She was a little disappointed that she did not get her own pie to sample, but I told her that at the party she would have her own so it was okay to share this time.

And the others follow.
And the others follow.

On a related note, Squeaker just started eating solids and while she is not such a fan of the peas and sweet potatoes, she loves her some peaches. I mixed the peas and peaches and wham – at the whole bowl. Peach season for everyone!

The finished product.
Ready to be

I didn’t really feel the cardamom in the pie, maybe increase it next time?

And here we go!
And here we go!

We know what J.’s birthday means – Rocker Dude’s birthday! Amazing how close friends can have their birthdays so close together. Rocker Dude asked for a plain sheet cake for his birthday – can you see what I am working with?? A plain yellow cake??? With icing!! I hate working with icing. I am not talented in that way – drawing was never my forte, and the icing is always so sweet. It is always the part of the cake that I take off so that I can eat the actual cake.

So here is the cake that I made. My friend M. was kind enough to lend me a guitar shaped cake pan so that I didn’t have to try and cut out a guitar shape from a rectangular pan. That would have been disastrous. The Little Rocker had such a fun time watching the cake take shape, especially putting in the food coloring. I didn’t make the icing that bright as I hate putting in more than a few drops of food coloring. It may be weird but if I do then I feel like I am coloring my insides.

Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!
Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!

I have included the recipe for the cake because I thought that the cake was delicious on its own – with a bright citrus flavor. It’s perfect for birthday cakes and cupcakes.

And speaking of summer (weren’t we?), there are a few things that are ubiquitous to summer – baseball and ice pops. Here is a picture of Squeaker in an NY Yankees outfit that we originally got for the Little Rocker.

Yankee Fans!
Yankee Fans!

My father is a lifelong Yankees fan and if there is one thing I learned as a kid, it was that you root for the Yankees, or you’re not a real Schachter. Lucky for me, Rocker Dude is not into sports so I don’t have to keep up with his favorite team stats and stuff.

And ice pops! The Little Rocker remembered this picture of her “eating” my ice pop when she was a year old or so, and so she asked me to do it with Squeaker as well.

Eating ice pops.
Eating ice pops.
Squeaker tries to eat an ice pop.
Squeaker tries to eat an ice pop.

This time I just gave her a closed ice pop of her own, but she knew better. She still kept trying to grab my ice pop.

Nectarine Cardamom Vanilla Pie (makes 8 4-inch pies)

Recipe:
Crust:
A double crust recipe of this recipe, prepared through

Filling (based on this recipe from The Pastry Affair):
6 large (7 medium or 8 small) fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 vanilla bean, halved with the seeds removed (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg white
2 tbsp. sugar for sprinkling

Whipped Cream:
250g whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Prepare the dough through the refrigeration stage.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling and set aside while you roll out the dough. Roll out one disc of dough to a 1/8 inch thickness. You don’t want to leave the dough too thick as the pies are small. Cut out circles that are slightly larger than the circumference of the pie plates. Gently place each circle in the pie plates and trim the edges. Refrigerate the pie crusts as you make them to keep the dough cold. Then add filling into each of the pie plates and return to the refrigerator while you roll out the lattice top. Roll out the second disc to a 1/8 inch thickness. Slice into thin (about a finger’s width) strips with a very sharp knife or a pizza wheel. Carefully weave the lattice strips onto the tops of all the pies.

Brush egg white onto the tops of the pies and sprinkle with sugar. Place the pies in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Let cool on a rack.

To serve, beat the whipping cream with the confectioner’s sugar and dollop a generous spoonful on top of each pie.

Yellow Cake (From The Kosher Palette):

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the oil, orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Beat until lightened in color. Add the dry ingredients in one shot and mix until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This cake also freezes well.

 

Back from Vacation and a Peach Pie

Hello everyone, we are back from America, back into the swing of things, and Rocker Dude just went back to work this week!  I know I should be happy that he has vacation, and teachers do work really hard, but still, when I have to be out of the house by 7:15 and he is still in bed,  I can’t help but be a teensy weensy bit jealous. But it’s all over now.  The Little Rocker went back to school today too, so I no longer have a junior assistant at work :).  It is the end of summer.
But before we say goodbye, there are definitely some memories to share (and if we could only get around to printing all those pictures that we took, we could see them too).  While we were in the states, we spent a lot of time with family (duh!) and assorted cousins on both sides.

The Little Rocker and her cousin H. make silly faces for the camera.

We also had some adventures.  I am not going to talk about the flight adventures, but suffice it to say, Rocker Dude was not impressed with Air Europa.

On a brighter note, we went peach and corn picking with some cousins.  The Little Rocker was not so impressed with the peaches I have to say, even though there were trees with branches low enough for her to reach.  But the other cousins were more than happy to make up for it and we picked a giant box full of peaches and nectarines.

The Little Rocker and her cousins show off their flowers at the farm. There was no way we were going to get all of them to look at the camera at once – at least they’re all smiling.

But when I offered corn picking the Little Rocker jumped at the chance and we went into the “corn forest”.

The Corn Forest!!!

We also went to see the Statue of Liberty.  The Little Rocker has been dying to see it ever since she saw the WonderPets episode where the WonderPets had to save a pigeon who was falling off the Statue’s nose.

At the Statue

As the Statue is currently undergoing renovations, we couldn’t actually go up, but it did not stop the Little Rocker from trying to find the pigeon that needed help. What she really enjoyed was the ferry ride though.

On the Ferry.
On the Ferry with Uncle A.

Because we had so many peaches, my mom asked me to please do something with them, so for Shabbat I made a peach pie that I had found on Smitten Kitchen’s site.  The recipe was simple enough and all her stuff is delicious.  While my family is not particularly picky about desserts and they care more about taste than anything else (which makes sense I guess), I figured that a lattice pie would not go unappreciated. Another thing that did not go unappreciated was a certain cinnamony treat that I had to make multiple times and was in demand every morning for breakfast.

Unfortunately, my mother still does not have a pie plate.  This is the second time that I have wanted to make a pie at their house and they have not had a pie plate – even a disposable one!  So this time I just made do with a disposable cake pan.

All ready for the oven.

The pie was enjoyed all around, even Rocker Dude liked it!

Peach Pie.

Recipe (From Smitten Kitchen):

Crust
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surfaces
1 tablespoons (15 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks (225 grams, 8 ounces, or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup water, very cold

Filling
About 3 1/2 pounds peaches (approximately 6 large, 7 medium or 8 small)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about half a regular lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar (use 1/3 cup for a sweeter pie)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch

To finish
1 tablespoon soy milk
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar

Make your pie dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large. Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. (You can also do this in a food processor.) Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days.

Filling: Halve and pit the peaches, then into about 1/3-inch thick slices. You’ll want 6 cups; it’s okay if you go a little over. Add to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, stir together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch until evenly mixed. Add to peaches and toss to evenly coat.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Flour your counter, unwrap your first dough (if the two pieces look uneven, go for the smaller one) and put it in the middle and flour that too. Roll it out until you have a 12- to 13-inch circle. Then transfer pie dough to a standard pie dish. Trim the overhang to one inch.

Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices. Roll out your top pie dough using the same procedure, until it is 12 to 13 inches in diameter. If you’d like to make a regular lidded pie, use it as is, cutting some decorative vents in the pie lid before baking. To make a lattice-top pie, cut the pie dough into strips anywhere from 1/2 to 1-inch wide with a pastry wheel, pizza wheel or knife. Arrange every other strip across your pie filling in one direction, spacing the strips evenly. Fold back every other strip gently on itself and add the longest remaining strip in the other direction. Fold the strips back down, repeat with the other strips until a full lattice-top is formed. Trim the lattice’s overhang to the diameter of the pie dish’s rim. Gently fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips and crimp decoratively.

Brush pie with milk and sprinkle with sugar.Bake for about 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is set and beginning to brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake pie for another 30 to 40 minutes, until filling is bubbling all over and the crust is a nice golden brown. If the pie lid browns too quickly at any point in the baking process, you can cover it with foil for the remaining baking time to prevent further browning.

Cool pie for three hours at room temperature before serving – keep in mind that the pie filling does not fully thicken until it is fully cool. Pie can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge; from the fridge, it will be even thicker.

Mississippi (?) Galette

The name for this dessert comes straight from Rocker Dude.  I’m not 100 percent sure why he picked his specific name, but it is what it is.  A Mississipi Galette is a simple stone fruit galette that makes the most of the summer abundance of fresh stone fruit, and I love stone fruit.

Mississippi Galette

I was inspired by a post written by Tartelette, but when I started to make the tart I didn’t have time to check her blog, so I just made up the filling as I went along.

We had a bit of a busy day on Friday, with the Little Rocker’s graduation party from preschool.  They moved it up so that we could go as we will be flying in a week and a half to the US to visit the family and they didn’t want us to miss the party.  (The theme was health, so there was a long of singing and things having to do with vegetables.)

The Little Rocker, Queen of the Tomatoes

Then we had a party for friends of ours who essentially got married, but without the ceremony and the name change.  We had a lot of fun! Since this is a food blog I will mention the food – it was spectacular.  A smorgasbord of ribs, dim sum, fish and chips, and focaccia.  The n a main course of two types of chicken and steak and assorted salads and veggies.  But of course for me, the best part was the dessert.  They had mini tarts with fresh blueberries and raspberries!  Do you know how hard it is to get fresh berries here?  Berries do not do well in a summer of 95 degree heat.  It was sooo good, the taste of the raspberries was heavenly.

A Slice of Pie.

And due to us getting home only three hours before Shabbat, I planned in advance and made the dough in the morning (yay for advanced planning and being organized!) so that it could chill while we were gone.  All I needed to get done was the cutting of all the fruit and rolling of the dough. I wanted the opportunity to mix all kinds of stone fruits, instead of making one single filling, but there weren’t any cherries or apricots left :(, their seasons have ended. So I took the plums, peaches and nectarines I had lying around and diced them all up. The filling came together in about 5 minutes.  Then I just had to roll out the dough, dump the filling in the middle and fold the ends over.

A bite of summer deliciousness.

The end result was a great tart with the a bit of tartness from the plums and sweetness from the nectarines and peaches.  The galette really let the flavors of the fruit come through.  Rocker Dude loved it and even ventured the opinion that I should make it to compete in the Middlesex County Fair this summer.  Yes that’s right, going to NJ again in a few days!  So if you don’t hear from me for a while (because I am so good at posting on time :P) it’s because we are on vacation!  So make this tart while I am gone and enjoy it! (And yes Abba, when I come I will make it for you too.)

 

Recipe:

1 recipe Sweet Tart Dough, prepared until chill step

Filling:

4 cups of diced stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, or plums)
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar as needed (if the fruit is very sweet you might not need as much sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg white
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix filling ingredients together.  Let sit while you roll out the dough.  Roll out the dough to a circle about  a 1/4 inch thick.  Place dough circle on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Dump the filling into the middle, mounding it a bit in the center.  Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, leaving a bit of the filling showing through.  Brush the top of the galette with egg white and sprinkle with some sugar.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool and enjoy!

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.

Apricot Crostatas

I saw this recipe on Joy the Baker’s blog and decided immediately to make it.  It has two of my favorite elements: fruit and pie crust.  I love fruit based desserts and I love pies – so individual pies – how perfect.  What I also loved about this recipe was that it used apricots.  Apricots have a very short season in Israel and last year I completely missed it.  I had all these plans to bake with apricots and when I finally got around to it, they were out of season.  So this year I “chapped arein” as they say in Yiddish – I got moving.

One impediment, Rocker Dude doesn’t know what an apricot is.  I sent him to the store and he came back empty-handed.  This is not the first time that he has not bought apricots because he didn’t know what they looked like so he decided to take the initiative and find some pictures of them on google.  He saw the picture and said, “Oh man!  That’s what those were, I thought those were unripe peaches or something.”  So lesson learned and next time he will know what to get.

Apricots

I made the dough in my food processor – best tool to make pie crusts in, but when I stopped it to add the water, the dough seemed so wet already that I did not add the extra water.  I think this might have been a mistake as the dough was rather brittle later when I was rolling it out.

Egg wash on the surface of the dough

Either way, after letting the dough rest, I divided it into 8 pieces and rolled each one out.  It was here that I started to run into trouble.  The dough was so brittle that when I tried to wrap it around the apricot filling, it just cracked apart, no matter how much egg wash was on it.  I just kept to it and eventually finished all eight.  I decided that if it didn’t turn out well after cooking I still had enough time and materials to do it all over again.

Apricot filling
Crostatas waiting to be baked.

I have to say that these crostatas baked wonderfully, there was no shrinkage, and they didn’t fall apart at all.  The best part was that they really showcased the apricots.  The filling is simply a few slices of apricots on the dough – no flavorings or anything.  It was a perfect summer dessert.  I also made a caramel sauce to pour over it and it tasted delicious.  Thanks Joy!

Does that look good or what?

Recipe (from Joy the Baker):

For the dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
2 1/2 tablespoons very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening (non-trans fat), cut into 2 pieces
About 1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

12 to 15 ripe apricots, each sliced into 6 wedges
2 eggs plus 2 Tablespoons of milk for egg wash
3/4 cup of sugar for coating crostatas.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don’t overdo the mixing—

what you’re aiming for is to have pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, add 3 tablespoons of the water at a time.

Add a little water and pulse once; add some more water and pulse again; and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. If you’ve got big pieces of butter, that’s fine. The dough is ready and should be scraped out of the work bowl and on to a smooth work surface.

If you don’t want to bother with a food processor, this dough can easily be made with your two hands to break up the butter and shortening in the flour, and a fork to incorporate the cold water.

Shape the dough into a disk and wrap it. Refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour before rolling. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Once the dough is chilled, remove from the fridge, cut into eight approximately even pieces.  Roll each piece out into a rough circle, about 1/8-inch thick.  Brush lightly with egg wash.  Pile in 4-6 apricot wedges and carefully fold the dough around the fruit, using the egg wash as a glue.  Once all eight of the crostatas are complete, place in the fridge to chill for an hour before baking.

While the crostatas chill, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spread the crostatas out between the baking sheets and brush with egg wash.  Sprinkle generously with sugar, both inside the crostata and on the egg washed pie dough.  Don’t be shy with the sugar, but you may want to sample an apricot slice before baking to see just how sweet they are.  That will help with your sugar dispensing.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has puffed slightly and browned.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate and Cinnamon

This was a fun recipe to make.  I was flipping through my Sur La Table cookbook, The Art and Soul of Baking, looking for a fruit based recipe that I could make with a seasonal fruit that wasn’t strawberries.  I found this Pie and I knew I had a winner.  We had a few bananas that I had bought a few days before so they were perfectly ripe, and it looked like something that we would enjoy on a warm day.  I told Rocker Dude what I wanted to make, and his reply was , “It’s a good thing that we will be having guests over.” Hmmph!

The greatest part of this recipe is that it can all be made in advance and assembled later.  It really saved me a lot of time.  The Little Rocker wasn’t feeling well, so this gave me time to take care of her and make something cool.

It happens to everyone.

This recipe started with a broken egg.  I took out eggs to get to room temperature before I started baking, and of course, one got loose and ended up on the floor.  Little Rocker looked on in delight.  Of course she was happy, I had asked Rocker Dude to buy non-dairy oreos (a knockoff brand) and of course they both dipped into the stash.  Cookies and messes!  Wow!!

The crust for this pie was the easiest thing in the world to make.  I ground up the cookies in the food processor and poured the melted margarine on top and pressed into the pie dish.  Because they dipped into my cookie supply, though, I was short come cookies, so I could only cover the bottom of the pie dish.   Don’t worry, I made sure that Rocker Dude heard about it.

When the crust was cool, I made the ganache and spread it over the crust.  The ganache keeps the crust from absorbing too much moisture from the cream and keeps it crispy.

Ganache on a Crust

That went into the fridge while I made the pastry cream.  Cinnamon pastry cream?  Oh yum!  Pastry cream is really simple to make, though I did come across a general type for all pastry cream making.  When you mix the egg yolks with the sugar, make sure to do it only right before you are going to use it.  If you let it sit too long, then the sugar breaks up the egg and apparently you can’t salvage it.

Pastry Cream before it Thickens
Cinnamon Pastry Cream

Once the cream cooled (I had it in the fridge for a few hours), I sliced up the bananas thinly and mixed them into the cream.  If you mix the bananas in right away, then they won’t turn brown because all the surface area is covered.

Banana Pastry Cream

Put that pie right back in the refrigerator and whip the topping up.  As soon as it holds its peaks, spread it over the surface of the pie.  If you want, you can put it in a pastry bag with a star tip and decorate the pie.  I didn’t have the energy to put into making a fancy topping, so I just made a smooth layer of cream.

Finished Pie

You are then supposed to refrigerate the pie for another 30 minutes before serving.   Mine was in for about 3 hours – tasted great.  Look at that yumminess:

Yumminess

When Rocker Dude tasted it (and he only had a small bite at first), he said  that it reminded him of a treat he had eaten in France many years ago.  It’s basically a banana shaped cookie, half a banana and chocolate on top.  Finally!  Something banana-ey that he likes!  And he thought he wouldn’t like it – so there!!

Recipe:

Crust:

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Cinnamon Pastry Cream:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

6 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter

1 1/2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 tbsp. plus 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

3 large ripe bananas (not overripe)

1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix the melted butter with the cookie crumbs until the crumbs are all moistened.  Press the crumbs into a 9 inch pie pan.  Press the cookies as far up the side as they go.  Bake for 8-10 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk begins to simmer.  Remove from heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolks and sugar until well-blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the rest of the milk, constantly whisking.  Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping until it reaches a boil.  Continue to cook and whisk for another minute until the pastry cream is very thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and the cinnamon.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent it from forming a skin and refrigerate until completely cool.

Place the chocolate and 1 tbsp. of cream into the microwave and heat on high for one minute.  Stir to blend.  If there are any lumps, heat for another 15 seconds and stir again.  Pour the chocolate onto the cooled pie shell and smooth a thin, even layer over the bottom of the crust.  Chill for 10 minutes to set the ganache.

Cut the bananas into 1/4 inch thick slices and gently stir them into the chilled pastry cream.  Scrape the filling into the prepared pie crust and spread evenly to the edge.  Chill while you make the topping.

Whip the 1 1/4 cups cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form.  Spread the topping onto the banana cream evenly.  Or you can use a pastry bag with a star tip to decoratively pipe the topping, but keep in mind that you might need about 1/2 cup more cream.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.