It’s been a month after my previous post and the final fixes have just been completed on my home. That’s not to say that I have an updated kitchen and tile floors and everything’s put away, but… well, what was waterlogged has been replaced and things look tidy. My tutoring room is still a bit messy, but I could straighten it enough for company in a day. We’ve spent a month putting things back where they belong and soothing the kitties. I’ve even made an ever-growing pile of things to donate.
Since my previous post, I’ve also celebrated my birthday and Pi Day, tutored less than anticipated (darned staggered Spring Breaks and sick kids!), had my TI-84+ Silver Edition mysteriously die on me (no, the batteries do not need to be changed, but maybe I spilled something on it), and I’ve cooked and baked very little (what I have cooked and baked have been holiday-based). However, I am learning and planning more meals and goodies for the future.
A few days before Pi Day, I made 5 batches (each enough for a 9 inch circle) of pie dough using a recipe the Brown-Eyed Baker posted, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I used the food-processor-method described in detail in the post, with my teeny 4-cup Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus. I discovered that the butter must be cold, or else it just becomes a slightly-whipped mush below the blade and doesn’t mix properly. I first tried making two half-batches, then felt brave and made a full batch. A full batch worked very easily, but the Mini-Prep Plus can’t handle more than that. I was impressed by the little machine and the ease with which the crust was made.
Unfortunately, rolling it out a few days later was exhausting! For a 9 inch pie, you need two 12 inch diameter discs. I had to rest after rolling out the crust, which was fine because it had to be molded to the container (or laid flat, for the top) and refrigerated.
I only wound up making three “pies,” unfortunately. Apple Pie was the first. It was pretty easy and turned out very well. I used a recipe I found online (I think off allrecipes.com), but for the life of me I can’t find it now! Luckily, I saved a copy of it, which can be found at the bottom of this post. Peter’s coworkers had been forewarned, so one brought vanilla ice cream in anticipation, which I believe was part of its success. One said, “you can’t buy apple pie like this!” They saved me a piece and I can honestly say it was good but next time, it will be even better, with a little lemon zest in the crust or something. Better than super-market-made is good, but comparisons to someone’s grandmother’s is always the goal.
I also made Chicken Pot Pie, which was an epic fail, and Shepherd’s Pie, which was definitely not worth repeating (and my husband could not put into words what it needed or had too much of, in terms of ingredients or flavor or texture); both savory dishes were foods I don’t normally eat but my husband loves.
I also made iced four-leaf-clover sugar cookies and chocolate mint cookies (recipe at bottom of post, adapted from allrecipes.com) for St. Patrick’s Day, both of which were greatly enjoyed by my husband’s coworkers. Next year, maybe I’ll try a cookie with a whiskey or Bailey’s Irish Cream base.
There are two lessons I could learn from this. Either I should stick to baking, or I should stick to what I know or could imagine eating. I plan on going with the latter, mostly because I have had some relative wins in cooking in the past (e.g., pot roast, Swedish meatballs, and Czech chicken paprikash) and we do happen to eat meals every day.
Ali’s Apple Pi
- 2 twelve-inch-circles’-worth pie crust dough
- 2 1/2 pounds (about 6 large) green apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼” x 1″ chunks (about 8 cups sliced)
- 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- In a large bowl combine the sliced apples, sugars, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Let the apples macerate at room temperature for about two hours.
- After the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove one portion of the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 12-inch circle. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and trim the edges of the pastry to fit the pie pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
- Then remove the second round of pastry and roll it onto a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.
- Place the apples and their juices in a strainer that is placed over a large bowl (to capture the juices). Let the apples drain for about 15-30 minutes or until you have at least 1/2 cup of juice. Pour collected juices and the 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 6-7 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to about 1/3 cup and is syrupy and lightly caramelized.
- Meanwhile, remove the top pastry crust from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so it has time to soften and become pliable.
- Transfer the drained apples slices to a large bowl and mix them with the cornstarch. Then pour the reduced syrup over the apples and toss to combine. Pour the apples and their syrup into the chilled pie crust. Moisten the edges of the pie shell with a little water and then place the top crust over the apples. Tuck any excess pastry under the bottom crust and then crimp the edges using your fingers or a fork. Using a sharp knife, make five 2-inch slits from the center of the pie out towards the edge of the pie to allow the steam to escape. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill the pastry while you preheat the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on the rack before preheating the oven. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the stone (or pan) to catch any apple juices.
- Set the pie on the stone or pan and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the juices start to bubble through the slits and apples feel tender (not mushy) when a toothpick or sharp knife is inserted through one of the slits. Make sure to cover the edges of the pie with a foil ring to prevent over browning after about 30 minutes.
- Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 3-4 hours before cutting. Store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
adapted from allrecipes.com
Chocolate Mint Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies
- 3/8 cup (3/4 stick) butter
- 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 tablespoons water
- 1 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 5/8 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 24 chocolate-covered thin mints
- In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, butter and water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate chips until melted and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and beat in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease cookie sheets. Roll cookie dough into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, be careful not to overbake. When cookies come out of the oven, Press one mint wafer into the top of each cookie and let sit for 1 minute (for smaller cookies, break mints in half). When the mint is softened, swirl with the back of a spoon or toothpick to make a pattern with the green filling of the mint wafer.
adapted from allrecipes.com
Tags: apple pie, baking, chocolate, cookie, cooking, fail, mint, peppermint, pi, pie