Apple Tartlet Roses

I’ve been seeing these online lately and I wanted to try something special for the early Thanksgiving my parents had this weekend. Prepping these definitely took forever, but they definitely delivered on the wow factor.

 

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I basically followed my original deep-dish cast iron skillet apple pie recipe, cut down on the sugar, and omitted the minute tapioca and flours in the filling. Oh, and I took about an hour slicing the apples super thin. If you’re planning to try this, I’d strongly suggest investing in a mandolin slicer, unless you’re looking to augment your arm workout…

The trick was to soak the thinly sliced apples in a solution of water (about two cups) and the juice of one lemon as I was cutting them. This softens the apple slices to make them malleable. One suggestion was to add a few tablespoons of bourbon for flavor into this solution (I can’t wait to try that variation!). While most videos built the roses from the center out, I found it was easier to place my apples along the outer crust and work my way in. You can experiment and see what works better for you.

I would also suggest just rolling your crust pretty thin, or even using a graham cracker crust to compliment the delicate apples. You could even play with a dulce de leche drizzle on top after their baked to give it a nice finish. I’d love to hear what variations you come up with. Happy spooning!

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Cranberry Sauce -Three Ways

The first time I made cranberry sauce from scratch was as one of those magical moments in life that brought back a sense of childlike wonder. As I stood over the stove, I watched the brilliant red cranberries undergo a kind of metamorphosis, every few seconds another berry bursting out of its skin with a soft “pop”, revealing a unique striped pattern. Just like snowflakes, the beauty and magic is fleeting – lasting only moments before melting into the rest. But in the end, I had a bright ruby sauce with a perfect balance of tart and sweet to awaken the palate.  

And so began my fascination with homemade cranberry sauce. I still can’t believe how easy it is to make (just 15 minutes and only three ingredients!), along with the endless variation potential (you can add apples, cinnamon, pears, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, persimmon, pretty much anything your heart desires!). Not to mention all of the things you can use leftover cranberry sauce for (my favorite is to add a dollop in my oatmeal)… Go ahead, grab some fresh cranberries, a spoon, and dig in!

Recipe for cranberry sauce

The Basic Cranberry Sauce:

  • 12 oz. (1 bag) or about 4 cups fresh cranberries, washed and drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

Pour the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is boiling and the sugar has dissolved, add in the cranberries and return to a boil. Now, lower the heat and bring to a simmer.

This is when the magic happens! Over the next 10 minutes, the cranberries will burst open to reveal brilliant stripes and then melt together to create the sauce. This is when you can add your cinnamon, nutmeg or any other spices that you like.

Once most of the berries have burst, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to let cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. You can serve it right away, or you can store it in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

Apple/Pear/Persimmon Cranberry Sauce

If you want to give some your cranberry sauce some added texture and flavor, you can add apples, pears, and/or persimmons. Most people like using tart apples (like Granny Smith), but I like fuji or gala. Pears add a nice sweetness too (I like red Anjous or red Comice), but make sure to peel them first if using pears with rougher skin (like Bosc) so you don’t end up with sandpaper-like bits in your cranberry sauce. If adding persimmons, make sure you use the crunchy fuyu type which cook more like apples. Be sure to peel the persimmons completely and remove any seeds before dicing.

  • Add 1 or 2 diced apples, pears, or persimmons (or any combination!) to the above recipe. (This is about 2 cups diced fruit.)

Follow the recipe above for basic cranberry sauce, adding in the diced fruit right after you bring the cranberries to a boil.

Ginger-Cranberry Sauce

If you want a spicier sauce to cut the sweetness, you can add some freshly sliced, diced or grated ginger. Using sliced ginger enables you to remove the ginger after the cooking process so that you get a mild flavor of ginger in your sauce. Using grated ginger pulp will yield a sauce with stronger ginger flavor, while still maintaining a smooth texture and consistent spiciness throughout. Using finely diced ginger will result in a cranberry sauce with bits of the spicy ginger that can add a bright surprise to any bite (recommended for true ginger lovers). 

  • Add a 1-inch segment of peeled ginger root, either sliced, grated into a pulp, or finely diced to the basic recipe

Follow the recipe above for basic cranberry sauce, adding in the ginger right after you bring the cranberries back to a boil.

Salted Olive Oil Brownie Cookies

I wanted to experiment baking with fats other than butter, so this recipe for Olive Oil & Sea Salt Brownie Cookies caught my eye. I modified the type of flour and doubled salt (I didn’t have sea salt on hand so I used kosher instead), but when my cookies came out of the oven, I had a batch of decadent fudgy cookies with the perfect hint of saltiness to compliment the richness. The olive oil kept the cookies moist and chewy, while still yielding a nice crispy top with a gorgeous crackled finish. I usually have a hard time walking away from the cookie jar after just one, but the intensity of the chocolate curbs my chocolate cravings with just a single cookie.

When I bake, I generally try to substitute half the amount of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, but given the small amount called for in this recipe (just 3/4 cup), I used all whole wheat flour the first time I tried it. It came out a bit too grainy for my taste so I opted to use regular all-purpose flour the second time, but I think I’ll go back to trying a mixture of the two. Enjoy!

Recipe for Salted Olive Oil Brownie Cookies

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 natural cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt for the batter, and more for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk or sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt together.

In a large bowl, whisk or mix the olive oil and sugar on until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between each one. Add the cocoa flour mixture (half at a time) and beat until well incorporated, like a thick brownie batter.

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the hot water. Add this mixture and the vanilla to the brownie batter and mix well until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Refrigerate the batter for an hour or so. You can also make this batter ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for up to three days until you’re ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough in rounded tablespoons onto the parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt, pretzel salt, or whatever salt you wish. (You can flatten your cookie dough mounds before salting them if you want, but I found that the rounded scoops melted into a pretty crackly pattern in the oven on their own.)

Bake for 10 minutes, until edges are set. The middles may still look gooey, but that’s perfect for a fudgy cookie center. Let cool on your baking sheets or a flat plate before transferring to a wire rack.

These are best stored in tupperware or airtight containers with a layer of parchment paper in between cookies to prevent them from sticking together. They’re also best eaten the day of or day after, but they’ve even gotten rave reviews a week later, after a five-hour cross country plane ride! Yup, these are delicious cookies indeed… 🙂

Matcha Shortbread

My love for all things matcha has evolved over the years, from tasting my first matcha latte at TeaDo to experimenting with matcha in my own baking. I discovered this recipe (originally adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen) for matcha shortbread and with a few tweaks, have been baking them into stars, rocket ships, dinosaurs, and teapots ever since…!
Recipe for Matcha Shortbread
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3-4 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ sticks (20 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
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In a medium bowl, mix/sift/whisk the flours, matcha powder, baking powder, cocoa, and salt together. In another (larger) bowl, beat the sugar and butter together with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the almond milk, vanilla, and egg, and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Turn the dough onto plastic wrap or sometimes it’s easier to just pour it into a ziplock bag. Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate until firm (usually at least 2 hours, or overnight).
20150830_114312When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°. Roll out your dough on a floured work surface until about ¼-inch thick. Be sure to generously flour your work surface and rolling pin as you work.
Grab your favorite cookie cutters and go to town!  Be sure to space out your cookies about 1-inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375° until edges are lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
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Deep-Dish Cast Iron Skillet Apple Pie

After that dreadful first pecan pie, I moved on to baking apple pies and have fallen in love ever since. From the therapeutic slicing of apples, to the challenge of stacking seasoned apples like jenga blocks as high as they’ll go, to the warm hug of that sweet apple cinnamon goodness that fills the house as the pie bakes. Apple pie baking has become a ritual in my life, a tradition that gave me a sense of belonging when I didn’t always feel at home in my own skin. It kept me grounded and became a secret personal tradition in my life, signifying fall and the promise of a warm holiday season to come.               

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I’m from the apple pie camp that loves getting a fork full of apples underlined
by a thin flaky crust. Thus, my recipe calls for a doubling, almost tripling of the traditional amount of apples called for in a pie. Enjoy!

Recipe for Apple Pie

The Topping

  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or oatmeal (or both!)

In a small bowl with your fingertips blend butter, brown sugar, and flour until smooth and blend in nuts. Chill topping, covered.

The Filling

  • 6 – 8 cups sliced apples (Golden delicious, granny smith, etc.)
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3-4 tablespoons Minute Tapioca

Core apples and slice into 1/2-inch wedges (I prefer to leave the skin on for a more rustic pie). In a large bowl, gently mix apples with sugars, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Then sprinkle flour and tapioca over apples and gently mix to coat and seal in spices & juice. 

The Pie
Preheat oven to 350°F. Carefully roll out a single pie crust in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (a 10-inch deep dish pie tin works too). Spoon filling into the shell, layering to build up an apple mound in the middle. Crumble topping over center of pie (this often means pressing or packing the topping onto the sides of my apple mound), breaking up any large chunks of topping. Bake pie on the middle rack of the oven for about an hour until the crust and topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven to cool about 20-30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy with whipped cream (bourbon whipped cream might be a tasty addition!) or a la mode, or on it’s own. Just make sure to grab a few friends to help tackle this one!

Moosewood’s Pumpkin Soup with Magical Swirl

Another prominent recipe in my life has been this magical soup. This one also goes back to that same house in college, where my five vegetarian roommates introduced me to the line of Moosewood cookbooks. The day I discovered this soup, which is amazing on its own, but the magical swirl just takes it to a whole new level, was the day I became a Moosewood believer. This recipe came with me when I moved to New York, and it definitely came in handy during the winter snow season. We even made this for one of my birthdays when my New York roommates threw me a themed spoon party, complete with life-sized cardboard cutouts! Magical birthday indeed… 🙂

Recipe for Moosewood’s Pumpkin Soup Complete with Magical Swirl

The Magical Swirl:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp salt

To make the swirl, heat the oil in a small skillet and sauté the garlic on medium heat for 1 minute. Add the coriander, caraway and cayenne and continue to cook, stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes, remove it from the heat and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice, cilantro and salt.

The Soup:

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups light vegetable stock
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 3/4 cups cooked pumpkin

In a soup pot, sauté the onions in the oil until they become translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in carrots, parsnips, and salt and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the water or stock, apple and tomato juices, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon and paprika. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the pumpkin. I like to puree half to three-quarters of the soup in a blender until smooth, and then combine with the rest to keep the soup a bit chunky and hearty. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with some magical swirl.

Yields 6 1/2 cups, about 4 servings.

Pie Crust

It was the first Thanksgiving I was going to attempt to make pie, and it was going to be the first pie I ever attempted to bake. I must have been like 9 or 10 at the time and I was going to make pecan pie. I don’t even remember if I liked pecan pie at that point in my life. Or if I had ever even had pecan pie before. But I was going to bake one because that’s what my family requested that year.

I didn’t know what I was doing. In a last minute shopping trip, I ended up grabbing pre-made pie crust from the frozen food section, and then frantically searching for all the ingredients listed in a recipe on the back of a bottle of Karo’s syrup I found in the baking isle. I had no idea what corn syrup was or why it looked so different from corn on the cob. I was still confused as I poured a soupy mess of beaten eggs, corn syrup, and melted butter into the raw pie shell–bewildered how this was all supposed to come together in a nice little slice of heaven. I was amazed when I took it out of the oven, toasted pecans nicely nestled in a golden brown crust.

I remember tasting my slice of pie that night and thinking it was so sweet it made my teeth hurt. And I wondered why the store-bought dough was so salty. Pies are supposed to be sweet, aren’t they? But making that pie was magical. How the ingredients all came together and underwent a transformation into this sweet, buttery, nutty dessert. I was hooked on pies. By the next Thanksgiving, I was making my own pie crusts from scratch and reducing the amount of sugar in any pie that I baked.

My pie crusts have since evolved over the years to incorporate a hybrid of whole wheat flour and regular all-purpose flour. I like the earthier and more complex flavor the whole wheat flour adds, though it does sometimes make the dough more crumbly and harder to work with. But it’s worth the extra effort, especially since the food processor is doing most of the work anyway. I’ve used this for a variety of fruit pies as well as galettes and mini-pies. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pie Crust

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pies, or a top and bottom crust for a single pie.

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold, unsweetened butter, cut into chunks (and refrigerated again)
  • 4 tbsp ice water or fruit juice

Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor.  Pulse for 5 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over the flour, then pulse until mixture resembles a course meal. Sprinkle with water and process until dough starts to come together, but NOT until it forms a ball. Remove from food processor and press mixture together.  Form 2 disks and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking.