Friday, November 20, 2009

The Apple of My Pie

I have not been making apple pie very long, but I have learned a lot in the time I have been baking it. In fact, next week will probably break my record of "most pie made in one time" by a long shot. Em and I are traveling back to Connecticut to have Thanksgiving with her parents, a somewhat annual tradition. This means a lot of pie. Apple, first and foremost. John (Em's dad) makes some of the best apple pie this world has ever seen, and I'm willing to put money on that. He makes pie for pretty much any occasion, because, hey, who doesn’t like pie?

Apple pie is really to separate entities, the crust and the filling. For the crust, I have become a huge fan of the Cook's Illustrated "add vodka" pie crust. As a scientist this greatly appeals to me. Water in crust causes gluten formation, which leads to a chewy and not pleasant crust. Well, vodka is only 40% water, so by adding this in addition to water you are under-hydrating the dough, allowing for an easier roll out. When the pie bakes (for quite some time), about 95-98% of the alcohol will burn off, leaving you with a wonderfully flaky crust. Also, as I previously stated in a post, using lard or shortening is important. Its fat structure allows for a better crust, where butter brings mostly flavor. Don't be afraid! I did back down a little on the fat because I feel it makes the pie slightly greasy, but not much.

For the filling, make sure to acquire a good type of apple. Granny Smith, Northern Spy, or Golden Delicious are all very good pie apples. Try to cut them into uniform slices to allow for even baking. And eat some of it. This will tell you how much sugar you will need to add (I have learned that making apple pie is really more of an art than a recipe). John and I differ slightly in our method of preparing the filling. I like to mix the apples with the sugar mixture before placing them in the crust (I feel it makes the pie more evenly distributed), he prefers to layer the apples and sprinkle the sugar mixture as he goes. Either way is good.


2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2/3 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, 15 seconds. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. Using a spatula to mix, fold dough by pressing down on dough until slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two roughly even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.


6-8 apples (Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, or a mix), approximately 3-4 pounds
2/3-2/4 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons cream or milk
Additional sugar or cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425°F and arrange rack to lower part of the oven.

Peel and core apples. Slice into even slices approximately ¼ inch thick. Place apples in a large bowl with enough water to cover and about 2 tablespoons lemon juice (prevents browning). In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Drain apples well (I recommend patting them dry with a kitchen towel) and transfer to a large bowl. Add sugar mixture and coat apples well.

Roll out one pie crust disk on a lightly floured surface and arrange in a 9 inch pie dish. Arrange apples in circular layers, mounding slightly more in the middle. (Alternatively, layer apples with the sugar mixture if you don’t want to mix it ahead of time.)

Dot the butter on the top of the apples. Roll out the other crust, making it slightly larger than the first (you want a little bit of overhang). Brush the edges of the bottom crust with milk (helps adhesion). Fold the top crust in half and make two small cuts for vents. Arrange top crust over pie. Using a paring knife, cut the excess crust so that about ½-1 inch is left hanging below the lip of the pie. Using your thumb, pinch together the edges of the dough, sealing the bottom and top crust. Tuck the crimped edges back underneath the crust (essentially rolling it into itself so it is even with the pan edge) and flute with fingers or fork. This gives you that pretty pie crust look.

Brush the top with milk or cream (I find egg causes too much browning, but you can use egg white). Sprinkle sugar or cinnamon sugar over top

Bake for 50 minutes or until the pie is deep golden brown and the apples are bubbling (might have to go a few extra minutes). Let cool for 3-4 hours before slicing.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ta-Molly Pie

Did I alter the title of a dish just to put another picture of my dog on my blog? You betcha. This has become Em's new favorite dish, causing me to refine the recipe rather quickly as well as get my cooking time for an hour total. Tamale's are something I have a deep, deep fondness for. I remember getting from people selling out of their car on the weekends. I would bring home tamales, tortillas, make some beans, and that would be dinner. For anyone who would find this odd, I never got sick, and they were always delicious. Think of it this way, if the guy who sold me that food did make people sick, no one would buy his wares and he would not be selling (word travels fast). I miss food opportunities like this, I feel our society frowns upon the homemade and homegrown unless strictly regulated. Back to tamales. I do not have time to make tamales themselves, but I can make a pie. With tamale ingredients. I tested out the Cook's Illustrated version, and made some improvements (in my eyes). It’s a great dish to feed a crowd, and works nicely with turkey or vegetarian (just add rice or more beans).

Tamale Pie

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn, frozen or fresh
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
4 ounces cheese (Colby jack or Monterey jack)
¾ cup coarse corn meal
2 1/2 cups water
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add beef, breaking up and cooking until browned. Add the onion and some salt, cooking until the onion is softened. Add the jalapeno and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the chile powder, oregano, cumin, beans, corn, and tomatoes into the skillet. Cook until most of the juices from the tomatoes have evaporated and the mixture is slightly thickened. Season and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat water in a pot until boiling. Stir in cornmeal, reduce heat to low, and whisk until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in oil and paprika, season with salt and pepper.
Stir cheese into meat mixture. Transfer to a 9x13 baking pan or similar vessel. Top with cornmeal mixture, spreading to the edges to seal. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and turn on broiler to high. Continue cooking until cornmeal is set and slightly browned. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes

After the success of my banana pancakes, I decided to twist it a little bit by incorporating my favorite banana accompaniment, peanut butter. Honestly, if scientists could make a banana with a slight peanut butter flavor, I'm thinking it would solve 95% of potassium deficiency in the world. Well, I can dream, right? Same process pretty much as before. Since I was adding peanut butter, I removed some of the butter to compensate for that. I also found out I could probably eat my weight in these.
Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 banana, mashed
2 bananas, sliced thin

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir until combined. In a separate bowl combine the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, mashed banana, peanut butter, and butter. Slowly add the wet to the dry and fold using a spatula. Once most of the batter is combined and a few lumps remain, set bowl aside and let rest for 5-10 minutes. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. Batter should be slightly thin but not pourable.

Preheat your griddle or pan to medium-high. Spray with a small amount of cooking spray or butter. Using a scoop or ladle, add small amount of batter to pan. Place sliced bananas in a single layer on the top of each pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes until bottoms are browned. Flip pancakes over and continue to cook until bottom is browned and pancake is firm, about 2 more minutes. Serve with syrup.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Great Chili Cookoff Part II: The Showdown

The showdown is upon me! Or rather, it was. The chili cookoff went down at work today. It was lots of fun and I ate way too much.

My chili recipe went through a few more iterations before I settled on a final version. I now have both a quick and easy version, as well as a deep delicious flavor version. For whatever reason, the grocery stores have apparently heard my plea and now carry Anaheim/Hatch chiles in the produce section. Nice!
When shopping for a lot of the ingredients in this dish, I paid a bit of attention to the price when shopping. I bought most of this stuff at a Mexican grocer, and then compared that to what my local meg-mart had to offer. As I thought, a grocer that specializes in a region is WAY cheaper than what the big store are offering, and the quality is much better. Case in point: tomatillos are 99 cents a pound at a Mexican grocery, they are usually $3 per pound at the store. So shop smart (shop S-Mart!!)
In the end, my chili came out much to my (and my coworkers) liking. I placed second, raising $84 in my jar for charity. Which is awesome! The organizer of the event placed first, so yeah, maybe I'm a little competative. That's ok. I hope you enjoy the recipe.
Southwestern White Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (at least 90/10, I like 95/5)
1 onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 chipotle peppers in their adobo sauce, diced
8 oz green chiles, stems removed
1-2 jalapeno's, stems removed
1 10oz can green enchilada sauce
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks and stems removed
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup dry pearled barley
4 cups chicken stock
1 15oz. can cannellini bean beans, rinsed
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder (go for the Ancho kind, its smokey)
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Sour cream

Heat broiler to high. Toss tomatillos, jalapenos, and green chiles in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange tomatillos (stem side down) on a foil lined baking sheet along with jalapeno and green chiles. Place in middle of oven, roast for 5-8 minutes or until slightly charred. Flip and continue to roast until charred on other side. Remove from oven can cool slightly. Peel and seed jalapeno and chiles, remove stem part from tomatillo. Place tomatillos, chiles, jalapeno, cilantro, sugar, green enchilada sauce, and some salt in pepper in a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth.

Heat about olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and cook until slightly wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute longer. Add turkey, breaking it apart and cooking until it has lost its pink color. Add the chipotles, cumin, chili powder, and some salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomatillo mixture, cook for 5 minutes, then add the pearled barley, followed by chicken stock. Stir, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add beans and cook 10 more minutes, or until barley becomes only slightly chewy. Remove lid, stir in cornmeal and tomato paste, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve topped with a bit of sour cream.

-To simplify the recipe, replace the tomatillos, jalapeno, cilantro, sugar, and green chiles with-

2 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
1 can tomatillos, drained and chopped

Add these ingredients, along with the enchilada sauce, directly to the chili. The depth of flavor will lessen, but it really speeds up the prep time.


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