Apple pie – with priceless tips from Anna Olson

Apple pie – with priceless tips from Anna Olson

After baking several apple pies over the years and not quite getting the one that my palate would scream on wows, I decided to try yet another recipe, after watching Anna Olson on TV this fall. I am not sure if this recipe features on her new book but it was very nice to watch the video with all her tips. You can watch it here . It was quite revealing to me to learn some new directions towards that “blue ribbon” quality!

Ingredients:
1 cup diced unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3 tbs oil
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water
2 tsp lemon j uice or white vinegar

Filling:

6 cups of sliced apples of 3 different varieties*
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown packed sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tbs oats
egg wash (1 egg with 2 tbs water)
sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

* It seems the perfect Blue ribbon pie always has 3 varieties of apples: at least one for tartness, like honey crisp and one for body like granny smith.

Directions:

If you are baking this pie in the fall when apples are so fresh and juice, start by taking 1/2 of the sliced apples and cooking for 10 min to let all the excessive moisture out. If you end up with lots of liquid, cook it down a bit and then add the nice apple concentrate to the filling. Let it cool before adding to the uncooked apples.

For the dough, cut the butter in squares and let it sit on the counter for half an hour. I know, totally opposite of other instructions where you can’t barely touch the cold butter!

Start blending the flour with the oil (in a mixer for better control – a processor would also work but everything goes too fast) so the flour gets nicely coated, which will facilitate its mixing with butter. Add the butter mixing until you have a coarse dough, the butter doesn’t need to be fully incorporated at this point. Add the water and the lemon juice. The lemon juice will help the dough to stretch nicely later on. Roll up into 2 discs and put in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. It freezes very well too.

For a vegan version using coconut oil, for example, reduce the amount to 20% and add more liquid (butter has 80% fat and coconut oil has 100% fat).

For the filling, mix all ingredients together.
At this point pre heat the oven to 400F.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit for a while before rolling it up, it is easier if it is not so hard.

Use a glass pie dish if you can which will distribute the heat more evenly when baking.
Sprinkle the oats on top of the dough before poring the filling, it will prevent excessive moisture when baking. You can also use crumbled cookies for this purpose.
Add the filling, top it up with the second dough, brush the egg wash and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Poke a few holes to let the steam out.

Bake for 10 min at 400F and then at 375F for about 40 to 50 min until golden and bubbling.

Yes! I loved the result!

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Carrot cake with chocolate icing

Carrot cake with chocolate icing

 

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This is really the easiest cake ever!  Carrots are blended with eggs and oil, fully incorporated, which turns the batter into the beautiful orange color. Don’t worry about the amount of baking powder! Without whipped egg whites to do the lift of the batter and with the weight of the carrots, there is no other way around. It is a very popular coffee cake in Brazil, sweet and filling but yet with a twist on the healthy side with the carrots, sort of.

If you are not much of an icing person, like me, make the icing as a thin layer, which will add just a touch of chocolate on top of the soft cake, so delicious! You can also use Nutella as a topping or any of your choice of store bought icing.

I remember so well visiting family or friends on a weekend afternoon, nothing planned in advance, as it happens so often down there.  The home host would excuse herself for 10 min and come back to entertaining. In a while all you can smell in the house is this carrot cake baking for us, the unexpected guests! Half an hour later, there comes the cake, still warm served with fresh espressos! Good food always related with good memories, priceless!

Cake ingredients

3 medium carrots (7 to 8 ounces)

3 large eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 tsp baking powder ( it seems a lot, but my guess that the carrots base requires a heavy lift)

1/2 tsp salt

Icing ingredients

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

3 tbs butter

1/4 cup milk

Cake Directions:

Pre heat the oven to 350F.

Peel and slice the carrots. Mix the carrots, eggs and oil in the blender and give it a good mix.

Mix all the dry ingredients together, sifting the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add the carrot mix and stir well. Grease a 8 inches cake pan and pour the batter evenly.

Bake for 40 to 45F, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Icing Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a pan, low heat stirring until it comes to a boil. Cook for one minute and pour on top of the cake while both, cake and icing are still a bit warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mozzarella, tomato,and prosciutto frittata

Mozzarella, tomato,and prosciutto frittata

For a bigger breakfast or brunch this is one of our favourite frittatas. I found this recipe in the Canadian Living site and have cooked it several times. You can check it out here. The original recipe calls for a walnut pesto, which I normally don’t add, I find that the tomatoes, onions, cheese and prosciutto are salty and flavourful enough.

4 large servings

Ingredients:

4 tsp vegetable oil

1 onion, sliced

12 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

100 g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

45 g thinly sliced prosciutto

2 or 3 cocktail tomatoes sliced

 Directions:

In 10-inch ovenproof nonstick or cast-iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, stirring occasionally, until tender and light golden, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour over onion mixture in pan; reduce heat to mediumlow and cook until bottom and sides are set but top is still slightly runny, about 15 minutes.

Top with mozzarella and tomatoes, sprinkle some oregano. Broil until top is golden and set, 3 to 5 minutes. Arrange prosciutto over top; cut into wedges.

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Hot and sour mushroom and tofu soup

Hot and sour mushroom and tofu soup

For the cold days ahead of us, this soup fills all the requisites: light and filling, packed with protein from the tofu and egg that go along so well  with the 2 varieties of mushrooms. A rich broth made with chillies, ginger and garlic adds heat and a spicy oriental flare to the soup. The original recipe calls for bamboo shoots instead of my second type of mushroom. It is from Jamie Oliver and you can find it here .

Ingredients:

2 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilly
sea salt
ground white pepper
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger peeled and diced
250 g shitake mushrooms , cleaned
250 g buttom mushroom, finely sliced
vegetable oil
3 tbs low-salt soy sauce
3 to 4 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp honey

1.5 litres hot vegetable stock
150 g firm tofu cut in 1 cm cubes
2 green onions chopped
½ bunch of chives chopped
1 large egg, beaten

Directions:

Peel the garlic and deseed the chillies, then roughly chop and place into a pestle and mortar, adding a pinch of salt. Peel, finely chop and add the ginger, combining it well.
Finely slice the buttons mushrooms and separate the threads of the shiitake mushroom.

Heat a tbs of oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat, add the mushrooms and fry for 4 minutes, or until lightly golden. Stir in the chilli paste and mushroons and fry for a little bit.
In the mean time mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, the honey and the white pepper. Stir the mixture into the pan and cook for a minute, then pour in the hot stock and bring gently to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced.

Add the tofu, the spring onions and chives.
Once reduced, remove the soup from the heat. Using a chopstick, stir the soup in a clockwise direction until you get a little whirlpool, then slowly add the beaten egg, stirring continuously to form thin ribbons. Stir in the tofu and return to the heat for 1 minute to warm through. Season to taste with soy and vinegar, then serve immediately with the spring onions and chives on top.

Gluten free strawberry crumble

Gluten free strawberry crumble

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Although we are not on a restricted gluten free diet, I like to explore different possibilities for gluten, when I can. It also seems that going gluten free greatly improves my husband’s control of his diabetes.
Spring in the air, fruits are looking better and better every day, I found this amazing recipe here, and had to give it a go.
Huge success, the combination of oats and shredded coconut was brilliant, gluten free and very yummy. Easy to put it together, a great dessert for the warm evenings that are about to start.

Gluten free strawberry crumble

4 cups (1 L) halved hulled strawberries
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla

Crumble Topping:

1-1/2 cups pure uncontaminated large-flake oats
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) cold unsalted butter, cubed

Stir together strawberries, brown sugar, cornstarch and vanilla; scrape into 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish.

Crumble Topping: In bowl, whisk together oats, coconut, brown sugar and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until in coarse crumbs with some larger pieces. Sprinkle over strawberry mixture.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until topping is golden and filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Milk buns from Heaven

Milk buns from Heaven

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I found this recipe in the House & Home magazine, from chef Eric Vellend. I was planning to try the technique of baking bread with a steaming water tray in the bottom of the oven, to get the glossy brown crust for a while and had the opportunity to do so with this recipe.
Perfection! I couldn’t expect for a better result: moist, light, these buns melt in your mouth. As dinner rolls they stole all the attention from the main dish!

Milk buns
1 cup whole milk scalded and cooled
1 cup water at room temperature
3 tbs honey
3 tbs olive oil, plus more for greasing bowl
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast ( 1 envelope 8 g)
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more if needed

1 large egg at room temperature, beaten

Place milk, honey , water and oil in large mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve honey. Add yeast and salt. Gradually stir flour with a wooden spoon, until dough forms.
Transfer to floured surface. Gently knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth, 5 minutes.
Oil bowl, large enough for the dough to double size and place dough in the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit in warm spot until doubled in size, 1 hour.
Transfer dough to floured surface and briefly knead to knock out gas. Return to bowl, cover again and let or sit for 45 minutes.
Transfer dough yo the floured surface again and divide into portion the size of a tangerine ( 45 gr). Form each portion into a tight ball. Place 1/2 ” apart on parchment lined baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let sit in warm spot for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F. Bring kettle of water to boil. Pour 1″ layer of water into a roasting pan and place pan on bottom shelf of oven.
Brush tops of buns with egg and bake in upper third of the oven until golden brown, 20 minutes.

The pan of hot water creates steam in the oven, which helps the buns rise better and form a glossy and brown crust.

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The magic of a crispy and fresh no knead bread

The magic of a crispy and fresh no knead bread

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I finally did it! I’ve been waiting for a long time to try a “no knead” bread recipe. I mean, a long time, years actually. I waited until I made one of my most precious kitchen investments and purchased my Le Creuset – Round French oven pan . I was persistent and lucky enough to find the pan, in my choice of color, at Home Sense – Winners at half price! It is the one I use every day, cast iron spreading the heat beautifully and evenly making my cooking faster and easier. I leave it on the stove since it is so pretty and colorful! Other than one frying pan and one sauce pan, I hardly use anything else in the kitchen pans department.

I had seen Laura Calder making this bread and found the exact same recipe The miracle boule on line. Followed her directions and voilà!

The simplicity of the ingredients, flour, water, yeast and salt makes one appreciate the mystical symbolism that bread has always had in the history of civilization, as one of the basics foods for human beings for centuries.

The exchange is quite simple too, no need to knead but you do need to wait. Start to make the night before, 5 minutes of super easy preparation to put the dough together and then forget about it. Next morning or afternoon it will be ready for the next step, one more raise.
Patience does pay off. It is so beautiful to see the yeast working its magic, no intervention needed, as many times we should behave in life, waiting for things to go its own way…

I just loved the whole process and I am now with 2 more doughs gently sitting on my counter top. Forgot to mention how delicious and indulgent was to have the fresh and still warm bread with butter. Simple and irresistible.

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I followed Laura Calder recipe completely. The only thing I would add is to cover the dough bowl with a wet cloth to avoid the dough of being dry. I read many other recipes and tips on the “no knead” bread and apparently you can get the same result with pans that are not cast iron like mine. There are some more information about it here.

Now, to the recipe:

No knead bread

3 cups or 375 g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cup water
Cornmeal, wheat bran or extra flour

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Stir in water to blend. What you’ll have is a wet, shaggy, sticky dough, but not so wet as to be batter. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rest in a warm place for at least 12 hours, and up to 24 hours. It’s ready for the next step when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Flour a work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Sprinkle over a little more flour and fold it once or twice. Cover with the tea towel and let rest 15 minutes.
Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel with cornmeal, wheat bran or flour and lay the dough on it, seam-side down. Dust with more cornmeal, wheat bran or flour. (You need quite a lot because you want to be sure the dough doesn’t stick to the towel). Cover and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size.
Half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Put a 2-liter cast-iron pot or Dutch oven (cocotte) inside to heat.
When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough into it, seam-side up. (It will look messy, but this is OK.) Shake the pot to settle the bread evenly. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is nicely browned, another 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

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