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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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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Perfect classic pumpkin pie

Perfect classic pumpkin pie

perfect pumpkin pie
perfect pumpkin pie

Finally it’s time for pumpkin pie! Not that we can’t enjoy at other time of the year, but when the air is crisp, the leaves are turning red and a light jacket is needed to walk the dog, it is time to fill the house with the sweet smell of a pumpkin pie baking away in the oven.

Every year I try a different recipe and normally I am pretty happy with all of them, just for a change. This time I tried Anna Olson’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie and, literally, is to die for!

The crust is firm and flaky, not too sweet, doesn’t overpower the pumpkin filling, which is definitely the star.
This pie filling is essentially a custard. High heat will let it set, and the reduced heat will cook it. The result is a silky, melt in your mouth filling, rich and soothing but subtle enough to get you wanting a second piece.

Perfection! That’s the pie I will be baking for Thanks Giving this year.

I decided to skip the orange zest and the spicy whipped cream since my family is not too adventurous to changes in a pumpkin pie. But I am sure it would taste great!
Read more

Rich and creamy Vanilla ice cream – without an ice cream maker

Rich and creamy Vanilla ice cream – without an ice cream maker

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While we’re enjoying the end of this summer I keep experimenting with ice cream and sorbets, learning about techniques and having lots of fun. I am not using an ice cream maker yet, I want to learn the old-fashioned way first. The second recipe I tried is a plain, luscious and basic Vanilla ice cream. Check out my other attempt on a sorbet : Strawberry and spiced chai Sorbet.

Growing up, my mom used to make this vanilla ice cream, quite often. I decided to adapt it to revive this old taste of my childhood. I still remember the smell of vanilla in the air while she was cooking the base and at age 10 or so I had quickly learned how to make it. I remember making it all through those summers, over and over. Some times my sister and I couldn’t wait for the second freezing and processing and we would dig in the trays as it was, eating frozen milky icicles in the heat of those Brazilian summers.
I was completely blown away when I found the original recipe in my very first recipe’s book and couldn’t resist to take a picture of it. Sorry, it is in Portuguese, but it is kind of cute to see a little girl’s letter, and this first cook book.

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I had to reduce the sugar amount – how could we take so much sugar in those days? – I also used heavy cream and way more egg yolks to make it richer. I also used good quality pure vanilla that I had bought in Mexico and was saving for a special occasion.

Needless to say that I enjoyed every minute of cooking the base, smelling the rich vanilla aroma that was filling the whole house. And we loved the result! A creamy and fragrant vanilla ice cream, rich and cool that didn’t last in the freezer at all. I served right after the 4 hours of freezing and the consistency was perfect. Next time I will process the base twice, during these 4 hours, as in other recipes I’ve searched. It’s more work but it might be well worth it. Maybe after that I will be ready to make my mind about the ice cream maker.

It is a time-consuming project, but not difficult at all and you can complete in 2 days, instead of one, which might be more practical.

This time I haven’t substituted the sugar by any artificial sweetener – I always cook in a diabetes friendly mode – since I know the sugar crystals play an important role in the freezing consistency.
It is a rich dessert, high in calories and fat, only for an occasional treat here, but wow, was super delicious!!
I am not a fan of ready-made toppings, we had it with berries.

Vanilla ice cream

2 to 4 portions

6 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups whipping cream, (35%)
1-1/2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla

In heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk egg yolks with sugar until combined. Whisk in cream, milk and vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick enough that a trail remains after your finger is drawn across back of spoon, about 15 minutes.

Strain through a fine sieve and pour into a 9-inch (2.5 L) square metal cake pan (or a loaf pan) and place a plastic wrap directly on the surface. Chill in the fridge for about 1-1/2 hours. At this point you can transfer to an airtight container; place plastic wrap directly on surface and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

It is time now to put in the freezer until firm but not solid, 2 to 3 hours. Finally you get to the fun part: scrape the ice cream into your food processor and purée until smooth. You will see the beautiful consistency coming together! Pour into freezer container. Add other flavourings if you want, freeze until firm, about 4 hours. (Or freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions if you are using one).

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

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Strawberry and spiced chai tea sorbet – Frozen treat to make before summer is over

Strawberry and spiced chai tea sorbet – Frozen treat to make before summer is over

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I’ve been experimenting with ice creams and sorbets all through this summer and loving it. I thought it would be my first step towards making my mind about buying an ice cream maker. I had lots of fun and my food processor did the job, so far.

I am a big sorbet fan. I find it is a great way to get cooled off with the goodness of chilled fresh fruits. I just love the fact that there is no fat at all, which makes an awesome way to end a BBQ meal, for example. Great to snack on if the weather outside is steaming hot too!

It is really easy to make this sorbet but it takes time to freeze. The spiced chai added a surprising twist in the strawberry mix, subtle enough to become refreshing and sweet. And the beautiful colour brings the joyful summer feeling to the eyes and the palate! Ah, if only summer would stay a bit longer in this part of the hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and shorter now.

Strawberry and Chai spiced tea sorbet

4 to 6 portions
adapted from Style at Home Magazine

1 chai spiced tea bag
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 lb fresh strawberries

Steep the chai tea in boiling water for 15 min. Remove the tea bag and discard. Put the sugar and tea in a saucepan and stir until sugar is dissolved, boil for 1 min. Let it cool at room temperature.

Hull and quarter the strawberries and place in a blender or food processor along with the steeped tea syrup and purée until the mixture is totally combined. Chill the mixture in the fridge for 1 hour. At this point you can pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, pour the mixture in a large freezer bag and freeze until solid, about 4 hours. i placed the bag in a cookie pan, laying horizontally for faster freezing.
Break the sorbet in smaller pieces and place it in the food processor , stopping the machine occasionally and pressing the mixture toward the blades. Continue to process until the sorbet spins smoothly with a light, fluffy texture. Serve straight away or freeze in a covered container for another couple of hours until firm.
It is also a good idea to use different tea infusions with the strawberries. For this particular batch I used a fruity tea, The Fruta Bombay from Teaopia.

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White chocolate and coconut strawberries

White chocolate and coconut strawberries

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I was so successful with my chocolate strawberries for Valentine’s that I had to make them again last weekend when we had company for dinner.
Talking about a favorite that also fits my husband’s ongoing diabetes-friendly diet!
A couple of tricks will help to cut the sugar down, if you need to: dip just half of each strawberry in the melted chocolate (which I haven’t done here this time, as you can see in the pictures) and use unsweetened shredded coconut.
I saw one of my favorites chef Michael Smith making them for Valentine’s on his TV show, tried it out and wow! So easy, fast, pretty and beyond yummy!

White chocolate and coconut strawberries

1 pint strawberries
170 gr white chocolate
1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Wash the strawberries carefully and pat them dry with a paper towel. This step is very important to make sure the chocolate sticks well to the fruits.

Line up a piece of parchment paper on your counter top.

Cut the chocolate into small pieces.

Take a medium glass bowl inside a small pan with water (no more than 2″) and bring it to a simmer. It is very important that the bowl is completely dry. Try to get a glass bowl that is larger than the pan, overlapping, to ensure no water gets in the melting chocolate while you are stirring it. If just a one single drop of water gets in the chocolate, the whole mixture will be lost. I know, it is sad.

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When 80% of the chocolate is melted, take it out of the heat and bring the bowl to your work area. The chocolate will eventually melt completely while you are dipping the strawberries.
Start dipping the strawberries, gently grabbing the stems, or use a fork to do so. After every dip wait a few seconds for the chocolate to stop running and then roll them out on the coconut. It is a delicate process but very fast you will get a grip of it and will be amazed with the result!
Lay the dipped strawberries on the parchment paper and wait for them to cool off, around 1 hour.
Serve them in the same day.

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Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!