Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Apple squares

Another entry for the Kitchen Corner's November Bake-off!

This recipe is taken from the King Arthur flours website, but we used to make a very similar thing when I worked at Nabolom Bakery in Berkeley.

The pie crust recipe is to die for. There are lots of recipes out there for crusts, and they don't all involve as many ingredients as this one, but this one is just so buttery and soft and flaky and delicious, that this is the one I am writing in my own personal cookbook to use from now on. It's that good.

Also, there is no excuse to use pre-made pie crust. Homemade is ten times better, easy, and without any weird preservatives.

Pie crust ingredients:
2 1/2 c. flour (I bet the crust would be even better with pastry flour!)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
2 T confectioner's sugar (I used regular cane sugar)
2 T buttermilk powder (I used nonfat milk powder)
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
10 T very cold butter, cut into small cubes (about 1/2")
1 t. vinegar (cider or white)
6-10 T ice water

By hand: whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and milk powder. Using two butter knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Ad the butter pieces and cut in until the mixture looks like coarse sand, or the butter is fairly evenly distributed. Add the vinegar and a few tablespoons of water at a time, mixing until the dough is chunky and fairly cohesive. I find it's easiest at this point to use my hands to smush together all the dry flour and get the dough together into a ball.

By food processer (much easier): add the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and milk powder to the bowl and pulse for a few seconds. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse for about 10 1-second spurts. Add the vinegar and the water, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing after each addition, until the dough comes together in a rough ball.

Both methods: Divide the dough into two balls, one with 2/3 the dough and the other with 1/3 the dough. Shape into discs and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to 20 hours).

Apple filling:
About 1 dozen apples
1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
1/2 c. sugar
2-3 T ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375.

If you have a fancy apple corer-peeler-slicer, use it to core, peel, and slice at least a dozen cooking apples. (Cooking apples are more tart than eating apples, and better for baking). Otherwise, use a knife to core and cut about a dozen apples into thin wedges. I don't peel the apples if I'm doing it by hand, because it takes too long, and the skins give the pie a great color.

Take the bigger disc of dough out of the fridge and unwrap it on a floured surface. I leave the plastic wrap on top of the disc and roll the dough out underneath the plastic. Roll in one direction, then turn the dough 90 degrees and roll in the other direction. This ensures the dough doesn't stick to the rolling surface. Roll until the dough is in roughly a 9x12 rectangle. Transfer the dough to a 9x12 baking dish, but don't worry about rough edges or gaps - just pinch of dough from where there's extra to fill in any gaps on the other side of the dough.

Fill the dough with your apple wedges. Sprinkle with pecans, cinnamon, and sugar.

Roll out the smaller disc of dough, and drape over the top of the apples. Seal the edges as best as possible (perfection is not needed here!) and make six small cuts in the crust to let steam out.

Bake for 45-60 min, ensuring you don't burn the crust.

I let mine cool for a few hours before serving for dessert, and then I had another slice for breakfast.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Popovers with Apple Butter

My wonderful husband made the popovers and I made the apple butter. I'll start with the apple butter recipe, since it takes longer.

First, you need to make apple sauce. Or, you can buy a jar of apple sauce and skip ahead, but seriously, making apple sauce is so easy.

Core, slice, and peel several pounds of apples, or enough to fill your largest, heavy bottomed pan. I used my giant Le Creuset. Add about one inch of water to the pot and cook on medium heat until the apples have broken down and are all mushy. This won't take as long as you think.

Then, either pull out your fancy food mill (but if you have a food mill, why are you looking to me to tell you how to make apple sauce? You probably know how to do it way better than I!), or a mesh strainer and a wooden spoon. Spoon the apple mixture into the strainer and press it through the strainer. This is hard work. Enlist a friend to help, if you've got one handy!

Now you have apple sauce! I put some into a jar and stuck it in the fridge- no need to boil it or worry about canning if you only have one jar, and six housemates. It'll be gone soon enough, with no worries of botulism.

To turn the apple sauce into apple butter, put the remaining apple sauce into a smaller heavy bottomed pot, or, better yet, into a crock pot. Add a cup or two of sugar or some frozen concentrate apple juice, and some cinnamon and other autumn-y spices that you love. Cardamom would be a wonderful touch. Cook for 12-24 hours, until the sauce is very thick and brown. Make sure you are cooking on the lowest heat possible.

Now, let's make popovers. It's best to snuggle in bed in your pjs and wait for someone else to make these for you, but if you have to do it yourself, here's how.

Preheat your oven to 425. Spray a popover pan or a muffin tin with nonstick spray and let pan heat in oven for two minutes.

Blend one cup all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon melted butter in a medium bowl, until the consistency of heavy cream.

Cut 2 tablespoons of chilled butter into 1/2 inch pieces and place one into each cup in the preheated muffin tin. Place the pan back into the hot oven until the butter is bubbly.

Remove pan from the oven and fill each cup halfway full of batter. Replace pan in the oven and bake 20 minutes. This is important: Do Not Open The Oven Door To Peek.

When twenty minutes have passed, rotate the pan in the oven, reduce the heat to 325 and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve with warm apple butter. I promise I won't tell if you eat them all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Cornmeal Biscuits

For the Kitchen Corners' October cook/bake-off!

I bought a sugar pumpkin at The Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island, a wonderful place in Portland with farms and farm stores and haunted corn mazes and u-pick peaches, corn, and berries. It's where we went the day before my wedding to pick flowers for the tables.

Yesterday, I cooked the pumpkin and made an Indian Pumpkin soup, but still had pumpkin puree left. The soup wasn't awesome, so I didn't want to enter it into the cook-off, so I baked up some biscuits today.

The recipe comes from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics (and if you don't know Moosewood, you should), and was super simple and easy to make. These muffins happen to be vegan, but not all the Moosewood recipes are though most are vegetarian. I bet substituting butter for the margarine would not be detrimental, and I think adding an egg could only improve the consistency of these already delicious muffins.

1/4 c. margarine
1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (fresh, or canned, but not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 c. plus 2 T. apple juice or cider

Preheat the oven to 425. Generously grease a baking sheet or cover with parchment.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the margarine. Add the brown sugar and mix until lump-free.

Whisk together the pumpkin and apple juice or cider. Pour into the flour mixture and stir briefly, just until well blended.

Drop the biscuits by 1/4 cups onto the baking sheet, 1-2 inches apart. Bake for about 20 minutes until puffed and very slightly brown around the edges and a toothpick tests clean. Serve immediately.

In the middle of baking I unexpectedly discovered my aunt from New Mexico was in town, and had to run out to spend a lovely fall afternoon exploring the city with her, leaving my incredibly and understandably stressed out room mate in charge of taking the biscuits out of the oven, resulting in their well-done status.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Just as I say I'm transitioning into wedding blogging... I knit something!

My cousin is due this week - the first baby of the next generation in the family - and I used the occasion as an excuse to knit an oh so adorable Tomten.

The pattern is an Elizabeth Zimmerman classic. I have her book "Knitting Without Tears" and this is my first project from it.

I used some Shibui sock yarn in Peacock (I think that's the color) that had just not been working out as anything else. It clearly wanted to be this sweater, as it knit up nearly perfectly. The pooling you see on the arms is from the additional skein I had to buy to make it through the arms. Now I have enough leftovers to make a cute pair of booties. Probably not for this baby, but one of the other three that will be born in the next six months!

This patttern is fantastic, and pretty easy. No crazy shaping or stitches - it did take some imagination to figure out how to sew the arm seams to the underarms, but really, it just works.

The next project is not knitting, but making the backyard ready for a wedding (we're into the four week countdown!!). Right now, we're working with this:

While it's pretty green, the bed is full of weeds. We took out everything that was planted there, and nothing we planted grew! So, Roomie Liz and I bought a ton of flowers to plant in there:

Foxgloves, hydrangea (four different colors!), a gorgeous red rose bush (that might go in front actually) and a bunch of shade loving annuals.

I also have these to dress up the plain old fence with:

I'll post some "after" shots when it's all pulled together. Cross your fingers for big improvements!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Goin to the Chapel

Well, actually, we are getting married at home.

Last month, I asked if any readers would like me to blog about wedding planning, and a few said yes. Unfortunately, I have not blogged since then. Mike is out of town for the next two weeks, so maybe I'll take this time to post our wedding inspiration on the internet for all to see.

First up, an overview of what we are planning, and a preview of posts to come.

Because we are who we are and we want our wedding to reflect that, our wedding is going to be inexpensive (by industry standards) and every detail is planned with an eye towards sustainability. Most elements are thrifted, homemade, or scrapped altogether if neither is possible.

Source: gathered photos from el internet. I don't have specific links, sorry!

We are getting married at home.

We are having a friend marry us. One to do the ceremony, perhaps another to make it legal. We might actually go to the courthouse. This is still being figured out. Maybe I'll do a longer post on this topic soon.

We (Mike & I & friends) are making all the food for the wedding night dinner!

Our housemate is making the cupcakes.

Source: unknown, apologies!

Mike's friend and his band are playing post-dinner dancing music.

Out other housemate designed the invitations, which we printed at a local print shop on 100% recycled paper. There were no reply cards or envelopes, cutting down both on cost and wasted (in my eyes) paper.

He also is making playlists for dinner music & post-band dancing. Another friend is putting her incredible love for all things Frank Sinatra and post-war era to work making a pre-ceremony playlist for cocktails & lawn games.

My step-mother-in-law and mother-in-law are carefully scouring thrift stores for complete sets of vintage china and dishware.

My mom is making my dress!

Source: A Backyard Wedding
(I'd really just insert myself into her wedding, if I could. I'd bring Mike and all my friends, too.)

We're going to a local farm to pick produce and flowers for eating and decorating.

Most of the lawn decorations will be plants planted about our yard.

We're shuttling our guests between the house and their hotel in a 22 passenger van to cut down on cars & save our neighbors from a parking nightmare.

If everyone is interested, I'll do a separate post about most of these details.

Then, there is also the most important detail - Mike! Perhaps I'll post our vows when the whole thing is said and done.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's Going On Here?

Something strange is happening... I can't quite make it out...

Oh! Hello there!

Would you believe I haven't knit a stitch since January, and today I whipped up one of these adorable little guys?

Well, it's true.

A combination of a crazy busy semester and my brain focusing on wedding things instead of knitting things led to a complete halt in all things knitting.* Until now. When I realized I have at least four pregnant friends, all of whom will soon have tiny little feet that need covering! (Well, that's not quite true- my friends' feet won't be shrinking, but my friends will soon have babies who have tiny little feet in need of covering.)

The semester is over, and I have one week of vacation before I start my summer job. I plan on making as many booties as possible in the next five days.

Ready, set, go-go-gadget-baby-booties.

*Ahem. Sorry for the four month lapse in blogging. If anyone is interested in wedding-related things that have nothing to do with knitting or baking, speak up in the comments and perhaps something can be arranged that would involve posting at a more frequent interval. ;-)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Did I Promise You Some Buttons?


Sorry about the recent ridiculously long absence. In my defense, I haven't knit a stitch since we last spoke.

The sweater is the February Lady Sweater, the yarn Brown Sheep Worsted. Needles, size 8.

The verdict... eh. I don't see what all the fuss is about. It looks really good on other people online, but on me, it's more linebacker than hip, swingy cardigan. Perhaps its just too big, but I don't have the time, energy, or inclination to reknit it.

Luckily, I am co-directing a big charity auction for school one month from now, and have a lovely handknit sweater to donate!

PS- I wouldn't hold your breath for more frequent posting. I'm barely staying above water this semester- with the auction, four seminars and two lecture classes, plus all the wedding day-dreaming I'm doing, I have no baking or knitting to share and no time to share it!