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.