Sunday, February 28, 2010

Apple Pie 2/27

Last week, we made a traditional type of meat pie from England. This week we went with something a lot more familiar though we've never made it before: Apple Pie.
***We can't post the recipe this week so this entry is mostly about tips for making an apple pie with whichever recipe you choose.
We looked through a bunch of different recipes. There were some with just cinnamon, some with cinnamon and all spice, or cinnamon and nutmeg. We went with the recipe that had all three! We have yet to go wrong with using too much of these spices. Of course we stick mostly to the recipe but a little extra flavor never hurts ;o)
Most pies are made with Granny Smith apples but we know that they can be pretty tart. Based on a recommendation from a friend, we also supplemented the Granny Smith with Red Delicious from the organic apple dude at the Farmers Market.

Since we've never made apple pie before, another friend who has came to help supervise. He suggested that we went with both butter and vegetable shortening instead of only one or the other. We mixed them together with the flour, salt and sugar using our food processor.
The dough was then chilled while we went about making the filling.

Oh, the filling! The yummy yummy filling. The sliced apples were mixed together with sugar, the spices, lemon juice, lemon zest and a little bit of flour. Is it wrong that Erin licked her hands when she was done?
The dough was then rolled out, put in the pans and placed in fridge again for 20 mins. The filling was inserted, the top crust rolled out. We had to embellish the crust with cookie cutter holes instead of the usual slits. It's just too cute. We were also excited to use a particular pie dish given to Erin by our cousins Katie and Bryan. It's in the shape of an apple! We have to admit, it was the inspiration for the item choice this week. Wouldn't you want to use it too?
We made 2 pies because we've had a lot of requests lately from taste testers. The pies were glazed with beaten egg whites and dusted with sugar, then placed in the bottom rack of the oven. We placed them on baking sheets to catch the juices. The baking sheets were in the oven during the pre-heat so they could transfer the heat to the pie pans instead of obstructing it. 

As you can see, the pies came out beautifully. We had a hard time keeping the boys away from them while they cooled. Tim kept using his food thermometer on them to check when they would be cooled enough. As good as they looked, they tasted even better. The spices and consistency were perfect. Our supervisor even conceded that his had never come out this well before. It was a great night.
Lessons learned: We should make pie more often. Also, we need a little practice at making the edges look pretty. Not too bad!

p.s. Here's a pretty picture and thank you to Katie and Bryan. We love you guys!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cornish Pasties 2/21

Not that we're tired of sweets but we felt it was time for a change. And, there is more that you can bake than desserts and treats. So, we decided that this week, we would make a main course for our usual Sunday Family dinner.
We chose Cornish Pasties. We've had this idea all week. We just chose to execute at the end of the week. People that asked what we're baking this week were told "Cornish Pasties." We were met with looks of confusion and some slight smirks. Stateside, it's not so common. So here's a little history:
Cornish pasties are from Cornwall, England. They are a traditional miner's lunch. It is a pie crust type dough filled with beef, potato, carrots and onions. The miners would mark these "hot pocket" like meals with their initials so they would eat half for breakfast and know who's was who's for lunch. In fact the fillings were usually so hot that they were still warm for meal time. These days, it's a quick takeaway food that people on the go pick up at groceries all over England.
For us, this was a collaborative effort. Tim, Erin's husband/Sara's brother-in-law made the "insides" and we were responsible for the crispy crust. Tim used all the above mentioned ingredients as well as some turnip and seasoned with Salt and Thyme. We couldn't tell you how much to use because we had a TON leftover. Here's the recipe for the dough:
1.5 cups of flour (we prefer unbleached)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of margarine
Combine and knead together. Add small amounts of water until you have a stiff dough.
This yields enough dough for about 3 pasties. Roll it out into rounds with a floured rolling pin and remember to coat both sides of the dough with some flour so that it isn't sticky.
We liked the walls of the pasty to be thick. What makes the Cornish Pasty different from other traditional English pies is that it's all baked together. You don't brown or cook the meat before it is all wrapped up. This is why it is important to bake the whole thing thoroughly. 20mins at 425, then 40mins at 325.
The edges were brushed with whipped egg to help it stick.
We left a hole for steam to get through and pinched in some initials for authenticity. D for Dad. :o)
We then brushed the tops with some of the beaten egg and put them in the oven.
We were very happy with how they came out. The flavors were great and it really wasn't hard to make. We would do it again for sure. We did discover that they are incredibly filling and we understood how a hungry miner could eat only half and save some for later.
Lessons learned: If we wanted to put our initials in again, we would use scraps of dough. They didn't come out so well with the pinching technique. Also, make less of the stuffing part. We had a lot left!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day seemed like the perfect reason to bake something and Sara thought of the perfect thing: Sugar Cookies. We haven't made them much before but the decorating possibilities are endless. For the sometimes baker, there's a great website called Fancy Flours where you can buy some great wafer paper decorations. This avoids having to buy one of those printers that uses edible ink. We ordered our supplies and away we went.
We planned on having our cookies ready for distribution at work before Valentine's day. We started on Wednesday night making the cookies.
Turns out, even with our baking party of four people, it took a lot of time and we had to call it quits around 10pm. It became a 2 night event. We began some of the decorations on night 1 but had to finish up on night 2.
The cookies tasted great and looked great. Some people didn't want to eat them for the art of it all but we firmly believe that flavor should not suffer for looks. These cookies were no exception and we are very glad to have co-workers to share them with instead of having a gluttonous marathon of eating over 50 cookies ourselves.
Lesson learned: Allow more time to make the cookies. Elaborate decorations need more than one school night to complete.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Superbowl Celebration

Being that we were going to be enjoying the Superbowl in a Saints household, we decided to contribute to the southern cuisine with a dessert of bread pudding. We thought it would be a nice finish to the pulled pork sandwiches and red beans and rice.
We decided not to put too much pressure on ourselves by baking the bread and then turning it into pudding so we went to the farmer's market and picked up a loaf of Challah from The Bread Man. We were following a Cooks Illustrated recipe again this week and they say that Challah is the best for flavor and absorption. We bought the pre-sliced loaf though the recipe calls for larger cubes. We don't think it made a difference.
We cut up the bread into small pieces and put them in the toaster to dry out but not brown.
Then the pudding mix got whipped up and combined with most but not all of the bread. The bread was coated and then left to soak.
Then the rest of the bread was placed on top with a pecan/brown sugar mixture to add some crunchiness, and then into the oven it went.
Unfortunately, the pulled pork that was in the oven just before our bread pudding had left some charred juices at the bottom. This provided a billowing smoke inside the oven but we didn't have time to fix it. By the time we realized there was a problem with the oven, we had already begun soaking the bread in the pudding mixture. We wiped out as much as we could and then we went for it.
All reactions were positive. There was a guest at the party that loves bread pudding and she said that she was not disappointed. We probably only found a very slight smoky flavor because we were looking for it. But overall, it was a fun new challenge and addition to our baking repertoire.
Lessons learned (slash reiterated): Start with a clean oven. We knew this, but didn't have much choice in this case.