Sunday, November 23, 2008

Even better . . . Apple Pie!

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I thought the apple turnovers I made a couple of weeks ago were great, and like this pie, they used a cream cheese crust. But this pie was unbelievably flaky and even crispy at the edges. It does involve a lot of steps, but Rose Levy Berenbaum knows what she's doing. For example, she calls for putting the pie plate directly on a baking/pizza stone. That kept the bottom cooking, avoiding that soggy bottom pies are sometimes prone to. Her recipe also includes cooking the fruit juices on the stove top, concentrating and thickening them. It may have been a bit of work, but I'll be making this again.

Classic Apple Pie from Rose's Pie and Pastry Bible
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie crust for 2-crust, 9-inch pie (recipe follows)
2½ pounds baking apples (about 6 medium), peeled cored, and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup light brown sugar (scant 2 oz.)
¼ cup granulated sugar (1.75 oz.)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 tbs butter (1 oz.)
1 tbs + 1 tsp cornstarch (0.5 oz.)

Between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll the bottom crust dough ⅛ inch thick and 12 inches in diameter. Transfer it to the pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and toss to mix. Allow the apples to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least ½ cup of liquid. In a small saucepan (preferably nonstick), over medium-high heat, boil down this liquid, with the butter, to about ⅓ cup, or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid, but do not stir it. Transfer the apples to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.

Pour the syrup over the apples, tossing gently. Do not be concerned if the liquid hardens on contact with the apples; it will dissolve during baking.

Roll out the top crust large enough to cut a 12-inch circle. Transfer the apple mixture to the pie shell. Moisten the border of the bottom crust by brushing it lightly with water and place the top crust over the fruit. Tuck the overhang under the bottom crust border and press down all around the top to seal it. Crimp the border using a fork or your fingers, and make about 5 evenly spaced 2-inch slashes for steam to escape. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour before baking to chill and relax the pastry. This will maintain flakiness and help keep the crust from shrinking. (I brush some beaten egg white on the crust and sprinkle it with sugar.)

Preheat the oven to 425° at least 20 minutes before baking. Set an oven rack on the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place a large piece of greased foil on top to catch any juices. Set the pie directly on the foil-topped baking stone and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the juices bubble through the slashes. After 30 minutes in the oven, protect the edges from overbrowning with a foil ring. Cool the pie on a rack for at least 4 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rose's Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust
12 tbs unsalted butter, cold (6 oz.)
2 cups all-purpose flour (10 oz.)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
4.5 oz. cream cheese, cold
2 tbs ice water
1 tbs cider vinegar

Cut the butter into small cubes. Freeze it until frozen solid, about 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Set the bag aside.

Cut the cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea. Add the water and vinegar. Pulse until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together. Spoon it into the plastic bag.

Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture, pressing it from the outside of the bag, until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into 2 discs, and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or overnight.

My notes: I didn't freeze the butter, using it straight from the refrigerator. I also didn't freeze the flour mixture, and kneaded the dough in a bowl instead of a bag. The crust still came out great.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

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The best butternut squash soup I've ever had was at the Museum of Fine Arts cafe here in Boston. I haven't been able to find a recipe like it, but this one is pretty good, too, and probably healthier. I just roast a squash with onion and garlic, and whiz it in the food processor. And don't skimp on the cream: trust me, it's a small amount and it's better with.
Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
1 small yellow onion,quartered
1 head garlic
2½ cups chicken broth
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Roast your squash one of two ways. Slice it lengthwise, unpeeled, and scoop out the seeds; then place it face-down on a baking tray (you can lightly oil the cut side if you're not using a silicone mat). Or dice the squash, peeled, into bite-sized cubes, and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. Use a very sharp knife, since the squash is hard to cut.

Place the garlic on a sheet of foil and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, then wrap up the garlic in the foil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the onion quarters as well. Place the onion and garlic on the baking sheet, and roast all the vegetables for an hour, until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork (the halved squash might take an extra 15 minutes).
When the vegetables have cooled a bit, remove half of the roasted cloves from the head of garlic, and out of their skins. Puree them with the onion and about 5 cups of the squash (you can increase quantities of the other ingredients if you have more squash) in a blender or food processor. You may need to add half of the chicken broth if the blade gets stuck. Pour the puree into a pot, adding the rest of the chicken broth, and heat the soup. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the cream. Serve with a crusty piece of bread, spread with some of the remaining roasted garlic, if you like.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Apple Turnovers

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These are delicious and easy to make. I used the Tender Cream Cheese Pastry dough from Ken Haedrich's Pie, and it had recipes for turnovers with various fillings, but not apple. I was craving apple filling. So I winged it, throwing in the usual cinnamon and sugar, with some flour for thickening, and adapting the cutting, shaping, and baking instructions. Luckily, it worked!

Tender cream cheese pastry dough (recipe follows)
2 apples (use apples good for baking), cored and peeled
2 tsp flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs water

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cut the apples into a small dice. Toss them in a bowl with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.

Roll each ball of dough out to 6 inches by 6 inches and trim the edges straight with a pastry wheel or knife. Place 3 tbs of the apple filling on each square of dough, and brush the border with egg wash. Fold the dough over into a triangle, and use a fork to crimp and seal the edges (merely pinching them resulted in some leakage the first time). Place the turnovers on two baking sheets lined with silicone mats or parchment paper. Cut three small slits into the top of each turnover to allow steam to escape. At this point, you can freeze some or all of them -- bake frozen turnovers, without thawing, for a few minutes longer.

When ready to bake, brush the tops with egg wash, and sprinkle each turnover with a pinch of sugar. Lower the oven temperature to 375° and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Eat them warm or at room temperature.

Tender Cream Cheese Pastry from Ken Haedrich's Pie
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ tsp salt
2 tbs sifted confectioners sugar
2¾ cup all-purpose flour

Combine the butter, cream cheese, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment. Blend for 30 to 45 seconds on medium-low speed. Stopping the machine before each addition, add the confectioners sugar and 1 cup of the flour. With the mixer on low, blend until the flour is incorporated. Add another 1 cup of the flour and blend. Add the remaining flour. When all of the flour has been added and the dough starts to ball up around the beater, stop the machine. Remove the bowl and scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.

Knead 2 or 3 times, then divide the dough equally into 8 balls to make turnovers. Flatten them into disks, then wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.