Monday, November 25, 2013

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Salted Caramel Apple Pie portrait

You might be asking, another pie??  But it's pie season, and this one is so good!  This is not just any apple pie, but one with homemade salted caramel stirred into the filling, and additional caramel poured on top when served.  The big apple slices hold their shape and juiciness, and the caramel makes the filling wonderfully saucy.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

This pie is also different because I finally decided to test-drive a recipe for a yogurt-butter crust, and I can report that it is super flaky and easy to roll out.  It wasn't so easy to assemble.  For the first time I used a handheld pastry blender like the recipe called for, rather than my food processor.  I've concluded that I'm lazy and prefer the machine, plus I feel like the machine works the dough less.  And we all know that working the dough less ensures tender pastry.  Also, while the yogurt works as a tenderizer, there simply wasn't enough moisture to bring the dough together.  I added about a quarter-cup extra water along with another teaspoon of yogurt.  I could chalk this up to the awfully dry conditions at home during fall and winter.  But continuing to work in the extra liquid made me afraid I was overworking the dough.  The pastry still came out tender, but next time I'll go the lazy route and use the machine.

Puff Pastry Apple Tartlet
Part of my autumn pie madness: puff pastry apple tartlets thrown together at a moment's notice
Finally, the caramel is simple to make, and I didn't even break out my candy thermometer.  But if you're short on time, I think storebought salted caramel would work just as well.  One last tip: I'm always afraid of crystallization when making caramels and syrups, so I put the lid on the pot for 2 minutes during the vigorous stage of boiling -- the steam builds up and washes down the sides, along with any crystals that have formed.  Both the pie dough and the caramel can be made a day or so in advance, and refrigerated until needed. Microwave the caramel to make it warm and pourable before using.  Have a good Thanksgiving, folks, and may it be filled with pie.

Looking for other Thanksgiving dessert ideas?  Here's a few:

Thanksgiving Collage

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pear Custard Tart

Pear Custard Tart portrait

I've been on a pie-baking frenzy this fall, and I don't think I've run out of steam yet!  The latest is this Pear Custard Tart.  Bartlett pears are poached with vanilla bean and orange peel, then layered in a buttery crust and soaked in a vanilla custard before being baked and topped with toasted almonds.  It sounds amazing, and yet the result is understated.  The first day I found it plain and was a bit disappointed, but on the second day the flavors had developed -- the pears had more of a presence and the custard and almonds complemented them well.

Pear Custard Tart

I'm chalking the difference up to using pears that could have been more ripe, and not including the brandy the recipe called for.  We rarely have hard stuff in the house, but this simple tart could use something to punch it up.  I would definitely make it again, using riper pears and the brandy.  The tart doesn't have loud flavors: no chocolate, cinnamon, clove, or cayenne.  Still, it's gorgeous, elegant, and tasty (at least on the second day), and would make a light but showy finish to a Thanksgiving feast.

Boston Globe Review: Thanksgiving-Ready Pies

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Humble Pies
Some of the premade pies ready to go in my oven. I labeled the parchment to keep track of which pie was which.
I neglected to post about my latest review that ran in Sunday's Globe South in The Boston Globe.  Ever So Humble Pie Company in Walpole sells made-from-scratch frozen pies, and all you do is put them in the oven.  It's a convenient option for Thanksgiving if you want a from-scratch pie but don't have the time to make one.  The fruits and dairy are from local farms, and many of the pies are vegan-friendly.  The photographer's photos in the paper are far better than mine here, of a bunch of personal-sized pies ready to go into my oven (and my belly).

There was lots of pie-eating involved on my part.  It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it!  Check out the review:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Three-Bean & Corn Chili

Three-Bean and Corn Chili

It's getting downright cold here.  Sadly, I know this is nothing compared to the next few months.  Feeling my face hurt in 8-degree cold and shoveling in knee-deep snow are among my least-favorite things.  To warm up, I've been baking up a storm and making lots of soups and stews.  This Three-Bean & Corn Chili from Flour bakery's second cookbook will be making lots of appearances over the next few months.  It's full of cannellini beans, black beans, chickpeas, corn, sweet potato, and carrots.  Pimenton, or smoked Spanish paprika, gives it an unexpected smokiness and depth.  And to mix it up, I used ancho chile powder when the recipe called for chili powder.

I didn't think Joe would like this, expecting his reaction to be along the lines of: "Where's the beef?"  But we loved it.  I'll be making beef chili at some point also, because we love our red meat.  But this bean chili is hearty without weighing you down, and has got loads of flavor.  It's also super-healthy and low in the calorie department, both good things as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.  If you're vegetarian or vegan, this will be a welcome addition to your repertoire (minus the cheese if you're the latter, of course).  Stay warm, friends!