My Mission for the Perfect Pie

Lately, it would seem, that it has become my mission to make the perfect pie.

Let me explain a little bit as to how I came to this conclusion.

Friday, my eyes were extremely itchy and watery.  Allergies?  Maybe.  I took an anti-histamine to see if that would make it better.  Interestingly, my eyes began to hurt even more.  The only solution I could think of was making an eye appointment for the next day and going to bed… at 6pm.

I woke up the next morning, around 6:30am to severe eye pain, blurry vision and such light sensitivity that I could barely open my eyes.  My eye doctor appointment wasn’t until 11am.  After sitting in my room with the curtains closed, feeling somewhat like a mole rat…

I got a ride to the eye doctor.  Only for the doctor to tell say “Wow, your cornea look like meat!”

What do you say to that?

Oh, and how does this relate to pie?

Well, subsequently for the next two days, I couldn’t look at a computer screen, watch television or really spend a lot of time in the sunshine or other well lit areas (i.e. Wegman’s).  Instead, I decided baking would be a good idea.

Minimal staring required and a rolling pin doesn’t emit light.  Problem solved.

I should also mention that my gift to myself for being sick was a pastry blender.

Nerd.  I know…

So that night, I made two pies:  Assorted Squash and Apple.

Assorted Squash Pie is basically a pumpkin pie but instead of pumpkin I used butternut squash and some other type (maybe a sweet dumpling squash?).

Tasty but pumpkin still wins.

Then the apple pie.  I wish I could say it was amazing.  It was alright.  I used Joy of Baking’s recipe.  The crust is great.  The filling… eh? Not amazing.  It turned out runny.

I was not pleased.  Plus the slices just looked a little sad…

That was last week.

Last night, I decided I needed to make another pie, because when you’re sick with the flu what else are you supposed to do?  Sleeping and resting doesn’t seem to be in my vocabulary.

Apple Plum Pie

1 recipe for pate brisee (like Joy of Baking’s)
For filling:
5 small apples
4 plums
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
few shakes of nutmeg
juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 tbsp flour

Peel and slice apples, sliced plums.  Combine in a large bowl with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon.  Allow to sit for at least half an hour.  Toss with flour.  Place filling in prepared pie dish.  Put top on pie.  Chill in the fridge while oven preheats. Preheat oven to 425F.  Bake 45-50 minutes.

So this time I learned from the runny filling and used 3 tablespoons of flour and skipped all the simmering of juices and such.  I also learned that to keep your crust from shrinking you need to let the dough rest for a while so the gluten can develop.  A few hours in the fridge should do it.

I also learned that forgetting about your pie is bad.

It burns.  Funny how that happens, right?

So this pie neared perfection.  Except I burned the lattice top.

I’ll try again soon.

Grapple Almond Tart

As a kid, I always wondered where that artificial grape flavor came from.  Green grapes or big purple grapes don’t taste like grape flavored products.  Where the hell did that purple scented marker come from?

Clearly not grapes.

But now I’ve come to realize that my west coast upbringing has limited my grape palate.  Enter the concord grape.

That‘s what they mean by grape flavored.

So while I was dog sitting, the dog parents were nice enough to let enjoy fruit from their fruit share.  They had about 6 gallon-sized bags of concord grapes, tons of apples and a tart pan.

Since it’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve baked anything, I don’t know what I was waiting for.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 recipe for pate brisee (or other tart dough), see below
  • 5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced in half
  • Concord grape juice (enough to cover the apples), about 3-5 cups.  Store bought would probably work, but I cooked down a large bag of concord grapes in a pot then strained it to keep the juice only.
  • 1 recipe for frangipane, see below
  • 9″ tart pan with a loose bottom
  • Apricot jam to glaze with

I started by making the crust using a basic Pate Brisee recipe

Pate Brisee

250 grams cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
125 grams (4 1/2 oz) Butter, very cold
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp very cold water

Combine the cake flour, sugar and salt.  Cut in the butter until you get pea sized pieces.  Create a mound with your flour/butter mixture, add the water and knead until combined.

Chill the dough for at least half an hour.  Preheat your oven to 375F.

Roll out and chill again.  Place in a 9 inch tart pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool.

In the meantime, poach your apples in the concord grape juice for about 10-15 minutes, or until tender.  That’ll soften them, give them the lovely deep purple color while also contributing a hint of grape flavor.  Allow them to cool, then slice them.

Next make your the frangipane (almond filling).

Frangipane

7 ounces Almond Paste
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 eggs
3 tbsp flour

Combine the almond paste, butter, sugar and almond extract with an electric mixer.  Add one egg at a time until combined.  The gradually add in flour.

Spread frangipane in tart shell.  Top with sliced apples and bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes.

Once it’s cooled a bit, quickly glaze the tart.  In a small bowl, combine some apricot jam and hot water until you get a slightly runny/jelly consistency.  Brush your tart with the apricot jam for a shiny, sweet finish.

Then slice it and share it with friends, because really… what fun is baking if you have no one to share it with?

Vegan Peanut Butter Apple Bars

Apple and Peanut Butter.

Pretty much one of the best combinations ever, right?

It finally cooled down enough for me to turn on the oven, so I decided to make something with that wonderful flavor combo.  You should probably give this a whirl, especially if you love peanut butter as much as I do.

Vegan Peanut Butter Apple Bars

Cookie Base:
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky, I used a combination of both)
1/2 cup honey  (or agave nectar or maple syrup)
1 cup flour (all purpose or whole wheat, both work)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

Apple Filling:
5 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp peanut butter
3 tbsp coconut oil

Combine wet ingredients for the cookie base, in a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Chill in the freezer while you prepare apples.

Combine all ingredients for apples, let sit for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, you can do dishes, have a dance party, do some squats, make the topping, wash your hair, write a love note… you get the idea.  Should you choose to make the topping now, combine all the ingredients using your hands until you get coarse crumbles.  You can also preheat your oven to 350 F now!

After your dough has been chillin’ for a while, press it into a 9 x 13 baking pan (I used a pie pan and a small casserole dish because I’m a rebel like that, or really I just take any opportunity to use that little dish that was a complete impulse buy).   On top of that, layer on the apples, then sprinkle on the toppping.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

It’d probably be a good idea to top this with ice cream (although sadly my dulce de leche ice cream is no longer in this household, let’s just say it was a popular creation).

I recommend you start making this now, especially if it’s cloudy and gross out like it is here.

I also recommend wrapping them in wax paper

And giving them to friends as a friendly weekday treat.  Sometimes I think this is the secret to making and keeping friends.  I hope that’s not actually true…

Lastly, and completely unrelated to the rest of this post (or, arguably, food for that matter), did anyone watch True Blood this weekend and see who plays Alcide Herveaux?  (Sorry to those non-True Blood watchers/Sookie Stackhouse readers)

Holey Moley!  He gives Alexander Skarsgard a run for his money!

Maybe it’s just the beard?