My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Archive for the ‘pie’

Best Freaking Apple Pie Ever 4

Posted on September 24, 2010 by crankycheryl

First: if you’re here in northern Vermont too and are after apples, you must go to the UVM Hort Farm.  If you have even an iota of apple love or food geekiness, you will fall in love with the shed and its many, changing varieties of apples and how folks from all walks of life come through for their $1/lb. apples.  And not just any apples, but many that you can’t get in stores, from the organic and IPM orchards in which UVM grows different varieties to test for various traits.

I went a little crazy, which I’m sure you’ll find hard to believe, and found myself leaving with 18 pounds of fruit, with a sample of each posed here.

Starting from the red spotty one and going clockwise, that’s Speckles (NY-75414-1), Arlet, Silken, Gala, Jubilee Fuji, NY-74828,  and in the middle must be CQR 12-t-50.

And then it was sometime around then that we got an invite to an Apple Pie Fest for a friend’s birthday.  A contest, even, with prizes for all who entered.  E. isn’t terribly into cooking these days, but I grabbed him long enough to get his votes: sweet or savory crust?  Double or single crust?  I got out all sorts of aromatic spices and let the boys choose which we’d use, and after a lot of sniffing we settled on cinnamon.  So traditional it was.

We got out the excellent Cooking with Shelburne Farms and gave their recipe a whirl.  It was the best pie I’ve ever made.  Maybe it’s because I was in teaching mode and explaining why this thing is cold and why we pulse in the liquid just so as the crust is coming together and so I was actually following directions.  The directions are a bit long, but just follow them and you too will be in for a fall treat.

Apple Pie
Adapted with permission from Cooking with Shelburne Farms

Makes one 10-inch pie (I doubled and made two, which was perfect for both our weekend parties)


1.  Place in the freezer to chill:

  • 1/2 c. milk

2.  In a food processor, pulse together:

  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (we used 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat pastry)
  • 2 T. white sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt

3.  Cut into small pieces and then work into the flour with six short pulses:

  • 6 T. cold vegetable shortening (we used the non-hydrogenated palm oil kind)

Repeat with:

  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter

Pulse a few additional times, until the mixture is pebbly with small bits of the butter still visible.

4.  Pour:

  • 1/4 c. chilled milk

through the food processor tube, and pulse three or four times.  Add the rest of the milk one tablespoon at a time, with short pulses, just until the dough starts to come together (it won’t do so like bread dough does, and it’s better to under-work your crust than overwork it so err on the side of under-mixing it if you’re unsure).

Get out two plastic bags or two large squares of plastic wrap.  Turn the dough out into a large bowl and gather it together in two equal balls.  Flatten them slightly into round disks, place in bags or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450.

The Filling

5.  Peel, core and slice:

  • 3 lbs. (6 – 8 large) apples

Given our Hort Farm adventure, we used a mix of Arlet, Speckles and Galas.  Pie apples are a matter of much debate, with very strong preferences given for particular varieties.  Use what you like.

Toss them with:

  • 3/4 – 1 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2-3 T. unbleached flour (add 2 T. and then see if you seem to have extra-juicy fruit and add the additional T. if necessary)
  • 1/4 t. salt

6.  Unwrap one chilled ball of dough and place it on a large, lightly floured surface.  With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the ball from the center out until the dough is in a circle about 1/3″ thick and about 13″ in diameter.  If there are cracks and tears as you roll, go ahead and patch and pinch together to repair.

Use a thin metal spatula to nudge the dough around the rolling pin, and lift it to the pan, patching it as necessary.  Fill it with the apples, mounding them in the center.  Top with:

  • 2 T. slices of butter

6.  Roll out the second ball of dough in the same way as the first.  If you like, you can create a vent in the crust by using your favorite cookie cutter to remove a small shape from the center.  Brush the edges of the bottom crust with water, and then lay the top crust on top the same way the bottom one was moved.  Leave a 1/4″ overhang all around, trim the excess with a sharp knife as necessary and crimp the edges.

7.  Brush the top lightly with milk, cut vents if you decided not to remove the cookie shape in step 6, and sprinkle all over with sugar.  Set on a rack in the lower third of the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

8.  Lower the oven temperature to 350 and move the pie to the lowest setting in the oven.  If the edge of the crust is browning too fast, use a long thin piece of foil to protect only the edge.  Bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden-brown and the apples are soft when pierced.

Remove from oven and let cool.  Then you can bring it to a party, where it can join a stellar line-up of pies, and maybe it too will win the “Tastiest Pie” medal.

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Peach, Maple & Clothbound Cheddar in Phyllo 2

Posted on September 08, 2010 by crankycheryl

Poor crankyGreg.  Last week he looked at me plaintively across the kitchen as I was preparing to blanch/can/freeze/pickle something or other and asked, “Can’t we just eat it?  Like just enjoy it now?”

Oh dear.  He’s right.  I’ve been far too focused on food preservation and too often forgetting to just enjoy the harvest, the end of the warm weather, the flood of funny things E. & Z. emit every day.  (E., on Monday:  “Mommy, I know what I want to be when I grow up.  Now I just need a herd of really fierce goats.” Z., on Tuesday:  “This is a picture of me with Josie from Josie and the Pussycats.  But I still don’t know whether to marry her or Daphne from Scooby Doo or (our 16-year old neighbor) Marlena!”)

Then yesterday E. came into the kitchen carrying one of those wiggly wooden toy snakes as I was working on dinner for a growing number of neighbors.  “Mommy, I want you to make Snake Cake,”  he told me, flopping the snake on the counter.  Chopping furiously, I asked him what should go in it.  “You know, cake dough, flour, milk.  And the snake.”  Sure.  I told him I’d fit it in if I could, and when dessert was served, that’s what he told his friend she was eating.

In reality, it was a lovely and sophisticated (i.e. “not too sweet)  little harvest confection:  sliced just-off-the-tree peaches, caramelized with butter, maple syrup and ground cherries, topped with just a bit of crumbled clothbound cheddar, all between layers of crispy phyllo.  Quick, as easy as phyllo gets, and I didn’t freeze or otherwise preserve one bit of it.

Peach, Maple & Clothbound Cheddar in Phyllo
20 small servings

Before you start, make sure your phyllo has been defrosted and brought to room temperature.  Have at hand a barely damp tea towel for keeping the wrapped sheets covered while you work.

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Melt in a large saucepan:

  • 2 T. unsalted butter

3.  When butter is melted and starting to bubble lightly add:

  • 3 chopped fresh peaches
  • (I had 1/2 cup of ground cherries around, which I added after husking and washing, but they’re optional)
  • 3 T. maple syrup

Let cook until fruit releases juices, but still holds its shape.  Remove from heat.

4.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.  Lay one sheet of phyllo in the bottom, then spray thoroughly.  Repeat four times.  Spread peach filling on top, then crumble over it:

  • 1/2 c. finely crumbled clothbound or other aged cheddar

Lay another sheet of phyllo on top, spray, and repeat four more times.  Spray top of the phyllo generously, then score into serving pieces.  The easiest way to do this is to take a very sharp knife and cut lengthwise into thirds, then diagonally across in six cuts.

5.  Place in oven and cook until top layers are browned, and filling is visibly bubbling.  Cool for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove individual portions from pan.

To re-freeze any remaining phyllo, wrap in double layers of plastic wrap and return to box, then place in freezer.

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Three Things to do with Baked Apples 2

Posted on October 01, 2009 by crankycheryl

I’m really writing this one to proselytize on behalf of the humble baked apple.  It’s so maligned, an after-thought of an apologetic little dessert.  Which was appropriately forgotten when the actual time for dessert arrived … until the next morning, when they transformed breakfast into something amazing.

This was just as well.  I can hardly imagine the caterwauling and carrying on I would have faced if I had brought a warm, wrinkly apple to the table and tried to pass it off as dessert.

And then I started using the rest of them and realized how much more they could do.  This is my favorite kind of food discovery, a simple preparation that makes a humble and affordable ingredient especially flexible.

If you don’t have a current favorite baked apple recipe, here’s a classic one to start with.  Make 8 or a dozen apples and use them up all week long, in:

  1. Oatmeal.  Just throw the whole thing in the bowl, toss the oats over it and stir/mash it up with a spoon.
  2. As a bottom for cobbler, with biscuit dough on top and the apples especially flavorful and caramelized.
  3. In quick, easy, mini apple pies.  Get miniature phyllo cups, scoop in a little bit of apple and warm at 300 for just a few minutes.  Use a melon baller to scoop a tiny bit of vanilla ice cream on top.
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Blackberry Apple Cobbler with Bacon-Sage Crust 4

Posted on September 12, 2009 by crankycheryl

0905091840So it was International Bacon Day last week, and the boys were dismantling the furniture as I was cruising around the food blog world.

Normally, these sorts of things turn me off.  I just want to run and hide when I see the whole food world marching in lock-step with an ingredient or a technique or celebrity or whatever.

But this was bacon.

“Guys,” I said.  “What do you think of bacon ice cream?!”  They looked up from their couch-cushion boat.  I watched warring emotions cross their little faces like cloudbursts on a sunny day.  Clearly they were thinking, “Mmmm, bacon!  Ice cream, mmmm.  Smokey ice cream?  Can I get it in a cone?  Would the bacon melt it?  Can I still bite off the bottom of the cone and use it as a straw and watch Mommy try to keep her composure?”

But perhaps I project.

E. said, “Listen, Mommy: I have an even better idea.  What if you made a bacon pie!?  And then we have vanilla ice cream and put bacon on it?!  And you give me hot dogs for dinner first!?

Perpetually thinking about ways to get produce into their little mouths, I suggested that maybe we could make an apple cobbler with a bacon crust.  I’ll admit it: I was pandering.  The only thing they like more than apple pie is apple cobbler.  There were no hot dogs, because that seemed like going to Catholic mass to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.   And off we went.

Blackberry Apple Cobbler with Bacon-Sage Crust
adapted from The New Basics Cookbook & in honor of Sheila Lukins

Yield: 12 servings.

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, stems removed
  • 8 apples peeled, cored, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 c. plus 3 T. sugar
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • Freshly grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 c. whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • scant 1/2 c. unsalted butter ( I again send you to iRaw’s excellent site for her vegan version of biscuits, should you prefer)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 4 slices bacon (or turkey bacon or veggie substitute, of course), cooked and crumbled into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, chopped very finely, or 1/4 t. ground dried sage
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. Combine berries, apples, 1/2 c. sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in the prepared pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and 1 T. of the sugar.  Work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips.  (I have a whisk like this, which I love partly for its double life as a pastry blender.)  Lightly beat the egg and milk together, and slowly but firmly (you don’t want too many strokes) stir into the flour mixture.  Stir in the chopped bacon and sage.
  4. Knead lightly, sprinkling on a bit more flour as necessary to form a smooth dough.
  5. Break off portions of the dough and place them on top of the fruit in the pan, pressing and spreading the dough as you go.  Cover the entire surface.
  6. Sprinkle remaining sugar over the dough and bake until well browned, 35-45 minutes.  Serve immediately, with ice cream of course.
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Second Place S'more Berry Cobbler 3

Posted on August 29, 2009 by crankycheryl

0824091813I’ve been out picking blackberries like mad.  They’re nearly done now, but we’ve had an amazing crop here on the edge of our property.  I’ve probably frozen 8 quarts of them in addition to all we’ve eaten fresh.

And as I was figuring out a blackberry dessert the other night, the chocolate-flavored marshmallows in my cupboard jumped into my hand, followed by the dark chocolate.  And then CrankyGreg asked why I didn’t figure a way to add in some graham crackers so they could become a s’more something.  And I loved the idea, though I’m really not often the person who takes the best, freshest produce and turns it into junk food.

But, you know, yum.

And then our fair was in town, and there was a Best Cobbler competition today so I turned the idea into a cobbler, then trundled off with 6 servings in a microwavable container, and then I won second prize.

The valiant judges.

The valiant judges.

Out of how many entrants, you’re surely wondering.

The answer is 2.

And next you want to know what the prize was.

The answer is $4.  (The blue ribbon winner gets $6.)

But really, this is a delicious recipe.  Think chocolate-berry jam with crisp brown biscuits on top. The marshmallows get all melty and browned and kind of mix in, and it’s just all tart and sweet and dark and comforting. And with all the berries I have in the freezer, I think I could be persuaded to eat this all winter long.

S’more Berry Cobbler
12 servings

Preheat oven to 425.

Butter a 9 x 13 pan and then combine in it:

  • 8 c. blackberries
  • 1 10 oz. bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 10 oz. bag marshmallows
  • Make biscuit dough by combining (and you vegan friends should check out my blogfriend iRaw’s site, where she just posted some gorgeous biscuits that could easily be adapted here):

  • 1 c. coarsely crushed graham crackers
  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. butter, cut into pieces
  • with a biscuit cutter or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

    Lightly beat together:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • And then stir egg/milk mixture into the flour/butter mixture.  Knead lightly to produce a smooth dough, adding a bit more flour if necessary.

    Break off pieces of dough and place them on top of the fruit, pressing and flattening slightly.  Cover the entire surface.  Sprinkle 2 T. sugar over the dough and bake until well browned, 35 – 45 minutes.  Serve immediately, with vanilla ice cream, which it fairly screams for.

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    Mmmmmmaple Walnut Pie 0

    Posted on December 13, 2008 by crankycheryl

    After having been shut out of buying Maple Walnut Pie for THREE years at the Craftsbury Antiques & Uniques Festival, at last I decided to make my own to bring to the Thanksgiving potluck.

    I made Cream Cheese Pie Crust (mine was from the 1997 Joy of Cooking), which I’ll immodestly admit was the best crust I’ve made ever. It turns out that following recipes can actually pay off. So much for my usual ADHD approach to baking.

    It’s hard to say just why Maple Walnut Pie is so much more delicious than my old favorite pecan pie, but it just is. Of course they’re very similar, but the smoky maple taste and the slightly tannic, bitter walnuts of this one create a sort of accessible complexity that is just terrific. (The mini one in the picture, by the way, is one made with pumpkin seeds for my friend who’s allergic to nuts. I would have pan-toasted the seeds first except it was Thanksgiving morning and there was zero chance of this level of attention to detail by then.)

    It seemed the right thing to choose Yankee Magazine’s recipe for such a Vermont-y seeming dessert, and I think I’ll be making this often.

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