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


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.

Upside-Down Apple Maple Cornmeal Cake with Cheddar 1

Posted on November 11, 2009 by crankycheryl

I’ve been awfully busy with work!  There’s this (still tickets left as of this posting):


and here, where you really ought to know that the freshest seafood in Burlington appears every Thursday, and the floor and kitchen staff will smack me if I cause any more people to show up for 1/2 price locally-grown burgers every Wednesday:

Scuffer doilly comp

and these, because these small people just seem to keep having birthdays and getting ever taller and smarter and cupcake-loving:

cupcake small

But no matter that I’ve had so much to do, there was the fabulous Melissa Pasanen on Facebook, posting a picture of a Caramelized Green Tomato Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake from a recipe she had picked up from a chef in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.  Holy smokes, did that look good.

What with the late blight here, I had no green tomatoes, but yes, apples galore.  And though I didn’t get that fabulous recipe, it was pretty easy to put together an apple and maple version that’s awfully homey and nice.  I made a proper upside-down cake with half of a doubled recipe, and a batch of muffins with the other.  If you too make some of it into muffins, make sure to use liners since they do tend to have the sticky maple-y apples fall right off the bottom.  I spotted Z. sucking on the parchment cupcake liner this morning at breakfast, so this doesn’t seem to be a terrible problem.

cornbread apple cake 013Upside-Down Apple Maple Cornmeal Cake with Cheddar
Makes 1 9″ cake, or 12 muffins

  1. Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425.
  2. Grease a 9″ pie plate, or line a muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
  3. Peel, core and slice:
  • 3 apples (I like Gala for a cake like this), and toss with
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 3 T. maple syrup

cornbread apple cake 0014. Arrange apple slices in bottom of pan or muffin liners.  Set pan aside.

5.  Whisk together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/4 c. stone-ground cornmeal
  • 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt

6.  Whisk together in a medium bowl:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 2/3 c. buttermilk or yogurt
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup

7.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir just until moistened.  Stir in:

  • 2 -3 T. melted butter or vegetable oil.

cornbread apple cake 0118.  Pour over apple slices.  Cut

  • 3 oz. cheddar cheese

into 1/2″-wide long squares and insert into center of muffins or at some sort of interval around the cake.

9.  Bake muffins for 12 – 14 minutes, or cake for about 25 minutes.  Let muffins cool on rack until ready to serve.  If a whole cake, let cool thoroughly before inverting onto a plate.

Dinner at CoHousing: Food, Love, Work! 1

Posted on December 15, 2008 by crankycheryl

I have to start with this:  I love living in cohousing.  And one thing living here means is eating together when we can, and helping prepare one meal a month.  I’m one of the queen bee-ish types who tends to be the “lead cook” when my turn comes around, so that I get to do the menu planning, the shopping, and take charge of the cook team in preparing dinner for the 30 – 50 who typically attend.

There’s no doubt that it’s a lot of work, but there’s so much that happens as we do it.  The casual conversations over the chopping board where we get to know where people come from, find out what’s happening in each others’ lives.  Watching neighbors come and go on their various ways.  Learn who’s away and where and who’s coming to visit.  Learning more about where people come from, where they hope to go.

Still, meal planning for this interesting and diverse group isn’t easy.  We have a gluten-free neighbor, one who can’t eat any form of pepper, two who have walnut allergies, a dairy free guy and several vegetarians.  When you come to dinner here you see the big trays or pots alongside single, labeled servings for these folks.  But I think it’s true that none of us minds these extra steps.  Offering delicious, safe food to each other is an honest expression of our appreciation for each other.  You can’t help having this kind of affection for the people who babysit for you for free, who brush the snow off your car, clean the bathrooms in the common house, plant the common garden, bring your compost to the pile for you.  Make some baked tofu alongside the chicken?  Sure.

And I do love coming up with the menus.   I wanted one that was festive and fairly opulent, but vegetarian.   So what developed was:

I had a great, capable cooking team to put it all together, but we also had Melissa and Allison from the Burlington Free Press on hand to do an article on cohousing, asking questions and taking pictures, which may have made it a tad more unfocused, but definitely made it much more exciting.  Whisking eggs!  Crimping pastry!  Giant pot of greens!  All photo ops.  I felt like a celebrity when I took the pies from the oven and the photographer swooped in to capture them as they emerged.

But what made me really feel like a star, as it does every time, was the thumbs-up, back-pats, and whispered compliments as I walked around the dining room that night.   To have my neighbors and friends receive and return the caring we put into that meal feels like deep community.  Like family.  Like, well, love.

(Oh, and my kids?  They picked the puff pastry off their plates, pronounced it delicious, drank two sips of milk, then ran off crying when I suggested they try something else.)

So that’s dinner here.  We do it every other day, usually with as much TLC, but often with less fanfare … though we’ve been known to burst into applause at all the wanton yumminess.

(Check out the 12/20/08 BFP article!)

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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