All-American Apple Pie

Pie1Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. I like to think I’m not the only one who does things such as…

  • Spend several minutes trying to turn my car on with the key to my room
  • Put a dirty knife into the refrigerator and come dangerously close to dropping a jar of peanut butter into a sink full of soapy water
  • Start panicking because I can’t find my cell phone, only to discover that I am holding it up to my ear
  • Refer to Africa as a country (I’m cringing right now)
  • Act astonished that Scrabble comes in a Spanish version…um no, it’s just the same alphabet, EmmaIMG_0500

So. Now that I’ve exposed my most Darwin-award-worthy moments (or at least a teeny tiny fraction of them), I’m hoping that the next laughable thing on my list will seem a little less laughable. I’m talking about these pie pictures, of course. The pictures that I took on my iPhone at 8pm in the yellowy artificial light of my kitchen with my dad standing two feet away practically salivating as he waited for his slice. Unfortunately my brother won’t be home for the holidays until tomorrow; otherwise I would have clearly taken advantage of his  photography skills. Which are about 10,000 lightyears above mine.

Thus, instead of making you all wait even longer for my next post (I know it’s been over two weeks and I’m sorry!) I decided to have a long, hard laugh and offer you these fantastically grotesque pictures along with a pretty stellar recipe. Use your imaginations!IMG_0504

The truth is, this is a pretty darn delicious apple pie. I love how the crust is spiked with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the filling is a perfect balance of sweet, tart, and spiced. I used a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples, which I would highly recommend. The filling itself is quite simple–just toss together some standard ingredients and fold in the apple slices. Pour it all into your pie crust (which, I’ll admit, is the harder part that I have yet to perfect) and bake until golden and bubbly! You’ll end up with a house that smells so good you’ll want to bottle it up and put it into a candle. And of course you’ll get a delicious apple pie, too. Horrid pictures aside, this recipe is a keeper!IMG_0506

All-American Apple Pie

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1/3 cup chilled vegetable shortening

4-5 tablespoons very cold water

Filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (or 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/4 tsp allspice)

6 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 6 medium apples; I used 3 Granny Smith and 3 Honeycrisp)

To finish:

1 egg, beaten

Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

For the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the cold butter and shortening until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Add in the water one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork, until the dough holds together. Form the dough into two equal balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. For the filling, combine all the ingredients except for the apples in a large bowl. Fold in the apples until they are coated in the mixture.

Roll out the dough into two 12-inch circles. Carefully transfer one of the crusts to a 9-inch pie pan. Press the crust into the bottom and sides of the pan, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang along the sides. Pour in the apple filling and top with the remaining crust. Crimp the edges.

Cut several slits into the top crust. Brush the beaten egg onto the top and edges of the crust. Sprinkle the crust with granulated sugar. Cover the edges loosely with strips of aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-20 minutes or until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbly.

Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from Land O’Lakes)

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Cinnamon Apple Bread

bread(Sorry for the atrocious pictures…soon I’ll be back at home with my brother for the holidays and you’ll get some quality photos, I promise!)

Those of you who are avid readers might remember a recipe way back in 2012 for Apple Cinnamon Bread. Actually, I would be quite impressed if anyone does remember…I’m sure you all have better things to keep track of than my recipe arsenal! The reason I bring it up is to erase any kind of confusion between the two recipes. That back then was Apple Cinnamon Bread. This right now is Cinnamon Apple Bread. No, there is no logical reason for the ordering of the words; I just didn’t want two identical-sounding recipes. Because these are not the same bread. Not at all. The Apple Cinnamon Bread from 2012 consisted of a fragrant, cinnamon-spiced quick bread filled with chunks of juicy apple and topped with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust. It had a soft, tender, coarse crumb and was bursting with the flavors of fresh apple pie. My house smelled incredible while it was baking!

The Cinnamon Apple Bread from 2014 consists of a sweet, vanilla-scented bread layered with a thick cinnamon swirl and diced apples. It also has a soft, tender, coarse crumb and is bursting with the flavors of fresh apple pie. My apartment also smelled incredible while it was baking! As you can see, although the two breads are pretty different (one is a cinnamon bread with apple chunks and a crunchy topping; one is a plain vanilla bread swirled with ribbons of cinnamon-sugar and diced apple) you can’t go wrong either way!bread2

Despite the fact that every store in the country seems to have jumped straight from Halloween to Christmas, IT IS STILL AUTUMN. To me, November is very much a fall month. Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, the sidewalks are still covered with orange and red leaves, and our windowsill is still lined with about 40,000 tiny pumpkins and gourds. Yesterday JC Penney had Christmas music playing in their shoe section, and I was forced to jam my earbuds into my ears and blast non-Christmas music to drown out the premature rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Make no mistake–I am a Christmas FANATIC–but not until December. Right now it’s just wrong. Shame on you, JC Penney DJ.

Help acknowledge these last few weeks of autumn by baking a loaf of Cinnamon Apple Bread! Your kitchen will smell like an apple pie, and the resulting bread is soft, sweet, and fabulous. Cinnamon-apple is one of my favorite combos, especially when it’s layered into a tender loaf cake. The holidays will be here soon enough, but there’s definitely enough time for one last fall recipe….i.e. this bread!bread3

Cinnamon Apple Bread

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

1/2 cup milk

1 large apple, peeled and diced (I used a mixture of Gala and Granny Smith)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. Beat in the vanilla until smooth.

Add in half the flour and the baking powder, mixing briefly. Beat in the yogurt and milk, then the rest of the flour. Mix just until no flour streaks remain.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter half of the diced apples evenly onto the batter, then use a spoon to lightly press them down. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of the apples. Pour the remaining batter over the top, followed by the rest of the apples and the rest of the brown sugar/cinnamon. Press everything down lightly, then bake for 50-55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

(Recipe adapted from The Happier Homemaker)

Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

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For Christmas, my dad received a homemade coupon in his stocking good for one pie of your choice. It didn’t take any guessing to know that it was from me! Being the pie-lover that he is, he put a lot of thought into his choice. Originally my dad asked if I would make him a blackberry pie with the wild blackberries we had stashed in the freezer, leftover from late summer pickings, but unfortunately there weren’t quite enough. And it’s not like store-bought frozen blackberries would do, since after tasting a pie made with wild ones there is no. going. back. Back to the drawing board it was. One of my Christmas presents was a copy of the 75th edition The Joy of Cooking, and upon leafing through it I spied a recipe for Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust.

The savory-sweet combination was intriguing, especially since I LOVE the combo of cheddar cheese on apple slices. I’d never made a deep-dish pie before, which is essentially a pie without the bottom crust. I was a little worried that it would be too runny, more cobbler-esque, but it ended up slicing beautifully. When I suggested this pie to my dad he immediately consented, which is no surprise considering the fact that apple pie and extra-sharp cheddar cheese are two of his favorite things. After a quick trip to the store I was ready to go.

I baked the pie on a Saturday afternoon, then went off to babysit that evening. When I got home later that night I found the pie, half-eaten, with this sticky-note attached:

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(FYI, Sam is my brother and Victor is his good friend)

I think that pretty much says it all! This pie is perfect for apple-lovers, cheddar-lovers, and pie-lovers alike. I know for a fact that this won’t be the last time an Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust appears at our house!

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Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick cold butter, cut into chunks

2 Tbs chilled vegetable shortening

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 Tbs ice water

Filling:

2 lbs apples (about 4 medium-large) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4″ slices

6 Tbs butter

1 cup dark raisins (optional)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup apple cider

Zest and juice from 1 large lemon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

For the crust, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut half the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add in the cheddar cheese and the rest of the butter and shortening and cut in until it is pea-sized. Sprinkle in the water, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until the dough sticks together. If necessary, add in an additional 1 tsp to 1 Tbs water.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, plastic wrap, or a silicon mat. Lightly flour the top of the dough, place another sheet on top and roll into a 10-inch round. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the pie, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a wide skillet, heat the 6 Tbs butter over medium-high heat until sizzling and fragrant. Add the apple slices and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Then stir in the raisins, pecans, sugar, apple cider, lemon zest, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices thicken to the consistency of maple syrup.

Pour the mixture into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan (a shallower pan works best in this recipe so the crust:filling ratio is more even). Peel the top sheet of waxed paper off the pie dough, then place the dough onto the filling and peel off the bottom sheet. Let the dough soften for a minute or two, then tuck the edges inside the rim of the pan. Cut 4 steam vents into the top crust.

Place the pie on a baking sheet in the center rack of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Serve warm.

(Recipe from 75th Anniversary Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker)

Baked Apple Chips

I have a secret.  Well, not exactly a secret if you spend five minutes in the kitchen with me, but one that the average person doesn’t know about me.  And it is called, I suck as slicing.  And cutting.  And anything that involves creating uniformly-thick pieces of, well, anything.  My dad makes fun of my cheese slices, which are thick and slab-like at one end and paper-thin at the other.  My brother makes fun of my bread slices, which are usually short and stubby because my knife comes down at an angle and never makes it through the entire loaf.  By now you’re probably wondering what business I have writing a food blog.  Seriously, someone who is scared of pie crust and can’t cut carrot slices to save her life?  Writing a blog about cooking?  But whatever, we don’t live in a logical world.  If we did, nap time would be for high school kids instead of kindergarteners, Pringle jars would actually be big enough to fit your hand into, and the fear of long words would not be called hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.  Moving on…

My point is to not be deceived by the pictures of these apple chips.  Although they are uneven, cut through in some places, and far from picture-perfect, they still taste delicious.  And they are easy, healthy, and make your house smell like cinnamony fall goodness.  There’s nothing not to like.  Aaand there will be even less than nothing not to like when you make these yourselves, and your slices turn out round and beautiful and even.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep practicing my slicing, and maybe someday things will improve.  If I make these apple chips as many times as I intend to, since they’re that good, I’m sure I’ll be cutting like a human mandoline in absolutely no time at all.  Probably around the time that pigs fly. 🙂

Baked Apple Chips

2 large apples (any variety)

2 tsp cinnamon

Optional: 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and/or 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat.  Core both of the apples and slice them very thinly into discs.  Lay apple slices onto baking sheets, and bake for 1 hour.  Flip apples and bake for another 30-60 minutes, or until apples are slightly crisp and the edges begin to curl.  Bake time will depend on the thickness of your slices and the juiciness of your apples.

Apple-Cinnamon Chip Muffins

Once upon a time, I baked a batch of apple-cinnamon chip muffins, which were moist, delicious, and even on the healthier end of the spectrum.  Pans were washed, pictures were taken, and the rest of my family was given the okay to scarf them all down.  Unfortunately, the next step, which was to post them to my blog, did not happen.  At least not until now.  For the last few days, I’ve been plagued with a case of writer’s block.  I don’t know where it came from, but it might have something to do with my ridiculous load of school, homework, social obligations, weekend trips, jobs, exercise, college planning, and a head cold.  Oh yeah, and I’ve been trying to fit sleep in there, too.  Sadly, my poor little blog has been pushed to the bottom of my priority list.  Sorry, sorry.  But don’t worry, because now I’m digging it back out from the pit of procrastination!

Well, that’s enough moaning and groaning.  I’m sure my busy senior-year life isn’t exactly the most entertaining of topics, so I’d better stop complaining right now or I’m going to lose followers.  No more ranting.  Unless it’s ranting about how awesome these muffins are!  Remember them?  After all, they are supposed to be the subject of this post…they’re wonderful fall-themed muffins bursting with apple chunks and cinnamon chips (which you can usually find in Target, but are also available on Amazon.com).  Bake ’em, eat ’em, enjoy ’em.  The end.

Gosh, that was probably the worst blog post like, ever.  But I did tell you that I have writer’s block! 😉

Apple-Cinnamon Chip Muffins

2 cups peeled, diced apples

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 large egg, beaten

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup cinnamon chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or fill with paper liners.

Toss apples with brown sugar; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center and pour in the egg, applesauce, and vanilla.  Fold the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.

Fold in the apple mixture and cinnamon chips.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack.

Yield: 12 muffins

(Recipe adapted from Food.com)

Apple Cinnamon Bread

As a little girl, I always dreamed of having fruit trees in my own yard.  When I was about six, my family took a trip to a nearby nursery to purchase several small trees for our backyard.  What they had in mind, and what we ended up getting, were three little trees, but if had been up to me I would have ordered an orange tree, a lemon tree, and a peach tree.  Those were the types I had spied in one of the tree catalogs at the nursery, and no amount of logic (such as the fact that we lived in Colorado, not California) would seem adequate to justify my parents’ gentle “no’s.”

Sadly, I had to make do with the single skinny apple tree that grew next to our patio.  After living in our house for seven years, we finally determined its unwavering pattern.  Every other summer, the tree would burst with bright pink apple blossoms that ripened into little, green, surprisingly edible apples in the fall.  I loved going “apple picking,” though it was usually about 5 minutes and 6 apples later that the apple picking of the season drew to a close.   However small our tree’s bounty was, there was still almost always enough for an apple pie.  A big piece of homemade apple pie had an uncanny ability to erase my yearns for that lemon tree!

The following year, however, always proved to be a disappointment.  For some reason our tree had a switch that turned on one summer and off the next.  Without exception, that little apple tree could only handle the strain of producing apples every other year, so every second summer I would gaze sadly up at the spindly, bare branches and wait patiently for the following summer, when it would magically come back to life.  I haven’t lived in that house for nine years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if our determined little tree was still chugging (every other year, that is)!

Ironically, our house on the island is also home to a little apple tree, though it’s even weaker than the first.  To get the apples that I can’t reach, all I have to do is stand under the branches and shake the trunk (yes, the trunk!) and the ripe ones will fall down.  Sometimes right on my head, but that’s beside the point.  As small and scrawny as it is, this little tree is just as determined as our old one.  It manages to produce a few dozen Granny Smith-esque apples every. single. year.  *Gasp*  I went out the other day and came in with twenty-two apples, so I decided some baking was in store!  Enter this Apple Cinnamon Bread, which is full of fall flavors: cinnamon, a touch of allspice and cloves, and tart chunks of homegrown apple.  Add a crunchy brown sugar-cinnamon topping and you’ve got a winner!

Apple Cinnamon Bread

Bread:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 large eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups peeled, diced apples (about 2 medium apples)

Topping:

2 Tbs brown sugar

1 Tbs granulated sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray an 8″x4″ loaf pan with baking spray.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs for about 30 seconds.  Add in the oil, applesauce, and vanilla and beat until well-combined.  Add in the cup of sugar and mix until smooth.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the diced apples.  Spread batter into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, 1 Tbs granulated sugar, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle the mixture over the batter in the loaf pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until edges are golden-brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing onto a wire rack.  Cool completely before slicing.

Yield: 1 large loaf

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Blackberry Apple Pie

Even though fall doesn’t technically start for about three weeks, August 31st always feels like the last day of summer.  This is the time of year when I start buying apples instead of peaches, trade my flip-flops for my corduroy TOMS, throw an extra blanket on my bed, and make the transition from summer to school.  I’m a stickler when it comes to dressing, eating, and decorating appropriately for the seasons, so it makes me cringe when I walk through Michael’s in August and see scarecrows, hay bales, and pumpkins everywhere I go or when a Christmas song comes onto my iPod shuffle in the middle of July.  My parents have learned that if they do things like wear reindeer sweatshirts in the spring or bring home a strawberry-rhubarb pie in the dead of winter, I may have a mental breakdown.  Not that they let that stop them.  Sigh.

Anyway, yesterday I had the urge to make a pie.  And because we’re currently in this weird transition-from-summer-to-fall stage I couldn’t decide between baking a summery pie, such as peach or blueberry, or a autumny (I feel like I make up a lot of words in this blog) pie such as apple or pecan.  On one hand, I wanted to savor every last bit of summer that I could, but on the other hand I wanted to usher in my favorite season, fall, with a delicious pie.  Yes, I know, you must be wondering how I manage to cope with the emotional distress of such weighty decision-making.  It’s a wonder I can sleep at night.

Well, I slept like a baby last night because I found the perfect solution to my pie-making ordeal.  Instead of choosing between summer and fall, I chose summer and fall.  In the form of blackberry-apple pie.  It’s full of wild summer blackberries as well as tart, crisp apples and a myriad of fall spices.  The best of both worlds.  And it was especially fun to make since I picked the blackberries from bushes right down the road and the apples from our scrawny little apple tree.  I love how this recipe uses a cinnamon-spiked crust, which is part of why I picked it out of the gazillion hits for “blackberry apple pie,” and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.  The sweet blackberries perfectly complement the tart apples, and a healthy dose of cinnamon pulls it all together.  And a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream never hurts 🙂  This is the perfect transition pie to give a fond farewell to summer and a big hello to fall!

Blackberry Apple Pie

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2/3 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

4-6 Tbs ice water

Filling:

5 cups peeled, thinly sliced tart apples (I used 4 large Granny Smiths)

2 cups fresh blackberries

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

4 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

Topping:

1 large egg

1 Tbs warm water

coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the cold butter until mixture contains coarse crumbs.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time, tossing with a fork, until mixture begins to hold together when pressed.  Form the dough into a ball, and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Place one of the pieces in the refrigerator.

On a lightly floured surface or between two pieces of waxed paper, roll out the remaining half of the pie dough into a disc large enough to line a 9-inch pie pan.  Loosely roll the dough onto the rolling pin, and carefully transfer it to the pie dish.  Unroll the dough and press it into the pan, trimming the edges so that there is about a 1/2-inch overhang.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Place the apple slices and blackberries in a large bowl and sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the fruit.  Fold gently with a rubber spatula until the apples and berries begin to release their juices.  Pour the filling onto the crust.

Roll out the chilled half of the pie dough and place it on top of the pie.  Trim, seal, and crimp the edges.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and warm water.  Brush the egg mixture onto the top of the pie.  (This will result in a crisp, golden crust.)  Sprinkle sugar onto the crust if desired.  Cover the edges of the crust loosely with aluminum foil.

Bake in a 450 F oven for 10 minutes.  Decrease temperature to 350 degrees and remove foil.  Bake for an additional 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbly.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator, loosely covered.

(Recipe adapted from Taste of Home)