Sunday, 27 September 2015

Marvelous Double Apple Pie

It's Autumn - officially, finally, autumn.  You wouldn't know it from the temperatures we have, ahem, enjoyed, lately but you can definitely tell from the cool nights, deep golden hue of the sunshine and the changing leaves.  It's baking season!!  I have been off to a roaring start - pumpkin muffins and loaves, banana bread, and this apple pie.

This is probably the best apple pie I have ever made.  The two of us gobbled up half of the pie on Saturday night, which may be normal for my husband, but two slices of pie in one sitting is definitely pas de normale for me.  It was just that good.  I followed the pastry recipe exactly - and it worked out.  Pastry is not my strong suit, and I have never had much luck with butter crusts, but I thought I would give this a try - eggs and milk and all, and it was marvelous....!

The other marvelous thing about this pie is the double apple part - it is a mixture of firm and tart apples and soft and sweet apples, sweetened simply with brown sugar and flavoured with just a hint of cinnamon.

Pâte brisée
From Joanne Chang's Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe

1 ¾ cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold milk

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds , or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 ½ minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough onto an unfloured surface, the gather it together into a tight mound, smearing the butter chunks into the dough as you go.

Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust or lattice-top pie

Double Apple Pie
adapted slightly from Joanne Chang's Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe

2 large or 4 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 medium Macintosh apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 tbsp sanding sugar

Roll out 2/3 of the chilled dough to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pie pan, leaving a small lip at the edge of the pan. Place the pie shell in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the apples, brown sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon, toss until the apples are coated evenly. Let this sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so that the apples get all juicy and saucy.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out the remaning 1/3 of dough and using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into 8 strips, with 4 a bit longer than the other 4. Remove the chilled pie crust from the fridge and pour the apples in, pressing down slightly to fill in the gaps. Lay 4 strips over the top, leaving an inch or so in between, starting with the two longer strips down the middle, and the two shorter strips closer to the edges. Lay the remaining 4 strips over top, making a criss-cross pattern, No need to weave in and out, unless you want to get all complicated : )

Sprinkle the lattice top with the sanding sugar. If you want to be fancy, you can brush the lattice with egg first.

Bake pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue baking until tops and edges are a nice golden brown and the apples are all bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Two

This post marks two milestones - 100 posts, and 3 years of blogging!  Wow!

When I write Chocolate Chip Cookies for Two, I mean two hungry people (or one hungry man and his pregnant wife!) This recipe makes 4 hearty chocolate chip cookies.  We ate these for dessert on pizza night - I wouldn't recommend nor repeat that choice.  Who needs dessert after pizza? So full....but so good.  And, you have to eat them warm out of the oven or what is the point, really?  

These cookies are Comfort Food.  With capitals. 

Apologies for the poor quality pics - they were taken at 10pm on a Friday, and we were in a hurry to sample. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Two
totally borrowed from Chatelaine

2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup chocolate chips

PREHEAT oven to 350F. Line a baking pan with parchment.
STIR butter with brown sugar in a medium bowl until creamy. Stir in egg yolk and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour and baking soda until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
DIVIDE batter into 4 portions. Scoop each portion onto prepared sheet, 3-in. apart. Cookies will spread as they bake. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired.
BAKE in centre of oven until cookies are golden around the edges, about 10 min. Transfer sheet to a rack to cool just slightly, about 2 min.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Pumpkin Muffins or Loaf (or both!)

It feels like fall this weekend.  What a change....we were literally hiding out in a dark air-conditioned theatre last weekend to escape the sweltering heat.  Right now our house is cooler than it is in the depths of winter, but we refuse to turn on the furnace.  It is still summer, after all.

I fully welcome the change in seasons this year - and all the yummy things that come along with it. Yesterday morning I was up early and felt like baking, and as I looked through all my favourite cookbooks for inspiration, I was drawn to this pumpkin muffin recipe in Flour.  I kept flipping the pages though, thinking, no, too early, what else can I make, but all the other recipes required some ingredient or other that I just didn't have, nor did I have the 'drive' to go out and get it.  What I did have was two large cans of pureed pumpkin. So, pumpkin spice it was.

You can add raisins to this if you like, or espresso powder and chocolate chips.  You can add a maple glaze, cream cheese icing, or maple roasted pepitas to jazz them up or turn them into cupcakes.  I just baked them up, plain and simple.

This recipe makes a lot of pumpkin muffins.  A double batch of average sized muffins, or perhaps a dozen jumbo muffins.  I decided on 12 muffins and a loaf.

Pumpkin Muffins
from Flour
makes 24 muffins, 12 muffins and 1 9x5 loaf, or 2 9x5 loaves

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp molasses
4 eggs
3/4 cup pulp-free orange juice
454g pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium-large bowl.

Cream butter, sugar, and molasses together in a separate bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, beating in between additions.

Add the orange juice and the pumpkin.  Mix well until thoroughly combined.

Add flour mixture, all at once, and stir until well combined.

Pour into lined or well-greased muffin tins or loaf pans if using.

Bake muffins at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes.  Loaves will take between 45-55 minutes.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Lindsay's 5 Star Peach Pie

This is a family recipe courtesy of my dear friend Lindsay - she recently brought it to a weekend cottage getaway where it received rave reviews.  A lovely combination of a rich buttery shortbread crust and a creamy custard filling studded with slices of fresh ripe sweet Ontario peaches.  It's rich, but that won't stop you from wanting seconds.  I think this would be amazing served with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Lindsay's 5 Star Peach Pie

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter

Blend ingredients together in order given.
Pat mixture into a buttered 9x13 inch pan.
Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees C.

2 beaten eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4-5 cups peaches, sliced (about 6 good sized peaches)

Beat eggs, add vanilla and dry ingredients.
Blend and add peaches.
Pour mixture over crust and bake 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees C.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

White Chocolate Vanilla Cake with Strawberries and Cream Frosting

How is it already the end of July?!  We celebrated my Mom's birthday last week so I naturally baked her a nice cake.  Happy Birthday, Mom!

This year's version is the birthday vanilla cake recipe from last year, with some updates.  I added white chocolate chunks throughout the cake, and replaced the chocolate ganache filling with sliced ripe strawberries, white chocolate bits and pieces, and whipped cream.

Instead of vanilla buttercream frosting, I used a sweet whipped cream to top the cake (and for filling).  All you need is whipping cream, vanilla, and a bit of icing sugar.  So easy!

Sprinkle the top of the cake with white chocolate and a couple of pretty strawberries - or do an artful design on top with sliced strawberries - whatever floats your boat.  As strawberry season has now come to an end here in Ontario, I think this cake would be equally (or possibly even more) delectable with ripe peaches.   Who has a birthday in August?!

White Chocolate Vanilla Cake with Strawberries and Cream Frosting

White Chocolate Vanilla Cake
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour                        
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
100g chopped white chocolate
2/3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk

Strawberries and Cream Frosting
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 9-in. round cake pans* and line bottoms with parchment.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, cream softened butter together with granulated sugar using a hand mixer. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla.  Add one-third of flour mixture, then add half the milk. Repeat, ending with flour mixture.  Fold in about 2/3 of the chopped white chocolate.
Divide mixture evenly between the two cake pans.

Bake in centre of oven until a cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 24 minutes.  Cool in pans on a rack for 10 min, then turn cakes out onto rack. Remove parchment. Cool completely, about 30 min.

Beat the cream, vanilla, and icing sugar using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or hand mixer) on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.  Carefully continue beating just past the soft-peak stage, about 1-2 more minutes.  The frosting should hold its shape, but still be smooth and spreadable.

Place one cake layer on a stand.  Cover generously with frosting, and place sliced strawberries and the rest of the white chocolate over top, pressing gently into the frosting.  Place the second layer on top and cover with frosting.  Sprinkle the top with white chocolate 'dust' and arrange any remaining strawberry slices on top if you like.

* makes 2 on the thin side layers of cake.  If you prefer thicker layers, try 8 inch pans.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Mom's Granola Bars

This is an oldie but a goodie - the stuff of lunch-box treats and after-school snacks, and probably healthier than these ones... and it takes like less than 5 minutes to whip up.  The longest part is waiting for the oven to preheat!

Mom's Granola Bars

3 cups large flake oats
1 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1 cup raisins
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk (300ml)
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper, allowing some to overlap the sides.
Melt butter.  Combine oats, peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips in a large bowl.
Pour in condensed milk.  Add in slightly cooled melted butter and mix well.
Press evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool slightly.  Remove from pan by using the overlapping edges of the parchment paper.
Cut into bars.

This recipe is easily halved and baked in a 8x8 inch square pan.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Fudgey Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

After a bit of a hiatus, I have returned to baking and blogging! What better way to jump back in than fudge brownies with peanut butter chips?

I have had a bag of peanut butter chips sitting in my cupboard for months.  You see, I have been trying to recreate a favourite dessert from one of our favourite coffee shops for a while now - I have attempted it twice, and was definitely closer the second time around.  Third time's a charm? Anyways, that recipe isn't ready to share with you yet, so instead, here are some brownies with peanut buttter chips in them, because, why not.  And also, because peanut butter and chocolate are the second best flavour combination in the world, after bread, cheese and tomato.

This are actually one of the easiest brownie recipes out there - you can throw these together in 5 minutes.  I love recipes where the butter is melted, so you don't have to plan ahead and remember to keep the butter out of the fridge in advance!

If you are a fudgey brownie fan, these are are for you.  These are incredibly fudgey and the peanut butter chip adds just the right hint of flavour to make it extra special.  Yum-my.

Fudgey Peanut Butter Chip Brownies
adapted slightly from Sally's Baking Addiction

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out.

Melt the butter, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a saucepan. Transfer into a large bowl with a spatula.  Allow to cool slightly.

Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. The batter will be thick and look shiny. Add the flour, beating with a whisk until fully combined. Try not to overmix the batter at this point. Gently fold in the peanut butter chips, leaving a few to sprinkle on top. Pour into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with remaining peanut butter chips.

Bake for 25 minutes and check the brownies. Insert a toothpick or cake tester in the centre. If it comes out with only a few crumbs, the brownies are done. Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes if the middle is still too gooey. Be careful not to overbake. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.