Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Week - 3 (Deep Dish Apple Pie)

While at the local library last week, I was looking for some movies to watch for my family. I picked up a couple of movies that we hadn't seen in a few months (yes, we like to re-watch movies very often!) and then looked for something new. Browsing in the more "educational" shelves of videos, I stumbled upon a small section devoted to cooking shows! After picking through Rachel Ray and similar "newer" chefs, I found just what I was looking for: America's Test Kitchen Best Baking Recipes. So on Saturday night, while everyone else was busy with a party that we were hosting, I went downstairs with my dog (since one of the guests was comfortable with canines) and popped it in.

For the next two hours I was glued to the screen. Christopher Kimball went through different recipes with some of their test cooks, from a summer fruit galette to spice cookies to chocolate mousse cake. Another recipe that America's Test Kitchen made was Deep Dish Apple Pie. I watched, entranced, as the chefs showed how to make the best butter crust, cooked the prepared apples in a heavy sauce pan before putting them into the pie dish, and gave tips to keep the crust from sticking to your counter while rolling it out.

I went back later to re-watch that episode and copied down as best I could the directions for one of the best apple pies ever! This recipe I made today, and although I gave it a tweak here and there, was developed by America's Test Kitchen.

Here's the scoop for you:

Butter Pastry for Two-Crust Pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
16 tbs. unsalted butter (pref. frozen)
3 tbs. sour cream
1/3 cup ice water

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Add in the butter (cut into small cubes).

Blend the butter with the dry mixture until the dough resembles very small peas.

Be careful to keep the butter from getting too soft. Refrigerate as necessary.

Mix together the sour cream and ice water, then pour into the dough.

Combine thoroughly and then separate into two equal balls of dough.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.

Deep Dish Apple Pie Filling

10-12 apples (half tart apples, such as Granny Smith, and half sweet, Golden Delicious)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
a little salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

Prepare the apples by peeling and cutting them into thin slices.

Add in the sugars, salt, cinnamon, and lemon zest.

Put apples in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and cook lightly over a low heat for about 15-18 minutes. Be very careful not to let the apples boil or get overheated. You want to have them soft to easily pierce with a fork but still retain their shape.

Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet and spread them out to cool.

Back to the Pastry:

Roll out the dough.

Quick Hint: Before you roll it out, let it warm up a little bit so it won't crack when you roll it.

To keep it from sticking to your counter, tear off two sheets of wax paper and lightly flour both. Then place the dough between the sheets and roll away!

The pastry should measure 12in. by 12in. in a circle. Place on a baking sheet and put in the refrigerator to keep the butter cool.

Then roll out the other half of the pastry - this one will be the bottom half of the pie. Place in the pie dish and leave the edges to overlap.

Back to the filling:

The apples have now cooled, to pour them into a colander over a bowl to drain out the excess liquid.

Add the "dry" apples into the pie dish, then pour about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the cooked apples over the filling.

Bring out the cooled pastry and put on the top of the pie. Seal and trim the sides, then crimp the edge to your personal style.

Make sure you cut slits or holes in the top crust to let out the steam.

You can brush the top of the pie with beaten egg white, the sprinkle white sugar on top.

Bake in a 425F oven on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour, but make sure the top does not get too dark.

Let cool completely, for about two hours before serving. This allows the pie to set and is easier to cut.

Garnish each slice with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Week - 2 (Oatmeal Bread Recipe)

As Julia Child says, "If you're not ready to fail, you're not ready to cook... cooking is often one failure after another." Today was one of those days that the baking did not turn out exactly right. Usually there is a small blemish or mistake in most of my finished products, but today I added too much water to my bread dough and the result was a completely uncooked center! We'll broil those parts of the loaves with lots of butter for breakfast tomorrow...

I do not have pictures from today's experiments, but if you go to one of the earlier posts, you can see what Oatmeal Bread is supposed to look like when the recipe is followed correctly.

Here's the Scoop:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not the quick kind)
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp. salt
1/4 white sugar
1 package or tsp. dry active yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour


Pour the yeast into the 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Be careful not to have hot water, because that will kill the yeast. Water that is too cool will not activate the yeast, and then the dough will not rise at all.

Put the oats in a large bowl.

Pour the boiling water over them, add the salt and sugar. Let stand until lukewarm.

Add the yeast that was dissolved in the lukewarm water.

Gradually add in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly.

After adding the flour, turn out onto a floured counter top and knead for six to eight minutes. Dough should be smooth and only slightly tacky (or sticky).

Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

Divide into two. Place each dough portion into a greased loaf pan. Let rise again until doubled in bulk.

Bake in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes, or until brown on the top and bottom.

I like to rub the top crust with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven to add extra flavor and a little shine.


Thanksgiving Week - 1

It's Monday of Thanksgiving week! Like other households, we are gearing up for a day of feasting and fellowship while giving thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed on us. On Thursday we will be having Grandma, two cousins from out-of-state, and six or seven international students eager for a taste of an American Thanksgiving experience.

Today was spent doing some regular work, and then in the afternoon I got a chance to do fun work in the kitchen...

In addition to baking two different kinds of breads, I put our 28lb. turkey in to brine for the next three days. Not strictly "sweet" - I decided to include the recipe we use for some people have expressed interest in learning how to brine a turkey. This will make your turkey refreshingly moist, even after roasting in your oven for five or more hours!

Recipe for Turkey Brine:

After rinsing out the turkey, remove giblets and other unnecessary parts included. (Fowl should be defrosted beforehand).

Place bird in large, heavy duty, trash bag inside a large cooler.

Add 1 cup of salt (regular table salt)

Add 1 cup of white sugar

Then pour in between 3-5 gallons of water, enough to entirely cover the turkey, which should be placed breast-side down.

Tie trash bag securely.

Let soak for 2-3 days in the bag, inside the cooler on your porch (that's what we do, since the cool temperatures allow us to have extra "refrigerator" space) - turning once a day to the opposite side.

Thursday (Thanksgiving morning)

Proceed to follow your normal roasting procedure.


Recipes will be following shortly for the breads I made today!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Enter into the land of warm, delicious cookies. Today we have the very first recipe that I ever memorized, and one of the first recipes that I made by myself. It came after years of watching mom whip these up in less than 20 minutes, taking turns with my siblings for mixing the dough, and sampling the batter for quality control. When I first made these by myself I kept running downstairs to ask my mom "How much sugar?" and "How much vanilla?" and "How do you know when they are done?"

A note on the side - we sometimes keep our chocolate chips in the freezer, and I've found that the chips hold their shape better during baking.

Here's the Scoop:

2 sticks salted Butter
1 c White sugar
1 c Brown sugar
2 TBS Vanilla extract (or imitation)
2 Eggs
1 TSP Salt
1 TSP Baking soda
2 1/2 c Flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
12 oz SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (or your favorite kind of chocolate chips)


Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Soften butter in a microwave-safe bowl large enough to hold the entire batch. Be careful not to MELT the butter.

Cream together brown and white sugars until it "is all one color."

Add vanilla and the two eggs. Batter should be smooth and shiny with no lumps of brown sugar dotting the surface.

Then mix in the salt and baking soda.

Add the flour - starting with about 2 1/4 cups, the add the rest if necessary. Do not overmix.

The dough should be sticky but able to hold shape. Add the extra flour if the dough seems too "wet." Be careful not to overmix. It is at this step that I find myself repeatedly testing the dough to make sure it is just the right consistency!

Pour in the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Lightly mix just enough to make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto un-greased cookie sheets. Try to place most of the chocolate chips on the top of the cookie to make them visually appealing.

Bake in 350 F oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on how you like your cookies.

Once baked to desired doneness, take out of oven and drop the cookie sheet onto the ledge of your sink. Be careful not to let it fall to the floor. This step is optional, but it takes out the extra air from the cookies and is very simple once you practice it a couple of hundred times.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tribute to Tivvy

"I talk to her when I'm lonesome like,
and I'm sure she understands.
When she looks at me so attentively,
and gently licks my hands;
Then she rubs her nose on my tailored clothes,
but I never say naught thereat,
For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes,
but never a friend like that!"

W. Dayton Wedgefarth

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1st Recipe Coming Soon...

I know, I know. It's been too long before a recipe has been posted here for you to read and savor (maybe even try yourself). Well, barring catastrophe, tomorrow looks like I can get some serious time in the kitchen with a camera. I am not saying what I am going to create, but I will let you know that it's on the simpler side of the broad dessert spectrum.

But in the meantime, I have been working on getting the blog more personalized. I encourage you to check out some of the links on the sidebar and discover some of my different sources of inspiration and interest. Although one or two of the cooking blogs is devoted to vegetarian/organic foods, I am always amazed by the creativity and artistry within each dish. I hope you enjoy browsing them as much as I do!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oatmeal Bread

Not strictly a dessert, Oatmeal Bread is an easy way to convert leftover oatmeal into a more appetizing dish. The recipe will be following closer to Thanksgiving, when I will divert to blogging about foods other than desserts. Stay tuned!

Inspiration Begins in the Kitchen

It all started one rainy afternoon. I was in the kitchen, in the middle of making a carrot cake and an ice-box cake when I had a moment of divine inspiration: "Why not start a blog to chronicle my hobby of cooking?"

After the carrot cake was iced with lemon-zest-cream cheese frosting, I got to thinking. The blog wouldn't be a daily journal loaded with pictures and recipes that are filled with healthy, hard-to-find, unappetizing ingredients. I am not vegetarian nor do I plan to bake entirely with organic foods. My idea was to select the very best dessert recipes that I've made or want to try and post one a week here with a few modest pictures. Although I don't have a recipe post fully prepared and ready to upload today, getting the blog up and running was my goal for this week.

Sweet Talk will discuss all kinds of desserts, from Chocolate Chip Cookies to Lemon Meringue Pie to Oatmeal-Crusted Brownies to Cheesecake. I'll share with you recipes that my family loves plus try some totally new ones to broaden my horizons (I'll need to get a blow torch before I can try making Crème Brûlée).

Join me on my expedition into cookbooks old and new as I search for the best, sweetest desserts this side of Heaven. Happy Baking!