Thursday, November 28, 2013


I am thankful for a day of rest, at least some what, and to spend time with family and friends on this cherished American holiday. To my family and friends scattered across our country I wish you a day of delicious food and good company. I am thankful and blessed by each of you. To my readers sprinkled around our precious globe I am thankful you take the time to visit my humble blog. May everyone have a day rich with many blessings. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Roasted Apple Pie

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching and me in charge of pies I thought I had better get busy thinking about what I will make. I have been on a roasting kick lately, autumn has that affect on me. I have put just about every vegetable and fruit in my oven. No, I am not the witch in Hansel and Gretel. I just love what roasting does. Instead of draining the flavor from fruits and vegetables it intensifies them. 

When it comes to pie I like a crisp, buttery, crust with lots of filling. The trouble with a fruit pie is all that fruit can take a long time to cook releasing a lot of juice which makes the crust soggy. I decided to roast the apples first, blind bake the crust and then finish the pie in the oven with a healthy sprinkling of nut infused streusel. 

Recently, a friend gave me an article about making the perfect pie crust. It recommended replacing part of the water with alcohol such as vodka or rum for a flaky crust. I incorporated the idea into this pie. The alcohol bakes out. If you use vodka you won’t taste it. If you want a little flavor you can use dark rum. If you prefer an all-butter crust with no alcohol use the pie dough recipe from my blog post on cherry pie.

There are a few steps to make this pie, but it isn’t hard. I think the results are worth it. Start by making the pie dough. While it is chilling, roast the apples. While the apples cool, blind-bake the pie shell. Make the streusel topping while the pie shell cools. Then assemble for the final minutes in the oven. My parents cheerfully agreed to taste-test the pie. Perhaps they are a bit biased, but we all agreed the results yielded a very flavorful apple pie. 

By starting the dough in a food processor and finishing it with a rubber spatula in a bowl you get the most even mixing without over-doing it. Process the dry ingredients and the butter in the food processor then transfer to a bowl before adding the liquid and bringing the dough together with a rubber spatula.

Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest in the refrigerator for an hour.

Tuck the over-hang of dough under the rim before crimping the edge for a more uniform edge.

Roasted Apple Pie

Pie Dough (Single Crust for a 9-inch/23-cm pie)

1 1/4 cups (175 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (15 g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces/145 g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons (30 ml) ice water
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vodka or rum, chilled

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor with a medal blade. Pulse a few seconds to blend. Add chunks of butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse meal, 10-20 seconds. Pour mixture into a bowl. Mix water and vodka together, sprinkle over the flour mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula just until dough comes together. Do not over-mix. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour. 

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let sit for a few minutes to soften. Roll out dough on a floured surface or between parchment paper and fit into a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate. Trim overhanging pieces tucking them under the dough around the rim. Crimp around the rim of the pie plate using your fingers to make a decorative edge. Loosely cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Line chilled pie dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake dough at 375℉ (190℃) for 20 minutes. Remove foil or parchment and pie weights, continue baking another 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Roasted Apples

7 large Honeycrisp apples (or apples of your choice)
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350℉ (175℃) degrees. Wash, dry, peel, core, and quarter apples. Cut each quarter into four slices. Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Scatter in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the apples are tender and the juices begin to caramelize. Rotate the baking sheets after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking. Allow the apples to cool before filling the pie crust.

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (50 g) old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup (25 g) walnuts, almonds, or pecans, toasted 
1/4 cup (60 g) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60 g) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces.

Pulse flour, oats, nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor to combine. Add chilled butter pieces and process until mixture starts to clump. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze between your fingers to make rough chunks. 

To assemble the pie put the cooled, roasted apples in the cooled pie crust. Add any juices from the pan to the apples. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples. Bake in a 350℉ (175℃) oven for 25-30 minutes until the topping is browned. 

If the edges of the pie are getting too brown cover the whole pie loosely with a piece of foil with a large hole cut out of the middle to allow the topping to brown. (Fold the foil in half and cut a half-circle, then unfold and cover the pie.) 

I think apple pie is best served warm à la mode.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fun with Figs

Many years ago my late husband and I were returning to Palo Alto from skiing in Lake Tahoe. We had left earlier than usual because a storm had blown into the area. It seemed everyone had the same idea. As the mountains faded behind us the driving snow turned to pouring rain and the traffic went from a crawl, to stop and go, then it stopped all together. This was before cell phones, so we had to rely on the radio for information. We learned the freeway had been closed due to flooding. Finally able to exit the freeway we stopped for gas before finding an alternate route home. Chris ran into the convenience store as the car’s tank was being filled. A moment later he opened the car door and handed me a package of Fig Newton cookies and a carton of milk. When I asked what it was he said, “Dinner!” Our normal four hour drive ended up taking eight.

I have always been a Fig Newton cookie fan, but I had never had a fresh fig. Later that year when the season hit I bought a small basket of fresh, plump, purple figs from our favorite produce stand. Figs are delicate. They don't travel well, which is probably why I had never had one before. It was love at first bite. 

When I left California I decided to find a variety that would grow in the Midwest. It wasn't easy, but eventually I was successful. I thought it would be a small shrub, which it was for many years yielding only a few coveted pieces of fruit each season. But now it is gigantic. While probably not the best for the house, it thrives in its sheltered location. It now produces bumper crops of figs. 

Here are two of my favorite ways to use my abundant yield. The first is a simple fig compote, which could also be made into jam by increasing the amount sugar and cooking the figs a little longer. 

The second is an even easier recipe for roasted figs. I love to roast fruits and vegetables. It intensifies the flavors and sugars. I don't add any sugar to the roasted figs because I don't think they need it. Feel free to if you prefer the fruit sweeter. There isn't a lot of sugar in the compote either. I prefer to let fruit shine on its own.

Wash, dry, de-stem, and quarter fresh figs. Split a fat vanilla bean and scrap out the seeds with a sharp knife.

Put figs, sugar, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Allow the fruit to simmer gently until figs are soft. Mash with a potato masher so there are rough chunks of fruit throughout.

If you prefer the sauce to be more like jam increase the sugar to taste and purée in a food processor.

Use the compote as you would any fruit sauce. It is delicious over ice cream or pound cake. My favorite is drizzled on slices of Honeycrisp apple, (cores removed) with goat's cheese and walnuts. It makes a tasty afternoon snack.

Fig Compote

1 1/2 pounds (.675 kg) fresh figs
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar or more if desired
1 plump vanilla bean, split and seeds scrapped out

Gently wash and dry figs. Remove stems and cut into quarters. Put in medium saucepan with sugar, vanilla bean, and scrapped seeds. Cook over medium heat uncovered until the juices are released and the fruit begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cook until fruit is soft. About 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Roasted Figs

Fresh figs

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). Gently wash and dry figs. Remove stems and cut into quarters. Place on a rimmed baking sheet cut side up in a single layer. Roast 30-40 minutes until the fruit is soft and juices begin to caramelize. Cool slightly on the pan then transfer to a clean glass jar making sure to get all the cooked juices. Store in the refrigerator. 

You can make this recipe with any amount of figs. Just make sure they are in a single layer on the baking sheet. Use more than one baking sheet if necessary. 

Keep an eye on the figs so they don't burn, but allow the fruit to get soft and the juices to start to caramelize. 
I like to serve the figs warm over good quality vanilla ice cream. Caramel ice cream would also be delicious. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Moment with Martha Stewart… Almost...

My niece, Stephanie, and I attended the Indiana Governor's Conference for Women in Indianapolis. The conference brought together business women and entrepreneurs to share ideas and inspiration with the guidance of well-known speakers and business leaders. The conference was enlightening and indeed inspiring. But for my niece and I the secret draw was our desire to meet Martha Stewart. We are huge fans. When we learned she would be the keynote speaker we were in.

Martha was to sign books before the luncheon. As one would imagine the line for the book signing was long. We waited as patiently as possible, clutching our newly purchased books as we inched ever so slowly toward our goal. Our chances were not looking good, when suddenly the line moved quite a bit leaving us up next. We were just a few feet from Martha. Nervously, Stephanie and I glanced at each other while trying to figure out what we would say without gushing or sounding crazy when it was announced Martha had to stop so she could speak at the luncheon. The two year old inside me wanted to scream, "NOooo". Thankfully, I didn't. I remained composed and tried to act like a grown up, but I was quite disappointed. We both were. 

Although we didn't get our shining moment, we did greatly enjoy the talk Martha gave with Charlotte Beers, another speaker at the conference. Ms. Beers has had a successful career in advertising, as well as, serving as Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs under the direction of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Martha and Charlotte have been friends for many years. Their talk was both entertaining and inspiring. 

When the luncheon concluded Stephanie and I went in search of tea before the afternoon sessions began. Taking the stairs to a lower floor we exited next to an elevator. A moment later the elevator doors opened and out walked Martha surrounded by some staff. My niece and I looked at each other knowing this was our chance when a rather imposing woman abruptly approached Martha and asked to take a photo with her. Martha graciously obliged, as a staff member quickly snapped the photo. The women then vigorously shook Martha's hand and gave her a bear hug much to Martha's surprise. At that point Stephanie and I realized we could not breech Martha's personal space any further. We wanted her to enjoy her time in Indianapolis and to want to come back. We shrugged and watched as Martha walked down the hall with our chance of meeting her evaporate. So close, and yet…

During Martha's talk we learned she had visited Long's Bakery that morning for donuts. A favorite bakery of our family. If only we had known… 

Martha, thank you for visiting our fine city. We do hope you enjoyed Indianapolis and will come back again soon. We would be happy to show you around.