Perfect Apple Pie

This pie is Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen’s updated Perfect Apple Pie to her “Even More Perfect Apple Pie.” I had to try it because the filling is loaded with an enormous amount of apples. Yum.

She introduced me to a new technique which I was very surprised to have never seen before or thought of myself! She covers the pie with a foil dome to prevent the crust from over-browning. Absolute genius.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. The updated pie recipe modifies the baking temperature and cooking time, increases volume of apples (with a link on how to choose pie apples), decreases the thickness of the apple slices, omits the lemon juice and zest, and uses tapioca as the thickener.

The incredible mound of apple filling keeps the finished pie from becoming concave after baking. Beautiful and delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 12

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, or about 1/4 teaspoon ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 pounds baking apples (I used a combination of several types of apples)
  • 3 T tapioca flour or starch (I used minute tapioca)

For the Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
  • 1 T (15 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, optional
  • coarse or raw sugar for sprinkling, optional

To Serve:

  • vanilla ice cream, optional

Make the Filling:

  1. Combine sugars, salt, and spices in your absolutely largest bowl.
  2. Peel, halve, and core your apples and cut them into thin (scant 1/4-inch) slices, adding them right to the big bowl.
  3. Toss to coat the slices as much as possible. Set aside for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

Make the Crust:

  1. Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside.
  2. In a large, very wide bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. (If the butter becomes slightly warm, re-refrigerate until very cold.)
  4. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with a pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly.
  5. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop- even if it looks uneven.
  6. Start by drizzling 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together.
  7. Add an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, one tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and use your hands to gather the damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk.
  9. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out. (I make my dough a day in advance.)
  10. Once the dough is chilled and ready to go, roll out the first half on a well-floured counter into a 14-inch circle and transfer it to 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate.
  11. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim overhang to one inch all around. Refrigerate dish and dough until needed.
  12. For a regular pie lid, roll out the second dough half into the same sized circle, transfer it to a large parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. For a lattice or woven pie lid, you can use the same sized circle, or you can just roll it into a rectangle at least 14″ in one direction, and then as long or wide you can get it in the other. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. (I made a 10-piece lattice top.)

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

To Make the Pie:

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Stir tapioca starch into the apple pie filling.
  3. Pour filling into prepared bottom crust and use your hands to pack and heap those softened apples as mounded as you can get them, then add a few more.
  4. Pour any juices that have accumulated carefully over apples; do not leave any behind.
  5. Either place your second pie dough round over the filling or cut it into strips to lattice the top.
  6. Trim the top crust or lattice strips to the edge of the pie dish. Fold the overhang from the lower crust over to form a thick rim, and crimp it together with your fingers or a fork to seal it.
  7. Brush top crust with egg, then sprinkle with sugar if desired. If your top crust is in one piece, cut a few vents in it with a sharp knife.
  8. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the large baking sheet for easier cleanup, then transfer your prepared pie onto it.
  9. Bake for 75 minutes, turning once or twice for even color. If your pie is browning too fast, take a large square of foil, mold it over the back of a large bowl into a convex dome, then use that to cover the pie in the oven for the remaining baking time so it doesn’t brown much further. The pie is done when juices are bubbling visibly through the vents or lattice, or when the internal temperature reads 195°F. A tester inserted into the pie shouldn’t hit any overtly crunchy apple pieces. (I added an additional 10 minutes to the baking time t achieve the 195°F internal temperature.)

To Serve: Cool pie for at least one hour at room temperature before cutting into it. However, your filling will not fully thicken until it has fully cooled, ideally in the fridge for a couple hours. You can rewarm slices as you serve them, if desired. Leftovers keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, and in the fridge for 1 week. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Zucchini Bread

As if my CSA zucchini wasn’t enough, my friend brought me more beautiful zucchini from her garden. I made four loaves of this bread (two batches) with a single zucchini! Amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I incorporated whole wheat flour. As suggested, I used less sugar and also omitted the add-ins. We ate some, shared some, and froze some for later. This loaf improves with time- perfect to make the night before serving it for breakfast. I imagine it would also be delicious lightly toasted and topped with butter.

Yield: 2 loaves or 24 muffins

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil (can also used olive oil or another vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (can also used half (or even all) turbinado or half light brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups grated, packed zucchini, not wrung out (from about 10 oz zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 to 2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chocolate chips (or a combination), optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease 2 loaf pans (8×4 or 9×5) with butter and flour or with nonstick spray. Alternatively, grease 24 standard muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  3. Whisk eggs, oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bottom of a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients and whisk them in well.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Gently stir in flours, mixing only until incorporated.
  7. Fold in any add-ins, if using.
  8. Divide between prepared pans and bake for 55 to 65 minutes for a loaf, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before inverting and removing from the pans. The loaves can also cool completely in pans.
  10. Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 5 days. Loaves also freeze well.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

The New York Times was stalking me with this recipe. I had already cut the recipe out of their Food section and bookmarked it on my computer- on separate occasions. But I also received multiple emails from The NYTimes and Bon Appétit recommending this “wildly popular” recipe. I finally made them for our Super Bowl Sunday dessert. Delicious!

This recipe was adapted from Alison Roman’s cookbook, Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes, via The New York Times. I used Trader Joe’s Cultured Salted Butter from Brittany, France as well as Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chunks. I sprinkled the top of the cookies with Fleur de Sel prior to baking. They were big cookies- quite indulgent and chocolatey.

Yield: 20 to 24 cookies

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/255 grams total (2¼ sticks) salted butter, cold (room temperature if you’re using a handheld mixer), cut into ½-inch pieces (I used 250 grams of room temperature Trader Joe’s Cultured Salted butter from Brittany, France)
  • ½ cup/101 grams granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups/326 grams all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces/170 grams semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (not too fine; you want chunks, not little shards)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Demerara or Turbinado sugar, for rolling
  • flaky sea salt, such as Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling
  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla on medium-high till it’s super light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6 to 8 for a hand mixer).
  3. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth and feel like Play-Doh with no pockets of flour.
  4. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it perfect. (Don’t be afraid to make them compact. Shortbread is supposed to be dense. That’s part of why it’s so good.) You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but plastic wrap is easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2¼ inches in diameter.
  5. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours. I positioned the dough logs upright in the refrigerator and chilled them overnight.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  7. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the Demerara or turbinado sugar (this is for those really delicious, crisp edges).
  8. Using a serrated knife, carefully slice each log into ½-inch-thick rounds (if you hit a chocolate chunk, slowly saw back and forth through the chocolate). If the cookies break or fall apart, just press them back together — the dough is very forgiving.
  9. Place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart (they won’t spread much). Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Note: The cookie dough can be made ahead and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer. Cookies can be baked and stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for 5 days.

Lattice-Top Strawberry Pie

One of our family traditions is to go strawberry picking in June. This year, we were able to pick them at the organic farm that produces our CSA share. The berries were absolutely perfect. The farm also grows many different varieties of berries, so it was fun to pick from different areas of the patch. We kept buying more containers to fill! We went home with eight quarts. 🙂

First, I made the “mandatory” Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam and Strawberry Shortcake Cookies. I also make strawberry pancakes and strawberry muffins. Of course, I had to try something new to make with my precious berries. This lattice-top pie was it. Lucky for us, I also had enough berries to make Strawberry Gelato as well. All delicious!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times. I adapted the recipe by using an all-butter crust from Martha Stewart. I also used an additional cup of berries in the filling, used a 6-piece lattice crust, and sprinkled the top crust with turbinado sugar prior to baking. I also covered the edge of the pie throughout the baking time to prevent over-browning.

Fresh and fabulous. 🙂

Yield: one 9-inch pie, serves 8 to 10

For the Pate Brisee:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • coarse salt
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 to 2/3 cup ice water

To Prepare the Crust:

  1. Pulse flour, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined.
  2. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.
  3. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water (5 tablespoons) evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture holds together when pressed between 2 fingers (dough should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse.
  4. Shape dough into 2 disks, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (I made the crusts a day in advance.)

For the Filling:

  • 2 ½ pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and halved to make 6 to 7 cups
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, strained lemon juice
  • 4 T cornstarch
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

To Finish:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
  • vanilla ice cream, optional, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Make the Filling: In a large bowl, toss together the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Between layers of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface, roll out one dough round to fit a 9-inch pie plate.
  4. Fit the dough in the pie plate and spoon in the filling. Scatter the butter evenly over the top.
  5. Roll out the remaining dough, cut it into 1-inch strips (I cut mine into 6 pieces with a fluted pastry wheel) and weave a lattice top over the filling. Trim and crimp the edges.
  6. Brush the egg over the crust and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  7. Cover the edge of the crust to prevent over-browning.
  8. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the crust is nicely browned and the filling bubbles thickly, 40-50 minutes.
  10. Place on a rack to cool completely, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. Cut into wedges and serve, with or without vanilla ice cream, as desired.

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Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Soda bread is an essential start of the celebration in our house. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I loved the muffin adaptation- and the coarse sugar topping. I weighed the dry ingredients, reduced the baking time, and used turbinado sugar for the topping. Yummy.

  • 6 1/4 oz (177 g, 1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz (85 g, , 3/4 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 227 g) buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g) butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  • butter and/or jam, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with cooking oil spray; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups.
  6. Top with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  7. Bake the muffins for 14-15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven.
  8. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

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Single-Crust Damson Plum & Apple Pie

I “had” to make this wonderful weeknight pie with the Damson plums I received in my CSA share. 🙂 Apparently, they are too tart to be eaten raw and must be cooked. Lucky for me, I received over two pounds of them and was able to enjoy them in two different desserts!

The combination of tart fruit with a sweet cookie-like crust in this pie was absolutely delicious. Blending plums with apples was a wonderful bridge from summer to fall as well.

This recipe was adapted from The Guardian, contributed by Nigel Slater, via Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe used prune plums. It was almost a cobbler with its crumbly lid and oozing filling. Amazing.

I’m sharing my pie at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #138 this week, co-hosted by my friends Mollie @The Frugal Hausfrau and Johanne @French Gardener Dishes. Enjoy!

For the Pastry Lid:

  • 7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (I used the zest from about 1/2 a naval orange.)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt
  • milk or heavy cream, for brushing crust
  • turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling crust
  • softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional (unnecessary!)

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ripe Damson plums or Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
  • 1 pound apples, peeled, cored and cut into smaller chunks (I used Pink Lady apples.)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • squeeze or two of fresh orange juice
  1. Make the pastry lid: In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in the lightly beaten egg and scrape down sides.
  3. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.
  4. Scrape dough into a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and stick in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until firmed up.
  5. Assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C or gas mark 4).
  6. Butter a pie dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  7. Add the fruit and sprinkle it with the sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Gently toss the ingredients together once or twice. 
  8. Roll out the firmed-up lid dough between sheets of plastic wrap or on a very well floured counter.
  9. Gently lift it onto the pie and fold the edges underneath to fit the dish. Crimp the edges, as desired. (Note: The crust may tear- all the better to let juice erupt through.)
  10. Cut 4 vents in the top to allow steam to release and additional juice to bubble through.
  11. Brush the crust with milk or cream, sprinkle with sugar. 
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top, covering the edges after the first 15 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.
  13. Scoop onto dishes and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired. (I thought it was perfect on its own!)

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Banana Oat Muffins with Maple Syrup Drizzle

I have had this recipe from nancycreative.com bookmarked to try for a long time. I am always looking for new and tasty ways to enjoy my super-ripe bananas and the maple syrup drizzle in this recipe sounded absolutely delicious.

Ironically, when I assembled the muffins, I decided to top them with turbinado sugar prior to baking instead of using maple syrup. “What!?!?” you say? Well, you are not alone. It was a mistake… My entire family revolted. 😉 We enjoyed them immensely with both the turbinado sugar and the maple syrup!

As well as the additional sugar topping, I also adapted the original recipe to incorporate whole wheat flour and rolled oats. Great.

Yield: Makes 10 muffins

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
  • 3 T canola oil (or light olive oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • turbinado sugar, optional, for topping
  • pure Maple Syrup, optional, for drizzling over muffins (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per muffin)
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F, preferably on convection. Line a muffin pan with 10 (parchment) paper liners; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. In medium bowl, mix mashed bananas, oil, egg, Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract, blending well.
  4. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  5. Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let muffins cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack or serve warm.
  6. Right before serving, lightly drizzle some maple syrup on top, if desired.

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