Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

I read somewhere that apple pie is the most popular pie during the holidays.  This definitely isn't true for my family, but who am I to knock apple pie?  I mean, it's got apples, which we all know I love.  On top of that, it's apples baked with spices and enveloped in a flaky, buttery crust.  It really can't get much better than that, right?  

Wrong.  So, so wrong.

Because this apple pie has salted caramel.  It's baked in the pie and drizzled on top of it.  And it. is. heavenly.  

Like I always do, I used my perfect pie crust recipe.  I get compliments on it every time I make it and I've gotten to the point where I know how it should feel.  I can tell if it needs a bit more flour or water or if it's just right simply by listening to the way the food processor sounds as I'm making the dough.  It makes me feel like real, honest-to-goodness grown up when I can bake like that.  Silly, I know, but it's true.

Then my perfect pie crust gets piled high (you really do need a deep dish pie plate here) with sweet, tart apples mixed with spices, partially cooked, and mixed together with a big scoop of salted caramel.  Once all of that is topped with another buttery crust and sprinkled with sugar it goes into the oven for an eternity hour.  What comes out looks beautiful, smells divine, and totally and completely elevates the apple pie game.

If ever an apple pie was worthy of a holiday table, this would be it.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

1 recipe perfect pie crust

For the salted caramel:
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

For the filling:
4 lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled cored, and cut into 3/4-in. cubes
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP tapioca
1/2 tsp. sea salt

For assembly:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
2 tsp. turbinado sugar
flaked sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste

1.  To make the salted caramel, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a heavy 4-quart pot or saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture bubbles vigorously and turns a golden amber color, 10-12 minutes.  Stir the sugar with a wodden spoon during the first 2-3 minutes of cooking.  Do not stir after this point.  Instead, swirl the pan to make sure the mixture cooks evenly.  Watch the caramel carefully.  It will go from amber to burnt very quickly.

2.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Immediately and carefully add the cream.  The mixture will bubble up and splatter, so wear oven mitts and use a long-handled wooden spoon.  Stir until the sauce is smooth and blended.  Stir in the salt, then let cool.  Can be made up to two days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Bring up to room temperature before using.

3.  To prepare the apples, stir together with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples are just tender, about 20 minutes.  Uncover and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the cornstarch, flour, tapioca, and salt.

4.  While apples are cooling, place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400° F.  Roll out one of the pie crusts and fit into the bottom of the deep dish pie plate, trimming the edges to make a 1/2-in. overhang.

5.  Stir 1/2 c. salted caramel into the apples, then pour entire mixture into the pie shell.  Roll out top crust and fit over apples, trimming the edges and crimping, as desired.  Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

6.  Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown and the apples are very tender, approximately 1 hour.  Check pie after 30 minutes and cover the edges with foil if they are too dark.  Let the pie cool on a wire rack at least 2 hours before serving.

7.  To serve, reheat some of the remaining salted caramel in a small saucepan.  Slice the pie into 8 pieces.  Drizzle each piece with salted caramel and sprinkle with flaked sea salt.

Yield: 8 pieces

Monday, November 24, 2014

Meatless Monday--Cranberry Sauce Grilled Cheese

Have you picked out your Thanksgiving outfit yet?  You know, the one with sufficiently stretchy pants that look like you're wearing them because they're dressy?  You might want to pick two such outfits this year because you're going to want to make this sandwich day after day.

Tackling Thanksgiving leftovers seems inevitable.  Some dishes get completely devoured during the main event, while other always leave leftovers no matter how small a batch you make.  Cranberry sauce always falls in the latter category, I think.  I'm a cranberry sauce lover myself, happy to stir it into my morning oatmeal or yogurt for a holiday kick.  But this's my new favorite way to eat cranberry sauce.

The sandwich starts with two thick slices of my pumpkin yeast bread.  If you've never made it, now's the time.  The recipe makes two loaves, so you can use one for toast in the mornings and one for making these grilled cheese sandwiches.  After spreading each piece of bread with butter, you pile on creamy sliced fontina or brie and a couple dollops of leftover cranberry sauce.  What happens next is nothing short of magical.  It's like that brie en croĆ»te appetizer everyone always loves, but you get your own entire sandwich.  Gooey, melty cheese, perfectly toasted bread, and sweet-tart cranberry sauce--it's just so right.

Gooey melted cheese and sweet-tart cranberry sauce combine to make the absolute best Thanksgiving leftover sandwich you've ever tasted.

Cranberry Sauce Grilled Cheese
an Apple a Day original 

8 slices pumpkin yeast bread or bread of your choice
butter, for spreading on bread
16 slices fontina, brie, or other white cheese that melts well
3/4 c. cranberry sauce (this is my favorite recipe)

1.  Preheat a large pan or griddle over medium-low heat.

2.  Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread.  Assemble sandwiches by placing two slices of cheese on four pieces of bread.  Top with equal amounts cranberry sauce then two more slices of cheese.  Place remaining bread slices on sandwiches, making sure the buttered side is out.

3.  Place sandwiches in preheated and cook until cheese begins to melt and bread is a deep golden brown, 4-5 minutes.  Flip and repeat.

4.  Remove sandwiches from pan and let cool one minute before slicing.

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Turkey Soup with Chorizo, Potatoes, and Kale

I'm a firm believer there are some lines out there that just don't blur.  Summer or winter, city or country, cats or dogs--see what I mean?  Pretty clear lines there.  Another clear division comes in the leftovers vs. no leftovers debate.  There are some people out there who just won't eat leftovers.

Me?  I'm squarely in the leftovers camp.  To me, there are few foods that don't get better with a little extra time.  The day after Thanksgiving, I'm perfectly happy with a plate of reheated leftovers or some turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiched between two slices of my pumpkin yeast bread.  But I realize there are others who cringe at this thought.  They can be reformed.

They key to turning leftover loathers into leftover lovers is to repurpose the ingredients.  Don't just reheat the food, use it in a completely different way with a completely different flavor profile.  This soup does just that.  

Thanksgiving turkey, which we're all bound to have plenty of, gets spiced up with the help of plenty of garlic and sliced chorizo.  (If you live in a place where chorizo isn't easily available, spicy Italian sausage would be your best substitute.  You'll need to add a little extra oil.)  You can make this soup really special by using the turkey carcass to make your own broth.  With potatoes for body and kale for the nutrition boost we all need after an indulgent holiday, this soup is bound to convert a leftover hater or two.

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey gets a serious makeover in a soup packed with spicy chorizo, hearty potatoes, and nutritious kale.  

Turkey Soup with Chorizo, Potatoes, and Kale
from Cook's Illustrated, Soups, Stews and Chilis


1 TBSP vegetable oil
12 oz. chorizo, sliced 1/4-in thick
1 medium onion, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 3/4 tsp. dried
12 c. turkey broth
1/2 c. dry white wine (optional)
1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
1 bunch kale (about 1 lb.), stemmed, leaves chopped into 1-in. pieces
2 c. cooked, shredded turkey meat
up to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, for serving

1.  Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Brown the chorizo, 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

2.  Add the onions to the fat left in the pot and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Stir in the broth, wine, if using, and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, 10-15 minutes.

4.  Stir in the kale and simmer until just tender, 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the turkey, chorizo, and red pepper flakes and cook until just heated through, about 2 minutes.  Season to taste.  Drizzle individual portions with olive oil before serving.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meatless Monday--Holiday Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries, Apples, and Orange

It's almost tough to believe how close we are to the holiday season.  In just a couple of weeks, we'll be traveling, receiving guests, giving thanks, decorating, shopping up a storm, and making memories.  We'll also be spending plenty of time cooking, baking, and eating.  With so many hectic days and holiday treats out there, we all need to have a few simple, healthy recipes up our sleeves.  

This baked oatmeal, an adaptation of one I've made time and time again, is packed with the warm and comforting holiday flavors we've all come to know.  Apples and a familiar blend of spices provide instant comfort, while cranberries and orange brighten the whole dish up, both visually and in taste.  If you've got a house full of guests coming, this is the perfect breakfast to fill their bellies and keep them warm and energized all morning long.  It takes less than ten minutes to put all the ingredients together and the baking time is just right for enjoying a cup of coffee and some time to visit.

Make your holiday guests feel extra special with this comforting baked oatmeal packed with cranberries, apples, spices, and a hint of orange.

Holiday Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries, Apples, and Orange
adapted from this recipe
originally from Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day

1 1/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, divided
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 oranges, zested and juiced (should yield about 1/4 c. juice)
1 1/4 c. milk or almond milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large crisp apple, peeled, cored, and chopped into 3/4-in. pieces
1 c. fresh cranberries, 3/4 c. left whole and 1/4 c. halved

1.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Lightly grease a 2-qt. casserole or baking dish.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, half the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.  (This mixture can be done the night before to expedite morning prep time.) 

3.  In a liquid measuring cupe, combine maple syrup, orange zest and juice, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.

4.  Spread the chopped apple pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the casserole or baking dish then top with half the the whole cranberries.  Sprinkle the dry mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Pour the liquid mixture over the oats.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts and cranberries over the top.

5.  Bake, uncovered, 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oat have set.  Place on a wire rack and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Soft and Chewy Snickers Cookies

Let's talk about Halloween candy, shall we?  If you're at all like me, you have quite the love/hate relationship with it.  I mean, it's delicious and fun and brings back all kinds of happy memories.  We loved getting it as children and we love handing it out as adults.  But oh, the calories.  We didn't really think about that as kids.  Calories are less fun.

As adults, we choose when and if we treat ourselves.  We debate about whether or not that slice of pie, scoop of ice cream, or piece of cake is worth it because we all know not every indulgence is worth it.

These cookies are worth it.  Period.

I've used my BEST-EVER chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base.  It's by far the most popular recipe on this blog and I've loved reading all your comments about making these cookies for your children, husbands, boyfriends, and friends.  Your adaptations have been so creative.  Today, I have my own adaptation for you--I've swapped out the chocolate chips in my best-ever chocolate chip cookies for chopped up Snickers.  

The idea came to me as I stared at a giant container of leftover candy.  I thought it might work, but I had some reservations about the candy pieces oozing out of the dough and becoming a tough, sticky mess.  There was a little candy bar ooze, but oh my goodness, was it a good thing.  This dough is already perfectly buttery, soft, and chewy, but the Snickers pieces added the most incredible hint of nuttiness that almost makes the entire cookie taste like a peanut butter cookie.  But with Snickers.  I can honestly say I might like this adaptation even better than the original.

Leftover Halloween candy gets a tasty makeover in these soft, fluffy, buttery cookies based off my BEST-EVER chocolate chip cookies.

Soft and Chewy Snickers Cookies
adapted from Apple a Day
original recipe by Anna Olson, Food Network Canada

3/4 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10 fun-sized Snickers, cut into tenths (about 1 c. chopped)

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy and light in color.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add egg and vanilla.  Mix until fully incorporated.

3.  Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture in three additions, mixing on medium-low speed and scraping down sides of the bowl in between additions.

4.  Add in Snickers pieces and mix together on low.

5.  Using a standard-sized cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared baking sheet.  Press dough down very slightly.  (The cookies will not spread very much.)  Bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are barely golden brown around the edges.  (The tops will not brown, but do not cook longer than 10 minutes.)

6.  Let cookies cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove cookies from the baking sheet and let cool completely.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen cookies