Cream Rolls with Apple Mousse (Šamróle)

If somebody writes a food blog, it’s probably fairly safe to assume he or she doesn’t mind spending time in the kitchen. In my case that’s definitely true. I’d cook and bake 24/7 if my back would cooperate, and if I didn’t have to clean the kitchen afterwards. Cleaning is one aspect of culinary endeavors I could absolutely live without, but thankfully I have people in my life who are quite willing to load the dishwasher and clean the counters in exchange for good food.

Years in the kitchen have made me into quite a foodie, which is probably just a nicer way of saying that someone is a bit of a culinary snob 🙂 I won’t touch boxed anything and prefer to make what I can from scratch. It makes sense, especially in light of our family’s dietary restrictions: Gluten-free grub isn’t the cheapest, but when you make it at home, this way of eating is actually quite doable. I like knowing what I’m feeding my men (so they have the strength to clean the kitchen for me!), I like saving money (so that I can buy more good food), and I absolutely and positively love playing with food.

My obsession with all matters culinary was the main reason why I’ve been stubbornly resisting Mr. Photographer’s suggestions to buy a pressure cooker. You see, for years he’s been singing praises for melt-in-your-mouth tender meats his Mom used to make in her pressure cooker, and trying to convince me just how much time would that little gadget save me. But I’ve bravely opposed the pressure (pun intended). I don’t need darn pressure cooker and I don’t care for less time in the kitchen, thank you very much! And what, you want to tell me I can’t make the meat tender with just the good old stove and oven?! All the pressure cookers and crockpots and similar nonsense are for people who don’t have time to cook or who hate cooking! Poor souls who haven’t yet discovered that chopping and stirring and tasting can be fun! (Can you feel the foodie snobbism just dripping from my lips? Yup, and as it’s often the case, I was about to fall from my high horse and it was going to hurt.)

A couple weeks ago a friend of mine called me saying she got herself the Instant Pot, the mighty machine that does the work of seven kitchen gadgets. It was before Christmas, it was on sale, and so I thought: “What the heck, I’ll buy one too. I’ll play with it a little, declare it not good enough for what my needs, and swiftly return it. I’ll prove to Mr. Photographer that such gadgets have no place in life of a self-respecting good cook, and he’ll forever hold his peace.

Yes. Well. That was the plan.

Ever since that little devil of a machine showed up in its brown box on my doorstep, it’s been plugged in pretty much non-stop. Holy jackpot! It’s a slow cooker. It’s a pressure cooker. It’s a rice cooker. It’s a yogurt maker. It sautées, it cooks, it bakes. It doesn’t constantly ask me questions like my men do (How much oil? Is that enough water? How long do I cook it for? And do I need to stir it or not?). It. Just. Knows. Everything. By. Itself. Remember the old fairy tale about a little girl who was gifted a porridge making magic pot? She just said, “Cook, little pot, cook!” and when she had enough, she ordered it, “Stop, little pot, stop!” Well, I feel just like that little girl, except my pot doesn’t even need to be told to stop – it stops by itself when it’s time! (No sticky porridge running down my counters, woot!)

Please, I’m begging you – do yourself a favor and don’t just go, but run to buy the Instant Pot. (I just accidentally typed Magic Pot, but could’ve just left it, because, well, it’s true!) It’ll make your life so much easier, and if you want to stay in the kitchen, no one is stopping you. The pot just frees you to do something else while it cooks dinner for you. It’s as if you hired an assistant chef!

And that’s exactly what I’ve done this weekend. While the soup was bubbling away in the pot on the counter, I wrapped puff pastry around the metal molds and licked the cinnamon-y apple mousse off my spatula. And these little cream rolls are the result. My grandma used to make them each December and send them to us as a part of her Christmas cookie assortment, but I think they’re good any time of the year! They’re pretty easy to make too, especially if you buy puff pastry from the store. The baked apples will fill your home with the most delicious aroma, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to use all your willpower not to gobble them all up just as they are coming out of the oven, and leave at least some for the mousse. Be strong. I promise, when you’ll taste the crispy cream roll overflowing with the smooth sweet filling it’ll be all worth it!

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Cream Rolls with Apple Mousse (Šamróle)

(adapted from http://www.bonvivani.sk; makes about 12 – 15 cream rolls)

Quick Puff Pastry for the rolls – makes about 500 g (1 lb.) of dough:
  • 235 g (7.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 60 g (2 oz.) cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 250 g (1/2 lb.) cold unsalted butter
  • 125 ml (4 oz.) iced water
Apple Mousse:
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 125 g (4.5 oz.) powdered sugar
  • 2 big apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp apples)
  • ½ teaspoon each vanilla extract and ground cinnamon

+ 2 egg yolks, mixed with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash for brushing the rolls)
– extra powdered sugar for sprinkling the rolls if desired

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Method:
  1. Prepare the puff pastry: In a bowl of a food processor, combine cake flour and salt; pulse to aerate. Add in the cold butter, diced, and pulse until the mixture resembles peas (you should still see pieces of butter throughout the dough). Lastly, with the processor on, slowly and carefully pour in the icy cold water, just enough so that the dough comes together. Wrap the ball of dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. While the dough is chilling, bake the apples: Wash the apples, but don’t peel or core them, leave them whole. Place them on a baking sheet, add in a little water (about ½ cup) and bake them at 375 °F (190 °C) for about 50 minutes until soft.
  3. Let the apples cool a little and then scrape out the pulp, leaving peel/core behind. Place the scraped out pulp into a food processor and give it a little whirl to make smooth and thick apple sauce. Transfer the apple sauce into a glass bowl, mix in vanilla and cinnamon, and set aside.
  4. Making the puff pastry rolls: Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly butter your cream roll molds and preheat the oven to 360 °F (180 °C). Take the chilled puff pastry dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 3 mm thickness. Work fast, and try not to handle the dough too much – you want it to stay as cold as possible. Cut the dough into stripes about 2.5 cm ( 1 inch) wide and 30 cm (12 inches) long.
  5. Working with one strip at a time, wrap the dough around the mold, overlapping the dough slightly. Brush the dough on the molds with the egg wash and bake them for about 15 – 20 minutes, until they puff up and are nice golden brown in color. Take the rolls out of the oven, let them cool on the molds for about 5 minutes and then take them off the molds and let them cool completely.
  6. Make the apple mousse: Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar into a glass/metal bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), and then set the bowl over a pot of boiling hot water. Whip the egg whites in the water bath until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Transfer the egg white mixture into a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment and with the mixer on a medium speed gradually start adding the powdered sugar.
  7. Heat the apple sauce in a microwave for couple of seconds until lukewarm/warm, but not hot. With the mixer still on, by small increments start adding the lukewarm apple sauce to the egg white mixture, whipping constantly, until you use up all the apples and the mousse forms very firm peaks.
  8. Assembling the cream rolls: Transfer the apple mousse into a piping bag. Fill the cream rolls with the mousse, dust the tops with powdered sugar if desired, and serve.

Apple Cheesecake Tart

As I was trying to elbow my way through the masses of people in the supermarket and getting out of the crowded parking lot yesterday, I was pondering that not many people actually seem to be very thankful on Thanksgiving. Everyone just looks… grumpy. Stressed. Maybe it’s just the sheer amount of work involved in making the food that will then be gone in twenty minutes. The mountains of dirty pots and pans that will follow. Or the anticipation of mandatory family visits with more than a few uncomfortable questions from nosy relatives. The day just doesn’t exactly mirror peace and contentment.

And yet I feel this day’s important. Even if we don’t think about these things very often, buried under tons of day to day responsibilities, I found that when you just start thinking about what you’re thankful for, the things just keep flowing. And it’s not just the big, obvious stuff, like good health, family, friends, and roof over our head. It’s also countless small, silly things that make life enjoyable. Such as… Driving. If you’d tell me fifteen years ago I’d love zipping through town in my small (red!) electric car one day, I’d think you’ve lost your mind. But I love everything about it: the road, me time, the music, all of it. GPS. Admittedly, the driving would be much less enjoyable without it. I have absolutely no sense of direction and quite possibly wouldn’t find my way back home. Sleeping in. There is nothing better than to be able to burrow under covers on Saturday morning for some extra zzzz-s. Big kids. Yeah, there would be no sleeping in if the boys would still be little, I’m afraid. Life with teenagers is no picnic, that’s for sure, but on the upside, I don’t have to potty-train anyone anymore, they’re able to cut their own food, and on good days they even put their dirty plate into the dishwasher. Speaking of which… Dishwasher! There would be much less cooking/baking going on in this house without that magical box in which one puts dirty dishes and from which they emerge clean. Wine and Chocolate. An absolute must when trying to survive the teenage years of your kids. If you have teens of your own, you know what I mean. If your kids are still little, you’ll find out what I’m talking about soon enough. Boots. A wonderful pick-me-up during those cold and dreary winter days. I’m still searching for that perfect pair of leather boots in burgundy red. Fireplace. A substitute sun between November and March in the Pacific Northwest! Facebook. I know everybody says social media eat up way too much of our time, yadda, yadda… but to me Facebook is an absolute godsend. It makes me feel connected to my family and friends I’d otherwise get to see only rarely, and be a part of their lives. I could go on and on, but since this is a food blog, I’ll finish with Good Food and the big warm kitchen to make it in.

And this is what I made in my kitchen for our Thanksgiving dessert this year. I admit we’re not big fans of pumpkin pie, and would pick cheesecake over it any day. So that’s exactly what we did. The cheesecake tasted great, and the cinnamon-scented apples made it look very Fall-appropriate. It was also gluten-free, very easy to make, and since it needed to chill overnight, I made it the day before and had the oven free for the bird on the Thanksgiving day.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and are enjoying your time together. The turmoil and sadness going on around the world is putting all things into perspective for me. I’m blessed with all the cooking, dirty dishes, know-it-all teenagers, and a freezer that broke week before Thanksgiving. Let’s make the best of this day, this weekend, next week, and the next. Because we can.

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Apple Cheesecake Tart

(adapted from Southern Living 9/2014)

Crust:
  • 200 g (7 oz.) gingersnap cookies
  • 1/2 cup walnuts/pecans
  • 55 g (4 tablespoons, ¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Cheesecake Filling:
  • 450 g (16 oz., 2 packages) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Apple Topping:
  • 1 kg (2 lbs.) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jelly mixed with 2 tablespoons water
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Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F ( 190 °C).
  2. Make the crust: In a food processor, finely grind the gingersnap cookies and the walnuts. Add in the sugar and butter and combine. Lightly butter 9 inch (22 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. Evenly press the mixture on the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
  3. Make the Cheesecake Filling: Mix all the ingredients until well combined.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth out the top with a spatula. Put the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until almost firm, but still a little jiggly in the center. (If the filling browns too quickly, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil.) Cool the tart on the rack and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  5. When the tart is chilled, prepare the apple topping: In a large skillet, melt the butter. Combine apples with sugar and cinnamon, and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes, until softened. Don’t overcook, you don’t want the apples to turn mushy. Drain the excess liquid from the apples and let them cool.
  6. Assemble the tart: Arrange the cooled apple slices in a concentric pattern on the top of the chilled cheesecake. Heat the apricot jelly and water mixture in the microwave, strain it, and brush the apple slices with the glaze. Put the cheesecake tart under the broiler for couple of minutes until the apples brown up a little (watch them closely so they won’t burn.) Alternatively, use the torch to brown the apples. Chill the tart until serving.

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Orange Cranberry Tartlets

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’m slowly getting in the mood. I cleaned out the big freezer yesterday to make room for the turkeys. Yes, the plural was intentional. I’ll be buying at least four, maybe more, depending on how many I’m able to cram in there. At this house, turkey is a perfect food for at least two reasons: 1. It’s meat, and my three cavemen won’t survive without meat. To them, life without meat is just not worth living. 2. It’s a lot of meat, so even if I’ll be birdsitting for four hours at first, basting the sucker around the clock, after those four hours are up, I won’t have to cook for at least three days. Which doesn’t mean I won’t set foot in the kitchen, of course, it just means that I’ll have a lot more time for baking what I want. Turkey in this house translates to bliss all around.

Another thing that can’t be missing at our holiday table are cranberries. I can do without the sweet potatoes and green beans, but I absolutely adore anything cranberry – from the special sweet and tart relish to accompany the bird, through cranberry breads, muffins (and martini!), to deep red cranberry color in my closet which works wonders for my complexion! But I digress; back to the kitchen, shall we?

I made these little tartlets around Thanksgiving last year, and I’ll be making them again next week. The base is Italian pasta frolla, a type of sweet and buttery shortbread dough, and the filling is just lots and lots cooked down cranberries with sugar and spices. I made the pasta frolla with regular gluten flour as well as gluten-free flour mix, and the recipe worked either way. The dough does need to be chilled before baking, but if you make the pasta frolla and the filling the night before, the recipe really comes together in a snap.

A great little holiday dessert – a perfect balance of sweet and tart, just the right size so you won’t need to share and won’t need to feel guilty for indulging either, not to mention a dessert that’s beautiful to look at. Just think about all the vitamin C lurking in the cranberries, and dig in!

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Orange Cranberry Tartlets

 Pasta Frolla:
  • 1 3/4 cup (235 g, 8 1/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mix)
  • 90 g (3 oz.) powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons, 113 g, 4 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
Orange Cranberry Filling:
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • juice and zest from 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
+ 1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon water/milk – for egg wash
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Method:
  1. Make the pasta frolla (shortbread dough): Place all the dry ingredients into the bowl of your food processor; pulse to combine. Add in the cold cubed butter and pulse couple of times, until the flour mixture resembles peas. Lastly add the lemon zest and the egg/egg yolk, and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough and chill it for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Make the Orange Cranberry filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a small saucepan; and cook over low heat, stirring, until the cranberries burst open and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. (You are essentially making a quick jam.) Let the cranberry filling cool, cover, and refrigerate until needed. The filling can be made up to 2 days in advance.
  3. Assembling the tartlets: Lightly butter eight tartlet pans with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pasta frolla, and cut out circles a bit bigger than your tartlet pans. Ease the circles of dough into the pans and prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Fill the tartlets with cold cranberry mixture and decorate the top with scraps of remaining dough.
  4. Chill the tartlets while you preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). When the oven reaches the desired temp, place the tartlets on a big shallow baking pan, give them a coat of egg wash and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until golden.

(makes about eight 4-inch tartlets)

Pear Dumplings with Walnut – Raisin Stuffing and Honey – Wine Sauce

The days are getting shorter – and colder – and rainier! – as we slowly move toward winter. This weekend we even get to turn our clocks back, so as of next week, it’ll be dark by 4 p.m.! The kids will be waiting for their school buses in the pitch dark in the morning, and by the time they get home, it’ll be dark again. Yay! Can you tell how excited I am?! I so wish we could just move our clock forward to May right now!

Thankfully, there are things that help me to get over my rainy blues, namely lots and lots of wonderful fall produce that we have at our fingertips these days. And even though apples are often praised as the perfect autumn fruit, I want to kick them out of the spotlight for a minute and instead focus on their humble cousins, pears, because I think they’re being undeservedly ignored. To me they’re way cooler than apples; they can be crunchy, sweet, or buttery, and with so many varieties we can find at the stores these days, there really isn’t anything they wouldn’t be great in. Salads, relishes, tarts, sweet or savory dishes, pears are extremely versatile and work in everything!

I paired them up with puff pastry and made a simple but elegant dessert. Either homemade or store-bought, I adore puff pastry, because it’s just so easy and when it puffs up high, coated with golden egg wash, it looks terrific. And I also added wine, honey, and cinnamon for a good measure. As it gets cold outside, I start going through cinnamon like crazy. It’s a wonderful warming spice and even when there is a scary wind storm or horrible downpour banging against the roof, as long as we’re warm and there is a waft of cinnamon in the air, I feel that everything is ok with the world 🙂

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Pear Dumplings with Walnut – Raisin Stuffing and Honey – Wine Sauce

(4 servings; adapted from Nejlepší recepty 3/2015)

Quick Puff Pastry – makes about 500 g (1 lb.) of dough:
  • 235 g (7.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 60 g (2 oz.) cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 250 g (1/2 lb.) cold unsalted butter
  • 125 ml (4 oz.) iced water
For the pears:
  • 300 g (10.5 oz.) puff pastry (reserve remaining pastry for later use)
  • 4 smaller firm Bosc pears
  • 800 ml (27 oz.) pear juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 50 g (2 oz.) granulated white sugar
  • 50 g (2 oz.) golden brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk – for egg wash
Walnut – Raisin Stuffing:
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Honey Wine Sauce:
  • 125 ml (4 oz.) liquefied honey
  • 5 tablespoons sweet dessert wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 50 ml (2 oz.) water
  • 4 – 5 whole cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon

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Method:
  1. Make the puff pastry: Place the dry ingredients into the bowl of your food processor; pulse to combine. Cut in the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles large peas. Lastly add the iced water and pulse just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap and chill the dough until needed.
  2. Prepare the walnut – raisin filling by combining all of the ingredients together; chill until needed.
  3. Cook the pears: Combine pear juice, lemon juice, and sugar in a deep saucepan. Peel the pears. Remove the core, leaving the top with the stem intact. Place the pears in the syrup so they are completely submerged. Cook the pears for about 10 minutes until soft. Don’t overcook. Remove the pears from the syrup and let them cool.
  4. Assembling the pears: Fill the pear cavities with the walnut – raisin filling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled pastry and cut it into long thin strips. Cover the opening on the bottom of each pear with a piece of dough, and then carefully wrap the dough strips around the pears. Place the pears on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preheating the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  5. Brush the dough with egg wash and bake the pears for about 15 – 20 minutes until the dough is puffed up and golden brown.
  6. While the pears are baking, prepare the honey wine syrup: Combine all the ingredients together and cook until the syrup thickens.
  7. Serve the pears with the syrup, warm or at a room temperature.

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Note:

You can also cut the cooked pears in half, fill the small cavity with stuffing and place them cut side down on the rolled out pastry, and trace the dough around them with a sharp knife, outlining the pear form. Add a small cut out leaf, brush the edges of the dough with egg wash, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 375 °F (190 °C)  for 20 minutes.

Apple Cheese Galette

Of all of the seasons I love Summer the most, but Fall is a close second. They say Autumn is the year’s last smile… before life comes full circle and everything begins anew in the Spring. We’re in the middle of gorgeous fall around here and I love all about it: The colorful leaves and warm drinks, not to mention soft sweaters and tall boots. Thankfully,  they haven’t gotten the memo that they should’ve started pouring down by now and not stop for the next five months up there yet (shhh, please don’t tell them… just a little while more!) The mornings might be crisp, but later in the day it still warms up enough so that we can enjoy all the beauty around.

Fall fills me with nostalgia, and as usual, I deal with it by firing up the oven and filling the air with all the wonderful aromas this time of year has to offer. Today it’s apples, scented with gingerbread and cinnamon. I paired them with sweet cheese, and created a simple but very flavorful galette. Not much to write about it: galette is a free-form crusty cake with various sweet or savory fillings, and to me, it’s a very laid back type of dessert that can be tailored to whatever fruit you have on hand. I chose apples because they’re such a typical fall treat for us to enjoy, but I imagine pears or plums would work just as well; the key is to vary the amount of sugar and cornstarch depending on the fruit used. The dough is simply folded over the filling, creating a wonderfully crispy crust, while allowing the fruit to shine in all its beauty. Galette is also much easier and quicker to make than its somewhat temperamental and high maintenance relative pie – thus giving you more time to  curl up by the fire with a book, or go for a walk on one of the last sunny afternoons, and still come home to a great dessert.

Put on a thick scarf and go play in the crisp leaves, and then drive out the chill from your fingers and cheeks with a warm galette. Who says you can’t have it all? With just a little planning you absolutely can!

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Apple Cheese Galette

(inspired by Nejlepší recepty 3/2015)

Pastry Dough:
  • 250 g (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 180 g (6 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • pinch salt
  • 80 g (3 oz.) powdered sugar
Filling:
  • 80 g (3 oz.) ground gingerbread cookies
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 250 g (9 oz.) soft white cheese, cream cheese, or quark
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vanilla “cook and serve” pudding powder
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 2 – 3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into rings
  • 2 tablespoons piquant jam (raspberry, cranberry)
  • 2 tablespoons spiced rum
  • pinch cinnamon
Gingerbread Streusel:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 80 g (3 oz.) ground gingerbread cookies
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

+ 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

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Method:
  1. First, make the dough: Place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cold cubed butter into the bowl of your food processor; pulse until the mixture resembles peas. Add in the egg and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap the dough and chill it for at least an hour before proceeding.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the apple rings in water with 2 tablespoons sugar for about 5 minutes until soft. Drain the apples and let them cool.
  3. Prepare the cheese filling: Place cheese, 4 tablespoons sugar, egg yolk, vanilla pudding powder, and lemon zest into the bowl of your food processor fitted with an s-blade. Mix to combine. Whip the egg white until firm peaks form, and mix in carefully with a spatula into the cheese mixture to lighten it.
  4. Make the Streusel Topping: Combine all the ingredients with your fingers; chill until needed.
  5. Remove the cold pastry dough from the fridge; roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 3 cm (a little over an inch) bigger than a 23 cm (9 inch) round springform pan. Line the springform pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the sides. Preheat the oven to 350 °F  (180 °C).
  6. Fit the pastry into the pan, pressing the overhang up the sides for now. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with 80 g (3 oz.) ground gingerbread crumbs and cover them completely with the cheese filling. Arrange the cooled apple slices onto the cheese.
  7. Mix jam, rum, and cinnamon. With a teaspoon, place a tiny bit of the jam mixture into the apple slices, and sprinkle the entire galette with the gingerbread streusel topping. Gently fold the overhang pastry over the fruit, pleating as you go along. Brush the edges with the egg wash.
  8. Bake the galette for about 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil. Cool the galette for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or at a room temperature.

Fall Apple Pie

Every marriage and family has an issue or two on which the people involved don’t quite see eye to eye.   In our house, we don’t fight over the correct way to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube and don’t have “over versus under” toilet paper debates.  We butt heads over the vacuum and its proper resting place in our day-to-day life. I like to keep it in the kitchen, plugged in, and always ready to conquer the next mess that emerges. With two starving teenagers plus a husband who likes to eat,  our family life pretty much  takes place in the kitchen, and as we all know, life can be messy. I’m not going to keep the vacuum neatly stowed away in the closet only to have to take it out five minutes later. No, our trusty Dyson is right there in the middle of the kitchen floor, together with its endless cord that enables me to reach in every corner.

And Mr. Photographer hates that. According to him, it’s the dumbest idea ever and disaster waiting to happen. He claims the stupid vacuum is constantly in his way. He’s tripped over it couple of times, which is something I don’t understand – you see it’s there, so just step over the cord and move on with your life. It’s not like it’s a needle in a haystack, right? Everybody can see a vacuum!

Under normal circumstances, absolutely. Unless you just came home from the other end of the world, are jetlagged after a 15-hour flight, are trying to catch up on the laundry, and cooking 3 meals at once. The washing machine is beeping. You jump up to put the stuff in the dryer. Everything is under control, you’re doing great. Just five more loads to wash and put away. The soup is boiling over. You rush to take care of that, when you hear the oven announcing the bread is ready. You leap over to take it out, and what’s right there in the middle of the kitchen floor? Yep, your trusty Dyson. With its endless cord that enables you to reach in every corner. Except this time, it enables you to land with your whole palm on the open and red-hot oven door.

Sitting here whining and pondering if I should go to the ER or not, I can now with an absolute certainty tell you three things: As big as it is, there are times when you really can’t see a vacuum under your feet. You can’t write, bake,  nor do pretty much anything else with one hand stuck in a bowl of icy water to relieve the pain of a burn.  And lastly, it pays off to listen to our partners more.  As much as it burns me to say it, occasionally they might actually be quite right.

*****

Since baking one-handed can be quite a challenge, this pie is actually a throwback recipe I made last year. I had a lot of fun with it, playing with painting the leaves and decorating it, and I think it turned out beautiful, and would be a great addition to any of your fall celebrations. Enjoy, and please be careful in your kitchen endeavors!

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Fall Aple Pie

(adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com)

Pie Crust:
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 200 g (7 oz.) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg
Apple Filling:
  • 1.5 kg (3 lbs.) baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Gala
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling over the pie
  • 55 g (2 oz.) unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg

+ 1 egg, beaten – for egg wash
1 egg yolk + assorted food colors for painting the leaves
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Method:
  1. To make the crust, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your food processor fitted with an S-blade, and pulse to combine. Add the cold cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles peas. Add the egg and pulse again 1 – 3 times only – do not let the mixture come to a ball. If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of cold water. Remove the dough from the food processor and bring it together by hand. Wrap and chill for two hours before proceeding.
  2. Meanwhile, make the apple filling: Peel and core the apples. Quarter them and cut each quarter into 2 – 3 wedges, depending on the size of the apples. Toss the apples with sugar and lemon juice to prevent browning.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the apples soften and release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
  4. Strain the apples over a bowl to catch the juices. Return the juices to the pan and cook until reduced and caramelized, about 8 minutes. Combine with the apples and spices and set aside.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll each half into a circle about 10-inch (23 cm) wide. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. Roll out the scraps of the dough and cut out decorative pieces with cookie cutters. Lay them out on a plate/tray and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Take one circle of the dough from the refrigerator. With a sharp knife, cut out the trunk/branches of a tree in the center.(The cut-out will work as a steam vent while the pie is baking.) Set aside.
  8. To assemble, fit one circle of the refrigerated dough into a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan. Pour in the cooled apple filling, mounding it slightly in the center. Brush the edges with egg wash and place the top circle on the apples pressing the edges together. Put the pie back in the fridge and preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  9. To paint the cut out leaves, place the egg yolk in the middle of a paper plate and put a drop  or two of assorted food colors all around the edges of the plate. Mix a little of the yolk in each color and paint the leaves with a small brush. Put a little egg wash around the cut out tree and on the edges of the pie and decorate the pie with your painted leaves.
  10. Carefully brush the top of the pie with remaining egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes until golden brown. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil. Cool on rack before serving.

Peach Blueberry Mini Pies in a Jar

Summer is in full swing! The temps hiked up pretty high in the last couple of weeks, and we’ve had our share of awesome, sunny, rain-free days. I’ve heard some folks complaining it is actually too hot for them, which is a statement I don’t understand. Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t a lizard in a previous life – I’m always cold unless it’s at least 80 degrees outside, and so these days I’ve finally had a chance to warm up a little. There is no such thing as too much heat or sunshine in my book – I mean, come on, you don’t need to shovel it, and it’s million times better than the constant rain clatter and the pressing feeling that the dark skies are going to fall and suffocate me any minute that I often get during Autumn and Winter. I guess I am just summer kind of girl. Plus, think about all the lazy days, beach vacations, hiking trips, picnics in the shade which we can enjoy. Pure bliss. Summer adventures usually mean we spend less time in the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean we can’t eat well, and there is definitely no need to give up dessert 🙂 Just look at these perfect mini-pies if you don’t believe me! They’re quick to make (you can even make them in advance, freeze them, and bake from frozen later), highly portable (excellent for all those picnics and potluck get-togethers), not to mention they’re cute as a button! And since you’re using just a small portion of pie dough for the bottom and another tiny cutout to top the fruit, there is a lot less crust compared to a regular pie. That may be a good thing or not, depending on how you look at it: sure, the buttery crust is awesome, but this way, a lot less of that butter will go to your hips, and any woman can tell you that’s a great thing 🙂 Portion control is key, especially during body-baring summer days! Oh, and another wonderful thing about these mini pies that I’m sure everybody can appreciate? Minimal cleanup! Please make sure to use canning jars to make these, and not just any glass jar, as canning jars are made to be able to withstand high temperatures. If you’re going to freeze the pies and bake them later, I’d still recommend letting them stand at a room temperature for an hour before baking just to be safe. I’d also use a little more filling than you think you should, because the fruit will cook down, and you still want them to look pretty and filled up… and why would you want to skimp on fruit anyway? 🙂 img-2015-08-08-0353

Peach Blueberry Mini Pies in a Jar

(recipe makes seven 1 cup servings, or seven ½ pint jars)

Pie Crust:

Here is the recipe I use (it makes two crusts for double pie), but you can use any of your favorite pie recipes. Pssst… store bought pie crust works just as well! For gluten-free alternative, please see Note.

Peach Blueberry Filling:
  • 1 kg (2 lbs.) mixed white and yellow peaches, pitted and diced
  • 1/3 cup each white and brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  ¾ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons Crème de Cassis (optional)
  • 1/6 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or 1 small egg) – for egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar – for sprinkling the tops of the pies
Alternate Streusel Topping:
  • ¼ cup each brown sugar and all-purpose flour (if baking for gluten-sensitive people, sub gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour)
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons oats (if making the dessert for gluten-sensitive, make sure the oats are gluten-free)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

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Method:
  1. Wash and dry ½ pint (1 cup) wide mouth canning jars.
  2. Roll out chilled pie dough. With a small biscuit cutter, cut out small circles for bottom of your pies. With a jar lid, cut out big circles to top your pies. Place the circles in the fridge to firm up, covered with a dish towel.
  3. Prep the filling: In a bowl, combine peaches, sugars, lemon juice/zest, tapioca and spices. Toss in the blueberries and add the liqueur, if using. Let the mixture sit for couple of minutes.
  4. Place one cut-out circle on the bottom of each jar. Dock the dough with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, fill the jars with fruit, filling to the brim (I used about ½ cup per jar). Dot the filling in each jar with ¼ tablespoon of butter.
  5. Prepare the top crust for your pies: Using cookie cutters or a knife, make slits in the dough, so the steam can escape during baking. Place the cut-out circles on top of the filling, and press firmly to seal.
  6. Alternatively, you can use Streusel Topping to sprinkle over the filling: Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon, cut in cold butter, add oats, and combine. Chill before sprinkling over the fruit filling.
  7. If using the cut out pie dough to top the fruit, brush pie tops with cream/egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Place the jars on a  baking sheet and put them into the refrigerator while preheating oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  8. Bake the pies for 15 minutes until the crust begins to brown. Cover with tin foil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes more until the filling bubbles and the tops are nice golden brown. Let cool before serving.
  9. If you wish to freeze the pies for later use, assemble them and screw on the lids. They will keep in the freezer for up to six months. When ready to bake, let them sit out at a room temperature while preheating the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). Bake the pies for about 50 minutes until golden.

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Note:

You can make the pies gluten-free by substituting Bob’s Red Mill Pie Crust Mix for the flour when making the pies. You can also forgo the bottom crust, fill the jars with fruit filling which is naturally gluten-free, and sprinkle the modified Streusel Topping over the fruit.