Alexander’s Apple Pie

Lately I’ve had pie on the mind, and Thanksgiving only made it worse with everyone posting their pie photos. If I had made it home to North Carolina, I would have definitely made a pie to bring to dinner! Instead, Leo and I had a small Thanksgiving meal together at home with a nice bottle of wine. After dinner we chased it all down with a Religeuse au Chocolat from the bakery on our corner. A fair trade, I’d say. 

To scratch my pie itch I decided to make an apple pie. My recipe is inspired by Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ famous Salted Caramel Apple Pie. Although I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting their pies in Brooklyn, I’ve always loved the idea of pouring a cup of salted caramel into an apple pie. What could be better? A splash of whiskey, of course.  I can honestly tell you that I have never had a better piece of apple pie than this creation right here, and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it. Holy cow.

I used my own pie dough recipe, which you should all try of course, but if you don’t have time you can use store bought pie rounds. For a pie that will piss off all of your relatives because it’s so good, I would highly recommend making your own pie crust! 

For a 9" Apple Pie 

2 prepared pie crusts, 1 lined in pie pan

6 apples

Juice of one lemon 

Splash of whiskey 

3 tablespoons of all purpose flour 

½ teaspoon ginger, fresh if possible

1 teaspoon cinnamon 

1 teaspoon salt 

A generous grating of fresh nutmeg 

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 

For the caramel (Blackbirds’ recipe):

1 cup white sugar 

¼ cup water 

1 stick of butter 

½ cup of cream 

Generous amount of salt (to your taste)

1. First, prepare your caramel. Combine sugar and water in a medium sized pot. Stir to combine, and leave over medium heat until the mixture is clear. Whisk in butter bit by bit. Continue cooking the caramel, and when it reaches a lovely copper-like color, remove it from heat immediately and slowly pour in the cream while whisking. The mixture will expand, so be careful!  

2. Squeeze lemon juice into a big bowl and add a big splash of whiskey. Peel and slice apples thinly, and mix them into the lemon juice. Add a sprinkling of salt, and all spices. Finally, add the flour and toss it around to cover all of the apples evenly.  

3. Pour apple mixture into lined pie pan. Pile it up a bit higher than the crust, because the apples will reduce significantly! You may need more or less than six apples depending on their size. 

4. Attach your other pie round to the top with your method of choice. I did a lattice with some braid work, but you could easily just put the whole top on completely if you don’t want to create a lattice. 

5. Egg wash the entire crust, and sprinkle the top with a bit of raw sugar if you have it, and some chunky sea salt. Bake on 400 degrees until the pie is golden brown. The caramel will bubble, and a little may leak out. This is normal! To test, poke an apple with a knife to check doneness. My apples had some bite left in them, which I really loved. 

Important: COOL your pie completely before cutting! Let it set, or you may encounter a runny mess. I let my pie rest for about 3 hours before slicing it up. Where I found such self control? I have no idea.

Thanks for reading! 

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The Next Recipe You Should Master: Crêpes

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Photograph(s) © David Katzenstein

A few days ago I was talking on the phone with my aunt. We talk about once a week and sometimes our talks last over an hour. In our last conversation we were talking about writing, and she told me that the most important thing to remember is “write what you know.”

I began thinking, “what do I know?!” I know cookies. I know pies. I know Southern comfort food. I also know crêpes, and I think everyone else should know about crêpes too.

When I was living in New York, I actually got three separate gigs serving crêpes at events. It was funny to imagine being a Crêpier, but I’m always up for a challenge or a new experience, so I went for it! Two of the events were for Festival Daniou (www.festivaldaniou.com). Festival Daniou is a Brittany-based summer chamber music residency for internationally recognized young musicians that engages with the history, culture, and cuisine of its region through performance. The first three photos on this post are from the first time I made crêpes at the festival! And before you ask – yes, that’s my majestic pouring and wrist swirling in action. 😉

Both events were lovely and I had the opportunity to serve miniature Kouign-amann, profiteroles and classic galettes. Brittany is well known as the place where Kouign-amann and crêpes themselves began. Crêpes were then known as galettes, which means “flat cake.” They were made with buckwheat flour, which gave the crêpe a much heartier, earthy flavor.

I don’t know how many crêpes I’ve made, but I’d guess it’s close to 1,000. When I began making crêpes in my apartment in Brooklyn, I tested several different recipes that the Festival Danilou organizer Simon Frisch had passed down to me from his family! A lot of them were still in French, and they were all handwritten. I tested, failed, burned, flipped, ate, and shared a lot of crêpes with my roommates. It took me at least a week to master the perfect flick of the wrist that would flip the crêpe over mid-air. I still mess it up to this day though! Around that same time my husband bought me my own crêpe pan as an anniversary gift, and the rest is history.

The recipe I’m posting is for regular crêpes with all purpose flour. Perhaps in the future I’ll do a post on galettes, but for now this is a good place to start. The aforementioned anniversary crêpe pan is still in the US (because it’s heavy!), but using a normal frying pan or cast iron is totally fine.

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I like my crêpes a little thinner and delicate than most, I’d say. If you want a more cake-like, thick crêpe, omit the ¼ cup of water. Or just make pancakes. You could also use only water instead of milk. Once you master the basic crêpe, you can change everything around to find your perfect recipe.

Ingredients for 12-14 crêpes*:
*depends on pan size, egg size, etc.

1 cup whole milk
¼ cup water
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
Butter, for frying pan
1 tablespoon sugar (if making sweet crepes)

1. Sift flour and salt together.

2. Combine beaten eggs and milk.

3. Using a fork or whisk to mix, slowly pour the milk and egg mixture into the center of the bowl of flour. Mix it together gradually, and slowly add more liquid as you go. This will avoid clumps. The total mixing should take about 2 minutes – don’t rush it!

(Alternatively, you can combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse for 30 seconds until combined and bubbly – but why get the blender dirty when you can mix it by hand?)

4. You now must let the batter rest for at least one hour at room temperature. Trust me (or overnight), you don’t want a gummy crêpe.

5.  Heat your frying pan over medium-high. When you drop a pat of butter in the pan, it should hiss and fuss. If it doesn’t your pan isn’t hot enough. You want to maintain this temperature the entire time you’re cooking the crêpes. You also want to keep adding butter, or your crêpe will get stuck. The butter also promotes gorgeous browning. I used nearly a stick of butter making 12 crêpes. I really love butter.

6. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the pan, swirling with your wrist to evenly cover the pan’s surface. Depending on pan size, you may need more or you may need less. If it doesn’t cover the whole pan, pour in a little more in the vacant spaces.

7. The crêpe will cook on each side for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Loosen the edges of the crêpe with a (heatproof!) spatula, then flip it. Some people use their fingers. Some people use an offset spatula. Some people, like me, try to flip it with a flick of the wrist. Cook all the crêpes and leave them in a beautiful stack under some tin foil if you are serving them soon. If not, they’re just as good reheated in the oven.

Before the flip…

And after. Now all that’s left to do is serve your crêpes however you please!

You could add ham and cheese, and melt it together in the oven…

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You could add melted chocolate, or Nutella, if you must. 

You could smear some greek yogurt, berries and honey on them.

No matter how you serve them, they’re delicious and versatile!

Like my new Facebook page for more recipes and updates at http://www.facebook.com/thealexanderroberts 

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

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I’ll admit that I’ve been making a strange amount of banana bread lately. It’s because I’ve been testing and tweaking a recipe that I can depend on time and time again. I also had to finally admit to myself that I do, in fact, have a chocolate problem. My past two weeks have been full of chocolate, just like this banana bread. Nothing’s wrong with that!

A few banana bread tips:
1. You can just use all white sugar if you don’t have any brown sugar on hand.
2. Riper bananas are better for banana bread, because the starch in the banana breaks down into sugar over time.  This makes for a stronger aroma as well as a more moist and sweet final product. Yay!
3. Don’t over mix! Once you add the flour, work it as little as possible. You don’t want a tough or dense bread.

*Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

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Ingredients:
114g (1 stick) melted butter, cooled
100g (½ cup) sugar
100g (½ cup) brown sugar
250g (2 cups)  of flour  
2 eggs
150g (1 cup) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda

Mash bananas and combine with sugars. Whisk in the butter, followed by the eggs, salt, and vanilla.

Add the chocolate, and stir to combine.

Fold in the flour along with the baking powder and baking soda. Do not over mix.

Pour into a butter/greased loaf pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean and the banana bread bounces back if you poke it with your finger. Note: melted chocolate on the knife doesn’t mean it’s raw! 

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Wrap in plastic once cool to store. This bread will stay moist for nearly a week!

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The Chocolate Chip Cookie

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A person’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe says a lot about them. It’s taken me a while to perfect my recipe, but I think I’m finally in a position to share my favorite. It’s finally getting cold outside, so naturally I jump at any excuse to turn on my oven. 

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Ingredients:

1.25c all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
1 stick of butter
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1.5-2 cups chopped chocolate 

1. Combine melted butter with both sugars, salt, and vanilla. Whisk it.
2. Add egg, whisk until fully incorporated.
3. Switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and fold in chocolate, flour, and nutmeg. Cut into the dough with the spatula and fold just until all the flour is absorbed and you see no more streaks.
4. Portion cookies and bake on 350 degrees until golden brown but still a little raw in the center. Approx. 10-14 minutes depending on the size of your cookies and your oven.

I tend to portion my cookies a bit smaller since I have a small oven. Keep in mind that the size of your cookie is directly proportionate to it’s texture and baking time. For more tips, here’s a really helpful article about the chemistry of a perfect cookie: http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2013/12/the-food-lab-the-best-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

Peach Cobbler

Hello everyone! This is the first time in a few weeks I’ve really felt like writing anything. I’ve been in a bit of a rut here in Paris, but I am pushing myself out of it. It’s been a tough ride and I’m still figuring a lot of things out (like the entire French language), but I’ve decided to take a different approach and things are already looking better. I haven’t given myself enough time to absorb the greatness of the new city I live in. That changes now.

About two weeks ago I snagged the last of what I thought might be nice white peaches. I got lucky; they were. Produce can be tricky around here. They sat on the counter for a few days before I finally decided to do something with them. I wanted to make dessert for two, so I decided on a quick cobbler! Oh, how I miss the Southern United States and it’s delicacies. This took me back. 

You’re really free to use any fruit for this. Just take into account the amount of liquid it’s going to produce when it’s baked. A juicy peach will produce enough liquid to make a crust soggy, so to avoid that I tossed about ½ a teaspoon of flour into the diced fruit. 


What You Need (for 2 mini cobblers):

75g butter (about ¾ stick)
100g flour
1/2t baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tbsp cream
3 peaches, medium diced or 2 cups of any fruit

1) Butter 2 small ramekins. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Mix peaches in a separate bowl with 1 tablespoon of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a pinch of salt.

2) Blend butter into flour using your fingers or a fork. Don’t melt it! 

3) When butter is broken down almost completely, stir in the yolk and the cream. Just bring together, do not overmix. Chill for at least 10 minutes. 

4) Since I used mini ramekins, I quickly shaped my dough into a disk shape and put it over the top of my peaches inside of the ramekin. You could also take a spoon and just drop spoonfuls over the peaches in a baking pan. 

Bake on 350 degrees until golden brown. 

*If you wish to make a regular sized cobbler in a square baking dish, multiply this recipe by 3. 

Sweet Potato Hummus

Holy crap, it’s been too long since I’ve written a blog post… But! I have an excuse. I just moved to Paris last month! It’s beautiful here. I’m getting more adjusted (and learning more French) each day. I can’t believe I live here.

So, as far as what I cook in France, I’ve had to keep it very simple. My kitchen is very simple – I don’t have a mixer, or a big oven yet. But that’s ok! I used my little food processor and made Sweet Potato Hummus. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

This recipe was originally written for All She Cooks (http://allshecooks.com

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I roasted my sweet potato with rosemary, paprika, olive oil & sea salt. 

Sweet Potato Hummus 

Makes enough to snack on for a week, and share with friends.

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You’ll need:
400g chickpeas, soaked overnight or canned
400g sweet potato, roasted until tender
1 garlic clove
½ cup olive oil
Salt

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This recipe is extremely easy and rewarding. Just combine all your ingredients except the olive oil in your food processor. Let it run until it’s as smooth as it will get before the help of he olive oil comes in. When it’s processed, slowly drizzle in your olive oil to a consistency of your choice. I like my hummus very smooth and creamy. Some like it chunky. Add a splash of lemon juice if you like. I also added 1/4tsp of turmeric! 

Spread it on bread or pita. Add it to a sandwich. Dip cucumbers or peppers in it. Bon appétit!

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The Easiest Ice Cream You’ll Make All Summer

Yep, you’re just two ingredients from the perfect, easiest ice cream you will make all summer long. All it takes is one small container of heavy cream and a can of condensed milk. You don’t need an ice cream machine – just a stand mixer, or a hand mixer, or a strong arm with a whisk. It takes about 10 minutes of mixing and a few hours to freeze into lovely, velvety ice cream.

While you can branch off and make any flavors your heart desires from this basic ratio, the flavor in this recipe is Blackberry & Crème Fraîche. It tastes a lot like cheesecake.

Ingredients:

One pint heavy cream
One 14 ounce can of condensed milk
1 pint of blackberries, fresh, or another berry
4 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract)
Zest of ½ a lemon

Method:

Smash berries with back of spoon in a bowl; set aside.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Not so far that it separates!

Pour the can of condensed milk into the bowl with the cream. Also add the smashed berries, salt, crème fraîche, vanilla bean powder (or extract), and lemon zest. Fold all ingredients together with a spatula.

Pour the ice cream mixture into a metal loaf pan, pie plate, or similar dish. Anything will do as long as it can go into the freezer. Freeze for 5 hours, or overnight. Share with everyone that you love. 

Rosemary & Plum Galette

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I never really made galettes until I started working at Bakeri in Brooklyn, where we make individual sized galettes. This one is a large one. 

Galettes are the easiest, fastest way to showcase any type of fruit (or vegetable!). Apples, strawberries, pears… Or in this case, plums. 

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All you need is a single pie crust & some nice looking fruit. 

Quarter at least 10 plums, depending how large you want your galette to be. Wrap them up in the pie dough as pictured. Or however you please, really. 

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I added blueberries & chopped rosemary, and then put it back in the freezer so it would be really cold (frozen!) going into a really hot oven (400 degrees). By personal preference I egg wash the dough & heavy-handedly apply a good coating of raw sugar. 

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40 minutes later*, a beautiful pastry emerges. Cut it, dollop some fresh whipped cream on it, and share it with friends – or not. 

*Depending on your oven. Check on it every 10m while baking to catch it at the perfect golden brown color.