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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A Coffee Date

I’ve seen this “virtual coffee date” on a few other blogs lately. I like the idea, because I can’t have coffee with a lot of my friends and family back home, but I would love to. So, I’m inviting you to have a cup of coffee with me via the internet.

If we were having coffee today, I would mention the abrupt arrival of cold weather in Paris. It’s been in the low 40s and even high 30s at night. I’d probably complain about my careless abandonment of my favorite scarf in New York before I moved here, and I’d probably mention that I’m about to order a new cozy scarf, I am just having trouble choosing the “perfect” one. We would then discuss scarves for at least 5 more minutes. 

If we were having coffee today, and I haven’t seen you in a while, I would probably tell you that French is like, really hard. I can order at a restaurant, say “no thanks, I don’t need a bag” at the grocery store, and ask the man who works in the wine shop if the wine is too sweet or not. That’s about as far as my vocal communication goes at this point. Necessities… The good news is I learn a little more each day, I guess.

If we were having coffee today, I would tell you that I wish I could go home and see my family during the holidays this year. As I get older I’m lucky if I make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but this year I won’t make it to either. I miss my dog, my mom, and my grandmothers. The rest of the family too, of course. It’s easy for me to get emotional around the holidays. I will try my best to keep it together, making new traditions and memories with Leo and his family here in France. 🙂

I suppose at this point I would have to offer you another cup of coffee. I’d also offer you a piece of this toast that I topped with ricotta and clementine… It’s probably the most refreshing toast ever.

Half way into our eleventh cup of coffee, I would ask you: what are your plans for the holidays this year? What are you most looking forward to creating and sharing? What’s your favorite thing to eat this time of year? I’m excited to make a beautiful pie and share it, even if it’s just with one person.

Thanks for having coffee with me! 

Pâte Brisée (Pie Dough)

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Brisée and I have had a long, tumultuous, on and off relationship. Simply known to most as “pie dough,” this dough can make or break a quiche or an apple pie. If you know a few basic points about pie dough, you can easily make some at home that will rival the pies of your favorite bakery.

Important Tips To Remember:
– Warmth is your enemy when making this dough. If your dough gets too warm, the butter will melt right out (or right in, making a more dense dough).
– Keep all ingredients cold. Your water (ice cold!). Your flour. Your butter. Even the bowl you are mixing it in should be refrigerated!
– Work quickly and confidently. 

This recipe is versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways. I choose not to add any sugar to the dough, but if you must, you can add a sprinkle. It’s nice to have a bit more sugar if you’re making a sweet pie, but if you’re making a quiche or something similar I would avoid it. 

Making pie dough becomes a lot easier when you have the correct tools, such as a bowl scraper or bench knife. This recipe will make enough for two 9 inch pies, or one double crusted pie.

Ingredients:
400 grams all purpose flour (3.25 cups)
200 grams butter (2.25 sticks)
1 teaspoon of salt
Approximately 150 grams of ice cold water (½ cup)

1.  Measure out all of your ingredients and refrigerate them until they’re nice and cold. Cut the butter into small cubes, or slivers. Add the salt to the flour.

2. Work the butter into the flour using a fork, pastry blender, your fingers (quickly!), or a bench knife on a work surface. You want small, scraggly pieces of butter in the flour – not big chunks, but not completely invisible either.
Once all of your butter is blended into the flour, pour the flour out onto a clean work surface. Form a circle shape with a hole in the center, like a big donut. 

3. Pour the water into the hole in the middle and using a fork, mix it carefully to combine the liquid with the flour. Don’t let the water out of the center!
Using your hands, press all of the ingredients together gently until it sticks together. Too dry? Add a little water at a time by sprinkling it from your fingertips. You can also add flour if you find your dough is getting to wet. 

Depending on the day and the weather, you may need more or less liquid! You will understand after making the dough a few times.

4. That’s it! Refrigerate the dough overnight, or at least 1 hour until it’s completely cold. Take care of your dough and it will take care of you!

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Serious Note: Do not over mix or overwork. This photo shows right about where my dough is when it’s finished. I only pack it together enough to hold. Remember, this dough is not going to be completely cohesive. It’s going to be scraggly and shaggy looking. It will not be as wet as you probably think it should be, and you may still see chunks of butter. That’s great! It means your dough is going to be beautifully flaky. In the same sense, really large chunks of butter will disappear and leave a hole in your pastry if it’s too big!

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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