Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TWD: All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie

I haven't ever tallied up my posting average for the time I've been in TWD. I figure I post at least 50% of the time -- I'll go stretches when I post every week, and then I'll go two months without a post {which is a flagrant violation of TWD rules by the way, and (justifiably) grounds for being cleaned off the blogroll when housecleaning occurs}. That said, even when I go through a posting drought, I still bake the vast majority of the TWD recipes. How I can't manage to throw up a bad picture and a "loved the cake!" sentence those weeks is beyond me, but oh, crazy life, it just gets in the way sometimes. But one thing I've never ever done is post on a day other than Tuesday. If I miss the Tuesday deadline, I just don't post. Because this is Tuesdays with Dorie. But this apple pie was so delicious that it warrants the unthinkable - a Wednesday Tuesdays with Dorie post.

I went ahead and used Dorie's good for everything pie dough this week (after using the Cook's Illustrated pie crust for the pear torte and the caramel pumpkin pie). I think that both crusts are equally delicious. The Cook's Illustrated crust may be a tad easier to roll, but I've never had to drain and wring out Dorie's pie dough the way that I did with the CI recipe, a stressful process that I'd rather avoid. So I'll probably stick with Dorie's going forward.

The apple pie filling here contains the usual suspects -- apples (I used a mix of honeycrisp, gala, granny smith and golden delicious), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, lemon zest as well as the unexpected, quick cooking tapioca, which is used as a thickener. I lost my quick cooking tapioca, which forced me to wander around the house asking "has anyone seen my quick cooking tapioca?" over and over again. If there is anything worse than having to make a special trip to the store to buy quick cooking tapioca, it's having to make a second special trip to the store to buy quick cooking tapioca to replace the quick cooking tapioca you bought two hours ago and lost. Fortunately, I found the quick cooking tapioca under the passenger seat in my car, next to a can of canellini beans I lost two weeks ago. (I'm sure you could use corn starch or something else as a thickener, or skip the thickener -- my grandmother never used anything to thicken her apple pie and it will always be my favorite pie ever).

This pie baked up just beautifully. It was all-American and all-delicious alright! It is pretty much the quintessential apple pie, and if you like apple pie, you'll have a hard time doing better than this one.

Emily of Sandmuffin chose this pie, and be sure to check out her post here. Thanks for the perfect October pick, Emily!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TWD: Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and if that is true, Albert would have been the first one to tell me that I would not enjoy this pumpkin pie, and that I was insane for even thinking that I might like it. As is well documented on this blog, I do not enjoy boozy desserts. And if I happen to like a boozy dessert okay, I always think that I would have liked it more if it hadn't been boozy. For those of you keeping score at home, that is over two years' worth of boozy desserts; over two years of not liking boozy desserts; and/or over two years of thinking thoughts like "that dessert wasn't bad, but a little too boozy for me -- I think it would have been great without the booze." And yet what do I do every. single. time a boozy dessert shows up on my calendar? I use the full amount of booze called for in the recipe, while thinking "I bet this rum will complement the fall spices nicely." Why would I think that? Because I'm insane, that's why. That is not to say that the rum does not complement the fall spices nicely; it very well might, it's a matter of personal taste -- *I* will just never think that it does. I will just think that it is too boozy. And that is what I thought about this pumpkin pie.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a huge pumpkin pie fan to begin with. I love pumpkin flavored baked goods and pumpkin spices, but the texture of pumpkin pie is not my favorite. This pie offers a fun spin on the classic pumpkin pie with the addition of a very dark caramel. The caramel begins with sugar in a skillet, and after it turns a dark amber color and starts bubbling furiously, cream, butter, and dark rum, cognac, or apple cider get added to the mix. Had I been sane, I would have opted for the apple cider since I know/should know what my personal preferences are by this point, but instead I decided to prove Albert right by going with the 2T rum (although in fairness to my inner sane person, I know that a lot of people in my world like boozy desserts way more than I do, and I don't bake to eat it all myself, anyway). I actually think I nailed the caramel for once, without setting off the fire alarms or frightening small children.

This pie? Really not the pie for me. I felt like the rum was simply overpowering. I did not taste caramel at all - rum, just rum (and a slightly bitter aftertaste). The next night, I served a piece to David, who had been on a haunted camp out with Jacob the day I made this, and I issued a warning before I served it. And David liked it WAY more than I did. That is why I want to be clear that this might be -- heck, probably is! -- an incredible pie - but it is not your pie if you don't like pumpkin pie or boozy desserts. If you do like pumpkin pie and boozy desserts, you should absolutely try this pie, because it's a Dorie dessert - i.e., money in the bank - and therefore without a doubt the best boozy pumpkin pie ever.

Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs chose this pie. Janell made the pie twice because she did not enjoy it the first time, and voila! -- the second time was a charm. Janell suggests not cooking the caramel quite as long as the recipe calls for. This is an interesting point, and it makes me wonder if that was part of my issue - my caramel was definitely deep amber (I thought the perfect color), but perhaps if I hadn't cooked it as long I would have tasted more "caramel" and wouldn't have gotten that bitter aftertaste. Anyway, food for thought. Janell, thanks for the great seasonal pick!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TWD: Foldover Pear Torte

I made this week's TWD recipe, Foldover Pear Torte, late last week. But you'll just have to take my word for it, as I have no pictures to share of it, since I forgot to take pictures. It's as if I was baking pear tortes on a random Thursday without some underlying blogging purpose or something! I forgot, just plain forgot, even after my husband (as he's been conditioned to do) asked me on two or three separate occasions if he could eat the torte. You'd think that at least one of those times before granting permission I would have done the whole "do I need anything more from that torte, like a picture?" analysis, but I did not. I told him to eat it, and then it was gone, and I had no pictures to prove that I made it. I'm thinking that might have been divine intervention though, as my torte was not pretty, and it's probably best that anyone who may stumble upon this post be spared the ugly evidence.

I did snap a picture of the pear/apricot/nut mixture, which will hopefully suffice as proof that I made the torte:

This torte has three major components - fruit/nut mixture, a cream/egg custard filling, and pie crust. I've made Dorie's Good for Anything Pie Dough numerous times, and it is fabulous. But I've long been intrigued by the Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough, so I decided to try that recipe this time. And I can report that it is indeed foolproof, because never has a pie crust been so abused and mangled yet still managed to bake up so flaky and delicious. I still cringe when I think about what this poor pie crust endured -- after I added the liquid (water/vodka), it was simply drowning. No amount of mixing would incorporate that much liquid (and of course, everyone knows that overmixing pie dough is the death of it, so I faced an impossible dilemma). I finally ended up pouring off the excess liquid, ringing out the dough the best I could, and sticking it in the fridge. I called out to my baking friends who've made this crust before, and nobody could recall having had excess water issues. Once again, I'm making good on my promise to put any recipe writer's claim of foolproofedness to the test. I was shocked, truly and utterly shocked, that the crust ended up being delicious. The process was so traumatic that I will probably stick with Dorie's pie dough from now on; on the other hand, if I could not ruin the Cook's Illustrated crust, I believe that it simply cannot be ruined -- i.e., is foolproof -- and therefore I have to recommend it as an excellent option for any pie crustaphobes out there.

But of course with a dessert like this the crust is simply a vehicle for the torte filling. The recipe calls for a fruit/nut mixture of pears, dried apricots or raisins, and walnuts, topped with a custard filling. Pears tend to be pretty unassertive, especially when baked, but I think they were perfect in this recipe, since the real star here is the custard. It'a made of eggs, sugar, rum, vanilla and almond extracts, butter and cream, and it is simply fabulous. I think Dorie made a great call pairing it with a mild fruit like pear, which will not compete with the custard (that said, I'm very eager to see what other TWD bakers used in this torte!) The dried apricots were kind of distracting to me -- perhaps because I didn't cut them small enough -- and next time I'll be sure to dice them really fine, use golden raisins, or skip the dried fruit altogether.

The result? We thought this torte was great -- definitely a perfect "seasonal transition" dessert, as Dorie describes in her notes. Somehow this one seemed like a whole lot of work to me. I think that was my fault, as I kind of started out unorganized, and in a train-wreck of a kitchen, and then there was the Waterlogged Pie Crust Incident that kind of flustered me out of the gate; and it seemed like there were bowls and knives and zesters and extracts and small kitchen appliances everywhere, etc. I'm not sure how that was any different from any other baking session, but for whatever reason I emerged from this one in need of a {insert nap/massage/drink/break/maid/online shopping session here}.

Cakelaw of Laws of the Kitchen chose this fantastic torte. Cakelaw is an Aussie lawyer with a fun food blog -- you can find the pear torte at her blog right here. Thanks for the great pick, Cakelaw!

Monday, October 11, 2010

TWD: Foldover Pear Torte

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TWD: Double Apple Bundt Cake

I'm sure if you gave my husband truth serum he'd tell you that I have a whole host of annoying habits, but the only one I know of that really really bugs him is when I buy myself presents in the month before my birthday. I was trying REALLY hard to be good this year, and was doing so well until Dorie Greenspan's highly-anticipated book, Around My French Table, was released a month earlier than planned. I tried to ignore it -- added it to my Amazon cart and then deleted it, added it again and deleted it -- but in the end my pointer finger was powerless against the Place Order button. Sorry honey. The good news is that as a recreational baker/wannabe photographer/book collector/clothes lover/handbag hoarder, I've got to be right up there in the top 10 Easiest People In The World To Buy For. The other good news is that we won't have to wait until late October to start enjoying regular dinners out of Around My French Table -- I've already made the gourgeres and the roast chicken for les paresseux -- and they were both fabulous. But to make it up to my hubs for violating the sacrosanct "no self-gifting in the 30 days prior to gift-giving occasion" rule, I figured I better bake him a bundt cake.

As luck would have it, this week's TWD recipe is Double Apple Bundt cake, and the timing of this cake is perfect, as we've finally seen a hint of real fall weather around here. I've made this bundt cake before -- I don't remember exactly why or when -- but I do remember it being delicious. I made a full bundt the first time I made it, but this time, I went with a loaf cake and a dozen mini bundts (because my 5 year old was having a friend over, and 5 year old girls appreciate cute food).

The "double" in this double apple bundt refers to shredded apple and apple butter. The cake also calls for a nice assortment of fall spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger), nuts, and raisins. I did not ice it, and served it our favorite way -- in a domed cake stand on the kitchen island with a knife next to it -- and we helped ourselves to slices and/or mini cakes for several days (this one is a good keeper). The cake has a great texture and hearty fall flavors - definitely a perfect fall snack cake. Our little houseguest chose a mini cake over pancakes for Sunday morning breakfast. This was a hit around here for sure.

Lynne of Honey Muffin chose this week's Double Apple Bundt Cake. Be sure to visit her blog for the recipe. Thanks for a great pick, Lynne!
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