How to make apple pie that doesn't suck

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I know, I know. You hear the words "homemade apple pie" and your eyes begin darting around, searching for the nearest rock to hide under. I feel your pain. I used to be one of those people. For all my baking awesomeness, pies (and pie crusts) had long been a low point for me.

After pleading my case to my grandma, the Queen of Apple Pie herself, she took me under her wing, and gave me the lesson of a lifetime in pie-making expertise. And because I fully subscribe to the notion of sharing the wealth, I've compiled a easy to remember collect of tips and tricks for making apple pie that doesn't suck.

USE TWO KINDS OF APPLES I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is when I hear so-called foodies spouting the erroneous message that you're only supposed to use one type of apple when making an apple pie. While it's true that some apples are far better for baking than others, that doesn't mean that you've got to limit yourself to just one type of apple. I almost always use Granny Smith and McIntosh apples because they both hold their texture well, and they both have great, full flavours.

PRE-COOK YOUR APPLES I know what you're thinking, and I promise, I thought the same thing when I first heard this tip. However, I promise your apples will not resemble soggy cardboard if you pre-cook them. I double promise. The trick is to throw your sliced apples into a pot with sugar and spice, cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are tender. Easy, right? And believe me when I tell you that you'll notice a difference in the way your pie tastes. (Here's a quick reference recipe for pre-cooking your apples)

DEEP DISH OR GTFO What's the best part of a pie? The filling. What do you get with a deep dish pie? MOAR FILLING. 'Nuff said.

MAKE YOUR OWN CRUST, WITH ICE COLD INGREDIENTS If there's one thing that raw dough likes to be, it's cold. Keep your butter and/or lard in the refrigerator until the moment you need it, and always use ice water to moisten the flour/butter mixture. Also, after you've rolled your dough out and fitted it into your pie plate, let it sit covered in the fridge for 30 minutes before filling it with your pie filling. If the fats warm inside the dough before you cook it, your crust will turn out tough and cardboard like. Yuck.

USE INSTANT TAPIOCA Wait... what? Seriously. Don't adjust your monitor. You read that correctly. By sprinkling about a teaspoon onto the bottom of the crust, and a teaspoon over top of the filling before covering it with the top crust, you're doing your pie and anyone eating your pie a huge solid. Just that tiny bit of instant tapioca, entirely undetectable after baking, ensures that your pie's filling has a smooth yet firm texture that stays between the crusts, even if you slice into it's while it's still warm. Now stop looking at me like I'm a weirdo, and just try it.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. If you don't experience pie ecstasy after following these tips and tricks for making apple pie, then you're still doing it wrong.

Do you have any pie making tricks? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

mini chicken pot pies

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I admit that, sometimes, I get ambitious. It's somewhat unfortunate that that ambition only ever occurs in the kitchen, but such is the life of a culinary nerd. Now, let's get to what's important here: these awesome, personal pies that'll warm you from the inside out this winter. It's perfect for a cozy little family dinner. This recipe is based on Ina Garten's lobster pot pie recipe.

Yields 4-5 pies

What you'll need:
Oven-safe baking bowls (I use french onion soup bowls)
Food processor (not necessary, but it'll make your life easier)

Pie filling:
1 1/2 cups chopped Spanish onion
3/4 cup chopped fennel
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp your favourite white wine, loving
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp heavy cream
2 boneless, skinless, cooked chicken breasts (*see below)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cups whole pearl onions
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup minced dill

Pastry top:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp lard, diced -- The real stuff. Not that vegetable shortening shit, you hippie.
8 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp heavy cream)


1. Saute onions and fennel in butter in a large saute pan on medium heat until onions are translucent, which should take about 15 minutes.

2. Add flour and cook on low heat for 3 more minutes.

3. Slowly add stock, wine, salt, and pepper, and then simmer for about 5 more minutes.

4. Whisk in heavy cream.

5. Chop the chicken into bite size cubes. Place chicken, frozen peas, onions, and herbs in a bowl. Pour the sauce over the mixture and set aside.

6. For crust, mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the lard and butter, and let it run until small balls form. LOL.

7. Add ice water. Process just until the dough comes together. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead quickly. Wrap dough in plastic and allow to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

9. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Place one of your pot pie bowls upside down on dough, and cut a circle of dough about 1/2 inch from the edge of the bowl.

10. Fill dishes with pie filling. Cover each dish with pastry, and lightly fold down and press the edges against the bowl. Brush a generous amount of egg wash on each pastry bowl. Make 1 or 2 small slashes in the pastry.

11. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.


(*For the chicken, I wrap two breast in thick cut bacon, and bake them for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Simple and delicious.)

sriracha cheese bread

Monday, May 9, 2011

Anyone who knows me knows how obsessive I am with sriracha. What better way is there to celebrate the best hot sauce on the planet than to make swirly cheese bread with it? That's what I thought.

1 3/4 cups homogenized milk (3.25%)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp granulate sugar
1 (8g) package instant dry yeast
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup sriracha
1 cup (ish) shredded cheddar (or whatever kind, really) cheese
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
cooking spray

1. In a small saucepan, warm milk, butter, and sugar over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and remove from heat as soon as butter has completely melted. Liquid should be at ab.out 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or lukewarm to the touch.

2. Transfer to a medium sized bowl and add yeast. Gently and quickly stir to combine, and let proof for 10-13 minutes - until there is a layer of froth on the top.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. After the yeast has had time to proof, pour the milk mixture over the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough is raggedly formed. Dump the bowl of raggedy dough onto a well floured surface and knead into a ball. (about 2-3 minutes of light kneading)

4. Transfer ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough around inside the bowl so that it's completely covered in oil. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes.

5. Turn dough out once again onto a well floured surface, and knead for approximately 5 minutes. Repeat step 4, only this time, let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour.

6. Again, turn out onto a well floured surface, and flatten it out into a 9"x5" rectangle. Spread sriracha over top and sprinkle cheese over top of that.

7. Roll the dough the same way you would a cinnamon roll, forming a cheesy, sriracha-y swirl. Place the loaf in a greased loaf pan seam side down, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise again for another 20 minutes. This will just give the bread a little extra time to get to know all the flavours.

8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice a 1/4 inch deep slit in the top of the loaf, and then bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the loaf from the pan and place it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

9. Allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing, and enjoy!

Bread will stay fresh for up to 4 days in an air-tight container. Freezes well in air-tight containers, too!

double maple cupcakes

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I took a four day trip out of Canada, and it was too much for me. I came back, ran to my fridge, grabbed the nearest jug of pure Canadian maple syrup, and fell to the floor in a heap of unbridled patriotism. I'll never leave you again, Canada. *weep*

Maple cake
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1. Beat sugar and butter together completely. Add eggs in one at a time and beat until fluffy. Add both extracts, and beat until completely combined. That's a lot of beating, I know.

2.Sift in flour, baking powder, and sea salt and mix on low until roughly incorporated. Add milk and syrup and mix for approximately 2 minutes until batter is light and fluffy. Kind of like a bowl of clouds.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill 12 cupcake liners 2/3 of the way.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

5. Let cool completely before icing!

SUPER SIMPLE Maple frosting
4 tbsp pure maple syrup, loving
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
tiny pinch of sea salt
1 3/4 powdered sugar

1. Combine all ingredients (except powdered sugar) in a glass bowl, and let them melt together over a pot of bowling water (like this). That's called using indirect heat, bro. Check yo'self. Whisk gently until completely combined.

2. Beat in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Feel free to add more maple syrup. AND THAT'S IT! I know, right?

You can also drizzle the iced cupcakes with a little extra maple syrup. Seriously, there's no such thing as too much maple syrup.


Banana cupcakes with chocolate frosting

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bananas and chocolate go together like bacon and eggs - although I'm not sure how well a bacon and eggs cupcake would fair. With that mental note made, let's get to work. Those borderline rotten bananas aren't going to cook themselves. P.S. This recipe is as simple as it is delicious.

Banana cupcakes

2 cups unbleached pastry flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 large ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium size bowl, mash the bananas into a lumpy paste (YUM!). Whisk in melted butter, eggs (one at a time), and vanilla in that order. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together.

3. Combine wet and dry ingredients in the large bowl. Mix well.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

5. Let cool completely before icing.

Chocolate frosting

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar

1. Combine melted butter and cocoa powder to make a dark brown paste (again., YUM!). Add milk and vanilla and mix well.

2. Add powdered sugar 1/2 at a time until you reach your desired level of sweetness.

3. Let sit in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, and then slather lovingly atop your cupcakes.


Belgian Barista Cupcakes

Saturday, January 8, 2011

These cupcakes all the sweetness of a mini Starbucks all packed into one handful of deliciousness. A moist chocolate cake, riddled with savoury pistachios, and topped with a Belgian dark chocolate and espresso butter cream icing. They're rich and decadent, and they're a perfect midday pick-me-up. Try your best not to fall in love with these cupcakes. Your hips will thank you.

Cake recipe

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup boiling hot water
1 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup raw pistachios
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa powder and boiling water together. Let set in refrigerator until it reaches room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Stir in pistachios.

3. In a medium bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add one egg at time, incorporating completely before adding the next one. Then add the vanilla.

4. Combine the flour mixture and the butter/sugar mixture, and then add the cocoa/water mixture. Beat until completely incorporated.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line 16 muffin cups with paper liners. Fill each liner about two-thirds of the way full. Bake for 16-22 minutes (depending on your oven). Let cool completely before icing.

Belgian dark chocolate butter cream frosting with espresso

6 oz Belgian dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream (35%)
2 tsp instant espresso powder, heaping
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Using indirect heat - place a glass bowl over a small pot of bowling water. Whisk espresso powder and cream together in the bowl while it warms up. Add chocolate and continue stirring with a spatula until it's completely melted and combined. Remove bowl from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

2. Once chocolate mixture has cooled, beat together with butter until smooth.

3. Sift powdered sugar and use a spatula to fold it into the chocolate/butter combination (to avoid sugar flying everywhere). Beat on high until fluffy.

To frost the cupcakes, you can either be lazy and use a spatula/knife to slather it on, or you can use a piping bag and make it look a little fancier. Extra icing will keep in the fridge for about a week.


blueberry & peach crisp

Saturday, August 21, 2010

As we prepare to bid farewell to the Summertime, we need not cry tears of sadness. It's not all bad. Even though we're just leaving peach season, and nearing the end of blueberry season, now is the perfect time for this dessert. It's a quick and easy pick-me-up, so no excuses.

6 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (seperate) all-purpose flour
1 cup golden yellow sugar
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Arrange peaches and blueberries in a greased baking dish and sprinkle with lemon juice. Toss with four (1 tbsp).

3. In a large bowl, combine flour (1/4 cup), sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oats. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.

4. Sprinkle oat mixture over peaches and blueberries.

5. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Best served with real vanilla ice cream. Feeds about 6. NOM

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