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Showing posts with label american history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label american history. Show all posts

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Favorite Apple Pie

 



My Absolute Favorite Spiced Apple Pie

Favorite Pie Crust

  • 10.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz solid fat
    • Chilled butter, vegan butter substitute, cold lard, or cold coconut oil do just fine!
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • Vodka, as needed

Apple filling

  • 6 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp grand marnier
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground Chinese Long Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ancho chili powder
  • 9 small apples or 5 medium ones, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
To make the pie crust, simply combine your dry ingredients with a fork and rub the fat into the flour with your fingers. Add in some vodka until it's just moist...and mix together! How should you mix this all together, you ask? Well, lucky for you, I've discovered the joys of IGTV:




Isn't that great? I can do tutorials without having to get a youtube channel. 

Simply wrap and chill this dough for at least 30 minutes while you prepare your filling. All you really have to do is combine all the ingredients, except for the flour, toss well, and cover. Let this sit for the same amount of time you're letting your dough rest so the flavors can meld and mesh together. I like to let it all rest on the counter instead of the fridge because you tend to get a lot more juice out! A proper pie has a good dance of moisture and juicy filling, but we don't want to make our crust too soggy. When we can control the amount of moisture in our pie, we're going to have a good time.

When it comes to rolling out your dough, I prefer not to dirty up my counter with tons of excess flour, but to roll it out between two well-greased sheets of parchment paper. I do this for many reasons, but the main reason is that I don't want to mess with my perfectly-crafted ratio of fat-to-flour. After all, if we're going to be exact with our measurements, why screw it all up with more flour when rolling out? The other reason to do it this way is for easy clean-up. Simply give your counter a quick wipe and throw the parchment paper away! All you need is a good rolling pin, a good arm, and plenty of pan-spray to make this perfect. Even better, you can use the parchment paper to help you flip your flat dough into your pie dish. 

I love this glass pie dish because I can see the bottom, and therefore see when things are cooked or not. Glass is excellent at conducting heat, so for me, it is the ideal baking dish. All that must happen now is you gently line your pie dish with your dough and let it chill before adding the filling. I also like to let it chill before I trim it so that the dough has plenty of time to relax. This way, you can let any glutens that may have accidentally developed relax away. 

Your pie filling should have become quite juicy at this point, so now's the time to add your flour! You may need more than 1 oz, depending on how much juice has come out, but definitely don't use less than this amount. So long as the mixture has thickened slightly with the amount of flour but is still liquid, you should be safe. Add your flour, mix well, and fill your pie! 

Use your rolling pin to roll out a top crust and very gently let it fall over the top of the apples. You should have a nice high pile, which is exactly what you want! Don't stretch your pie dough too much, but be sure to let it sit atop your fruit for about 5 minutes before you crimp all the edges. Once the edges are crimped, with either your fingers or your fork, let it chill in the fridge until your oven comes up to 350 degrees F. Be sure to also cut some vent slits in the top. Get decorative at this point, if you like!

Line a sheet pan with tin foil and set your baking rack to the lowest possible setting so that the bottom of the pie tin is close to the bottom of the oven. Bake your pie on the lowest rack for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and your pie filling is bubbling slightly out of the vent slits. 

This next bit is the tricky bit, but it's absolutely essential. You have to - and I'm not making this up - wait to cut open that pie for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight. 

I know, I know! It's apple pie! What is better than apple pie fresh from the oven??? Well, how about an apple pie that stays together and won't flood out into a big juicy, sticky mess, that sogs up your bottom like no other? It's imperative that you let the apples do their thing and let the pectin rest. You must do this, so when you warm up the pie again, by the slice, it'll actually stay gelled together. Apple pie really is quite easy, but the real secret ingredient is time, and time well spent. 

While we're waiting, would you like to learn a thing or two about apples? 

We've all heard that phrase "as American as apple pie", but what if I were to tell you that apples themselves were not native to America? They are, in fact, native to central Asia, and have come to Europe by way of the Silk Road, which is the same trade route that gave Italy noodles, which would eventually evolve into the modern pasta we know today.  Apples were then planted in Europe, and then were brough to the American colonies by - you guessed it - colonizers. So, really...nothing is more American than apple pie, because apples - like most of us - are immigrants that have taken hold of the land and changed it forever!

People loved apples because they're delicious, but more importantly they are incredibly prolific. They do not self-pollinate like peach or plum trees (also from central Asia), but need a partner tree to be next to in order to produce. Once they do, however, they'll give more fruit than you could likely know what to do with! I'm specifically and explicitly forbidden to have a pair of apple trees in my own garden because my husband's childhood was "ruined every late summer" because he, his brother, his sister, and his mother all had to stop everything and process every single apple into apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple dumplings, and more. Now, if you ask, "why not just let the animals have it?" Well, dear friend...

Apples are naturally high in sugar. When sugar meets water, it's going to begin to chemically change, especially with time and the right bacteria. Long story short, they ferment. When you get a squirrel or a deer biting into a fermented apple and drunkenly stagger around your yard, it's likely going to be quite comical. When you get a bunch of butterflies, bees, and hornets flying around drunk, it immediately becomes less fun. Apparently, hornets are like yours truly when they've had one too many - they'll fight anything. 


Apples on the ground are not bad or rotten. In fact, apple trees are exceedingly clever in that they will tell you when an apple is perfectly ripe and ready for eating by letting them fall to the ground with only the slightest breeze to invite you to eat them. So long as they don't have a big bite out of them from a squirrel or bug, it's best to just gather them from the ground. You can store them in the cellar, if you have one, just as they are, in crates. Please keep paper between the layers, however, as they do better this way. I hear that they hold the best when not touching directly, and each apple is individually wrapped with tissue paper. This is the reason we have wax on our apples, you see. When apples touch, skin-to-skin, they'll begin to ripen and ferment. They say you should wash off the wax before you eat them, but I've eaten apples with wax on the skin for years and nothing's happened to me yet. 

You can, of course, make this all into apple butter, or freeze the processed slices in bags. You can make candy apples. You can make it into applesauce, which - by the way - magically replaces eggs in a cake if you are in a pinch and can't go to the grocery store right that moment. You can do all sorts of things! The point is that you must absolutely know that you love apples, that you'll never get sick of apples, and that you have neighbors that love apples before you get yourself a pair of trees. That, and you have an excellent apple pie recipe in your back pocket. 

Serve this pie with ice cream, if you like, but I like it on its own with some good coffee. 

I hope you've enjoyed learning about apples, the history thereof, and the silk road. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hemp Milk Banana Pudding

Get ready for this all-American dessert!

Banana pudding is one of those dishes that don't seem like they can be elevated. You think of them for potlucks or maybe something your grandmother might toss together for a family dinner. Most think of them as the kind with the vanilla wafers (you know what I'm talking about) with the Jell-O banana pudding mix and some cool whip. And hey! There's nothing wrong with that. But if you're in the mood for something that's homestyle and yet a little more nice, keep going...

A banana pudding as we Americans know it is mostly - for all intents and purposes - a sort of trifle. Trifles are often a star on The Great British Bake-off with a 400-year history. Trifles have to have compatible flavors, as the great Mary Berry says, but to me the flavors of banana pudding are just...banana, vanilla, and sweet cream. My fiance, B, is highly lactose intolerant and eating dairy-free is kind of the only saving grace I sort of give myself for not keeping kosher. 

So, for my Jewish readers, this is pareve! Woohoo! 

American regional cuisine and the study thereof is a sort of passion of mine. I think it's so interesting to see how we, all in the same country, can be so different. We've got a beautiful melting pot of cultures that has evolved because of the many different cultures that came from other places. If you ask me, the American South has one of the most-interesting ethnically  historical stories to tell. New Orleans alone brought ethnic diversity from all over - all because the nobility of a certain time shipped criminals and enemies of the state off to another land. Hilarious! 

Alton Brown has a fun skit to tell you all about it...

(Start the video at 9:01 - my html player is being weird)

Speaking of Alton Brown, we're adapting his recipe today for the custard. But! We're of course using my recipe for spongecake, as spongecake is what this particular banana pudding is using. Here's why I like spongecake in trifles instead of cookies/biscuits:
  • Cookies/biscuits are for dunking
  • Cake is a same-textured lovely thing that's ideal for soaking
  • Cake can be cut into many different shapes, be they cubes or strips
  • I'm going to eat half the sleeve of cookies before I eat half a cake, so I know that I'll have enough for the recipe
See? Plenty of good reasons. Here's how to make a basic - and I do mean basic - spongecake:

Basic Spongecake
yields one half-sheet pan or a perfect square cake in a 12" tin
  • 240 g whole eggs(4 or 5)
  • 120 g sugar (granulated cane OR coconut sugar)
  • 135 g AP flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp flavoring**
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. A spongecake is different from your standard cake in the sense that it needs to not be greased in the tin, as the bubbles need somewhere to climb. I used my square pan, so I lined it with ungreased parchment paper. And, yes, this does mean that you can use this recipe to make cupcakes, but I'd recommend adding in half a teaspoon of baking powder if you do so, just for a little insurance.

**In this recipe I used about half a teaspoon of key lime essence, which came in an oil form.You can use vanilla extract, orange zest, just about anything! This is such a basic sponge that you can even pulverize some nuts in there and fold it in. The sky is the limit.

Whip your eggs and sugar together using the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, and when I say whip it like a cyclone, I mean whip it like a cyclone. This should take about four minutes in your standing mixer, starting on medium and ending on high. The volume should triple, of course, and while that's whipping, go ahead and measure your flour and salt together.

Fold in the flour in little shimmy-shakes, ideally through a sifter/strainer. Fold them in gently, please, as we don't want to disturb the bubbles too much. Add in your flavoring and pour into your prepared pan.

If you've spread this evenly in a sheet pan, you'll only need 10-12 minutes tops for this. I had a square cake tin, so I did 20 minutes, or just until it was set. I'm not going to be rolling this cake, though, for a roulade so I'm okay with having it be a hair drier than the average bear. The cake will bake beautifully, but please be sure to allow it to cool before removing it from the tins for at least 15 minutes while you make your custard. Otherwise, the bubbles could risk popping and you could risk your cake deflating.

Now for the custard!

Warm Vanilla Custard

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour(gluten-free flour is fine, or 3 Tbsp cornstarch if you prefer)
  • 2 cups hemp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract, whatever you have)
Clean out your standing mixer bowl and whisk thoroughly and dry. Separate your eggs so that the yolks go in the bottom of a saucepot and the whites go in the bowl of the standing mixer. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and vanilla paste to the pot as well and whisk until homogeneous. This will take a hair of elbow grease, but I believe in you - you're strong and you can do the thing. 

Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking in until everything is quite smooth. Introduce some medium heat and whisk constantly, being sure to get the corners. You're going to want to cook this custard without boiling it, so make sure that you keep a thermometer around to watch for 180 F/82 C degrees. You'll know when it's thick, of course, to turn down the heat while you check. Once it's ready, remove from the heat and set aside. 

Whip the egg whites and the 1/4 cup sugar together on high to create stiff peaks. What do stiff peaks look like? Well...


They should be glossy and smooth and should not be lumpy or look dry. If you do, however, overwhip your whites, don't panic. Just add one more egg white and stir/whip in. It will salvage the meringue enough to use it. Presto! Keep that oven on at 400 degrees while we assemble this pudding!

Banana Pudding
  • 1 batch Warm Vanilla Custard
  • 1 batch Basic Sponge cake, cut in strips or cubes
  • 5 -6 bananas 
  • A dash of rum, if you like
  • Meringue
Glass bowls are preferred for this endeavor because you can both see the layers and most glass is extremely durable. Your standard pyrex bowls that you get at the grocery store is oven-safe, but please be diligent and check the bottom of the bowl to see. You may also use a metal bowl, but let's be honest, you want to see the layers.

Mmm caaaaaaaaaake

Take your sponge cake from the tin and peel away the parchment. I sliced mine in half lengthwise because I didn't want large cubes, but you can cut them however you want. I cut mine in about 3/4" strips to fit the bowl. I did have some leftover, but that's okay - you can spread jam between the layers and eat it like a sandwich later this evening. 



Drop a wee dollop of custard in the absolute bottom of the bowl just to keep the spongecake in place. Layer on the sponge, then the bananas, then the warm custard. The reason you want to layer this on while it's still warm is so the bananas will cook. By letting them cook, you get away with using less sugar, and you don't have to soak the cakes in rum if you don't want to. If you want the rum, however, sprinkle it on each spongecake layer while you build up. Live your best life.

I mean, don't add booze if you're going to be serving this to kids. Or do. Whatever your laws are.
Keep layering up and up and up until you reach the topmost point of the bowl with custard being your top layer. You want moisture, of course, but if you must have that extra kick of rum, please layer with a thin bit of spongecake and give it a good solid drizzle now.

Oh yeah. Seal in that goodness. Do it. 

Spread the meringue thick atop to cover. It is of the utmost importance that you scrape the side of your spatula to secure/seal the sides of the bowl. You're creating a protecting layer of meringue, here, to keep your custard safe. Give it a few swirlies, though, with your spatula for the aesthetic. While you can broil this with a torch, I think you should keep it classic and just bake it for 5 minutes.

I think this lovely dessert should be served warm, so it's excellent to make ahead and then bake for dinner parties. I just want you to remember something:

Glass, while extremely durable, gets fragile and will explode with drastic temperature changes. So please, oh please, do not take your glass bowl from the fridge and then immediately put it into a screaming hot oven. I know that most Pyrex bowls are safe for this, but the last thing I need is a lawsuit. Let the glass come up to room temperature before you bake it. Or just make this right before your party, cook everything else, and then bake. You'll be fine, especially because it's nondairy.

The reason I love hemp milk in this recipe is because it's very high in fat. It has a whopping 5 grams of fat per serving, and has a wonderful complex taste as well. I think that the depth of hemp milk is perfectly appropriate for this dessert, and I encourage you to try it out as well. Please experiment with all different types of milks and tell me how it went!


I had a craving for banana cream pie for some odd reason. 🍌🍌🍌 Oddly, though, I didn't feel like making pie, so I just baked a sponge cake and sliced it into strips to use instead of your standard vanilla wafers.☺ Banana pudding is very different depending on what region you're in. If you are north of the Mason Dixie line, you're probably used to the refrigerated kind topped with whipped cream. If you're in the South, however, you most likely prefer a warm banana pudding topped with meringue. The biggest difference is between England and France, who initially colonized those places. I prefer the French version a pretty much everything, so of course I did the warm version with the baked meringue. 🤩 (#dairyfree of course) #foodiechats #foodblogger #wannabgourmande #bananapudding #meringue #french #pudding #pastry #spongecake #cheflife #desserts #custard #banana
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Thanks so much for reading! Happy cooking and happy eating!