Springing into March and Maple Syrup Time

“March is a month of considerable frustration – it is so near Spring and yet across a great deal of the country the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light years away.” – Thalassa Cruso (known as “The Julia Child of Horticulture”, 1909-1997)

While waiting for the March Lion to turn into a Lamb, for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw, consider baking one of the three cakes below (taken from “The Food52 Cookbook” by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, 2011).

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake 

maple cakeIngredients:
1/2 cup Grade B Maple Syrup
3/4 cup yogurt, preferably whole milk
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 & 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  1. In large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir just to incorporate. Add the oil and fold gently until the oil is absorbed into the batter. Make sure not to over mix the batter.
  1. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Cut around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the cake out onto the rack, then turn it upright on the rack and cool completely. Serve with fresh sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream!

maple pound cake

Faulknerian Family Spice Cake with Caramel Icing

Ingredients for cake:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (yes, shortening)
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground mace (don’t leave this out)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for caramel icing:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for cake:

  1. To make the cake, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a tube pan and set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth.
  1. Sift together the dry ingredients, twice. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Add the vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, turn out of the pan, and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Instructions for caramel icing:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the brown sugar and cream. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Return to the heat and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Let the mixture cool, and then beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Ice the cooled cake.

Lemony Cream Cheese Pancakes with Blueberries

Ingredients:
1 & 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
6 ounces cold cream cheese, cut up
1 tbsp. melted butter, plus additional for the pan
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 & 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Honey, maple syrup, or jam, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and buttermilk. Add the cream cheese and mix until it has separated into uniformly small lumps, about the size of large cottage cheese curds. Stir in the milted butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  1. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then stir to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold them gently into the batter.
  1. Heat a griddle or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Lower the heat to medium and butter or oil the pan. Drop the batter into the pan by 1/3 cupful’s, making sure not to crowd the pancakes. Once the batter has spread, drop in the berries. (You might want to drizzle some batter over to cover them.) These need to be cooked a bit longer than you might expect; they won’t bubble as quickly or as much as plain pancakes. Turn down the heat if necessary to keep them from overbrowning and let them puff up their full extent after you turn them, which will take 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with honey or maple syrup or jam.

The ‘Key’ to Key Lime Pie

best key lime pie recipeThe Key Lime* – different from Persian or Tahiti limes that one typically sees in the grocery store – was introduced to the Florida Keys during the 1830s by Henry Perrine, a diplomat and botanist who discovered the plant in Mexico.

It is little surprise, then, that the combination of refreshing limes and sweet condensed milk, which was also invented around the same time, eventually evolved to become Florida’s State Pie.

In fact, it was only on a recent trip to Florida that I discovered just how many varieties there are to Key Lime Pie – and how delicious the perfect one can truly be. From light and fluffy to a heavier custard-like filling, one quickly develops a discriminating palate for a dessert that is offered in just about every restaurant in the state.

The absolute best Key Lime Pie I sampled was a perfectly textured and flavored whipped cream/graham cracker crust creation at A12 Buoy in Fort Pierce, an all around excellent seafood restaurant. I have been on a mission to recreate it ever since.

In the meantime, the two recipes below are very satisfying. One is made with a graham cracker crust, the other with a flour crust; one with just cream and eggs, the other with condensed milk and eggs. Enjoy!

Also: check out Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe in Key West, voted one of the best Key Lime Pie makers. You can purchase one of their pies online at www.keylimesshop.com along with a variety of other items, such as Key Lime Soap and Key Lime Cookies.

*Key limes are smaller, have a more intense flavor and are considered sweeter than other types of lime. They also have a thinner rind and more of a yellowish color compared to other types of lime. They are sometimes referred to as a “bartender’s lime” because of the enhancing flavor they give to alcoholic drinks such as margaritas.

Key Lime Pie (adapted from several different recipes)

Ingredients for the crust:
2 cups crushed Graham Cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
6 tbsp. melted butter

Ingredients for the filling:
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Key Lime juice
2 & 1/4 tsp. grated Key Lime rind
1 & 1/2 cups whipping cream

Instructions for the crust:
Preheat over to350°F.  Combine all of the above ingredients and press into the bottom and  the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake in oven for approximately 8-10 minutes being careful not to burn.

Instructions for the filling:
Mix egg yolks, sugar and lime juice in top of double boiler. Cook over simmering water until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in grated rind. Refrigerate until mixture thickens, but do not let it become stiff.

Beat cream to soft peaks. Fold into lime filling. Spoon into baked crust and refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream on top.

Key Lime Pie with a Flour Crust (taken from fine cooking.com)

Ingredients for the crust:
6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
½ tsp. table salt
3 oz. (6 tbsp.) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp. chilled vegetable shortening, cubed
2-1/2 to 3 tbs. ice water

Ingredients for the filling:
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 regular limes)
2 tbsp. finely grated lime zest (from about 2 regular limes)

Ingredients for the garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 lime, zested into thin strips

Instructions:
Put the flour and salt in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter cubes and pulse until they’re the size of extra-large peas (about 10 quick pulses). Add the shortening and continue pulsing until the largest pieces of butter and shortening are the size of peas (10 to 15 more quick pulses). Sprinkle 2-1/2 tbps. of the water over the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the mixture just begins to come together. It should look rather crumbly, but if you press some between your fingers, it should hold together. (If it doesn’t, sprinkle on another 1/2 tbps. water and pulse a few more times.) Dump the crumbly mix onto a lightly floured surface and press the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a round that’s 1/8 inch thick and 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Drape the dough around the rolling pin and ease it into a 9-inch pie pan. With kitchen shears, trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold the overhang under and crimp it to build up an edge. Prick the crust with a fork in several places. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position an oven rack on the middle rung and heat the oven to 350°F.

Grease one side of a sheet of foil with cooking spray, oil, or butter. Line the pie pan with the foil, greased side down, and fill it with pie weights or beans. Bake until the edges of the crust look dry and start to turn golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights; continue baking until the entire crust is deeply golden brown, another 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Instructions for the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice, and grated zest. Pour into the cooled pie crust and bake at 350°F until just set, about 30 minutes. The center may still be a bit jiggly. (Use an instant-read thermometer to double-check the doneness; the center of the pie should be at least 140°F.) Let the pie cool thoroughly on a rack and then cover with plastic and refrigerate to chill completely, at least 3 hours but no longer than a day.

Just before serving, whip the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the cream on top of the pie, garnish with the strips of lime zest strips, and serve.

Late Spring, Early Summer: The Perfect Time for an English Trifle

“A dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits (as brandy or rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.” – Merriam-Webster dictionary

English trifle recipeI can still remember the first English Trifle I tasted years ago. Its soft airy whipped cream, comforting creamy pudding, fresh sweet berries and crumbly texture made for one memorable, heavenly dessert.

Having scoured my cookbooks (this was pre-internet) for an English Trifle recipe, but failing to find one that reflected the culinary vision I had in my baker’s mind, I set out to create my own.

I had just read Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, in which she shared a Lemon Cake recipe that I had made, served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Deliciously moist and fresh, I decided to make my first trifle with her lemon cake in place of the more typical ladyfingers and sponge cake that one finds in traditional English Trifle recipes.

After all, there truly is nothing better than using homemade vanilla pudding or even tapioca, fresh whipped cream and a trio of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Refreshing and light, the English Trifle makes the perfect summer dessert for cookouts, barbecues and family get-togethers. It’s also a fun patriotic dessert for the Fourth of July with the layering of the red berries, the white whipped cream/pudding/cake, and the blueberries.

We hope you enjoy!

English Trifle Recipe

Lemon Cake (taken from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, 1996)

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Instructions:
Cream together 1 cup of sweet butter and 2 cups of sugar. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. The mixture should be light. Mix together 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and incorporate this with the butter mixture alternately with 1 cup buttermilk, (In Italy, I use one cup of cream since buttermilk is not available.) Begin and end with the flour mixture. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the grated zest of the lemon. Bake in a nonstick tube pan at 200 degree for 50 minutes. The cake can be glazed with 1/4 cup of soft butter into which 1 & 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice have been beaten. Decorate with tiny curls of lemon rind.

Vanilla Pudding (taken from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, 1931)

Hint: Be patient with the pudding, it takes a lot of time and constant stirring to keep it smooth and creamy and to keep it from burning.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
3-4 large egg yolks
2-3 tbsp. butter
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:
In medium heavy saucepan mix together thoroughly the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and gradually stir in, making sure to dissolve the cornstarch, 3 cups of whole milk and then whisk in the egg yolks, and then the butter. It is important to stir constantly to keep lumps from forming and to keep from burning the pudding. Cook, on medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; stirring briskly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool for several minutes and then place plastic wrap on top to keep the top from forming a film. Let the pudding cool thoroughly before using.

Easy English Trifle recipe

To assemble the trifle:

Ingredients:
The cake and pudding
1-2 cups sliced strawberries*1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
Several cups of fresh whipped cream
Raspberry jam
Round trifle dish

Instructions for the trifle:
To begin, cut cake into 2-3 inch squares and spread raspberry jam on one side. Arrange neatly on the bottom of the trifle dish and then begin the layering first with pudding, then berries and then the whipped cream. Continue layering to the top finishing with the whipped cream. Decorate the whipped cream with either cake crumbs or berries. Refrigerate for at least 6-24 hours (I found that it tasted best after refrigerating overnight.)

*You can combine all of the berries together in a bowl for the layering or you can layer the berries separately for a more orderly and patriotic looking finish.

Springing Green With “All Things Asparagus” and Sweet Spring Dream Cookies

“I look forward to the spring vegetables because the season is so short. Mushrooms, edible foraged herbs, wild leeks, early season asparagus.” – David Chang

“The first thing to look at is the tip of the spear or the bud. It should be tightly closed and erect, not open and droopy. The hue of green asparagus should be fresh, bright, and with no hint of yellow. White asparagus should be a clear, even, creamy color. The stalk should feel firm and the overall look should be dewy. Although asparagus, like nearly everything else, is now marketed through most of the year, it is freshest in the spring, from April to early June.” – Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)

Spring, like life, is short.

Celebrate the sprouting of Spring with the recipes below for “All Things Asparagus”, the ultimate Spring vegetable.

For something sweet, enjoy a recipe for Drömmar Swedish “dream” cookies.

asparagus recipes

Fried Asparagus or “Asparagi fritti” (taken from The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan, 1973)

Ingredients:
12 spears of crisp, fresh asparagus
2-4 tbsp. butter
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Snap off the bottoms of the stems of the asparagus, leaving a stalk about 4 to 5 inches long, including the tips. Remove all the tiny leaves below the tips and wash the asparagus thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry with a towel.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, dip the asparagus in the beaten egg, roll it in the bread crumbs, and slide it into the skillet, doing just a few stalks at a time so that they are not crowded in the pan. Spring with salt and pepper and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice. When the asparagus has formed a crust on one side, turn it and when it has formed a crust on the other side, transfer with a slotted spatula to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve immediately. Serve immediately and Bon Appetito!

Cream of Asparagus Soup (taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, 1982)

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped yellow onions
8 tbsp. sweet butter
2 quarts Chicken Stock
2 pounds asparagus
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cream of asparagus soup recipe

Instructions:
Melt butter in a large pot and simmer the onions until very soft and golden, about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, trim the tips from the asparagus and reserve.  Cut about 1 inch from the butt ends of the asparagus spears; remove the rough woody ends.  Chop spears into 1/2-inch pieces and drop into the boiling chicken stock, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until asparagus is very soft.

Purée soup in blender and return the puree to the pot, add the reserved asparagus tips, and simmer until they are tender but still firm, 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper.

Asparagus En Croute (taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

Ingredients:
12 slices good quality white sandwich bread
1/2 pound Jarlsberg or other Swiss-type cheese
1/2 cup prepared Dijon-style mustard
12 asparagus spears, cooked
4 tbsp. melted sweet butter

Instructions:
Roll slices of bread as thin as possible with a rolling pin; trim crusts. You will have pieces of bread 3-3 & 1/2 inches square.

Lay squares out on a work surface and cover with a damp towel for 10 minutes.

Cut cheese into fingers, more or less the size of the asparagus spears.

Spread each bread square evenly with mustard. Lay an asparagus spear and a strip of cheese on each bread square and roll up. Place seam side down on a buttered baking sheet.

Brush rolls with melted butter. Bake in the upper third of a 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Champagne Risotto (adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis, 2007)

Ingredients:
3 cups chicken broth
12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice or medium-grain rice
3/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth. Blanch the asparagus in the chicken broth for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set the asparagus aside and keep the chicken broth at a low simmer.

In another medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more. Add the champagne and simmer until the champagne has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat.

Gently stir in the asparagus, the remaining tablespoon of butter, the Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Drömmar (Dream Cookies) (taken from the Wall Street Journal, March 2016)

Ingredients:
7 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 1/3 cups unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp. baker’s ammonia (can substitute 1/2 tsp. baking powder plus 1/2 tsp. baking soda)
Salt

Instructions:
Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light in color, about 5 minutes. Sift flour and baker’s ammonia into bowl. Beat again until just fully combined, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to over beat.

Shape dough into 20 balls and place them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet or lightly greased sheet. Bake at 350 degree F until cookies puff and crisp but do not color, about 15 minutes. The cookies should have no, or very little, coloration and should crack slightly during cooking. Remove cookies from oven and let cool completely before eating.

Happy Sweet Spring Desserts

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring…[w]hat is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth’s SWEET being in the beginning…” – Gerard Manley Hopkins from the poem “Spring”

Spring dessert recipesNothing is more perfect than a slightly sweet, light, ethereal dessert after dining on a plateful of pasta at an old-world Italian restaurant on an early spring evening.

You could say that the Italian dessert “Panna Cotta” is like tasting a bit of spring itself in all of its lightness, sweetness and silky, creamy freshness. A simple pudding-like dessert, Panna Cotta (which literally means “cooked cream”) originated in Northern Italy, where “the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones (the collagen would set the cream).”

Panna Cotta is referred to as the “purest of the Italian spoons desserts” and when achieving the proper consistency and texture, should be silky smooth and just firm enough to hold its shape when plated (quotes taken from here).

Below are three variations of Panna Cotta to experiment with, along with two other spring dessert recipes, one for Banana Cake and one for a Lemon Cake. Enjoy!

Panna Cotta (taken from Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times Food Editor)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. powdered gelatin
Oil
2 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
5 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:
Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to distribute, and set aside to soften, 2-3 minutes.

Wipe the insides of 8 (one-half-cup) ramekins with a light coating of neutral oil and set aside. Half-fill a large bowl with ice and add enough water to make an ice bath and set aside.

In small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in the softened gelatin and the vanilla.

Set the saucepan in the ice bath (making sure the top of the saucepan is well above the surface of the water) and whisk until the mixture is lukewarm. Rub your fingers together – there should be no grit from undissolved sugar or gelatin.

Ladle mixture into the oiled ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before serving run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the ramekin. Dip the ramekin briefly in a bowl of hot tap water, and then carefully invert onto a serving plate.

Panna cotta recipes

Panna Cotta (adapted from blog.italian-connection.com)

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 heaping tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/7 ounce of unflavored gelatin

Instructions:
Dissolve gelatin in 2 tablespoons water for 2-3 minutes. In medium saucepan heat cream, milk, and sugar and heat gently. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and the vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined and begins to thicken. Pour into custard cups or ramekins and chill for 3-6 hours.

Panna Cotta (taken from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
3 cups cream
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:
Put 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it; let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring, until gelatin dissolves completely.

Add remaining cream and sugar to gelatin mixture and heat gently, just until sugar dissolves; add vanilla and then pour mixture into 4-6 small custard cups. Chill until set, about 4 hours.

Sunny Lemon Cake (adapted from Ann Romney, The Romney Family Table)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 – 2 lemons
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter on medium-high for 1 – 2 minutes, or until smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and lemon oil or zest and continue to beat.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after eat addition and scraping the bowl frequently.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix until the batter is smooth and well blended.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.  Drizzle warm cake with Lemon Glaze.

Ingredients for the Lemon Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. rum (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Instructions:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, water, rum or vanilla extract, and lemon stirring until the sugar dissolves. Drizzle the warm cake with the glaze. Let cake cool completely before serving.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (taken from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients for the Cake:
1 stick of butter, room temp.
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs room temp. to be separated
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 med-size banana)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

easy banana cake recipe

Instructions for the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 9×13 baking dish or two 9-inch round cake pans. Cream the butter and then add sugar and beat until smooth. Separate eggs placing egg whites in bowl to be beat.  Add egg yolks, mashed bananas and buttermilk to butter/sugar mixture and combine thoroughly. Beat egg white in separate bowl until stiff but moist and fold into mixture. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of batter and gently fold in. Spread evenly in prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

Ingredients for the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
4 tbsp. butter, room temp.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for the Frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar at a time mixing thoroughly, and then stir in the vanilla. Spread on flat 9×13 cake or use to make a layer cake with the 9-inch pans.

See also more light, airy and sweet Spring recipes.

Chicken Soup for the Presidential Soul

Life is tough. Whether you are running across the country campaigning for president or running city blocks to the nearest coffee shop early in the morning, the moments of modern day living can sometimes leave one in a spinning, dizzying delirium.

As we come to the finish line of February, perhaps a bit weary from all the running – running to keep up with the 2016 presidential election, running to work, running a business or running a very crazy household – it might do your soul well to sit down for a quiet moment to enjoy a hot steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup. Maybe even contemplate a different perspective, such as what life would be like on Mars or back in the days of our Founding Fathers…

Enjoy below: the Winter Citrus Salad for some refreshment, the Homemade Chicken Soup for some comfort, and the Chocolate Peanut Butter chip cookies for some satisfaction.

Winter Citrus Salad

Ingredients:
2 navel oranges
1 Cara Cara orange
1 firm apple like Cripps Pink or Pink Lady
1 grapefruit
Red grapes

Instructions:
Slice all of the above into bite size pieces and combine thoroughly. You can make a large bowl and keep it in the refrigerator all week to enjoy the ready-made freshness of it all.

Winter citrus salad recipe

Homemade Chicken Soup

For the chicken stock:
1 Roasting Chicken
3-5 carrots
1 white or yellow onion
3 stalks celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Sprig of fresh rosemary

Roast the chicken according to directions. When done remove meat from bones and set aside. Place the chicken carcass into large stock pot and cover with water. Add all of the ingredients above and let simmer all day on low on stovetop. Give it a stir a couple of times throughout the day. At end of the day let it cool, strain and refrigerate until ready to make the soup.

homemade chicken soup recipe

For the Chicken Soup:
Homemade stock (see above)
Chicken meat from roasted chicken
3-5 carrots, sliced in small pieces
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
Fresh parsley, minced
Italian Seasoning
Lemon Juice
4 tbsp. butter
4  tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper
Egg Pasta Noodles

Place the strained chicken stock that was cooked the day before into clean soup pot for a clear broth. Add carrots, onions, chicken meat, salt and pepper, the lemon juice from 1/2 lemon (or more if desired), a couple of sprinkles of Italian seasoning and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare flour/butter paste by combining, in large shallow bowl, the flour and butter and then the sour cream and stirring into a smooth paste. Pour about 1/3 cup of hot broth into the shallow bowl with the paste and using a whisk combine until smooth and creamy and then swirl into the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings as you go. Add about 2 cups of egg pasta noodles and sprinkle parsley on top and let simmer for 10 minutes or so on low and then turn off heat so noodles don’t become overcooked and mushy. Serve steaming hot!

Please note: you can cut the flour/butter paste to 2 tablespoons of each for a mere hint of creamy texture.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s or favorite Cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 & 1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 2/3 cups Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips

Chocolate peanut butter chip cookies recipe

Ingredients:
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Combine thoroughly. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes in 350 degree F oven.

Celebrate Royally with a Creamy, Spicy, Lovely & Sweet Valentine Dinner

Celebrate Valentine’s Day royally with some creamy, spicy, lovely & sweet Valentine’s Day recipes. Enjoy a royal beginning with the cocktails below, followed by dinner and dessert:

Valentine's day dinner recipesRoyal Godiva (taken from Cotton Cocktails by Peaches and Jeffrey Paige, 2013)

Ingredients:
1 ounce Smirnoff Vodka
1 ounce Chambord*
1 ounce Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur
Fresh Raspberries, To Garnish

Instructions:
Using a Boston shaker, fill the pint glass with ice, add all ingredients except garnish, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

*Chambord is made in France from red and black raspberries and has been produced for more than three hundred years.  The Godiva is a milk chocolate liqueur that is delicious on its own, but combining it with the other ingredients makes this a decadent dessert martini.

Passion Fruit Martini (taken from Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends by Pippa Middleton, 2012)

In a pitcher, mix together 1/2 cup vodka and 1/4 cup passion fruit juice, together with 1 & 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice and the juice of 1 lime.  To serve, shake hard in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes, strain and pour into chilled martini glasses.  Serve with a garnish of a few passion fruit seeds.

Moscow Mule (taken from Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends by Pippa Middleton, 2012)

In a pitcher, mix together 3/4 cup of vodka and the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons of Turbinado sugar and 4 dashes of Angostura bitters. To serve, pour into 4 tall glasses with a wedge of fresh lime and some slices of fresh ginger. Stir together, add ice cubes and top with ginger ale.

Valentine's day recipes

Easy and Elegant Company Chicken in Mushroom Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
6 thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup*
1 & 1/3 cups of whipping cream
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Pepper
1 package fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

Instructions:
Lightly salt chicken breast and place in large glass baking dish.  Sprinkle desired amount of garlic powder over chicken.  Combine mushroom soup and cream thoroughly and pour over chicken and sprinkle with pepper. Place in 350 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbly.

While chicken is baking, sauté fresh sliced mushrooms in olive oil and butter increasing heat as you go to brown nicely.  It always takes two batches of sautéing in large skillet.  Half way through baking spread sautéed mushrooms on top of chicken being sure to stir some of the mushrooms into the gravy and finish baking. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on top before serving.

*Homemade mushroom sauce can be substituted for Campbell’s Mushroom Soup using cream, chicken broth and a flour/butter paste.

Valentine's Day dessert recipes

Spicy Chili-Rice Casserole (taken from Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York’s Savviest Hostesses by Florence Fabricant, 2007)

Ingredients:
1 cup long grain rice
Kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 & 1/2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup or more of pickled jalapeño peppers, diced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and stir in the rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low. Cover the pan and cook about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.  Be sure to give it a stir once or twice. When done, transfer the rice to a bowl, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Mix the rice with the sour cream and grated Monterey Jack. Season to taste with salt. Stir in the jalapeño peppers until evenly distributed and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Dot with butter and bake in 350 degree F oven for about 25-30 minutes. The mushroom gravy from the chicken dish is yummy with this rice.

Italian Cream Cake

Ingredients for the cake:
Italian Cream Cake Recipe2 scant cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Bakers Angel Flake Sweetened Coconut (optional)
6 egg whites, room temp.

Instructions for cake:
Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed until well-blended. Add egg yokes one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in pecans, coconut (if desired) and vanilla extract. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form (do not over beat). Fold egg whites into batter and pour batter into two greased and lightly floured cake pans.  Bake in 350 degree F oven for approximately 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans thoroughly before turning out to ice.

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:
1 tbsp. butter
8 ounces of Cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
1 box of powdered sugar sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for frosting:
Cream butter and cheese on high speed until fluffy. Add sugar and blend either by hand or on low speed until well blended. Add vanilla and mix well. Spread icing on top and in between layers and around the side and sprinkle finely chopped pecan lightly on top along with sprinkles of pink colored sugar for a touch of Valentine loveliness.

easy Valentine's day cocktails

Christmas Cookies for Christmas Tea

Harney and sons tea review“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.” – Chaim Potok (American author and rabbi, 1929-2002)*

In the jingle-jangle, hustle-bustle of this busy, blessed season it is always good to make time for some peace, quiet and comfort with the taking of afternoon tea – accompanied, of course, by a sprinkled assortment of crisp and chewy Christmas tea cookies.

It is with a joyful spirit that ATG shares below an afternoon of tea and cookies with recipes for three very heavenly cookies.

We also highlight Harney & Sons’ “Holiday” Tea as a very good choice for your afternoon teatime. Located in the Hudson River Valley, Harney & Sons Fine Teas has been offering some the finest quality teas for over 30 years.  Their “Holiday” tea is blend of Chinese black tea with citrus, almond, clove, and cinnamon; it is a perfectly blended, smooth and satisfying tea that hits the right spice notes without an overpowering sensation (their Darjeeling is a good everyday afternoon tea).

Don’t let the plain look of the cookies fool you, the cookie-snatching elves around here said the Pecan Tea Cookies are addictive and some of the best they’ve had.

Tea quotes

Pecan Christmas Tea Cookies
An easy-to-make refrigerator cookie.

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temp.
2 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions:
Combine flour, salt, baking soda in medium sized bowl. In separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla to butter and sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Add flour mixture a little at a time to the eggs, butter and sugar mixture. Combine thoroughly and then add chopped pecans and stir until evenly distributed. Shape dough into two rolls 1 & 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator (keeps 1 week).  When chilled (2 hours or so), remove from plastic wrap and slice chilled dough 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick and bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degree F for 10-12 minutes.

Please note: When forming into rolls, I use a little flour to keep them from sticking on surface and hands.  Also, watch closely when they are baking in the oven so as not to over bake.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies (taken from Maida Heatter’s Cookies, 1997)
Chewy, buttery and yummy!

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 sticks of butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp.
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut, firmly packed, may be sweetened or unsweetened)

Instructions:
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In large bowl cream the butter and then beat in vanilla and both sugars, mix well and then beat in eggs.

Combine the flour mixture with the butter/egg mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the oats and the coconut.

Place by the teaspoon-full on greased cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart (do not flatten top as these cookies spread flattening themselves). Bake in 350 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes.

Please note: These cookies will rise and then fall during baking. Bake only until the cookies are a rich golden brown all over. Be careful not to over bake. When cool, these cookies should be crisp on the edges and slightly chewy in the middle.

Christmas cookie recipes

Seven Layer Cookie Bars
Rich and creamy and always just one more…

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup chocolate morsels
1 cup Butterscotch morsels
1 & 1/3 cups coconut
1 cup pecans

Instructions:
Melt butter in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour cracker crumbs over butter and evenly distribute making a smooth layer of crust. Then layer milk, chocolate and butterscotch morsels, coconut and pecans in that order. Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly bubbly and lightly browned in 325 degree F oven.

*Enjoy a few more quotes from these tea lovers:

  • “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” – Henry James (American writer, 1843-1916)
  • “A true warrior, like tea, shows his strength in hot water.”  – Chinese Proverb
  • “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  – C.S. Lewis (British novelist, 1898-1963)
  • “Would you like an adventure now, he said casually to John,  “or would you like to have your tea first?”  – J.M. Barrie (Scottish author of The Adventures of Peter Pan, 1860-1937)
  • “My dear, if you could give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better understand your affairs.”  – Charles Dickens (English writer, 1812-1870)
  • “I don’t drink coffee; I take tea, my dear ” – Sting (English musician)
  • “…she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.”  – Leonard Cohen (from his song “Suzanne”, 1967)
  • “I’m an afternoon tea type of girl. I come from a Russian background where we love our teas. So between lunch and dinner after training I come home and I love a nice cup of tea with am in it, as we drink it there. Black Englih Breakfast tea with raspberry jam is my favorite.”  – Maria Sharapova (professional tennis player)
  • “Tea tempers the spirits and harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness, lightens or refreshes the body, and clears the perceptive faculties.” – Confucius (Chinese philosopher, 551 BC-479 BC)

Thanksgiving Favorites: Cornbread, Popcorn Balls & Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving dessert recipesIn the season of “all things cooking”, when the lights in the kitchen burn from early morning well into the late evening, we celebrate the harvest of Thanksgiving with some very basic and traditional recipes, including three variations of corn bread.

As found in The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, John Egerton writes in Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History, “A properly prepared dish of spoon bread can be taken as testimony to the perfectibility of humankind; a crisp corn bread, dodger, or hoecake, on the other hand, demonstrates another kind of perfection, an enduring strength that has not been improved upon in four centuries of service to hungry people.”

Skillet Corn Bread (taken from The Blackberry Farm Cookbook)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. lard, bacon fat, or vegetable oil
3 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 & 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 & 1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 &1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temp. and lightly beaten
3 cups buttermillk

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the lard in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and put it into the oven to heat up. Pull it out just before it starts to smoke. It is very important to get the cat-iron skillet very hot before pouring in the batter.

In medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs and buttermilk and whisk just until combined. Immediately remove the hot skillet from the one and gently swirl it to coat the bottom with the hot lard. Pour the cornmeal batter into the skillet; the hot lard will sizzle around the edges of the batter.

Bake the corn bread for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue to bake the corn bread for another 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Turn the corn bread out of the skillet, cut into wedges, and serve hot.

Corn Muffins
From a favorite Kindergarten teacher who was also a great cook. This is a very basic tried and true recipe that is easy to make and is always satisfying served warm with butter, honey or jam.

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, room temp.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 cup milk

Healthy corn muffin recipe

Instructions:
Melt butter and add egg and stir until thoroughly combined. Mix together all dry ingredients and add to egg/butter mixture. Add milk and stir until evenly combined. Pour in muffin tins or glass baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread (taken from Barefoot Contessa cookbook, At Home)
This recipe for cornbread is a meal by itself and is good served warm with raspberry or strawberry jam or with butter and honey.

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (yellow or white cheddar is fine)
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish
3 tsbp. seeded and minced fresh jalapeño peppers (2 to 3 peppers)

Instructions:
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t over mix. Mix in 2 cups of the grated cheddar, the scallions, and jalapeños, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Pour into greased 9x13x2-inch baking pan and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Popcorn Balls (taken from Martha Stewart’s Christmas, 1989)
We have made these buttery moist popcorn balls every year for Thanksgiving since 1989. They have to be kept out of sight until Thanksgiving otherwise they slowly disappear!

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 quarts popped popcorn

Popcorn balls recipe

Instructions:
In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and brown sugar and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Place the corn in a large bowl and pour on the marshmallow mixture; toss well. Butter your hands and shape the corn into balls of whatever size you desire. Set on wax paper to dry.

We always double the recipe and end up with approximately 15-20 medium-sized balls depending on how big or small you make them. It is important to mix the warm marshmallow mixture into the popcorn quickly before it begins to stick. We found it is best to butter the bowl before putting the popped corn in to help prevent the mixture from sticking to the sides of the bowl. Also: make sure to KEEP YOUR HANDS BUTTERED as you form the balls.

Pumpkin Maple Pie (adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, 1989)
In addition to my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe, this recipe has been a family and guest favorite at the Thanksgiving table.

See here for recipes for pie crust.

Ingredients For the Filling:
2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
1 & 1/4 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves

easy pumpkin pie recipe

Instructions:
Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake at 365-375 degrees F for approximately 50-60 minutes until center of pie no longer moves when pan is shaken.

Scrumptious Apple Pies From Scratch

Setting out to make a pie can be a “very scary thing,” writes Deb Perelman in her cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen. As an “obsessive home cook” who suffered FOP (fear of pie), she was determined to master the art of piecrust making. It took several “pie seasons” of experimental distractions until she successfully arrived on top with the perfect piecrust, which as it turns out, is pretty basic and simple!

Below are three recipes, one from Deb Perelman’s described as a “buttery flakey crust” and two recipes that include the crust and filling. Two of the crust recipes use butter and the other from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook uses Crisco shortening, making it a more old-fashioned, but tried and true crust recipe nonetheless.

Easy Apple Pie Recipe

Pie Crust (taken from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. table salt
16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, VERY cold
1/2 cup ice-cold water

Instructions:
In a large, widish bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into medium-sized pieces and scatter the pieces over the flour. Using your finger tips (or pastry blender) work the butter into the flour mixture until the largest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas.

If the butter has warmed up a bit, place the bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes to quickly cool it down again. Drizzle the water over the flour-butter mixture and use a flexible spatula to gently stir it together until a craggy, uneven mass forms. Knead the dough and any loose bits together, working quickly so as to warm it as little as possible. For a traditional 2-crust pie, divide the dough and wrap it in two separate pieces. Chill it in the fridge at least 1 hour for a halved dough and 2 hours for a full one before rolling it out.

When ready to roll out the dough, place large size wax paper on counter and dust generously with flour and begin to roll out (perfecting the art of rolling out pie dough does take some patience and practice).  The key is to roll out before it becomes too warm and begins to stick and break up into tiny pieces.  Place back in freezer if this begins to happen and try again. When dough has successfully been rolled out gently fold into quarters and transfer to pie pan and gently unfold positioning it perfectly in the pie plate, letting it drape over the edges which you will trim.

Double-Crusted Apple Pie (taken from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook)

Ingredients for the crust:
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
18 tbsp. (2 & 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
6-8 tbsp. ice water
Milk for brushing over crust

Ingredients for the filling:
3 large firm-tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges*
3 large firm-sweet apples cut the same as above*
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 & 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Instructions:
In large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.  Roll out dough as described in Smitten Kitchen recipe above.  Place pie filling in pie pan and place rolled out top crust on top of filling and bake at 400-425 degree oven for 10 minutes and then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-50 minutes.

homemade pie crust recipe

Basic Pie Crust for 9-inch Two-crust Pie (taken from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients for crust:
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup shortening (Crisco)
6-7 tbsp. ice cold water

Instructions for crust:

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or by hand using a fork to scrape bits of butter into the flour/salt mixture. Combine lightly only until the mixture resembles coarse meal or very tiny peas: its texture will not be uniform but will contain crumbs and small bit and pieces. Sprinkle ice-cold water over the flour mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and mix lightly with a fork, using only enough water so that the pastry will hold together when pressed gently into a ball.

Divide the dough into two balls. Roll the bottom crust out 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Ease it into the pan, fitting it loosely but firmly. Roll out the top crust. Fill the pie generously, then put on the top crust and prick in several place with a fork or cut vents in it. Crimp or flute the edges. Bake as incited in the filling recipe.

Ingredients for the filling:
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 & 1/2 tbsp. flour
6 large, firm mix of tart and sweet apples*
2 tbsp. butter

Instructions for filling:
Mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl.  Peel, core, and slice apples and toss them in the sugar mixture, coating them well. Pile them into the crust- lined pie pan and dot with the butter.  Roll out the top crust and drape it over the pie.  Crimp edges and cut several vents in the top.  Bake for 10 minutes at 400-425 degree oven and then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes more or until crust is nicely browned.

*There are many combinations of apples that are perfect for a pie and everyone has their favorites. My personal favorite for over 30 years of baking are Baldwin, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Macintosh and Gala (I always use a combination of at least two or three different apple varieties).

Below are some of the more common and easy to find apples:

The best apples for Firm-Tart are:

  • best apples for apple pieNorthern Spy
  • Granny Smith
  • Idared
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Rome Beauty

The best apples for Firm-Sweet are:

  • Baldwin
  • Winter Banana
  • Pink Lady
  • Jonagold
  • Jazz
  • Golden Delicious
  • Honeycrisp