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Showing posts with label apple pie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apple pie. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apple Pie Gets Whisky Tipsy

For the holidays, old favorites are entitled to special love. Case in point, apple pie. Nothing is more American and no dessert is more satisfying than apple pie, hot from the oven, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Delicious as it is, special occasions call for special ingredients.

Whisky's smoky sweetness seems like a perfect companion for apple pie's richly comforting wholesomeness.

My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving and Chanukah. Her recipe was the essence of simplicity. One of those dishes that intuitively adheres to the principle of "let the ingredients speak for themselves."

At a time when farmers markets didn't exist in cities, my mom would pack my sister and myself into her Dodge and we'd head out to the farms in the areas surrounding Banning, California, the small town on the way to Palm Springs where we lived during my high school years.

Sometimes we'd stop at stands along the highway and buy a basket of apples, maybe a pumpkin or two, and a grocery bag filled with lettuce, beans and onions. When she had decided we would make a whole day out of the trip, we would go to one of the many U-Pick 'Em apple orchards in the area. My sister and I would clamber up the tall ladders, my mother holding on to the bottom as we picked apples and deposited them in the pails provided by the farmer.

Happily we don't have to travel as far now, since farmers markets bring fresh apples to our neighborhood on Sunday in Pacific Palisades and Wednesday and Saturday in Santa Monica. The Fuji apples from Ha Farms are firm and sweet and make an especially good apple pie.

The nice folks at Maker's Mark gifted me with a bottle of their whisky, the idea being I would come up with a nifty cocktail for the holiday season.
It didn't take much effort on my part to mimic the beautiful version of the Manhattan served at the Westside Tavern (10850 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064) in West Los Angeles.

Called the Proper Manhattan, the secret to their upgrade of the classic cocktail is the addition of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6, manufactured in New Orleans by the Sazerac Company and sold locally at Wally's (2017 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064).
Thinking about my mother's apple pie and eyeing the Maker's Mark on the counter, it was easy to put two and two together.

For many years, I've been tinkering with my mother's apple pie recipe--adding cream and crystalized ginger to the crust--so including whisky with the apples seemed like the perfect addition to a holiday apple pie.

Normally I wouldn't use whisky in cooking because the alcohol cooks off and I would much rather sip whisky than use it for flavoring, but a whisky apple pie, topped with a premium vanilla ice cream and served with shooters of Maker's Mark whisky and Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 seems like a fine way to celebrate the holidays. Nothing like double-downing on a good thing.

Manhattan Shooters
When a cocktail seems like too much of a commitment, a Manhattan shooter is a great way to go, the perfect size to accompany appetizers and snacks.

Yield 1

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces premium whisky
1/4 teaspoon dry vermouth
5 drops Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6

Directions

Keep the shot glasses, whisky, vermouth and bitters in the freezer. When ready to serve, take everything out of the freezer, measure, mix, pour and consume the shots along with a slice of the whisky apple pie.

Whisky Apple Pie

Use any variety of apple you enjoy. I like Fuji apples which are sweet so I can use less sugar.


Ingredients
6 large sized apples, washed, peeled, sliced 1/2” thick
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup whisky
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden raisins
2 tablespoons roughly chopped raw almonds
5 large pieces crystallized ginger
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons raw sugar
1-2 tablespoons ice water

Method

Make the pastry first. Hand chop the crystallized ginger as fine as possible. Put the flour, butter, sea salt, 2 teaspoons of raw sugar, and the crystallized ginger into a food processor and pulse until well-blended.  

While the food processor is running, slowly add the cream and then a little water at a time until the dough forms a ball.

Sprinkle flour onto a cutting board. Remove the ball of dough, divide into two pieces, put onto the flour and flatten into two 6” disks. Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 60 minutes. Just before you are going to roll out the pastry, remove the disks from the refrigerator and allow to soften for five minutes.

On the floured cutting board, remove one disk from the plastic wrap and roll out the dough so it covers a 9” pie dish. 

Gently lay the dough over the pie dish and press down to fit. 

Trim the excess dough off the edge with a sharp paring knife. 

Make a dozen holes in the bottom of the dough. Weigh down the dough with ceramic pastry balls, uncooked rice, or beans and bake 15 minutes in a preheated 375 F oven.

Remove. Let cool on a wire rack. Remove the weights.

Roast the chopped almonds on a piece of aluminum foil in the 375 F oven for 5 minutes and remove.

For the filling, put the whisky, lemon juice, raisins, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Toss the apple slices in the mixture so the apples don’t discolor.  Let sit 15 minutes. 

Spoon the apples, raisins and almonds into the prebaked crust. Pour 2 tablespoons of the liquid on the apples. Reserve the rest of the liquid.

Roll out the top crust on the floured cutting board as before. Lay the pastry on top of the pie. 

Trim away the excess. Use a fork to press together the edges of the top and bottom crusts. The tines will make a nice design along the edge.

Use a paring knife to poke half a dozen slits in the top pastry to allow steam to escape.

Bake in a preheated 375 F oven 30 minutes. 

Place the reserved whisky-brown sugar liquid in a small saucepan. Reduce to one quarter the volume over low heat, stirring frequently.

Remove the pie from the oven. 

Brush the whisky syrup on top of the pie and dust with a sprinkling of raw sugar.

Return to the oven for an additional 25-35 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned.  Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and let cool.

Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day

Since my wife has sworn off sugar, my Valentine's day options are limited. I used to bake her one of her favorite desserts--a chocolate banana walnut cake, bread pudding with chocolate and almonds, apple pie with crystallized ginger crust, or a raspberry custard--but not now.

Last year, the first year of Michelle's new regimen, I didn't know what to do so I ironed all her blouses. She liked that.

This year we decided our Valentine's Day treat would be a meal at our favorite restaurant. Last week we went to a tasting at the Il Fornaio (1551 Ocean Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401; 310/451-7800) opposite the Santa Monica pier. This month's Regionale features the exceptional cuisine of Lazio, which includes Rome.

We enjoyed the meal so much, we're going back for Valentine's Day, the last day of the Regionale.

Romans must love pork, because cured pork was a featured ingredient in a soup, two pastas, and an entree. Guanciale (pork cheek) enhanced the flavors of the Cannellini Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagiolicon le Cotiche) and gave depth to the Spaghetti in SpicyTomato Sauce (Bucatini all'Amatriciana).

Pancetta in the Spinach Cannelloni (Cannelloni alla Crema) contributed a salty heartiness to the chicken and veal stuffing. In the Sauteed Veal (Saltimbocca alla Romana), prosciutto combined perfectly with the sage and wine reduction to compliment the thin slices of veal.

But Romans apparently do not live by meat alone. The vegetarian and seafood dishes were particularly satisfying, especially one dish, the Grilled Hearts of Romaine(Lattuga Romana alla Griglia). Once in a while we encounter a dish that surprises, even though the ingredients are totally familiar. That was definitely the case with the grilled romaine. Served warm and topped with Il Fornaio's creamy house dressing and a thin slice of softened pecorino pepato (whole peppercorns are imbeded in the cheese), the lightly caramelized romaine had more similarities to fennel than it did to the overly familiar lettuce we have in salads.

The Whole Wheat Ravioli (Mezzelune Integrali) was also unexpectedly good. Too many times we've tried to eat healthily and ordered a whole wheat pasta only to be disappointed with textures and flavors that resembled cardboard. Not so the ravioli filled with greens (Swiss chard and Spinach) and cheeses (ricotta and pecorino) and topped with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.

Even though Michelle wouldn't have dessert, she indulged me and watched as I ate the Kahlua and Coffee Mouse (Crema al Caffe' e Sambuca). The dessert was presented with extra long spoons which struck me as an affectation, at least until I started eating and discovered that buried in the delicious mouse were precious treats. Cubes of sambuca-soaked sponge cake and coffee beans coated in dark chocolate were lying in wait to be discovered by the deep-diving, adventurous spoon-wielding-diner.

With so many wonderful dishes and several we wanted to try like the Roasted Salmon with Asparagus, Artichokes, and Capers (Salmone Ostia Antica) and the Risotto with Prawns and Monkfish (Risotto Antico Impero), we decided the best way to celebrate our love for each other was to come back to Il Fornaio and do it all again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mom’s Apple Pie Recipe with a Crystallized Ginger Crust

Besides making the turkey for Thanksgiving, my mom always made apple pie. Her recipe for the filling was classic in its simplicity: apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, and raisins. I’ve played around with her recipe but never improved it. The crust, however, was a different matter.

Over the years I tried dozens of recipes with varying results. When I finally settled on a recipe that worked there was still something missing. Sure I wanted the crust to be light and flaky with a buttery flavor and a little sweetness, all of which nicely framed the flavors of the apple filling but I still felt something was missing.

I wanted the crust to add to the flavors of the apple pie, not just frame them. That’s when I hit on using crystallized ginger to add sweet-heat to the crust.

Apple Pie with Crystallized Ginger Crust

You can use any tart apple or, as we prefer, one with more flavor like a Fuji.

Yield: 6-8 slices

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

6 large sized apples, washed, peeled, sliced 1/2” thick

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon golden raisins

5 large pieces crystallized ginger

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 teaspoons raw sugar

2-3 tablespoons ice water

1 egg white

Method

Make the pastry first. Hand chop the crystallized ginger as fine as possible. Put the flour, butter, sea salt, 2 teaspoons of raw sugar, and the crystallized ginger into a food processor and pulse until well-blended. While the food processor is running, slowly add water until the dough forms a ball.

Sprinkle flour onto a cutting board. Remove the ball of dough, divide into two pieces, put onto the flour and flatten into two 6” disks. Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.

Prebake the bottom crust.

On the floured cutting board, remove one disk from the plastic wrap and roll out the dough so it covers a 9” pie dish. Gently lay the dough over the pie dish and press down to fit. Trim the excess dough off the edge with a sharp paring knife. Make a dozen holes in the bottom of the dough. Weigh down the dough with ceramic pastry balls, uncooked rice, or beans and bake 15 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Remove. Let cool on a wire rack. Remove the weights.

For the filling, put the lemon juice, raisins, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Toss the apple slices in the mixture so the apples don’t discolor. Using a rubber spatula put the slices and juice in the prebaked crust.

Roll out the top crust on the floured cutting board as before. Lay the pastry on top of the pie. Trim away the excess and press together the edges of the top and bottom crusts. Use a paring knife to make half a dozen slits in the top pastry to allow steam to escape.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Lightly beat the egg white with 1/2 teaspoon of water. Brush the pastry with the egg white and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of raw sugar over the top. Return to the oven for an additional 25-35 minutes or until the crust is nicely brown.

Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's the Perfect Valentine's Day Gift?

That’s the question of the moment. Ads on TV, in newspapers, on line, in magazines, on billboards, buses, subways, just about everywhere you look, make suggestions about what to give your lover to show how much you treasure her: romantic dinners, cruises, hot air balloon rides, diamonds, earrings, pearl necklaces, chocolates, spa treatments, cakes, pies, tarts, sweaters, and of course, flowers.

Years ago when I lived in Rhode Island I had a friend who refused to buy any of her gifts. For Christmas or a birthday, she’d knit a gift, create a handmade card, or construct a collage. Risa was an enthusiastic practitioner of the hand-made movement because she felt that making a gift was a more emotional way of connecting to someone you cared about. To her, going into a store and plunking down a fist full of cash wasn’t as intimate and personal as making something.

I took Risa’s lesson to heart. Many Valentine’s Days I baked. Apple pies with crystallized ginger crusts. Flourless chocolate cakes with roasted almonds. And banana cakes with chocolate chips and roasted walnuts, one of my wife’s favorite desserts.

For this Valentine’s Day I was presented with a problem. I couldn’t bake Michelle a cake because she had sworn off dairy products and sugar. No matter how much she used to like my desserts, a beautiful cake wouldn’t tell her “I love you” the way it used to. So what could I make or do for her that would show her I love her?

To be valued, a gift has to be appropriate. Finding the right gift means that I really understand who Michelle is and what makes her happy. That’s when I realized the best gift I could give her was to iron all her blouses.

If you’re Jewish, which I am, you’ve been taught that true gift giving (a mitzvah) is only genuine if you ask for nothing in return, not even a thank you. If you “give to get”, that’s not genuine giving. Selflessness and gift giving go hand in hand.

When Michelle opened her closet yesterday, expecting to see dozens of clean but wrinkled blouses, she instead found all her blouses freshly ironed. I didn’t create a handmade card or bake a cake, but I did give her what made her feel loved and taken care of and that was a good Valentine’s Day present. My gift made her very happy.