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Posts tagged ‘apple recipes’

where apples fall

15 October 2013


family tree apple cake

yesterday, i went shopping. it’s something i do now only out of necessity. when mom (a.k.a. little bird) was alive, we went frequently. persistently. at times, ad nauseum. i had to force myself to remember that, to mom (who spent more than 25 years in upscale sales), retail felt like going home.

no matter where we shopped, she proactively sought out sales people in every store—as if they were family. most newbie retail associates tried to avoid her enthusiastic advances (and eye contact). but seasoned comrades, much to mom’s delight, engaged respectfully in conversations. and she took their parting words to come back again soon like invitations from dear friends.

my solo retail outing (mission: to replace ratty old sweaters with new, unratty counterparts) took a surprising turn. i found myself drawn—clearly by some mysterious, magnetic force—to a retail outlet and to a sweater nearly identical to one little bird used to wear religiously. yeah, ok, hers didn’t have a hoodie. and she didn’t wear mens’ sweaters, except for dad’s when she felt a little blue. and i have no intention of wearing a brooch on my sweater. but other than that, we could have been twins. i grabbed the sweater, hugged it tightly to my chest and grinned a big toothy one. even the newbie sales guy at the register seemed to feel the excitement of my discovery and pride in being part of a shiny, new-store family. i think mom would have liked him.

dominant gene: skinny legs

dominant genes: skinny legs, big feet

as the years go by, i catch myself sounding—and looking—just a little bit more like mom. a lilt in my voice (with only a hint of New England accent). a facial expression. a wicked-lame joke. an affinity for a handsome, black and white sweater. and i think (with some modicum of panic), i am becoming my mother. well, dear, the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

if you’re in the mood, crank up Glenn Miller’s rendition of People Like You and Me, get out the flour, and whip up a nicely moist apple cake (recipe just below).

mom would have liked it with a double-dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream. or maybe some vanilla ice cream. or both. from our gene pool: when it comes to dessert, always shoot the moon.

endnote: sincere thanks to those who’ve continued to stop by during this quiet time. losing our beloved Winnie on 17 February left my creative spirit squashed. appreciate your patience as i get my juju back.

Family Tree Apple Cake
based on a recipe from pinch of yum


for the cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (i use sunflower)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped apples (i used a mix of Queen Cox and Bramley; if you don’t have access to these, try a nice, tart Granny Smith)

for the topping
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter


  1. preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. butter a 10-inch square pan. (if you don’t have this more unusual size [mine is a Emile Henry Urban Colors square baking dish], you could use a 9 x13-inch pan, but the cake wouldn’t be as lofty.)
  3. to make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, flour, cinnamon and cloves.
  4. using a pastry blender, cut in the butter (leaving some larger lumps) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
  5. to make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
  6. in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat brown sugar and oil until combined.
  7. add egg, buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until throughly incorporated.
  8. add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  9. fold in the apples.
  10. scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading out evenly.
  11. sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
  12. bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 45 minutes.
  13. let cake cool in pan on rack, but it’s great served warm.
dominant genes: goofy w/beak

dominant genes: goofy w/beak


the fascinating rhythm of pie

10 November 2009


apple pie from 11/07 class

for me, baking is a dance—one that i perform with infinitely more poise and grace than i could ever exhibit on any dance floor. i glide through my kitchen, moving from pantry to countertop to oven with clarity of purpose and a decided rhythm that helps me keep beat with my joyful, self-defined creative process. as i learned from Seattle’s acclaimed, award-winning, pie-baking maestro Kate McDermott this past weekend, rhythm also plays a pivotal role in crafting an exceptional pie.

Kate and husband Jon Rowley spent more than two years refining their perfectly tender, flaky, lightly crisp and rich pie-crust recipe—and another few years researching and experimenting with combinations of heirloom apples to determine which yielded the best-tasting results. with a Brix refractometer, they measure each variety’s sugar content to determine how other ingredients might be adjusted to ensure every pie’s flavors are ideally balanced.

Kate listening to pies

Kate McDermott listens to the rhythm of a nearly done heirloom-apple pie.

as a classically trained musician with a highly refined ear, Kate discovered that her pies were completely baked when they emitted a rapid cadence of sizzle and a steady beat of whump. these culinary rhythms prompt her to remove her glorious handmade pies from the oven.

recently—in our small class of four pie-making wannabes— Kate demonstrated how to form a perfect pie crust by first combining refrigerated King Arthur flour, cold Kerrygold butter, chilled rendered leaf lard and salt in a very large, very chilled mixing bowl. she plunged her hands deeply into the bowl and lifted the ingredients with her palms up, blending the butter, lard and flour with her fingers, leaving fat chunks of all sizes to encourage an ultimately flaky consistency. next, Kate sprinkled icy cold water until a dough formed. then she let us loose to do the same, until each of us had two, flattened pie-dough disks.

as our dough chilled in the fridge, Kate and Jon shared that heirloom apples have thin skin, which contains tremendous flavor; it’s neither necessary nor desired to peel them. we all cheered. we cored and chunked Belle de Boskoop, Black Twig, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Egremont Russet, Elstar, JonathanKing David and Prairie Spy varieties, tossing them into a giant communal bowl. Kate then measured and divided the apples into four-to-five-pound piles, one pile for each of our pies. we laughed nervously when we realized how many apples we needed to load into our pie dishes. after combining a blend of spices with the apples, we were ready to roll out our pie crusts. and that’s when i panicked.

rolling my pie crust has always been a overwhelming challenge. i clumsily try to shape a round, but it never is. round, i mean. Kate helped me to relax, work more confidently and less gingerly with proven techniques. if the dough isn’t perfectly round, life isn’t over. a happy revelation. it will still fit in the pie dish and on the top of the pie. and, most importantly, it will still taste great.

when our crusts were rolled and pies filled, we crimped, vented and egg-washed the top crust, then Kate carefully loaded our masterpieces into her oven. as the pies baked, Kate served snacks, including some of her own divine apple pie, and read Henry Ward Beecher‘s apple pie sermon aloud. as our pies came out of the oven, and we listened for their sizzles and whumps, i realized it wasn’t simply the rhythm of the pies that made for a warm, uplifting afternoon. it was Kate’s melody: her overarching enthusiasm, patience, openness, generous spirit and genuine love of pies. and it was the harmony of working together for a common goal: to proudly craft our own amazing pies.

i wish i would have taken more photos during class to share every step of the process with you, but i was literally up to my elbows in flour, lard, butter, pie dough and apples (and loving every minute of it). i totally forgot to remove my camera from its case, until our pies had been popped in the oven.

i’m about 100 percent positive that neither of the Gershwin brothers would have imagined the title of their 1924 hit could be applied to an award-winning berry or cherry or peach or heirloom-apple pie. but Kate’s rhythmic discovery is, indeed, fascinating. and her dedication to the Art of the Pie and teaching it to others, unwavering. if you’re near Seattle, i enthusiastically recommend that you take her class; it’s truly an experience every aspiring pie maker should have.

Kate’s Apple Pie
recipe shared with the gracious permission of Kate McDermott, Art of the Pie
makes one double-crust, 9-inch pie


for the double crust
2 1/2 cups refrigerated King Arthur unbleached white flour
8 tablespoons leaf lard, cut into various-size pieces, from peas to walnuts
8 tablespoons Irish butter (e.g., Kerrygold), cut into various-size pieces, from peas to walnuts
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 – 8 tablespoons ice water (variable, depending on environmental conditions)

for filling
about 10 cups heirloom apples, quartered and cored
1/2 cup flour
1/2 – 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (my optional addition to 1/2 cup granulated sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (my optional addition)
a pinch or two of nutmeg
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

for topping
1 egg white mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons water
1 – 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. in a generously large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the double crust, except the water.
  2. with clean hands, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal; leave some lumps in it, so your pie will be flaky!
  3. sprinkle ice water over mixture and stir lightly with your hands or a fork.
  4. squeeze a handful of dough together; if it doesn’t hold, add a bit more water.
  5. form the dough into a ball, then divide in half.
  6. make two chubby disks, about 5 inches in diameter.
  7. wrap each disk in plastic, and let chill for about an hour.
  8. when the dough has chilled, place one of the disks on a well-floured surface and sprinkle some flour on top of it.
  9. thump the disk with your rolling pin (Kate prefers a French rolling pin, but whatever works best for you) several times; turn the disk over and thump the other side.
  10. if needed, sprinkle more flour on the disk to prevent sticking, then roll out the crust from the center in all directions. Kate advises to turn the dough quarter turns and to flip it over during the rolling process.
  11. when the dough is about an inch larger in diameter than your pie dish, fold the dough over the top of your rolling pin, brush off the excess flour on each side, and lay it carefully in the pie dish. don’t be alarmed if you have to patch your dough in a place or two; just brush a little water over any cracks, then reconnect the dough with any extra pieces you have left over.
  12. for your filling, slice the apples in 1/2-inch pieces.
  13. in a large mixing bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the butter; mix lightly until the surface of the apples have been coated.
  14. pour the mixture into the pie dish that contains your bottom crust, mounding high; dot with the butter.
  15. preheat oven to 425F.
  16. roll out your top crust, and place over the pile of apples.
  17. trim your crust with kitchen shears or a sharp knife, leaving about an inch of overhang.
  18. roll the crust over or under, so the pie is sealed; make sure the crust doesn’t extend beyond the edges of the pie dish.
  19. crimp the edges of the crust with a fork.
  20. paint with egg-white wash.
  21. cut decorative vent holes of your choice in the top crust.
  22. sprinkle sugar on top.
  23. bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375F and bake for about another 40 minutes.
  24. when you remove the pie from the oven, listen for the sizzle and a deep, subtle bubbling or whump.
  25. cool on a wire rack. Kate’s sage advice: if you leave your pies to cool on the back porch, expect resident squirrels to pay a little visit.

serve alone for breakfast or with ice cream after your evening meal.

wicked-simple apple crisp

27 September 2009


as each day passes, i embrace fall a bit more graciously. i remember my father, who, each year, welcomed fall with open arms. i would help him rake large piles of leaves and was amply rewarded when he let me jump in them. he’d yell and cheer me on as i obliterated all the work we’d done to tidy the yard in the first place. he never complained that he had to rake it all again and would insist that i go in and warm up, instead of helping him finish the task (i’m sure he also thought doing it himself was a heck of a lot faster).

my dad loved to cook, but i think he loved to eat even more. as any good New Englander would say, i always thought it was wicked cool when he would drive us out to the orchards in Bolton or Stow, Massachusetts to pick apples. in retrospect, the apple picking was a pretense; he was really after apple cider donuts and a few generous cups of steaming apple cider. oh, we’d get the apples, but they were tertiary to the other goodies procured at the farms. driving home, the sun would reflect on leaves ablaze with color: orange, red, burgundy, yellow. and sitting in the back seat, i felt content.

i can calculate precisely when i stumbled upon this recipe by the condition of the cookbook that houses it: the cookbook binding, nibbled on by my basset hound, Dewey, when he was a puppy. the pages tarnished from Dewey’s teething and from decades of use. Dewey and my dad have been gone for many years, but they both had an affinity for apple crisp (or for page 280, where the recipe can be found).

apple crisp
a wicked-simple variation based on a recipe from the vegetarian epicure

Alex in the U.K. gathering his Bramleys

Alex in the U.K. gathering his Bramleys


5 – 6 medium-size Bramley (or other tart) apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached organic flour
1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)


  1. preheat oven to 350F.
  2. whisk all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until well combined.

    consistency of topping, prebaking

    consistency of topping, prebaking

  4. peel the apples, and slice thinly.
  5. place the apples only in a round casserole dish.
  6. sprinkle the mixture over the apples; don’t combine the apples and the mixture.
  7. cover and bake for 35 or 40 minutes.
  8. remove the cover, and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the topping is crisp (hence the name) and golden brown.

apple crisp serving

serve warm, topped with whipped cream, ice cream, or half and half. it’s especially lovely when accompanied by profoundly insightful (and very funny) composer and folk singer Cheryl Wheeler’s When Fall Comes to New England.

the ultimate apple

26 September 2009


according to the Farmers’ Almanac (and no doubt other authoritative scientific resources), autumn has officially arrived. to grudgingly usher in the season, i made my annual trek out to Jones Creek Farm in Sedro-Wooley, WA. Jones Creekthere, friendly, knowledgeable farmers Les and Talea Price give TLC to their orchard laden with an extensive variety of heirloom apples. while i appreciate Jones Creek’s apple cornucopia, scenic Skagit Valley location and genuinely nice growers, i go out to the orchard for one simple reason: Bramleys.

this year marks the bicentenary of the Bramley apple (i.e., 200 years since British youngster Mary Ann Brailsford planted the pips in her garden that ultimately become the apple tree that bore the fruit that was named after the man who purchased the cottage where the tree was rooted and insisted that the apples be named after him—the abridged version). touted by apple pundits (and by me) as the best cooking apple on the planet, Bramleys retain their tart flavor because they contain more acid and less sugar than their inferior counterparts. and they produce an unbeatable melt-in-your-mouth texture, again, unlike more mundane varieties. somehow, the Bramley apple made it across the pond and to the top of my best-ever-fruits-of-all-time list.

with a bushel of Bramley apples, four sugar pie pumpkins and Elroy in the back of the car, i hightailed it home from Jones Creek Farm. later that afternoon, i made the recipe that follows with only three Bramleys; these guys were mutants. cropped Bramleys

i dedicate this pandowdy to my dear friend Alex, a true U.K. renaissance man, who tends his own Bramley apple trees. and whose curiosity and thirst for knowledge have led him on many great adventures, from flying and stone henge site exploration to archaeologic digs. a man of generous spirit and an even bigger heart.

Apple Pandowdy
a dish concocted by combining a recipe from Sunset and one from Emeril Lagasse/Food Network and an idea or two of my own

apple pandowdy prebake


for the crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold butter
4 tablespoons ice-cold water (add more as needed)
1 tablespoon sugar for sprinking

for the filling

4 large Bramley apples (or, if you must, 6 – 7 Granny Smith), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter cut into small pieces


  1. in  a large bowl or food processor, mix the flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and salt.
  2. cut the butter into the flour mixture, until coarse crumbs form.
  3. sprinkle water evenly over the crumb mixture, until a dough forms; add more water, if needed.
  4. turn dough out onto a lightly floured mat and pat into a flat disk.
  5. wrap disk in plastic wrap, and place in fridge.
  6. preheat oven to 350F.
  7. in a large bowl, toss the apples and lemon juice.
  8. in a medium bowl, whisk all the filling dry ingredients.
  9. add the mixture from the medium bowl into the large bowl filled with the apples and lemon juice; toss to coat, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  10. spoon the apple mixture into a 10-inch-deep ceramic pie dish.
  11. top the mixture with the small pieces of butter.
  12. remove dough from fridge and let stand at room temperature until pliable.
  13. with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick.
  14. place dough on top of apple mixture, rolling edges under (trim off any excess, as needed).
  15. place pie dish on a cookie sheet covered in non-stick foil, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until crust is golden.
  16. remove from oven, and with a small, sharp knife, score the crust into 1-inch squares.
  17. with the back of a spoon, gently press the crust into the filling, so the juice flows over the edges of the squares.
  18. sprinkle the sugar over the crust, and return to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced and the juices are thickened.

serve warm, topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. ok, i even like it for breakfast, without anything on it. well, maybe a splash of half and half.

apple pandowdy baked