Tag Archives: Desserts

Apple Pickin’

After posting about apple pie I was thinking that Cameo apples, while my favorite apple, are not the usual baking apples. Then my good friend J asked me what apples are good for baking and which ones are better to just eat? So I started doing a little research on the subject. applesWhile I still firmly believe that cooking and baking with a filling is more about following your own preferences than hard and fast rules or traditions… Obviously baking has an element of chemistry to it so you do have to follow recipes more closely than in just regular cooking. Though when you are filling a crust up with some kind of fruit what difference does it really make which fruit you use?

Apples can be tricky. If you do not use the right apples you could bake them into this gorgeous looking pie and then cut into it, only to find applesauce! This would likely happen to me in front of the (well accomplished pastry chef) mother of a man I am trying to impress, or at least I am trying to impress his family. Usually some snide remark or joke at my expense would be made and I would want to crawl into a hole somewhere. But that’s me not you… I digress. Cutting into your beautiful pie to find applesaucethat the apples have disintegrated could be very depressing. I am never one to turn down a good dessert so I would go ahead and try it. How bad could it really be? You like pie, and most people like applesauce. The pie won’t win any prizes but eh… If you are baking to impress or just not a fan of mushy apple pie then read on.

Selecting a good apple is the first step to any pie, cobbler, brown betty, tart, or crisp and fundamental to enjoying any apple. Look for apples that are firm, have a good color, and usually about the size of your fist. NO mushy, pale, behemoth apples for you! Look out for soft spots or breaks in the skin. I am really picky with my fruit; in fact the majority of my grocery shopping time goes into picking out fruits and veggies. I want to find as close to sheer perfection as I can. (Except bananas, then I want them green… but that’s another post) Local apples are usually much fresher and sometimes have a better flavor if you can get them.

It is good to note that three medium apples weigh around a pound. fresh-apples-from-last-summerRemember that medium apples are about the size of your fist, sounds small doesn’t it? We are conditioned to think that way in these days of super sizing. You will get about a cup of slices out of one medium apple.

According to my research the best apples to just eat are:

Gala, Fuji, Mutsu, Jonathan, Cameo, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire, Red Delicious, McIntosh, Braeburn, Winesap, Pink Lady, and Sundowner.

Apples used a lot in pies are:

Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Rhode Island Greening, Pippin, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gravenstein

Best for applesauce:

Pippin, Rhode Island Greening, McIntosh, Elstar, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Gravenstein

Best for baking:

Rome, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Pippin, Gala, Braeburn, Northern Spy, Gravenstein, Rhode Island Greening, York Imperial, Cortland, Winesap

Best for making salads:

Cortland, Golden Delicious, Empire, Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Winesap, Criterion, Pink Lady

The reason my Cameo apples didn’t break down in the pie is due to their firmness. Firmer apples do well when baking and the softer apples are better for sauces. apple-pie-slice-ABFOOD0506-deSierra Beauty apples are wonderfully juicy, slightly tart apples but do not hold their shape when baked. They have a softer texture than some other apples and therefore are not an ideal candidate for pies or baking.

When baking a pie, it is recommended that you choose an apple that is a bit tart so that the sugar added to the pie doesn’t overwhelm the apple. Sweet apple + sugar = super sweet pie! My favorite, Cameo apples can be a bit sweeter than the more traditional apple for pies, Granny Smith, but that is my preference. I like the added sweetness.

What you are looking to accomplish is apples that have a slight snap to them when you bite into your slice of pie. You don’t baby-food-apple-mainwant baby food, but a bit of resistance from the apple as you take that bite is a good thing. Most importantly you want to be happy with your final product.  That really is all that matters!  I hope that this bit of apple knowledge will help you in baking your next pie. Remember to make it your own! Mix a bunch of different apples together and see what happens! Let me know about your results!






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As American as…

This post will be about one of the biggest icons of American cooking. We do not say “As American as watermelon granita” for a reason.  What you may not know is that apple pies have been around since the middle ages!  Originally the pastry surrounding the fruit was not meant to be eaten; only used as a container to hold the fruit until it was time to be eaten….  Also the pastry contained no sugar and were called coffins, very unappetizing. Sugar became more readily available in the 1500-1600’s and pastry started to sweeten up a bit. Most European countries have some version of the apple tart or pie of their own, if you have ever eaten in an IKEA then you know about the Swedish version. So what about these pies make them American? More than likely, that our apple pie is truly a blending of the different cultures that make us American; our apple pie recipes take a bit of all the best parts of other European recipes and make the sumptuous dessert we know and love.  Nearly everyone I know has a family recipe for apple pie, usually dating back further than anyone can remember.

Apples, if you don’t know, are not native to the United States.  English settlers brought the seeds with them, planted the trees, and introduced these wonderful fruits to the new world.apples google(1) The famous saying about the patriotism of the pie is actually a short version of the original saying “As American as mothers and apple pie.”  This saying of course brings forth all the warm fuzzy feelings of your mom cooking for you in pearls and apron.  So next time you bite into an apple pie think of the journey that sweet treat has made and of course ENJOY!

My recipe of apple pie is my own blending of research on other people’s apple pie recipes and my southern heritage.  (I throw some pecans in for a slightly nutty taste.)  While I do cheat a little by using a prepared pie crust you could always make your own pie crust should you choose to.  I usually do not have time (or the patience) to wait for pastry to set up.  It should be noted I don’t make really healthy desserts…. In my opinion, desserts are not health foods they are meant to be pleasurable experiences.  Please try my pie recipe and let me know what you think!

Apple Pecan Streusel Pie

1 pie crust prepared

Apple Filling

7-8 large, peeled, cored apples (I use Cameo apples because I like their taste. However any apple or combination of apples would work.)

1 Lemon (Squeeze juice over apples as you slice, if you like grate some rind into the mix for added tartness.)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 flour

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (based on your liking of cinnamon)

1/4 cup melted butter


1 cup chopped Pecans (I chop in a food processor for a fine chop)

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt (I only eyeball this to cut my sodium)

1 stick of COLD butter (cut into small cubes, do this ahead of time and put back in the refrigerator to make sure they are really cold)

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare Apple Filling:  In large bowl combine apple, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and melted butter. IMG00029-20101214-1524 Let this mixture sit at room temperature while you are preparing the streusel. (or about 15 minutes.)

Prepare Streusel Topping: In food processor place your pecans and chop until a find chop is achieved, don’t make pecan butter just a fine chop.  Blend in the remaining dry ingredients, flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt.  Add butter and use the pulse option on the food processor to just combine the butter. IMG00030-20101214-1557 You want this mix to be coarse and to have clumps of butter in the crumbs; this is how the streusel is made.

Fill the prepared pie crust with apples and juices, you can press down on the filling to pack it if you like.  Spread streusel topping over entire pie.  Make sure all the filling is covered.  Place pie on baking sheet or foil lined oven pan, and bake 15 minutes.  This causes the pie to brown.  Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for another 60 minutes, until filling bubbles and streusel is golden brown.  IMG00032-20101214-1724If necessary ( I always find it necessary) cover pie loosely with foil, I always spray the underside of the foil with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to anything.  The foil will prevent the pie from burning.  Remove from oven.  Cool for 2 hours.  Serve!






Source: http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PieHistory/ApplePie.htm


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Filed under Desserts