Monday, March 19, 2007

The Apple Pie That Won The Judges Over

My sister is an avid magazine collector having started with fashion magazines and after she got married, have been obsessed with interior-design magazines. My love for mags like House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens actually stemmed from her and before I knew it, I had my own little collection that I keep reading and salivating back to whenever I get the itch to redesign the rooms in the house or just looking for inspiration and dreaming of my ultimate dream house! Im very partial to country designs, and loved the show Shabby Chic in the Lifestyle Network, which unfortunately does not show anymore.

But as I realized later on, I was looking less and less at the home designs and more on the recipe section usually found at the latter part of most home magazines. My favorite is Country Living, where not only do I like the home designs but the country, rustic recipes that almost always accompany it. This particular issue featured the Iowa State Fair, an annual event which gives out blue ribbons to winners of the best of the best of country cooking!

I was ever so curious to try out this recipe, which won the Best All-American Pie category and awarded the blue ribbon prize to a certain Christine Moltavo. Thanks Christine for this wonderful recipe! The apple pie crust was real flaky and the apples not mushy at all but chunky with just the right hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. Although I haven't tried that many a recipe of Apple Pie, I can clearly see this a winner!

All-American Apple Pie
Adapted from Country Living, August 2005

3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups cold unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), cut in cubes
6 tbsp coldvegetable shortening
3 cups Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and sliced
3 cups Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch

To make dough
: Place the flour and 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to combine. Add 1 cup plus 2 tbsp butter and the vegetable shortening and pulse 6 to 8 times, until it resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle 4 tbsp cold water over hte dough and pulse 3 to 4 more times. Add more water until the dough holds together. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To make the filling
: Combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg and remaining salt in a large bowl and toss. Let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours. Brain apples, reserving liquid. Toss apples with cornstarch, and set aside. Place 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add remaining butter, bring to a boil and let cook until thick and syrupy. Do not stir. Add the syrup to the apples and gently toss to combine.

Bake the pie
: Heat oven to 425F. Roll out one disk into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Fit the dough into a 10-inch pie plate. Trim dough, crimp edge, and fill with the apple filling. Roll out the second disk fo the top crust. Cut out leaf shapes (I cut out heart shapes) and place over the apples, each slightly overlapping the other, to form a top crust. Cut several slits to vent the pie. Bake until the juices bubble through the slits, 45 -55 minutes. Let cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

I couldn't wait four hours, the smell is just so invting and yummy! I served it still hot within one hour from the oven with a side of cold thick vanilla-infused whipped cream!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bread Pudding With Chocolate Chips

After a particularly hectic, stressful week, all I just wanted to do was savor every minute of the weekend either by lounging around, visiting family, and baking a particularly easy dessert. The whole saturday afternoon went by with me just in front of the tv and doing absolutely nothing - a rarity these days and I just wanted to relish every moment of it! But alas, my baking crave still crept on.

A super easy baking is all I wanted and looking at my copy of How To Be A Domestic Goddess, I chanced upon her recipe (and nice pic!) of Pain Au Chocolat Pudding that looks very much inviting and comforting, and would just be perfect for a lazy saturday afternoon. The problem? I didnt have Pain Au Chocolat, and so I modified it a bit using the day-old bread I had on hand and my Callebaut mini-chocolate chips - with good results!

Bread Pudding With Chocolate Chips
Modified from Pain Au Chocolat Pudding Recipe of Nigella Lawson

10 pandesal (local small everyday bread)
About 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips (or more!)
2 1/4 cups milk
3 1/4 cups heavy cream (I used whipped cream)
3 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter an ovenproof dish with a capacity of approximately 6 cups. Cut up bread into roughly 1-inch slices and arrange them in the dish, sprinkling it around with chocolate chips.

Meanwhile, put the milk and cream in a pan and bring to near-boiling point. Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar in a large wide-mouthed measuring cup. When the milk and cream are nearly boiling, pour over the eggs and sugar, whicsking continously. Add vanilla and then pour over the slices of bread and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Transfer to a preheated oven and cook about 45 minutes, or until the pudding is softly set.

You may replace heavy cream and milk with 4 1/2 cups of light cream. At first I was worried as I seemed to have a lot of liquid, but turns out the bread slices have to be generously soaked, the more generous the better! If you plan to halve the mixture into two separate smaller containers like I did, reduce the baking time to 30-35 minutes.

This is seriously good, though I have to admit the chocolate chips contributed so much to the X-factor! Em's abuelita however still makes the best pudding (with raisins) and one of these days, Im gonna head over to her house and see how she makes it and try to comprehend the quantities of the ingredients. Yes, like a true veteran in the kitchen, she doesnt use any measurement and the pudding just comes out as yummy as the last one she baked!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sweet and Sour Chicken With Carrots

Preparing for Sunday lunch is always a delight, it's the only time I know the whole family is complete thereby making sure EVERYONE is bound to eat what I cook. That way, when you cook up a great meal, you get tons of compliments! What's cooking anyway, if no one is around to savor what you labored so lovingly for?

Browsing through my back issues of Gourmet magazine, I chanced upon this recipe for which I had almost all the ingredients of. It was an issue for Passover, and its full load of recipes that I so want to try. Well, one at a time... and this certainly is a good start. Lemon and honey makes a great combination that I never thought would work with chicken, but this is so delightful. Its the kind of cooking you would pay an arm and a leg for in a restaurant, but turns out it's easy! Cinnamon and paprika provide such aromatic touch and is also a nice surprise, I mean cinnamon for chicken?! I always thought cinnamon is just for dessert!

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Thighs With Carrots
Freely adapted from Gourmet magazine, April 2005

8 small chicken thighs with skin and bone (2 1/2 - 2 3/4 lb total)
1 1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, halved lenghtwise, then cut into 1/4 inch wide strips
1 lb carrots (6 medium), cut diagonally into 1-inch pcs
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp mild honey
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped chopped fresh cilantro

Pat chicken dry. Stir together 1 1/2 tsp salt with paprika, cinnamon and pepper. Rub unto chicken. Heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in batches, turning over once, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Discard all but 3 tbsp oil from skillet, then add onions and carrots. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper to taste and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and slightly brown, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.

Return chicken, skin sides up, nesting it into vegetables. Stir together water, lemon and honey until blended and add to skillet, then cook over moderately low heat, covered, until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender, 25-30 minutes. If necessary, add salt to taste. Sprinkle with herbs just before serving (I didnt have parsley and cilantro, and I substituted the herbs with basil, which worked out just fine).