Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deep dish apple pie

Things have been a little slow here at Home Baked lately. We haven't stopped cooking (or eating!), or even taking pictures, but sharing them with you has taken a back burner to meetings, projects, concerts, classes, laundry and various home and car repairs. Our garbage disposal literally fell out of the sink cabinet! How does that happen?

Deep Dish Apple Pie
So I dug into the photos piling up on my hard drive and remembered this pie I made for a Superbowl party. Somehow, after eating ridiculous amounts of nacho cheese dip and a bowl of chili, I still managed to consume a big bowl of this pie with ice cream. I found the recipe in an interesting cookbook, Sweet!, by Mani Niall. It's full of recipes using all sorts of natural sugars and sweeteners. Here, instead of sweetening the pie filling with sugar, you start with sweet apples and add apple juice concentrate. I added some butter to the filling and reduced the cinnamon, but nobody noticed the missing sugar. I can't wait to try this pie with some different fruit fillings, too. Another great thing about this pie is its portability. Instead of making two pies for a crowd, just make one big one in a 9x13 baking dish!

Deep Dish Apple Pie

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 pieces
3/4 cup ice water, give or take

8 large Fuji or Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. butter

Mix flour and salt, then cut the butter in with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. (You could use the food processor method, instead.) Gradually add the ice water and stir gently until the dough begins to hold together. Press the dough together, divide into 1/3 and 2/3 portions, shape into rectangles, and wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Toss the apples with the lemon juice. In another bowl, whisk together the apple juice concentrate, cornstarch and cinnamon.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Roll out the larger piece of dough between two pieces of wax paper to a 15x18 inch rectangle. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread the apples into the crust and pour the apple juice mixture over them. Cut the butter into pats and scatter across the apples. Roll the smaller portion of dough into a 10x14 inch rectangle and place it on top of the apples. Tuck the edges of the top crust into the sides, pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together, and crimp them decoratively. Cut several slits in the crust.

Bake about 2 hours, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.  Cool on a wire rack; serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Persimmon bread

Last year some time I bought some persimmons, and by the time they were ripe, we were about to go on vacation. I gave them to my mother rather than let them spoil, and she pureed the pulp and put it in the freezer. Then when she was cleaning out her freezer before heading south for the winter, she gave me the container with exactly two cups of persimmon pulp. I let it languish in my freezer for several months, and this week finally decided to get it out and make something with it, come hell or high water. (The high water is an all too real possibility; between melting snow and March rain, our little castle has its very own moat.) Plus, we need some freezer space.

Persimmon pudding first came to mind, but as usual, I only had a little more than an hour, and Grandma's pudding recipe requires a few pauses for stirring. So I turned to this James Beard/David Lebovitz recipe. This one of those quick breads that ought to be called a cake, but for the fact that you bake it in a loaf pan. Though the batter starts out bright orange, as it bakes the bread turns a dark brown. The zing of the freshly ground nutmeg really stands out, pairing well with either chocolate or fruit and nuts (or all three--why not?). This would be a lovely alternative to fruit cake around the holidays.

My eight-year-old taste tester had no words, just a groan of satisfaction. Little Three just ate his up and asked for more. Miss Five denied that there was anything so strange as persimmon in her slice--she ate Just Chocolate Chip Bread. Whatever you call it, it's good. And the recipe makes two loaves, one to eat and one to put in the freezer. So much for gaining freezer space!

Persimmon Bread
adapted slightly from James Beard

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups persimmon pulp
2/3 cup Cognac
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of two 9"x5" loaf pans with baking spray (or grease and flour them).

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the butter, eggs, persimmon pulp and Cognac, and beat until all the flour mixture is incorporated. If you want to make both loaves identical, stir in whatever combination of fruit, nuts or chocolate you prefer. If, as I did, you want to try different combinations, scrape half the batter into a second bowl and make your additions accordingly. Scrape the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If the top of the bread is browning too much during baking (check at about 45 minutes), cover it with a piece of foil. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Orange upside-down gingerbread

Oranges and gingerbread: a sweet consolation for a long winter's day. Oranges have been on sale lately, so we've been eating a lot of them. I think Little Three has eaten at least half a dozen mandarin oranges in the past 24 hours! I keep hoping the infusion of citrus will beat down the colds we've all been battling.

Last weekend, I spent a few more minutes browsing through the tower of cookbooks I brought home from the library, searching for a dessert that wouldn't require an extra trip to the store. And in David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert, in a note at the bottom of another recipe, I found this variation for gingerbread made with oranges and cardamom.

Despite some issues with the batter overflowing the pan, this cake is spectacular. Both fancy and homey, with its beautiful rings of orange nestled in a gooey brown sugar topping, it is supported by a lovely moist gingerbread that might be worth baking all on its own. The cardamom and orange together set this cake apart from other gingerbreads.

(I was all set to take a shortcut and use already ground cardamom, but we didn't have any! We did have cardamom pods, so I ground a few up in the coffee grinder, sifting out the large bits.)

Orange Upside-Down Gingerbread
from David Lebovitz

4 T. butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
4 navel oranges, peeled and sliced horizontally into      1/2" slices

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the topping, put 4 T. butter in a 9-inch round cake pan or cast iron skillet. Make sure it is at least 2 inches deep. (My regular 1 1/2" pan was too shallow, and the pan overflowed during baking. Next time I'll use a 9" springform pan--it's quite a bit deeper.) Set the pan on the stovetop over low heat until the butter melts. Add the brown sugar and cardamom and stir well. Remove from heat. Arrange the orange slices over the brown sugar mixture, putting the prettiest sides down.

For the cake, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. In the mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter and the sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses. Add the eggs one at time, beating after each. Slowly mix in half the flour mixture. Stir in the half-and-half, and then the rest of the flour mixture until just combined. Incorporate any flour stuck to the sides of the bowl with a few turns by hand with a rubber spatula.

Spread the batter on top of the fruit layer in the pan. Bake until a skewer in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool about 15 minutes, then loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a thin spatula or knife. Invert a serving plate over the pan and flip the cake over. Carefully lift off the pan.

Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

This cake is brought to you by your local library

Thirty minutes alone in the library, and look what treasures I brought home! Our local library is a wonderful place, and never more so than on Tuesday mornings when they have "On Our Own" story time for three-year-olds. That means you slap a nametag on your child and hand him off to a smiling librarian to join in stories, singing and stickers while you dash downstairs to indulge in half an hour of quiet time ALONE in the adult section.

I haven't had a chance to crack all of these books yet, but I managed a couple chapters of Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, and already found half a dozen recipes to try in Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. Without even getting through the table of contents, I stopped at "Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake" and got to work. I confess, I may have had visions of cheerful, well-mannered children snacking on cake while willingly doing their homework. A good recipe is more than a set of instructions, after all. It's an attempt to turn an abstract vision into something concrete, something you can taste.

This recipe was true to its promise. Tempers were soothed, arguments forgotten, all at the mere mention of cake. And it provided enough fuel to draw pictures and write sentences (in our best kindergarten spelling!) about red-eyed tree frogs and mango-eating orangutans, and finish molding a peninsula out of floral foam for that second grade social studies project.

I am happy to eat a cake like this unadorned--the nutty whole wheat flavor and subtle cinnamon go nicely with a cup of tea--but the recipe also suggests a variation with streusel, turning it into more of a coffee cake. That sounds good, too, doesn't it?

The recipe calls for yogurt, but the cake is richer than other yogurt cakes I've tried, thanks to the addition of three eggs and some melted butter. I didn't make a single change to the recipe, so I don't feel comfortable copying it here outright. I suggest you request In the Kitchen with Good Appetite from your own library, and see what other recipes sound good to you. I already tried the Pan-Roasted Asparagus (topped with garlicky breadcrumbs and a fried egg)....mmmmmm. We had it for dinner, but wouldn't that be good for brunch?

(Due to a sinus infection that just won't quit--though I think the antibiotics are finally doing their job--I started this post over a week ago and only now managed to complete it! In the meantime, I've made several other tasty things I hope to share with you. Orange Upside-Down Gingerbread, anyone? You'll have to make it yourself--we ate it all up!)