Tag Archives: fruit

Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Muffins

Happy October everyone! Now that fall is in full swing here, it’s clear that pumpkin overload is in full effect. (Not to be confused with Full Force.) I’m sure you see it too, with the overflow of pumpkin-y things in every shop. We often shop at Trader Joe’s, and it’s clearly the case there. They have more pumpkin products than you ever thought could exist. (Or should exist, really.)

You can almost plot out the seasons by what food is prevalent at Trader Joe’s. The season before pumpkin season at Trader Joe’s seems to be mango season. It’s the same as with pumpkin, just with mangoes. I knew the seasons had started to change when the mango and pumpkin products overlapped briefly. But the mangoes have been fully replaced by pumpkins now.

Alas, seasons change. Time marches on. Sometimes things slip through the cracks. Most recipes I write about soon after I make them, but some sneak past (they’re sneaky like that), and I don’t get to write about them till much later. So I’m writing to you this week about another one of those. I bring you another entry from my (soon-to-be-picked-up-and-become-a-major-tv) series, recipes of future past.

I haven’t been baking as much gluten-free these days. Which means I have a lot of gluten-free flour stocked up, so I really need to do so again. But this was a good gluten-free muffin recipe from the New York Times. You might remember the gluten-free whole grain cheese and mustard muffins I had written about previously. These banana chocolate muffins are their siblings. That is to say, they came from the same article.

These days I generally use regular recipes and just substitute in gluten-free flour. But back in the day when I made this, I wasn’t as confident that I could do that, and so I sought out recipes that were specifically gluten-free. In this case, I followed the ingredients listed in the recipe and I used the different gluten-free flours they listed.

Bananas seem to go well in muffins. They’re in this recipe. They’re in the gluten-free peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins I made. And they’re in one of my favorite muffin recipes ever from Moosewood Cookbook.

It’s been a while, but as I remember these, they were good muffins. Banana-y and cocoa-y, with bits of chocolate inside. As with some other gluten-free baked goods, they were best fresh or warmed up. After a while though, the texture is different, and they end up being more grainy.

They look pretty decadent, but they’re not as ridiculous as they might seem. Check out the ingredient list.

As they’re way in the past at this point, and I didn’t have much in the way of notes, I don’t have much more to say on them. But let me know if you try them out. I’d love to hear your take on them. Or if you have any favorite muffin recipes, gluten-free or otherwise, feel free to share those as well. Or favorite banana recipes. Or, you know, the location of the fountain of youth. I’m not picky.

Recipe courtesy of The New York Times.

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Lime Tart

I hope you’ll forgive me if I post another recipe with limes. Does it help if I mention that there are no further lime recipes for a while? Does it help if I say this one is delicious? Does it help if I invite you over for some?

You might remember that in last week’s recipe I was trying to use up some cornmeal. I had gotten some limes for that recipe, and now I had a bunch of limes. So I found another recipe to use up the limes. Yeah, I know this could turn into a never-ending story, but thankfully it stops with this. (This time at least. ūüôā )

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You might notice that there’s no picture of the ingredients this time. Well, I wasn’t sure if the limes were actually any good still. So I had to cut them open and check them out and by that point a picture seemed already too late. Actually, my wife took care of the limes. She zested and juiced them while I was putting the crust together. Thanks hon!

If you’re following along with the recipe, I want to point out a few things. I forgot to put the vanilla in the crust. Oops! Juicing 4 limes made just enough for a 1/2 cup of juice. Also they were not key limes, just regular limes. I didn’t use an egg in the crust.

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I used my friendly neighborhood kitchen helper, the KitchenAid, twice for this recipe. The first kitchenaiding (is that a word?) was making the crust. Mixing it together using the KitchenAid was a snap.

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However, I have to come clean about something. I cheated on putting the crust together. I don’t have a tart pan, so I used a cake dish (9″ round). And rather than roll out the crust, especially if it was going to be a crumbly mess like the recipe suggested, I grabbed the cake dish and just dumped the dough in. I pressed it all along the bottom. Then I pulled some of the excess out and smooshed it up the sides. I tried to keep it from being too thick along the edge, which is an issue I have when making crusts this way. It wasn’t perfectly flat, but it was okay. I put it in the fridge to chill.

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After it chilled, I sprayed cooking spray onto a piece of foil and covered the dough. I weighed it down with pie weights. After the first 20 minutes baking, it looked super poofy and like it was baking unevenly. (I guess that’s why you shouldn’t do it the way I did.) I pricked it with a fork and put it back in for another 20 minutes. It looked very done at that point, so I took it out. Unevenly done, but done. I let it cool.

As it was baking, I made the filling. The zest and juice were already done. I minced the zest with the sugar in the food processor. As I was doing so, what can only be described as lime scented sugar dust wafted up from it. And in the end it turned into sugary lime powder. Yum!

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The second kitchenaiding (I figure if I keep using it as a word it might catch on) was for mixing up all the ingredients for the filling. Easy peasy. Then I put the filling in a saucepan. I had thought it was all combined, but as I was pouring it, I realized it wasn’t. At that point, all I could do was hope that it would combine more while heating. I heated it up a bit different than the directions. It took a total of 12 minutes on medium heat. I was concerned that it wasn’t thick enough, so that’s why I cooked it for a longer time and at a higher heat. Eventually it thickened. (Maybe it needed the extra time and heat because it wasn’t quite combined at the start?)

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The crust was cool-ish when I poured in the filling. I let it set, and I did the jiggle test to confirm. We weren’t quite ready for it, so I put it in the fridge till we were. It smelled lovely all through the making of it: the zesting and juicing, the processing, the mixing, the heating, etc.

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When it got to dessert time, it was hard to cut it. Mainly because it’s a non-stick pan, and I don’t want to ruin it. I need to get something to cut on it, as I keep having this issue. I ended up using two different spatulas and a plastic knife. Eventually I was able to cut it. The second piece was easier, as is usually the case.

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It was a bit of a mess. Maybe it hadn’t really thickened enough, as it was kinda sloppy and all over the place. And even though I had tried to work against it, the crust had bunched up at the edge. I think next time I should make a tart crust properly, or if I’m going to do it this way, I need to adjust my technique by either leaving it lighter around the edge, or starting from the edge and working my way in.

Even with all of the mess and such, it was still really good. There is a nice taste and texture to the crust. Thankfully, it didn’t taste overcooked. The lime filling was nice and limey, which is to say tart and sweet.

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Coincidentally, my wife’s anosmia had kicked in again. You can read more about it here. That time I made a lemon based dessert which she could taste. I didn’t realize it had really kicked in again when I made this, but it was a similar situation. She couldn’t smell it, but she could taste the citrus and the sweet.

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I was hoping that after a whole day in the fridge the filing would firm up more. Well, I can confirm that on the second day, it had firmed up a bit and was much more solid. And still delicious. And I can’t say for sure that it kept getting better day after day, but one taster a few days later said it was one of the best things she’s ever had.

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Now, I could go the punny route and say it was simply sublime. Or I could go the non-poetic route and say it was tasty. Or I could just suggest that you all try it for yourselves and tell me what you think of it. I think I’ll go the last route. So I look forward to hearing how it was for you.

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Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Lime Cornmeal Cookies

Someone deserves a prize for coming up with the idea of using cornmeal in cookies. I’m not talking Nobel Peace Prize level of prize, but something would be nice. It was an excellent idea, and it surely wasn’t mine. I don’t think I would have even tried it if not for the proliferation of recipes I found. (Who knew there were so many?) I just wanted to make something with cornmeal, as I had wanted to use up the cornmeal I had gotten for the chess pie. In that search, I practically ran headfirst into this recipe. Figuratively, of course. Spoiler alert: it turned out to be an excellent cookie, but it didn’t use up that much cornmeal.

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I had walked out the door to go grocery shopping without having looked recently at the recipe, and without having it with me. Silly me. I knew I needed limes, but not how many. I got a bag of organic limes, and I figured I could use the rest another time if needed. Actually, while making it, before even tasting them my wife suggested I make a double recipe. In retrospect it would have been a good idea, but I wanted to try them out once first. I only ended up using two limes, but that’s okay. (I wonder what I’ll do with the rest of the limes?)

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I didn’t have eggs handy, and I didn’t want to get any just for this so I used aquafaba. It’s an egg substitute, and it’s really just the liquid left from a can of beans. It works great, it doesn’t taste like beans in the final product, and you would never know it’s in there. (You can read more about my previous adventures with aquafaba here.) And, as a special bonus, we ended up using the beans for dinner that night as well. (We made a slightly modified version of the White Bean Fritters recipe here.) Yay planning! Yay synchronicity!

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So I zested and squeezed one lime at the beginning of the recipe. I got just about 2 tbsps zest and plenty of juice. I used 1 tbsp zest in the recipe and the other almost tbsp for the sugar mix for rolling. I used 1 tbsp juice as needed and saved the rest for later.

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It was easy to put together. I chilled the dough right in the mixing bowl. It took some finagling to get the dough into a 12 inch roll. I wrapped it up in wax paper and kept squeezing, squishing, and measuring until I got it to the right size. It wasn’t exactly round, but it was close enough. I wrapped plastic wrap around the wax paper.

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I had started it early in the day as it needed to rest in the fridge for a while (1 hour and then 8 more hours). I almost put it in the freezer for less time or took it out sooner, but I ended up getting caught up in other stuff so I wasn’t ready for it until the full time frame had passed anyway.

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After its time chilling, I took it out of the fridge. I then mixed up the sugar and reserved zest. It didn’t seem like a lot. I removed the plastic wrap and unrolled the wax paper. I poured the sugar mix out and rolled the dough in it, but since it wasn’t quite round, it needed some assistance. I ended up scooping up the sugar mix with my hands and pouring it over the dough. Then I patted it in, rotated the dough, and repeated. It turns out it was a lot. Plenty in fact.

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With the dough all ready, I started cutting slices. I had an idea of how big they should be after making the world peace cookies. It was a pretty similar setup all around.

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The first round I baked for about 10 minutes. They didn’t seem quite done, so I baked them for another 30 seconds or so. That first round might have been a tad bit undercooked. The second round got a tad bit overcooked, as I got caught up in something right when I should have taken them out. The third round was better (spot on, I think) which was about 11 minutes. Despite the differences in baking times, they were all good in the end.

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I let them cool, and I made the glaze. I zested another lime and juiced it. I used up all the zest as the recipe asked for, but between that lime and the juice I had left from the first one, there was plenty of juice. I used 3 tbsps plus a few more tsps to get it to the right consistency.

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I put wax paper under the cooling rack and spooned the glaze on. The first few got maybe a bit too much, which left not quite as much for the last few, but they all got covered in the end. A little uneven but okay. I’m glad I put down wax paper as it was a big ol’ mess underneath. I let them cool.

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After they cooled, we tried them. Wow. The lime was awesome. They have a nice texture, a little crunchy but still chewy. You can taste the cornmeal, and it works very well. The cookie is not super sweet, but the glaze is pretty sweet. They go well together. With the lime in the cookie, surrounding the cookie, and in the glaze, if you don’t like lime, this is not the right cookie for you. I wasn’t expecting these to be anything special, so I was pleasantly surprised. They were really good.

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The next day, after sitting in the fridge overnight, the glaze was much less sticky. Since that made it easier to travel with them, I decided to bring some in to work. Everyone at work really enjoyed them. One person referred to them as “crack”. After tasting one and enjoying it immensely, someone who was visiting from another office was very jealous upon finding out that I made baked goods regularly. There was some discussion again about stealing me for that office.

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So I would highly recommend these. They’re very good. And they’re easy, even with the lime zesting and juicing. The glaze is a little sweet, so if you want something less sweet, you could probably put in less sugar. But they’re very good as is. Do you have any good recipes with lime to share? I’d love to hear them!

Recipe courtesy of Half Baked.

Sour Cream Apple Strudel

Who doesn’t love strudel? Well, the results of my highly (un)scientific poll prove without a shadow of a doubt that nobody doesn’t love strudel. I mean, it is a classic, delicious pastry, but I had no idea just how much people love it until I made it.

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Why strudel in the first place? Well, if it’s deliciousness alone wasn’t a good enough reason. The other reason was this role-playing game that I play. In the game our characters are currently traveling around the world a bit. The guy who runs the game, last time he made dinner from Romania, where our characters were. That inspired me. I found out that this time our characters were going to Vienna, so I thought I would make something Austrian.

Working the dough.

Working the dough.

I have some history with Austrian foods. I studied German and in high school, I was on an exchange program with an Austrian high school (Gymnasium). It was with a school in Graz. Graz is the second largest city in Austria, but it doesn’t get lots of tourists because it’s in the southeast corner of the country away from the more famous touristy stuff. For me at least, that was a good thing. Away from the huge crowds, I really got immersed in the culture, language, food, and all the rest. It was lots of fun being there, and it was also fun showing them around when they visited us in the US. The program was only for a couple of weeks each way, but it had a big impact.

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So, I tried to figure out what kind of Austrian food to make. There are a lot of choices! After finding a few that looked doable, I decided on one that would be easily recognizable, and easily transportable: apple strudel. Also, I settled on this particular version of the recipe because it was easier. Traditionally, you roll the dough paper-thin (so thin that you can see through it). This one didn’t call for that, which was good, because I didn’t really have a space to roll out the dough that thin, and I was concerned about breaking it, honestly.

Apples!

Apples!

The recipe itself is pretty simple. Classic, in fact, and awesome. It has very few ingredients, and very little sugar. Let’s just say that sometimes, simpler is better. For the apples, I chose Gala apples. The recipe just called for baking apples and of the available choices, the Gala apples looked the best at the grocery store.

Filling!

Filling!

Also, eagle-eyed readers might notice an issue with the picture of the ingredients. You’ll see that the little spice bottle is not cinnamon, as you might expect, but rather cumin. Let me assure you that there is cinnamon and not cumin in this. The cumin was next to the cinnamon and I grabbed it by accident. Thankfully I noticed it before I used it.

The first one.

The first one.

It was a very easy recipe to put together. It started with a simple dough. I used a pastry blender to help put it together. I still needed to put some muscle into it, but it wasn’t bad. It was kinda like pie dough.

All rolled up.

All rolled up.

Besides paying attention to the ingredients (see cumin above), it also helps to pay careful attention to the instructions. I didn’t, and so I didn’t realize that the dough needed to be refrigerated overnight. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that kind of time. So I put it in the fridge and turned it to the coolest setting possible. Then I had dinner and hung out a bit. Then I made the filling and did the rest of the prep work that was necessary before taking it out of the fridge. So it didn’t chill as long as it was supposed to, but I think it was okay.

The second one.

The second one.

As for making the filling, the Gala apples were a good choice. They were very easy to cut, and they were nice and sweet. (I tried some of the filling after I made it.) The recipe didn’t say how to cut them, so I cut them pretty small, basically dicing them. I melted the butter, mixed in the breadcrumbs, added the sugar and cinnamon, and then dumped it all into the apple bowl and mixed it all up. Easy peasy.

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

I used my new assistant, the handy-dandy pastry mat, with measurements right on it. That made it very easy to measure. I pulled out the dough and guessed at splitting it into thirds. (I did an okay job, but one ended up a little smaller.) I rolled it out to the right size-ish. I had to guess at splitting the filling too. Mostly fine, but the last one had way too much filling. (Which is why I tasted the filling. I had put it all in at first, but it was too much, and I had to take some out.)

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

After rolling out each piece of dough, I spread out the filling, then rolled up the dough. Fun! I tried pinching the dough closed at the edges and at the seam. Not perfect, but good enough. Some of the dough was thin, allowing apples to poke through, so I patched the dough as needed.

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Originally I was going to use a baking dish, but then I thought I wanted to give the strudel more room. So I used a baking sheet. I had to carefully move them onto the baking sheet. It made 3. I baked them for 55 minutes. Wow, they smelled really good. They were nice and brown when they came out of the oven. I let them cool a couple of minutes. Then I cut off a couple of pieces to try.

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Really, really yummy. Not too sweet. Only a cup of sugar total for the whole recipe, which was a ton of strudel. Nice flaky crust. Good filling. It was almost hearty, but not in a savory way. Just yummy apple-y, pastry goodness.

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I kinda feel like I cheated. The other recipes where you roll the dough super thin are a little more involved, and I think they make a more delicate dough, but this was pretty good. (Thanks hon for helping with the cleanup as usual.)

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The game was the next day. Everyone loved it. They kept thanking me and saying how great it was. I was asked how I made the crust so flaky. (Butter, I replied.) I brought one of the three. It was gone fairly quickly. There were lots of strudel jokes. (None of which are funny unless you were there, unfortunately.) That night, my wife and I had a little bit more. We warmed it up a little before eating it, which was a good call. As I said, not a lot of sugar, but the apples made up for that. It was just really good. Simple, not flashy, but delicious. I also brought some to work. People loved it there as well. Comments ranged from “it was excellent” to “you could sell this”.

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All in all, I would say it was a great choice of recipes. People really went gaga for it. Who knew a little strudel could do that to people? Have you had a big reaction from making strudel? Do you have a favorite strudel recipe? Do you have a favorite strudel besides apple strudel? I’d love to hear all about your strudel experiences. Feel free to share!

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Recipe courtesy of Recipes Wikia.

Hamantaschen, Part 2

As you might remember from last week, I started telling you all about hamantaschen. What they’re all about, the holiday of Purim, and my connection with them. Oh, and that time that my wife made Jon Stewart laugh on the set of the Daily Show. You know, the usual.

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That Daily Show encounter happened a year ago. It had made me seriously think about making hamantaschen, but by that point, it was a little too late to make them for Purim. So if I wanted to make them for the holiday, I had to wait until this year. As I mentioned last week, I didn’t have a family recipe. So I needed to find a recipe I could use. I did some looking around and settled on a recipe from smitten kitchen as that site never lets me down.

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I started making them one evening, a couple of days before Purim. The recipe was very easy to put together. I did it by the book, except I substituted shortening for the butter, as I was trying to use up some shortening I had left. And I don’t use cream cheese all that often, but I have to appreciate the marks on the side of the package which you can use to measure. Speaking of measuring, I measured everything out ahead of time. Mise en place ftw!

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The bowl I used for mixing was too big. I didn’t know how much dough the recipe would make. But after some past mishaps with small bowls, I always try to err on the side of bigger rather than smaller. However, this bowl was way too big, which made it a little hard to mix at first. Overall though, it came together very easily. Once it was done, I put it in plastic wrap in the fridge overnight. I could see little specks of orange zest in the dough. Nice!

My new pastry mat.

My new pastry mat.

I hadn’t decided on the filling at that point. I figured I would decide in the morning and pick some up. Also, I figured the recipe might need some adjusting as the pictures with the recipe show the cookies as very open. I’m used to hamantaschen that are more closed, with much less filling visible.

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After some discussion with my wife, we decided on apricot and raspberry fillings. She picked up the apricot and raspberry jam to use for the cookies. (Thanks, hon!) Apparently people put all kinds of fillings in hamantaschen these days, but the ones we chose were a little more traditional. (I decided not to do poppy seed, but maybe another time.)

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I used my new pastry mat to make the cookies on. It was a very thoughtful present from my wife. (Thanks again, hon!) I found a glass which was the right size to use as a cookie cutter. I got out flour and floured up the mat and rolling pin. I took out the dough and rolled it out. I wasn’t sure how thick 1/4 inch was. Answer: thicker than I thought. I had to re-roll the dough to get the right thickness. I cut the cookies out and filled them, alternating between apricot and raspberry, so they ended up being about half of each. I filled up a tray and a half or so, about 20 cookies.

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I had followed the instructions for making triangles, but I tried to close them up more to look like how I’m used to seeing them. I tried to put less jam in to make it easier to close them. I used a dinner teaspoon and put in half of that or so.

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I put in one tray. I re-rolled the dough a couple of times so I could use up the last pieces of dough. I ended up with 31 cookies. The last few were a little crumbly. I think I added too much flour when rolling them out.

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I baked the first batch, then the second, then the third halfway through baking the second. They smelled amazing. But they looked a little too flaky or dry or something. My guess is either the shortening changed the consistency, or I added too much flour while rolling them out.¬†Mostly they were okay filling-wise, but a few spilled out a little bit. I didn’t get to put them away right away, and the aroma wafted through the apartment. It was amazing and stayed that way for a while.

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I tried one of each after they had cooled a little bit. They were good. The filling really stood out. It was the star of the show. The dough was perfectly fine, but it really seemed to be just a vessel for the filling. My wife liked them a lot, I think much more than I did. She proclaimed them delicious and wonderful and amazing. (Oh, and thanks one more time hon for helping with the cleanup.)

Some turned out better than others.

Some turned out better than others.

I also brought them into work. As I was sharing them, I got to explain a little bit about Purim, which was fun in and of itself. And like my wife, people enjoyed them quite a bit. I thought they were decent, but who am I to argue with my adoring fans? ūüėČ

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If I made them again, I would try using butter like the original recipe, as I think that would make a difference. I would also try to be careful about how much flour I used when rolling them out. And, I would think a little bit more about different fillings. Perhaps trying the traditional poppy seed would be interesting.

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How about you? Do you have a family recipe for hamantaschen? Or perhaps a favorite one that you use? What’s your favorite filling? Are you a traditionalist or more avant-garde? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Simply the Best Berry Crumble

For those of you following along, you might remember that the chocolate chip shortbread I made last week was good but crumbly. So I had a lot of shortbread crumbs leftover, and I wanted to find something to do with them all. I thought maybe I could use them for a pie crust or a muffin crumble topping. Or maybe I could make them into truffles somehow? I did a bunch of research, but nothing jumped out at me.

Then I came across this recipe. It was simple and awesome. And, bonus points, I didn’t have to run out and get anything. It was designed to be used with any fruit you want, and I happened to have some fruit.

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The ingredients consisted of the shortbread crumbs leftover from the last recipe. Plus a bag of frozen berries. Easy.

So this recipe served as the template. I didn’t use the shortbread recipe part of it. Rather, I just used the shortbread crumbs I had. I measured out how much I had in the way of crumbs. It was about 8 ounces.

So I used a proportional amount of fruit too. Well, sorta. I had a bag of frozen berries. The recipe said to slightly heat them. I started with half the bag (half the bag was 8 ounces so proportionally the right amount). I put the fruit in the microwave for about two minutes. It didn’t seem like much at all, so I used the rest of the bag. Once the fruit was heated and the liquid steamed off, I figured it would be closer to proportional. They ended up with a little bit of liquid, which I left in with them. And I didn’t use any of the optional sugar.

The fruit, heated up and ready to go.

The fruit, heated up and ready to go.

I thought that since the shortbread had already been cooked, I didn’t want it to get over cooked and dried out. So I figured the extra liquid would be good to keep it from getting too dry. I also kept the crumbs in the fridge during prep. I figured their being cold would help as well. All I did to prepare the crumbs was smoosh them with a fork into smaller crumbs.

The fruit topped with shortbread crumbs.

The fruit topped with shortbread crumbs.

I used my good old standby 8 x 8 glass baking dish, which, coincidentally, I usually use for millionaire’s shortbread. I put in the fruit and crumbled the shortbread on top. It seemed like just enough.

The fruit, with crumbs. Side view.

The fruit, with crumbs. Side view.

I baked it for only 20 minutes at first just in case. It smelled great while baking. I smelled the fruit a little bit at first and then the chocolate towards the end. After 20 minutes it wasn’t quite ready. It was super bubbly, however. (Super Bubbly! What a great superhero idea. Faster than a speeding bubble! Leaps tall bubbles in a single bound!) I probably should have poured out some of the liquid. It wasn’t quite golden brown, so I put it back in for the other 5 minutes.

After that 5 last minutes it definitely looked brown, and baking it longer didn’t seem like it was going to help the consistency at all. The fruit had actually started to thicken at that point, and the shortbread kinda sank in. It looked like mostly fruit with a little shortbread on top. Which makes sense, cause that’s what it was.

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It smelled awesomely amazing. It was still bubbling a lot. We figured we would let it cool before eating it. It alternately smelled like fruit and chocolate, which was kinda cool.

After letting it cool for a while, we dug in. The fruit had thickened up a bit at this point. It was so soft, I cut it with a spatula. It was pretty good. It tasted mostly like fruit. And there was the slightest taste of shortbread and chocolate. The cooked fruit kinda reminded me of fruit leather.

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The next day we tried heating it up before eating, just a minute or two in the microwave. It was definitely good hot. We had to be careful while heating it though, as heating it too much made it lose its consistency.

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I’m glad I found this recipe. It was simple and delicious, used only ingredients I had on hand, and let me use up the shortbread crumbs. Do you have any recipes like that? Something you know you can use to deal with the remains of the previous recipe? I wouldn’t mind having more of those kinds of recipes around, so let me know if you have any to share!

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Recipe adapted from Christina’s Cucina. (Shortbread recipe courtesy of Pot of Roses.)

Barbara’s Sour Cream Apple Cake

Welcome to a very special edition of Needs Baked. This is a special recipe, and you’ll soon see why. It’s not just that it’s delicious. It’s also an heirloom family recipe.

For Rosh Hashanah, we normally go to my wife’s dear friend’s family’s home to celebrate. My wife wasn’t feeling well that day, so we stayed home. I didn’t want us to miss out completely on the holiday, so I decided to make a dessert to bring some of the holiday to us. So I went looking through cookbooks.

We have a lot of cookbooks. Before my wife and I moved in together, I had a few, plus I keep getting them as presents from people. (Somehow they got the idea that I like to make food. ;)). My wife had also had some, and she got a lot more recently when her parents were getting rid of a lot of theirs. So I went on a search through all our cookbooks, knowing that we must have something in there. I knew that my wife’s books in particular had a lot of holiday specific recipes in them, so I had a particular focus on those.

As I was looking through them, my wife remembered her mom’s world-famous sour cream apple cake. Okay, maybe world-famous is stretching it a little bit. But it was definitely famous in her world. It sounded like a great recipe to use, so we tried to find it.

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As the search continued, I found this amazing Calico book. As my wife explained to me, it was this book that her mom used when she taught herself how to cook. She gave a copy to my wife when my wife was on her way to law school and was going to need to know how to cook. It’s an old school cookbook with lots of great recipes. We thought the cake recipe might be in there. It wasn’t. But also, it was.

Let me explain. We didn’t know where the recipe was. We had already looked around through a bunch of books by this point, but we hadn’t found it. We had basically given up. But while looking through the Calico book, I found in the front of the book a lovely inscription from my mother-in-law to my wife telling her about the book and how important it was to her. In the back of the book were a couple of blank pages, pages her mother used to write in some other recipes. And lo and behold, one of the recipes was the one we were looking for!

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Eureka! We had found it! In the book it’s called sour cream coffee cake. At the very bottom it says you can add chocolate chips or Comstock apple slices. Additionally, it says to cook it in a springform pan, but that it can also be baked in a loaf pan. According to my wife, her mom made all those different variations, with the different ingredients, in different pans, even mini bundt pans. She made it for Rosh Hashanah and all year round.

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With recipe in hand, I had to get some ingredients. I went looking for Comstock apple slices, but I couldn’t find them. With my wife’s guidance, we decided on apple rings (dried apples).

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The batter.

The recipe was very easy. Thank you again KitchenAid for helping to make short work of it. It creamed the butter and sugar in almost no time flat, before I even got the sour cream together. I didn’t sift the flour and baking powder, I just mixed them. I quartered the apple rings and mixed them in. I used pecans for the nuts.

The topping.

I baked it in a springform pan, but that almost didn’t happen. Let me run you through the process. First, I thought we didn’t have a springform pan, and I thought I would have to make it in a loaf pan. Then I worried that our loaf pan was woefully small. And finally, I remembered we actually had a springform pan, even though we had never used it. We had gotten one with a gift certificate from our wedding to a lovely local kitchen store (where we had registered).

The first layer.

The first layer.

So besides it being the first time making one of my mother-in-law’s recipes, it was the first time using a springform pan. I sprayed it with cooking spray, and threw some flour on as suggested. Following the instructions, I poured in half the batter, then layered half the topping (nuts, cinnamon, sugar). Wash, rinse, repeat.

The second layer. Ready to bake.

The second layer. Ready to bake.

I baked it for the minimum 45 minutes. It smelled wonderful while baking. After 45 minutes it was done. While testing, the toothpick almost got lost. The cake was too big and it couldn’t reach all the way down. I used a knife instead. Done, done, and done. I let it cool a bit before removing the sides of the pan. I cut slices with a spatula, as the pan is non-stick. It was very easy to cut because the cake was so moist.

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

The cake had risen a lot, which makes sense. There was lots of leavening in it, both baking powder and baking soda. There wasn’t a huge amount of batter before baking, but by the end it was almost bursting out of the pan. The top looked great. It was all sugary and crunchy. It had an unusual look because it was breaking open (due to how the topping had baked).

Look at how the topping had baked. Fun!

Look at how the topping had baked. Fun!

The rest of it looked great too. It had a lovely brown outside and a light inside. It was fluffy and moist. (It’s so fluffy!) Not too sweet. The apple bits were chewy, which was a different texture than the rest. It might have been better to just go with fresh apples, or even fresh apples that had been cooked a bit to soften them up. (The canned apples it called for were soft.) The top was good and crunchy. I also liked having the topping in the middle a bit. It broke up the cake a bit. Although either the topping sank a bit, or kept the dough under it from rising a bit because it was near the bottom. (Yes, I realize that’s a lot of bits, but I don’t regret them one bit.)

"I'm free!" says the cake.

“I’m free!” says the cake.

It was really yummy. “It tastes like home,” my wife said. We immediately thought of all the other versions we could make with it, but it was pretty amazing as it was.

Yum!

We wondered where the recipe came from originally. Was it another cookbook? Did she make it up? The cookbook itself had a similar recipe in it, but it wasn’t the same. (The recipe was hand written in the page next to the last page of the index which coincidentally had the sour cream cake recipe from the book, which is how I thought to check.) So it definitely came from somewhere else. Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t, but we have the recipe now.

Extreme slice close-up!

Extreme slice close-up!

We ate it over the next few days, keeping it wrapped in plastic in the fridge. It kept being moist and delicious all week. It was a very big cake, and it was just the two of us. So when I say “all week”, I mean “all week”. ūüôā

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I asked my wife if it was okay to publish her mom’s recipe with this post. I said, I know it’s a secret family recipe, so I wanted to respect her wishes. She said it’s my family too, and that it was okay. (See below for the recipe.) I’m glad she said so, because this recipe is delicious and deserves to be shared. Thank you Barbara for bringing this delicious cake into the world. And more importantly, thank you for bringing your wonderful daughter into the world.

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So there you have it. The story of Barbara’s cake in all its glory. Use it in good health. If you do, I’d love to hear about it. And as long as we’re sharing secret family recipes: I’m curious, do you have any that you’re willing to share? Are there recipes that you want your friends or family members to share but they won’t? I can’t wait to hear all about them.

Recipe courtesy of my lovely mother-in-law Barbara.

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Apple Snickerdoodle Blondies

I know that the name sounds like a mouthful, but it’s a tasty mouthful. Think apples, think cinnamon, think sugar. And think yum. Because that’s what these are. You might call them bar cookies, but I’ll go with the name I found them under.

From humble ingredients...

From humble ingredients…

They were made for a friend’s Labor Day BBQ. As soon as I knew it was happening, the first thing I thought of was, “What will I make?” They didn’t have a preference, so I consulted my big list of stuff I’d like to make. This recipe jumped out at me. (Yes, recipes can jump.) It looked fun, yummy, and since the host isn’t a big chocolate fan (no, I don’t understand either), I thought it was a good choice.

Batter up!

Batter up!

They were very easy to make. I made a double recipe, because why just make enough to bring to the party when you can make enough to bring to the party and have some at home, too? It was still easy. Thank you KitchenAid stand mixer. You are quite an aid in the kitchen, so you are aptly named. I mixed the ingredients together and threw them in the baking dish, a 9″ x 13″ Pyrex dish. The name “Pyrex” makes me think that alien pirates are taking over the kitchen. (Don’t worry, they’re not.)

In the dish, ready to bake.

In the dish.

What took the most time was prepping the apples. I peeled them, cored them, and then cut them into large pieces. I used our mini Cuisinart to chop them up further. (It’s also an aid in the kitchen, although not as often.) I learned my lesson from the last time that it’s easier to cut up apples that way. I used the mini because it would be less to clean. They ended up being finely diced rather than chopped. I used two Granny Smith apples. I probably wouldn’t have needed two whole apples, but diced rather than chopped meant more apple for the same volume, as they were smaller pieces.

Cinnamon sugar, freshly mixed.

Cinnamon sugar, freshly mixed.

It looked a little sticky when it was done, so I didn’t follow their suggestion of using my hands to press it into the dish. I used a spatula instead. The dish was lined with parchment paper. But, I used a parchment paper trick to help. I don’t remember where I learned this, but I sprayed a little bit of cooking spray under the parchment paper to help keep it in place. Very helpful! It made putting in the batter much, much easier. And as usual, many thanks to my wife for helping with the cleanup.

With cinnamon sugar, before baking.

With cinnamon sugar, before baking.

I baked it for 25 minutes. It wasn’t quite done at 25, so I put it in for 3 more. It was surely done. It smelled amazing. In fact it started to smell great after it was baking for just a few minutes. It looked great too. My wife said it smelled like Rosh Hashana (due to the apples and cinnamon).

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Perhaps it was because of the uneven top, but the sugar collected more in some spots. I had just kinda thrown it everywhere when I put it on. In any case, it was an interesting looking topography.

Close-up. Looks kinda cool, no?

Close-up. Looks kinda cool, no?

After letting them cool we tried some, the night before the BBQ, just to see how they were. The answer is, they were delicious. (Shocking, I know.) They were moist, with a nice, slightly crunchy topping. They were kinda like a soft, spongy coffee cake with a subtle apple flavor. (Mmm, I wonder how they would be with an actual coffee cake topping?) All the great flavors of apple, sugar, and cinnamon but not in the form of apple pie.

Delish!

Delish!

And at the BBQ? People loved them. I mean, what’s not to love, right? They were the perfect light dessert accompaniment to a delicious but heavy BBQ meal. And since I had made a double recipe, we had plenty to savor later. They were still good after a couple of days. The cinnamon sugar soaked in so they were less crunchy, but still delicious.

Extreme close-up!

Extreme close-up!

Are you a fan of snickerdoodles? Do you have any favorite non-apple pie apple desserts? (That’s a fun sentence to look at, right?) Any non-traditional blondie recipes? I’d love to hear below!

Yum, yum, yum!

And one more for good measure. ūüôā

Recipe courtesy of Rumbly in My Tumbly. (Original recipe from Cookies and Cups.)

Lemon Cream Icebox Cake

For this recipe I ventured yet again into the wonderful world of icebox cakes. Like before, this one was also for my wife. But it’s not for the reasons you might think. Yes, she still likes icebox cakes. Yes, I still like making things for her. But, it wasn’t a birthday surprise this time. It was because of my new (un)favorite word of the day:¬†anosmia.

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It’s a condition where you lose your sense of smell, and it happens to her sometimes. As you might imagine, what comes along with it is that she also loses her sense of taste. Can you imagine not being able to taste anything? I surely can’t. It seems so integral to our experience of food. But it happens to her from time to time, and this time it hit her pretty hard.

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She really couldn’t taste much of anything. The only things she could taste were very strong and basic: sweet, sour, salty, etc. I wanted to make her something, and she figured maybe the lemon would be strong enough for her to taste.¬†She sent me a few recipes with lemons in them, and I decided on this one.¬†It looked fairly straightforward, but it still took some time. I didn’t opt for¬†making my own lemon curd. Maybe next time? ūüėČ

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After zesting.

As I said, it was pretty straightforward to make. I gathered the ingredients and measured things out. It took some time to zest and squeeze the lemons. (The lemons looked really bare without their peels on.) I used four small lemons instead of the two large ones the recipe called for. I used four packs of graham crackers.

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I used the KitchenAid for the mixing. The butter took a while. It kept clumping¬†to the beater without getting beaten. It probably wasn’t soft enough, but eventually I got it whipped. I put in the cream and combined it, then¬†added¬†the rest of the ingredients. I set the speed¬†a little too high and stuff flew everywhere. I put it back down to a reasonable speed. The KitchenAid made quick work of it. I still love it. I was able to do¬†other stuff while waiting: like cleaning up, getting the dish I was going to use down from a high cabinet, etc.

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I layered the ingredients as directed. It’s a smart idea they gave putting a little cream down on the bottom to hold the graham crackers. I had a little trouble with the lemon curd. It was hard to drizzle. I shplooped it down and tried to separate it out. (Yes, for those keeping track, “shploop” is an industry term.) It was later that I realized that I had forgotten to warm it per the instructions. That would’ve helped.

The first layer of graham crackers.

The first layer of graham crackers.

I used one package of graham crackers per layer. I¬†had¬†to figure out exactly how much whipped cream to use. I was conservative at first, but then put more on so I could at least cover each layer. I’m experienced enough with icebox cakes now to know that you need a decent amount of whipped cream in between each layer to get it to work. I managed it okay, as I had enough for each layer.¬†I had a little left at the end, so¬†I probably coulda put a smidgen more in each layer, but I just threw it on top which was fine.

The first complete layer: graham crackers, lemon cream, and lemon curd.

The first complete layer: graham crackers, lemon cream, and lemon curd.

Also, because of the aforementioned non-warming of the lemon curd, I wasn’t able to get it to look¬†quite as it¬†was supposed to¬†on the top layer. IMHO, it still looked nice, just not super fancy.¬†I put it in the fridge to chill as directed.

Wash, rinse, repeat, and you end up with this.

Wash, rinse, repeat, and you end up with this.

My wife helped by doing most of the cleanup. I asked her if she wanted to lick the beater. She did. And lo and behold she could taste something! At first I thought she was joking, but she could actually taste it. It tasted like something. Citrusy something. It was the first thing she had tasted in a while. It had four lemons (juice and zest) and a whole jar of lemon curd in it. So I had been hopeful that she could.

A little peek inside.

A little peek inside.

I mean, it smelled very lemony to me. I tasted a little of the lemon cream. It was strong. Good, but very lemony. I also washed my hands a bazillion times, and I couldn’t really get the smell out.¬†After the recommended 2 hours, we tried it. It was definitely ready.

Would you like a piece?

Would you like a piece?

And as for the taste? It was really good! You could¬†taste the whipped cream and the mushy graham crackers a little, but the strongest taste was¬†the lemon. It wasn’t super¬†sweet, rather it was very tart. It was very good, but if¬†you don’t like lemon, stay away. It¬†wasn’t¬†just a little bit of ¬†lemon. It was a like lemon tree set up shop¬†in your mouth. (Or punched you in the face.) In a good way.

Close-up!

Close-up!

And as for my wife? Well the preview was a sign of good things to come. She could really taste it! It tasted citrusy to her which was huge. She could tell¬†all the different textures and she could feel her mouth puckering up from the lemon. Yay! Mission accomplished! Thankfully her taste has come back since then, but it’s good to know that we can turn to this if we need to.

Have you or someone close to you ever lost their sense of smell or taste? How did you or they deal with it? Do you have any recipes that are able to make a difference? It can’t hurt to stockpile them just in case. Thanks in advance!

Recipe courtesy of Bakeless Sweets, by Faith Durand, via the Kitchn.

Apple Pie – Goodbye Edition

Hey guess what? It’s another apple pie! As you might know, I’ve made a few before. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t make this because I forgot I made it before, quite the contrary.¬†I made it for a friend. We worked together, and he was leaving to go to our company’s¬†LA office. When I found out he was leaving I told him I would make something for him for his goodbye party. I said I could make him any dessert he wanted. He asked for apple pie.

Now if you recall, one of those previous apple pies I made (well two actually) were ones I made for work. So he’s had my apple pie before. I told him I could totally make that for him, but it didn’t have to be that. I said that I make other stuff, and he could have whatever he wanted: cookies, cake, pie, whatever.¬†He said apple pie was his favorite dessert, and he really wanted me to make that for him. I understood. Sure, I said, apple pie it is.

We were having the goodbye party on a Tuesday. Sunday night I made the crust. Last time I made this recipe, it filled two of the aluminum pie dishes I had. Since I only needed one pie, I made half a recipe. It looked so small. A normal recipe isn’t too bad, the slab pie was one and a half times the recipe, but this half a recipe seemed like almost nothing.¬†As usual, it was very easy to put the crust together. There was just a few ingredients and one bowl. Minimal time and cleanup. When I was done, I split it into two and stuck it in the fridge to chill.

Monday night, the night before the festivities, I made the pie. I stopped at the corner store to get some apples. After dinner I set about making it. Since I was already comfortable with the recipe, I played a little fast and loose with the directions. To fit the pie dish, I only made a half recipe of the filling as well.

I started on the¬†apples first, as that usually¬†takes a long time. I washed them, but I forgot to peel them before coring them. Then instead of cutting them, I used our food processor with a 6mm blade. (6mm is about 1/4 inch, which is the size called for in the recipe.) This is how I’m going to make all future apple pies. Normally making an apple pie is so labor intensive, what with peeling, coring, and chopping all the apples. This was so much easier.

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I used about a pound of Granny Smith apples and a little over 3/4 pound of McIntosh apples. When I bought the apples, I had just guessed at the amounts. I had another McIntosh, but rather than cut up half an apple, I decided to go with the amount of full apples that was closest.

Covered and fluted.

This wasn’t too long after my last baking extravaganza, so I had some lemon juice leftover from making the glaze for¬†the cherry slab pie. I used that and zested a lemon which I still had. After mixing those¬†into the apples, I rolled out the dough.

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I wasn’t exact, but rather I just guessed at the dough size, and I was pretty close. Since this was a smaller pie plate, I knew the dough didn’t have to be quite as big. After mixing the spices into the apples, it smelled like apple pie.¬†I poured the apple mixture into the pie plate with the dough. It looked like a little too much, but I piled it up in the middle like they suggested. And it worked out okay.

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I rolled out the second piece of dough. Again I wasn’t being too exact. I guessed, and it was a pretty good guess. I used scraps from the first piece to fill in a couple of spots on the crust which needed it. (Some of the apples were kinda poking through on the top.)¬†I folded up the dough and fluted it. I was very happy with the fluting. I impressed myself a bit. I guess I’m getting better, what with the rolling and guessing the right size and the fluting and such.

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I cut slits in the top. I used heavy cream as a wash (leftover from the cherry slab pie and teddy bear hot tub s’mores) instead of an egg wash. I didn’t have any eggs handy and I didn’t want to get any just for this. (Thank you internet for the tip.) I didn’t measure how much, I just guessed. I sprinkled it with sugar, again using half. I figured that since it was a smaller and shallower pie, it would still make sense to use half, even though the surface area of the pie wasn’t half.

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I followed the instructions for baking temperature, although I didn’t put the sheet in the oven ahead of time. I just put it in when I put in the pie. I covered the baking sheet with foil, too, just to be safe.¬†Since the pie was a little bit smaller, I cooked it on the shorter side. The first round was about 22 minutes. I rotated the pan 180 degrees and cooked it for the second round, about 28 minutes.

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I could smell it all along the way. It smelled awesome. And after it was all said and done, it looked fantastic. I could see the juices bubbling, although not bubbling over this time. The crust was a nice color. I could see steam rising up. Wow, it was a nice looking pie. I put it on a cooling rack to cool. It was done around midnight. 

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At this point, I’d like to say¬†a big thank you to my wife who again did the cleanup both along the way and at the end. Thanks, hon! It saved me a lot of work.

I took the pie in to work the next day. We actually didn’t get to it until the day after. (Turns out crowded bars aren’t always the best places for pie.)¬†When we did get to it, people ate it up. They ate it up so quickly, I didn’t really have a chance to take pictures of how it looked on the inside. In any case, it was delicious and¬†thoroughly enjoyed by all. It was on par with any of my¬†previous apple pies. And my friend was happy with the send off.

How happy? Well, we have regular conference calls with our LA office. Word has now travelled there about my apple pie. The LA office is all abuzz, and they keep asking about making a pie for them. Will I bring them one? Will I send them one? The pie has now taken on mythic proportions.

Do you have a recipe that people like so much they ask you to make it again and again? Do you have a favorite dessert you make over and over?¬†What’s your signature dish?

Pie recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Crust recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.