Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Pie

I know that Thanksgiving is a foodie's favorite holiday since the entire celebration revolves around food. However, it's probably one of my least favorites because it's not something my family really celebrated all out when I was growing up. Lately, I also feel as though much of the preparation and cooking lands on my shoulders, and turkeys and mashed potatoes are really not my thing.
So this year, we ordered dinner. Really. Purdue University's dining services makes turkeys along with all the trimmings to order. So for $30, we got enough turkey, gravy, stuffing, organic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecans, sweet corn souffle, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls to feed 3 people for 3 days. And it was all very good.
Brothers in law
You'll notice that the list of food does not include desert. You can order desert if you like, but baking is definitely a joy of mine, so I thought I would make apple pie.
Peeling Apples
I even got help peeling the apples! I sliced them nice and thin, maybe 1/8 of an inch thick? Maybe thinner.
Apples Slices
Mixed them in a bowl with about 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice (my husband does not like cinnamon, and I do feel it's overused myself) and about a tablespoon of cornstarch. I let them sit for at least an hour until they're soft and pliable. I pull out the ready made pie dough, stick it in the pie place, and start laying out the apple slices.
Placing slicesPlacing around
Start of the pieKeep adding slices
I save the thinnest, softest slices for the middle because I roll up a single slice up on itself.
Finish the center
Then dot the pie with butter (two tablespoons is all you need) and it goes in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes.
Baked to perfection
Ta da! Desert is ready. But after the huge dinner we had, we only had enough room for tiny little slivers. With ice cream, of course.
Tiny sliver after big dinner

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cranberry Upside-down Deliciousness

Do you read smitten kitchen? Because I do. A lot. Like, I check it everyday. Recently, Deb posted a recipe for cranberry upside-down cake that looked so delicious that I had to make it. Then, yesterday morning, I watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they made an apple upside-down cake (different spellings for different folks). The recipe is hidden for non-members, but you can still watch the video.
Super close up cranberry upsidown cake
Well, after a day of prelim writing yesterday (I hit 1000 words in one day, and I am rather happy with that), I decided to reward myself with some tasty baking. So I made this cake with Smitten Kitchen's topping (caramel and cranberries) and America's Test Kitchen's cake, but I substituted vanilla yogurt for the sour cream because that is what I had on hand. Cook's illustrated recently told me not to do that, but whatever, I don't care, I did it anyway. OMG this was so good.
Getter further away from the cranberries.
First, while I was making it, I though, are we really going to eat a whole cake ourselves, just the two of us? So we asked some friends if they wanted us to bring them a slice. Thank goodness they said no because we would have had to share! In one night, this is how much we ate:
Eaten! So good.
So, I think it'll be gone by tomorrow. It reminds me of a cake that my mom used to make, only better. Way way better. I think I'm going to have a slice for lunch. And then, back to the prelims. One a couple more thousand words!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cookies to Forgive and Unwind

I have not been posting recently because I am in the midst of my prelims. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, preliminary exams are a series of tests that a graduate student must complete and defend in order to move on to writing a dissertation. Fun, right? It's pretty time consuming and stressful on its own, but add it to a schedule full of teaching, fundraising for the grad student association (we've got T-shirts!), and general living-life stuff (um, long overdue dentist appointments anyone?), it's basically taken over any free time.
This whole being busy thing may have led me to totally forget about an appointmetI made just days earlier with one of my committee members. It's never good to stand up people who are way more important and well established than you are. So, to make up for it, I thought I would make some cookies, because people always seem to like my cookies. And for good reason, they are very tasty.
Almond Chocolate Cookies3
I have been working on this recipe for over 3 years now. I took Alton Brown's Chewy recipe, some random flax-seed cookie recipe I found before I even knew that food blogs existed, and just started playing with the amounts and proportions and all these things. Well, I think I have perfected them.
Almond Chocolate Cookies2
The secret is really getting them out of the oven earlier than you would think, and then cooling them on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.
Almond Chocolate Cookies1
Well, after I made some for my committee member, I realized that I had finally perfected the recipe, and had to make another batch for us to eat. We've been holding back, only eating 2 or 3 each day, and they've held up for a week now, and are still deliciously chewy, despite sitting in a jar that is nowhere near air-tight. Making these is definitely enjoyable, but eating them is even better. Perfect for consumption after writing my 3 hour prelim question about the ecological rationality of biased conflict responses.

Wet ingredients:
1 stick butter, melted and cooled (or, use that Smart Balance half butter omega-3 stuff)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat four
1/2 cup oatmeal, ground (I use a coffee grinder for this)
1/4 cup flax meal (I grind my own, again in the coffee grinder)
1/4 cup almond meal (you can find it at Trader Joe's, or grind your own)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

I do all this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but you can mix it all by hand with a wooden spoon, or whatever sturdy instrument you prefer.

1. Adjust racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine butter and sugar
3. Add all other wet ingredients
4. Combine all dry ingredients
5. Slowly (but really, it doesn't need to be that slow) incorporate the dry ingredients to the wet
6. Add chocolate chips
7. Scoop large tablespoonfuls of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart
8. Bake 8 to 9 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through cooking. (You could also bake one sheet at a time.)
9. Cookies should look slightly underdone. Cool baking sheets on cooling rack for 10 minutes.
10. Move cookies directly to cooling racks until room temperature, or eat right away.