Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Pie

There is nothing more traditional than apple pie for the holidays!  Although there are tons and tons of similar recipes for apple pie, I always like to try and change things up a bit.  After a few years of baking and playing around with recipes, I have finally made up the one that I love and constantly use!


For apple pies I typically create a lattice design out of the dough.  However, I completely blanked on taking a decent picture of the finished product, so one of the photos is of an apple pie I made, while the other is a blueberry pie, but it shows the lattice design.



Warm Apple Pie

Ingredients:
5 apples (Gala and/or Braeburn - I usually use either 3 Gala and 2 Braeburn or the other way around)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch 
Butter
Lemon juice

Pie Crust:
3 cups flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar 
6-8 tablespoons ice water
*Make sure all ingredients are cold before making dough! If you do not feel like making your own dough, the Pillsbury piecrust work beautifully as well. 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  If making dough, combine flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter and shortening until the dough starts to crumble together.  If you do not have a food processor then it is easier to use a fork to mix the ingredients.  Add a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough sticks together and you are able to roll it into a ball.  Refrigerate while prepping the apples. 

Peel, cut, and core apples and place in a bowl.  Add a little lemon juice to help keep the apples from browning.  Set bowl aside. 

In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, spices, and salt together.  Now, take out your dough and cut it in half.  Roll out one half of the dough and place in an 8-inch pie pan.  Trim away the excess dough, but make sure to leave enough of the dough just hanging over the edge of the pan.  

Take a little bit of the sugar and spice mix in your hands and sprinkle the bottom of the dough in the pie pan.  Then, add the remainder of the sugar and spice mix to your apples (save another little pinch of the mix to sprinkle on top later if you would like).  Stir the apples so that the sugar and spice mix spreads evenly.  Then, add one tablespoon of cornstarch to the mix.  If you want a very juicy pie, then do not add any cornstarch, but be forewarned that the pie will be messy.  If you want a more firm apple pie, then you can add a second tablespoon of cornstarch. 

Once the apples, sugar and spice mix, and cornstarch are all mixed together, it is time to pour them into the pie pan.  Make sure to spread apples evenly and close any air gaps the apples may create.  

Taking the second half of pie dough, roll it out and place on top of the apples.  Fold the excess dough underneath and decorate the pie as you wish.  Like I mentioned earlier, I prefer the lattice design, but you can also cut out leaf designs, or any other design you wish to create.  Once you are done with your dough, melt a little butter to brush over the top of your piecrust and add the remaining sugar and spice mix. 

Cut strips of aluminum foil and place around the edges of the pie so that the edge of the crust will not burn.  Place the pie in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the apples are tender and the crust is a golden brown.  

Serve warm and enjoy! 
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake

Although Halloween has passed, the fall season is still very much alive - as is my fall baking! I have never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but when I came across this pumpkin spice cheesecake recipe in my "Cake Doctor" recipe book (I absolutely love the Cake Doctor - she offers many great ideas, recipes, and easy shortcuts for bakers), I was quite intrigued.  Let's just say, that after baking the cheesecake and after devouring the cheesecake, I am more than pleased with this dessert.  Great for a Thanksgiving treat, this recipe can be used in lieu of pumpkin pie at any dinner table wanting to try something a little different.


Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Recipe
Ingredients


Crust & Filling:
Softened butter or vegetable shortening for greasing the pan
1 package plain spice cake mix
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese at room temperature
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


Topping:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with butter or vegetable shortening.  Set pan aside.


Measure out a 1/2 cup of the plain spice cake mix and set aside for filling.  Place the remaining cake mix in a bowl with the melted butter and one large egg.  Blend for a couple of minutes or until the batter comes together in a ball.  With your hands, pat the batter evenly over the bottom of your baking pan and smooth out the top.  Set pan aside.
For the filling, place the cream cheese and condensed milk in a bowl and blend with an electric mixer until the ingredients just combine (about 30 seconds).   Then, add the reserved 1/2 cup of cake mix, the remaining 3 eggs, the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Using the electric mixer, blend all ingredients together.  Pour the filling into the pan, over the crust, and spread evenly across the pan using a rubber spatula.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, or until the cheesecake looks shiny and the center no longer jiggles when you shake the pan.  If you are unsure if your cheesecake is done, just remember that the cheesecake will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven.  You do not want to over cook otherwise the cheesecake will crack.  Remove the pan from the oven when ready, but leave the oven on.


Now, prepare your topping.  Place the sour cream and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and blend together until the ingredients are well combined.  Pour the topping over the cheesecake and return the pan to the oven.  Bake until the topping sets (about 7 - 10 minutes).
Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.  Cover the pan with a lid or plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Chill for at least one hour, but the longer the better.  The more time the cheesecake spends in the fridge, then the more time the flavors have to meld together for a better tasting dessert.  When ready, cut, serve, and eat up! This cheesecake is also great when served with a dollop of whipped cream, walnuts, or drizzled caramel.  Yum! Pin It