Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Apple Cream Pie

Back in October, I was in Minneapolis, for my college reunion.  A group of us decided to eat out for lunch.  As we walked into Midtown Global Market, I was elated to see the amazing Salty Tart Bakery. I had heard about them, but didn't know where they were located.  Needless to say, I was excited to try something from their bakery.  I decided on an apple tart with a creamy filling.  Now let me just say,  I usually go for chocolate when it comes to desserts.  But, for some reason on that beautiful fall day, I couldn't pass up that apple tart.  Believe me, it did not let me down.  It was the perfect combination of fruity and creamy and I loved that it wasn't too rich or decadent.  Just perfect. 

Well, I've been dreaming about that little tart every since, so when I ran across something similar in Nigella's cookbook,  I had to try it.  The original recipe calls for rhubarb instead of apples, but the rest of it was very similar to the Salty Tart dessert, so I went for it.  But don't you worry, come rhubarb season, I will definitely make it as intended by the beautiful Nigella Lawson. 
Instead of a tart crust I used a pre-made, frozen pie shell.  The tart crust would have been fantastic, but I have not mastered the art of homemade pastry dough.  It's on my list of things to conquer.

Apple Cream Pie
adapted from Nigella Lawson's Rhubarb Tart in How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking  page 107.

Pie/Tart Crust:
store bought or make your own.

Apple Topping:
4-6 apples, a mix of tart and sweet is always nice.  I used granny smiths and a couple of galas.
1/3 cup sugar
1/2-1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cream Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 Tblsp. heavy cream
2 Tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the crust: Bake crust according to package instructions and set aside to cool.  Or, make your own crust, bake, and set aside to cool.

For the Apple Topping:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Peel, core, and chop apples, about 1/2 inch pieces.  Place in a shallow glass pan and pour the sugar and cinnamon over the top of the apples.  Toss together to evenly coat apples.  Cover with foil and bake until soft.  About 20-30 minutes.  But, check after 15 minutes.  When done, mash apples to applesauce consistency and set aside to cool.

For the Cream Cheese Filling:  Using a hand/stand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth.  Slowly add heavy cream, whipping until well combined and slightly thickened.  Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix to a soft creamy consistency.  Do not over stir, this needs to be light and airy. 

Assembly:  Spoon cream cheese filling into baked and cooled pie crust.  Then top with the apple mixture.  Spread to fill pie shell evenly.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour or until the pie is set. 

Enjoy this amazing pie that requires very little use of the oven!  :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good ol' White Bread

I have kind of amazed myself.  I am off to a good start with one of my New Year's goals.  I baked my own bread!  To be honest, I don't know what has kept me from baking bread.  It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had thought.  Plus, it's so amazingly delicious, warm from the oven with butter or jelly.  Seriously, it's like candy.  I started out with a simple white bread.  I figure it's good to master the classics first and then venture into something more complex and fancy. 
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I feel like I'm cheating when I eat white bread.  I know all the health benefits to 100% whole wheat bread and I grew up pretty much only eating wheat, but there's something amazing about white bread.  First of all, I love the taste, it has a more pure and decadent flavor than whole wheat.  And, in my opinion, it is the only bread to use for a grilled cheese or a blt.  Plus, it's such a treat!

I saw this recipe on the Brown Eyed Baker blog, so I'll send you there for the recipe (it's the right food blogger thing to do).  American Sandwhich Bread.

A little note about yeast:  I know that yeast can seem intimidating, but it's really not as picky or complicated as it may seem. I like Michael Rulman's take on yeast, it took my fear out of using it.  Here are my tips.  You want to make sure you have fresh yeast and that the water/milk that you use is warm, about body temperature or a bit warmer.  So, if you feel the water with your wrist, it shouldn't feel hot, just warm, almost like you can't tell the difference between your body temperature and the water temperature.
Once the yeast is mixed with the warm water, it will start to 'bloom' or get foamy.  That's how you know the yeast is still active and it will do it's job.  (a little sugar or honey will also aid in the 'blooming' of the yeast)

A little note about kneading:  If you don't have a stand mixer, you can totally hand knead this dough.  It will take about 7-10 minutes of solid kneading, but you want to make sure the dough is smooth and elastic or the texture will be too dense and it won't rise properly.   This video is an amazing tutorial on how to knead bread.