Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The "why did I pick a peck of apples?" aftermath

You know when you go apple picking and they show you the two bags, the peck and the half bushel, and the peck looks SO small, but you remind yourself that the bag holds more apples than you think, and really, how many apples does one person need, and so you behave yourself and buy the peck bag?  Well, it turns out that that small peck bag holds a WHOLE LOT OF APPLES.

I have been, peeling, slicing, baking, and cooking for the past three days and I am exhausted and kind of never want to see another apple again.  Which is really too bad, because I didn't use them all up.

My main issue is that I'm not much of a sweets person.  The first recipe I made (strudel muffins) was delicious, but crazy sugary.  It was difficult to find savory apple recipes that weren't salads that could be made in advance. 

I did some hunting, though, and here's what I came up with:

Autumn Tree Apple Pie
Before Baking

After Baking
This pie was based on a picture from the Canadian Food Network (who knew there was such a thing - I love Canada, and food!), and a Betty Crocker Apple Pie Recipe.  Since the CFN didn't give a recipe, I had to kind of make it up as I went along.  And the Apple Tree idea didn't work (mine looked like a Christmas tree with holly leaves and berries), so I went with an Autumn tree and falling leaves.

The pie dough recipe came from Cooks Illustrated and it was the best dough I've ever used.  Easy to make and easy to work with.  And it contained vodka.  I don't know why, but I guess it makes a difference.  (this recipe is at the bottom of the post)

Apple Swirl Bread
Swirl Loaf
Both Loaves
Swirl Loaf cut
It has been my constant goal to create a yeast bread swirled with apples and cinnamon that is of bakery quality.  I haven't gotten there yet, but my experimenting has been tasty.  These breads were made with my father's Challah bread recipe, which he was kind enough to make in the bread machine for me.  I then cooked down some apples and spices and added them to the bread.  The "swirl loaf" was made by rolling apples in the middle of two bread tubes, twisting them together and letting them rise and then bake in a loaf pan.  For the other loaf, I spread the cooked apples on the flattened dough and then rolled it up.  It kind of made the kidney shape on its own. 

Chicken Apple Dumplings
Dumplings ready to be fried
Boiled Dumplings
Pan-fried Dumplings
I have been on a crazy dumpling kick recently, so when I saw this recipe for chicken-apple dumplings, I got very excited.  I had never made dumplings before and although they weren't too difficult to put together, they were certainly time consuming.  My filling wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped, but since I know I'll be doing this again often, I will experiment until I get it right.  The recipe made 60 dumplings and I could have kept going if I hadn't run out of wonton wrappers.  I boiled some, pan-fried some, and froze some.  Yum.

Apple Sauce
Pretty basic apple sauce.  I peeled and cooked down a bunch of apples (maybe 10?).  Once they were soft, I used the emersion blender to break the down (though left some chunks, cause I love chunks), added some cinnamon and cloves and was done.

Apple and Squash Orzo Salad

This was my own creation.  I saw a squash risotto recipe that looked good and thought I could transfer it into something far less time-consuming.  I like salads like this for lunch because they're filling, but not heavy.  All I did was roast some acorn squash (which, by the way, has no flavor whatsoever), boil some orzo, chop some apples and mint, and fry up some shallots and garlic and mix it all together with some olive oil.  Then I broke down and added about a half a cup of shredded Fontinella cheese, that brought it together nicely.  Next time, butternut squash for sure. 

There were also Apple Strudel Muffins, but I put them in the freezer before I took the picture.  They were very tasty, but as mentioned above, super sweet.

Foolproof Pie Dough

For one 9-inch Double-Crust Pie.   Published September 1, 2010.   From Cook's Illustrated.
Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water


  1. 1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. 2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.


  1. Wow, that's...a vast quantity of apples. What's the next thing to try for your apple cinnamon bakery bread? Is it working out the dry/wet balance for a perfect texture?

  2. I am apple cooking starts on Saturday.

  3. What a great blog! Such yummy-looking pictures!