Apple Pie and Pittsburg

Apples from Trax Farm

I have been dreaming of baking an apple pie for several weeks now. The fall chill in the air just seems to beg for the oven to be lit. My husband, Joe and I planned a quick getaway last weekend to Pittsburg. He was born in Pittsburg and grew up in the boro of Castle Shannon. I decided to wait on my pie so I could purchase the apples from a farmers market nearby. Trax Farm has so many different kinds of apples. Joe’s Mom Helen always made her apple pie with star apples. I was going to look for those apples to make my pie just like his mom’s. Unfortunately they had no star apples. Since there were so many different kinds of apples I decided to use a variety of apples for my pie. I chose Jonathan, ginger gold, golden delicious, Jonagold, and granny smith. I loaded up my bag and paid. It was cool enough in the car that they wouldn’t spoil for the few days we were visiting. We had such a great time sight seeing and visiting Joe’s old neighborhood. We even made it to the Steelers game on Sunday due to the generosity of an old college buddy of Joe’s who lives in Pittsburg. I was so excited on our return home to make my apple pie. I waited till the next day and rolled up my selves. I relived our trip in my mind as I prepared the pie. When Joe came home from work that day we enjoyed a piece after our dinner. It was so delicious! I’m sure it was all those different apples and the fact that they came from Pittsburg of course!

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Apple Pie

Double crust pastry

8 cups apples, different varieties of baking apples. Peeled and sliced.

2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 tablespoons of whole milk

Prepare your favorite pastry crust chill for a least 1 hour or purchase a ready-made crust. Peel and slice the apples. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar and spices and mix with a spoon until evenly coated. Roll out the bottom crust and fill with the apple filling. Dot the top of the pie with diced unsalted butter. Roll out the top crust and place on top of the apples. Crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with while milk, and then cut slits in the top of crust to make a vent. Bake in a pre-heat 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cool and refrigerate and serve cold.

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Peach Tart

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Peaches are looking juicy and delicious at the farmers market right now. The decision as I grab up a bag full is what to bake. I have little to no experience at tart baking, but it’s something I have wanted to embrace. I figure if I can bake bread from scratch, yummy layer cakes, cookies, muffins, biscuits etc. I must be able to master the tart. I mean how hard can it be! I grab Julia Child’s Mastering the art Of French cooking, the latest edition of course! In my pantry I have every size of tart pan imaginable. I had planned years ago to learn the art of the tart, but the dust is so thick on the pans I’m embarrassed. I turn to the chapter on dessert tarts and look at the different recipes for the pastry. I see Pate Brisee sucree, which is short paste and Pate Sablee, which is a sugar crust. The recipe for the peach tart calls for the sweet short paste. I made this tart twice, once with the Pate Brisee Sucree and then with the Pate Sablee. The Pate Sablee by far was the hardest to work with because of the sugar added to the dough. It was very sticky. I must say it was challenging. The Pate Brisee Sucree was the right choice. I dropped the fresh peaches into boiling water for a few seconds then peel off the skins and cut the peaches into slices. Then par baked the tart crust and sprinkle a mixture of 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons of almond flour over the bottom of the tart. Then I tried to arrange the peaches neatly around the tart, harder than I thought, mine look a bit off. Then sprinkle 3-4 tablespoons more of sugar over the peaches and baked the tart for 30 minutes then sprinkle some slivered almonds on top and glazed it with apricot preserves which I warmed over medium low heat and added a tablespoon of water to thin it just a little. I returned it to the oven for 10 minutes then let it cool on a wire rack. The tart does look pretty armature but it tastes amazing. I am inspired to keep on baking tarts. I won’t take the time to type out a recipe. Please refer to Julia child mastering the Art of French cooking for the recipe. The pastry below is the Pate Sablee.

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Lemon Puffs

 

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These little beauties are lemon puffs. I’ve already shared with you in my last post how to prepare the lemon curd which fills the flaky layers of baked puff pastry. The baked sugary puff pastry has a flaky crunch as you bite down and then you taste the smooth but tart lemon curd. The whipped cream is the cherry on top. It is a very refreshing bite or two, it won’t take you long to eat and you’ll wish you could start over. The lemon puffs are so pretty; anyone would think they had taken hours to prepare. They look just beautiful on a dessert tray line with a white paper doily. These lemon puffs will make your next tea party or any occasion extra special. I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.

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Gather your ingredients.

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Roll your puff pastry just slightly and trim the ends to make the pastry even. Then measure 2″x 4″ pieces.

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Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Egg wash and sprinkle one pan with sugar one pan plain. Bake in a pre-heated 4oo degree oven 10-12 minutes. Till golden brown.

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Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Assemble by putting a layer of lemon curd on a plain baked puff pastry. Top with a baked sugared puff pastry. Dust with powdered sugar , top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Sprinkle on a little freshly grated lemon zest.

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Lemon Puffs

2 sheets of puff pastry, I use Pepperidge Farm

1 egg beaten with a few drops of water for egg wash

Lemon curd

Freshly whipped whip cream

Lemon zest to sprinkle over whipped cream

To prepare the puff pasrty

Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and rolling pin. Roll the puff pastry even. With a ruler cut the pastry 2”wide by 4” long place pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush apply egg wash to the tops of the pastry. Then sprinkle half with sugar and leave half plain. The plain will be the bottoms and sugared will be the tops. Makes 15 lemon puffs

Lemon Curd

8 oz. unsalted butter

1 pound granulated sugar

5 lemons, grated zest and juice from all of the lemons

6 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, beaten

Cook over double boiler water should just be simmering. Melt the butter then add the sugar, juice and zest from the lemons. Slowly add the eggs stirring constantly about 20 minutes. The mix will become thick and get thicker as it cools.

Fresh Whipped Cream

8 oz. heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To Assemble

Place the plain piece of baked puff pastry on a plate top with lemon curd. Place the sugared piece of baked puff pastry on the top. Sift on a small dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Add a dollop of the fresh whip cream to the top and a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest.

Bakers note: If you want less puff pastry you can cut one piece in half and fill with the lemon curd and top with the cream.

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Mini Quiche

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These mini quiches make the perfect little savory bite. I love serving them at my tea parties. The crust is flaky and the custard light and delicious. The cheddar cheese adds a sharp note and the red pepper adds a hint of sweetness. They just melt in your mouth.

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 Quiche Custard

3 large eggs

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ cup milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup diced red pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

Whisk eggs, heavy cream, milk, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to blend.

Method:

Use store bought or homemade pastry crust. Using a biscuit cutter cut circles from the dough. Gently push the dough circles into the spaces of a greased mini muffin pan. Put a small amount of the cheese and a couple of pieces of the diced red pepper into each space. Carefully fill the spaces with the custard do not overfill. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When you can safely remove them arrange on a serving platter. Serve hot or cold. Recipe yields 48 or more mini quiche.

Note:

You can make this recipe ahead. The quiches freeze well. Just refrigerate to thaw the night before ready to use. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Swedish Cream Cake

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The first tea room I ever had the pleasure of taking afternoon tea was in the beautiful town of Poulsbo, Washington. Judith’s Tearooms and Rose Café was located on the main street going through the town. There were lots of little shops and an aquarium that my daughter, Stefanie loved to visit. After enjoying all over favorite shops we would stop at Judith’s for afternoon tea. Even at the age of five Stefanie loved having afternoon tea, especially when her Grandmother Janet was visiting. Stefanie always sat in the princess chair. It was a wicker chair with a high back and had fancy pillows on it. Janet loved this tearoom as much or maybe more than we did. On one of her visits we went to the tea room three times. We were in love with the Swedish Cream Cake on the menu. It was the only dessert we ever ordered. It was a moist yellow cake soaked in cream sherry then topped with dried apricots soaked in sherry and freshly whipped cream. To this day the cake is still one my favorites. Judith had a cookbook printed of all her tea time recipes. To my delight the Swedish cream cake recipe was in my hands. I usually bake the cake once a year; I love to have it in the spring while sipping a cup of tea. It brings back such a beautiful memory.

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Swedish Cream Cake

Yellow cake, you will need the batter of 2 homemade cakes or 2 boxed cakes without pudding

4 tablespoons sour cream

1/2cup cream sherry

Dried apricots, soaked in cream sherry for 24 hours

Freshly whipped cream

Grease and flour a tube pan.

Follow your recipe for yellow cake either homemade or boxed doubled add the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place in center rack in preheated 350 degree oven 55-60 minutes depending on the amount of batter. Remove and let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Pour the ½ cup of cream sherry slowly over the cake. Let cool 1 hour and remove from pan. Cool cake completely. Place cake on a serving plate. Cut a slice of the cake and top with apricots and whipped cream.

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Chicken Salad With Apricots

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These delicious tea sandwiches are the favorite at every tea party I have hosted to date. The chicken is baked with fresh herbs and chicken stock, which boosts the flavor and tenderness of the chicken. The red onion and celery are tradition flavors. The surprise ingredient of dried apricots gives a sweet note and makes this chicken salad unique. I learned the recipe by making it over and over again at the Mulberry Tea Room where I worked several years ago. I have many of the recipes stuck in my head. I enjoy using them for tea parties and special lunches. I never measure ingredients, I go by sight.  The chicken is topped with fresh chopped thyme, sage, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Chicken stock is poured over, but not covering the chicken and then baked. I chop some red onion and a stalk or two of celery, then grab a handful of dried apricots from the bag and chop 4 or 5 of them. When the chicken is finished baking, it rests for a few minutes, then chopped and cut into a small dice. Then toss the onion, celery, and apricots with the chicken to see if the amounts look balanced. I generally add less onion then celery. I don’t want to overpower the other ingredients. I then add a tablespoon of the stock that the chicken was cooked in, and give it a toss. Add the mayonnaise now a few tablespoons at a time. You want it to be coated nicely but not too heavy. Adjust your seasoning of salt and pepper to taste. For the tea sandwiches you will want thin bread. I like using white and wheat. The bread should buttered with room temperature butter, then heap a big spoonful of the chicken salad in the middle of the buttered bread and smooth it out. I like to cut the sandwiches into triangles; rectangles would be nice as well. They look so pretty on a serving platter. The crusts don’t usually go to waste; anyone helping with the cutting of the sandwiches gets to snacking and sharing with whoever’s hanging around. There always some left over salad hanging out between the crusts.

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Chicken Salad with Apricots

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts

½ -3/4 cup chicken stock

Fresh sage and thyme, chopped, enough to sprinkle over the chicken

Kosher salt and Fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 small red onion, chopped finely

2 stalks of celery, chopped finely

4-5 dried apricots, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Place the chicken in a baking dish. Top with chopped herbs, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, and chicken stock. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees till the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest 10 minutes. Chop the onion, celery, and apricots. When the chicken is cool enough to handle cut it into a small dice. In a medium bowl add the chicken, onion, celery, apricots, 1 tablespoon of the chicken stock, and mayonnaise. Toss to coat evenly; adjust the seasoning of the salt and pepper to your taste.

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Key Lime Pie

Key lime
Key Lime Pie

This tart and creamy pie has become a family favorite over the last few years. It seems even when I have a guest who doesn’t think they will like it, I’m able to win them over.  It is so creamy and the graham cracker crust gives it a nice crunch. Just serve a small piece it is a rich dessert.

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Key lime pie
Key Lime pie

Key Lime Pie

Graham cracker crust:

1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

Crush the graham cracker to crumbs. I used a zip lock bag and a rolling pin. You could also use a food processor. Put the crumbs in a bowl, mix the sugar into the crumbs and pour the melted butter over the crumb and sugar mixture. Mix with your hands to coat all the crumbs with the butter. Press crumbs into a 9” pie dish that you have ever so lightly buttered. Bake 10-12 minutes, just till golden.

Filling:

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk at room temperature

1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

½ cup lime juice

Grated zest of one lime

Beat the eggs for 2 minutes, then slowly pour the condensed milk into the beaten eggs and continue mixing another 3 minutes. Add the lime juice and zest. Mix for 1more minute. Bake 350 for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Top with freshly whipped cream.

Topping:

Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of lime zest

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