Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apple Pie


Apple pie is one of my favorites...I often say that I haven't met a pie I didn't like.  

Let's talk about this pie for a minute before  we start making it.  First let me say that this recipe calls for precooking the apples for a short time along with the butter, sugar and spices.  Precooking the apples causes them to release liquid and consequently they shrink.  I do this for two reasons.  The first is to avoid the gummy paste that often results when you simply toss the apples with the flour, sugar and spices.  The second reason I do this is to avoid a pie with a mile high crust and a gaping air hole when cut and served as a result of the apples shrinking away from the crust a they cook.  The end result tastes just as good (maybe better without the flour goop) and you get an improved presentation.  It also helps the dreaded juice dripping out of the crust and onto your oven! So, now that you understand the reasons for the technique, are you interested?  How about a trial run before you have to make your Thanksgiving pies?  You can make this pie extra special and festive for the holidays by tossing in a handful of dried cranberries and a handful of chopped english walnuts.

One more thing...Since apples are in season, head out to your local orchard and get a supply of apples rather than buying them at the grocery store.   Store bought apples this time of year might be last year's fruit from storage and be beautiful outside but rotting at the core on the inside.  You can't always tell by looking.  How do I know?  First hand experience.  Save yourself the disappointment, eliminate the "yuck" factor and head to the orchard!

I tend to like Granny Smith apples (the bright green ones) for baking.  They are tart and hold up well to the baking process.  Don't be afraid to branch out and try other types of apples.  Just make sure they are good for baking.  Jonathan, Jonagold and Pippin apples are great choices.  Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady Apples are all crisp and sturdy, as well. Stay away from the Delicious and Gala varieties for baking.  They don't hold up well to the cooking process and are best eaten raw.  

Apple Pie

Pie Crust (for two crust pie):

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Crisco (or 2/3 cup lard)
4 to 5 Tablespoons cold water

Directions:

Measure the flour and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Stir to incorporate the flour and salt.
Add the Crisco.  Using a pastry blender, mix until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal with lumps.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of cold water into the flour mixture and stir with a spoon.
Continue to add water and stir until the mixture just holds together.  It should not be sticky and don't over mix the dough.  It isn't bread, and doesn't need kneading. 

Gather up the dough into a ball and wrap it in waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator while you get the filling ready.

Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients:

8 Granny Smith apples
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons flour

Directions:

Peel, quarter and core the apples.  If you have a device that does the peeling it will make your prep work go faster.  I bought an inexpensive one at a discount store and love it.  I hated peeling apples, but having this gadget makes it so much easier.


Slice each apple quarter into 4 or 5 slices and place them into a large heavy pan over medium heat.
Add the butter, sugar, brown sugar and spices to the pan and stir.


The apples will release their juice and the sugars will melt and a thin syrup will begin bubbling.  Watch it carefully and stir frequently to avoid burning the syrup.
Continue stirring for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the flour and stir to mix throughly. 

The syrup will thicken.


Remove the pan from the heat.

Now it is time to roll the crust.  Divide the chilled pie dough into two halves.
On a floured board, roll the dough, turning and rolling until you have a circle of dough large enough to cover your pie plate. 


I have a deep dish pan that I love so I use a little more than 1/2 the dough for my bottom crust just to make sure I have enough to cover my pan.

Arrange the dough in the pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about 1/4 inch hanging over the edge of the pan.  You'll see why in a minute.


Next, spoon the apple filling into the pie crust.  Be sure to scrape all the wonderful gooey sauce along with it!  Yes, I know you will be tempted to sample it...okay, go ahead, it will be our secret!


Roll the remaining dough and cover the pie filling.  Leave 1/4 inch beyond the edge of the pan.  Now, take the top and bottom crusts together, fold and tuck under the edge.  This will give you a nice edge for crimping. 


Next seal the two layers of crust by crimping the edges.  I'm not sure how to easily describe this so here goes.  Your thumb and middle finger goes under the edge, your index finger above and you squeeze them together.  For the second one, you shift along the edge and repeat until you've made it all the way around the pie.  If it doesn't look perfect, don't worry, the pie will still taste just fine!


Next, be sure to create a couple of vents in the top to let steam escape.  You can get creative and do designs or just make a couple of slits with a sharp knife.  

The pie goes into a preheated 450 degree (F) oven for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees (F)  and continue to bake for 45 minutes.  At the conclusion of the time, the cust should be golden brown.  If not return it to the oven for another 5 minutes, watching closely so you don't burn the crust.  When finished baking, remove to a rack to cool.


When cool, slice and serve. 

....and that is What's Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Corn Chowder

Roasting Corn

Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. bacon
1 lb. fully cooked diced ham
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 48 oz. box of low sodium chicken stock
1 quart of 2% milk
3 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups of fresh corn kernels
1 tsp. white pepper (black will work, just more visible)
1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
2 dashes cayenne pepper

Preparation:

In a large soup pot, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil. Heat pan over medium heat.

Slice the package of bacon across the sort end, making 1/4 inch pieces. Add bacon to the pan and stir.

Continue until bacon pieces are crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Pour grease into a bowl. leave the brown bits in the bottom of the pan, they add flavor.






While the bacon is cooking, start chopping the garlic, onion and carrots.













Measure 2 Tbsp. of grease back into the pan. Add the chopped onion, garlic, carrots and thyme.



Stir until the vegetables are good and soft, approxmately 8-10- minutes.

Dust the vegetables with the flour and stir to coat everything well.



 Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil.





Add the potatoes and milk, stir to mix the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a hard boil and boil for 8 minutes or until the potatoes break down (this will aid in thickening the soup and provide texture).

Cut the kernels off the cob, scraping the cob with your knife to extract all the juice. Add the corn to the pot and stir.

Next add the diced ham and season with the Old Bay Seasoning, pepper and cayenne.

Simmer until the corn is soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Taste the chowder and adjust seasonings as necessary.





Ladle the soup into bowls, top with crumbled bacon and serve with a hearty bread.


....and that my friends, is Whats Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!












Sunday, October 16, 2011

Herb and Cheese Focaccia Bread



I love bread! 
There is something magical about the bread you make yourself.  Simple ingredients combined into warm crusty satisfaction. Wonderful enticing aromas wafting from the kitchen as it bakes into golden perfection.  Bread is so much better without all the preservatives that are included in the store bought stuff. 

I'm planning soup for later in the week and leftover pasta for dinner tonight and decided I needed a hearty bread to accompany them.  I opted for making Focaccia because it is quick and easy and doesn't require the rise time that other breads require.

In mere minutes I had this bread mixed up and rising.  It is so quick you can easily pull this together while you are preparing the rest of your dinner meal.  Or if you like bread as much as I do, this makes an awesome snack!

I will try a variation of this later that inclues a good amount of mozzarella on the top for a cheesey bread.

Herb and Cheese Focaccia Bread

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
Sea Salt for sprinkling

Directions:

In a large bowl, sir together the flour, salt and sugar.  Taste the mixture and adjust salt to your taste.  (I added another 1/2 teaspoon to mine at this point.)  Mix in the dried oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and black pepper. 

Stir in the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and water.  Mix until the tough pulls together.
Before Kneading
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
After Kneading
Quickly wash out your mixing bowl with warm water, dry and lightly oil the inside. (This will warm the bowl, helping the bread to proof.)
Place the dough into the bowl and turn to coat it with the oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  When the dough has risen, punch it down and place it on a greased baking sheet.  Pat it out into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle.  Drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil on top and spread with your fingers. 


Using your finger tips, dimple the surface of the dough.
Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese.
Give the bread a quick grate of sea salt and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm. 

Seriously, in the time it took me to type up the recipe in the blog, my bread has baked and I'm sitting here enjoying a big hunk!  It is so so good!


...and that my friends is What's Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!










Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream

















                                           

                

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream


Ingredients:


2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped homemade Snickerdoodle cookies

Directions:


Combine the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon into a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour the blended mixture into a heavy saucepan, add the heavy cream and heat the mixture over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and your finger leaves a track on the back of a wooden spoon coated with the custard mixture. Remove the pan from the heat.

Strain the custard mixture into a storage container to remove any cooked egg bits. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When the mixture is thoroughly chilled you are ready to make the ice cream. Pour the chilled custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is almost done (looks like soft serve), add the chopped cookies.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer and place it in an airtight container and freeze for a couple of hours to firm up.

Serve a couple of dips in a pretty  dish and garnish with a couple of cookie wedges and whipped cream.


and that's What's Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nutella No-Bake Cookies


I'm sure you all have had the traditional no-bake cookies at one time or another. This recipe includes one of my all time favorite things Nutella.  I became hooked on a trip to Italy in 2007 and I'm never without a jar in my pantry.  Next time you have the urge to bake, don't heat up the oven!  Give these gems a try.

Nutella No-Bake Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup Nutella
3 cups quick cook oats

Directions:

Over medium heat, cook sugar, cocoa, milk and butter until it reaches a boil.
Boil one minute.
Remove from heat.
Stir in vanilla, salt, peanut butter and Nutella.  Mix thoroughly.
Add the oats to the mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper line cookie sheets and cool.
Refrigerate...Eat...Repeat...


 


....and that's What's Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nutella Ice Box Cake


Nutella, what a sweet addiction! It's October, the time of year my best friend Wanda comes for a visit. 

During a trip to Italy in 2007, we discovered Nutella. Oh my gosh, we were in love! So...in preparation for her visit, I made this Nutella Icebox Cake as a surprise. It is easy, an luscious and I think she would agree that it is awesome!

If you have kids that love Nutella, you could just mix up the pudding portion of this recipe and pour into individual bowls and refrigerate. 

I'll leave you with the recipe and one word - YUM!  Enough said!

Nutella Icebox Cake
Ingredients:

2/3 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 1/2 oz Nutella
2 tbsp Frangelico
36 graham crackers

Directions:
Line a 9" square cake pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.    The crackers will not fit perfectly, so break them up and fit as needed.

Scald the milk, cream, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan.
In the mean time, whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar, and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl until smooth.

Temper the eggs by pouring in a bit of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Keep adding milk to eggs and continue whisking until incorporated. Pour mixture back to saucepan.
Cook over medium high heat and stir constantly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. When it starts to boil, the custard will thicken considerably. Keep stirring vigorously for another 15 seconds. Remove from heat.
Empty the cooked custard into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in Nutella and Frangelico until smooth. You now have Nutella pudding! 
This is what 6 1/2 oz. of Nutella looks like.
To assemble icebox cake, line cake pan with a layer of graham cracker.


Top the graham crackers with 1/2 cup of pudding. Smooth pudding evenly using a large spoon. Repeat with another layer of graham cracker and pudding three more times until you have 8 layers in total. The top layer should be Nutella pudding. Level with offset spatula. You may have a bit of pudding leftover...get yourself a spoon and take care of it!

Wrap the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 24 hours.

During this time, the moisture from the pudding will soften the graham crackers until they take on a cakey texture. Don’t rush it! If you want very clean neat cuts, I would put it in the freezer for 3 hours until solid.
To serve the cake, lift it out of the cake pan with the help of plastic wrap. Peel off the plastic wrap and transfer cake to serving plate. Cut with a knife dipped in hot water and divide into 9-12 pieces. If the cake had been frozen, let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.




 ...and that's What's Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!




Sunday, October 2, 2011

Nutella Meringues

I've been on a baking kick and along with it a Nutella kick.  I see nothing wrong with it!  I quite like Nutella.  Anyway, I had some egg whites I was saving and tried this recipe this afternoon and it is very very good.

Nutella Meringues


Ingredients:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon, granulated sugar
1/4 cup Nutella


Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Make sure you have one oven rack in the bottom third of your oven and one in the upper third of your oven.

This is important....Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 

Warm the Nutella through and then set aside while you make the meringue. I used the microwave for this, warming it for 1 minute 30 seconds on 50% power.  If you don't have a microwave you can accomplish the same thing by using a double boiler. 
Let the Nutella cool while you are mixing up the meringue.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, place the egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until the whites are completely foamy. 
Add the cream of tartar and the salt and continue whipping at medium-high speed until when you lift the whisk attachment, soft peaks form. This should take a few minutes.

Once you have reached the soft peak stage, increase the speed to high and begin adding the sugar a few spoonfuls at a time (this should take a few minutes).  Once all the sugar is in, the meringue should be very thick (almost stiff) and when you left the whisk firm peaks should remain.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and drop in all the Nutella. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the Nutella into the meringue three or four times. You’re aiming for a swirled effect so don’t over mix. This will also help avoid deflating the meringue.

Using two spoons, drop the meringue onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in large dollops. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, immediately lower the heat to 200 degrees F. and rotate the trays. Bake for an hour.

After an hour, check the meringues. If they are completely dried out then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for a few hours to cool with the oven. If the meringues still look a bit “wet”, then continue baking for another 20 minutes or so. Either way, once fully baked, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there for a few hours.

When you remove the meringues from the oven they should be completely dry and cool and will sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.

The meringues will keep in an airtight container for a week, if they last that long!


......and that's What's Cooking at Cathy's ~ Enjoy!





About Me

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My career is in IT.  Cooking and photography are among a few of my hobbies. In my spare time, which is most weekends I tie on my apron and exercise my creativity by trying new recipes and adapting them to my tastes. I also have a passion for photography that I incorporate by taking photographs to go along with the recipes I post on my blog.  
I also enjoy travel, both near and abroad. Meeting new people, new experiences and cultures and oh, not to mention the food! I hope you enjoy my blog.