Category: Baking


Good grief, it’s been almost a year.ย A year!!ย SO MUCH has happened in that year, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to come back. I’ve wanted to, but it just hasn’t been in the cards until now. I wasn’t sure if anyone would even care at this point if I came back. But I’ve heard from a few loyal readers (I have loyal readers! I had no idea!) and they’re asking for more. That is so incredibly gratifying, you guys. Seriously. It almost made me cry. I’ve always said that if my blog helps one person enjoy food a little more, I’ll keep going. So here I am, in the kitchen again, with recipes to share. I have some truly amazing food to show you, starting next week ๐Ÿ™‚

Advertisements

This week’s recipe is rather a show stopper. Especially when you tell people what it is. I have to smile at people’s reactions when I tell them I’ve made a FIVE POUND apple pie. There’s always the stop-to-make-sure-they-heard-that-right face and then the “Wow!” as they let it sink in. I have fun “wowing” people with my food ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes; a full 5 pounds of apples go into this pie. It’s my special pie. The one I make when I want to perform a true culinary labor of love for someone. This pie takes the better part of half a day to make- more if you make the pie crust yourself. DO NOT let that put you off! The majority of that time is cooking, cooling, and baking time. Making the pie is really easy; it’s just that the preparation takes time. But sometimes the very best things take a lot of time…

Start with a whole bunch of apples and a few other ingredients:

IMG_20151117_103453577

Now, the original recipe that this idea came from had a whole convoluted list of steps- most of them unnecessary. I’m not sure if the lady was just trying to make it sound like she was positively slaving away over the pie to get a pat on the back or if she really, truly thought that making a pie had to be that difficult. People tend to think that pie making is complicated, but it really isn’t. In fact, a pie is one of the very simplest things to bake. There’s no raising of dough or tiptoeing around the house because ย you don’t want what’s in the oven to fall. You make the filling, make the crust if you don’t want to buy one (another process that’s touted as difficult, but that’s another post), put the former into the latter, and bake until done. So, while this particular recipe has a couple of extra steps compared to a “regular” apple pie, I’ve simplified this process to be as easy as it can get. In that vein, let’s get started!

The first step is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Make sure you have a big bowl of acidulated water for your apples to go into so they don’t rust (turn brown). All that means is water with acid in it. If you have lemon juice, use that. Orange or lime juice works too. If you don’t have any of those, you can use apple cider vinegar. For 2 liters of water use a tablespoon of whichever acid you happen to have on hand. So, I peeled and cored my apples- cutting them into halves so I could use a melon baller to cut the core out…

IMG_20151117_110225080

But I totally cheated with the slicing part. I’ve wanted a food processor for YEARS. As in, since I left home at 19. I’m 36 as of this writing. So when I found an insanely wonderful deal on the food processor I’ve wanted since I first saw it, I went to my husband and asked pretty please. Being the wonderful man and biggest fan of my food that he is, he said yes! So today, for the first time, I used my beautiful, brand new Kitchenaid food processor!

IMG_20151117_111343812

That is absolutely a dream come true. Yes; I’m a food nerd. I accept that. ๐Ÿ™‚

So now that the apples are sliced and ready, the hardest part of making the filling is over! Drain the apples well and put the whole batch into a frying pan or pot big enough to hold them along with the butter, sugar, and spices.

IMG_20151117_112254250

Cook them until they are just beginning to soften. You want them to have plenty of crunch left, but they should be partially cooked.

IMG_20151117_113335292

Once the apples are cooked enough, turn off the heat and take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Make sure you drain as much of the liquid off of them as you can. Put the apples slices into a colander over a bowl (or, in my case, the pasta insert that goes into my stock pot) and set it aside while we deal with the leavings in the pan.

IMG_20151117_113745104

We’re going to cook this down into what amounts to caramel. Don’t panic; this step is very easy, it just takes some time.ย Turn the burner back on and bring the apple liquid to a fast boil.

IMG_20151117_120027130

Give this a stir every couple of minutes and continue to cook at a fast boil until the liquid begins to thicken. Check the bowl that the apples are over a couple of times to add any more collected liquid into the pan. Thickening the liquid can take upwards of 8-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

This isย pretty much there:

IMG_20151117_120030404

At this point you should stay with the pan, stirring continuously. Lower the heat a bit so that you get a steady boil instead of a fast boil. You’re looking for larger bubbles that are a little slower to pop. Keep cooking and stirring until you end up with the consistency of the caramel topping you would put over ice cream.

Now you can turn the heat off (so the caramel doesn’t burn) and add the vanilla and heavy cream…

IMG_20151117_120216710

Turn the heat back up to medium low and boil the caramel until it’s nice and thick again. You should be able to scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pan and leave a nice clean path:

IMG_20151117_120444840

Add the apples back into the pan and discard any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl under them. Stir the apples to coat them in the caramel and let the pan sit until the apples are at room temperature. You’ll need to stir them every 4 or 5 minutes to keep the cooling process going. You’ll notice that the apples have quite a bit of liquid in them again and that’s ok. We can fix that:

IMG_20151117_122356142Cornstarch to the rescue! Once the apples are at room temperature, sprinkle them with 3-4 tablespooons of cornstarch. Stir the apples well to mix the cornstarch into the liquid and you’re set! The sauce will be very cloudy, but that will clear up once it’s cooked.

IMG_20151117_122444506

Do not, I repeat: DO NOT try to add the cornstarch while the apples are hot!! Anyone who has tried to make gravy by adding cornstarch directly to the hot drippings and broth can tell you that doing so will only end in gluey lumps of cornstarch. So do yourself a favor and wait until the apples are cooled to add the cornstarch.

Before the pie is assembled, mix up the egg wash. This is what you’ll brush over the top of the pie to give it that nice, shiny top crust that you find in restaurants. You can mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, but using heavy cream instead will give you a slightly thicker, and much richer wash. Take my advice: use the cream.

IMG_20151117_123111928

Mix the cream and the egg VERY well; you don’t want streaks of egg white on top of your pie.

Now put your bottom crust in your pie pan and add the apples to it. I like to mound them slightly in the middle; it gives the pie a very classic shape and, since the apples are already cooked, you don’t have to worry about them getting cooked all the way through or the apples shrinking as the pie bakes, leaving a disappointing hollow cavern under the crust.

IMG_20151117_123432197

Take your top crust and put it over the pie pan, crimping the edges to seal the top and bottom crust together.

IMG_20151117_123708035

I do a simple roll under and crimp, but if you want to do something fancier, have at it. The pie will be all the more impressive for it!

The next step is to brush on the egg wash. You don’t want it pooling all over the place, but do brush the egg wash on with a fairly heavy hand.

IMG_20151117_123901342

With a sharp knife, cut some vents into the top. You could cut shapes, but I stick with simple, classic slits. Just make sure you vent the pie somehow, or the top crust won’t survive and the steam won’t be able to escape and you’ll have runny filling.

Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil or put a pie shield on it and into the oven it goes at 400 degrees. My pies usually take a total of 70-80 minutes, but that will vary by oven. After the first 40 minutes, check the pie. It should still be fairly light but beginning to brown. Go ahead and uncover the edges and continue baking it. At the one hour mark check it again. It should be browning well now and you should be getting a little bit of bubbling from the filling. For the pie to be done, it needs to be uniformly browned and the filling needs to boil for at least 10 minutes.

IMG_20151117_140336760

Isn’t that a beautiful color?! That deep, rich, glossy color comes from the egg wash. The crust would be dull and pale without it- not unlike the pre-egg wash photo above. My crust buckled a bit, though, and I can tell you why: I made the mistake of making the top crust too tight. I know; it sounds funny, but it’s true. I didn’t make sure the middle had enough dough before crimping the outside. I should have laid my crust over the top, run my hands over the mound in the middle, and then crimped the edge. The crust shrank as it baked (naturally), so it separated. It really doesn’t matter though; I’m not entering it into a beauty contest and the taste far outweighs any homeliness the pie may posses!

IMG_20151117_174134011

This is not a super sweet, gloopy, apple-esqe flavored pie. The sauce to fruit ratio is very nearly perfect and the flavor is absolutely, without a doubt APPLE. At least 95% of the filling you see above is actual, honest to God fruit- not some fruit flavored, sugary gel with a few pieces of apple in it. This is a prime example of everything an apple pie should be. And once you’ve tasted it, you may never want a piece of any other kind of apple pie again. And that’s ok; you know how to make your own now! So go ahead; make this pie and wow your family and friends. I think you’ll find it just as fun as I do ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Recipe:

5 Lbs Apples (Honeycrisp or similar firm fleshed, sweet-tart apple)

6 T Butter (salted is preferred, but unsalted will work too)

1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed

1/4 White Sugar (add extra if the apples are too tart)

1 t Cinnamon

Large Pinch Nutmeg

1/4 C + 1 T Heavy Cream, Divided

1 t Vanilla

3-4 T Cornstarch

1 Egg

2 Ready Made Pie Crusts or Enough dough to make a double crust pie

The Method:

*Fill a very large bowl about halfway with cold water. Add the juice of half a lemon, lime, or orange. OR add 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar.

*Peel, core, and slice the apples to about 1/8 inch, keeping them in the water as much as possible to prevent rusting.

*In a pot or frying pan large enough to hold the apples, melt the butter over medium high heat.

*Add the apples, sugars, and spices and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. The apples should be starting to cook through but still have plenty of crunch.

*Remove the apples with a slotted spoon to a colander or other strainer set over a bowl.

*Bring the liquid from the apples to a fast boil and hold it there, periodically adding any accumulated liquid from the bowl under the strainer.

*Once the liquid begins to thicken, lower the heat until you get a moderate boil; the bubbles should be a bit larger and pop more slowly than before. Hold this boil until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of the caramel sauce that goes over ice cream.

*Shut the burner off at this point and add the vanilla and the 1/4 C of heavy cream.

*Turn the burner back onto medium low and boil the caramel until it is once again thickened as in the last step.

*Take the pan off the heat and stir in the apples.

*Cool the mixture to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours.

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*Sprinkle cornstarch over the filling and mix well to incorporate.

*Whisk the egg and 1 T heavy cream very well and set aside.

*Prepare a 10 inch common depth or 9 inch deep dish pie plate with a bottom crust.

*Pour the filling in and place the top crust over it, making sure to secure it (run your hands over it to smooth it) from the middle outwards before crimping the edges. Make sure the edges are sealed.

*Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the pie. Don’t skimp on this step.

*Cut steam vents into the top crust.

*Wrap the outer edge of the pie plate with foil (make sure it doesn’t rest on the crust) or cover with a pie shield.

*Bake the pie until beginning to brown.

*Remove the foil or shield.

*Bake until uniformly brown and the filling has bubbled for at least 10 minutes. May take 70-80 minutes total bake time.

 

 

 

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! โค

We are preparing to delve into the world of homeschooling this year. We’ve felt the need to homeschool for years but were never in a position to be able to until now. So we won’t have the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door in time to meet the bus this year. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be mornings that we need to get in the car and go somewhere earlier and in more of a rush than I’d like- especially since it’s a 40 minute drive from our little village to get anywhere. On those mornings it’s SO nice to have a breakfast that I can put into containers or baggies so we can eat it in the car. And it’s even nicer to know that this “fast food” is homemade instead of processed and super unhealthy. Try to get that out of the little packages of muffins from the store!

Since I like to make these as easy to eat as possible, I tend to make these into mini muffins. They’re easily popable that way and the crumbs are kept to a minimum. They are just as tasty as regular muffins, so use whatever kind of pan strikes your fancy. And speaking of fancy, these make great baby bundt cakes! You can ice them with a simple glaze and presto- you’ve got a pretty little dessert!

One of the great things about these muffins is that they use everyday items that are probably in your pantry and fridge as we speak…

IMG_20150826_094337807_HDR

The second great thing about these tasty little gems is how simple they are. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients…

IMG_20150826_094851852

Then mix your wet ingredients well…

IMG_20150826_095237985

Then all you have to do is mix them together…

IMG_20150826_095320894

IMG_20150826_095510561

Ta da! Done! Now you just fill the liners and put the pan in the oven…

IMG_20150826_100332639_HDR

IMG_20150826_102740295

It doesn’t get much easier than that! From start to finish these muffins take about 20 minutes (depending on what size you make them). And if you don’t want chocolate chips in them, no problem; use whatever you like. Peanut butter chips (or half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips), toffee chips, mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, your imagination is the only limit! Oh- and if you really want to make these a little decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting and smear a bit on top of the muffins. That will brighten the dreariest day ๐Ÿ™‚ And you can even make a big batch of these and freeze them for later. Then you can just thaw some on the counter overnight and have a quick breakfast in the morning. Or you can put a frozen muffin in your lunch bag and have a tasty treat at midday.

Autumn is fast approaching (thank goodness!!) and with it comes busier schedules. I hope this simple recipe brings a smile to your hustle & bustle the way it does to mine ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:ย 

1 1/2 C Flour

1/2 C Sugar

2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1 Egg

1/4 C Sour Cream (or yogurt; vanilla yogurt adds a nice, subtle flavor)

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Oil

1/2 C Chocolate Chips (I use mini chocolate chips- especially if I’m making mini muffins)

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare your muffin pan by either greasing and flouring each well or lining them with paper cups.

*In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center into which you can pour the wet ingredients.

*In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.

*Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until well combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter.

*Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. A small ice cream/cookie scoop works well for mini muffins.

*Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

*Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or you can freeze in a zip top bag or well wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil for up to 2 months.

 

My goodness gracious; it’s cold! That’s true for just about everywhere in America right now, but it goes double for the Northern Plains where I’m at. Everywhere I go there’s talk of wishing for summer and lamenting how crazy cold it is. I can understand why they feel that way; not everyone dislikes summer like I do. For those of you who share the summer loving sentiment I have a wonderful recipe that will be like sunshine you can pull out of your oven! And for those of you that share my winter loving tendencies, these Lemonies will be a wonderful treat to indulge in while cuddled up in a blanket watching the season go by out your window ๐Ÿ™‚

These bars are so easy and incredibly basic. In fact, it’s very likely that the only thing you will need to buy is the lemon. Here’s what you’ll need:

IMG_20141219_124748279_HDRWhile your oven is preheating, the first thing you’ll want to do is brush a 13×9 pan liberally with butter. You don’t have to flour the pan if you don’t want to, but you do definitely need to butter it. Once done, put the 2 sticks of butter in a small sauce pan over very low heat. Now zest your lemon. You can easily do that with a regular box grater. The little rasp-like side that is useless for almost everything on your box grater? That’s for zesting citrus! If you don’t have a box grater with a rasp side, use the smallest holes you can on a regular grater (most have 2 sizes these days). If you only have the one “regular” size option on your grater, you can use that and mince the zest with a knife like you would garlic. Whichever you use, make sure you only grate the yellow part and not the bitter white pith beneath. Set the zest aside and cut the lemon in half around the equator (the middle, not end to end) and squeeze the juice out of it over a strainer set over a bowl to catch the seeds. Set the juice aside. Keep an eye on your butter while you’re doing this so that it doesn’t burn. Once it’s melted, take it off the heat and continue with your lemon.

It’s time to start combining everything. First your dry…

IMG_20141219_130110670

Then your wet ingredients + half of the lemon zest (but not the butter yet), making sure to measure out only enough lemon juice to satisfy the recipe- some of the rest will be for the glaze or frosting you’ll need. I’ll get to that later.

IMG_20141219_130335109

Once you have that done, pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix it in. The batter will be very stiff and you don’t have to get it completely mixed.

IMG_20141219_130456607_HDR

 

IMG_20141219_130552553_HDR

Once you’re at this stage add the rest of the ingredients (giving them a whisking with a fork first!) and mix thoroughly. Make sure it’s completely mixed and smooth, but don’t try to whip the ingredients like a cake. These are the lemon equivalent of dense, chewy brownies so the batter is going to be very heavy.

IMG_20141219_130703967_HDR

IMG_20141219_130926090

These now go in the oven until the bottom and edges are beginning to brown and the center is set. You should be able to insert a toothpick in the center and have it come out clean when they are done.

IMG_20141219_135558660

You have 2 choices now: cover these in a delightful lemon glaze or spread on a wonderfully smooth lemon cream cheese frosting. I’ll include the recipe for both below. But you have to cover these with something; they won’t be very good and they will dry out terribly if you don’t. Despite being similar in texture, these are very different from brownies- you can’t just leave them plain.

Alas; I don’t have a money shot for these! They got taken on vacation with us and I never did get a picture. I do apologize for that! You’ll just have to give these amazing bars a try for yourself to see the finished product ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

The Recipe:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 C Sugar (White, granulated)

1/2 t Salt

1 C (2 sticks) Butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 Eggs

1 t Vanilla

2 T Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed- NOT from a bottle

1 t Lemon Zest

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Flouring the pan as well is optional.

*In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and let sit.

*Zest the lemon as fine as possible and set aside.

*Cut the lemon in half short-ways (around the equator) and squeeze well to get as much juice as possible. Set the juice aside.

*In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

*In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients; including 1 teaspoon (or roughly half) of the lemon zest.

*Mix the melted butter into the dry ingredients until mostly combined.

*Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

*Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until set.

*Remove from the oven and cool completely before glazing or frosting.

 

The Lemon Glaze- The Recipe:

1 C Powdered (Icing or Confectioner’s) Sugar

2 T Milk

1 T Lemon Juice

1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)

The Method:

*In a bowl, add the wet ingredients to the powdered sugar and stir until completely smooth.

*Spread over completely cooled bars.

 

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- The Recipe:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb (1 C) Powdered Sugar (or more to suit your taste and texture preferences. More sugar=stiffer frosting)
1 T Lemon Juice (you should have some lemon juice leftover from the bars)
1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)
The Method:
*In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened.
*Add lemon juice & zest and mix well.
*Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well.
*Spread over the top of the completely cooled bars.

As you know, I much prefer to use real food (“whole”, “natural”, etc) ingredients when I cook and bake. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can, but sometimes the classics are based on foods that are not really good for you. Take pecan pie, for example. One of the main ingredients is corn syrup. Granted; it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (which is ultra processed- WAY more than regular corn syrup), but it’s still definitely not a health food. In fact, my mom can’t eat anything with corn syrup in it without getting a bad headache. So for Thanksgiving last year I set out in search of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn’t use corn syrup. I found several that use honey instead. Score! Honey is most definitely a health food, and you can use it in place of corn syrup in many recipes (but there will need to be other adjustments to the recipe too, so don’t just start swapping honey for corn syrup willy nilly). So I played around with combining some of the recipes and this is the result. My mom LOVES it and no one who’s tried it so far dislikes it.

Pecan pie is actually a very simple pie. All you need is some basic ingredients:

IMG_20141128_113136398_HDR

If you’re using salted butter like I am here, you won’t need extra salt. If you use unsalted butter (which is what most recipes call for) you’ll need to add a little salt to the filling.

You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have a pie crust pictured. You’ll need one, but the method you use to procure one I’ll leave to you. I used a refrigerated just-roll-it-out-in-the-pan crust from the store. By all means; if you want to make your own, please do! I didn’t because I don’t have anyplace to roll out a pie crust. The great thing about making your own pie crust is that you can make the pie any size you want. You can do a full pie or you can use a muffin tin or individual tart pans to make tiny pies. Either way, it’s up to you.

First you’ll need to melt your butter. Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is just melted, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a little while; long enough for the butter to cool slightly.

IMG_20141128_114147783

In the meantime, line your pie pan with the crust and then put the pecans in the bottom. How much you need will depend on the size of your pie pan. The pan I used is a 9 inch, regular depth pan. I used about a cup of chopped pecans, maybe a tiny bit over that:

IMG_20141128_114925187

Most recipes call for whole pecans to be laid out nicely in the bottom of the crust. I don’t do that. One reason is that whole pecans are crazy expensive. Stupidly expensive. Another reason is the trouble I have cutting a pie that uses whole pecans. The pecans tend to just squish down and make a mess out of the filling. So I use chopped pecans and they work just fine.

Next, add the brown sugar, honey, vinegar, vanilla, and salt (if you need it) to the butter. Whisk all of that together very well. It will take a little mixing to get everything incorporated into the butter- that’s a lot of butter.

IMG_20141128_114447303_HDR

As you can see, there’s still a tiny bit of butter around the edges that hasn’t been incorporated yet. It’s ok; it will get mixed in once I add the eggs…

IMG_20141128_114642846

There we go! All mixed together and ready to go over the pecans. Gently pour this mixture over the pecans, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all the goodness into the pie pan. Once you do, you’ll notice something:

IMG_20141128_115057919

Yep. Bubbles. Little bubbles coming to the surface as the gaps between the pecan pieces are filled. But they’re nothing to worry about. You can try to jiggle the pan a bit to get rid of them, but you don’t need to. The pecans will float to the surface as the pie bakes and the bubbles will dissipate then.

Time to go in the oven! Place this on a foil lined cookie sheet so that if the pie overflows the pan will catch it (which I’ve never had happen, but better safe than scrubbing charred sugar off the bottom of your oven) and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the center is set. It shouldn’t jiggle when you shake the pan gently.

IMG_20141128_124451546

Ok, so my pie isn’t perfect. The crust on the right side there wasn’t pressed to the side of the pan correctly, so it shrank down a bit. Not a huge deal. The huge deal is that this pie almost burned. I should have taken it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I did. I missed the timer when it sounded. I’m lucky I walked through the kitchen when I did. So keep an eye on the timer and make sure you choose a loud one! Anyway, I managed to save my pie and not have to make another.

One of the problems I’ve noticed with pies that substitute another ingredient for corn syrup is that the filling is runnier than it should be.

IMG_20141201_130548270

As you can see, that isn’t a problem with this recipe! The center looks a little runny, but really that’s just where I pushed the filling in with a knife to cut the pie (which would have been much worse had I used whole pecans). This recipe really is the best I’ve found for pecan pie- period. The flavor is amazing and not sickeningly sweet like the corn syrup recipes out there. The texture is heavenly! And it’s made using one of nature’s super foods- how much better could it get?!

The Recipe:

1/2 C (1 Stick) Butter

1 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Honey

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

2 t Vanilla

1/4 t Salt (ONLY IF USING UNSALTED BUTTER!)

3 Eggs, lightly beaten

1- 1 1/2 C Pecan Pieces

9 inch unbaked Pie Crust

The Method:

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare pie pan or plate with the unbaked crust.

*Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.

*Once melted, remove from heat and add the next 5 ingredients.

*Whisk well, incorporating the butter into the other ingredients.

*Add the eggs and whisk very well.

*Pour the pecans into the pie crust so that they cover the entire bottom.

*Gently pour the filling over the pecans, scraping the saucepan to get all of the filling you can.

*Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes; until the pie is set in the center.

*Let cool completely before slicing, but chilling is not necessary. If having something that has eggs in it left on the counter and not in the fridge bothers you, you can go ahead & refrigerate it. But I left this pie out for 4 days before finishing the last piece and I didn’t even have a hint of tummy trouble. There’s so much sugar and fat in the filling that spoilage isn’t an issue for quite some time.

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! โค

I have a recipe up my sleeve that I wanted to share this week, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t get it posted. I hope to have it up next week. In the meantime, I had something exciting happen last week: I was contacted by Endless Simmer to be featured in their Top 10 Gingersnap Recipes list! I consider myself (rightly) a small time food blogger. I’m not one of the big girls or boys who have hundreds or thousands of followers and their own cookbooks in the works. I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun sometimes to be that. But that’s not my goal. I like what I do and I like my blog. I think about the stress and the time taken away from my family to be a big blogger like that and I say, most assuredly, “I’ll pass, thanks.” So I was amazed that someone actually wanted to feature my post along with so many other wonderful posts from fantastic bloggers. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! So here you go; my first guest appearance ๐Ÿ™‚

Top 10 gingersnap Recipe Countdown:

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2014/10/08/gingersnaps-gone-wild-top-ten-gingersnap-recipes/

This is a very special recipe. Really- it is! This is the recipe my husband asks for every single year for his birthday cake. My husband’s name is Ron (Ronald), which means “Ruler”. And as he is the leader of our household and the head of our marriage I’d say that makes him the ruler of this family! Ok, I’ll admit that that was maybe a little cheesy. But it’s all true and I do believe this cheesecake would make royalty happy! This is an incredibly basic cheesecake recipe; no lemon or sour cream. Just a plain vanilla cheesecake. But it is SO good! Rich and creamy with the perfect thick texture- and the plainness of it is the perfect palette for toppings. Ron is a purist and insists that any cheesecake he’s going to eat have cherry pie filling on top and nothing else. Well… maybe strawberry or raspberry puree, but that’s starting to push it. I myself, on the other hand, have no such purist leanings. I’m not crazy about cherries in general so I usually scrape mine off and give them to Ron ๐Ÿ™‚ I love lots of different flavors on and in my cheesecake: caramel, pumpkin, strawberry, blueberry, Snickers… anything but coconut and coffee, really! And this recipe is the perfect starting off point for all of them!

As I said; this is a very basic cheesecake, so you want to make sure you have the best ingredients you can get your hands on- especially the vanilla. Being the only actual flavoring agent, the vanilla is very important. If you use cheap vanilla for this your cheesecake will taste like cheap vanilla and the results will be lackluster.

IMG_0543

This cheesecake is incredibly simple to prepare. The hardest part is making the graham cracker crumbs if, like me, you don’t have a food processor. And, currently, we are out of zip top bags, so I can’t even use the trick of crushing them with a rolling pin in a zip top bag. What I do in this situation is use a wooden rolling pin that is missing the handle on one side to pound the graham crackers into crumbs. Sometimes things get broken and become an entirely new tool! ๐Ÿ™‚ You have to be careful when doing it that way because it’s easier to make a mess, but it works! You COULD just buy graham cracker crumbs, but they are insanely expensive- it’s not that much trouble to make them yourself and you save a lot of money!

IMG_0545

Make sure you press the crust evenly into the bottom of the pan. If you just spread them in the bottom without pressing them down they will form a crumb layer on the bottom and quite a bit of the crust mixture will end up floating throughout the cheesecake. Tasty, but not how it’s supposed to be. Now this gets put in the oven for about 10-12 minutes until it starts to smell really good and gets a little brown… er. It starts out light brown and you want it to end up a little darker light brown. I know that sounds confusing, but just make the crust & you’ll find out what I mean ๐Ÿ™‚

IMG_0549

Once you have your crust blind baked all you have to do is mix the filling & pour it in the crust. You will definitely need a mixer for the filling; cream cheese is a pain to beat by hand. Literally. I’ve done it before and my wrist hurt for 2 days afterward. So make sure your cream cheese is nice and soft and start beating it. I use my stand mixer (with the paddle attachment) for this because it’s a lot stronger than the hand mixer I have. Give the cream cheese a good beating and make sure it’s completely smooth. Stop the mixer a couple of times and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the cream cheese is beaten.

IMG_0554

See? No lumps. Lumpy cheesecake=yucky cheesecake. Seriously. Biting into a lump of plain cream cheese ruins the moment. Don’t let it happen to you. Now that you have perfectly smooth cream cheese, add the sugar and beat the heck out of it again. Stop & scrape the sides at least twice to make sure get all of the sugar incorporated before you add the eggs. Don’t be afraid to over beat the filling at this point- you want to make sure it’s smooth & well mixed.

Now you can add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, mixing very well and scraping the bowl down after each egg. I realize that is a little more work than most cheesecake recipes call for but this is they only way I have found to REALLY make sure you get all of the cream cheese properly incorporated. It only take a few seconds extra, so don’t skip this step. Here’s how smooth your batter should end up:

IMG_0555

Very pretty indeed! Now there are two ways to bake this: with a water bath or without. I have an awful time with my cheesecake cracking either way. I’ve tried both ways several times and have always had my cheesecake get HUGE cracks (calling them “fissures” would not be a stretch) in the middle before it’s even done baking. If you want to do a water bath, put the cheesecake in a pan that will fit into another pan with room to spare. If you’re using a spring form pan, wrap the outside of it with foil so water can’t get in. Set the bigger pan on the rack of the preheated oven, set the cheesecake filled pan in the bigger pan, and carefully pour boiling water into the bigger pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. Bake as per directions. Personally, I will be using the above pictured pan every time I make cheesecake from now on. It’s a stoneware 8 x 11 dish that my mom gave me as a gift. And the cheesecake didn’t crack while baking! I think it’s because the stoneware dish heats and holds heat more evenly.

IMG_0560

I did not use a water bath this time- just the stoneware dish. I ended up with a 2 inch, shallow crack in the middle when it was done cooling. I can certainly live with that! The brown around the edges that you see is not normal. The actual edges of the cheesecake are supposed to be a bit brown, but you shouldn’t have cooked on batter on the pan like that. I actually forgot to add the vanilla before I put the batter in the pan. So I had to mix it in carefully after I already had it in the dish. I was talking to my mom while doing this and got distracted. Violated my own rule. Again. But there are worse things. Moving on…

IMG_0562

These are actually the last two pieces. I almost didn’t get a shot of the cheesecake with toppings. With 5 people eating on it, it barely lasted 2 days. I know the lighting is bad; this was taken at 8:30 at night. Sorry. We enjoyed these last two pieces with particular relish, as I won’t be making another cheesecake until Ron- my Ruler’s- birthday. My guess is when you try this cheesecake you’ll want it for your birthday too!

The Recipe- The Crust:

1 C Graham Cracker Crumbs

3 T Sugar

5 T Butter, Melted

The Recipe- The Filling:

24 Oz Cream Cheese, Softened

3/4 C Sugar

3 Eggs

1 t Vanilla

The Method: The Crust:

*Heat oven to 325 degrees.

*In a bowl, combine all ingredients well.

*Pour into chosen pan and, with your fingers or the bottom of a glass or measuring cup, gently but firmly press the crumbs into the bottom and up the side of the pan (only about 1/2 an inch, depending on the size of your pan).

*Bake the crust for 10-12 minutes, until it smells of buttery graham crackers and is slightly more golden.

*Take out of the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes.

The Method- The Filling and Construction:

*Heat oven to 425 degrees.

*In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom at least once.

*Add the sugar and beat again, scraping the sides and bottom at least twice, until the mixture is perfectly smooth.

*Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time. Mix each egg into the batter completely and then scrape the bowl down after each egg.

* Once as close to perfectly smooth as you can get it, pour the batter into the crust.

*If you want to use a water bath, follow the instructions above.

*Bake the cheesecake at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 250 and bake until the cheesecake is set in the middle and starting to brown around the edges. This could be anywhere from 35-45 minutes up to an hour plus. You’ll just have to keep an eye on it.

*Once done, open the oven door and let the cheesecake cool for one hour in the oven.

*Remove from the oven and finish cooling on the counter.

*Once completely cool, put the cheesecake in the refrigerator and chill thoroughly.

*Slice and serve with desired toppings. Or eat it plain- it’s just that good!

For those that don’t actually know me I must explain that I am a truly a dichotomy. I love technology and gadgets and there are a lot of things about modern life that I love. But I am also extremely old fashioned. I have a long list of time honored ways of doing things, I am well on my way to being a homesteader/self sufficient, and I believe the industrial revolution killed off a vast number of things that were right with society and life in general. Does that make me a hypocrite? In some ways I suppose it does. Do I particularly care? Not really. Things seem to be working out fairly well so far. Time will tell, I suppose.

So me being how I am, it’s only natural that I look to some thoroughly old fashioned traditions during the most tradition-rich time of year: Christmas. Last year I made a Yule Log cake, and it turned out beautifully. ย The cake was incredibly tasty, I surprised even myself with how good it looked when decorated, and everyone loved it. Sadly, this year I am without an oven. This was a cause of distress because I, like most of the world, like to churn out a plethora of treats during Christmas time. I realized quickly that I would have to look to some different modes for treat-making this year. I will be making my family recipe for fudge, at least one other flavored fudge (there are so many it’s going to be hard to choose!), and a traditional British Plum, or Christmas, Pudding. This is a boiled dessert that is made several weeks- or even months- in advance. It is akin to fruitcake (as I’ve mentioned before, I have no problem with fruitcake) but is boiled instead of baked. The recipe I’m using is completely Victorian, meaning it has suet in it. I know perfectly well that this will turn people off of this dessert but it really isn’t as vile as everyone automatically assumes. Most people who are revolted at the thought of eating something with suet in it have never even tried. They’ve just been told for years that suet is disgusting so that’s what they believe. Give it a try before you turn your nose up at it. Or, if you’re really in the mood to be obstinate, you could make this recipe with butter. But it won’t turn out the same.

I got this recipe from the BBC TV show “Victorian Farm”. It’s one of our favorites and we watch it online fairly often. I took the recipe out of the book written to go along with the series, but you can also find it here if you’d like to check it out. I highly recommend at least checking out the link or possibly watching an episode. The link will take you to the page for “Victorian Farm Christmas”, which was a sequel to the original series. If you want to watch the original show, I would suggest trying here. The show is all about 3 historians who go to a Victorian era town (as in preserved in it’s Victorian state and the people who work there dress and act as Victorians) in England to renovate and live on a farm for a full calendar year as the Victorians would have done. It’s truly fascinating!

I will be making the pudding in the ย coming week and will post the process next Wednesday. Please join me in what I hope will be a lasting Christmas tradition!