It’s way past Thanksgiving, but I did save the pics from baking the apple pie—Whew!
I decided that I was kind of tired of the traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. We weren’t having turkey, either, so tradition was kind of out the window.
As I know from many years of making apple pie, there are pitfalls:
- Sometimes the apples aren’t done by the time the crust is done.
- The filling can shrink away from the top crust as the apples cook within it. When you cut into such a pie, you think you’ve been cheated out of some filling.
- Sometimes the apples are too sweet or too tart because you don’t get to test the filling before it goes into the pie and make adjustments.
So this year, I cooked the filling first. In hindsight, it seems like a no-brainer. The best part of cooking the filling in advance is that you can do it the day before making the pie. You can also make the crust a day ahead so that the day of baking is just assembly and baking. I ended up making the whole pie the day before Thanksgiving so I could just eat on the big day. 👍
I found this terrific recipe for a Classic Apple Pie with Precooked Apple Filling. It also has what looks like a good crust that you might want to try, even though I opted for a different one. I used a combination of Granny Smith and Macintosh apples to cover both the tart and sweet flavors. I can’t imagine ever making another apple pie without a precooked filling.
For the crust I used the Foolproof All-Butter Dough from Cook’s Illustrated—it’s not the one with vodka. (There may be a paywall that prevents you from reading the recipe if you are not a member.) It’s a nice dough that almost resembles a puff pastry, with many flaky, tender layers, as you may be able to see in the photos. If you look closely at the slits in the baked pie, you can see the layers in the crust. We thought it was the most tender crust we ever had:
I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos of the pie after it was sliced!
We switched to a different variety of poblanos in the garden this year. Last year’s would have been way too hot for this jam, although if you like a jalapeno jelly, you might like the heat. This year’s poblanos started turning red much quicker and are mild enough that you get a chance to taste the pepper. The result in the jam is that you don’t get any heat at first, but then it starts showing up as an afterthought. We kind of liked that.
If you have hotter poblanos, whether or not you like that effect or not, you might consider using fewer in your jam.
My husband says he would eat the jam on biscuits, but I’m mostly planning to serve it with pork or chicken. I think it could work in a fajita as well. Anything savory where a little sweet would complement.
I looked at a lot of recipes for peach jam to compare the amounts of sugar used. For my 3.5 lbs of peaches, I settled on 3 cups of sugar. I didn’t want to use pectin, and I found a number of recipes that didn’t, but I found their cooking directions to be way off—some said to cook it for as little as 10 minutes!! Mine cooked for about as long as my tomato jam, because I was looking for that moment when the wooden spoon dragged a clear path in the jam.
How I decided on the number of poblanos to use is still a mystery to me. I used 4, cut in a small dice. It was enough that they are well distributed throughout like little red jewels. 👍
Peach Poblano Jam
- 3.5 lbs peaches (peeled and seeded weight); 16 medium peaches
- 10 oz poblano peppers (seeded weight); 4 peppers
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Blanch peaches for 1-2 minutes and cool in ice water. Peel peaches and remove pits.
- You can chop the peaches by hand to your desired size or pulse them in a food processor or both. I did both, giving me enough tiny pieces to make a thick jam base, with some larger pieces for texture.
- Mix peaches, diced peppers, sugar, salt, and lemon juice in a large stock pot. Some recipes let the mixture sit to draw out the fruit’s juices first, some for as long as overnight. I didn’t wait, and that could have affected my cooking time.
- Bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer that keeps the mixture bubbling without a lid. On my gas burner, it’s the LOW setting.
- Stir occasionally until the mixture stops foaming and begins to thicken. That happened for me after 1 hour. It just clicked over like a switch.
- After the jam begins to thicken stir more often to prevent sticking until you can drag a wooden spoon through it and it leaves a trail in the bottom of the pan. That took another hour. It all depends on how juicy your peaches are. Just keep at it and it will thicken. I set up my thermometer, because I was curious. It hovered at about 175º until the end.
- Spoon into clean jars or containers and refrigerate for 1-2 weeks or freeze. I can’t advise you on canning.
I’ve separated the instructions into three separate recipes.
I’ve been away cooking for other people, but I’m back now and continuing the strudel idea. My last post was a tomato strudel with some of my tomato jam. What I never posted was that I also made some apple jam—maple-apple jam to be specific—pretty much following what I did with the tomato jam, but with different seasonings. If you don’t like apple butter because of the heavy spices, you might like an apple jam made to suit your tastes. It might look like an extra thick applesauce if you don’t blend it fine, but it can definitely be spread on a peanut butter sandwich like any other jam. I left mine a little chunky and used ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon.
I had about 2 cups of pecan streusel in the freezer, from some recipe when I made too much. I figured that if you can put streusel on an apple pie, why not put it in a strudel to flavor the apple filling? The flour, butter, and sugar in a streusel thicken the apple juices as the strudel cooks, and the pecans added just the right flavor and texture to each bite.
FYI I’m not used to the new Apple IOS camera filters, so my colors seem a little off. Change 🙄
- 4 lbs apples, peeled, cored and chopped—mine were Honeycrisp
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste or grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy stockpot.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low to keep the jam at a low boil for 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and a little more often during the last 20 minutes. I found that the apples need more stirring than the tomatoes in my tomato jam.
- When the jam is so thick that your wooden spoon leaves a path when dragged across the pan, turn off the heat and fill your jars. Cool slightly before sealing with lids. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze.
Streusel can be frozen to use later. This recipe is enough for at least two strudels.
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cold butter, diced
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecan halves
- Combine sugars and vanilla, then stir in remaining dry ingredients.
- Cut in butter with your fingers until well distributed. Don’t worry about some larger chunks of butter.
- Stir in chopped pecans.
Although this recipe makes two strudels, I only made one, baking the rest of the apple filling in a baking dish alongside the strudel.
- 2 puff pastry sheets, thawed and rolled to 12″ x 16″
- 1 cup apple jam
- apple filling:
- 5 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut in chunks
- 1 1/2-2 cups pecan streusel
- egg wash: 1 egg whisked with 1/4 cup water
Preparation of one strudel
- Transfer rolled out pastry sheet to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. (Roll the dough around the rolling pin to transfer it.)
- Spread the apple jam down the lengthwise center of the dough, then make about 12 diagonal cuts down each side to create weaving strips.
- Pile half the apple filling on top of the jam down the center of the dough.
- Alternate the pastry strips across the top of the strudel until you reach the end, tucking in the ends as needed.
- Brush the strudel with egg wash.
- Bake at 400º for 35 minutes. You can slide the parchment paper with strudel onto a cooling rack to cool. The strudel can be served warm or cool.
I love a raisin filled cookie, but am not crazy about the process of rolling out and cutting the dough in circles and carefully filling them. I didn’t see why I couldn’t make them as a filled bar, kind of like a date nut bar, but without oatmeal. Instead I wanted a biscuit that was thin, not quite like the soft cookie of a Fig Newton, but thinner and crispier. So, I adapted two recipes:
My instructions, below, vary from the ones in the original recipes.
Filling dry ingredients
Cooked filling spread over dough
Scoring on top dough layer
Raisin Filled Biscuit Bars
Preheat oven to 350°; place parchment paper on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or a cookie sheet.
- 1 2/3 cups raisins
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Optional: 1/3 cup walnuts (next time I would add these)
- 1/2 cup water
- Add raisins, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and walnuts if using to bowl of food processor. Pulse until the raisins are chopped finely, but not into a paste.
- Pour all into a saucepan and stir in water. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until thick. Cool in refrigerator while making cookie dough
Biscuit (Cookie) Dough
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold butter
- 4 tablespoons ice water
- In bowl of food processor pulse all ingredients, except water, with the dough blade until the mixture is crumbly, but you can still see small chunks of butter.
- With the processor running, pour in enough water to bring the dough together. I used all 4 tablespoons of water. You want a soft, pliable, but not sticky dough.
- Divide the dough into two halves. Roll each half into a thin sheet 9″ x 13″.
- Place one sheet of dough on parchment lined pan.
- Spread cooled filling over dough. You don’t need a lot of filling, just a thin layer.
- Cover filling with second sheet of dough.
- Score top layer of dough lightly to indicate where to cut cookies. Sprinkle dough with decorator’s sugar.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crisp. While in pan, use a sharp-edged spatula to cut straight down from scoring marks to cut into bars. Remove bars to cooling rack.
I didn’t add nuts this time, but I think I would next time for a more complex flavor, and I don’t see why you couldn’t use white sugar or some other sweetener in the filling. You could also put an egg wash over the top layer of dough before sprinkling on sugar if you’re looking for more glamour.