Tag Archives: apples

Happy Birthday to Me Apple Pie

Yes, it’s my birthday and I felt like having a little apple pie, with the emphasis on little. I have an 8″ Fire King Sapphire Blue Philbe pie dish that was my mother’s and I seldom use it, but it seemed like a good idea to start making smaller pies for us. It appears that some people collect this pattern, but I’d rather use it than let it sit. I took a number of photos with the plate tilted so you could see the blue tint that shows up on the edges and in the design—it’s subtle, but I think you can see the blue:

This is one of those milestone birthdays—65—meaning that I have signed up for Medicare (just Part A for now) and I am eligible for the Pennsylvania lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. I’ll put off applying for Social Security for another year, because I have a tiny pension from the last job I held, but I hear it might cut into the SS, because we wouldn’t want the retired to make too much income (that was sarcastic).

I’ve never been embarrassed about stating my age, mostly because I am waiting to see if I ever actually feel as old as the number indicates I should. I never do and I feel sorry for people who think they do feel a certain age. I think the only way I might feel it is in the ability to see how much history I’ve lived through; it’s quite satisfying to be able to say, for example, that I remember some classic television from the 50s, the social and political upheavals of the 60s, including the several assassinations, and so much more, like the Berlin wall coming down, or the moon landing. It’s very cool to be able to look back at history, and if you think old people live in the past, I say it’s something else, more like the past lives in them. This is me at 65, using the grainy Noir filter on my iPhone—grainy is good at this age:

So, back to that apple pie. I’m using my old standby pie crust that uses solid shortening, mainly because my oven has hot spots and butter crusts burn a little, but we like the taste and texture of that traditional crust very much. As for the apples, I’ve been reading a number of articles about good baking apples, and I ended up getting Braeburn after staring at the Crispin and Golden Delicious for a long time. Golden Delicious are available for such a short time, that I was leaning in that direction, but went with Braeburn because I haven’t baked with them before. Because this pie is small, I’m going to pre-cook the filling, which I never do, but I’m concerned about the crust being done before the filling in such a small dish. I’m also going to add a little thickener to the filling—another thing I never do—just to be certain it all comes together.

8 inch Apple Pie

  • Servings: 6-8 small slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pie Crust with Crisco®

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons hydrogenated shortening

1/4 cup water

  1. Stir flour and salt to distribute
  2. Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender. I find the shortening cuts in better with a fork, unlike cold butter.
  3. Add the water all at once and stir in with a fork until the dough comes together. If the dough seems too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until it is moist enough to hold together and feel pliable.
  4. Roll dough about 1-2 inches larger than top rim of pan on a floured surface. My preference for rolling is a wooden pin with a rolling pin sock. With flour rubbed in to the sock, it never sticks to the dough.
  5. Roll the dough onto the pin, brushing off excess flour on the back. Unroll into pan and use your favorite crimping method. My pattern follows the curve on the top of my thumb from the nail to the knuckle.

Cooked Apple Filling

3.5 lbs Braeburn apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup tapioca starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Melt butter over low heat in large saucepan or dutch oven. A high-sided pan will be needed for such a large amount of apples.
  2. Stir in sugar and spices and vanilla.
  3. Stir in apples to coat, then cover and cook for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Uncover and stir in tapioca starch mixture, continuing to cook and stir until thickened.
  5. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

The amount of starch you need is going to depend on the amount of liquid produced by the apples. Short of actually pouring it off to measure before thickening, you need to judge the number of cups of liquid created. Don’t worry if you get more liquid than you need—just thicken it all, but don’t put it all in the pie. I had 2 cups of filling left over and am thinking of putting them on pancakes.

Putting Together and Baking the Pie

I’m sure you know how to put together a 2 crust pie, but here goes, anyway:

  • I like to fold the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust to make a thick edge before crimping. As you can see in the finished photos, the crimped edges didn’t keep their tight shape, and that often happens for me with that fat edge, but we still like it—we eat the crust edge first, kind of like a pastry of its own.
  • I make slits in the top crust with a sharp knife edge, rather than cutting out shapes, but that would be okay, too.
  • The precooked filling bubbled over more than I thought it would, but I kind of like the look of it running all over the crust. Hint: put a sheet of foil below the pie on a lower shelf to catch drips.
  • I was surprised that the filling cooked down further and left that familiar gap between the crust and filling. It’s more of a cosmetic issue than an eating issue, but it tells me a lot about that filling. Even with uncooked fillings, sometimes there’s a gap and sometimes not. Maybe one day, I will make a room full of pies to test that feature (unlikely).
  • I baked this pie at 425° for 45 minutes.

I’m very happy with the taste and texture of the Braeburns. I’d like to try them in an uncooked filling to see how they come out, but maybe that’s for another birthday.

Apple-Walnut Gingerbread Cobbler

I know it won’t last, but I’m wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt today, and declaring it fall. I’m combining two fall flavors that I love in this dessert—apples and gingerbread—but not going in the typical direction of muffins or nut bread. Why not put them together in a cobbler, where both the apples and the gingerbread shine on their own, but work even better together?

I’m using Annie Somerville’s “Gingerbread” from her Fields of Greens (1993) cookbook, with two changes. I’m using agave syrup instead of corn syrup and sour cream instead of buttermilk. I like this recipe because the focus is on the fresh ginger. There is only a small 1/4 cup of molasses, a little brown sugar, but no other spices. No cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg. Just lots of grated ginger—1/2 cup! With all that ginger and only a little molasses, the batter is much lighter in color than a traditional gingerbread. I did add a half teaspoon of cinnamon to the apple mixture, but that was a small amount for five apples.

Apple-Walnut Gingerbread Cobbler

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 9 inch square or round baking dish with at least a 2 inch depth.

Apple Filling

5 medium-large apples, pared and cut in chunks or slices

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup white sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Optional: 1 tablespoon flour, if your apples are very juicy


Adapted from Annie Somerville’s “Gingerbread,” Fields of Greens (1993).

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup agave syrup

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup grated fresh ginger

  1. Pare and chop apples. Keep apples in bowl of acidulated water while making batter. Roughly chop walnuts and set aside with the rest of the filling ingredients.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Beat egg, molasses, and agave syrup. Add to creamed butter and brown sugar, beating well.
  4. Beat in sour cream.
  5. Mix dry ingredients and slowly mix into batter.
  6. Lastly, mix in the 1/2 cup of grated ginger.
  7. Strain apples, then mix with melted butter, nuts, cinnamon, salt, and sugar (and flour, if using).
  8. Pour apple mixture into prepared dish.
  9. Pour batter over apples, lightly spreading almost to edges of dish. It will spread out more as it bakes, and will be less likely to burn on the edges if you don’t spread it all the way.
  10. Bake until the gingerbread is browned and cracked and the apples are bubbling around the edges. That took about 45 minutes in my oven. Unlike baking gingerbread in a baking pan where it touches the pan all around, the bottom of the gingerbread cooks with the apples, so it takes a little longer.

Do try some warm with whipped cream.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

Happy Winter Solstice! I made something homey and satisfying for the shortest day of the year.

Pretty easy to make, pork tenderloins lend themselves to a variety of dishes. I particularly like slicing them for a stir fry, but I like eating thick slices from the whole tenderloin best. I just don’t care for the splattering oil during the browning process. It gets on everything—my glasses, shirts, hands and arms, the stove and floor, and I think it travels in the air to places I’m not thinking of. Aprons don’t help my sleeves, but they do prevent those annoying stains on the front of a black or navy t-shirt that you don’t see until it comes out of the dryer, all set in. I spend a lot of time fighting those stains before the shirt becomes a new fishing t-shirt. I guess I should be embroidering over the stains. Anyway, back to the recipe.

I’m marinating the whole tenderloins for a few hours in a simple marinade of garlic, garam masala, and olive oil. Garam masala, with its cinnamon, is a nice compliment to both the pork and the apples I’ll be sautéing with it. For a side dish, I’m baking sweet potatoes and then mashing them. There is no added sugar in any of these dishes, as we tend to appreciate the natural sweetness of things like apples and sweet potatoes, without adding to them.

Here’s a quick video on how to trim a pork tenderloin:

The following recipe is for one tenderloin, even though I clearly made two in my photo.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and connective tissue

2 cloves grated garlic

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon for browning meat

3-4 medium apples, peeled and cored, cut in slices, rings, or small chunks (I like chunks, but my husband says they look too much like potatoes that way)

2 tablespoons butter

  • Marinate tenderloin in mixture of garlic, garam masala, and 1/4 cup olive oil in a plastic bag or shallow dish in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to a few hours. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat oven to 400°-425°

  • In large sauté pan, preferably one you can also put in the oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. Season marinated pork tenderloin with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Place pan in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until meat reaches an internal temperature of 145°-150°. Take pan from oven and remove tenderloin to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes while you sauté the apples.
  • Place pan in which you cooked the meat over medium high heat and add the butter and apples. I kept my apples in a bowl of acidulated water, so they carried over enough moisture after draining to deglaze the pan. Sauté until any moisture evaporates and apples are tender and a little browned. The apples pick up the flavorings from the cooked meat, but you could add a little more garam masala, if desired.
  • Slice the tenderloin in 1-1 1/2 inch slices. The meat should be a little pink. Serve with the apples.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Apples and Sausage

Gratins are classically defined as some ingredient, usually a vegetable, baked with a topping of cheese or breadcrumbs that browns during the baking process. Most gratins also include something that binds it all together, like cream or sour cream or milk, even a white sauce or eggs. The gratin sauce, though, is not so heavy that it overpowers the main ingredient. I like to just use cheese and cream. I would say, also, that most gratins are simple, using only a few ingredients, and mine is a little more complicated because I’m bringing in the apples and sausage, but I’m still basing it on the principle of a gratin.

Here’s a terrible one-handed video of me trying to film and work at the same time, adding the cream and cheese:

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Apples and Sausage

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°; butter a shallow 1 1/2-2 quart baking dish.

I used a small squash of probably less than 2 pounds (about 3 cups of cooked squash), so a larger one would yield more servings.

1 spaghetti squash, 3-5 cups of cooked squash

1 medium onion, diced

1/2-1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (mine was an uncured, but fully cooked beef sausage)

1 large apple, diced (forgot to mention I peeled mine, but it’s not necessary)

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1-2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper to taste

1/2-1 cup heavy cream, heated in microwave for about 1 minute

1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Roasting the Squash

There seems to be a consensus on the web about cooking a spaghetti squash whole and then opening it and removing the seeds, but that yields more of a steamed interior. I like to roast a spaghetti squash as I would an acorn squash. The roasted flavor is much better than the steamed result. This step can be done in advance and assembled on another day.

  1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Cutting a winter squash in half is never easy, so be careful and use a good knife. Take your time, rocking the knife through a little at a time.
  2. Scoop out the seeds.
  3. Place the halves, cut side down in a baking dish, with about a half inch of hot water.
  4. Roast at 350° for 30 minutes. Turn the halves over and brush the flesh with butter. Roast for another 30 minutes. The water will evaporate and look burnt in the dish, but it comes right off with some soaking.
  5. Pull the flesh out into strands with a fork. Set aside.

Preparing the Gratin

You can prepare the other ingredients while the squash is roasting. This is a dish in which all the main ingredients are partially cooked before assembly. I like to cook the onion, sausage, and apple in layers, instead of all together.

  1. In a medium to large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat.
  2. Sauté the onions until they begin to brown. Remove carefully, trying not to remove all the fat in the pan.
  3. Add the sliced sausage and cook until browned. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add the diced apples to the pan, which will have a lot of browned bits on the bottom. Cook for a few minutes and then add about 2 tablespoons of water to de-glaze the pan.
  5. In your baking dish, add the spaghetti squash, parsley, onions, sausage, and apples, tossing all to combine without breaking the squash strands.
  6. Pour over enough cream to moisten. I ended up using about 3/4 cup of the cream. Sprinkle grated cheese over top.
  7. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.

Note: I only seasoned the onions during the prep with salt and pepper. Parmesan is a salty cheese and that was plenty for me.