Revised apple pie

Three years ago I posted a recipe for apple pie on this blog, which I claimed to have proven with science. I hereby disavow it. It used vodka, and I’ve decided a little distilled white vinegar is as effective. I’ve also decided that using a food processor isn’t worth the trouble of cleaning it. And I’ve switched from corn starch to arrowroot, and from all-purpose flour to pastry flour. This version is better!

Ingredients:

dozen ice cubes
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
½ cup water

2 cups pastry flour
½ cup cake flour
2 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter

½ cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. ground arrowroot
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice

2 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. vanilla
7 cups sliced Cortland and McIntosh apples (7–11 apples)

1 egg white
1 tsp. water
pinch of salt

demerara sugar

Equipment:

bench scraper
smooth surface
sandwich baggies
ceramic pie-baking dish
rolling pin

Instructions

Two days ahead of time:
Make fresh ice cubes.

One day ahead of time:
In a large mug or tumbler, combine ice cubes, vinegar, and water. Let stand.

On a smooth, clean surface—a clean countertop, or a large cutting board—pile in a mound the pastry flour, cake flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Chop and blend with the bench scraper until the largest visible pieces of butter are pea-sized.

Holding a knife across the lip of the mug, to catch the ice cubes, pour out exactly 2/3 cup of the vinegary meltwater. Pour a little of this meltwater into a furrow in the flour mixture. Immediately, with the bench scraper, blend water and flour together. Repeat until all the 2/3 cup of meltwater is well blended in. The flour mixture should be damp and a little scraggly, but not gooey. With your hands, clump it together into a ball. Push the ball flat with the heel of your hand, fold it over. Push it flat again; fold it again. Slice it in two with the bench scraper. Shape each half into a stubby disk, roughly the size and shape of a hockey puck. Slide each puck into a plastic sandwich baggie, seal the baggie, and refrigerate overnight (or for at least three hours).

The day itself:
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Lightly flour a rolling pin, a smooth surface, and both sides of one of the dough hockey pucks. With a closed fist, smush the hockey puck with the back of your knuckles, pressing gently and repeatedly, moving in a circle, in order to start the process of flattening it. Flip the puck over, and smush down repeatedly in a circle on the other side. Now roll the dough the rest of the way out with the rolling pin, lightly and repeatedly flouring it on both sides as you work in order to prevent it from sticking. Once it’s wide enough, place the flat sheet of dough in a ceramic pie-baking dish, letting it droop over the edges. Roll out the second hockey puck the same way, placing it flat on a large plate. Refrigerate both.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, ground arrowroot, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Sift together with a fork.

Into a large mixing bowl, squeeze the juice of half a lemon (about 2 tbsp.). Add vanilla. Peel, core, and finely slice the apples, and as you measure them out, add them to the lemon juice in the bowl. Stir.

Take the chilled dough that’s in a pie plate out of the refrigerator. Gently press the dough down into the baking dish, to make sure it’s touching the ceramic. Fill a teacup with water and place it nearby. Bit by bit, fold the excess circumference of the pie shell inward, so that the edge of the new fold lies along the outer edge of the pie plate’s rim. Use your thumb, moistened with the water in the teacup, to smooth together the two layers of dough.

Once the pie shell looks right, mix the dry sugar and spices into the large bowl of lemon juice and apples. Stir until all the apple surfaces are coated, and then pour the mixture into the pie shell, along with juices. With your hands, shape the apples into a slight dome within the pie shell.

Slice the dough that’s lying flat on a dinner plate into eight parallel strips. Lay the first strip over the apple-dome vertically, just to the east of the north-south-running Greenwich meridian. Lay the second strip horizontally, just below the west-east-running Equator. Lay the third strip vertically, just to the west of the Greenwich meridian. Lift up the top of the first strip, gently folding it back toward you. Lay the fourth strip horizontally, just to the north of the Equator, so that it runs over the third strip but under the part of the first strip that you have lifted up. Then let the top of the first strip fall back into place. Continue laying strips, lifting and lowering the ends of other strips as necessary, aiming for a total of four vertical and four horizontal strips, interwoven. Fold the ends of the strips downward, tucking them under the lower pie shell and inside the pie-baking dish.

Whisk an egg white, a tsp. of water, and a pinch of salt in a mug, and brush onto the lattice and the perimeter of pie dough. Sprinkle demerara sugar along the lattice and perimeter as well.

Bake on a lower rack of the oven for 25 minutes, with a baking sheet on a rack beneath to catch spillover. Then lower the oven temperature to 375ºF, shift the pie to the oven’s middle rack, and bake for another 30 minutes. Let the pie sit on a trivet or cooling rack for at least three hours, until the juices from the apples are re-absorbed.

Eggplant parmesan

eggplant-parm-9-18

Yield

8–10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 4 lbs. tomato
  • 4 lbs. eggplant
  • basil, 12 leaves
  • 1 ½ cups grated parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  2. Peel and slice the onion. Fry in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepot until soft.
  3. Wash, de-stem, and roughly chop the tomatoes. Dice finely in a food processor. Add to the onions, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, stirring intermittently, for at least an hour.
  4. Wash the eggplants. Slice into coins ¾ inch thick. Lay out on two cookie sheets; salt lightly; brush with a mix of the olive and peanut oil. Flip, and salt and oil the other side of the coins. Roast for 9 minutes. Swap between upper and lower shelves of the oven, rotate, and roast 9 minutes more. Flip over the eggplant slices, swap shelves again, and roast 10 minutes more.
  5. Wash and slice basil. Add the basil and 1 tsp salt to the tomato sauce halfway through its cooking.
  6. Grate 1 ½ cups of parmesan.
  7. Put a small amount of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9″ x 9″ (or 8″ x 10″) casserole dish. Add a layer of fried eggplant slices, a layer of tomato sauce, and a layer of parmesan. Repeat for a total of 3 layers.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Adapted from Mark Bittman. For a 1-page PDF version, click here.

Scienced apple pie

apple pie

NOTE: This recipe has been superseded.

I went a little crazy with apple pies this month, varying the procedure a little each time, and here’s the recipe I’ve ended up with. To keep the crust flaky, I borrowed one trick of Julia Child’s (use a little cake flour instead of only all-purpose flour) and one trick of Kenji López-Alt’s (use vodka instead of water). In the end I voted against sweating the apples before cooking them, because you seem to lose some of the flavor that way.

Ingredients:

a dozen ice cubes
½ cup chilled vodka

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt

½ lemon
7 cups sliced Cortland and McIntosh apples (7–11 apples)
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. salt
1½ tbsp. corn starch
¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg white
1 tsp. water
pinch of salt

demerara sugar

Equipment: large food processor, sandwich baggies, ceramic pie-baking dish, smooth cutting board, rolling pin

Instructions:

Two days ahead of time:
Make fresh ice cubes.

One day ahead of time:
In a large mug or tumbler, combine ice cubes and vodka. Let stand at room temperature, so that the ice melts a little.

Into a large food processor, pour the all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, unsalted butter (roughly chopped up), and salt. Pulse for about 30–60 seconds, until evenly mixed and sandy-looking.

Add about 2/3 cup of the vodka and meltwater, straining out any ice cubes. Pulse again, for another 30–60 seconds, until not-quite-as-evenly mixed and pebbly-looking.

Pour the debris onto a smooth cutting board, and shape into two balls of equal size. Quickly and briefly squish each ball at a few different angles to make sure that the dough in it is well stuck together. Then shape each ball into a stubby disk—roughly the size and shape of a hockey puck. Slide each puck into a plastic sandwich baggie, seal the baggie, and refrigerate overnight (or for at least three hours).

The day itself:
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Lightly flour a rolling pin and smooth cutting board. Roll out one hockey puck, lightly (and repeatedly) flouring it on both sides as you work in order to prevent it from sticking. Start very gently. Vary the compass point of your rolling pin as you go, and flip the dough occasionally. When the sheet of dough is wide enough to cover a ceramic pie-baking dish, place it in one, letting it droop over the edges, and refrigerate it. After rolling the second puck, too, into a sheet of dough, place it on a large, flat dinner plate, and refrigerate it as well.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a large mixing bowl. Peel, core, and finely slice the apples. As you measure out each cup’s worth of sliced apples, toss them into the mixing bowl to coat them in the lemon juice. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, corn starch, and brown sugar. Stir until all the apple surfaces are coated.

Gently press down the dough in the pie-baking dish, to make sure it’s touching the ceramic. Pour in the apple mixture, including any juices. Use your hands to shape the apple mixture into a dome that fills the pie cavity. Slice eight parallel strips out of the sheet of dough that’s lying on the dinner plate. Lay the first strip over the apple-dome vertically, just to the east of the north-south-running Greenwich meridian. Lay the second strip horizontally, just below the west-east-running Equator. Lay the third strip vertically, just to the west of the Greenwich meridian. Lift up the top of the first strip, gently folding it back toward you. Lay the fourth strip horizontally, just to the north of the Equator, so that it runs over the third strip but under the part of the first strip that you have lifted up. Then let the top of the first strip fall back into place. Continue laying strips, lifting and lowering the ends of other strips as necessary, aiming for a total of four vertical and four horizontal strips, interwoven. Fold the ends of the strips, as well as any excess circumference of the lower pie shell, downward, tucking the margin under the lower pie shell and inside the pie-baking dish.

Whisk an egg white, a tsp. of water, and a pinch of salt in a mug or small bowl, and brush onto the lattice and the perimeter of pie dough. Sprinkle demerara sugar along the lattice and perimeter as well.

Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 375ºF, shift the pie to the oven’s middle rack, and bake for another 30 minutes. Let the pie sit on a trivet or cooling rack for at least three hours, until the juices from the apples are re-absorbed.

Butternut squash, broccoli rabe, and farro salad

Butternut squash, broccoli rabe, and farro salad

Yield

4–5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • 3/4 cup farro
  • 1 lemon
  • honey
  • 1 bunch broccoli rate
  • ricotta
  • basil
  • salt
  • pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel a butternut squash, cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, and slice into bite-size pieces. Mince garlic in 1/2 tsp salt. Toss the squash and garlic in a few glugs of olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 50 minutes, flipping the pieces with a spatula twice, so that they’ll brown evenly.
  3. In a saucepan, fry 3/4 cup farro in 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup water and 1/4 tsp salt, and simmer, uncovered, for 17 minutes. Drain.
  4. For a dressing, stir vigorously 1 tsp lemon zest, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp honey, 6 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper.
  5. Rinse and cut up a few leaves of basil.
  6. Rinse, trim, and dry broccoli rabe. Toss with a little salt and olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet, and broil on high for 2 minutes. Flip with a spatula and broil for another 2 minutes. When it’s cool enough, slice into bite-size pieces.
  7. In a large bowl, combine the drained farro, the butternut squash, and the broccoli rabe. Shake the dressing again and pour in half of it. Stir the salad and taste it, and add more dressing if desired. Serve in small bowls, adding to each bowl a spoonful or so of ricotta and a few leaves of basil.

(For a one-page PDF version, click here.)

Lentils with gingery spinach

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

Lentils with gingery spinach

Yield

Serves 2-3 people

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-to-large onion
  • olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger
  • 20 oz (2 bunches) fresh spinach
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • plain yogurt

Preparation

  1. Peel, halve, and slice the onion. In an omelette pan, sauté the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns reddish-brown (about 30 minutes).
  2. Peel and chop the garlic. Inspect the lentils, removing any stones, and rinse and drain them. In a small saucepan, sauté the garlic in 1 tbsp of olive oil for 30 seconds, and then add the lentils and 2.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and set a timer for a 30-minute simmer, partially covering the pot.
  3. Peel and chop the ginger. Rinse the spinach, discarding the stems. Spin the leaves in a salad spinner. If you feel any grit at the bottom of the spinner, rinse the spinach again.
  4. When the onions are brown, spoon them onto a folded paper towel.
  5. When there are 5 minutes left on the timer for the lentils, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté the ginger for 30 seconds, while stirring. Add the spinach and 0.5 tsp salt. Continue stirring until the spinach has wilted (4 to 5 minutes).
  6. When the lentils are done, add about 1 tsp salt, and black pepper to taste.
  7. Place in individual serving bowls: a ladle of lentils, a forkful of spinach, a dollop of yogurt, and a forkful of caramelized onions.

(For a one-page PDF version, click here.)