Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Apple Pie

There are some words in the English language that I just love the sound of. Serendipity is one such word. I simply love the way the syllables roll off the tongue when saying 'serendipity'.


It is also the one word that I will always associate with my daughter's paediatrician. A phenomenal doctor, she has often gone beyond the call of duty in attending to my daughter. And to think, I met her when I had gone to buy some toys for the little one! A serendipitous meeting but one that I will forever look back on with fondness and gratitude.


She is a constant source of inspiration with her boundless energy and insatiable appetite to learn new things. Cooking is just one of her many passions and this apple pie recipe is adapted from the one she shared with me.






It is quite different from the normal apple pie recipes where the apples slices are simply tossed in sugar and spices and then baked. In this particular recipe the apples slices are coated in a sauce and then baked in the crust.


Yes, it takes longer than the traditional recipes but the resulting pie is totally worth the effort!






Ingredients

for the crust:
All purpose flour: 2 cups
Unsalted butter: 2/3 cups + 2 tbsps/ 175 gms (original uses shortening)
Ice cold water: 4-6 tbsps
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Sugar: 2 tbsps


Method:



Cut the cold butter into cubes and chill again for about 15-20 mins. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and the salt. Add in the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips till you get a grainy and crumbly mixture, with pea sized pices of butter.

Add in the water, a tablespoon at a time, till the mixture comes together and forms a dough.

I planned to make 2 five inch pies, and so I divided the dough into 4 equal balls, wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for a couple of hours.

(The dough is otherwise sufficient for a single 9" pie)


for the filling:

Apples: 6 ( I used Granny Smith)
Brown Sugar: 1/2 cup
Rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
Cinnamon powder: 1 tsp
Allspice/Nutmeg powder: 1/2 tsp
Orange juice: 1/2 cup
Juice of 1 lemon
Cornstarch: 1 tbsp
Butter: 1 tsp
Pecan nuts/walnuts: 1/3 cup

Method:

Peel and core the apples and cut them into thick slices.

Toss the slices in the sugar, the orange and lemon rinds, cinnamon and nutmeg powders and the lime juice and let them macerate for half an hour.


Then cook the apple slices till they just become limp. Once cooled, add the orange juice and the rum, if using, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.


After the refrigeration time has elapsed, transfer the mixture into a strainer placed over a larger vessel in order to separate the juice from the apple slices. Allow to strain for about 15-20 mins.


Place the strained juice in a small saucepan and let simmer till syrup. Add the butter, stir and then add in the cornstarch stirring continuously till the juice thickens. Mix the apple slices and the chopped nuts into the sauce and allow to cool.



Assembling the pie:


Take one ball of the dough and on a lightly floured surface, roll it to a 7 inch circle, about 1/8" thick. Gently transfer it to a greased pie pan. Press firmly on the bottom and the sides of the pan, trimming off the excess with a pastry knife. Cover with a cling wrap and refrigerate.


To make a lattice patterned top, first cut out a parchment paper circle the size of your pie pan.


Roll out the dough and cut it into strips as such:


Transfer two strips vertically and horizontally on the parchment circle as such:


Place the next strip vertically and going over the horizontal strip as such:



Then put the next strip horizontally, tucking it under the first vertical strip and over the next vertical strip as such:




Continue placing the strips in a similar manner, going alternately under and over the other strips. The distance between the strips is entirely a matter of personal choice. I love to eat pie crust and hence I chose to have a tightly knit top:



Cover with another parchment circle and chill. Repeat for the second pie pan.

Pre heat the oven to 200 deg C.

Then put the filling into the pie pans. To seal the pie, simply invert the lattice patterned top over the filling and peel off the parchment paper. Seal the strips over the rim of the pie pan, brush the top with some melted butter and sprinkle some caster sugar.



Bake for about 30 - 35 mins or until the top is lightly browned and the juices start bubbling over.
Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool for a couple of hours before cutting it.





Serve with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream; personally, I love to have just as it is without anything else coming in the way of the heavenly cinnamon and orange flavoured apple slices encrusted in a shortbread like flaky crust!


Rushing this pie off to Meeta's Monthly Mingle that Deeba is hosting this month.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Baklava

Special occasions call for really special treats, don't they?

And this is a special occasion that warrants a really special treat. After all, this is the time of festival of lights Diwali, my favourite festival. But more importantly, this is my 150th post and in a neat coincidence, it is also the month my blog turns 2!


And as far as special treats go, there can be nothing more exotic or exquisite than baklava.









Believed to be of Turkish origin, baklava is an extremely popular sweet in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. Layers of phyllo pastry stuffed with nuts and sweetened with some sugar syrup, baklava is one of my favourite sweets and was something that I had been craving for a long time now.


The recipes sounded easy enough but one thing held me back - the fear of working with phyllo dough.


As it turned out, my fears were completely misplaced. Phyllo dough is not quite the villain I had thought it was. In fact, I found it surprisingly easy to work with, making me wonder why I had been putting off making baklava for so long!


Don't let the long recipe put you off - making baklava is very, very easy. All that it needs is some pre-preparation and a single minded devotion to the task at hand.








Ingredients:


Phyllo dough: 24 sheets
Assorted nuts: 1.5 cups (I used pistachios, pecan nuts, hazelnuts and almonds)
Sugar: 1/4 cup
Cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon powder: 1/2 tsp
Melted ghee (or butter): 1/3 cup


for the syrup:


Sugar: 3/4 cup
Honey: 1/4 cup
Water: 1 cup
Cinnamon stick: 2"long
Cardamom pods: 10 nos, slightly bruised
Lemon juice: 1.5 tbsp
Rose water: 2.5 tbsps



Method:


The one essential thing while making the baklava is to have all your pre-preparation completed in all respects before starting the assembly.


So, first thaw the phyllo dough as per the package instructions. Hastily and inadequately thawed sheets tend to stick to each other and tear. Once thawed, cover the sheets with a moist cheesecloth till you are ready to proceed with the assembly.


Next up, make the sugar syrup. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients required for making the syrup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a further 10 - 15 mins or until thick and well....syrupy. Cool completely.


While the sugar syrup simmers, process the nuts in the mixie to get a coarse powder. (If using a mix of nuts, process them separately). Toss the nuts with sugar, the cinnamon and cardamom powders. Set aside.

Melt the ghee/butter.

Brush the sides and bottom of your baking dish with the melted ghee.


Finally, cut the thawed phyllo sheets to fit your baking tray. With a sharp knife, you can cut all sheets in one go. I cut my sheets to fit a 8"x10" pan.

Now you are ready to assemble the baklava:


Place a sheet of the phyllo dough into the baking dish and brush it with some melted ghee. Repeat 7 times, making sure you brush the top of each sheet with melted ghee before placing
another sheet on top.

Spread 1/2 cup of the nut mixture on top.


Then place 4 sheets of phyllo dough on top of the nut mixture, brushing each sheet with the melted ghee.
Again spread 1/2 cup of the nut mixture.
Repeat with 4 sheets of phyllo dough and 1/2 cup of nuts once again.


Finally, place 8 sheets of phyllo dough on top of the nuts.


So, once assembled, the baklava will have:


8 sheets of phyllo at the bottom
1/2 cup of nuts
4 sheets of phyllo
1/2 cup of nuts
4 sheets of phyllo
1/2 cup of nuts
8 sheets of phyllo


Cut into squares or diamonds, making sure that you cut all the way through to the last sheet of the phyllo dough.


Bake at 180 degC or 350 degF for about 30 - 35 mins or until the top is evenly browned and crisp.


Pour the cooled sugar syrup over the baklava as soon as you take it out of the oven. Allow the baklava to soak the syrup for a minimum of 6-8 hours and preferably overnight; in fact it tastes the best when left undisturbed for 24 hours - that is if it lasts that long.




Utterly decadent, baklava is a sinful treat that is absolutely irrestible. Take it from someone who is very careful about what she eats, the baklava is so very addictive that you will find it difficult to stop at just one. This recipe yielded 20 pieces but at the rate at which they were disappearing, I actually had to hide a couple of pieces for taking pictures - the rest were gone that very day!


So go ahead and indulge!




It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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