Entries from March 20th, 2010

Apple Pie with a Lemon Zested Crust



Today is my roommate Jonathan’s birthday. He has expressed an interest in apple pie before… one of his favorites. But with my recent running schedule and a couple of UCLA friends visiting me in Washington this weekend, I wasn’t quite sure how plausible an entire apple pie would have been on my agenda. So last night, I broke the bad news — I didn’t know if I would be able to make a pie this weekend.

But this morning, I woke up and decided against the run I planned with my visitors. Well, one visitor never came home last night, and the other was a marine, so I knew I’d get left in the dust (he runs 3 miles in 18 minutes on a daily basis… FML). Aside from that, I spent last night doing interval training at a high school track 1.5 miles from my house. Needless to say, after 15 miles in four days, my calves are not cooperating. I needed a day of rest. So I sent my marine friend out with the non-birthday roommate and the honorary roommate. While they were gone, I set out to bake this pie.

As I was slaving away in the kitchen, the birthday boy walked into my mess. “What’s going on in here?” he asked.

I smiled and said very inconspicuously, “Oh, nothing,” only to have him throw his hands up in the air and run off to fetch some celebration clothes. They’ll be covered in drunk apple pie tonight, I promise :)







for the crust:


1 and 1/2 sticks cold butter, diced

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

zest of 1 to 2 lemons

1/3 cup cold water

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water


for the filling:

About 2 pounds baking apples (I used Braeburns)

Juice of one or two lemons (for soaking; use to prevent the apples from turning brown)

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream


1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves



First, peel and slice the apples (eliminating all cores and stems).  I sliced them very thin, but Martha’s recipe calls for 1-inch slices.  I like them thin and delicate, so you can cover more surface area with the cinnamon spice mixture.  As you peel and slice, toss the apples in a bowl with a water and lemon juice solution to keep the apples from browning.  Then, in a large bowl, combine the apples with sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, ginger, cloves, and cream.  Mix thoroughly, then set aside.

Now, the crust:  Dice the butter into quarter-inch cubes, and place on a small plate in the freezer to chill further.  In the meantime, combine the lemon zest in a small bowl with the sugar, and use your fingers to mix — squeeze the zest into the sugars!  It really brings out the lemon flavor in the sugar.  Then, add this mixture to the rest of the dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly.  Combine the butter cubes and water with the dry ingredients to create the dough.  Once it started to form, I rubbed the crumbles of dough between my hands and fingers to make sure all the butter dices had blended in.  Then, I formed the dough into two spheres of relatively equal size.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Powder your clean counter with flour and roll out the dough into a circle about 1/4 inch in thickness (or a little thinner).  Carefully transfer the crust into your pie dish — if it cracks, simply press it together again with your fingertips.  Then, fill the lined dish with the apple filling, and roll out the second crust.  If you roll out a flat crust, place it over the filling, and trim the excess crust with a knife (confession: I just broke it off with my hands).  I made a lattice-crust, which is much easier than you’d think.  If you want to attempt it, just roll out the dough, and use a paring knife to slice enough strips to weave the crust one strip at a time.  Seal the crust by pressing your fingertips along the edge of the pie dish, and slice steam holes in the top if you opted for the simple pie crust.  Then, mix one egg with a tablespoon of water, and brush over the pastry crust — this will give the pie its nice color.

Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour, until the crust is golden and the apple filling is bubbling.  Then, let cool for about four hours: the pie continues to cook after you remove it from the oven, so the cooling period is very important.  Don’t leave it outside though; the birds will attack.  And birds suck.


Sun Dried Tomato Pastry Puffs



After running three miles, eating something this unhealthy is okay, right?  Right.  Next week marks my six-month anniversary of leaving California and moving to Washington.  I know — six months!  It feels like the time flew by, but at the same time, I remember that after living here for one month, I felt as if I had lived here my entire life.  Time traveling is a funny thing.
Anyway, in my six months as a district resident, I’ve learned a few things:
1.  There are no Philly cheese steak joints open in Georgetown after 3 AM.
2.  Telling a woman in the metro “Dayum, sweet thang, I’ma kidnap you” will not get you a date.
3.  DCist Real World summaries are on-point and much more entertaining than the actual show.
4.  Consult a map before embarking on a Rock Creek Park run.
5.  Never, ever, shop at Trader Joe’s on a Sunday.
DC residents, please take note of all of the above: I have witnessed and/or experienced situations leading to each rule.  The outcomes are never pretty.  The final rule, however, is the most vital to those of you who have issues of personal space, frustration, or passionate hatred for minute underground parking lots.  There is only one Trader Joe’s in Washington; why only one, is beyond my comprehension. Aside from the heinous check out line that wraps around the entire store on Sunday afternoon, the shelves are usually looted, and its normal Sunday crowd is so dense that my roommate generally knocks items and shelves onto the floor.  It’s not a pretty sight.  But it doesn’t stop anyone from going there.
So naturally, after a few Sundays of absolute hell, I learned to coerce Kristen into grocery shopping on a weekday night, close to the store’s closing time, while employees are restocking the shelves.  And, when it’s available (because it is usually wiped off the shelves) I grab 3 to 4 jars of sun-dried tomatoes.  Because you really can’t have enough SDTs in your cupboard.

Recipe derived from Dorie Greenspan
for the pastry:
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cottage cheese
1 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried basil
for the filling:
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, in olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (walnuts would work as well)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 tablespoons basil and oregano
1/2  cup grated cheese of choice (I used a cheddar blend)
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms, minced (I didn’t have these, but they would be amazing with this recipe)
First, in a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, salt, cheeses, and sugar.  Beat with an electric mixer until completely creamy, then gradually add in the flour and basil flakes.  When the dough is evenly mixed, form into a ball, and chill in your refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Then, mince the garlic, and heat in a pan over medium heat with the mushrooms for 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor, and add the pine nuts, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and basil.  Grind until mixed.  Add cream cheese, and fold the mixture.
When the dough is chilled, roll out on waxed paper, no thicker than 1/8 inch.  use a cookie cutter or paring knife to cut out square shapes of dough, in sizes of your choice.  If the dough feels too sticky, dust with flour and/or chill for a few more minutes.  Place the pastry filling off-center in each square, then fold over and press the edges with a fork to seal.  I used 3 to 4 inch squares, and about a teaspoon of filling for each.  Bake on parchment paper at 400 degrees for about 10 to 13 minutes each, until the surfaces are golden brown.

US Botanic Garden Photos



Honestly, who doesn’t love orchids?  Yesterday, I traded my daily lunch break run around the national mall for a trip to the National Botanic Garden, just on the other side of the capitol building from my office.  Reason being, I had never been there, and my new Nikon D80 arrived at my front door the previous evening.  Yes — I upgraded cameras.  No more blurry photos, and hopefully I’ll be featured on foodgawker or tastespotting in the future!
Anyway, the gardens were featuring an orchid exhibit, which always reminded me of my grandmother’s garden.  She manages to care for pots among pots of orchids in the Los Angeles heat — how she does it is beyond my comprehension.  My measly basil plant is suffering.  The exhibit was breathtaking, though.  Please enjoy the photos!  I’ve been a little busy for my normal pastry art lately because, lo and behold, spring has broken here in Washington.  The daffodils and tulips haven’t bloomed yet, but I see their stems coming up in the gardens around Dupont.  I cannot wait — tulips are one of my two favorite flowers, and they don’t grow naturally where I’m from.  Los Angeles doesn’t have a real spring, where certain plants bloom after a period of frost.  The weather is just constantly warm in comparison to anomalies like “snowmygod,” so tulips are a special treat for me this year.

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