Sunday, October 28, 2007

As Easy as Apple Pie

As apple pie season is fast departing and those wonderful pumpkin, pecan, and mincemeat pies will soon take the fore, I wanted to post this recipe before it was all over. This is a traditional apple pie recipe that I learned from my mother and while I've tried other recipes, this is my favorite. I've tried to write the recipe steps as exacting as I can - because despite the expression "easy as pie" I find that a pie can be a bit tricky for those who don't bake frequently.

Basic 9" Pie Crust (double)

2 ½ Cups all purpose Flour
1 tsp. salt (scant)
1 Tbs. white sugar
1/2 Cup sweet (unsalted) butter - chilled
1/2 Cup Crisco vegetable shortening
Approx. 5-6 Tbs. ice cold water/white vinegar mixture (fill a small bowl with ice water and splash in some white vinegar to the mixture - you will be adding the water/vinegar mixture 1 Tbs. at a time until the dough forms)
1 egg white (for brushing pie crust top)
Sugar for garnish

Apple Pie Filling

5 to 6 C. Tart Apples (I use primarily Granny Smith but toss in 1 mellow Golden Delicious)
2 Tbs. Lemon Juice
½ to 2/3 C. white sugar (I prefer my pie with a hint of tartness and typically only use ½ C.)
1 to 1½ Tbs. Corn Starch (use the larger quantity if your apples are juicy)
¼ tsp. Cinnamon
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt (just a pinch)
1 to ½ Tbs. unsalted butter


Make Pie Crust

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar.
2. Cut in shortening.
3. Add water/vinegar mixture 1 Tbs. at a time. Use a fork to blend/mix just until the mixture forms a dough.
4. Divide dough in half and wrap each portion in wax paper – let rest in refrigerator while you prepare filling.

Prepare Filling

1. Peal & Core Apples – thinly slice and sprinkle with lemon juice as you work.
2. Combine sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Sprinkle sugar mixture over apples and toss well to coat evenly.

Roll out Pie Crusts

1. Flour your work space. Roll out bottom pie crust. I like to roll out the dough on floured wax paper as this helps prevent sticking. Wrap the crust around your rolling pin to transfer crust to the pie pan as this seems to help prevent tearing of the dough.
2. Fill crust with apple filling and dot mixture with unsalted butter.
3. Roll out top pie crust. Cover apple mixture and decorate crust with leftover dough. Make 4 slits to release steam.
4. Brush pie crust with egg white and sprinkle generously with white sugar.


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Cook for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 425 degrees.
3. Cook for 10 more minutes and reduce heat to 350 degrees.
4. At this time check to see if pie crust is golden brown – if it is – or when it becomes so – cover pie loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over browning/burning.
5. Continue baking at 350 degrees for another 35-55 minutes or until mixture is bubbling through the steam slits. Don’t rush this process as there is nothing worse than an apple pie with uncooked apple filling. This time is highly variable as it depends on how deep your pie dish is. Just keep checking every 10 minutes or so after the first 35 minutes. As long as you have the crust covered with aluminum foil it shouldn’t over brown.

To my immense delight, Steve joined Mr Puffy and me in our afternoon tea ritual. Apple pie is his favorite and it seems it was just too hard for him to wait until after dinner to tuck in!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! This is my pumpkin being used to model the blogland favorite "Fetching" mitts ~ free pattern ~ Knitty. I used Noro, Cash Iroha (wool/silk blend), 1 skein, US4 needles and you would find it scary if I showed you how little yarn was left over. I really like the picot edging that you can see better in the pictures below. This is a great pattern and I'll probably make another pair, but next time I'll use more of a stretchy yarn with more yardage so I can make the cuff a little longer.

I love Halloween and when Steve and I lived in the Midwest (South Bend, Indiana) we took many long drives into the country side to visit the various farmer's stands and pumpkin patches. The pictures below are from one of my favorite pumpkin patches that we happened upon on one of those drives. If you ever travel to the Chicago area try and make time to visit the towns surrounding Lake Michigan on the Indiana/Michigan border up into Michigan. They are just delightful and have some of the nicest Bed & Breakfasts I've ever stayed in.

For some reason Mr Puffy is not too keen on Halloween. I've suggested that he might enjoy dressing up and going trick or treating but he's really not been happy about the idea at all. He said he'd much rather stay home eat snacks and watch a scary movie. I don't understand it as I loved trick or treating and miss the fun of dressing up and coming home with huge bags of candy. To each their own.

On a sad note, Southern California has been ravaged by ferocious wildfires that swept through communities this past week. You can't imagine how it feels to see a fire burning on the horizon and know that you are in it's path. We are blessed to have been spared but feel terrible for the suffering of those who were not so fortunate. The fire came within a mile of our home but the brave ground crews and air support pilots faced and overcame the tremendous flames to stop the fire from progressing into Las Flores Canyon and up into the Santa Monica mountains. Our heartfelt thanks to the LA fire fighters. Mr Puffy snapped a few pictures from Saddle Peak Road that have been included on a couple of blogs. It is a view of the fire from the mountain area looking down into Malibu. If you scroll down to October 21, 2007 (day 1) at 3:53 p.m. on this blog you will find them. They are also on Mr Puffy's "flickr" page.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Irish Scones ~

We have been away for a few days and it is wonderful to be back home with my feet up enjoying hot buttered scones and a good cup of tea! These scones are a staple of my tea time and they are really pretty easy to fix once you have the proper ingredients. You will note that I suggest pre-soaking the raisins in brandy. In my opinion, most desserts are improved by adding a little liquor!


(Adapted from a Saveur recipe March 2003 issue)

3 C. All Purpose Flour (King Arthur Flour is the best)
¼ C. superfine baking sugar (you can increase to 1/2 C. if you prefer)
1 tsp. baking powder
8 tbsp. unsalted butter (I like to use Kerry Gold Irish Butter – but any European butter is good)
6 tbsp. sultanas (golden raisins)
½ C. + 6 tbsp. whole milk (just under 1 C.)
1 egg + 1 tsp. water (egg wash)
Demerara sugar for garnish (optional)


1. Soak raisins in brandy, if you plan ahead. Otherwise just use fresh plump raisins.
2. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.
3. Whisk flour, sugar, and baking powder together in a large bowl.
4. Using pasty cutter, cut butter into flour mixture.
5. Stir in Sultanas (golden raisins).
6. Add milk and stir until dough just comes together. I then quickly kneed the dough right there in the same bowl. Tear off chunks about the size of a dinner roll. Don’t worry about creating fancy looking scones – these are supposed to be “rustic” in appearance and are much better for not having too much handling. One batch makes approximately 8-9 nice sized scones.
7. Plop scones on baking sheet and coat with egg wash (I simply use a paper towel dipped in the egg mixture).  Sprinkle liberally with Demerara Sugar
8. Bake for approximate 25-30 minutes – they should be nice and golden brown.  Scones should be baked until the sugar is almost carmalized as this creates a wonderful crunchy crust.
9. Serve warm with lots of butter and a good marmalade.  If you add the additional sugar to the dough these are sweet enough to eat plain.
10. Enjoy regularly!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We're in the Pink

We’re in the Pink! Actually, I’m in the pink and Mr Puffy is in the watermelon, as I’ve explained to him several times now. Watermelon (the color of his favorite fruit) is a simply smashing color on him and I think this look gives him that certain preppy air. In fact, I was just saying to Steve the other day that I though school (obedience school, that is) might be a good idea. Can’t you just see Mr Puffy on campus? Regretfully, Mr Puffy is not the studious type and it might require a substantial donation for this to happen. On the other hand, he is quite athletic and might qualify for some type of sports scholarship. Oh well, it was just a thought and in any event the idea was not well received by Mr Puffy.

Mr Puffy is wearing a Fiber Trends Versatile Scarf knit with Manos Del Uruguay, Cotton Stria and I’m wearing Cherry by Anna Bell knit with Classic Elite Yarns, Premiere (pima cotton/tencel). Cherry was a fun knit except for the finishing – but then I never enjoy the finishing work. Frankly, the jury was out on this project until the last seam was seamed.
Two reasons why I wasn’t sure this would fit until the very end. First, I wasn’t knitting to the pattern gauge because I preferred the look of my swatch on US 6 needles even though I should have gone down to US5 to “get gauge.” Second, with cotton you have to wash and block your swatch to really know what your final gauge will be as cotton relaxes and expands when washed. Due to these factors, I actually knit this sweater to a size smaller than what the pattern was written for and I really didn’t know if my adjustments would work.
P.S. After reading some of the comments I realized I never said whether I liked Cherry or not! Yes, I'm very happy with the finished result - I'm just experiencing a little "post seeming" blues that apparently came through in my post. It's a well written pattern and has that magically quality where it looks flattering on everyone who has knit it!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Diamonds are Forever

This is another Diamond Fantasy (scarf version) by Sivia Harding. I used 2 skeins of Koigu and US 5 needles. While I prefer to knit and wear the larger shawls – they simply aren’t practical in the same way the smaller scarfs are. As much as I’m all for being a non-conformist, I’m simply not comfortable sweeping into the grocery store wearing, say, my Pacific Northwest Shawl. On the other hand, these little scarfs are just the thing to tool around town conducting everyday life. I find they give a great pop of color to an outfit and are easy to wear. What’s not to like about that! You would also be surprised at the number of people who express an interest in what I'm wearing ~ and I do my best to convert them into knitters!

I also never get tired of blocking these shawls. I particularly like this shawl because it has a very Gothic feel (described more fully in my earlier post A Modern Take on Gothic).

As to non-knitting news, Mr Puffy and I are happily ensconced back in Topanga which is, for both of us, where we feel at home. I am also looking forward to this week because I'll be able to go to the Santa Monica's Farmer's Market on Wednesday which is the best local farmer's market. I sense an apple pie in our near future.