What is Kitchen Kreature?

Our small kitchen buzzes to life with activity when I come home. Food is sculpted from its raw shape into dices, slices, wedges, and purees. Flames dance off the range, heating sauces and vegetables and soups. Colors decorate the granite counter tops - slices of green avocado, chunks of yellow mango mixed with diced red and green bell pepper, and bottles of spices - dark red, brown, green, yellow, white - are lined up and ready for use. Aromas drift delicately through the house, teasing the senses and rousing the appetite. The sound of vegetables being chopped are like the heartbeat of the kitchen itself, sauces bubbling create an acoustic energy - the life blood of most recipes.

The kitchen allows one to fully be immersed in being "local" - buying from the farmer's markets and enjoying the bounty that grows around the neighborhood. Paradoxically, it also is a terrific way to travel. From the rawest ingredients, I can make a dish from east central Africa to accompany a National Geographic safari on TV, or put on some blues, light a candle, and cook up a classic and hearty creole platter.

This room embraces so much - art and creativity, travel and discovery, and the pure essence of being local. In this blog, I share my experiences and discoveries - the delights of the kitchen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good basic apple pie

My biggest challenge with apple pie is finding that sweet spot between juiciness and enough firmness so that the integrity of a slice doesn't become a puddle of (delicious) filling on the plate.  Even so, I'd still rather err on the side of juicy than firm.  I'm still searching for a solution.  In the meantime - my anti-Entemann's apple pie is certainly not a flat-top with a rubbery filling.  All from scratch, I use locally-grown apples from nearby Solebury Orchard.  While conventional wisdom suggests using tart apples such as Granny Smiths, I find sweeter apples such as JonaGolds yield a wonderful and distinctive flavor.  This dessert defines the local fall here.

The recipe...

8-10 local firm apples (Jonagolds or Fujis)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 rounded cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
Tablespoon of cold butter, diced

*Pumpkin pue spice can be bought premixed, or made using nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture

The best way to slice and core apples is with the old-fashioned "Peel Away" (Back to Basics).  The trick is while this is fast and peels, cores and slices in one action, the apples must be fresh and firm.  After processing the apples, mix with the lemon juice, cover, and set aside in the fridge.

Mix flour and salt in a medium bowl, then cut in shortening until mixture is evenly granular (up to pea-sized granules OK).  Using a large fork, mix in water by drizzling it down the inner slope of the bowl.  Using all the water is usually not necessary, especially in humid environments.  Enough water will have been added when the mixture forms a cohesive "clump" and doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl.

On a floured surface, flatten 1/2 of the dough into a 1/2 to 1" thick disc, then roll out with a cold roller, liberally sprinkling flour over the top of the disc and occasionally flipping the disc and re-flouring the rolling surface (I use a silicone sheet on a slightly moistened granite counter-top to make the sheet stay in place).  Using short even strokes, roll out to at least 12" diameter.  Carefully transfer to a pie dish (if using the silicone sheet, lift the sheet and place it over the dish such that the crust peels into it).  Repeat the process with the second half of the dough, reserving it for the top.

Mix in 1 cup of the sugar, the pumpkin pie spice, and the two tablespoons of flour with the apples, then gently fill the crust-lined pie dish.  Evenly cover with diced butter, then cover the entire surface with the second rolled-out pie crust.  Trim edges to allow for a even 1/2" overlap and, using your clean fingers, crimp the edges together.  Brush on an even wet coating of milk, then sprinkle evenly and liberally with the cinnamon sugar.

Carefully and very lightly place a foil border on the outer edges of the pie, introduce some slit openings in the top crust by evenly stabbing with a pearing knife, and place on a baking pan in a preheated 375° oven for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking until crust evenly golden brown, about 20-30 more minutes.  Cool on a grate, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint.

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