Tag Archives: apples

Four pies: Portland (and Bozeman)

5 Apr



Dino apple pie

Well, during my far-too-long Cats and Commas hiatus, I’ve actually been baking quite a bit. Every holiday, birthday, etc., is a reason to share a baked good, and I take almost every opportunity possible.

Above is a collaboration apple pie that Hannah and I made together while visiting our friends in Montana in January. We didn’t follow a recipe per se, but we did use a standard all-butter crust and a standard filling of apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. One of the highlights of the trip, aside from the board games and microbrews, was our visit to the Museum of the Rockies, where we were gifted these fabulous dinosaur cookie cutters.

We served this pie a la mode, with Graham Slam ice cream, and, yes, it was as good as it looks (not even close to a humble brag). Also, for those of you science nerds, Hannah shared this excellent apple pie graphic a while back, which explains the science behind a great pie.

Ritz cracker pie

On the other side of the apple pie spectrum, for the Super Bowl I tried a mock apple pie, made with nothing but Ritz crackers, water, lemon  juice, sugar, cinnamon and cream of tartar (which I assume helps with the texture). A creation of the Depression era, when fresh foods were likely scarce and processed foods were likely cheaper, the Super Bowl-watchers who ate this pie without knowing what was in it were convinced it was regular old apple.

And, by accident, my crust turned out looking like a giant version of a Ritz cracker.

Ritz mock apple pie

The interior certainly had the gooey texture of an apple pie, just without the apple chunks. It was a bit on the sweet side for my taste, but it was an interesting experiment with a unique historical past. The recipe I used came from the cookbook “Pie,” a volume with hundreds of recipes, bits of history and techniques.

mini greek yogurt honey pie

For Eileen’s birthday in mid-February, I made mini-Greek yogurt and honey pies, which we’ve made before as a previous Cats and Commas challenge. Whipped cream, gelatin and Greek yogurt (chilled in the fridge) top a graham cracker crust, and it’s a delicate, delicious combination. For these, I used mini-springform pans, which are quite handy for individual servings.


My most recent pie creation was in honor of Pi Day on March 14, which I’ll write a separate post about to share some links from around the Web. For this pie, I decided on a “use-what’s-in-your-pantry” philosophy, which led to vanilla cream pie with a graham cracker crust and meringue. The meringue only makes sense for using up your leftover egg whites, because the pie filling calls for the same amount of egg yolks that you need (recipe also from “Pie”).

This was a hit at work, where we had a buffet of different varieties to choose from, including a tasty, cookie-like pie that’s different than any I’ve tried before. For lack of a better descriptor, I assume the recipe is something like this.

It’s no coincidence that each month in 2014 has featured pie as a highlight. I hardly need an excuse to make one, but then again, Easter is only a couple weeks away.



Apple Charlotte: Portland

29 Apr


Well, it’s been a while. Having recently returned from visiting Hannah in Denver, I felt I needed to finally get to posting.

Julia Child’s Apple Charlotte, which I made more than a month ago around my birthday, was a success. The secret of course, was butter, and lots of it. Perhaps too much, but some say that’s not possible. If there indeed is such a thing as too much butter, I think I might have discovered it with Apple Charlotte. This recipe took a bit of time, but the ingredients were inexpensive and simple (see above). Per Julia’s suggestion, I used golden delicious apples, which worked quite well.


To save some time on cutting the apples, I did take the shortcut of using an apple slicer. It was worth it, considering the other finicky steps that went into crafting this dessert, such as cutting the crusts off many slices of bread.


It might not seem like removing crusts would take a lot of time, but in an effort to not destroy every piece of bread I touched, I used a knife and tried to be precise in my de-crusting.


Now for the butter. I think I ended up using close to three sticks of butter for this recipe, which in hindsight seems like far too much. But it did make the bread and the filling extremely soft.


After dipping each piece of bread in butter, I made a layer on the bottom of my pie plate. A tip is to toast the pieces of bread before dipping them in butter to avoid overly saturating the bread in butter but to ensure it soaks in enough. I learned that after creating this first soggy layer of bread.

DSC_0572On top of the bread went a layer of apples, lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. This step, I think, was the prettiest part of the whole experience. The lime green of the apple peels, the bright yellow of the lemon zest and the bronze of the cinnamon contrast so well with the off-white interior of the apples, don’t they? I had a lot of fun trying to make this layer look pretty, even though it would soon be covered by more buttery bread.


I did another couple of layers of bread and apples to fill up the pie plate, before topping it with the final layer of buttered bread. If I did this again, I would make sure to overlap my pieces. Of course, they shrank slightly as they baked, so it left little gaps. Ideally, it would have looked like one cohesive crust on top.


It certainly could have been worse, though, seeing as my oven has a talent for burning baked goods.


You can see the cracked crust a bit better in this one. Still, it didn’t detract from the taste.

DSC_0591Here’s how it turned out on the inside. It tasted a lot like apple pie, but with more butter and a more gooey consistency. Sort of like an apple pudding. (Though I wonder, would homemade brioche have been better than white bread?)

Because I made this as a birthday week treat, we served it with vanilla ice cream. Oddly, the ice cream helped distract from the overly buttery taste and didn’t add too much richness. Out of all the apple baked goods I’ve made, this one worked, but I think for the everyday occasion, I’d prefer a simpler apple tart. Now that spring is here, I’m excited for a new challenge, perhaps one with fruit…

Challenge #21: Apple Charlotte

24 Feb

While visiting Julia Child’s kitchen at The Smithsonian last month (which finally happened on our visit to D.C.), Hannah and I watched a video of Julia making Apple Charlotte with chef Jacques Pepin, part of a PBS special. I used to watch Julia Child when I was a kid, but I hadn’t really watched any of her shows since then (Julie and Julia does not count).

The visit to the Smithsonian was one of the highlights of the trip for me. And because I’ve never made a Charlotte before, I propose we try our luck with Apple Charlotte. As Julia says, trust nothing but a golden delicious for this dessert.

I found Julia Child’s master recipe in the book “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom,” which I’ve referenced before. But I also found a few versions from other sites. I like to compare recipes so I can pick and choose elements if I like. We’ll see which one I end up referring to the most.

  • One version is from the blog “Downton Abbey Cooks,” which I immediately love the idea of (and it has a lovely Earl Grey creme anglaise recipe).
  • The second is an easier skillet version from Jacques Pepin (who we saw cooking with Julia) on the Food & Wine website.
  • The third recipe is Apple Charlotte a la Julia Child.
  • The fourth is a pan version from Real Simple.
  • (Also, in my Internet quest for Apple Charlotte-related things, I found THIS. I’m both confused and enchanted.)

The really interesting part of this recipe, I think, will be determining what to bake it in. Typically, this dish is made in a Charlotte pan, which I don’t own. I suspect I’ll end up using a 13×9 pan or my 9×9 pan, but who knows. I might get creative.