Food Babies

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Archive for November, 2008

Apple Pie, HilHil Style

Posted by Hilary on November 15, 2008

I adore apple pie, but only if it’s made properly. The last time Kelly and I tried to eat store-bought apple pie it was…. well, let’s just say we agreed never to buy it again. What can I say, I’m a pie snob. There are worse things that I could be. Here’s my technique:

1. Get yourself some damn good apples. Tradition calls for straight Granny Smith & I reject tradition. I like a mix of sweet and tart apples. Do not buy anything less than firm apples (nothing mealy or soft… no McIntosh, no Cortland, you get the idea). My favorite sweet apples are Honeycrisp and Pink Lady. Granny Smith are good for tart apples, as well as Idared, Northern Spy, etc. Get yourself about 7 apples, half sweet and half tart, for a great pie.

2. Once you’ve got your apples, peel them, core them, and slice them. Put them in a bowl of water (add lemon juice to stop them from browning too much).

3. In a small bowl mix together 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, whatever other spice you like (such as cloves, allspice, powdered ginger, etc.), 2 to 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

4. Grab your pie pan, complete with bottom crust (as described in the previous post). From this point on I take a layering approach. I start with a layer of apples, then use a large spoon to put a layer of the sugar mixture, then apples, then sugar mixture, and so on until I simply can’t fit any more apples on top. Make sure you use all of the sugar mixture. Really heap the apples on, because although the pie will look monstrous now, the apples will cook down quite a bit in the oven.

5. Take about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (earth balance for vegans), cut into small pieces, and place them on top of the apples. Put on the top crust and pinch it together with the edge of the bottom crust. Remove any excess crust.

6. Brush a tiny bit of water on top of the crust and then sprinkle sugar on top (not a ton). Cut vents into the top of the crust.

7. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees on a low oven rack.

8. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and move pie to center oven rack. Bake for an hour. It’s best to keep the pie on a baking sheet so that when juices overflow they don’t make a mess in your oven. You’re supposed to let the pie cool for several hours (6, if you can believe it)  before you eat it, but more often than not I just can’t wait.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Here’s our Thanksgiving 2007 pie:img_1124


Posted in Desserts, HilHil, Parties, pies, Vegan-friendly | Leave a Comment »

Pie Crust (for fruit pies)

Posted by Hilary on November 15, 2008

I promised a pie crust recipe over the summer and here it is. I don’t claim to have created this recipe, but it is the best one I have found so I’m going to pass along my version of it. Shari, this one’s for you!


2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (earth balance if you’re going vegan on this one)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons cider vinegar


1. First things first, put the shortening and the butter in fridge or freezer. They definitely need to be chilled in order for the crust to end up properly flakey. Cut the chilled butter into smaller pieces (about a tablespoon each).

2. Mix the flour and salt together. Then use a pastry blender to cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture. This can be done with a fork if you don’t have a pastry blender, but it takes much longer. This can also be done by pulsing the mixture in a food processor, but I’ve never tried that so I won’t attempt to give advice on it. Stop once the pieces of shortening and butter are coarsely integrated.

3. Take out a small cup. In it mix two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with six tablespoons of ice cold water. Incorporate this into the flour mixture all the while stirring and tossing. The dough should gather into a ball, or several ball-like pieces:) Remove it from your bowl and press it into one ball.

4. Separate your dough into two balls and flatten each one into a six-inch disk. Dust with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

5. Once you’re ready to assemble your pie roll each disk out on a lightly-floured surface. One disk is the top crust and the other, of course, is the top crust.

This recipe goes hand-in-hand with apple pie, so that will be posted momentarily.


Posted in Desserts, HilHil, Parties, pies, Vegan-friendly | 1 Comment »

Caramel Apples

Posted by Hilary on November 8, 2008

For my birthday this year I opted for caramel apples instead of cake. Although I haven’t perfected how to make them, I’m posting it anyhow (as I’ll likely never perfect the technique). The making of caramel apples should be fairly simply: put wooden stick into apple, stick apple in caramel, roll in peanuts, the end. Instead, most people who attempt this end up with an apple on a stick sitting in a pool of peanutty caramel. 

So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t the caramel always stick?

1. Store-bought apples are too damn waxy. I read about two ways of de-waxing the apple. The first one I tried was scrubbing with baking soda. I wasn’t impressed. The next method I tried was dipping the apples in boiling water. That seemed to work. Boil (I did this for about 5 seconds) and then wipe off the wax and thoroughly dry the apple.  

2. Apple might not be cold enough. Supposedly chilling the apple helps the caramel harden faster. So after de-waxing my apples I stuck them in the fridge for a bit. 

The boiling and the refrigeration resulted in the strangest thing I’ve ever seen an apple do:


Bright red droplets of what tasted very sweet and was very sticky came out of the apple. Fascinating, but I just wiped the apple dry again and continued with my project. 


Other things to consider when making caramel apples:

1. The apple should be firm. Smaller apples are better. Sweet or tart is really personal preference. We used Fuji this time.

2. You need to let a lot of the caramel drip off of the apple while you hold it over the pan. Don’t just coat and expect all the caramel to stick (it might initially, but you’ll end up with an ocean of caramel coming off the apple at a later time).

3. Convention says that you set the finished product on wax paper to set. I vote for a wire cooling rack so excess caramel can drip off if need be. We put the silpat (you could use wax paper) under the wire rack so as to avoid cleaning caramel off of the counter top. In the future I plan on trying to let the apples set in the fridge, as mine were still not completely free of drifting caramel.



Posted in Desserts, Foodstuffs, HilHil, Vegan-friendly | 1 Comment »

Congratulations America!

Posted by Hilary on November 4, 2008

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.

-Henry David Thoreau

Posted in Words to the Wise | Leave a Comment »