Saturday, November 24, 2012

Classic Apple Pie

 Apple pie. It's such a classic American dessert, and yet there are so many different versions of it. Syrupy, crumbly, sweet, tart, flaky, cinnamon-y, cheesy. How can there possibly be one greatest apple pie?
 It's not possible. I have made many apple pies throughout the years, and most have been very good - but many are filled with twists and turns that make them far from "homestyle." Sometimes you just need a classic apple pie, which is where this recipe comes in.
This is simple. It's thick and sweet and perfect after a big Thanksgiving meal. I forgot to put the cinnamon into the recipe, but instead sprinkled cinnnamon sugar over the warm pie. I was surprised that I didn't miss the cinnamon in the filling, but if you think it's necessary, feel free to throw in two teaspoons or so.
 This was enjoyed by everybody who had some from our buffet of holiday pies (more recipes coming soon!) and will definitely be made again whenever I want a taste of a classic fall dessert.
 Thank you to Nicole of Baking Bites for her wonderful pie giveaway, in which I won a great cookbook and the beautiful ceramic dish used for this pie.
Classic Apple Pie
(slightly adapted from Cannella Vita)

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (my new favorite is Smitten Kitchen's)
1/2 cup unsalted butter 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar, divided 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup water 
8 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped  
2 teaspoons cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 425 F. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes. If you want to put some cinnamon into the filling, now is the time to do so.

Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not spill out of the pan. Cover with a lattice work crust (or just top with second crust and cut in steam holes). Seal together crust edges.

Bake 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, or until browned to your liking. Stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons white sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle over the pie. Let the pie sit for a few hours to thicken, or enjoy fresh from the oven and slightly runny ;)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Greek Yogurt Cinnamon Buns

 Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're all enjoying a day filled with fun with your favorite people. In the midst of all the crazy, buttery pies all over the internet, I figured I should bring you this easy recipe for a treat that will feed a big family for breakfast. Greek yogurt cinnamon buns.
  That's right, you heard it. Greek yogurt. Cinnamon buns. In the same phrase. What is happening to the world??
 When you hear anything with the words "Greek yogurt," you might automatically think of "healthy." The truth is, while these are a bit better for you than the average cinnamon bun - they have whole wheat flour, too - they are far from healthy.
 I originally set out to make a big batch of indulgent pumpkin cinnamon buns, but it ended up not really working out when I realized that I only had part of the pumpkin for the recipe, and decided to throw in some Greek yogurt instead. It ended up working out kind of like the classic chocolate mayonnaise cake, where you don't taste the secret ingredient, but it makes everything more moist and delicious.
  If you want a recipe for an easy, rich breakfast for a crowd, these are perfect. And if you want to tell yourself that they are healthy as well, go for it. I won't mind.
Greek Yogurt Cinnamon Buns
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to be divided
1/2 cup whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Few drops vanilla extract

Make your dough: Melt your butter, and if you’re melting it in a little saucepan, you might as well brown it for extra flavor. Once the butter has melted, keep cooking it over medium heat for a few additional minutes. It will become hissy and sizzle a lot, then take on a nutty flavor as golden bits form at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Combine your warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy. If it’s not, you might have some bad yeast and should start again with a newer packet.
In the bottom of the bowl of an electric mixer combine flours, sugars, salt and spices. Add just 1/4 cup (or two-thirds of; leave the rest for assembly) of your melted/browned butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, Greek yogurt and egg and mix to combine. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.
Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a warm place; it should just about double.
While it is rising, line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans (8-inch round should work too, as does an 8-inch square) with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan and the paper.

Assemble buns: Scoop dough onto a very well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush reserved melted/browned butter over dough. Stir together remaining filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. This may be messy and leak out butter and sugar at the ends of the dough; that's okay.
Here’s how to cut cinnamon rolls without squishing their pretty spirals: With a sharp serrated knife, using absolutely no pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 16 1-inch sections. When a soft dough like this is rolled, it tends to grow longer, which means that you’ll have the option to either make more buns (say, 18 instead of 16) or just cut them a little larger (in generous inches).
Divide buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.
If you’re doing this ahead of time, you can now put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, leave them out for an hour to warm up and finish rising.
15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, you can make the glaze. Beat your cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for, either thick enough to ice or thin enough to drizzle.

Finish your buns: Remove the plastic and bake buns for 25 minutes, until puffed and golden and delicious-smelling. Transfer pans to wire cooling racks and drizzle/spread with cream cheese glaze (or leave plain if you're like my dad and don't like icing, in which case, we need to have a little conversation about life values and such).

- makes about 16 cinnamon buns

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Double Chocolate Greek Yogurt Muffins

As much as it may seem like it from reading this blog, I don't actually spend all day eating custard pies and cupcakes topped with small mountains of icing. Usually, my family and I have a bit of whatever it was I made, and my dad takes the rest of it to share with his co-workers. I have been baking a bit more than usual this week, since I had the whole week off from school (thank you, Hurricane Sandy! No, actually, I hope everyone is okay - I was lucky to not have been affected at all at home). Yesterday, I was flipping through recipes calling for cups of sugar and multiple sticks of butter when I realized that my dad wasn't going to work today, so whatever I baked, it would be in our house for the next couple of days. Enter these muffins.
 These are fairly healthy (as muffins go) - they have some sugar and a bit of oil, but their chocolatey taste comes from unsweetened cocoa powder (with a few chocolate chips thrown in - I used semisweet, but feel free to use your favorite kind), and I made them with half white whole wheat flour, which adds some heartiness without changing the texture. As a vegetarian, I'm always trying to get some extra protein in, and Greek yogurt is filled with it; these muffins are made moist and ever-so-slightly tangy from the rich, creamy yogurt.
  This is the perfect breakfast muffin, in my opinion - it is moist, pairs perfectly with a creamy cup of coffee, and tastes almost as indulgent as your favorite bakery's double chocolate muffin, but is healthy enough to be acceptable for a weekday morning.
 Double Chocolate Greek Yogurt Muffins
(adapted from Knead to Cook)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, vanilla and oil.  Stir the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Make sure that the toothpick isn't coming out dirty due to hitting a chocolate chip - you don't want to over-bake your muffins!