Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is one of the most traditional side dishes for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't get much recognition more than something you always 'need' to have on the table and those hockey pucks that come from a can. In my house, it was something most of us at the table just kept on passing on and on.

Sure this won't be as easy as opening up a can of cranberry sauce and 'slicing' yourself a serving, but you'll get a tangy, sweet, fresh and delicious accompaniment to your turkey and trimmings. And it is easy! Who knows, you might never go back to the canned stuff! 

This is for a traditional cranberry sauce but there are lots of other things you can try to mix in like red pepper flakes or jalapeno for a bit of heat; dried fruit for more sweetness; nuts for some crunch; or spices and ginger for depth of flavor. You can go really basic, too, and leave out the liqueur, orange and lemon juices and the orange peel.

If you're worried about getting that same consistency as the canned stuff, don't worry. Cranberry fruit contains pectin that is a natural thickener. This sauce can be made a few days in advance of your holiday dinner because the acidity of the cranberries will keep the sauce fresh.

Cranberry Sauce

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
1-2 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
1/4 cup water 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup orange-flavoured liqueur or orange juice

In a nonreactive 4-quart saucepan, mix everything in the pot. **If you are using the liqueur, do not add this in until you are done cooking - alcohol + heat = fire, and that's not good right now**.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved.  You'll start to hear some of the cranberries pop after few minutes-kind of like popcorn.  Cook about 10 minutes more until it looks like most of the cranberries are have popped and the sauce starts to thicken up.  Turn off the heat from the stove top and add the liqueur if you choose to use it at this point.  Refrigerate the sauce for about an hour, or until completely cooled, before serving.

Orange zest to add to saucepan
Everything in the pan

Foamy as it cooks down
The finished sauce

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Fall Classic...Apple Pie

You didn't think I'd let Fall pass me by without making an apple pie, did you?!?!

Someone brought Apple Pie into the office this week and it just boosted me to get on with the pie making. I had apples from apple picking staring at me in the fridge just waiting to be made into a pie, but I kept putting it off. One of the things, to me, that is most tedious about making an apple pie is not the pie crust, it's peeling, coring and slicing all those apples! Maybe I should invest in a gadget to do that for me.

This is a recipe from Martha Stewart. You'll see that the pie dough recipe calls for the dough to chill for about an hour. So make the dough first and then while it is in the fridge, you can prepare the other components for the pie. You can use a food processor or your two hands and a pastry blender to make the dough. I do not have a food processor and so I've always made the pie crust by hand. One tip I came across was to freeze the sticks of butter and grate them into the flour. This will give you the same kind of texture that you would get with using a food processor. Whichever you route you take, you should remember to measure your ingredients accurately, use cold butter, and don't over mix the dough mixture. Also, make sure your pie is completely cooled before you cover it up. If there is any steam left inside, it will just turn the top of your crust soggy and make it collapse.


Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
12 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
3/4 cup sugar, plus additional for pie top
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten

Directions for making pie dough:

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour.

Directions for filling and assembling the pie:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into two 1/8-inch-thick circles to a diameter slightly larger than that of an 11-inch plate. Press one pastry circle into the pie plate. Place the other circle on waxed paper, and cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice, spices, and flour. Toss well. Spoon apples into pie pan. Dot with butter, and cover with remaining pastry circle. Cut several steam vents across top. Seal by crimping edges as desired. Brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake until crust is brown and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour. Let cool on wire rack before serving.