Monday, November 29, 2010

Caramel Apple Pie

Reader beware—this is not a quick-and-easy recipe. This is a marathon of a pie—albeit, a perfect, grand old apple pie. Do not attempt to make it if you have dinner guests arriving in 1 hour. Reserve this beauty for when you have a lazy afternoon to while away puttering in the kitchen, and loads of energy to obsess about the perfect thickness of the rolled-out crust. Honour the recipe by saving it for that special supper or holiday celebration and it will yield a glorious, golden butter-crumbly crust over a luscious sticky, tart and carameley apple core. I made it for Thanksgiving dinner last week, decorated with autumnal leaves (using the new leaf-shaped pie cutters that hubby gave me), and it generated plenty of ego-boosting oohs and aahs. This puppy is a showstopper!


For the Piecrust:
2½ cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
8 oz. [500 gm] cold unsalted butter (cut into ¼-inch pieces)
6-8 tbsp ice water

For the Apples: 
4 lbs [2 kgs] Granny Smith apples, or any tart, green apple (peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices)
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp freshly ground ginger
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp cornstarch  

For the Caramel:
1½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup Corn Syrup
6 oz. [200 gm] unsalted butter (cut into 6 pieces)
½ tsp salt
½ cup heavy cream

For finishing the pie:
1 egg (lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water)
2 tsp sugar

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the 6 Tbs. ice water and pulse twice. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water, 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide in half. Shape each into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge and let stand for 5 minutes. Place 1 dough disk on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish and gently press into the dish. Trim the edges flush with the rim. Roll out the second dough disk in the same manner and set aside. Gather the remaining (trimmed) scraps of dough into a ball and re-roll to a 1/8-inch-thick round. Cut out shapes using decorative pie cutters. Refrigerate the pie shell, cutouts and second dough round for 30 minutes.
  3. To prepare the apples, in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, stir together the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and lemon juice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are just tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the cornstarch.
  4. To prepare the caramel, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Cook until the mixture is bubbling vigorously, about 9 minutes, stirring only during the first 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. Take the saucepan off the heat and carefully stir in 1/4 cup of the cream, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup cream. Let cool until just warm.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°F [200ºC].
  6. Remove the pie shell, cutouts and second dough round from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the apple mixture and 1 cup of the caramel; reserve the remaining caramel for serving. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and place the top crust over the pie. Trim the edges flush with the rim and press the top and bottom crusts together. Using a knife, cut four or five 1/2-inch-long steam vents in the centre of the top crust. Brush the underside of the cutouts with egg wash and gently arrange them on the pie. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Place the pie dish on a flat baking sheet (to catch any spills), and bake in the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove pie from oven and let cool completely before serving. Warm the reserved caramel and serve drizzled over pieces of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pear and Watercress Salad with Szechwan Peppercorns

The farmer’s market is now overflowing with the autumn crop of apples and pears. I picked up a few Bartlett pears earlier this week and since I like my pears soft and juicy, I stored them in a brown paper bag to ripen them more. They reached the perfect state of squidgy-ness this evening, so I saved one for breakfast tomorrow and chopped up the rest for a side salad. The recipe is a simple variation of an apple salad I had posted in April. The perfumed and slightly piney fragrance of the Szechwan peppercorns amplify the honey sweetness of the pears, all kicked-up another notch by the peppery watercress.

1 lb (½ kg) Pears, diced
Juice of ½ lemon
1½ tsp Szechwan Peppercorns
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
½ lb (250 gm) Watercress, thoroughly washed and dried
½ tsp sea salt (or kosher salt)
  1. Mix pears and lemon juice in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind Szechwan peppercorns, making sure a few peppercorns remain whole.
  3. In a small skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, add Szechwan peppercorns and sputter for 1 minute. Pour peppercorns and oil over the pears.
  4. Add the remaining olive oil and black pepper to the pears and mix well. Let sit in the fridge for 10 mins.
  5. Add watercress to pears and toss to mix well. Garnish with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kerala-Inspired Egg Curry

I always keep a dozen eggs in the fridge at all times, so when I need to make an emergency supper with no time to shop for meat or fish, I inevitably make an egg curry. My most oft-used recipe is the classic egg curry I grew up eating—made with simple whole garam masala and onions. But in the last few years, I’ve experimented with various spice combinations and have come up with this Kerala-inspired curry, which is fast-becoming my de facto favourite.

12–16 Eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
4 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 Onions, sliced
2 whole Cloves
2 whole Cardamom pods
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Bay leaves
1 Tomato, chopped
1 tsp Turmeric powder
3-4 tsp Chilli powder (to taste)
2 tbsp ground Coriander
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 tbsp Fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp fresh ground Black pepper
1 tbsp fresh ground Ginger
1 tbsp fresh ground Garlic
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water
Salt (to taste)
1 tbsp Mustard oil
3 tbsp whole Black Mustard
10-12 fresh Curry leaves (Sweet Neem leaves)
  1. Hard boil eggs, peel the shells and set aside. 
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Add onions, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves, and fry for 7–10 mins until golden brown and well caramelized. 
  3. Add tomatoes and fry for 5 mins. Add turmeric, chilli powder, coriander, cumin, fennel and black pepper, stir well and fry for 3–5 mins. Add ginger and garlic and continue frying for another 5 mins, until the oil separates from the spice mixture. 
  4. Add eggs and stir to coat the eggs with the spices thoroughly. Add coconut milk, water and salt, stir, put the lid on and bring to a brisk boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 35–40 mins, until the oil separates from the curry and thick, pliant gravy is formed. Turn off heat. 
  5. In a large skillet or frying pan, heat mustard oil over high heat until the oil is smoking. Add mustard and curry leaves and briskly fry for 2–3 mins until the mustard starts to sputter. Remove from heat and pour the mustard and curry leaves, oil and all, into the pot with egg curry. Stir well, and let sit covered for 15–20 mins before serving.

© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar