If yesterday’s pecan pie wasn’t enough, here’s another that you can prepare ahead of time and assemble on the day of baking!
I first learned to do apple pie at a workshop in downtown Durham, at Scratch Bakery. I’d been trying to do double-crust apple pie for a few weeks before but it was too much work so I gave up and decided to follow Phoebe Lawless’s method, covering the pie in streusel. The streusel itself is easy and you can really make it any way you want. Streusel is defined as “n., a crumbly topping made from fat, flour, sugar, and nuts/spices, often cinnamon, used as a topping or filling for cakes”, so you can add oats, brown sugar, different types of flours, spices, and so on. I like the streusel combination I used here (flour, sugar, oats, butter, salt, and cinnamon) and I’ll end up using it fairly often, like for the pumpkin streusel muffins.
Coring, peeling, and chopping the apples by hand was a pain the first few times I made the pie, so I bought one of those old-fashioned hand-crank spiralizers: 3-in-one, cores, slices, and peels the apples all at once. And it looks cool, too.
That being said, sometimes the most tedious aspects of cooking or baking can also be the most relaxing. If you have plenty of time, the kitchen to yourself, a bottle of red wine (it has to be red wine because red wine is the best wine), and your favorite Spotify playlist (I like anything acoustic or morning-oriented, even in the evening), then you can just focus on the apples and let everything else fall away. I like doing the repetitive, menial things because I usually have a hard time focusing on one thing or committing to anything, so these kinds of tasks help ground me.
I haven’t tried the recipe with very many different types of apples yet, although I bought some green apples to make today’s pie, then decided it might not be so good with green apples. Someday, I’d like to go through a few iterations of the tart trying out different types of apples. Maybe even different types of black tea.
So much to do! So little money to buy the things to do the things I want to do (*cries publicly*).
And now, after three months of wading through pies and tarts and apple skins and dark rum, one would logically assume that I’ll be taking a break from pie for, like, a full year.
One would be wrong.
Now it’s time to work on some winter crumb tarts and gluten-free recipes. I tried gluten-free pie dough earlier and it was…so-so. It’s kind of a pain to work with because, due to a lack of gluten, it doesn’t hold together so you can’t pick it up, turn it, flip it, etc. You have to roll it out on parchment or wax paper and transfer it gently to the pie pan, then press it in. I was getting frustrated with the dough so I figured I could simplify everything by working on crumb crusts.
Call me in a month to see how they’re turning out.
This apple pie is unbelievable, y’all. The crust is finally flaky and buttery (thank you, Phoebe Lawless, the Pie Pastry Queen), the tea is lightly fragrant and the spices are rich, perfect for the season. The apples soften while the cider thickens, and the crispy streusel just floats around in all of it. It can be a little messy or runny, or it can hold up with integrity. At the workshop, Ms. Lawless mentioned that she likes to change recipes to cram in as many different flavors as possible, and when I saw a recipe for chai spiced apple pie online, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to add one more flavor: buttery pie crust, spiced black tea, apples, and streusel.
apple chai-der pie with streusel topping
makes one 7-inch tart (with 9-in measurements in parentheses)
one 7-inch buttery pie crust, recipe here
30 g all-purpose flour (45 g)
30 g granulated sugar (45 g)
a dash of cinnamon (a dash and a half)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
1 ounce (2 T) unsalted butter, melted (1.5 ounce/3 T)
250 – 300 g red apples (2 large apples) (350 – 450 g)
70 g granulated sugar (105 g)
20 g all-purpose flour (30 g)
1 tsp cinnamon (1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cardamom (3/4 tsp)
1 bag black tea, cut open (1 bag)
1/4 tsp each of ground ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
50 g apple cider (75 g)
Follow the recipe to make a disc of pie crust. The night before, or the morning of, baking, transfer dough from the freezer to the fridge, and when ready to roll out, take out of the fridge and let thaw on counter for 15 – 20 minutes before rolling.
Roll out on a liberally-floured surface, turning and flipping the disc as you go.
Lay dough into pie pan and crimp the edges. This doesn’t need any pre-baking so you can chill/freeze until everything else is ready.
In a small food processor, blend together everything except the butter.
Slowly blend in the butter. If it clumps up, break clumps apart with your hands or a fork.
Chill until ready to use.
Peel, core, and chop the apples (quarter and slice, or chop however you like.)
Mix together sugar, flour, spices, salt, and loose tea in a small bowl.
Combine apples and dry mix in a large bowl, then pour in apple cider and mix.
You can either save the filling for later or fill the pie shell now. Let the filling pile up a few inches above the rim of the pan.
Dump the streusel on top of the unbaked pie.
You can freeze the whole pie assembled and unbaked.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
Bake the pie for 50 – 60 minutes until the streusel and crust are browned and the filling is visibly bubbling.
Let cool and enjoy!
Happy Food, y’all!
I mentioned before that I’d be coming out with a few pie recipes this season and I finally got one I feel confident publishing.
There was a time years ago, when I was in college, when I tried to learn how to make pie and used pecan pie as the test. I always seemed to get only one thing right, and it was always a different thing, but I could never get the whole thing to come together. Either I’d substitute thing recklessly and the filling would turn out funky, or the crust would burn, or the crust would hardly bake at all. Those are essentially the three aspects of a pie that you have to nail: the filling cooks and holds up, the edges of the crust don’t burn, and the bottom actually bakes completely.
Back then, I thought all hope was lost. I held off on pies for at least a few years and as soon as I moved home this past summer, I hit the ground running with dough all over my hands. You can see the first fruits of my efforts here (buttery pie crust recipe.) I wanted to practice different types of fillings and really get the measurements right before publishing any more, so after at least half a dozen pecan pies (and pumpkin pies, and chocolate tarts, and apple pies), here’s the boozy and succulent pecan pie.
I also had an epiphany recently. In order to save my family from carb-excess, I’d been using small 4.5-inch tart pans to test recipes, then calculating measurements for larger tarts based on those attempts. I figured since 4.5 is half of 9, then one 9-inch tart recipe must make two 4.5-inch tarts, right?
Wrong. While testing pecan pie recipes, I made two half recipes, thinking I could do two 4.5-inch tarts, and wound up with enough for four tarts. Whaaaat? In middle and high school, I was two years advanced in math, and apparently I had forgotten every thing in college: if you have two squares, one is 6 inches on each side and the other is 3 inches, then how many of the smaller squares fit into the larger?
Four. Because the area of a 6-inch square is 9 inches and the area of a 3-inch square is 2.25 inches.
Therefore, one 9-inch tart recipes makes four 4.5-inch tarts (and, coincidentally, two 6-inch tarts.)
I prefer to make medium (7-inch) pies, to save money and ingredients and because I like to test a lot of recipes. I figure more numerous pies, all smaller, means more variety and less guilt (I mean other people’s guilt…I have none of my own.)
boozy dark rum pecan pie
makes one 7-inch tart (with 9-inch measurements in parentheses.)
3 Tbsp butter (4 1/2 Tbsp)
90 g maple syrup (135 g)
135 g brown sugar (200 g)
1 Tbsp dark rum (4 1/2 tsp)
2 eggs (3 eggs)
hefty pinch of salt (a heftier pinch)
1 Tbsp cornstarch (4 1/2 tsp)
75 g pecans (114 g)
Roll out your chilled pie crust so that it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pan. Transfer dough to pan, fold edges under and crimp, and prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, or in the freezer overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
make the filling
In a pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
When melted, stir in maple syrup, rum, and sugar, and mix fully.
Remove from the stove and let cool before adding the eggs.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the cornstarch and salt, and fold in the pecans.
Fill the unbaked pie shell with the pecan filling and bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the edges are starting to brown and the filling is bubbling up.
The filling will deflate when the pie cools.
Serve with a side of shots of dark rum but try not to drink them before you eat the pie like I did.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
Six years ago, my local favorite coffeeshop back home tried as its summer specialty to make a caramel cardamom iced latte. Six years ago, I wasn’t yet a fan of the spice, so I bought the latte out of curiosity (now will someone please pay me for my gustatory curiosity???) and suffered through it. Over the years, I’ve developed a taste for cardamom and now I can’t get enough, as anyone who has ever looked at this blog can affirm.
My favorite use of cardamom: in tomato curry. Swoon.
[cardamom, elettaria cardamomum, india]
Known as “Queen of Spices,” and second only to black pepper, “King of Spices,” cardamom has an extensive history and a very, very high value (don’t I know it.)
Originally native to India, cardamom was introduced to the rest of the world thousands of years ago by traders, who carried it from India to Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Much later, the Vikings discovered the spice in Constantinople/Byzantine when that was the capital of the spice trade, and claimed it for use in their rich, buttery pastries (cardamom is fat-soluble, so the flavor intensifies in butter) (3.)
Cardamom, known in the scientific community as Elettaria Cardamomum, is a relative of ginger, and it grows in lush tropical rainforests. After India, the largest producer of cardamom is Guatemala, where the spice is produced solely for export. Harvest is done from October through December, before the pods of the plant ripen so they don’t split open too early and begin to lose flavor.
After saffron and vanilla, cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world (and the most expensive in my cabinet. I vow never to buy a jar of saffron because I enjoy all of my arms and legs.) Because of its high price, the spice is often adulterated or substituted with products of lesser quality, such as Siam cardamom, Nepal cardamom, winged Java cardamom, or a something known as “bastard” cardamom. (1)
why is it so expensive?
Because it’s harvested by hand (3), and anyone who’s been outside from October through December knows it is not a pleasant time to be harvesting anything but snot-cicles from their nose. Fortunately, it’s also a very strong spice and you only need a small amount.
In ancient Egypt, people chewed the buds to clean their teeth, while in Greece and Rome, only the wealthiest could afford cardamom-infused perfume. I’m very much content using a toothbrush to clean my teeth, and YSL as my cologne, but cardamom is also good for digestion (it certainly helped me digest the cardamom brownies.) (1)
there are two main strains of the spice:
Green and black, with some other local varieties in other countries. Green cardamom, or “true cardamom” (elettaria cardamomum), comes from southwest India and is also grown in Guatemala, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, and Costa Rica. This is the type used most often in powder form for baking, and it’s also the most highly-valued of the cardamom family. Black cardamom (amomum subulatum), is native to Nepal, Bhutan, India, and China. It has a bolder flavor than its green counterpart, so it’s more fitting for meat rubs and stews, rather than in delicate pastries. Black cardamom is used whole, then discarded (3), while green cardamom can be used as whole pods, split pods, whole seeds, or ground. The flavor disappears rapidly so it’s best purchased whole and used quickly, if you can afford it. (1)
In Scandinavia, you can find cardamom in sweets and meatballs (mmmmmmmmeatballs), and a liquor called akvavit. (1)
what can I make with this so-called “queen of spices”?
Stumped on where to start? That sucks for you.
I’m kidding. Every chance I get, I use cardamom in my own baking so here are all the recipes I’ve posted on this blog that use the spice:
In fact, a few of my upcoming recipes also feature cardamom. It’s not only Queen of the Spices, but it’s a popular holiday spice, as well.
upcoming saturday spices:
Halloween may be done and gone, but Pumpkin Season isn’t over yet, and we still have a few months of apples, sweet potatoes, cranberries, booze, ginger, and more! Once the pumpkins are all adopted away, it’s Yam Time, yo.
There are various dietary restrictions and differences among my family and friends: I can’t have dairy (well…I can but I shouldn’t), my uncle can’t have gluten (definitely can’t), and my cousins try to eat healthy. Little Woeful Me likes to bake constantly, but even my Massive Mouth and Insatiable Stomach can only take so much, so I generally try to think of things I can give to people, and I’ve pulled more than one muscle stretching to find reasons to give them to the people.
Recently, I thought of making autumn muffins for people who want less sugar. I don’t know much about sweeteners and calories, but I went out and stocked up on molasses, agave nectar, and maple syrup.
Long story short, pumpkin muffins + molasses = not pumpkin muffins (and if you calculate the conversion from brown sugar to molasses the way I do, then you may just end up with dark brown spicy mush.) I made a few variations with molasses before I realized it’s just too intense for a pumpkin anything, and so I tried maple syrup and agave nectar instead. Both of them worked perfectly without compromising the integrity of the muffins (although, really, how much can you compromise the integrity of such a proud pastry?)
And then I got a bakery job interview and they wanted me to bring in a pastry, so I made the muffins a sixth time. And then, I thought I would attempt some gluten-free versions, so I made them a seventh and an eighth time. And then, my parents ate them all before I could take any pictures, so I made them a dozen more times.
All within a week. And they all only lasted about 12 hours. They were/are damned good.
I call them “semi-whole wheat” because I like to do a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flours. WW flour is really dense and dry, and has a really heavy taste. On the other hand, it has far more nutrients than refined white flour/all-purpose. I’m not sure how 100% whole wheat muffins would turn out, but for hearty, gut-warming autumn muffins, the whole wheat is unbeatable. If the recipe you’re taking from only uses white flour and you want to mix in whole wheat, figure out what percentage of whole wheat you’d like (eg., 50% all-purpose, 50% whole wheat), and then just reduce the amount of whole wheat by a few grams (so, 60% all-purpose, 30% whole wheat, and less flour overall), to match the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Otherwise, you’ll end up baking and burning some whole-wheat pumpkin boulders. And if you want less sugar, omit the streusel topping and use something else instead (like pecans.)
but hold up, what is “muffin of the month”?
Sometimes it’s hard to think of things to blog about, or to produce enough quality content within a short period of time (I can honestly only manage two recipes a month.) I’ve found that a good way to beef up your blog is by doing regular post series, such as Throwback Thursday, Shortbread Sunday, Five Bottles of Red Wine Friday….or something like that. Each month, in addition to whatever else I can manage, I’ll be preparing a new muffin recipe.
Aside from the fact that they’re the easiest thing to make, it was the first M word I thought of…
semi-whole wheat pumpkin muffins with streusel topping
makes one dozen
120 g all-purpose flour
80 g whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
160 g maple syrup or agave nectar (can be substituted 1:1 ratio)
230 g pumpkin puree (or sweet potato)
50 g canola oil
2 eggs (100 grams total without shells)
100 g buttermilk
extras: oats, toasted pecans, raisins
80 g granulated sugar
50 g all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp water
3/4 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp (57 – 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with 12 paper muffin cups.
make the streusel:
In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, and oats (if using.)
With a fork or whisk, blend in the water, breaking up any clumps as you go, in order to wet as much of the mixture as possible.
Slowly whisk in melted butter, breaking up large clumps with your hands or the whisk, until there’s no dry mixture left. You can put this in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
make the muffins:
In one medium/large bowl, combine flours, salt, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and oats (if using.) In another medium/large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup (or agave), pumpkin puree, canola oil, eggs, and buttermilk.
Using a whisk or rubber spatula, mix dry ingredients into wet, mixing quickly until they’re mostly combined. They don’t need to be fully mixed together, but you shouldn’t see any flour.
Using a large spoon or a cookie scoop, fill each muffin cup about 3/4 – 4/5 full, and sprinkle the tops liberally with streusel.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the tops are dry and they resist a little when you press down. You can also test by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center of a muffin, and if it comes out clean, they’re done!
They’re perfect for breakfast, lunch, first dessert, second dessert, midnight snack, moonlight walks on the beach, and more.
See ya later, pumpkin eater.