Pie to Welcome Autumn, Plus a Few Apple Facts

Author: Meera, September 15, 2017

Autumn officially arrives next Friday, September 22, 2017. That means peak apple season has begun and nothing says “fall” like an early-autumn apple pie.

 

A little egg wash on the crust renders a beautiful golden color

A little egg wash on the crust renders a beautiful golden color

 

 

Here’s my easiest apple pie recipe.

 

COUNTRY APPLE PIE

 

 

 

Ingredients:

 

6 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

 

3/4 cup granulated sugar

 

2 tablespoons butter

 

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

2 tablespoons flour

 

2 unbaked pie crusts (homemade or store-bought)

 

1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water (to make an egg wash)

 

 

Pie ready for top crust

Pie ready for top crust

 

 

Directions:

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

 

Combine sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmegr in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in the apples. Spoon the apples into a pastry-lined baking dish or pan. Cut the butter into small pieces and distribute over the apples. Place the second rolled-out crust over the pie. Snip off the excess crust and cut a design into the top crust to create a steam vent. Flute crust edges. Use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash over the top crust.

 

Pie with egg wash applied and vents cut in is ready to bake

Pie with egg wash applied and vents cut in is ready to bake

 

 

Bake for 10 minutes. Cover crust edges with aluminum foil to keep them from burning. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Crust will be golden brown and juices will be bubbling.

 

 

FACTS ABOUT APPLES

 

1. Apples were known in the ancient world; they’ve been around for 3,000 years.

 

2. Apples thrive in a temperate climate and are grown worldwide.

 

3.  There are roughly 7,000 varieties of apples worldwide, all members of the rosaceae family.

 

4. Washington state produces half of all U.S. apples.

 

5. Science shows that apples are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C, are high in fiber, and  and aid in lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. They can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

 

6. Some of the best-loved apple varieties include: Braeburn, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Rome.

 

If you want to know which apples are best for baking, eating fresh, making into sauces, or freezing, see, http://bestapples.com/varieties-information/varieties/

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about delicious farm recipes, growing heirloom plants, or keeping bees and chickens and you like a mysteries, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in NY. They’re available online and in traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

Murders at a N. California winery are the catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie to search for a killer

 

 

 

Currently, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES is a featured title in Barnes & Noble’s September promotional BUY 3, GET 1 FREE sale.

 

WHAT IS THE BUY 3, GET 1 FREE OFFER?

 

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display or any Kensington cozy mystery from BarnesandNoble.com between 9/5/17 – 10/5/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will:

 

–     Automatically be entered into Kensington’s “Cozy Mystery Bonanza” sweepstakes for a chance to win a $300 value gift basket. One grand prize winner will be selected after the sale has concluded.

 

–     Automatically receive a free Kensington Cozies recipe booklet plus a download code for the novel A STORY TO KILL by Lynn Cahoon after the sale has concluded.

 

 

*                    *                     *

 

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE FREE DRAWING AT GOODREADS.COM.

Win a signed copy of A Hive of Homicides along with a gorgeous reversible apron and a set of 2 chicken napkin rings. Enter before September 26 for a chance to win.

 

See, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33911114-a-hive-of-homicides?from_search=true

 

 

 

 

 

Reversible apron features a floral backside. Ties make it totally adjustable.

Reversible apron features a floral backside. Ties make it totally adjustable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Pie Begins with a Buttery, Flaky Crust

Author: Meera, September 4, 2016

My stalwart Scots-Irish grandmother was thrifty and talented when it came to food preparation. She made delicious pies from cherry, rhubarb, peaches, apples, pears, and sweet berries of every kind, including gooseberries. Her pies were my childhood delight when I lived with her and my grandfather on their Boone County, Missouri farm.

 

 

She made delicious meat pies from meats she’d preserved by canning. Missouri winters could be harsh. Those meat pies nourished me when the snow piled up outside the windows, and it was too cold to make a trek to the smoke house where her prized Boone County hams hung from hooks.

 

 

Crust and "mile-high" meringue finish off this old fashion vinegar pie that tastes like lemon

Flaky crust and tall meringue finish off this old-fashion vinegar pie.

 

 

Sometimes, my grandmother combined fruits or berries in a rustic pie (today, we call it a galette) and on other occasions, she made a raisin, pecan, pumpkin, coconut, or a custard pie. And meringue, if used, was high and sweet and just the right shade of golden brown. But it was the pie crust that I loved.

 

 

For the top of a peach pie, she’d cut in a large curve shaped like a branch. Then two or three other lines would curve from it. Lastly, she cut teardrop shapes along the arch lines so the top crust art would suggest a peach tree branch. When she worked crisscross strips atop a cherry pie, it was both beautiful and delicious.

 

 

I like to roll out the crust between plastic wrap

Storing or rolling the crust between sheets of plastic wraps is a good way to avoid handling the crust with your hands.

 

 

 

The secret to her buttery, flaky crust was not to handle it too much. Today, I make the same recipe but in my food processor. Like her, I use chilled or ice water, adding only drops at at time as the food processor is pulsing the dough–only enough to get the dough clinging together. The point is to move the dough from dry and crumbly to clumping into a ball.

 

 

 

A fluted crust is ready for almost any kind of filling

This fluted crust is ready for almost any kind of filling. I will prick the bottom and sides with a fork before filling and baking.

 

 

 

After the dough is made, I dump it from the food processor bowl onto aluminum foil or plastic wrap and work it into a ball (without touching it). The dough goes into the fridge for a chill over an hour and up to 24 hours. The recipe makes enough for a pie top and bottom or a couple of pies requiring only the bottom crust.

 

 

 Ingredients:

 

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 (plus a few tablespoons more if necessary) cold or ice water

 

Directions:

 

Add the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and sugar) in the food processor bowl.

Cut the butter into small chunks and drop the pieces in. Pulse into a crumbly, dry meal.
Add ice water to the mixture in the bowl by dropping spoonfuls through the feeding tube and pulsing after each addition.
Remove the dough when it clings together–neither too wet nor too dry–by dumping it out on a large sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Mold the dough into a ball and flatten  into a thick disk to make it easier to roll out.
Chill for an hour or up to 24 hours.

 

Makes two buttery, flaky crusts.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 27, 2016, is now available on Net Galley (netgalley.com) for professionals and readers who write reviews.

 

 

 

 

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Traditional Banana-Walnut Bread

Author: Meera, December 6, 2014
Warm, heavy, dense, and moist characterize this traditional loaf of banana nut bread

Warm, heavy, dense, and moist characterize this traditional loaf of banana-walnut bread

 

 

When the bananas on the kitchen counter become soft and the peels develop brown freckles, don’t toss them. Make a loaf of banana-walnut bread. This bread makes a lovely complement to a cup of steaming, fragrant Earl Grey tea.

 

The ingredient list for this bread is simple and the directions are easy. To start, you’ll need a  9 by 5-inch loaf pan, greased and floured; and, you’ll need to affix the paddle to your mixer. Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The recipe yields one loaf.

 

RECIPE: TRADITIONAL BANANA-WALNUT BREAD

 

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas

3 large organic eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk (or 2 Tablespoons buttermilk powder dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

 

Directions:

Mix together in a large bowl the following–flour, baking powder, baking soda,  nutmeg, salt, and chopped nuts. Set aside.

In the mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar.

Add the bananas.

Add one egg at a time.

Add the buttermilk.

Pour the flour into the banana mixture and mix a little at time until the ingredients are all combined.

Fill the floured and greased loaf pan with batter until the pan is roughly 2/3 full.

Bake for approximately 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.

 

*Tip: ripe bananas can be peeled and stored in a zip-lock freezer bag and frozen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Not-So Spooky Halloween Cookies the Kids Will Love

Author: Meera, October 31, 2013
Not-so scaredy cats

Let the kids decorate these not-so scaredy cats, using colors they like. Add orange or black sprinkles to finish.

 

 

When you let the young ones in your family choose the cookie cutter shapes and icing  colors, you’ll get plenty of helping hands making cookies for Halloween.  I make these cookies a lot; they are perfect for any holiday and also for children’s tea parties. Just change the shape and bake and decorate.

 

 

The dough needs chilling for one hour or overnight

Wrap the dough ball before chilling

 

 

After making the dough, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour to make the dough a bit firmer for rolling out.

 

 

At my house, the favorite shapes for Halloween are cats and bats

At my house, the favorite shapes for Halloween are cats and bats

 

 

Half the fun is dumping onto the counter an assortment of cookie cutters and letting the kids choose their favorites. For Halloween, they might like ghosts, cats, bats, witches, and pumpkins. Help them roll out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheet for baking.

 

 

A tray of cat-shaped cookies will bake for 7-10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit

A tray of cat-shaped cookies ready for the oven

 

 

 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

1.5 cups butter (softened if cold)

 

2 cups granulated sugar

 

4 large eggs

 

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

5 cups white all-purpose flour

 

2 teaspoons baking soda

 

1 teaspoon salt

 

 

Directions:

 

Cream butter and sugar together.

 

Slowly beat in eggs and vanilla.

 

Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together until thoroughly blended and dough can be shaped into a ball.

 

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. You can also chill the dough overnight. If you don’t want to make the cookies all at once, then divide the dough into two balls to use when you want.

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Sprinkle flour onto a flat surface and roll out the dough to roughly 1/4 inch thickness.

 

Cut into shapes using your favorite cookie cutters. Arrange cookies on a baking sheet leaving 1 inch between cookies.

 

Bake 7 to 10 minutes.

 

Let cool before icing with your favorite sugar cookie icing.

 

A drop or two of food coloring can give you various colors of icing; , just be sure to put icing in separate bowls before adding the food coloring. Use a pastry bag with tips or even a toothpick to make designs on the iced cookie. Decorate with sprinkles.

 

 

 

 

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Rustic Pluot or Plum Tart with Italian Crostata Crust

Author: Meera, September 17, 2013

 

Pluots or plums are first drizzled in lemon juice and dusted with flour, then placed into the tart with bits of butter

Pluots or plums are first drizzled in lemon juice and dusted with flour, then placed into the tart with bits of butter

 

The farmer’s market has the dark purple-black plums and pluots in abundance now, so I thought I’d buy a few and whip up a rustic summer tart, Italian style.

 

I like the rustic tarts with the Italian style crostata crust because they are easy to make and the tart tastes so buttery and flaky. This recipe uses butter and also cream cheese that gives the tart a special lightness. For the filling, I used pluots for this one, but you could also use ripe plums.

 

To make the dough, I find it easier to just put the ingredients into the food processor with a steel blade and pulse a few times, adding ice water as needed.

 

The finish tart is best served warm.

The finish tart is best served warm

 

 

Ingredients:

 

8 ounces cream cheese

 

2 sticks butter (1 cup)

 

2 cups flour

 

½ teaspoon salt

 

1 teaspoon cold water

 

6-7 large sweet pluots or dark plums

 

Juice from ½ medium lemon

 

2 Tablespoons butter

 

2 Tablespoons flour

 

Directions:

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

In a food processor with blade, process cream cheese, butter, flour, salt, and water into a ball.

 

*Roll out on a lightly floured surface in a circle to about ¼ inch thickness and 2-4 inches larger than your tart pan.

 

Place dough in a tart pan and pre-bake 10 minutes.

 

Wash, cut, stone, and cut pluots/plums into quarters.

 

Combine with lemon juice.

 

Toss with flour. If plums are juicy, you’ll need a bit more flour to absorb all that juice.

 

Cut butter into pieces and scatter around the plums as you layer the slices in the pan on top of the crostata dough.

 

 

Fold extra dough loosely back over the plums; it should not reach the center because you want a rustic look to the baked tart.

 

Bake for 30-45 minutes until pluots/plums are soft and dough is golden brown.

 

Serve warm with a dollop of whipping cream or a good vanilla ice cream.

 

*Avoid over-handling the dough as it will become tough.

 

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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Scottish Shortbread

Author: Meera, September 9, 2013

 

 

 

My Scottish shortbread bearing the traditional thistle pattern

My Scottish shortbread bearing the traditional thistle pattern

 

Warm Scottish shortbread and tea are two of the simple pleasures of life.

 

Scottish shortbread, that buttery biscuitlike treat that Scottish cooks are famous for serving at teatime,  doesn’t require a lot of ingredients; it’s basically flour, butter, and sugar. Of course, the dough can accommodate other additions, for example,  bits of dried fruit, chocolate, caraway seeds, lemon zest, chopped dates, and nuts. I like it best plain.

 

I have many recipes for shortbread. Some are from magazines or books devoted to the subject of Irish or Scottish culinary traditions or foods of the British Isles, acquired during my travels to the lands of my ancestors, namely, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

 

With shortbread, more butter, less flour produces a richer biscuity cookie. It’s helpful to remember the basic 2-4-8 formula, that is: 2 ounces of sugar, 4 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of flour, plus a pinch of salt. Mix together, press into a mold, and bake 45-60 minutes in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven until golden. Dust with sugar.

 

The following is my favorite recipe, slightly different. It is pictured above. Feel free to add to it your favorite ingredients.

 

Ingredients:

 

1/2 cup powdered sugar

 

1/3 cup rice flour

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

 

pinch of salt

 

pinch of baking powder

 

1  cup unsalted butter

 

 

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

 

1. Put dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

 

2. Add butter and cut in with a butter cutter or knives until it is thoroughly incorporated into the dough.

 

3. Knead the dough 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface.

 

4. Divide dough into two, roll into balls, and cover both in plastic wrap.

 

5. Chill for one hour.

 

6. Knead the dough balls back together to soften and then roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness.

 

7. Press into a shortbread mold or cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

 

8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or  until the dough is golden and cooked through, if using a mold. For cookies, bake on ungreased baking sheet.

 

9. Dust, if you like, with fine granulated sugar (also called castor sugar).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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