Picture of the Day

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dutch Apple Pie

Today is officially the first day of FALL.  When I think about fall, my thoughts are occupied with the leaves changing color, cooler temperature sweeping in, snug sweaters, warm soups, apple picking in Julian, lots of cooking and gatherings.   

Last year, we went apple picking in late October so most of the orchards were closed.

This year, we made the trip to Julian a lot earlier to beat the crowd and pick the cream of the crop.  Julian is a historic gold rush mountain town an hour east of San Diego known for its apple crop, cider, and pies from Julian Pie Company.  

We drove by a few orchards but the dwarf apple trees at Raven Hill Orchard drew us in.  For ten dollars, you get a chance to roam around the orchard, tasting and picking apples at your leisure.  Vu and I appreciated the different varieties and abundance of apples. It took me 2 hours to fill up my bag.  Yes, I was being picky.  Nothing compares to picking fruits right off the trees and sinking your teeth into your hand-picked treasures. 

Tired from being in the sun for the whole morning, we took a short break and indulged in a bit of wine tasting at J. Jenkins Winery and Menghini Winery.   

They both had a great selection of wine—from sparking, dessert, chardonnay, cabernet, to syrah.   

After ten glasses, my taste buds could barely distinguish the different white and red wines but I got a few bottles for Thanksgiving dinner.

Our trip would be incomplete without stopping by Julian Pie Company for some apple pie a la mode.  

It was a perfect ending to our Julian trip.  Both Vu and I agreed that Julian Pie Company makes the best apple pies, even better than Moms.  We cannot wait to bring Betsy next fall!

I put the apples to good use by making Vu's favorite pie.  APPLE PIE.  Instead of making the original apple pie, I made the Dutch apple pie, which has a sweet crumb top.   

I used a combination of Empire, Jonagold, and Granny Smith apples.   

Spending my morning making the crumb crust by hand, peeling and chopping apples was quite relaxing.  The tasks are repetitive but therapeutic.   

About 30 minutes into baking, the kitchen was filled with the aroma of melted butter, apples bursting with juices mixed in with cinnamon.  Even Betsy's nose was going crazy!  

I was too impatient to wait for Vu so I cut a slice and topped it homemade vanilla ice cream that I'll share in another post. 

I loved the crunchy, crumbly top, and tartness of the apple sweetened by brown sugar.   

Hot apple pie.  Melting ice cream.  The combination was delightful. 

It was a perfect start to fall.    

Dutch Apple Pie (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)   

1 almond crumb crust (recipe below)
2 ½ lbs assorted apples (Macoun, Cortland, Jonagold, Empire, Rome, Granny Smith)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup brown sugar (more if you like your apple pie a little sweeter)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Evenly and firmly press a little more than half of the crumbs into the bottom, up the sides, and onto the rim of a 9-inch pie dish.  Freeze pie shell until firm, about 15 minutes.
3. Line the pie shell with parchment paper.  Fill with baking weights (you can use rice or beans if you do not have any baking weights) and bake for 15 minutes.
4. Let the pie shell cool while you prepare the apple filling.
5. Peel, core, and cut the apples into ¼ inch thick slices.
6. In a large bowl, toss together apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
7. Pour the apple mixtures into the pie shell and dot with butter.
8. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the apples to cover completely.
9. Bake until the crust turns golden and the juices being to bubble, about 1 hour.
10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
11. When ready to serve, cut a small slice and top with vanilla ice cream.

Almond Crumb Crust

1 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal (grounded almond)
½ cup sugar
1 stick butter

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, and sugar.
2. Using your fingers, fold the butter into the flour-almond mixture to form coarse crumbs.

Figs and Honeyed Ricotta

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I feel so lucky to have such awesome friends at work who are generous and inspirational.  They have given me heirloom tomatoes, figs, passion fruits, lychees, guavas, avocadoes, lemons, and herbs from their gardens, as well as many wonderful recipes.  A few days ago, Gail shared with me a simple dessert of homemade ricotta with freshly picked Black Mission figs and honey.  It has been on my mind all weekend so I threw together my own version of her dessert.  

I bought some Panachee figs from the farmers market, made a fresh batch of ricotta, and brought out my favorite honey.  The figs were the star of the dish with their beautiful crimson flesh and strawberry/orange undertone.  Simple but satisfying.  No recipe needed. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Fig and honeyed ricotta

2 figs (Black Mission, Panachee, or your favorite variety)
2 tbsps homemade ricotta (recipe here)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)

1. Cut the figs in halves or quarters and place them on a plate.
2. Add the ricotta to the plate.
3. Mix the honey and vanilla bean paste together and drizzle it all over the figs and ricotta.

Portrait of a Cat

I took a few pictures of this fierce looking cat lounging at Menghini Winery in Julian who was quite a good model.

Whistler, British Columbia

Saturday, September 8, 2012

When we were in Vancouver, Vu’s cousin suggested a day trip to Whistler, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  Even though Whistler is famous for its top notch ski resorts, Vu and I were excited to explore the hiking trails.  

On the way to Whistler, we stopped by Purebread, a small bakery known for its amazing selection of bread and pastries--almond croissants, nutella brioche, cream scones, cookies, and brownies.  

I wasn’t in the mood for anything sweet and ordered the lemon bar instead.  It was the best lemon bar that I have ever tasted.  The short crust bottom was crumbly and the lemon layer had the perfect balance of tartness.  

We went on our merry way after our pastry fix.  

Despite our late start, we were able to squeeze in a 3 hour bike ride.  It was my first time riding a bike in six years and my struggle with the gears was apparent.  I was fearing for others as I flew down the slopes at times, praying that I would not crash into fellow bikers.  The weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful.  

We were engulfed by the pine forest with its scent permeating the air.  Those pine scented car fresheners pale in comparison.  We made a few stops along the lakes.  The water at Alta Lake was pristine and calm, glistened with the glorious summer sun.  The majestic mountains.  The welcoming lakes.   And the vast pine forest.  Nature at its finest.  We were in awe of our surrounding.  

These pictures couldn’t capture the magnificence and beauty of Whistler.  You have to be there.  At the end of our trip, my legs refused to pedal and I walked my bike to the rental shop but the trip was worth it.   

Vu and I agreed that Whistler is one of our favorite destinations.  On a different note, I recently came across Aran's beautiful post of Whistler.