Friday, November 22, 2013

Apple Pear Pie with Gingerbread Crust

The day after I got engaged, I felt like baking some celebration pie. To celebrate love, to celebrate my friend's 30th birthday that night, and to celebrate getting back into baking after leaving the low glycemic diet. Personally, I'm not big on pies, but many people in my life are, so I'm trying to see what the big deal is.

What I really want to make is a pie with a cookie dough crust. Have you ever heard of that? I've scoured the internet and only seen it done once. I didn't want to get too experimental with a pie I needed to bring to a party, so I made a relatively regular pie crust with gingerbread flavors.

The gingerbread was more subtle than I was going for, however. You could try doubling the molasses and sugar in the dough. The apples and pears definitely work nicely together, but the fresh ginger is what really jazzed it up. This pie still didn't convert me, but the pie lovers enjoyed it. I will make a cookie dough pie this winter, mark my words.

Also, making pie is a lot of work. I guess that's another reason I make it so infrequently. It took something like three hours start to finish. Reading through a recipe seems deceptively simple, but every step has to be done carefully, taking dough in and out of the fridge throughout, and just the acts of chopping the butter and the fruit are time consuming. I follow Smitten Kitchen's principles for preparing and rolling out pie dough, which are rather involved but have always guided me to success.

One step I have improved upon is that I start by dicing my butter really small - even smaller than the half inch cubes that Deb recommends - more like 1/8 inch cubes. Even though the pieces start to stick together when you cut them that small, it still makes it easier to incorporate the butter into the dough later using only a fork and hands, without a food processor or pastry cutter.

Meanwhile, it's now been about two weeks since we got engaged. We got right on the planning train, but have stalled out since we can't seem to decide on the date. Have the wedding in June and have the rest of the summer free to enjoy normal summery things, but have a really busy late spring leading up to the wedding? Or have it in late July, when my favorite flowers are out and we can plan at a relaxed pace and have time for bachelor/ette weekends away beforehand, but the summer will winding down when we get back from honeymooning? There are other pros and cons to each. How does one decide? Flipping a coin?

Apple Pear Pie with Gingerbread Crust
Gingerbread Crust 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water

Dice butter into tiny 1/8" pieces and set aside in the fridge. Whisk together flour, salt, spices, baking soda and sugar. Combine 2 tbsp molasses and 2 tbsp water in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl and stir to dissolve molasses in water. Prepare additional water by filling a liquid measuring cup with another half cup of water and drop in an ice cube. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or just your hands, work in the butter until it's consistently the size of tiny peas throughout. Now drizzle in the molasses-water, and stir until it starts to come together as a dough. Drizzle in more water as needed and knead with your hands. Divide the dough into two balls and put it aside in the fridge.

Apple Pear Filling 3 apples
3 pears
juice and zest from one small lemon
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cups brown sugar
3 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg, beaten lightly with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
1 tbsp white granulated sugar

Peel and chop apples and pears into 1/4" slices. Toss with other filling ingredients. Preheat oven to 500 F. Grease a pie dish. Follow Smitten Kitchen's principles for rolling out pie dough. Prepare the pie by laying the bottom dough layer in the pie dish, top with the filling, and then top with the upper pie dough layer. Slice some vents in crust. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 475 for 15 min with foil on. Remove foil, reduce to 425 and bake for another 30 min.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The happiest walk in the botanic garden

The story: 
We both had the day off to do something fun, and I suspected he might propose that day, but I didn't think he had the ring yet. We had a nice stroll through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the early afternoon, and when we left the garden to get lunch, I thought it wasn't likely to happen that day after all. However, we passed the garden on our way home, and he pulled me back inside, at which point I knew.

Evan proposed under the yellow-leaved cherry trees, and of course I said yes. I gave him a letter as a surprise for him in return, which as a friend put it, is something that often seems missing from the process. We walked something like five miles that chilly November day. Back at home, the cat had no idea what just happened. That night, we celebrated over a special tasting menu dinner at The Grocery in Carroll Gardens. We enjoyed their great service and many seasonal-vegetable-driven dishes that reflect the way Evan and I eat. Then we spent the weekend feeling happy and sharing the good news.

The ring:
My ring was custom made by local Brooklyn designer Marian Maurer with responsibly sourced blue sapphires and recycled gold. We both had strong opinions about my engagement ring, and I ended up helping him pick it out. I have small fingers, so I wanted small stone(s) in a bezel or rosecut setting that wouldn't stick up much. I don't know how most women put up with the traditional prong setting that looks like you might accidentally do harm.

Evan didn't want a diamond, both because of ethical concerns and because it's a fake tradition launched by the diamond industry's advertising campaigns. Non-diamond engagement rings are hard to find, especially in a more non-traditional setting. I did extensive research on the subject, which I think I'll share with ring roundups in future posts. We chose a design at Clay Pot, which coordinated to have the designer put in sapphires. The store told us it would take about a month, but it was actually done in a week, lending some element of surprise to the process.

Since we want to get married next summer, I'm not ashamed to say that this blog may become wedding focused over the next several months.