I have a confession. I’m reading Twilight. It’s ironic in a lot of ways. When I was teaching, my students were always dying to get me to read it. Nah, too busy kids. Translation: SO below me. But I’ve been sneaking around, reading it deliberately face down in public places and keeping it on the DL when talking to friends. I know it’s silly. I shouldn’t be ashamed. But for someone who has an advanced degree in English literature and is generally a little snobby about their reading material… it’s a new thing for me. And you know what? It’s amazing.
I can’t remember the last time I read something for no other purpose than to escape. Obviously I read for information or for a nice story/plot, but more often than not, I read to admire the craft of an author. So as I’m still struggling to find a full-time job and getting a little more antsy with each passing day, I’ve also decided to try and be gentle with myself. It’s cool. Watch Mad Men in the middle of the day. Why not? Someday (hopefully soon) I’ll look back on this day and marvel that I had the time to do such a thing. And in that vein, I’ve decided to loosen up the reading reigns and have at a little trash. Why not? Got something better to do? So I’m unstoppable now. As any Twilight reader will tell you, these books are rather addicting. No they’re not written well…at all. But there’s something appealing about Stephanie Meyer’s quick prose and the way she taps into your long-lost high school psyche.
Yesterday I wanted to whip up a little snack to go with my daily dose of vamp-lit. And I knew exactly what it would be: I bought this sweet little apple pie mold at Williams Sonoma and had been waiting for just the right time to make these individual pockets. It turns out they’re the perfect companion to shameful afternoon reading.
There’s also something charmingly nostalgic about them. Remember those awful filled pies that kids (with the exception of me) got in their lunch boxes? They were filled with lemon or chocolate and were covered in a pie crust–I was always in awe of the kids that got those pies. They seemed mysterious and I figured, for sure, those kids had cooler moms than mine. Now, I’m whipping up my own version without the nuclear-colored fruit and trans-fat filled crust. So whether they bring you back to childhood, convince you to enjoy some shameful reading, or just help you usher in fall–enjoy. And let me know if you have any bad (but oh so good) reading recommendations. I’m on a roll.
Now generally I don’t like to post recipes where you need special equipment. But this is an exception. If you don’t have a hankering to spend $9.99 on your own individual pie mold, no worries. This recipe would still be great for individual apple pies or tarts. The recipe for the crust actually comes from the back of the William Sonoma box, and the recipe for the filling comes from yours truly. Now I usually only use Martha Stewart’s recipe for pate brisee, but I strayed this time and I’m so glad I did. The trick is to get a super crumbly consistency by adding just the right amount of ice water (see center photo below of dough texture).
For Apple Filling
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt, and the 2 Tbsp. sugar until combined, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 6 Tbsp. 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 (I added 9-10 Tbsp when all was said and done). Divide the dough in half, wrap with plastic, and press each into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Then when ready to begin assembling, let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out 1 dough disk into a round 1/16 to 1/8 inch (2 to 3mm) thick. Brush off the excess flour. Using the Pocket Pie Mold, cut out 8 of each shape. Reroll dough scraps if necessary and cut out more shapes. Repeat with remaining dough disk.
Place a solid dough shape in the bottom half of the cutter and gently press the dough into the mold. Fill the center with 1 to 2 Tbsp. pie filling and brush edges of the dough with the egg wash. Top with matching shape. Press the top half of the cutter down to seal and crimp the edges of the pie. Remove the pie from the mold and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze the pies 20-30 minutes.
To bake: Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush the pies with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is gently bubbling, 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.