Last week at my favorite yoga class, the instructor started talking about the concept of Remembering Forward. It’d been a long tough class and my mind was wandering over to latte land, but as I half listened, the concept grabbed me. It goes something like this: Imagine one year from today. So it’d be November 17, 2011. Now imagine one area in your life that you want to work on or make a change in. This could be your relationship, a friendship, work. Anything. Think about one specific change that you’d like to see happen in that area, and then you turn to a friend or your partner and you play the ‘Remembering Forward’ game. You’re now in November 2011 and that change you wanted to see happen? It did. Your dialogue with your friend or partner makes it come alive.
For example, when I was listening to the instructor talk about the concept I started running through what mine would look like:
Friend: Gosh, remember the opening of your bakeshop and you had those little pies for everyone to take home?
Me: Oh my god, that seems like so long ago. Yes, of course I remember! Remember how packed it was? Janet was there. And Allison and Denise, Anne and Kasey. Danielle drove over, and picked up Tracy on the way. Kristin and even Nate came.
Friend: Oh yeah, I thought you were going to run out of pies. That apple was a hit.
Me: Phew, me too. And remember how we were painting the walls up until that very day and I was all stressed out about getting the perfect yellow color?
Friend: Numerous phone counseling sessions on that one; how could I forget? And then remember how the newspaper was there and they did that little profile on the shop?
Me: That was my fifteen minutes…
Friend: God, I feel like you’ve been baking forever and now you’ve got all these new neighborhood friends and local vendors who stop in all the time.
Me: I know! I love the ‘hood.
Friend: I’m not gonna lie though, I miss those days when we had so much free time that we could meet up in the city for lunch in the middle of the day.
Me: I know, I know. But now I bring you lots of treats whenever I see you. So that counts for something.
So the idea of Remembering Forward is that instead of kind of passively hoping that something will happen or working towards something and crossing your fingers that it may come to fruition someday–you’re declaring that it will. In one year, actually. You’re bravely making a definitive statement to yourself that at this time next year, that little (or big) something will have happened and you’ll look back on it and smile. There’s something pretty powerful about envisioning it’s already happened. Try it.
So think ahead and then allow yourself to play it back. For me, that thought involves hope and faith and pie. A double-crust apple pie, to be exact.
I’ve tweaked the spices and the amount of apples in this recipe to perfection. I favor using flour as a thickener here rather than cornstarch or tapioca–it lends a nice creaminess that’s perfect for an apple pie. And don’t skip the macerating step: if you let the apples sit with the sugar for at least a half an hour, they’ll really settle in and you can fit far more apples in your pie. Always a good thing.
Roll out first disk of pie dough to a 12” round with 1/8” thickness. Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush and fit into a 9” pie pan. Trim to ½” overhang. Roll other disk out in a similar fashion and lay flat on a piece of parchment paper or baking sheet. Refrigerate both for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and cream and set aside to use later for egg wash.
In a large bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Once the pie shell is chilled, remove from the refrigerator and fill with the apples. Dot with butter. Brush the rim of the pie shell with egg wash and place the second piece of dough on top, gently pressing over the apples and on the top and bottom of each piece to seal.
Using kitchen scissors, trim the top piece of dough to about a 1” overhand and tuck dough under. Crimp however you like. Brush entire surface with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Cut three vents in the top to allow steam to escape when baked. Freeze until firm, about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F.
Place pie on baking sheet and bake until crust turns golden, 15-20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F and continue baking until crust is a deep golden brown, 40-50 minutes more. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool.
Pie can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered for up to 2 days
Early Fall Baking
Last weekend we went apple picking up near Yakima, a good three hours east of Seattle. We drove over to Harmony Orchards with our friends Brandi and John and met up with many other groups and families to amble about the rows and rows of apples in the unusually warm sun. We missed the annual picking last year as we were on our honeymoon, but the previous year was the one in which we made the colossal mistake of picking over 70 pounds of apples. I've never made so much applesauce in my life. This year we practiced restraint in bringing home a cool 38 pounds and after getting them all situated in the basement, I started to leaf through a few cookbooks looking for a great apple recipe -- something, preferably, that used quite a few apples, wasn't too sweet and could double as breakfast or dessert (really, the best kind of recipe). And that's exactly what we have in these Custardy Apple Squares.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.
I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I'm out and about as I find they're often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there's only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I'm tentative on muffins. But not these. We've been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping -- quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare. I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine's post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don't remember the last time a Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.
I generally work on weekends. It's something I've come to terms with only because I know it won't last forever. I write. I bake. But those two things don't always pay the bills, so I work retail on the weekends and dream of the day when I'll have a Sunday like this one: