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
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 always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
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.