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.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)