I wrote a whole thing apologizing for skipping three weeks and noticed a trend in this young blog's life. I tend to start each post with an apology for not posting enough (this in itself some form of apology). I will try to do that less but the reason I do is simple; if my time isn't spent in the kitchen then I assume somewhere deep down inside that said time has been wasted, and this time around I wasted a lot of it.
The hydra that is planning two Thanksgivings scared me near to the point of canceling and I avoided my kitchen for anything more complex than frozen pizzas. I lost sight of the fun of it and had to remind myself of the reasons for doing it.
So I thought about why. Why do it? It's a personal question with a different answer for everyone. Me? It's that moment when I take my apron off and walk around a plate looking at what I've spent my time on. It's that reminder each time that only two years ago I couldn't do any of this, and of the hundreds of things I screwed up to get that plate right, and thinking of how to do it better.
I marvel at the creation of food, from a cup of tea to a full course meal, sometimes with paralyzing jealousy of those more talented than I. Checking that ego and committing to a menu isn't always easy and that's what happened the last three weeks. I panicked when I questioned my ideas and wondered if they were worth trying. I needed time to realize the only way I'll know if they are is to make them.
Thanksgiving isn't getting any farther away. So let's get started.
Food Processor, plus a small food chopper/grinder if you have one
Silicone baking mat
Deconstructed Apple Pie
Making something is fun but breaking something is better. In my mediation on my notes I found a theme gelling among the bullet points and adopted it as an unofficial title for Thanksgiving. My message this year is this; "play with your food."
Think about a steaming slice of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream right now. I bet your cheeks twitched to smile. Young, old, and in between apple pie just makes you feel good.
So how in the world could you make one of the most universally positive desserts more fun? You get your hands dirty that's how.
There are four parts to any good apple pie: the crust, the filling, the topping, and the ice cream. I turned each of those into its bar food equivalent. Pie crust "chips," apple pie "salsa," cinnamon graham "bacon," creme Anglaise "sour cream." In other words I "Guy Fieri'd" them and somehow avoided dying a little inside.
This is the exact same recipe as the vanilla ice cream that's been on here cut off right before freezing. I halved it since I don't need a giant tub of creme when it's only a finishing detail. Even this borders on far too much.
1 C whole milk
1 C heavy cream
82g sugar + 4 Tbsp, divided as shown
1 Tbsp vanilla paste
~75g egg yolks (eggs are never the size you need them to be, just get close to 75g)
tiny pinch of salt
Heat milk, cream, 82g sugar to just below a simmer. Whisk eggs and 4 Tbsp sugar in medium bowl until thick. Gently and gradually whisk the hot cream into eggs to temper (be extremely careful - a smaller batch only decreases the already small temperature window to curdle the eggs. Strain the mixture through the drum sieve into a clean sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until thick enough to coat back of wood spoon. Strain through chinois into ice bath. Stir in salt. Cool in bath then chill in air-tight container at least overnight.
Pretty much exactly the same as the one from the Frozen S'Mores but with cinnamon sugar thus a thousand times better.
9 gluten free graham crackers
6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
4-5 Tbsp cinnamon sugar
Heat oven to 375. Pulse crackers in processor to coarse crumble. Add butter and cinnamon sugar to incorporate. Spread in even layer in very small pan. Bake until fragrant and slightly dried and crumbly. Let cool and store in air-tight container at room temperature.
Pie Crust Chips
I tried frying some first. Don't do that. It looked like something out a science fiction movie when they disintegrated in the oil and vanished in front of my eyes. I felt like an evil madman, and not a cool one. One that murdered innocent and delicious pie crust. It was a dark moment in my kitchen.
2 1/2 C gluten-free all-purpose flour, or standard AP flour if gluten is not a concern
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
10 Tbsp butter, chilled 1/2" pieces
1/3 C solid vegetable shortening, chilled
whole milk - to brush chips
cinnamon sugar for dusting
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Pulse in butter and shortening to form a coarse meal. Add 6 Tbsp of ice water and combine, adding more water in very small increments until a moist shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto clean surface and gather into a smooth, moist, malleable ball that doesn't crack when gently kneaded, moistening with water and dusting with flour as needed. Flatten dough into a rough, thick disc, wrap in plastic and chill 2 hours - 2 days.
Preheat oven 375. Allow dough to soften slightly. Roll out 1/4" thick. Cut shapes and arrange them on a baking pan lined with a silicone baking mat. Brush each with a little whole milk and dust them liberally with cinnamon sugar. Bake on middle rack until browning and firm. Cool on a rack. Store chips in air-tight container at room temperature.
Everyone will tell you they know exactly the best apples for apple pie. Well I tried them all and they're all wrong. The best combination is 50/50 Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths. Goldens, like the dog, are sweet. Grannies, like an old lady waiting at the deli counter, are tart and sour. Sweet and tart - Wonka figured it out years ago and it's a good formula. The Goldens also keep the mix from being too dry since Grannies don't bring a lot of juice to the table. This is getting weird and I can't fit much more of my foot in my mouth so I'll just shut up and tell you how to make it now.
2 Golden Delicious apples
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp sugar, plus more to taste
2 - 3 Tbsp cinnamon, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Peel the apples and cut them into pieces no smaller than 1/2" and combine them with all the other ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, covering occasionally, tasting frequently, and adding sugar and cinnamon to taste as needed, until the apples are soft and a thick syrup forms. You'll see the syrup start pulling between apples as you stir the mixture. When the apples are soft but not mushy and the syrup is good and thick remove it from the pan and cool slightly in a bowl.
Honestly plate it however you like. Who am I to tell you how to plate something built on the idea of breaking food? Just make sure the apples are warm and the creme nice and cold. And use your hands! This first time I put some filling in a bowl and arranged the chips like a turkey's fan and drizzled some creme over it all. With some practice I think I can make it look even more like a turkey just in time for the big day.
That wasn't all I did this weekend. I have another dessert waiting to be written up that I'll post later this week. It has a lot of chocolate in it. The clock's officially ticking now so expect more frequent posts between now and Thanksgiving.
It's good to be back.