Thursday, October 20, 2016

Individual Apple Pies

Happy fall baking! Let's celebrate the season with crisp apples, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and then baked inside tender, flaky pie crust. And the recipe couldn't be simpler (I chose to make my own crust, but you can certainly use two 9-inch refrigerated pie crusts). 

I love the concept of individual pies because you can please an entire crowd with one recipe. I used apples and cinnamon in this recipe, but you can add additional fillings, such as dried cranberries, raisins or cherries. And consider this: since you're making individual pies, so you can change filling and make 8 different pies in one muffin pan!

I realize 8 pies might seem like a lot of work, but consider the possibilities: pumpkin, pear, peach, blueberry, and chocolate-peanut butter. If you use frozen fruit, making a variety of pies is a snap. If you make the chocolate-PB one, simply fill the bottom crust with semi-sweet chocolate morsels and peanut butter chips. Oh, and think about what you can serve on top... whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate shavings...

Whatever you decide, I know you'll be making these pies over and over. I mean, the baking season is just beginning... add these fun pies to your recipe arsenal and you'll be baking-dancing-laughing all season long!

Individual Apple Pies

For the crusts (or use two 9-inch refrigerated pie crusts):
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut up
6-8 tablespoons very cold water
For the filling
2 1/2 cups diced fresh apples (such as Mackintosh or a similar variety -- something with a little tartness to it)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
To make the crusts, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse on and off until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Add cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process until the mixture forms a ball (try not to over-process). Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a disc. Wrap the disc tightly with the wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes (and up to 3 days).
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the apples, cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Toss to coat the apples. 
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 16 equal portions. Shape each portion in a ball. Press 8 of the balls into the bottom and all the way up the sides of a 12-cup muffin pan (4 cups will be empty). Fill the crusts with the apple mixture. Press the remaining eight pieces into rounds, big enough to cover the diameter of the muffin cup. Press the rounds over the fillings and pinch the two crusts together to seal. Prick the tops with a fork.  Brush the surface of the pies with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with the sugar.  
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crusts are golden brown.
Cool the pies, in the muffin pan, on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. 


Serves 8

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pumpkin Mousse with Ginger Snaps and Caramel Sauce

How fun are these pumpkin mousse cups?! And they make the perfect dessert for this time of year, when Halloween is on our minds! One note: This is a creamy, not stiff mousse, mostly because that's the way I prefer it (I don't use eggs, so the firmness comes of whipped cream). 

Also, I used caramel sauce and ginger snaps as my garnishes, but you can use candied walnuts or pecans, chocolate fudge sauce, chocolate-covered almonds, candy eyeballs, and more! Consider the possibilities... and have fun!

Pumpkin Mousse with Ginger Snaps and Caramel Sauce

15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crumbled ginger snaps
Bottled caramel sauce, warmed slightly for easy pouring if desired

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup of the cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Set the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap (let the plastic wrap touch the surface to prevent the formation of a “skin” on top). Cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 2 hours (and up to 24 hours).
Whip the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
Fold 1 cup of the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Fold all but 2/3 cup of the remaining whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated.
Spoon the pumpkin mixture into 8 small dessert dishes or glasses and chill for 1 hour (and up to 24 hours).
When ready to serve, top each serving with the reserved whipped cream (pipe it on for a pretty presentation), crumbled ginger snaps and caramel sauce.

Serves 8

Photo credit: Apolonia 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash with Wild Mushrooms

Food-wise, there's no doubt this is my favorite time of year. I love fall produce!!! Apples, winter squash, any recipe made with tubers... You get the point! 

This easy side dish (or main dish for me) is one of my go-to recipes for fall (I even served it last Thanksgiving and it met with rave reviews). I think you'll love the simplicity, yet meaty-sweet combination of flavors. If desired, for a salty note, shave good-quality parmesan cheese over the mushrooms just before serving. 

Note: Don't be intimidated by thick-skinned winter squash. Just make sure you find a stable position to rest the squash while you cut them (you don't want the knife to slip). Once halved, easily remove the seeds (and strings attached to the seeds - just like a pumpkin) with a spoon, ice cream scoop or melon baller. Oh, and this recipe also works with acorn squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Wild Mushrooms

2 small/medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

4 teaspoons unsalted butter 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups mixed sliced wild mushrooms (any ratio and combination of cremini, portobello, shiitake, oyster, etc.)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup sherry

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the squash flesh-side down on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Flip the squash, place 1 teaspoon of the butter into each of the squash "bowls" (the part where the seeds were) and season the entire flesh with salt and pepper. 
Return the squash to the oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the flesh is very tender and golden brown. 
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and releasing liquid. Add the thyme and cook for 1 minute, until the thyme is fragrant. Add the sherry and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper.
Remove the squash from the oven and spoon the mushroom mixture into the "bowls". 

Serves 4