Monday, October 8, 2007

Kitchen Screw-ups: Cajeta and Apple Pie

If you're not in a reading my digressions sort of mood, here's are the two major points of today's post: 1) sick people shouldn't cook. 2) my mom's apple pie is fantastic, and the recipe is at the end. I guess that's 3, really.

This weekend, in order to prove that sick people shouldn't cook (okay, I wasn't trying to prove it, I just ended up proving it), I made the following things:

Duck confit (which I burned)

Roasted figs to eat with the confit (which I didn't completely wreck, but didn't execute well)

Arugula, pomegranate and toasted pine nut salad (I almost burned the pine nuts but managed to get them out in the nick of time, but more than made up for that later)

Apple pie (which tasted delicious, even though I forgot it was in the oven and overbaked it so that the crust scorched)

Cajeta- twice. I botched it both times. The first batch was a perfect color, but too thick, so I put milk in, and it got lumpy, which wouldn't have been a big deal, except the lumps got their revenge for being bitten by fusing the biter's jaw into a single, impossible-to-separate unit. The second batch was not as beautiful, and much smoother, but once it cooled, every part of it acted as a tooth glue. And when I say tooth glue, I mean gluing teeth together in ways they shouldn't be glued. As in, you try to talk and end up sounding like a grown-up from Peanuts.

Vanilla ice cream. which was fine, but I insisted on swirling the (botched) cajeta into it. Why? Because I didn't want to admit that I'd botched both batches of cajeta and simply throw out the cajeta. Despite the impressive jaw-glueing qualities of the cajeta I made, it was still a pretty good ice cream. However, today, still miserably sick, I opened the freezer door, the cajeta-swirl ice cream leapt past my head from the freezer to the floor, breaking the container and coating the entire surface of the ice cream with tiny, sharp broken bits of plastic. Faced with picking them all out (of the uber-sticky cajeta, no less) I chucked it.

One small kitchen fire. It's the family broiler curse. I, um, broiled a washcloth (yes, you read that correctly) until it caught on fire. This is the sort of thing that happens when someone who normally does random and inexplicable things (which some people might rather judgementally call "stupid") gets sick. The washcloth was in the oven because a hot, dry washcloth or dish towel helps Curly with the pain from her ear infection, and I'd been heating it, giving it to her until it was cool and popping it back into the oven all weekend. I turned off the oven, washcloth still inside, and forgot about it. Until I preheated the broiler. And the washcloth caught on fire.

Something I didn't make (or do)? Score a goal during my Saturday night hockey game, which is its own (and in my case, highly developed) form of choking, particularly since I had ample opportunity to do so.

Although the photograph doesn't do it justice (since I scorched it), I have a fantastic apple pie recipe. It’s clich├ęd, but it’s my mom’s apple pie. My husband, when we were first married, tried to sell me on the merits of Southern Cream Apple Pie. I made a couple versions of it. He made his version of it. The upshot: I hate Southern Cream Apple Pie. We’ve more or less agreed that if he wants it, he can make it. I think, mostly, that you love the kind of apple pie you grow up with. If you didn’t grow up eating pie, maybe you’re more of a pie agnostic. He grew up with Southern cream. I grew up with what my maternal great-aunt calls a Kansas apple pie (my mom’s parents grew up in Kansas), which is a basic crust with a simple filling (apples, a little flour to absorb the juices, sugar and some spices), and it is fantastic served with either a scoop of ice cream of a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Our different pie beliefs have created a philosophical pie divide in our family. Since I am the primary producer of pies, I am able to indoctrinate the children to my way of pie.

Fortunately for the quality of the pie recipe, even a rather scorched crust did not ruin it. And although the rock hard swirls of cajeta ended up sitting on the sides of the plates like little blond rocks, some of the cajeta in the ice cream, served next to warm pie, softened a bit and melted and created a lovely effect. If I hadn't messed up on every part of dessert, it would have been amazing. Even with every part a little botched, it was mighty tasty. I think when I am not sick, I will give caramel swirl ice cream with warm apple pie another try.

Here's my mom's pie recipe. Really, it's a recipe for the filling. You need to sort out your own crust issues.

Mom's Kansas Apple Pie

Crust: this is a double crusted pie, so you'll need enough crust for the top and bottom layers. Use your favorite pie crust recipe. I cheated yesterday and used a frozen crust, but I have to admit, even scorched, my mom's crust is better than the frozen stuff.


6-8 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced. I used Granny Smiths, which are a fine pie apple. If you can find them, Northern Spy apples are about the best pie apple, ever. However, I believe they only produce every other year, which doesn't make them a great commercial apple. If you don't have tart apples, add a little lemon juice, about a tablespoon.

3/4 cup sugar (I usually go with a little bit less, more like 2/3 cup)

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons butter, diced (optional)

1) preheat oven to 400.
2) toss all filling ingredients except butter together
3) roll out pie crust and fit pie dish with bottom layer of crust. Add filling on top. Dot the filling with the chopped butter.
4) fit top crust over, and crimp. Cut vent holes.
5) bake for about 40-50 minutes on a cookie sheet, or until done. My oven is very pretty, but also old, and does what it wants, temperature-wise, so I tend to check early and often. At least, I do when I'm not sick.

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