Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Salted Caramel Apple Pie

I pride myself on my apple pie and my perfect apple pie crust.  But I am also a big fan of the salted caramel apple pie at Four and Twenty Blackbirds here in Brooklyn, and since learning how to make caramel when I made pumpkin flan last week, I figured it was time to give their salted carmel apple pie recipe that I found online a try. I love caramel apples in the fall so i knew adding caramel to a classic apple pie was going to be a perfect food combination.  The recipe I found online is for the filling only - you use your own recipe for the crust, so I am including that here as well.

Oh and by the way, one of my recent blog posts (for pumpkin flan) was quoted with a photo on Bon Appetit's website - for real! To find the reference to A Kitchen In Brooklyn, click on the link and scroll to photo number 10.  I'm so psyched!

Sasha's Apple Pie Crust (makes bottom and top portions)
2 sticks cold butter, chopped
2 1/4 cups flour
pinch of salt
large pinch of sugar

To make the apple pie crust, follow my instructions here, although I cheated this time and made it in my mixer rather than by hand.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie (recipe found here)
1/3 cup raw sugar
2 T flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters (unfortunately I left this out this time because I forgot to pick it up)
6 apples
4-6 lemons juiced (I used four)

Salted Caramel
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 egg, beaten
raw sugar for sprinkling on top
1/2 tsp sea salt

Prepare your bottom pie crust and chill in the refrigerator.  Combine the ingredients for the apple pie filling.  I used granny smith apples and golden delicious apples this time.  Core, peel and thinly slice the apples.  The recipe recommends using a mandolin but I just used a knife to produce thin slices.  Dredge the apples in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and add flavor.  Mix the seasons for the apple pie filling and combined with the apples, using your hands to mix.

To prepare the salted caramel, heat the sugar and water over low heat until dissolved.  Add the butter and bring to a slow boil.  Continue boiling, stirring or swirling only occasionally until the mixture turns a golden brown, almost copper.  If it blackens or smokes, you've overcooked it and will have to start again.  Remove from the heat immediately upon reaching the right color and add the heavy cream.  The mixture will bubble and steam rapidly.  Sprinkle in the sea salt.

To assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put 1/3 of the apples in the crust and pour 1/3 of the carmel on top. Then repeat with the remaining apples and another 1/2 of the caramel.  Save 1/3 of the caramel for the top of the pie.  The recipe suggest stacking the apples (after slicing with a mandolin) but I really just threw them in - it doesn't bother me that they are not stacked neatly and densely.

Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust and prepare a lattice.  Drizzle the remaining caramel on top, then do a egg glaze and top with sugar.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 for another 25 to 30 minutes.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Red Lentil Chicken Soup

I love lentil soups and recently tried a new recipe for lentil chicken soup that was quite delicious and easy to make.  This recipe had plenty of leftovers soon.  It was my first time making lentil soup (surprisingly) and I was pleased to learn that you don't have to soak the lentils or anything before using them.  I was planning on eating my leftovers last night but we wound up going out for dinner to Lucali, a great little quaint pizza place over in Carroll Gardens where we had some of the best pizza and calzone we had ever had. Yum!  At any rate, here's the recipe for the chicken lentil soup, which is spiced up nicely in the original recipe.

Lentil Chicken Soup (recipe from Chicken and Egg)
About 1- 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into one inch pieces
2 T cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp allspice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions
2 celery ribs
4 garlic cloves, minced
two 32 oz containers of reduced sodium chicken stock
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Toss the chicken in a medium bowl with the cumin, cinnamon and allspice until coated. Heat a large pot over medium high heat with the olive oil and saute the chicken for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the onions and the celery and cook for three minutes until softened.  Stir in the garlic and cook for thirty seconds longer.

Pour in the chicken stock and tomatoes, lentils, salt, red pepper flakes and pepper.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes, which is long enough for the lentils to be tender.  Top with cilantro when serving.
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