Showing posts with label alpacas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alpacas. Show all posts

Friday, December 4, 2015

Apple Cherry-Marzipan Pie

by Sheila Connolly

I know I keep promising NO MORE APPLE RECIPES, but today is Meg and Seth’s wedding day, and also my grandmother’s birthday (no mere coincidence there), so there must be a dessert, and this one is definitely different. My grandmother was a confirmed dessert lover, and she believed that the sole reason for the existence of cake was to support the frosting. A lot of frosting. She kindly passed this trait along to me. (She lived to be 94, so apparently it did her no harm.)

This recipe is a bit different than most apple pies. For one thing, it includes dried cherries (which are both tart and a little sweet); for another, there’s marzipan! Bet you haven’t seen that in an apple pie! Marzipan is almond paste with added sugar, so it counter-balances the tartness of the cherries. All good!

Apple-Cherry-Marzipan Pie


8 oz (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 lb plain white flour
1/4 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
Water (about 5 Tblsp), chilled

Place the butter and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add the sugar and salt and pulse again.

Place the water in a cup or pitcher and add slowly until the mixture holds together to form a dough (you may not need all the water, but it shouldn’t be crumbly).

Knead on a floured surface long enough to combine. Wrap it in plastic wrap or put in a plastic ziplock bag and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.


Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/3 white sugar
4 Tblsp cornstarch
6 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2” slices (I used the last of my home-grown Cortlands)

7 oz marzipan, cut into small cubes
1 cup dried cherries (or you could substitute cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, combine the lemon zest, cinnamon, sugar and cornstarch.

Flour a board and a rolling pin. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Divide into two portions, one half the size of the other (bottom and top). Roll out the larger piece and fit it into a 9” pie pan (the pastry should overlap generously), pressing it against the sides of the pan. Place in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.

An aside: this recipe worked better than most of my pie crusts. For a 9” pan, this must be rolled fairly thin, but it held together well and was elastic enough to fit into the pan. When baked, it was nicely crumbly and light. It’s a keeper!
Arrange a layer of apple slices in the pie dish and sprinkle with the marzipan cubes and cherries. Repeat in layers until the pan is nearly full at the edges and heaped in the middle.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough to make a lid that fits over the apples. Crimp the edges of the bottom crust over this to seal. Make a hole in the center of the crust to let the steam escape.

If you like, beat an egg yolk with a little water and use as a glaze over the crust.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown (test to make sure the apples are soft). If it’s getting too brown after 25 minutes, cover the top with foil to keep the edges from burning.

In honor of Meg and Seth's special event, and the coming holidays, I'm giving away a copy of A Gala Event--and an alpaca! No, not a real one, but a very cute stuffed one. If you know someone who would enjoy it as a Christmas gift, here's your chance to win one. (And if you want to keep it for yourself, that's fine too--I had to have one of my own!) Just leave a comment here and I'll pick one lucky person.

And if you don't win, A Gala Event is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and bookstores everywhere.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Morris House Apple Pie

by Sheila Connolly

Mixed Apple Pie with Hazelnut Crumb Crust and Maple Cream
Sometimes things just come together when you need them.

My very own apples--but this is from only
one tree!
My apples are ripening at an alarming rate, and even after sharing with the hungry squirrels I have an awful lot of them. Of course I welcome new apple recipes, but I don’t expect them to drop into my lap. Well, this one did.

This arrived in an email from Morris House, the small hotel in Philadelphia where I’ve stayed multiple times (it’s delightful, and less expensive than the nearby big chains). The last time there I ate at the restaurant (which appears in one of my Museum Mysteries), and I shared my version of the entrée recipe here on MLK (Scallops with Ginger-Soy Aioli in May 2015). They have a great chef!

The email included a detailed recipe for (drum roll) Apple Pie. Not just any apple pie, but one that called for a hazelnut crust you don’t have to roll (I’ve whined here before about my issues with pie crusts), and a crumbled topping, and best yet, it uses “mixed apples.” Boy, do I have mixed apples!

Apples come in many varieties, with different properties. Some are good for eating, others not so good to eat but great for pies. Some should go straight to cider—you wouldn’t want to eat them. If you mix up your varieties, you benefit from the best properties of all the kinds in the pie, both for flavor and for texture.

All right, I’ll get off my apple soapbox and show you how to make this delightful apple pie from Morris House in Philadelphia.

Mixed Apple Pie with Hazelnut Crumb Crust and Maple Cream
The Crust

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine the oats and next 5 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Drizzle butter over top and mix well. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9- or 10-inch greased pie plate to form a thick crust.

The Filling

6 cups mixed apples, peeled, cored, 
Peeled with my antique peeler!
and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon zest
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 375° F.

A note on the apples you choose: taste them! If they seem kind of tart, you can add sugar to the recipe at this point, but remember there will be a sugary crust.

Place the sliced apples in a large bowl and drizzle with lemon juice and maple syrup; mix well. In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, and 3 tablespoons flour. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples and toss to coat. Evenly distribute filling into unbaked crust, taking care to layer the apples. (This will ensure your pie doesn't fall apart when you cut into it.)

Yes, there's a pink apple in there

The Topping

1/2 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup flour

For the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, and butter in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, rub in the butter until pea-sized clumps form. Sprinkle topping over filling and pat neatly into place.

Ready to bake
Bake the pie for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the apples are soft and the crust is browned on the edges. If the top seems to be browning too quickly while baking, loosely cover with aluminum foil. Remove pie from oven and allow to sit for at least 2 hours (this makes it a whole lot easier to slice!).

Tangy Maple Cream

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon maple extract OR maple syrup

While the pie is baking, chill a medium-sized glass or stainless steel bowl in the freezer.

Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and beat with a whisk or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Beat in yogurt and maple extract or syrup until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Another note: this topping is not sweetened, except for that dash of maple syrup. If you like things sweet, add a bit of sugar after you’ve whipped the cream.
Once the pie has cooled, cut it into slices and top with a dollop of Maple Cream before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

I have to add: this pie smelled wonderful while it baked, throughout my entire house. There really is something different about apples used the same day you pick them!

Eleven days until A Gala Event comes out!

I can't believe it took nine books for Meg and Seth to figure out they were meant for each other. Of course, nothing went smoothly in planning the wedding, and then there was this crime to solve...and some wandering alpacas to watch out for. Life in Granford is full of surprises.

You can pre-order it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Apple Jelly

by Sheila Connolly

When I first started writing the Orchard Mysteries, I decided I should get some experience with what I was writing about—growing apples—so I toured a number of commercial orchards, talked to a lot of people (including the director of the experimental orchard at UMass Amherst), and planted my own tiny orchard. That was in 2007.

Meet Nathan, the Northern Spy

My first tree was a Northern Spy (which I call Nathan Hale, now and then), that I found in western Massachusetts, where the books are set. Probably not the best choice for a beginning, because they are slow to mature and produce apples, and the fruit doesn’t usually ripen until November. But Nathan has survived fairly well and has put out a decent crop this year. So have most of the other trees—even the Esopus Spitzenburg, a variety that was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite. It’s not very happy with our climate at the moment, and has a serious case of fire blight, but it does have apples.

Having a very small orchard (a total of eight trees), I worry about each and every apple, and when one drops too early it breaks my heart. So I started casting about for something to do with very unripe tiny apples—I couldn’t let them go to waste. (And I have no pigs or goats to feed them to.)

I went hunting online and came upon the world’s simplest recipe for apple jelly. Actually unripe apples are great for this—they have lots of natural pectin, but plenty of flavor. The recipe has all of four ingredients: apples, water, a bit of lemon juice, and sugar. You don’t even have to peel or core the apples—just chop them up and away you go.

You don’t need a fancy canning set-up, although I was thrilled that I finally got to use my vintage canning funnel (see? I knew it would be useful someday!). I didn’t jump through hoops to sterilize all my jars (recycled from other jellies), but I’m planning to keep the jelly in the fridge anyway. If you make jelly and want to give it to friends as gifts, you might want to be a little more careful, unless you’re a big fan of mold.

You do, however, need a candy thermometer, because the exact temperature at which you cook your jelly is important.

Green Apple Jelly
4 lbs green (unripe) apples 
Four pounds of apples
3 cups water
1/2 cup lemon juice

Do not peel or core the fruit, just wash and cut it into pieces. Seeds and skin contain most pectin so they should be cooked along with the pulp. This will make a firm jelly.

Cover the fruit with the water and add more if needed. Add the lemon juice and boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash. 

Strain the fruit through a large strainer lined with two layers of clean cheesecloth. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RUSH THE JUICE BY SQUEEZING THE BAG OR MASHING THE FRUIT DOWN. THIS WILL MAKE THE JELLY CLOUDY. Be patient! Let the fruit stand in the strainer 4 to 6 hours or overnight if you have the space available. 

The following morning, measure the juice. Add sugar, in the ratio of 1 cup sugar to 1 cup juice. Boil until a candy thermometer reads 220 degrees F.

Note: Your pan must be big enough so jelly can raise up in a rolling boil. This is a boil that cannot be stirred down. Jelly must boil at a rolling boil until it reaches the 220 degree stage or it will not set. It kind of wants to stop at 218 degrees for a while, but you have to wait. You can see when it starts to thicken.

Now this is boiling!

Turn off the heat and skim off any froth. Fill and cap the jars.

And now stand back and admire your results! And think of all those farm women who spent days canning and preserving their crops in the heat of summer, so they could eat over the winter. For your information, that four pounds of apples, covered with water, produced four cups of apple liquid, which after boiling it down, yielded five eight-ounce jars of jelly. Imagine what making enough to last the winter would require!

What do you do with apple jelly? The usual—put it on toast or muffins. It’s also good for glazing pie crusts—under the fruit so the crust doesn’t get soggy quite so fast, and over the fruit to give your open-faced pie a nice finish. You’ll find something!

A Gala Event is only weeks from release! (And don't ask me what the apples are doing in the snow--I don't design the covers.)

There's a wedding! And alpacas! (Yes, they are in the book.) 

You can preorder it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.