Russian Apple Pie

Russian Apple Pie

It’s wonderful having friends with rich heritages. Years ago, when a friend / former co-worker of mine started dating a wonderful Kazakh gal, I suddenly started noting how the food she brought in for lunch was influenced. She used to be a raw salad and kombucha person, like clockwork, but soon, plastic containers of borscht started to make regular appearances. Even years later, it is quite common to see Russian Apple Pie appear at their house parties. Granted, it’s more akin to a cake than a traditional pie, but the name remains as is!

Recently, when Irina celebrated her Big 3-2, Melissa was in the kitchen whipping up that luscious dessert. The directions? So simple! She had the ingredients written down in a notebook with one note, verbatim: “Bake 350 20 min.”

I figured I could give it a try, eh?

Russian Apple Pie

This past weekend, I went up to Connecticut for a family event, celebrating Christmas a few weeks late and the pending of arrivals of two cousins’ babies. I offered to make an extra dessert, this easy dish in mind.

Russian Apple Pie

Perhaps, unfortunately for me, barely anyone touched it because I was unaware that a giant fondant elephant-topped chocolate mousse cake to celebrate my cousin Simone’s son would also be present. But hey, more leftovers for me to nosh on!

Russian Apple Pie

Russian Apple Pie
(Serves 8)

Ingredients:

– 1 cup flour
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 cup water
– 2 Granny Smith Apples, unpeeled
– 1 cup walnuts, whole or chopped

Before We Get Started…

– Apples must be Granny Smith or another tart variety. Do not use sweeter apples in this dish.

– Walnuts can be whole or chopped, depending on the texture you prefer. I’ve made the pie with both and they’ve been wonderful!

– Though this could be baked in a variety of pans, I make this in a pie plate or a round cake pan.

– That original note stated “Bake 350 20 min”, but I found I had to bake it longer. Bake for at least 30 minutes, but check the pie at the 20 minute mark, as different ovens bake slightly differently.

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.) Core and slice apples into eight even sections. Place slices at bottom of a lightly greased pie plate or round cake pan; the slices should cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer, so if you start to pile slices on top of each other, remove those extra slices. Sprinkle apples with walnuts.

3.) In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon; whisk until combined. Add eggs and water to dry mixture and whisk again until combined.

4.) Pour batter on top of apples and walnuts; the batter should coat / cover everything, but if a few apple slices or walnuts break out of the top of the batter slightly, that is fine!

5.) Bake for 30 – 35 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

 

This is a photo of the Russian Apple Pie from my friend’s birthday party. She used a smaller pie plate than I did to make this recipe, hence the smoother top. Still delicious, regardless!

 

rosemary chocolate bark

Rosemary Chocolate Bark

OKAY. Fourth chocolate recipe in a row! I’m even going to stop myself. Believe it or not, and much to my father’s chagrin, I’m not a huge sweets person. I’m not a huge chocolate fan, despite this blog’s seeming evidence to the contrary. If given the choice, I’d take a family-sized bag of Utz potato chips and a lifetime supply of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar Cheese over a chocolate bar or a donut. Still, every December, a switch flips inside of me, and I become ravenous when it comes to sweets!

Luckily, as I type this, I’m eating a very Instagramable bowl of diced sweet potato, avocado drizzled with EVOO and garlic powder, and a 7 minute-boiled egg that is exhibiting mass amounts of #yolkporn.

img_8820

I can still keep myself balanced. Ha!

Yesterday, I met up with my friend Nicole; she’s a former co-worker that trudged deep through the silos and warehouses of infection control data along side with me…though she eventually left me to take a job at the city’s DOH. (RUDE.) After we had a lovely Sunday afternoon slurping Xiao Long Bao in St. Mark’s Place and drinking Thai iced bubble tea out of a plastic lightbulb at Spot Dessert Bar, we decided to take a spin through the Union Square Holiday Market before heading off on our respective ways. I have a love / hate relationship with NYC’s multiple holiday markets. The feeling of Christmas joy is almost tangible, but I’m also gripping my bottle of Xanax in my purse as I weave through the tight crowds. At one point, I had to pull over into a booth before I got too irritated, and I spotted some wonderful looking chocolate bars. As I know I’ve mentioned, I love something slightly spiced mixed with my chocolate, such as cinnamon or a mild curry. (SO good.) Before pulling back out to deal with the crowds again, a rosemary chocolate bar caught my eye. WOW! For the past 24 hours, I have been thinking about how I wish I bought it.

rosemary chocolate bark

Then I realized…hey! I could make it!

rosemary chocolate bark

If you know how to make a basic chocolate bark recipe, you can go innumerable directions with it.

rosemary chocolate bark

I’m glad I’m on vacation from work until January 3rd. It’s so nice to have time to develop recipes and do my photography during the week…while using precious natural light. Haaa.

rosemary chocolate bark

Rosemary Chocolate Bark
(Makes roughly 12 pieces, depending on how you choose to break it up!)

Ingredients:

– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips; aim for 40% – 60% cacao.
– 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped and divided into two 1 tablespoon portions
– 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, divided into two 1/2 teaspoon portions
– 1 cup water

Before We Get Started…

– Do not substitute milk chocolate or unsweetened chocolate in this recipe.

– To make this recipe 100% vegan-friendly, make sure to use dairy-free chocolate.

– I have not done this recipe with dried rosemary, so I can not speak to if it will work.

– If you do not have a double-boiler to melt your chocolate, the glass bowl – over – the – saucepan method always works! Please follow this video from Real Simple for instructions.

Directions:

1.) Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet and set aside.

2a.) If using a double-boiler to melt the chocolate, add water to the lower portion and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Place top portion of double-boiler into place. Add chocolate to top portion and slowly melt. Once chocolate has melted, stir in 1 tablespoon of rosemary and one 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine.

OR

2b.) If using a medium saucepan and heatproof bowl (Please see Before We Get Started…), add water to sauce pan and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Place heatproof bowl on top of saucepan, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add chocolate to bowl and slowly melt. Once chocolate has melted, stir in 1 tablespoon of rosemary and one 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine.

3.) Pour chocolate mixture onto parchment paper and spread until even. Sprinkle chocolate with remaining rosemary and salt.

4.) Set chocolate mixture into refrigerator for one hour to cool. Remove and break into pieces.

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies

Oh, dear. It seems like I’ve gone off on a bit of a chocolate tangent on these past few posts, eh? And I thought I was going cranberry crazy by having two cranberry recipes on a row. I’m about to get chocolate wasted with my third chocolate-based recipe in a row! Eh. ‘Tis the season, am I right? (All in moderation, of course. I’m typing this up as I’m eating a kale salad with vegetables, EVOO, garlic powder, and vinegar. Total guilt avoided. Ha!)

One of my coworkers, Jean-Marie, is my department’s Queen of Baking! No birthday is complete without some of her chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and her scones with currants are so incredibly authentic! With a little jam and clotted cream, I feel like I’m in a London tea house rather than a windowless 5th floor office on the Upper East Side. Don’t get me started on her Banoffee Pie! Her food has even inspired a hashtag between a few other coworkers and myself: #dammitjeanmarie ! Why? Because on those days when we say, “I’m having oatmeal for breakfast and going to Sweetgreen for lunch!”, J-M will casually drop a plate of scones by the microwave. DAMMIT, JEAN-MARIE!

ue The other day, she made these dreamy Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies. Their color alone indicated to me that they would be rich, but it was quite the opposite! The cookie had a cakier and more crumbly texture than I was expecting, and the cookie’s flavor was not dissimilar to that of an Oreo, likely due to the addition of black cocoa. It wasn’t too sweet, which worked well because the butterscotch can be such a dominant sweet flavor. The black cocoa counters this beautifully. I had to ask for the recipe, and I had to make it right away. She even gave me black cocoa to use! Honestly, without it, I doubt they’d be as delicious.

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Dammit, Jean-Marie! These are great!

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies
(Makes 12 – 15 cookies)

Ingredients:

– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
– 2 tablespoons black cocoa, sifted
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
– 1 large egg, room temperature
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup butterscotch chips

Before We Get Started…

– The original recipe calls for light brown sugar, but I used dark. I could tell no discernible difference, so use whichever brown sugar you have available.

Directions:

1.) In a medium bowl, whisk flour, both cocoas, baking soda, and salt until combined.

2.) In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes light. Reduce speed of beaters and slowly add egg and vanilla. Continue to beat until combined.

3.) Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix together. Add butterscotch chips and mix until chips have uniformly spread throughout the dough. Place dough in refrigerator for at least one hour, but up to overnight.

4.) Prior to baking, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and set aside.

5.) Portion dough into 12 – 15 cookies, roughly the size of a large golf ball, and place onto baking sheet(s). Flatten very slightly, but make sure they maintain an overall round-ish shape. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes; cookies may look a bit undercooked, but they will firm up once they cool!

6.) Remove from oven and cool cookies on baking sheet(s) for 5 minutes before removing and placed on a wire rack to finish cooling.

– – – –

NOTE: Because I want some credit, please know that because my Kitchen Aid Mixer is currently packed away in the back of my closet and my hand mixer is non-functional, I creamed my butter and sugar with a fork AND combined the dough by hand. YES. My hand looks vile. Ha! Digging black dough out from under my fingernails was worth the creation of these amazing morsels.

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

Cranberry Cobbler

Yes, I know, I know, I’m posting two cranberry recipes back to back. *shrug* This is just too good not to share right now!

How was your Thanksgiving, dear reader? I had a lovely holiday up in my hometown in Northwestern Connecticut. Despite cracking my rib and pulling a muscle in my mid-left back, I traveled up on MetroNorth, loaded with hospital-grade disposable heating pads and a lot of Extra Strength Tylenol.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

The quirky wonderful kitchen of my childhood home.

I had a lovely time with my family, from my rambunctious teenage cousins to my wacky (I say with much affection!) aunts to my uncles that just go with the flow. It was a wonderful afternoon filled with delicious food and some great memories. One of my aunts put me on dessert duty; I had lots of ideas, but was unsure what to execute. I knew she was making an apple pie and another aunt was bringing pumpkin pies. Well, there went my top two ideas!

Thank you, Google. Typing in “Easy Thanksgiving Desserts” saved my hide.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

This recipe is unique as it’s not quite what you or I would consider a traditional cobbler. I correlate “cobbler” with something a little juicier with a biscuity topping. This recipe yields a cakey batter that is wonderfully springy with a fantastic buttery flavor; there is almost an entire stick of butter in this baby. (Beat still my beating heart! Like…literally. That butter might clog it up. Ha!) The cranberries are tart, yet they slightly mellow out when baked.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

My two teenaged cousins, Erik and Colby, love to eat ALL OF THE FOOD, but can be picky as well. When they saw this cobbler and ate half of it themselves, telling me how much they loved it, I took that as the ultimate compliment.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

Thank you, Martha. Girl, you saved me this Thanksgiving.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

Cranberry Cobbler
(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe for Cranberry Cobbler)
(Serves 8)

Ingredients:

– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
– 1 & 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
– 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup whole milk
– 1 large egg
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or grease a round 10″ pan and set aside.

2.) Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Whisk together milk and egg in a separate bowl, then slowly stream in and whisk melted butter until combined. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and combined thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan.

3.) In a small bowl, combine cranberries, water, 2 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon. Gently drop cranberries on top of batter in pan.

4.) Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until cake is springy to the touch. Remove, place on cooling rack, and cool for at least minutes until serving.

cranberry shortbread tart

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Come this time of year, when bag after bag of cranberries shimmer their ruby red presence all over my favorite grocery stores, I rack ’em up and use them any way I can. In fact, I usually keep a bag or two in my freezer for when it’s mid-winter and I need that cranberry kick in a bunch of scones or in a hot bowl of oatmeal. However, as we’re well into November and quickly approaching December, I make my favorite cranberry recipe – the quintessential cranberry sauce – quite often. In fact, I make it like it’s going out of style. What do I eat it on? Turkey? Chicken? Mixed into oatmeal? Nine times out of ten, I just eat it by the spoonful. I love cranberry sauce that much. Do my stomach, esophagus, and teeth enjoy this acidic treat? I’ve never bothered to ask them, nor do I care.

That being said, I oft have an extra bowl or bag of it in the back of my fridge, and I don’t want it to go to waste.

cranberry shortbread tart

Come the holidays, we all eat our fair share of delicious dishes, but let’s be honest: we waste some of it. It’s not ideal, but it happens. We end up pitching some of that leftover turkey in the trash. Some of those roasted veggies may end up in the compost bin. It’s always best to re-purpose leftovers, if possible. Don’t waste that precious cranberry sauce if it’s been languishing in the back of your fridge for a few days. Breathe some life back into it by layering it onto a delicious buttery shortbread crust.

cranberry shortbread tart

I love this tart because it’s a little freeform, a little rustic, and a little messy, too. Don’t wear light colors while eating this and have a few napkins handy. 😉

cranberry shortbread tart

Cranberry Shortbread Tart
(Makes 9 – 12 slices…well, depending on how you slice it!)

Ingredients:

– 2 cups fresh cranberry sauce, chilled (Please see Before We Get Started…)
– 1 cup flour
– 1 stick butter (traditional or vegan), chiiled and cubed or frozen to grate (Please see Before We Get Started…)
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher

Before We Get Started…

– DO NOT USE CANNED JELLIED CRANBERRY SAUCE FOR THIS RECIPE! Yes, this statement is worth the caps lock.

– If you do not have leftover cranberry sauce and are making this dish completely from scratch, please follow the directions on your bag of cranberries to create a sauce. It’s basic and you can’t go wrong!

– Also, if making fresh cranberry sauce, you can alter it as you please. I prefer to boil my cranberries in either 3/4 cup apple cider or orange juice (whichever I have at the time) and 1/4 cup water. Due to this, I cut the sugar down to about a 1/4 cup instead of the traditional 1 cup the average cranberry sauce recipe recommends; said average recipe recommends boiling them in water, which does not have additional sugar in it. (Am I  perhaps stating the obvious? Ha!) What’s great about making homemade cranberry sauce is the fact that you can easily control the amount of sugar that’s in it.

– My way of cutting butter into flour involves grating it with a cheese grater, a method I have mentioned a few times in this blog. Please refer to my Orange Ginger Scones recipe for more specifics. This method is a godsend! 

– I have made vegan shortbread in the past using Earth Balance, and it has worked! That being said, I haven’t tried it for this specific recipe. If you feel inclined, substitute Earth Balance or your favorite vegan “butter” for the traditional butter in this recipe; likewise, use your own favorite vegan shortbread recipe, if you please! I’ve read many blogs that state that using coconut oil makes for a tasty version. 🙂

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 8″ x 8″ x 2″ baking pan with parchment paper; fit to bottom of pan and allow 1″ – 2″ of paper hang off of the sides, as this will allow you to easily lift the tart from the pan when it’s finished. Set pan aside.

2.) In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter; combine with hands or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled a fine meal. Evenly press mixture into the bottom of the baking pan; using the bottom of a bottle or a measuring cup can help ensure an even surface.

3.) Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and place on wire rack to cool.

4.) Once shortbread is cooled, spoon cranberry sauce on top and spread evenly. (If making cranberry sauce from scratch and not using pre-made / leftover cranberry sauce, allow sauce to cool before placing on shortbread.) Place in refrigerator for one hour before serving. Remove from fridge, and carefully lift tart out of pan by the parchment paper’s edges. Cut and serve.