Monday, January 14, 2013

Annan & Apple Pie Filling

Meet Annan. She is one of my new best friends. She and I met about two months ago and it was a God- appointed meeting. Through a series of coffee dates, chats and a whirlwind of God's providence, Annan has just been hired to be a pastry chef at my ALL-TIME FAVORITE here in Nashville, The Frothy Monkey! (i mean really, could she BE any cuter? well hired, Roberto.) And would you believe who got to help her bake her VERY FIRST PIE?! :) :) Yours truly and my favorite baking friend, Nicole! (this woman is a genius)
And you know we had to have some moral support... my OTHER new beautiful, FABulous friend, Whitney, was our cheerleader all the way through.
So we began the pie baking journey! Annan wanted to do everything herself and only be stopped if we could see she was doing something horribly wrong... or if we knew any shortcuts. ;) She started mixing and mashing and fluffing her way through the dough... she discovered the magic power of a pastry cutter and learned how to properly hold an apple while slicing it without nicking her fingers.
Next thing we know she's got her dough out of the fridge and ready to be rolled, all with time for a little 10 minute wine break and a mid-pie baking Facebook status update. Only you, Annan. Then she quickly whipped together the filling, which I'll give you the recipe for because it's one of my FAVORITE, easy apple pie fillings.

Apple Pie Filling: adapted from one of the BEST books, "Cinnamon, Spice & Warm Apple Pie"

  • 3 lbs. mixed apples, i.e. Jonagold, honey crisp, Golden Delicious, etc, peeled, cored and diced or sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss well with your hands until all the apples are well coated. Use all excess mixture left in the bowl in your pie, as well. Use your favorite crust and bake for 50 minutes at 375 degrees (adjust time and temperature according to your crust).

And the pie is ready to go in!

Almost one hour later, the intoxicating smell of sugary apple goodness gets us out of our cozy seats by the fire and LOOK what greeted us at the oven door.
 A PERFECT, golden, flaky apple pie! Serve it up, girlfriend!
 The husbands were the taste testers and all gave her two thumbs up (except for James, of course, who you know, for some awful, sad reason, can't stand cooked fruit.. he had ice cream instead). Love you, honey. ;)
Lesson learned: Don't be afraid to bake your very first pie! It's actually really fun, especially if you have some people around to support you and have wine breaks with! And don't be afraid to mix and match recipes either. Nicole really wanted Annan to use her crust recipe so we went with it... I really wanted her to try my filling recipe and we did... and the pie was MAGICAL. So go ahead, find your mom's classic crust recipe and go wild!
Annan, I'm OH so proud of you... and Frothy friends, you've got a LOT of goodness headed your way in the coming days.

ps: these are the pie dishes I prefer

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bavarian Beer Pretzels

And we're BACK with a vengeance! I hope everyone had the best holiday season? Our time at home was fantastic and we squeezed a lot in the three weeks (family time and food). We tried out a few new restaurants and all wore our few new items of clothing that we opened on Christmas morning... but the one thing that REALLY stuck with me over the last few weeks was trying to figure out a recipe for these RIDICULOUS beer pretzels we had at The Galway Hooker. This place is a legitimately cool Irish pub and they're famous for these crazy soft pretzels and the world's best Guinness on tap. Naturally, after trying it once and loving it, we returned four more times in that three week span, just for the pretzel and the beer cheese sauce.
James and I were hooked (no pun intended) and I've been scheming and waiting to get back home to start testing out recipes to recreate these puffy chunks of goodness. Well this morning was the moment. And I feel on top of the world. HAVING SAID THAT, I want you to know that I have tweaked a few things more than once and this recipe begs for adjustments based on personal preference, so feel free to get creative! But they are PERFECT as is here, so please please please make these today. And tomorrow.

INGREDIENTS: (adapted from

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided into cups
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 & 1/3 cups luke warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • -------------------------------------
  • 3 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 Cups water
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • coarse sea salt to taste
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, sugar, yeast, 2 Tablespoons butter and the 1 & 1/3 cup water. Stir or mix with your electric mixer until well combined. Let it stand 10-15 minutes or until little bubbles form on the surface. Once a little bubbly, stir in the salt and the remaining flour until it's well combined and you're able to pick it up and knead it. Flour your work surface and knead the dough until it's really well combined and starting to feel pretty sticky and well bonded.
Beware, this dough will get REALLY sticky from here on out so keep your surfaces and hands well floured. Once you're done kneading, divide the dough into six pieces. Now preheat your oven to 450 degrees and lightly butter your baking sheet.
Gently roll out each dough piece into a long, skinny log, about 15 inches in length. Don't let the twisting part fool you, either... it's not hard. Watch:

Step 1: roll out
Step 2: make a loop
Step 3: curl & press
Easy, right? Right. Great, now that your pretzels are all formed, let's get going on the baking soda wash. Boil the 3 cups of water. If you have an electric kettle, I recommend using it for ease and speed. In a new medium sized bowl, combine the 3 Tablespoons baking soda with the 3 cups boiling water and stir until blended.
Here's the fun part! Slowly and carefully, transfer one pretzel at a time into the baking soda wash with a large slotted spoon for a little less than a minute, letting it get soaked on both sides. But try not to flip it, just gently dunk it under every so often. Remove from the wash with the slotted spoon and place it on the prepared baking sheet.
See how puffy and nice the baking soda wash makes them?! :) Aren't they looking so cool?? Once you've done that with all six pretzels, brush them with the melted butter and sprinkle to taste with coarse sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Mine took all of the 10 minutes to be absolutely golden and perfect.
And there you have it! Fresh, hot, homemade, perfect pretzels to enjoy all on their own or with some grainy mustard and beer cheese sauce! James and I ate two of them (yikes!) just by themselves with a glass of yazoo and THEN we topped two more with homemade tuna salad and broiled them in the oven with white cheddar cheese! :D  HEAVENLY!
Have an Irish pub theme night at home! Turn on some good tunes, grab a jug of your favorite brew and whip these babies out... They're plenty big for sharing and I can tell you your friends won't want one other thing but these.

Jordan, Brent... wish you were here!