Scoop of the Day… Apple Pie

Two words: Apple Pie. When paired together, these two words can be some of the most powerful words in the English language. Apple Pie is the President of pastries, the Danny Zuko of the T Birds, the Babe Ruth of baseball. It made its mark in this country as soon as the English colonists landed in North America and brought with them their English customs and favorite fruits (scoop: apples were also known as the winter banana or “melt in your mouth”… sexy). Ever since, it has served as a symbol for all American pride. Apple Pie, like America, is dominant, its intimidating, it emits an extreme sense of patriotism, and it makes us all long for our mommies (weird.. but true). When done right, it also happens to be extraordinarily delish and the slightest sniff of its unmistakable scent can make the strongest of men weak in the knees.

 …  … 

On a not so similar note, Apple Pie also has the ability to make every ambitious baker weak in the knees. This is not because Apple Pie might just be our kryptonite, but more so because it is one of the most intimidating tasks to take on in the kitchen. I’m not saying it’s too difficult or complicated a feat, because it happens to be quite simple, but it’s APPLE PIE! Come on people! This pie was replicated in the 19th century by American pioneers when apples were obsolete using only spices and soda crackers! We are so entralled with this dish that, in 1935, Ritz Crackers made this our official emergency recipe if, heaven forbid, apples disappeared again. There is a lot of pressure around baking this pastry. Due to its lasting impression in our culture and due to the fact that it’s so attached to the notion of MOM, if you want to bake this masterpiece from scratch, it better be just that, a masterpiece. If you don’t deliver, baker, be prepared to reap the consequences… utter disappointment… from MOM.

If you do dare to attempt the Apple Pie, fear not. The Scoop is prepared to provide you with some guidance in your endeavor…

1) The most important thing to remember before you bake is this: Don’t be scared, it’s just a pie crust. Seriously, it’s as easy as that. Loosen up, jump up and down, play your favorite pre game song, and just get to baking. The crust is the step that sends us dangerously close to an anxiety attack, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

2) The next most important thing to remember is to keep all of your ingredients cold. Constantly cold. REALLY cold. I made the mistake of being careless the last time I baked my pie and it came out OK, but after the pie I made this past weekend, I promise to never neglect my fridge or freezer again. Before I even started I froze my utensils. It was a lot of work, a lot of back and forth, and I’m sure I killed some brain cells in the process, but it was SO worth it.

3) Another tip I’ve picked up along the way is to make an all-butter crust and use Land-O-Lakes unsalted butter. Please just take my word for it. I do the research, you do the baking.

4) And my last vital tip for baking an Apple Pie is this, when prepping the guts of your pie, use a blend of granny smith and macintosh apples. I’ve used this combination time and again and it has NEVER failed me. Though my dough may not always be perfect, the filling is always on target.

I have to say that I was most excited to share my Apple Pie recipe with you this year. I put all of my heart, soul, and energy into this puppy and I am damn proud. I went so far as to climb INTO the apple tree and shake down my apples. (True: I did go into an apple tree and shake down apples. Not True: These apples weren’t used in my pie, though they could have been!) On any note, baking an Apple Pie is a perfect way to honor the fall and our country as we glide into the holiday season. True to the phrase, “As American as Apple Pie,” there isn’t a more nostalgic, heart warming, or deeply American treat that I can think of. It requires a lot of work and a lot of love, but can be customized to suit an array of taste buds and it conjures up memories that last a life time.

Scoop of the Day… Banana Strawberry Mini Muffins

Have you ever found yourself to be so busy that you need to cut the busy with more busy? It’s as if the daily routine busy is just so overwhelming, that if you don’t throw in one or two more things to take your mind off of it you might go crazy. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. And I’m sure you’re aware that once you reach that level of busy you have simultaneously reached that level of crazy, in which your hands are firmly grasping onto your hair, and you suddenly acknowledge your situation and feel the need to resolve it.

Friends, I have to confess that these past couple of weeks I have been that level of busy/ crazy. It’s amazing how it just creeps up on you when you least expect it. One minute, you’re sitting idly on your couch watching the latest breakdown of Snooki on the Jersey Shore: Italy (what DID she do to deserve this.. hmm..tear..), and the next minute you’re being pulled in every possible direction wondering where all these people got the idea that you were Superwoman. I really have to stop wearing that damn cape…  All I want to do is see Snooks be happy, but, no, duty calls. C’est la vie.

In order to cure these crazies and stay in touch with the inner Scoop, I to turn baking. Baking, unlike cooking, is strategic, calculated, and produces the sweetest sense of accomplishment (no pun intended… ). Last week, when I was hanging on the edge of sanity, I rolled in from work only to meet a pair of speckled bananas sitting on my kitchen counter. Rather than kick myself for wasting food (it’s a Jew thing), I became inspired. Just as quickly as I saw these two helpless bananas, I felt the urgency to drop everything I was doing and resuscitate them into a beautiful batch of Banana Strawberry Mini Muffins. I came across a recipe for these treats on the blog Sweet Pea’s Kitchen and was so excited when I realized the opportunity to put it into action. As quickly as the chef’s on Chopped, I had my station set up, strawberries thawing, and a banana mixture nearly finished. Not even an hour later, I was pulling out a batch of fresh-baked mini-muffins that smelled of warm cinnamon, melted gooey banana (in only the best way melted gooey bananas can smell), with a hint of tart strawberry.

It's the little things...

One hour of busy was all I need to break up my busy.. if you get my drift. As an added bonus, these mini muffins lasted through to the next day, thanks to my super “hide food in the kitchen” skills, and allowed me to feed my coworkers a pre- breakfast the next morning, hopefully breaking up the busy/ crazy in their day.

If you’re in a bind for a baked good, feel like your going stir crazy, have some speckled bananas waiting for you to get home from work, or forgot to take off your Superman cape, give this recipe a go, you won’t regret it 🙂

Scoop of the Day… SanFran

While New York is my first love and will always have my heart, I have to say that there is a new lover in my life. This lover is a little more laid back, but just as passionate. Some may think he’s unstable, but I happen to like being kept on my toes. And this lover is oh so charming. My new lover in life is San Francisco. I met San Francisco (or SanFran as I like to call him) last year and we have been seeing each other casually ever since. When I am with SanFran all of my worries seem to melt away. We’re always doing something new and exciting, we spend a lot of time outside, and we’re totally on the same wave length. SanFran just gets me. One of the things I like most about SanFran is his food. New York does have a lot to boast about and of course his confidence draws the attention of the most attractive chefs, but SanFran is modest and smart, serving forward thinking, whimsical meals that really give you what you want, not just try to impress you.

When I see SanFran, it’s not too often, so he really tries to pack it in while I’m there. On my last trip this past weekend, he introduced me to the creativity and talent of both Chef Tyler Florence at Wayfare Tavern and Chef Michael Mina at Bourbon Steak. Now, when SanFran proposed these two chefs to me I was a little baffled. Tyler and Michael are celebrity chefs that should be at New York’s coat-tail. Tyler having his cooking show, Tyler’s Ultimate, making gourmet cooking accessible to the man’s man, and Michael being an established restaurateur and steak guy. How could these two chefs fit in with the creativity and lightheartedness that SanFran embraces? I thought he was playing me for a fool, but I decided to give him a chance. Boy, am I glad I did! While the main courses at each restaurant rang true to the chefs’ machismo styles, the deserts were flirtatious and made me especially giddy.

Wayfare Tavern, for instance, is like a huge rustic man cave you’d expect to stumble upon in the middle of Minnesota.. or Kentucky. Animals on the walls, billiard room for private dining, large flat screen tv for… well I’m not too sure guys, football? It’s oozing with testosterone. The experience was like having a first date with your meal. As soon as you sit down, you’re greeted with a beautiful, puffy, and flakey popover that is clearly used to butter you up and seduce you. The apps and entrees were Tyler-esque, and the deserts just hook you in, as if he were exposing his sensitive side! I was so surprised at how playful they were that I nearly forgot I was in a mantuary. One of our friends ordered a popcorn covered candy apple, another had a mini pumpkin pudding pie, and I of course had the trio of ice cream (my staple). This trio was composed of popcorn, cinnamon, and honey thyme, and each was UNBELIEVABLE. The texture was velvety smooth, they all had the perfect amount of creaminess, and the unique flavors were pronounced but not pungent. I can honestly say those were some of the best scoops I’ve had at a sit down dinner in a LONG time.

Bourbon Steak was a runner-up in the scoop department ( I had the trio of sorbet, none of which lacked luster), but the other deserts were shockingly, if not more, creative! Two people at our table ordered a child like root beer float with two gooey homemade cookies, XXL, and another had house made fig newtons! The third ordered beignets that tasted as if they came straight out of Mardi Gras, rum included sans beads. Not only did the desserts compare in fantasy factor, but the bread basket was similarly replaced. This time we were coaxed with duck fat french fries and a trio of sauces that made you do a little dance.

I can’t say which restaurant impressed me more, but I can say that SanFran certainly did not disappoint on this trip, and I anticipate he won’t on the next. Although at one time I thought SanFran to be jealous of New York and all his glory, I really don’t think that is the case. SanFran’s got the magic touch and really knows how to throw a curve ball. Honey.. you know the way to my heart… and my stomach. Till X-Mas 😉