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…

Baking from scratch is something that has been engrained in me since I was a mini Scoop. It all began in my second grade class with my teacher Miss Athenasiatis. It’s a mouthful , I know. Imagine saying that 10 times a day when you’re eight years old and you’ve only been speaking basic English for 6 years. Not so easy. So, for our sake, and to save her face, we will refer to her as Miss A. When I was in Miss A’s class we had weekly spelling tests, and I HAD to get a 100% on each one. If I didn’t get a 100%, I didn’t get a new troll doll, and if I didn’t get a new troll doll, the whole world would come to an end. Seriously, you do not know what I was capable of at that age, and I hope you never have to feel the residual effects. Well, one day Miss A gave us a spelling test, and there was a really difficult word on our study sheet. Even though I was prepared, and even though I kneeled down next to my bed the night before, stretched my chin to the edge of my mattress, and prayed for this word to magically not be on it, the very next day, Miss A stood before our class and said, “Spell the word…”Because.” Laugh all you want, but for one reason or another, I just could not master this word. Maybe it was because I frequently heard it paired with “…I said so,” or maybe it was the silent ‘u,’ but whatever the reason, as soon as she announced the word, my face got hot and my mind went blank. To my advantage, right after she announced the word, she was called out of the classroom to speak with another teacher. This was my chance, this was my one moment. In my little cubby to the side of my leg, my blue spelling book was standing tall, ready to be flipped open and reveal the true spelling of “Because.” As I sat there, however, I started to get the sweats. And then I got the shakes. Innocent Miss A would have no idea what I had done, but I would have to live with the fact that I had cheated. Every time I spelled the word “Because,” I would have to think of that one time Miss A was testing us and I cheated… for a troll doll.

This moment, believe it or not, helped define who I am today. Due to my inability to defy Miss A, I am now unable to cheat or cut corners in anything I do. And while I do envy those who are so comfortable swiping past years exams, entering equations on their calculators, or even having someone else do their work for them, I am wholly uncomfortable with it. The only time I really enjoy cutting a corner is when I J walk across the street… there’s something so thrilling about it, you know you agree.

While I know the easy way out would make my life, well, easier, I find pleasure in doing things from start to finish. This way, I am learning and manipulating steps as I go along, and creating an end result I can call my own. I take this quality with me through life, and I especially take it with me into the kitchen. Do you know what a box of Duncan Hines cake mix does to me? I get that same feeling I got in Miss A’s class when I tried to cheat, I get hot, I break into the sweats, and I start to shake.

Baking without cutting corners, a.k.a baking from scratch, is one of my favorite tasks to take on from end to end, and I had the ultimate scratch experience this weekend when I baked my left over homemade challah bread into a Maple Spiced Bread Pudding. While the bread making was exhausting, the bread pudding I could have done with my eyes closed, and the finished product was absolutely divine. The feeling (and results) you get after successfully baking from scratch do not come in a box. As Christopher likes to say, “Made from scratch, down the hatch.”

Oh, and about that last spelling test in Miss A’s class… I didn’t cheat… and I got my troll doll. 😉