Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Simple Cranberry Sauce

For years, I was a fanatic of store-bought, canned, cranberry sauce.  The more it was shaped like a can, the better.  I tried whole-berry sauce on Thanksgiving when I was about 8 years old and knew that it wasn't for me.  Not surprisingly, I've come along way since 1993.  

I never realized this before, but homemade cranberry sauce is incredibly easy and simple.  I made it last weekend for Friendsgiving before heading to Connecticut for real Thanksgiving, and it was a hit. Of course, I don't have a single picture of the actual event to share with you, because I was so busy running around getting dinner ready for 13 people. Dinner itself was great - we had a fire in my new fireplace and everyone chipped in with some really phenomenal dishes. We really outdid ourselves, if I do say so myself. 

Luckily, I was able to capture a few snapshots of the actual cooking process though, so here we go: 

First, rinse one bag of cranberries in a colander.  As you're rinsing, pick through them and discard any that are gross. You know, mushy, wrinkly, discolored. Drain the good ones and set  them aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly (sugar burns easily!).  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved, then add the cranberries.

Simmer the cranberries for 10 - 12 minutes, until all the cranberries have popped.  You can actually hear and see them splitting!  I highly recommend an apron at this point, and maybe wear an oven mitt on your stirring hand. Exploding cranberries are hot. 

The cranberries will split, get all foamy, and then become a nice sauce. Once you have achieved a thick, smooth mixture, remove it from the heat.  Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken as it cools, so it's OK if it's a little on the watery side.  Stir in the orange zest.  Pour it all into a pretty bowl and let it cool. Serve it at room temperature. 

Simple Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet, November 1999
Serves 6-8

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
12-oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries (3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

1. Thoroughly rinse, drain, and pick over the cranberries.  Set aside. 

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. 

3. Add the cranberries and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes, or until all of the cranberries have popped, forming a smooth, red sauce.  Stir in the orange zest.

Serve at room temperature, or chill for a more gelatinous sauce.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Pie

I’m back! I didn’t mean to leave, and definitely for not this long, but it’s been a crazy past few months and blogging fell by the wayside. It started with a coworker leaving and having to cover two positions until just a few weeks ago.  All while I studied for the GMAT, took the GMAT, and applied to business school (keeping my fingers crossed!). Needless to say, I've had more fun summers. 

Oh, and I moved.  After five years in my tiny studio, I made the leap to a rowhouse on Capitol Hill. I have two awesome roommates and am SO enjoying having actual space. We have a dining room, normal-sized kitchen, working fireplace, a huge basement (hello, storage!), and a backyard. The neighborhood is perfect for me right now - more quiet and residential yet still right in the middle of everything.  There are even families here. Like, with actual small children.  We have mums on our stoop. There were trick-or-treaters on Halloween. I can't get enough. 

Speaking of my normal-sized kitchen, I’ve slowly been learning my way around, getting organized, and finding my new rhythm.  In the chaos of moving, I barely cooked for over a month. I couldn’t jump back to The Kitchen Holiday with some rushed weeknight meal, so this weekend I concocted a perfect fall, gluten free dessert. It’s not too sweet and has a nice blend of oats, nuts, and fruit, so you can, you know, eat it for breakfast (I won't pretend this didn't happen. Twice.).  

First we'll tackle the crust. Instead of a thin pastry crust, I opted for a hearty, oat-ey, almond crust.  Start by making oat flour. Pour ½ cup of gluten free oats into the food processor and blend on high until they've reached a flour consistency. 

Like this:

Pour the flour into a separate bowl and prepare the other crust ingredients: coconut oil, maple syrup, oats, salt, and almonds.

Add the almonds to the food processor and blend them until they look like this:

Add the oat flour, salt, coconut oil, and maple syrup, and blend them until they stick together. 

Add the remaining oats and blend they're just combined into the "dough," but not so much that the oats are all chopped up.

Press the dough into a pie plate with your fingers. If your fingers stick to the dough, just get them a little wet. I used a shallow 9 inch pie pan because I was worried there wouldn't be enough dough, but there was more than enough. It easily would have fit into my deep dish pan.

Next we'll make the filling. We'll use 5 medium sized apples, sugar, spices, and gluten free flour (I used gluten free baking mix). My apples were left over from some that my parents grew in their yard (I'm starting to think it's closer to a homestead than a yard, actually) and some I received in my farm share over the summer. They weren't the prettiest on the outside, but once I peeled them they were just fine.

Peel and core the apples and then slice them very thinly into a large bowl.

Add the sugar, flour, and spices. I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but you could also just use cinnamon if you prefer. 

Toss it all together and pour the fruit into our awesome shell.

Finally, we'll make the crumb topping.  I used gluten free flour, white and brown sugar, pecans, oats, salt, and butter. 

Using a pastry blender, mix all the ingredients until the butter is the size of small pebbles. It will all melt together in the oven to a crispy goodness.  If you don't have a pastry blender, you can always use two sharp knives instead. 

Pour the topping over the apples. The apples will cook down quite a bit in the oven, so don't worry about it being too high. You'll have to carefully add the topping, but it will all come together nicely. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the crumb topping is golden brown and the apples are soft. As you can see, the edges of my crust got a little too brown, so I'd recommend cutting strips of foil and placing them over the edges of the crust while your pie cooks. Either way though, it will still be delicious.

Eat it right away while it's warm, possibly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

The great thing about this crust is that it gets better after it sits for a while. Immediately after baking I found it to be a little on the dry side, but the next day, after all the delicious apple juices have soaked through, the pie was even better. I think this will depend on how juicy your apples were. Mine weren't very juicy, but if yours are, the crust might be perfect as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let me know how it goes!

I'll definitely be making this come Thanksgiving, but if I'm being honest I'll probably be making this continuously throughout the season. 

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Pie

¾ cups whole almonds
1 ½ cups gluten free rolled oats
¼ cup coconut oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

4-5 medium apples
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons gluten free flour (such as gluten free baking mix)

½ cup gluten free baking mix
⅛ cup granulated sugar
⅛ cup brown sugar
¼ cup oats
¼ cup pecans, finely chopped
Dash of salt
¾ stick of butter, cut into pieces

For the crust
Blend ½ cup oats in a food processor until the consistency of flour. Remove to a separate bowl. Add the almonds to the food processor and blend until they resemble coarse sand. Add the oat flour, salt, oil, and syrup and blend until combined. Add the remaining one cup oats and blend until just combined. Pour into 9 inch pie pan and press into the sides. Set aside.

For the filling
Peel, core, and slice the apples. Mix in a large bowl with sugar, spices, and flour and toss until combined. Pour into prepared pie pan.

For the topping
Combine all ingredients into a medium bowl and mix with a pastry blender until the butter resembles small pebbles. Carefully pour over apples.

Cover the edges of the pie with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the apples are soft. Cool slightly before serving. 
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