Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Birthday Treat : Sour Cream Apple Pie

Make. This. Pie. Now. 

This post could easily consist of those four simple words. So, if you're satisfied with my demand go ahead, scroll down to the end of the post, copy down this recipe, and get your behind in the kitchen! If, however, you need a little more convincing and thus aren't prey to my bossy nature, read on!

Tuesday was my mothers birthday. So, naturally, I was given dessert duty. First, she requested a chocolate version of the cheesecake cupcakes I posted recently. A few hours later I got a phone call, she'd changed her mind (good thing I'd decided to wait until the day of to make dessert, or I may have already been deep in chocolate cake batter). She had spied the stunning brightly colored apples ripening in the yard on a visit earlier that day and decided that she wanted apple pie for her birthday. I was fairly happy to oblige, I say 'fairly' because the idea of pie crust generally sends shivers down my spine. Luckily she wanted half crust (on the bottom of the pie) and half streusel (on the top, naturally), which is exactly the way I like my apple pie. Gosh, you'd think we we're related. . . ha!

Speaking of my apple pie, I should confess, I never use a recipe. It's just so unnecessary. All you really need for a good pie are a bushel of tart apples, sugar (I like both brown and white), cinnamon, maybe a bit of ginger, nutmeg and/or cardamom, a touch of flour perhaps, and a good streusel. Come September for the last 5 (or more) years, without fail, I've made an apple pie. Seeing as this was going to be my first pie of the season I wanted to try something a little different. Regardless of the fact that I wait months for September to arrive so that I can make apple pie, I was bored with the idea of my same old, same old, apple pie. That's when I stumbled upon a recipe for sour cream apple pie. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, have you? I never had, that's for sure! I found the pictures displayed on countless foodie sites, of what appeared to be perfectly cooked apples suspended in a silky custard, absolutely irresistible. Let me repeat, irr-esis-tible.

This pie did not disappoint. All of the sour cream apple pie recipes I sought out failed to use any kind of spice though, it's really just vanilla and lemon to flavor the filling. I abhorred the idea of leaving out my oh-so autumn flavors, and threw a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg both into the filling and the streusel. The result was apple pie heaven. Sure, a little different, but worthy of any special occasion or Thanksgiving table, and surely much different than any apple pie I've ever seen or tasted. Most of the lucky consumers loved it, warm especially. The boyfriend was the only one who didn't care for it, claiming it just didn't taste like the classic cinnamon laden pie he has grown to look forward to each fall. I have to tell you, that man often surprises me with his traditionalist tastebuds.

Flaky all butter pate brisee (perfect recipe via elise over at Simply Recipes), topped with apples that have been sauteed in a bit of sugar and butter with a touch of spice, a mixture that is then tossed with a bright lemon scented sour cream vanilla bean studded filling (whoa), poured into the buttery crust, and topped with a healthy portion of crispy streusel lumps, all baked to golden perfection. If you dare, top with a scoop of ice cold vanilla ice cream. I don't know how you could complain about such a masterpiece, a wonderful new (for me) take on a classic.

Sour Cream Apple Pie


9 cups tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon high quality cinnamon
a pinch (or two) ground nutmeg
one round of pate brisee prepared, chilled, and ready to go in a large 8 or 9 inch pie dish
1 3/4 cups sour cream
1 vanilla bean scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one small lemon placed in a small dish
2 eggs
streusel (recipe below)


1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) butter unsalted butter, melted
1/2 of the lemon zest from above
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, until well combined, and crumbly. Set aside.

Pie Directions: 

1. Place butter, apples, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large skillet over medium heat. Saute for about 5 minutes (perhaps more depending on the size of your slices) until softened. Set aside and allow to cool a bit.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, mix your sour cream, vanilla (bean or extract), half of your zest (reserve the other half for the streusel), and the eggs. Whisk until well combined.
3. Pour sour cream mixture over apple mixture and stir until combined.
4. Pour sour creamed apples into brisee prepared pie dish. Top with streusel.
5. Start the oven at 400 F and bake for 15 minutes covered with tin foil at this heat.
6. Reduce oven to 375, keep pie covered, and cook an additional 15 minutes.
7. Reduce heat a final time and bake an additional 20-30 minutes until crust and crumble is golden and crunchy.
8. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes.
9. Devour!

Now, I dare you to tell me this pie isn't exciting, and unworthy of the extra steps. . . .

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sweet September : Roasted Sweet Potato Arugula Penne

The grey has come. The warm orange glow of the sunset leaves my kitchen window hours earlier than it seemed to last week. The rainy days are outnumbering the sunny. The leaves along the avenue are quickly turning brown, yellow, and ruby red. Last night, I sat by my backdoor and took as much of the night air into my lungs as humanly possible, and for the first time this year I smelled it. You know what I'm talking about, that unmistakable autumn scent, woodsy, spicy and a bit cool. 

Today was an outnumbered day, a day of sun and blue skies. Still the cold has crept it, it's unavoidable this time of year, and thus I was craving some fall inspired flavors this evening for dinner. Enter, heavily peppered and salted oven roasted sweet potato, punchy arugula, and crispy fried pancetta all tossed with warm penne, a simple dressing, and a bit of pecorino. For me it wasn't a perfect bowl of pasta, but I can be picky, the boyfriend hungrily scarfed down two bowls and was happy to assure me it was 'amazing'. I'm not going to give up on this recipe though, while it may not have been my perfect bowl of pasta, I think next time I'll throw in a leek sauteed in butter and see what effect that may have on this dish. 

Are you looking forward to the autumn days upon us? 

Roasted Sweet Potato & Arugula Penne
serves 4 to 6


1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled
olive oil
salt and pepper
5 slices of pancetta
1 small shallot - minced
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 lb of penne
1 1/2 cup fresh arugula 
pecorino and flat leaf parsley for garnish


1. Preheat your oven to 425 F cut your sweet potato into 1 inch cubes, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, toss, and bake for about 30 minutes until caramelized and soft. 
2. While the sweet potato is cooking, fry the pancetta in a small skillet over medium heat until cooked and crispy. Place on a paper towel and reserve pancetta fat dripping for your dressing. Chop pancetta into large-ish pieces.
3. In skillet with the drippings add your olive oil, shallot, brown sugar, and a touch of salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, allowing all the flavors to melt into each other and the vinegar to reduce a little.
4. In a large bowl toss your fried pancetta and fresh arugula.
5. Cook pasta until al dente, 8-10 minutes drain. 
6. Top fresh arugula with hot pasta, then dressing, sweet potato, a bit of cheese and parsley. Toss until well mixed. 
7. Relax and eat a generous bowl (perhaps with a little more cheese?)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Snapshot Sunday : Sauk Summit

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Visit From Montana : Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Cupcakes

Nearly 12 years ago, a long time (think high school) friend of my mothers gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Montana, named after a state that holds a special place in her mothers heart. That baby was a little gift that nobody saw coming. You see, none of my mothers old high school pals, at least none that I had grown up knowing, had chosen to have children. Many of these friends were her closest, so, as an only child myself I spent most of my time either around adults, or in my own world of make believe. I was in my teens when Montana was born, so while she wasn't the promise of a playmate I would've likely wished for a few years prior, she was the most exciting addition to the group to come along for as long as I can remember.  

Tana is likely the most down to earth, calm, sweetest 11 (almost 12) year old you'll ever meet. She's polite, well spoken, considerate, and always has something interesting to say. She also adores being in the kitchen, my kind of girl. With this in mind, I invited her up for a girls sleepover. I imagined 11 year old me, and how cool I would feel if a 25 year old I looked up to invited me over to their house for a sleepover. 11 year old me would've thought that was pretty awesome. . . 

So, when I called her mother to finalize plans, you can't imagine my excitement when the first thing I hear from Montana's lips is 'we have to make cupcakes'. 25 year old me was thrilled. I knew our evening together would be full of sugar and flour, whisking and mixing. An afternoon, for me, could not be spent in a better way.

*montana's photograph*

Upon her arrival I pulled out my arsenal of cupcake recipes, cookbooks and cards and urged that she find the cupcake she most wanted to make. Narrowing it down to, oh, about 15 at first, then slowly chipping away at the pile of recipes until we landed on this, absolutely amazing, cupcake recipe. Moist vanilla cake topped with vanilla bean, lemon kissed cheesecake batter, and (yes, and) brown sugar crumbles. As if that wasn't over the top enough, each one is finished with a pile of fresh berries and a dusting of powdered sugar. A cupcake recipe could not be more perfect. And, little did I know it, not until we sat down, peeled back the waxy rapper and began devouring our hard work, that these were the quintessential end of summer cupcake as well. Light, spongy, cheesy, crunchy, and bright. A perfect crown on a pretty perfect summer, and an amazing evening. 

Not only did Montana helm the baking of these gems, but she excitedly shot the picture above. I wonder, do we have a budding baker, photographer, dare I say food blogger on our hands?

Vanilla Cheesecake Cupcakes 
from Cupcakes by Elinor Klivans


1 1/4 cups unbleached ap flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream


1 8 ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice from one small lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 cup ap flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 325 F.

1. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl, set aside. 
2. Using an electric mixer w/a paddle attachment, on medium speed beat the egg, yolk, and sugar until thick and light, appx 2 minutes.
3. Scrape bowl as needed (and now), on low speed add the oil and vanilla. Mix well to combine. Add sour cream and mix well, yet again.
4. Finally, mix in the flour mixture on low speed, mixing until just combined. 


1. Rinse out your electric mixer, no need to an intense clean. In an electric mixer w/the paddle attachment, on low speed, mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth. 
2. Add egg, lemon zest, and juice, mix well. 
3. Set mixture aside.


1. In a small/medium sized bowl mix flour, brown sugar, salt and melted butter until crumbly.


1. Line a 12 count muffin tin with liners. Your oven will have been preheated to 325 F.  
2. Fill each liner about 1/2 way with cupcake batter.
3. Top each cake with a large spoonful of cheesecake batter. 
4. Now top each with a tablespoon of brown sugar crumble. 
5. Place the whole shabang in the oven for 25-30 minutes. 
6. Remove from the oven when cupcakes are cooked through and allow to cool in pan an additional 25 minutes.
7. Remove cakes from pan, place on wire rack, cool completely. 
8. Garnish with fresh berries and dusting of powdered sugar. 
9. Try to resist eating them all! 

Thank you for a wonderful day lovely girl. Your overnight visit was a sheer delight.