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09/27/2014

~ My All-Purpose PA Dutch-Style Streusel Topping ~

IMG_4344A buttery-rich, cripsy streusel topping is one of my favorite things.  I like it because it is both sweet and savory, which makes it very adaptable.  I grew up in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, "PA Deutsch Country" -- "the land of apple desserts"  Everyone who baked used streusel to top tart fruit pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  A neighbor of ours, Agnes, who baked a few times a week, would mix up a big bowl of her streusel topping and keep it on hand in the refrigerator all week -- which if you have a lot of baking to do at any time is very convenient!

You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch!

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bI am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch-style cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern German to avoid religious persecution and established several communities in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an offical "state" religion. Pennsylvania.  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life?  You betcha!

Pennsylvania-Deutsch-Style Streusel Topping:

Streusel (STROO-zuhl) is the German word for "something scattered, strewn or sprinkled".  In baking, it is a crumbly topping for pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  It is basically a mixture of four ingredients (flour, sugar, butter and salt), but, it is not uncommon to find aromatic spices (cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg) and/or uncooked oats or chopped nuts added to it.  Streusel is especially good on tart pies (apple, cherry, peach or rhubarb) where sweet and savory, rather than a mundane top crust, is a welcome, flavor-enhancing addition.  Streusel is also one of a baker's best kept secrets.  On a day where you don't have a lot of time for pie pastry making, or, you find yourself with an overabundance of ingredients, in less than five minutes, two pie pastries transform into two pies and no one is the wiser for it or disappointed by it.

Personally, I prefer a streusel-topped pie to a two-crust pie almost always.  If you are a regular reader of Kitchen Encounters, you know I've shared several recipes that use streusel topping. Depending upon what I am baking, I vary the following recipe to suit my needs:  sometimes I use nuts, sometimes I don't.  Some times I use oats, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I use all cinnamon, other times, I add cloves or nutmeg too.  Click on any of the Related Article links below for examples of what I am saying:  use this recipe as a guide -- it will never let you down!

IMG_43066  tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut into cubes or slices

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned oats, not quick-cooking or instant

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup coarsely-chopped walnuts or pecans (Note:  I do not add nuts for cherry or rhubarb pies but do for apple and peach pie!)

IMG_4311 IMG_4321 IMG_4324~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, using a pastry blender and a sharp knife, "cut" the butter into the sugar, flour and cinnamon.

IMG_4332Stop "cutting" when it resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs.

Note:  If you want to add other spices, instead of just cinnamon, one of my favorite combinations is:

3/4  teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

~ Step 2.  Coarsely chop the nuts as directed.  They should be about the same size as the pieces of butter.

IMG_4337Note:  Do not use or be inclined to try using toasted or lightly-toasted nuts.  Streusel topping is always sprinkled on something that is going to be baked in the oven. Even the slightest bit of toasting will cause the nuts to burn before your dessert fully-bakes.

IMG_4340~ Step 3. Gently fold the nuts into the delicate, softening butter IMG_4438mixture.  You don't want to smash the butter pieces.

~ Step 4.  Sprinkle onto pies, coffeecakes and/or muffins, just prior to baking and bake as directed in specific recipe.

Note:  If baking more than one pie, coffeecake or batch of muffins, never, sprinkle the streusel topping on until whatever it is, is ready for the oven.  The moisture from the fruit filling or cake batter will start to dissolve the sugar  immediately and always affect the end result.

A streusel-topped pie ready for the oven:

IMG_4466A streusel-topped pie out of the oven:

IMG_4477My All-Purpose PA Dutch-Style Streusel Topping:  Recipe yields enough streusel topping for 1, 9"-10" pie, coffeecake or 1 dozen standard-sized muffins.

Special Equipment List:  pastry blender; paring knife; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b016303dc1dd1970dCook's Note:  In the event you are using a a recipe that instructs you, for whatever reason, to top your baked goods, before or after baking, with toasted or lightly-toasted nuts or seeds (including pumpkin seeds), for instructions, click into Category 15 to read my post: ~ How to:  Roast/Toast Nuts & Some Seeds ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

09/25/2014

~ Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie ~

IMG_4589"It's as easy as apple pie."  I hear people say it all the time, and, it annoys me every time because it is a very misleading statement.  Baking a really good apple pie is not as easy as "A, B, C", "one, two three" or even "snap, crackle, pop".  Too many people think that just because they've baked an apple pie it automatically qualifies for awesome apple pie status.  It does not.  I have encountered more than a few nasty renditions:  from overcooked to undercooked, sickeningly sweet to vapid, and, soupy to pasty, they were anything but the "pleasant and accommodating" experience Mark Twain painted in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The phrase "it's as easy as pie" originated a century ago when almost every American homemaker baked pies several times a week.  It was a task so familiar, it was done without any real effort.  When it came to apple pies, they used the apples that grew in their climate and adapted the recipes of their family's heritage to suit those apples.  More often than not, they picked them off of a tree in their backyard or bartered for a basket from their neighbor.  They did not have the luxury of walking into a market and choosing from five or six varieties (from the hundreds of varieties mass produced in the world today).  It really was, "as easy as pie!"

An apple a day might keep the doctor away but:

 All apples are not created equally.  

IMG_2575Just because an apple tastes good does not make it pie-friendly!

Just because it tastes good does not make it pie-friendly.  My favorite eating apple is the soft-fleshed, creamy McIntosh, and, I use them to make applesauce too.  My husband Joe grows Fuji's and Granny Smith's in our backyard -- they both taste great and do well in our Central PA climate.  Fuji's are relative newcomers to America's apple scene.  They're crisp, sweet and are best eaten raw in salads and slaws.  As for the Granny Smith, originally from Australia, with its bright-green skin, tart taste and crisp texture, not only is it pie friendly, it is wonderful when cooked with savory foods (like onions) or served with salty foods (like cheese). I could go on -- and on -- there are hundreds of varieties of apples in the world, with about 60 of them mass grown in America.  My point is:  before you put an apple in a pie, find out if it is pie friendly!

So what exactly is a Dutch-style apple pie?

IMG_4597Recipes for Dutch apple pie date back centuries with the first written recipe appearing in 1514 (and it is said to be almost identical to modern day recipes).  The basis for a Dutch apple pie is a single crust pie with a filling of thinly-sliced crisp, tart apples (to create dense apple layers).  A judicious use of sugar in combination with cinnamon, lemon juice and sometimes sour cream give this pie a pleasant tart tang.  Raisins and/or nuts are common additions.  Traditional Dutch apple pie comes in two varieties:  a streusel topping or a lattice top made with leftover scraps of dough. Here in the USA, "Dutch Apple Pie" specifically refers to a streusel topped pie.

The Dutch apple pie is my favorite kind of apple pie and it isn't just because I grew up in Pennsylvania Deutsch country (I refer to the Lehigh Valley of PA "the land of apple desserts") and currently live in Amish country.  I really do prefer it to the typical two-crust apple pie.  For me, a flaky pie crust on the bottom and a buttery, crispy streusel on the top is the best of both worlds. The sour cream, which gives it an enchanting tangy taste and luxurious creamy texture pretty much eliminates the need for a scoop of ice cream.  It is the Dutch apple pie that has earned its place on my annual Thanksgiving dessert buffet (right next to the traditional pumpkin pie)!

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1ccef1970bFor the pie pastry:

1  recipe for pate brisee, or your favorite pie pastry recipe, rolled, fitted into a 9" pie dish and decoratively edged (Note:  In a pinch, a high-quality store-bought crust will work too.)

Note:  Pate brisee is the French term for "short pastry" used for both sweet and savory crusts, like pies and quiches.  You can find my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~ in Categories 6, 15 or 22.  It's really easy to make your own pastry and takes less than 5 minutes in the food processor, and, you can make several in advance.  I freeze them flat, layered between sheets of parchment.  Just thaw and use.  How convenient is that!

IMG_5122For the walnut-streusel topping: "Streusel" (STROO-zuhl) is the German word for "something scattered or sprinkled".  In baking, it is a crumbly topping for pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  It's made from a mixture of flour, butter and sugar, but it is not uncommon for nuts, oats or spices to be added. This is my favorite blend, especially for tart pies (like apple, cherry, peach or rhubarb), where sweetness, rather than a mundane top crust, is a welcome addition!

IMG_43066  tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut into cubes or slices

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned, uncooked oats, not quick-cooking or instant

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1  cup coarsely-chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (I don't add nuts for cherry or rhubarb pie but do for apple and peach pie!)

IMG_4353For the pie filling:

1 1/2  pounds peeled, cored and thinly-sliced Granny Smith Apples (Note:  I got 1 1/2 pounds from 4, large, 9-ounce apples.  If your apples are smaller, you may need 6-7 apples.)

1/2  cup sugar

6  tablespoons all-purpose flour

1  cup sour cream

1  teaspoon lemon juice

IMG_43571/2  teaspoon pure apple extract*

1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

* Note:  Never heard of apple extract?  Neither had I until about a year ago.  Olive Nation, however, has "turned me on to it", along with many other organic extracts and flavorings (key lime, mango, peach, pineapple, etc.).  Check them out!

IMG_4303~ Step 1.  Prepare the pie pastry. Roll, fit, form and edge one 9" pie pastry as directed in specific recipe. I use a 9" quiche dish because I like the look of streusel pies baked in a fluted-edged pan.  You can prepare the crust up to a day in advance of baking the pie, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Just be sure to remove it from the refrigerator an hour or so prior to assembling and baking the pie so the crust is at room temperature when it goes into the oven.

IMG_4311 IMG_4321 IMG_4324~ Step 2.  Prepare the walnut-streusel topping. In a medium mixing bowl, using a pastry blender and a sharp knife, "cut" the IMG_4344butter into the sugar, flour IMG_4332and cinnamon until  mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.

IMG_4335Fold in the nuts, which are  the same size as the butter pieces.

IMG_4364 IMG_4367 IMG_4370 IMG_4374~Step 3.  Prepare the pie filling.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large rubber spatula, stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.  Add the sour cream, lemon juice and extracts.  Thoroughly stir.  Mixture should be smooth and uniform in color.  Set aside.

IMG_4394 IMG_4398 IMG_4404~ Step 4.  Peel,  slice and add the apples in increments as you work, stirring into the sour cream mixture each time.

This will insure the apples all get thoroughly and evenly coated in the sour cream mixture:  

IMG_4381Note: I slice my apples to a thickness of 1/4" to slightly less than 1/4".  It is important for know that if you slice your apples thicker or thinner, this will affect the baking time and the end result.

IMG_4415~ Step 5.  Spoon the pie filling into the pie shell. Take your time, meaning: don't dump it in.  With each spoonful, make sure the apples are randomly layered flat on top of each other, with not a lot of wasted air space in between.

IMG_4427Trust me, all of the pie filling will fit, and yes, the pie dish will be very full. This is exactly what you want.

IMG_4438~ Step 6.  Spoon the streusel topping evenly over the pie filling, taking the time to spread it into the edges and mound it towards the center.  Do not pack it or anything down.  Keep it light and airy.

IMG_4446Trust me, all of the streusel topping will fit, and yes, the pie dish will be really, really full.  This is exactly what you want.

~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  After the first 30 minutes in the oven, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pie.  Make no attempt to seal it.  The foil sheet is there for protection, to keep the walnuts from burning.  Remove pie from oven and place on a cooling rack, to cool completely prior to slicing and serving, 4-6 hours or overnight. 

Pie going into the oven:

IMG_4466Pie coming out of the oven:

IMG_4477Pie going into my mouth:

IMG_4604Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie, 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" pie or quiche dish; pastry blender; paring knife; large rubber spatula; vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; aluminum foil; cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0147e01a0cb0970bCook's Note:  This amazing combination of McIntosh apples, Bosc pear, clove-studded oranges and white wine is not your grandmother's applesauce.  I simmer and puree a bit batch every Fall to have on hand in my freezer all year.  To get my recipe for ~ Simply Silky-Smooth Spiced Apple-Pear Puree ~, just click into Categories 4, 8, 18 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

09/23/2014

~ My Second-City Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza ~

IMG_4246Aside from several layovers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport during the 1980's, my experiences with Illinois are limited:  #1)  Piccalilli, a highly-seasoned absolutely-delicious green sweet-pickle relish that my friend from Champaign makes and gave me her recipe for. #2) Chicago-style hot dogs in full regalia, which I devoured during every airport layover.  #3) One Chicago-Style pizza that I ate at Uno's Pizzeria on Rush Street in Chicagoland proper -- OMG!

IMG_4262"Step into my pizza parlor", said the spider to the fly!

IMG_2458All three made a big impression on me, because every once in a while I make a batch of piccalilli, and, I keep a jar of sport peppers and kriptonite-colored pickle relish in my refrigerator at all times to satisfy my cravings for a hot dog that's been "dragged through the garden".  You can find my recipe for ~ A Hot Dog with a Salad on Top? Only in Chicago! ~, by clicking on the Related Article link below.  

My Uno's Chicago-style pizza encounter was a life-changing enough food experience for me make arrangements ($$$'s under the table to the manager du jour IMG_4003that evening) for me to walk out the door with two brand new, 14" deep-dish pizza pans with removable bottoms in a take-out box.  Money talks.  Flirting helps.  Don't every let anyone tell you otherwise.

You see, even in my latter twenties, I was a sophisticated enough foodie to know that even with this very important pizza tasting experience under my belt, without the correct pizza  pan, concocting a real-deal deep-dish recipe in my home kitchen would be tough going.

IMG_4009For the purpose of writing this post (30+ years after the fact), I am sorry to report I cannot find the pans I own for sale anywhere, but, I did manage to find two 14" deep-dish Nordic Ware pans that I have used and can recommend. They don't have removable bottoms (which means you'll have to "scoop" your pizza out of the pan), but, my recipe will work for you in them (about $25.00 on amazon.com).  My son Jesse makes my recipe in his 14" well-seasoned Lodge cast-iron skillet and gets great results too!

Never had a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza experience?

IMG_4204Had I never experienced it, coming up with a recipe to share here on KE would have been totally impossible.  You see, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza has no real connection with any pizza we eat here in the East (or anywhere else in the USA for that matter) except that in the end, a tomato and cheese pie made with a yeast crust is called a pizza.  This lovingly written post is meant to be a tribute to this pizza, an introduction to this pizza-eating experience, and, a general guide to making this pizza at home.  It is not a boast about my having the best rendition (although it is very, very good) or a contest between me and any Chicago pizza joint.  Enjoy! 

"Chicago-Style" Pizza (general history and info regarding thin crust, stuffed & deep-dish):

The original "Chicago-style" pizza is thin-crust pizza -- it's found on every street corner and it came along long before deep-dish (circa 1940's) or stuffed (circa 1970's) pizza.  Yes, thin crust pizza is fantastic in Chicago, but honestly, though different, you can find really good thin ones in other parts of the country too.  Stuffed pizza, which is available everywhere in Chicago too, is a deep-dish pizza with a bottom and top crust.  It too is a specialty of Chicago, but, like thin-crust pizza you can find great stuffed pizza elsewhere.  It is the deep-dish pizza that made Chicago pizza famous, and it's impossible to find one to compare anywhere else, so, when people say "Chicago-style" pizza, they are indeed referring to deep-dish.  What do all "Chicago-style pizzas have in common?  Sausage.  Chicago is the hog producer to the world - Chicago is hog heaven!

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza (general information):

IMG_4142The crust is sometimes referred to as rich and biscuit-like.  I liken it to a focaccia that gets slighly-fried due to the oil in the pan. The yeast dough is enriched with yellow cornmeal (which gives it a yellow hue) and corn oil or butter.  Once the dough has risen, it gets hand-pressed into a 2"-3"-deep pan with oiled fingertips where it rises again for a short time before being assembled. Because the pizza is 2"-3" deep and filled with hearty ingredients, it is more akin to eating a savory main-dish pie than a light, lunchy snack.  One slice, two max, this is a main course slice of pie!

The basic assembly is a bit different from the classic Neapolitan pizza that I am used to making. The cheese, usually sliced, goes in first, to line the bottom and sides of the crust (to keep the crust from getting soggy and keep the cheese from burning during the somewhat lengthy baking time required).  Precooked sausage filling (or filling of choice) comes next, going in on top of the cheese.  Tomatoes or tomato sauce go on top of the filling.  A generous amount of freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and herbs finish it off before it goes into the oven to bake.

IMG_4233Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is not hard to make, it's fun,

but, read these instructions carefully prior to starting:

IMG_4053For one 14" crust:

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup yellow cornmeal

2  packets granulated, dry yeast, not rapid-rise

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon sugar

1  teaspoon salt

1 1/4  cups hot tap water

1/4  cup corn oil, plus 2 additional tablespoons for preparing pan

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_4010For the sausage filling:

2  tablespoons corn oil

1  pound sausage (sweet or hot, your choice), casings removed

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion 

3/4  cup diced green bell pepper

1  cup thinly-sliced white button mushroom caps 

sea salt and peppercorn blend

For the sauce:

1 1/2  cups pizza sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand (You can find my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part 1:  Our Favorite Sauce ~ in Categories 2, 5, 8, 12, 19 or 22.)

IMG_4104For the cheeses and spices:

12  slices provolone cheese, not too thick, not too thin

10  slices mozzarella cheese, not to thick, not too thin

1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

dried basil, dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend

peperoncino (red pepper flakes)

Part One:  Making the Cornmeal Pizza Crust

IMG_4070~ Step 1.  In workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, place the flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, sugar and salt.  Using a series of 10-12 rapid on-off pulses, quickly blend ingredients together.

IMG_4065In a 2-cup measuring container, place hot water & oil.

With processor motor running, slowly, in a thin stream, add the water/oil mixture through the feed IMG_4084tube (on the top of processor).  

IMG_4074Continue to add water/oil just until a large ball forms, then stop adding liquid immediately. Continue to knead the ball of dough in the IMG_4092processor, about 30-45 revolutions around the workbowl.

~ Step 2.  Spray the inside of a large, 2-gallon food storage bag with no-stick spray.  Carefully (the blade is sharp) remove dough from processor and form into a ball.

IMG_4098~ Step 3. Place dough in bag, zip bag closed and set IMG_4100aside, until dough doubles in bulk, 45-60 minutes.  

While dough is rising make the sausage filling (or 3 cups of your favorite filling) and warm 1 1/2 cups of pizza sauce as directed below:

Part Two:  Making the Sausage Filling & Warming the Sauce

IMG_4017 IMG_4033 IMG_4036~ Step 1.  Place corn oil in a large skillet.  Remove casings from sausage and add the meat to the skillet, breaking it up into pieces as you add it.  Prep IMG_4025onion, green pepper and mushrooms, adding them to the pan as you work. Lightly grind sea salt and peppercorn blend over all.  I add 30 grinds of salt & 60 grinds of pepper. Do it to taste but do not over salt.

Over medium-high heat, saute, sitrring constantly, until vegetables are soft and sausage is completely cooked through and plump, not brown or dry, about 15 minutes. IMG_4040Continue to use the side of the spoon or spatula to break the meat up into bite-sized chunks and pieces during the cooking process.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool.  You'll have 3 generous cups. I always prepare the filling and sauce a day ahead, refrigerate them overnight and gently rewarm them in the microwave just prior to assembling pizza.  Married flavors always taste better the next day!

IMG_4059Note:  In Chicago, it is the norm to find minced or chopped garlic, 2-4-6 cloves, added to the sausage filling mixture.  Because my recipe for pizza sauce contains quite a bit of garlic, I do not add it to my filling.

~ Step 2.  On stovetop, gently warm 1 1/2 cups of my pizza sauce, your own pizza sauce or your favorite brand of pizza sauce.

Note:  Both the filling and the sauce should be slightly warm (not hot and not cold) at assembly time.

Part Three:  Forming the Crust and Assembling the Pizza

IMG_4113 IMG_4117 IMG_4125 IMG_4126~Step 1.  Place 2 tablespoons of corn oil in pizza pan.  Using a paper towel, grease the bottom IMG_4135and sides of pan.  Place dough in prepared pan.  Oil your fingertips in the paper towel.  Begin flattening, pressing and working the dough across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  You want the dough to be even in thickness throughout (bottom and sides) with no rips or tears.  This takes a little time, but you will "get into it".

~ Step 2.  Set pizza aside for 20-30 minutes, to allow dough to rise a little more in the pan.

Note:  When filling the pizza, do not compress any of fillings into the pan, including the cheese. 

IMG_4147 IMG_4162 IMG_4163 IMG_4166~Step 3.  Arrange the provolone slices in the pan, side by side, slighly overlapping, on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, to within 1/4" of the rim.  Arrange the mozzarella slices on top of the provolone slices, side by side, slightly overlapping on the bottom and up the sides of IMG_4172the pan, to within 1/4 " of the rim. Using a large slotted spoon, evenly distribute all of the sausage filling on top of the cheeses.  Remember, do not pack it down. Spoon/drizzle the tomato sauce over the sausage filling, allowing it to drizzle down through the nooks and crannies throughout the sausage. Sprinkle the Parm-Regg evenly over all

Lightly, season with basil, oregano or Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes -- to taste.

Part Four:  Baking, Serving and Eating Pizza

IMG_4190~ Step 1.  Bake on lower third of 425 degree oven 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes, prior to slicing and serving.  If your pizza pan has a removable bottom:

After cooling on rack for 10 minutes, position the entire pizza pan on a small cake or pizza pedestal.  The pizza on the bottom of the pan will remain on the pedestal and the sides of  pan will drop to countertop.  Remove pizza (still on the bottom of the pizza pan) from the pedestal, slice and serve immediately (directly on and from the bottom of the pizza pan):

IMG_4221Good to the very last bite -- this is a really REALLY good home rendition of a Chicago-Style deep-dish pizza -- trust me!

IMG_4291My Second-City Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza:  Recipe yields 8 very hearty slices of pizza.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 4-cup measuring container; 2-gallon food storage bag; 12"-14" skillet; paper towels; 14" round/2" deep, deep-dish pizza pan; cooling rack; pizza cutter or knife; metal spatula

IMG_4294Cook's Note:  In the event you have leftovers, this hearty pizza can be successfully reheated the next day: in the toaster oven, not the microwave.  Place 2-4 slices of room temp pizza on a broiler-type pan that fits into your toaster oven. Loosely place a sheet of foil over the top, making no attempt to seal it. In 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees, they emerge with a crispy bottoms and ooooooey-gooey cheese!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

09/21/2014

~ Apple What? Bars, Blondies, Brownies? Squares!!! (Pennsylvania Dutch-Style Apple-Streusel Squares) ~

IMG_3951Where I grew up, these were called apple squares -- a lesser known but very popular and delicious apple dessert in Pennsylvania Deutsch country (the land of apple desserts).  Lots of women made them.  I liken them to a moist and crumbly cross between a Jewish apple cake and a German apple-streusel coffee cake.  Recently, I've seen them referred to as apple blondies and apple brownies, but, unless my "cheese has slid off my cracker" they have little to do with either:  A brownie is made with chocolate and a blondie is a brownie made with butterscotch instead of chocolate.  I can almost buy into them being called bars, because they can be cut into bar shapes, but, classic bars are more cookie-like, with the ingredients being layered in the pan. These are made with a super-thick batter, lots of apples, nuts and topped with buttery streusel.

Mine is not a recipe you will find in a cookbook.  These are:

IMG_3950Nana's Pennsylvania Deutsch-Style Apple-Streusel Squares!

IMG_3765A bit about the cake pans I use to bake bars, blondies, brownies and squares in:  Square pans produce squares.  Period.  This set of professional cake pans have square corners too, which produces perfect squares.  The four pictured here are  8" x 8" x 2"; 10" x 10" x 2"; 12" x 12" x 2", and; 14" x 14" x 2".  

Everyone knows how important the casserole size is when cooking:  2-quart, 3-quart, 4-quart, etc., affects IMG_3774the quantity you prepare, how the food cooks and the end result.  

Pan size is even more important when baking. Always use the size the recipe instructs.  I am using a 10" x 10" x 2" pan.  A smaller pan will make the dessert too thick, a larger pan will make the dessert too thin.  Substituting the pan size will affect the baking time and the end result as well.  If you want apple squares that look and taste like mine, use the pan I tell you to use!

IMG_3783Note:  The closest size pan to the 10" x 10" square, and is common to most home kitchens too, is the 9" x 13" pan.  I give you permission to bake apple squares in it.

IMG_3778A standard piece of bakers parchment is 12" wide x 16 1/2" long. Cut it to 10" x 16 1/2" and fit it into the bottom of the pan, then, fold the two overlapping sides over each lip of the pan.  This makes it easy to lift the entire dessert out of the pan after it has cooled.  In the case of these apple squares, this is a big advantage when it comes time to cut and serve them in a pretty and presentable manner because of their super-moist, slightly-crumbly nature.

Now it's time to bake some Dutch-apple happiness:

IMG_3823For the batter:

1 1/2  sticks salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1 1/4  cups sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

3/4  teaspoon apple extract

3/4  teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

4  cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples, about 3 apples

1 1/4  cups coarsely-chopped pecans or walnuts

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc60d89970bFor the streusel topping:

6  tablespoons salted butter, cold, sliced or cut into cubes

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned, uncooked oats

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

Note:  This is a great all-purpose streusel topping for fruit pies too!

IMG_3810 IMG_3790~ Step 1. Prepare the streusel topping first. Place all ingredients, as listed, in a medium bowl.  

IMG_3796Using a pastry blender and a knife, "cut" the mixture into coarse, pea-sized crumbs.  Set aside while preparing the batter.

IMG_3831~ Step 2. To prepare the batter, place the butter, sugar, eggs and extracts in a large bowl.

IMG_3838On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the ingredients until light in color, about 3 minutes.  

On low speed of mixer, fold in flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

IMG_3845 IMG_3841Mixture should be smooth and uniform in color.

Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the diced apples and chopped nuts.

IMG_3852Transfer this very thick mixture to prepared baking pan.

IMG_3856~ Step 4.  Using the back of the spatula (or a spoon) evenly distribute the batter into the pan.  If using a square-cornered pan, be sure it's worked into the corners.

IMG_3870~ Step 5. Using a large spoon, evenly distribute all of the streusel topping over the top.

IMG_3907 IMG_3873~ Step 6. Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 38-40 minutes, or until golden brown on the top, pulling slightly away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven, place pan on a cooling rack and cool completely, in pan, about 3 hours or overnight.

IMG_3925~ Step 7.  When the uncut apple square has cooled completely, firmly grip the parchment paper "handles" and gently lift it out of the pan.  This is hard to explain, but:  as you lift, widen the stance of your hands, to keep the parchment as taut and flat under the square as possible.  If you lift straight up, the parchment will bend under the weight of the square, causing it to crack.

Picture-perfect square corners for picture-perfect squares!

IMG_3920~ Step 8.  Use a serrated knife to carefully cut into sixteen squares -- these are delicate, take your time.  These are not a pick-up-and-eat treat. These are a super-moist, slightly-crumbly, place-on-a-plate and eat-with-a-fork dessert.  For me, sixteen makes for the perfect portions:

IMG_3944Ice cream is nice:

IMG_3971Dare to be square!

IMG_3977Apple What?  Bars, Blondies, Brownies? Squares! (Pennsylvania Dutch-Style Apple-Streusel Squares:  Recipes yields 16 dessert-sized squares.

Special Equipment List:  pastry blender; paring knife; hand-held electric mixer; rubber spatula; 10" x 10" x 2" baking pan, preferably a square-sided professional cake pan; parchment paper; cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack; serrated knife

PICT1106Cook's Note:  To find out who "Nana" was in my life, and get another one of her fabulous recipes, click into Categories 6 or 19 for, ~ Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake~ (made with Nana's  homemade applesauce of course)!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)