Fall: North and South

I’m a Southern Girl at heart.   People are usually surprised when they learn this about me, because I don’t have an accent or much of that fabled “Southern Charm.”  But the fact remains.  I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, watching horse races at Keenland on the weekends and playing tag in summer nights in the meadow behind our house.  In middle school I moved to Atlanta, where the South really took hold of me.  Sweet tea flowed on screened-in porches and I was forced into Cotillion where I learned to foxtrot and sit with my ankles crossed.

But from the start I refused to be “southern.”  While my brother and sister adopted twangs I wouldn’t even say so much as a “y’all.”  The South was beautiful, it was charming, it was special, but it wasn’t me.

So when I applied to college, I didn’t look anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line.  I ended up at Williams.  There were things I loved.  I loved the golden leaves, the apple cider donuts, the rough and tough guys at the Bakeshop.  But to my surprise I began to actually miss the South.  I missed people holding doors for me.  And the people, the politeness, etc.  When the snow came, I missed the sun.  And, of course, I missed the food.

Kim Sunee (http://kimsunee.com/) asked me to write a contribution to her blog about Comfort Desserts, and immediately I thought about doing an apple dessert because, well, its fall in New England.  Also, a few days earlier I’d had a few friends from abroad come visit and to give them the quintessential smalltown Northeastern experience we had of course gone to a little apple orchard and filled up on as many Honeycrisps as we could carry.  It was overwhelmingly cute and wholesome.

But even though Georgia’s emblematic fruit is the peach instead of the apple (though technically South Carolina produces far more peaches?), I had to include it in this post, because home is the ultimate comfort.  So here are two apple desserts: Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust and Apple Pecan Cake with Brown Butter frosting.  Many thanks to the ever-generous Suzie house for taste-testing!

Pretty pretty apples

Peeled and ready for bakin! Lucky apples.

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Crust (adapted from Martha Stewart)

3 c All Purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

2 c. cheddar cheese  (if you want more of a cheese flavor, you could also try a sharper cheese like asiago)

16 T. butter (2 sticks), cold, cut into small cubes

4-8 T ice water

Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and mix in with fingers until dough is coarse and no butter chunks remain.  Mix in the cheddar cheese.  Add water slowly, starting with 4 tablespoons and increasing until you have a dough that will just come together when pressed.  Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal amounts.  Form two discs, cover in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour.

Filling

6 apples (3 granny smith, 3 honeycrisp), peeled and sliced thinly

1 T lemon juice

.75 c sugar

1/2 t. salt

Toss all ingredients together

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Flour your counter, unwrap your first dough (if the two pieces look uneven, go for the smaller one) and put it in the middle and flour that too. Start rolling your dough by pressing down lightly with the pin and moving it from the center out. Roll it a few times in one direction, lift it up and rotate it a quarter-turn. And that’s what you’re going to continue to do, roll a couple times, lift the dough and rotate it. Re-flour the counter and the top of the dough as needed.  If at any point, the dough starts to get sticky or soft, it’s warming up and will only become more difficult to work with. Transfer it back to the fridge for a few minutes to let it cool, then resume your rolling process.

Once your dough is a 12- to 13-inch circle, transfer pie dough to a standard pie dish by folding it gently into quarters (making no creases), arranging the folded corner into one quadrant of the bottom of your tin and gently unfolding it to fit over the base. Trim the overhang to one inch.

Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices. Roll out your top pie dough using the same procedure, until it is 12 to 13 inches in diameter.  Cut some decorative vents in the pie lid before baking.

Brush with egg, cream or water and sprinkle with sugar.  Put pie in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Let cool before slicing!

 

Look at this artsy picture of a slice of pie on a tree stump!  I was quite proud of this one.  Thanks to Brian for eating it afterwards.

 

Apple Cake (adapted from Southern Living)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1.5 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 pounds apples (about 4 large), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges (I used honeycrisp)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Stir together butter and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until blended.  Stir in apples and 1 cup pecans.  The batter will be very thick, almost like a cookie dough.  Don’t worry!

Spread batter into a lightly greased 13-x9-inch pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack (about 45 minutes).  Spread your choice of frosting over top of cake; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup pecans.

 

Brown butter frosting:

1 cup butter

1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until butter begins to turn golden brown.  Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a small bowl.  Cover and chill 1 hour or until butter is cool and begins to solidify (I tried to do this in the pan and make the icing in it, but I think it overall made it more complicated).

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk, beginning and ending with powdered sugar.  Beat mixture at low speed until well blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.

 

Cream cheese frosting:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese in electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar and salt, beating until blended.  Stir in vanilla.

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