Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Here we are....the election is over and the many ridiculous political gaffs have embarrassed us enough; it is time to think of something more Thanksgiving. Having been raised in a home with major holiday celebrations, I am quite capable of doing the whole big turkey and cornbread dressing deal....but at the request of 2 of my 3 children, we will not be having turkey. No, not this year. Instead of turkey, we will be dining on enchiladas, tamales and tacos! That is fine with me...we all love the south of the border flavors. But I have been concerned about desserts. Do I go traditional with pumpkin pie? Do I go south of the border with churros (deep fried pastry strips rolled in cinnamon and sugar)? Or do I make our nation’s very favorite....Apple Pie?

As the chef for Somerset Ridge Vineyard, I made Apple Slab Pie for several Harvest Events. I would make it in half sheet pans, usually three of them. Making traditional 9” pies to feed 80 to 100 people was simply too time consuming, and serving them would be a nightmare! Cutting squares is so much easier, and you have much better portion control. Apple Slab Pie quickly became a favorite of the harvest crews.
Conveniently, while I was planning my menu for our family dinner, King Arthur Flour’s blog was posted ( and wouldn’t you know it....their recipe for today was Apple Slab! The photographs grabbed me right of the bat. I thought that was caramel icing drizzled across the top crust, when in fact it is a cinnamon glaze. I’m debating myself on which glaze I will use....cinnamon or caramel, but I’m pretty sure caramel is going to win.
Here is their recipe and one of their photographs. If you can turn your back to them, you are a much stronger person than I!

Apple Slab

2 ½ cups King Arthur Perfect Pastry Blend Flour ( KT...or any all   purpose flour will do in a pinch)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder
¼ cup vegetable shortening
10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vinegar, cider or white
6 to 10 tablespoons ice water

1 cup Panko bread crumbs, or other coarse dry bread crumbs; or 1 cup coarsely crushed cornflakes
8 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Granny Smith or other tart, firm apples, about 6 large apples
2/3 cup cinnamon sugar ( KT...Use 3 to 1 ratio when making cinnamon sugar. 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon)

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup boiled cider* (KT...I used thawed frozen apple juice concentrate)
small pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon milk or cream, optional, if necessary to thin the glaze

*Substitute 1/3 cup honey, if desired; or 1/4 cup thawed frozen apple juice concentrate, or maple syrup

To make the crust: Whisk together the Perfect Pastry Blend Four, salt, baking powder, confectioners' sugar, and buttermilk powder.
Add the shortening, working it in till the mixture is evenly crumbly.
Cut the butter into small (about ½") cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture, and work it in roughly with your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a mixer. Don't be too thorough; the mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones.
Add the 1 teaspoon vinegar and 4 tablespoons water, and toss to combine. Toss with enough additional water to make a chunky, fairly cohesive mixture. It should hold together when you gather it up and squeeze it in your hand.

Divide the dough into two pieces; one should represent about 40% of the dough, the other, about 60%. If you have a scale, this is easy; the smaller piece of dough should weigh about 8 3/4 ounces, the larger piece, about 13 1/4 ounces (if you've used about 7 to 8 tablespoons of water in the dough). If you don't have a scale and/or aren't good at math, eyeball it: the bottom crust needs to be larger than the top crust.
Shape each piece of crust into a rectangle; you're going to be rolling them into rectangles, so might as well give yourself a head start. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes, till thoroughly chilled.

Take the larger piece of pastry out of the fridge, and put it on a floured work surface. Roll it into an 11" x 15" rectangle. Don't worry about the ragged edges; they'll disappear under the top crust.
Place the crust in an ungreased 9" x 13" cake pan. Patch up any holes by pushing the pastry together with your fingers, or adding a pinch from the excess on the sides. Push the pastry up the sides of the pan a bit, to make a shallow pastry container for the apples.
Put the crust in the fridge while you get the apples ready. Start preheating your oven to 350°

Spread the bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes evenly over the crust.
Spread the sliced apples atop the crumbs.
Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the apples.
Roll the remaining piece of pastry into a 9" x 13" rectangle. Again, don't worry too much about ragged edges.

Lay the top crust over the apples. Yes, apples will poke through. Seal the edges of the two crusts as well as you can. There'll be places where they don't quite meet. That's OK. If the whole thing has become warm and sticky and hard to work with, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm it up.
Just before baking, slash the crust 6 or 8 times to allow steam to escape.
Put the slab in the preheated 350°F oven, and bake it for an hour. Remove it from the oven; it'll be golden brown, and the filling should be bubbling. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely before glazing.
To make the glaze: Combine the confectioners' sugar, boiled cider, cinnamon, salt, and enough milk or cream to make the mixture "drizzlable." Don't have boiled cider? Use plain milk or cream, maple syrup, honey, or thawed apple juice concentrate. Start with 1/4 cup of any of these; if you've made this kind of icing before, you know it's easier to add more liquid, than to try to take it away. Add enough liquid to make the glaze pourable.
Drizzle the glaze atop the slab.
Yield: 16 to 24 servings, depending on size.
KT.....if you are making the day before, do not cover or it will turn into gooey glob.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Have you ever felt like a complete fool?  I have....just last night. And all because  of Halloween.
It all started about a year ago when the cutest family moved in next door.  Mom and Dad and two of the most beautiful children I have ever see in my entire life! At the time they moved in, I had just gone through my 5th Halloween night without even one cute little Trick or Treat-er. I live in a rather quiet, fairly new area that seems to attract older, more sedate when the little family moved in  next door, I knew that Halloween 2012 would bring costumed, joyful little folks to my front door!

Two days ago I made my way to Target to purchase the candy. I had considered making my sugar cookies, but pictured them smashed into a  crumbly mess in the bottom of their loot bags, so decided to buy candy instead. I bought a giant bag of M&Ms,
Reeses and Snickers. all individually wrapped in bright colors.
Yesterday afternoon I chose just the right basket to artfully arrange the goodies in. I placed it on the table by the front door and Zeus and I sat down to wait for the doorbell to ring.
Right at 5:30, like my Grandmother Ogg's mantel clock striking to announce the half hour, the bell rang. Zeus was off like a streak, so thrilled, jumping with joy at having someone at the door.
I opened the door and there stood my two little, adorable next door neighbors, dressed in beautiful American Indian costumes. Smiles went from ear to ear, light danced in their eyes...oh my gosh, they were so precious!
Zeus greeted them with much vim and vigor, dancing around like a crazy dog, while I reached for the basket of treats. As I turned back towards them, it hit me like a bolt out of the blue! Every last treat in that basket had PEANUTS in them! How could I be so stupid? I asked the two little Indians if either of them were allergic to guessed it....sadly they looked up at me with such sad little faces and said "yes". I know my face was just as sad as theirs.  How could I do that to children? I know about the allergy to peanuts! Why didn't I think of that at Target? Why didn't I make sugar cookies?
I had intended to take their photograph, but in my sorrow at seeing those two children looking so sad, I didn't have the heart to say "Smile!"
Yes, I feel really stupid!
Today I  am making them a batch of sugar cookies.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker