>Pumpkin Pie

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This pie is really good.  Lick-the-bowl-clean, make-sure-you-have-room-for-seconds good.  Thanksgiving came early for us this year, since I can’t make it home for the real deal at the end of the month.  And although we were stuffed just like our dear old turkey, we all managed to make some room for this pie, which had been tempting us with its deep orange hue and buttery, spicy aroma throughout our meal. 

And this opened up to some rave reviews – oohs and aahs from its eaters, and a general fascination by the sweet, tangy, and spicy combination of flavors.  The recipe I provide here shows you how to make your own crust, but of course you can buy a frozen 9-inch pie crust and I’m sure this pie would still taste great; it’s the filling that’s the winner.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie – serves 6-8

For the crust:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 stick of butter, cut up into smaller pieces
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
room-temperature water

For the filling:
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 oz canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon molasses
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream

1.  To prepare the crust, spread the flour on a work surface and create a well in the center.  Place the salt and butter pieces in the well. 

1. Using a pinching motion, press the butter into the flour, until a mealy combination has formed and the butter is mixed into the flour.
2.  Create another well in the center, and place the egg yolk inside.  Again using a pinching motion, mix the yolk into the flour and butter.
3.  Pour the water over the mixture in small doses, until a ball can be easily formed (you’ll probably need around 1/2-cup of water).
4.  Knead the dough several times, and form it into a ball.  Place in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least two hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
5.  To prepare the filling, whisk the sugars and spices together in a medium bowl.  Add the pumpkin, molasses, eggs and the cream, and whisk thoroughly until combined.
6.  Remove the crust from the fridge and roll it out to cover a 9-inch pie pan.  Cut three or four x’s into the bottom of the crust, and remove any overhanging parts of the crust.
7.  Pour the filling inside the pan, and bake for about ten minutes.  Reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and continue to bake until filling is firm, about 45 minutes.

Voila! Tarte de potiron, delicieuse!!

>Tarte Tatin

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Ahh, the beautiful tarte tatin. Not only is the presentation stunning, with a perfectly caramelized glaze, but the taste is equally unbeatable, a perfect combination of sweet, silky, and crisp. I decided that I’m going to go for it, and I’m going to write my master’s thesis on gastronomy and all the beautiful things that entails. So, I knew that in order to win my professor’s hearts and convince them that I am qualified to write a thesis on food, I had to make them a tarte tatin.

Ainsi commencait mon bel trajet avec la tarte tatin. And although the end result came out beautifully (if I may say so myself), I would be lying if I said that there weren’t some trying moments. Immedieatly after I took it out of my tiny oven, I panicked – I just had a feeling, this tarte tatin was going to fall apart if inverted it – to finalize the tarte, you have to flip it over after you take it out of the oven, so that the pie cover is on the bottom of the dish and the apples are what you see on top. However, there was so much liquid that didn’t solidify, I was positive the whole thing would fall apart, and the tarte tatin wouldn’t stick together. However, thanks to either a grace of god or the beautiful laws of physics, my tarte tatin stuck together!!!

Oh, happy day!!! I danced around my apartment in glee, because that was a major success for me. Ok, now on to the recipe. I’m going to try my hardest to make this a simple recipe to follow, because it’s really not difficult to make, you just need to believe in yourself!!

A couple of notes: Firstly, you will need several hours to put the whole thing together, and this includes the time it takes to cool the pastry crust and caramelize the apples. However, I did this over two days. Last night, I made the pastry crust, placed it in a plastic bag, and kept it in the fridge. I also peeled, cored, and quartered the apples last night because I knew I had to save time. I was meeting with my first professor at 10 AM, and I needed a good two hours to make this little guy in the morning.

Otherwise, this recipe is pretty easy – there are no special tools required, and the crust is one of the easiest I’ve ever made. Also, just note that the pan you caramelize the apples in is the same one that you put in the oven, so make sure the pan you use can fit into your oven!

Merci et bonne dégustation !

To make the pastry crust, you will need 6 tablespoons butter, 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, one egg yolk, and water. Spread the flour out onto a large flat surface and sprinkle a pinch of salt over it. Make a tiny well in the middle, and place the butter in the well. Use your fingers to pinch the butter and flour together, until they just combine and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center, and plop in the egg yolk. Again using your fingers, slowly massage the flour and butter into the egg yolk, and add water (up to 6 tablespoons) until the ingredients are fully combined.

At this point, you’ll want to knead your dough. I really wish I took a picture because that makes it so much easier to describe, but essentially what you want to do is, with the bottom part of the palm of your hand, push the dough away from you, while rotating the dough so that you are able to push all of it.

Flatten it out a bit, then place in a plastic zip-lock or other plastic bag, and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.

Now let’s get to the good stuff, the apple filling: you will need 8-10 small apples, (I used gala, but any cooking apple should work great), 1 stick of butter, and 1 cup of sugar. Wow, now that I write this list out, I realize that this really is simple to make! You’ll need to peel, core, and quarter your apples.

Place the butter and sugar in a 8- or 10-inch skillet, and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar just begins to dissolve, and small bubbles start to form. Take the skillet off the heat, and place the apples on their sides around the edge of the skillet. Place as many more apple quarters as you can in the center. Now, you’ll probably have a fair amount of apple slices that don’t fit, but you’ll need to put them on the skillet as well (the apples will shrink during cooking, so you’ll want to put in extra apples that will fill in the empty spaces).

Place the apples, butter and sugar back on medium-high heat on the burner, and cook for about 30-40 minutes longer, until the liquid is bubbling vigorously in the center and all of it has become pretty thick. Remove from heat.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees (or as high as possible if you have an oven like mine). Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it thin enough so that it will cover the apples. Cover the apples with the dough, and tuck in the dough around the edges. Cut off any extra dough with some scissors. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has become golden and crispy.

Take it out of the oven, place a larger dish on top of the skillet, and carefully flip it over (do this over the sink, in case some of the liquid falls out!)

Let cool five minutes, then please enjoy!!!! I think there is usually some argument in France over whether or not this should be served with creme fraiche, however general consensus seems to be that it should be served plain and while still hot.