I made this apple pie for dessert on a blustery autumn Sunday. The willow leaves are hand cut with a scalpel and together with the small beech leaves and acorns are scattered on a tightly woven background. I was asked recently why I did not show oak leaves with the acorns, but oak leaves do not fall off of the trees in the fall. They fall first in springtime just before the new leaves appear. My autumn pies are usually based on the leaves that adorn the ground at this time of year. We have many willow trees in our back yard so I featured those on this pie.
Bruce and I were hungering for a chocolate pie, but thought it needed something of a summer touch. Adding fruit seemed to be an excellent way to brighten up the dark chocolate. I thought about green grapes, which would certainly have been nice, but when I saw the kiwis and some beautiful nectarines I decided to go that route. Kiwis are very attractive if you cut them into slices and the nectarine wedges made a perfect border. The pie turned out very well and was all gone in just 2 days.
The recipe for this pie is in the recipe section. It is a bit more complicated to make than the simple “pudding pie” we presented in Pie World last year, but the filling is much richer and “chocolatier,” so I think it is worth it.
After the long, cold winter April brought wonderful spring weather and we are thankful that it has been warm and sunny. We have been very busy in the yards and gardens and have removed about 15 tall willows that were getting out of hand.
There was a time when I was more at home on ski slopes than anywhere else. I didn’t learn to ski until I was almost 30 years old, but when I did I became an impassioned downhill fanatic. This was at a time when I was supposed to be working on my PhD thesis in the lab, but that is another story. Weekends were spent in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, eastern France or northern Italy, looking for powder snow and great meals. Great meals? Well, of course. Skiing takes a lot of calories, but beyond that, good food was always my first passion.
I believe it was in 1972 that we were skiing in Pescegallo, between lake Como and Bergamo in Lombardy, northern Italy. On the slope we met some French people who told us about a very good restaurant somewhere south of where we were. Since this was more than 40 years ago I hope no one will be offended if every detail is not completely accurate, including the name of the restaurant. I looked on the map and found the Restaurant Step
Taleggio cheese is soft, with a thin rind and is always made and sold in squares. It has a rather pungent odour, but is actually quite mild in flavour. Most apparent is a nuttiness and fruitiness that reminds one of raisins or lemons. If it is not available there are reasonable substitutes such as Robiola, Fontina, Bel Paese or even a Limburger. It is definitely worth looking for the original, but in an emergency these other soft, aromatic cheeses will work for this recipe.
A few weeks ago I bought a block of Taleggio and decided to make the dish, but was undecided as to what to serve with it. A few days before Karin’s sister Monika had brought us the ingredients to make a dish she enjoyed, Turkish rice pilaf, and I thought it sounded like an interesting accompaniment. The rice she brought was medium grained, but I remember most of the Pilaf dishes in Turkey with long-grained rice, more like Basmati rice. I prefer long-grained rice because it does not need the intensive washing steps to remove excess starch.Back in the late 1960s I had spent 9 weeks in Turkey in the late 1960s and had enjoyed the amazingly nutty and aromatic rice dish, made with pastina-like noodles called arpa sehriye, similar to filini. One restaurant in Bergama, about 100 km north of Izmir, served it with the most amazing mutton dish and eggplant. The rice was served with a bowl of creamy yogurt to spoon over it and the meal was unforgettable. Here are my re-creations of these two memorable dishes:
For the chicken breasts
Ingredients for 3 servings (can be easily reduced or increased)
3 boneless chicken breasts without skin
salt and pepper
3 Tbl basil pesto
2 Tbl chopped basil leaves
3 Tbl crème fraîche or cream cheese
180 g (6 oz) Taleggio cheese – grated or cubed
30 g Parmesan cheese – grated
60 g (2 oz) fine bread crumbs
sweet paprika powder
500 g (1 lb) plum or other small tomatoes
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 220 °C (430 °F)
With a sharp knife cut slits int the chicken breasts, but not through.
Mix the cheeses, pesto and basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper. Press the mixture into the slits in the chicken breasts and place in a baking dish or roasting pan. Any excess cheese mixture can be spread onto the meat. Mix the bread crumbs with about 1/2 tsp of paprika powder and spread over the chicken.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, then place the tomatoes between the chicken breasts and trickle oil and vinegar over them. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 min or until the chicken has an internal temperature of 72 °C (160 °F).
Serve the chicken with a few tomatoes and don’t forget to spoon some over of the delicious juices out of the bottom of the roasting pan.
For the Turkish Rice Pilaf
for 3 servings
3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl Turkish rice noodles – Arpa Sehriye (filini or alternatively orzo)
1 cup long-grain rice (Turkish or Basmati)
2 cups warm chicken stock or water
2-1/2 tsp salt
Rinse the rice in cold water, drain and set aside.
In a medium pot melt the butter and roast the rice noodles until golden brown (with care as the noodles can easily burn). Add the washed and drained rice and heat for 3-4 minutes until the rice begins to emit its fragrance.
Reduce the temperature and add the warm water or stock and salt. Stir once, cover and allow to simmer until the water is completely absorbed, 10 – 15 min. It is important not to stir or otherwise disturb the rice until it is cooked. Place 3 layers of paper towel over the pot and cover tightly with the lid. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes on the warm stove top. If using a gas stove place the pot over the pilot light or over the smallest flame with a metal gauze to protect from burning.
We had a small number of these calendars made up for our own use and as gifts for good friends.
With the holidays coming up, we are in peak pie-making season. And pie makers are passionate people. Pies are so easy to buy that anyone who takes the time to make one from scratch — crust and all! — is guaranteed to impress everybody through sheer effort alone. Now one pie maker has raised the bar so high she managed to amaze even the woman who does everything beautifully: Martha Stewart herself.
Martha Stewart is hard to impress, and she knows a lot about baking. She’s written multiple books about pies, and she probably has very strong thoughts about butter temperature and crust flakiness. She recently Instagrammed an elaborate pie by Karen Pfeiff Boschek and told her 1.5 million followers that the blogger had “turned pie crust decorating into an art form.”
That is an extremely impressive pie! Each of those tiny leaves and flowers is hand-cut out of dough, which Boschek makes from scratch. Her craftsmanship is meticulous, and that pie looks like a work of art. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but it looks every bit as delicious as it is beautiful. I can imagine standing over that pie with a knife, trying to work up the nerve to cut through that beautiful crust. It’d be tough, but I think I’d manage eventually. Then I’d be rewarded with that amazing pie.
Boschek is an artist, cook, photographer, and blogger at Our Delicious Food. She lives in a 100-year-old former abbey next to the Vogelsberg National Park in Germany, and her Instagram is a record of some of the most beautiful pies anybody has ever seen.
Each pie on Boschek’s Instagram is meticulously crafted and absolutely stunning. Most of her pies are fruit pies, which she makes entirely from scratch and covers in a delicate array of tiny, hand-cut leaves, stars, and flowers. It’s no wonder Martha Stewart was impressed.
She photographs all her pies before and after baking to show what happens to her artwork in the oven, and that gives a glimpse into her process and shows how she achieves those next-level pies. It’s clear that she’s an artist, but she’s also very patient and detail-oriented. Her pies are inspiring!
In many families in Germany there is a tradition of making an apple cake to serve with coffee when guests come to visit in autumn. One of the most beloved cakes is this apple cake with slit apples on top.
It’s difficult to see, but if you look closely the apple quarters have been slit lengthwise about 2/3 through similar to Hasselback potatoes. This is more obvious below after baking.
26 – 28 cm (10 “– 11”) springform pan
shortening or spray to coat the pan (or 2 Tbl butter)
750 g (1.5 lb) apples for baking (Jonathans, Braeburn, Winesap, etc.)
125 g (1/2 cup) butter (room temperature or softened)
100 g (1/2 cup) white sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract or beans from one vanilla pod
¼ tsp salt
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
3 (m) eggs
200 g (1-3/4 cup) flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbl milk
2tbl apricot jam or
Prepare the pan by greasing the bottom and sides
Peel and core apples, quarter and cut slits lengthwise (do not cut through – as for Hasselback potatoes) sprinkle with lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180 °C (375 °F) fan-forced 160 °C (320)
Prepare batter – Using a hand mixer cream 125g (½ cup)butter. Slowly add the sugar, vanilla, salt and lemon zest while creaming at medium speed. Add one egg at a time, beating at high speed for 30 seconds each. Mix the flour and baking powder together and add in two batches, alternating with 1 Tbl milk (flour/milk/flour/milk) while beating at medium speed. Transfer the batter to the prepared spring-form pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Place the apple quarters equally spaced in a ring on the batter. Place the form in the lower third of the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 45 minutes or until light brown and baked through (cake tester or tooth pick)
If using apricot jam, mix 2 Tbl jam with 1 Tbl water and heat just to a boil. Using a pastry brush coat the surface of the cake immediately after removing from the oven. Remove the outer ring of the pan and allow to cool on a rack.
If using powdered sugar allow cake to cool, remove ring and dust with powdered sugar.
Serve as is, with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream (or both 😆 ).
This is wonderful served with whipped cream or ice cream