Sunday, July 10, 2011

sweet and unexpected.

I had an unexpected visit from a best friend last weekend. Think about this, you are driving down the road to doctor's appointment, ice cold diet coke in the cup holder, America's top forty on the radio, and you just got three green lights in a row. All of the sudden, you hear this loud noise coming from the back left tire and your car starts to shake violently. Dun..dun...dun, flat tire. To make matters worse, the violent shaking caused the diet coke you were sipping to spill on your shirt and because you had to get out and assess the situation, you missed hearing the #1 song in America. While waiting on triple A to come your rescue, you call your doctor an explain that you won't be making it to the appointment because you ran into some unexpected car trouble. Bad day.

In this hypothetical flat tire extravaganza, unexpected = unfortunate, sad, and annoying.

On the other side of the spectrum...

Friend coming to visit unexpectedly = pure happiness. It was a weekend full of laughter, reminiscing, baking, sight seeing, and discovery. You get the point. It was awesome.  

Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays because there aren't any real expectations. No one has to cook a turkey and stuff it or buy a gift for someone. Unless of course, your mom hates hamburgers and her birthday is on the fourth of July. Then do it. Let's face it though, the expectations for this holiday are few. This fourth of July weekend was no exception and it was really great. It was complete with friends, minor league baseball, cornhole, fireworks, delicious food and apple pie.

Ohh, the apple pie. Carolyn and I were challenged via twitter by her brother and his new wife (remember this?) to an apple pie bake off. Determined to prove our baking skills and patriotism could outshine these newlyweds, we got to work. The competition proved to be pretty fierce. This was our pride and joy:


This apple pie was quite delicious. It oozed winners. However, our pie was in Alabama and their pie was in Florida so after we got a few trash talking tweets out of the way, we called it a draw.

This weekend truly was one for the books. It also came with the reminder of how blessed we are to live in a free nation that allows us to worship, to celebrate, to love, to bake, to enjoy friendships, and to appreciate the countless blessings of life.

The recipe for our pie: Barefoot Contessa

4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Perfect Pie Crust
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zests, juices, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over the pie pan to extend about 1/2 inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.

Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1 inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the two together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut four or five slits.

Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.

Perfect Pie Crust
Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

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