Slow Cooker Week – Day 6, Slow Baked Apples

While you’re reading this I’ll be in Florida! A friend of mine is getting married and she and her husband have decided to do a destination wedding at Disney World. Three of us, motivated by either love of the open road or thrift, have decided to drive all the way down to Orlando, starting early (early) Friday morning. It should be quite the journey and we already have plans to check out Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah. Everything else is up in the air.

Cored Apples

Mmmm, apples. So delicious. I couldn’t resist conjuring up something in the ol’ crock pot with apples; and the sweeter the better! Crisps are delicious baked fruit dessert with many excellent candidates to take on the starring role, but there is a cool twist you can take with apples, using the fruit itself as the dish. This is a twist off an excellent Alton Brown recipe, who I must credit for this idea. Very delicious.

Slow Cooker Baked Apples Ready To Go Slow Cooker Baked Apples

Slow Cooker Apple Crisp
This recipe makes plenty of filling for 6 apples. You can scale it back if you’d like or just sprinkle over.

4-6 firm baking apples (Granny smith, Braeburn, etc)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick cold butter; diced
5 teaspoons honey
1 cup apples juice

Cut a thin layer off the bottom of the apples so they sit flat. Do the same with the top and peel a third of the way down. Rub the exposed parts with lemon juice so it doesn’t brown. Core the apples without going all the way through (don’t lose any sleep if you do). Hollow it out a bit for the stuffing.

Combine the remaining ingredients except the apple juice and work in your hands until everything is combined and the butter is in loose clumps in a sandy mixture. Stuff the apples with your filling until overflowing and place in your slow cooker. Sprinkle your remaining filling over the apples, followed by the apple juice. Cook covered on low for 4-6 hours, until the apples are tender. Serve hot, chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with a Punch

As Heather mentioned earlier, a group of us attended Greater DC Care’s MLK Day Of Service a few weeks ago. We all had fun and a few of our party even got lost on the way to the project and saw celebrities (Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and Tobey Maguire).

Whenever I organize something like a service project, I try to bring food to give it an extra special touch. It’s just a way of saying thanks and “sweetening” the deal so that they’ll be more inclined to participate in the future. For this event I brought Smitten Kitchen’s whole wheat apple muffins and King Arthur Flour’s Chocolate Muffins. Both were great, but I felt the apple was taking a back seat in the former. And thus, today’s recipe was born.

Muffin Batter

These muffins definitely get you that apple-y goodness. They’re very moist, so if that turns you off consider reducing the amount of apple sauce. Nicole from Baking Bites suggested adding 1/4, but I did not reduce to that this time.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with a Punch

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with a Punch
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 unsweetened apple sauce
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 stick butter at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar; packed (plus more to sprinkle)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup yogurt
3 apples; peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat the oven to 450. Line or grease an 18 cup muffin tin and set aside.

Reduce your apple sauce in a small pan under low/medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Mix together the fours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix well, followed by gently mixing the buttermilk in (according to Smitten, the buttermilk will curdle if you over mix) along with the applesauce and yogurt. Stir in the flour mixture and fold in your chopped apples.

Divide in your muffin tin cups and sprinkle brown sugar on top, as much as you like (more = better. 1/4 cup total, perhaps?). Bake for 15 minutes and test with a toothpick. Let cool and enjoy.

My Six Pie Party, a Thanksgiving Day Wrap-Up

I hope that you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday! Mine went well, and you can be sure that after enjoying three full Thanksgiving dinners, I will not be stepping on a scale anytime soon.

Granny Smith for Apple Crumble Top PieApple Filling

I also hope to focus more on the dinner side of DINNERCAKES after my baking blitz on Wednesday resulted in 6 pies and 3 loaves. Yes, I am a crazy person.

Pie Dough

But, I learned some very important lessons about baking:

  1. If you’re planning on baking 6 pies, invest in more than one pie dish. The pie tins at the grocery store just don’t cut it, it’s still flimsy even after you double up with two tins per pie and it increases your cook time. Next time I will enlist the help of some reasonably priced Pyrex pie dishes.
  2. Making pie dough from scratch doesn’t have to be a harrowing experience. I used Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee recipe, refrigerated the dough overnight, let it sit out for 10 minutes before working with it, and then just rolled it out to make crust.
  3. If 4 out of your 6 pies require graham cracker crust, just buy a box of graham cracker crumbs instead of using a meat tenderizer to demolish whole crackers. This saves time and sanity.
  4. Any marks left in your pumpkin pie after inserting a knife to make sure it’s fully cooked can be easily disguised with a leaf or heart shape made using extra dough.
  5. Do not open a bottle of champagne until you’re done.

Bittersweet Chocolate for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

My pie extravaganza included: Heavenly Pie from 101 Cookbooks, Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie from Martha Stewart, Crunch Top Apple Pie from Paula Deen, my favorite Classic Pumpkin Pie from Libby’s, and two Million Dollar Pies adapted from

The Heavenly Pie is the only one that disappointed me. It’s a chocolate pie with tofu and cream cheese. I know it sounds odd, but it tastes like a delicious chocolate mousse. Unfortunately I can never seem to get the consistency right. This may be because I don’t have the assistance of a food processor, so if you have tried this recipe using one please let me know how it works for you. I can never get it to be completely smooth, I’m always left with little tofu granules. No matter how good it tastes, I don’t like the grainy presentation.

Heavenly Pie and Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

I first saw the Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie in my Martha Stewart Living magazine (yes, I subscribe). I’m usually a purist with pumpkin pie – you know I love pumpkin, and my Libby’s recipe has never failed me. I’m so glad I tried this, though. This pie is absolutely packed with spices and it’s incredibly creamy. The layer of bittersweet chocolate spread over the crust before adding the filling gives it a nice kick, and when it’s cut it’s also very attractive. I did not drizzle milk chocolate over the top simply because I didn’t want to make a mess in someone else’s kitchen (so my pie was more of a double-chocolate pumpkin pie instead of a triple). I’m glad I skipped that part because it is a very rich pie, which isn’t always the best idea after Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe also made a lot more filling than what would fit in the pie dish. I put the extra into some corningware to bake separately, and what I did pour into the crust spilled over a bit. Be careful!

Apple Crumble Top Pie

The Crunch Top Apple Pie from Paula Deen turned out very well. I liked that this pie didn’t need more pie dough for a top – because this was my first time making pie dough completely unsupervised, I didn’t want to take too many risks. I used Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee pie dough recipe instead of Paula Deen’s. I also packed in an extra cup of apples and I thinly sliced them instead of chopping. The top wasn’t “crunchy,” so I’m not sure about Paula’s naming of this pie, but it was very tart and tasty.

Million Dollar Pie Ingredients

My brother first had Million Dollar Pie at a restaurant called Fisherman’s Wharf in Wanchese, NC. I believe he got the waitress to give him the recipe, but who knows where it is now. I used the recipe to recreate this pie for him. It’s not necessarily a Thanksgiving pie, but it does provide a nice, light alternative to many of the heavy pies usually featured on Thanksgiving. It’s also incredibly easy, and you can add more or less of whatever you do or do not like.

Pumpkin Pie and Apple Crumble Top Pie

I used Martha’s Pate Brisee dough for the regular Pumpkin Pie and the Crunch Top Apple Pie, and I made graham cracker crust for the others. The Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie had a special recipe for graham cracker crust, which was certainly very good. To make a simple graham cracker crust
, combine about 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs with 6 tablespoons of butter. Press the crumbs into your pie dish to form the crust. Bake for about 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven until it’s hard (without filling).

Edwin and I would love to hear what you made for Thanksgiving and how it turned out; please comment below to share it with us. Also, thank you for all the kind and encouraging words from friends, family and new visitors in support of DINNERCAKES – we appreciate it!

Hints and Pinches, Fried Apples

Apples and Cinnamon

If you went apple picking this season like Edwin, then you may have a few extra apples in your kitchen. Apple pie is delicious, but many people don’t have the time to wrestle with dough and pie crust (and some don’t want to be tempted to eat a whole pie by themselves). Of course, this is sad for me because my favorite part is the crust! But most people, my husband included, just love the taste and smell of warm apples.

Apples and Cinnamon, Bag of Apples

This weekend my in-laws gave us a bag of leftover apples. The apples are on their way to going bad, and they’re really too mealy to eat by themselves. But Morgan’s father offered that he thought they would be perfect for frying – and he was right!

Apples and Cinnamon, Peeling and Slicing

Fried apples are difficult to get wrong, but you should decide how you want them before you start. I like a crispier apple, my husband likes mushy. I like my apples peeled and thinly sliced, and he prefers non-peeled chunks. We decided to experiment separately.

Apples and Cinnamon, Adding Spices

She said, Fried Apples (Crispy and Thin)

Apples and Cinnamon, with Cool Whip

I chose a medium size apple, washed and peeled it. Use an apple slicer to cut it into 8 pieces, removing the core. Use a small knife to make thinner slices.

Heat up a small skillet and add 2 tablespoons of butter when hot. After about 30 seconds, add the apple slices to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring and turning the slices once or twice.

Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar over the apples. Stir one or twice to coat both sides of the apples.

Remove immediately from heat so that they’re still crispy. Serve with a side of fat-free cool whip.

He said, Fried Apples (Mushy and Thick)

Apples and Cinnamon, Morgan's Apples

Morgan washed two medium size apples and used an apple slice to cut into 16 pieces total (skins on). He added butter to a hot skillet, and then included the apples.

After cooking for about 1 minute, add cinnamon, brown sugar (about 1/4 cup), nutmeg and allspice. Continue to cook the apples, stirring occasionally, for about 4-5 minutes.

Morgan served his fried apples without cool whip (a tragedy, it’s true).

Apples and Cinnamon, Morgan's Apples Served

It's Not The Recipe, It's the Art… Sorta

A few weeks back a friend and I went to Homestead Farm in Maryland for apple picking. I’m a huge (read: obsessed) fan of apples, going through a minimum of two a day, however this was my first time picking. Needless to say I went a little overboard and ended up with a 28 pound bag of Cameos, Pink Ladys (best. apple. ever.) and Sun Fujis.

Now, 28 pounds is a lot of apples; stretching the limits of my fridge’s storage capacity (and my roommate’s patience with my obsession for food), so I decided to take full advantage of this by going into apple cooking/baking overload. We’re talking apple crisp, baked apples, apple honey challah bread, apple tarts…. These all had… varying levels of success.

One of the things I have never done is a pie. My mom makes awesome pies. Growing up she’d always do at least two pies: one cherry for my sister and one apple for me (no, we didn’t eat the entire pie ourselves). I friggin’ loved those pies. So what better way to learn how to bake a pie than via the mom? So I took a trip down to Richmond Saturday to learn the art of pie making (and to make a potato gun with the dad, but that’s another story).

Cinnamon Apples

One of the big things mom stressed was “reading the dough.” According to her, you have to be able to vary the recipe based on how things turn out. Maybe it’s a dry day and therefore the dough is dry, or maybe the opposite. Or maybe things just aren’t coming together, so you have to improvise.

Mixing the Dough

My mom uses a very simple recipe for pie crust; one she apparently got off a Crisco box (as a piece of the food snob in me dies to hear this). The apple pie filling? I have no idea.

Apple Pie

Mom’s Apple Pie (with help from Crisco)

– 1 1/3 cups of flour
– 1/2 cup of shortening
– 3-5 Tbsp of water
– 2 pounds of baking apples (I’m a fan of granny smith)
– 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
– 1/2 cup light brown sugar
– juice from half a lemon

Make the filling:
Peel and core the apples, cutting them in half then slicing them further; eight to twelve per apple. Combine the apples, lemon juice, white and brown sugar until apples are thoroughly coated. Let sit.

Make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 400°F and put a rack in the middle.

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and “cut” the shortening into the flour – meaning, cut the shortening into chunks instead of just dumping the whole slab in the bowl. Then using either a pastry blender or just some butter knives, cut into the butter until you get it a mealy consistency. Something like coarse cornmeal.

Add the water one tablespoon at a time and get dirty. Mix the dough in your hand(s) until the dough is a bit tacky and sticks together. If too sticky, add flour. If not sticky enough (i.e., falling apart), add more shortening. If too dry, add water. Ask yourself what will happen if you try to roll this dough out and how it’s going to cooperate.

After you’ve “read” your perfect (::cough::) pie crust, divide it into two halves. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough. There’s a bit of flexibility on how thick you want this – basically, go for a diameter and two inches larger than the diameter of your pie pan (8-10 inches suggested for pan sizes). It’s better to have a crust that’s too large than too small. Roll from the center out, trying to get a uniform circle shape. The thickness doesn’t matter so much as the diameter.

Carefully take your rolled out dough and transfer it to your pie pan. If it’s sticking too much make a mental note of this for next time, and use a pastry cutter as a quasi-spatula to separate it from your work surface. After this, fill your pie with the filling and repeat with the second half of dough. Make a few holes in the top of the pie crust for heat to escape.

Put your pie in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Remove when the crust is golden brown.