by Chef Deb Traylor
The holidays can be a stressful time for many cooks as they dream, plan, shop and strive to create the perfect celebration dinner for family and friends. I know people who frantically search the internet, pore over magazines or look desperately for recipes that promise to be “foolproof”. This always makes me smile. Is anything really “foolproof”? If there truly is, I certainly have not discovered the secret. What’s the quote? “Let’s make a plan, then see what happens?”
I cannot begin to tell you how many holiday mishaps I’ve had during my professional cooking career. Some of them are so improbable that I like to pretend they never happened. Yet, inevitably someone in our group will say “remember the year that kid deposited his lunch over the entire buffet of food before anyone had the chance to eat?” Or “remember the time when the ovens got so hot that the hinges buckled and we had 2 large turkeys permanently entombed in them and we had to use a 5-foot crowbar to extract the dried out carcasses the next day?”
But my favorite is when I had to make a “quick” run to a grocery store that was an hour away from the Wyoming ranch where I was cooking. We needed basics that we had unexpectedly run out of. The grocery store was wiped clean and I was walking up and down the aisles paying cowboys with $20 bills to part with a dozen eggs, or $10 for a pint of whipping cream (I needed a quart)! Yep, all the planning in the world did not save me from being the crazy lady at the Safeway store peeling off $20’s to bewildered last minute shoppers. It’s only now, after a handful of years, that I can embrace how funny these mishaps were without shuddering each time they’re mentioned!
It’s to a point now that I know something entirely random and improbable will probably happen during the holidays and I’ll wonder if this is the year I won’t be able to save it. But the beautiful part of holiday cooking mishaps is that we have this incredible narrative of food, laughter, love and stories we can share with friends and family for years to come.
If we ever have a chance to meet…and you have little time… ask me to tell you about a Bison Ranch Prime Rib, and the third kid in line…you won’t believe it :-).
Happy Holidays from all of us at Ginger and Baker! Here’s to a season or great food and better stories!
Apple Cranberry Crumble Pie with Orange Zest Crust
- 1/2 recipe of Orange Zest pie dough, chilled overnight (recipe at the bottom of the page), or 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
For crumb topping:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, oat flour, or spelt flour
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
For fruit filling:
- 2 pounds (about 6) Honeycrisp, Gala and Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (we use a combination of apples)
- 8 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 400°F, and place rack in the lower third of the oven.
Make crumble topping; stir together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until large clumps form, then stir in pecans. Chill until ready to use.
Make fruit filling; combine apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
Roll out dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into pie plate and trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck overhanging crust under and crimp decoratively. Transfer fruit filling to pie shell and dot with butter. Loosely cover filling with foil and bake until apples soften slightly, about 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Sprinkle crumble topping over filling and bake, uncovered, until crumble is browned, filling is bubbling, and apples are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. Pie can be made day in advanced, covered loosely and stored at room temperature.
Maple Pecan Pie
- 1/2 recipe Orange Zest Pie Dough, see below, or 1 (9-inch) unbaked piecrust
- 3 cups pecan halves, toasted and divided
- ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 3 Tbsp. good quality bourbon
- 1 tsp. freshly grated orange rind
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- large flake sea salt, for sprinkling (such as Maldon), optional
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out piecrust and place in pie pan. Spread pecans on a baking sheet. Bake piecrust and pecans for 10 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 275°F. Melt butter in the microwave or a small saucepan and cool completely. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, orange rind and vanilla. Whisk in cooled butter.
Roughly chop 1 1/2 cups of the toasted pecans and add to egg mixture, then pour into parbaked crust. Arrange the rest of the pecans decoratively on top of the pie, making sure to dip the pecans in the pie mixture. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, if desired.
Bake for 50-60 minutes at 275 degrees until crust is lightly browned and filling is just set.
Orange Zest Pie Dough
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled
- 1/4 cup Tbsp. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled (or 6 Tbsp. additional butter if not using shortening)
- 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. ice cold water
- 1 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar
- 1 tsp. orange zest
- 1 tsp. orange water, or 1/2 tsp. orange extract
Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and toss to completely coat with flour. Using your hands or a fork, quickly smash the pieces of butter/shortening between your thumb and fingers to flatten each piece to the size of a dime. Gently stir the flour and butter to make sure you flattened most of the pieces.
Combine ice cold water, lemon juice (or vinegar), zest and orange water and drizzle half of the lemon water over cold flour mixture and stir until the dough just starts to come together or turns “shaggy”. We prefer to use our hands but a fork works nicely too. Begin adding a few more tablespoons of water at a time, stirring between each addition. Once most of the water has been used (but you have a tablespoon or two remaining) use your hands to gather the shaggy strands into a ball and knead the dough two or three times. If you have dry bits remaining in the bowl, add a little additional water. (Your dough may appear wet or dry depending the climate in your area, so you will need to go slowly and adjust accordingly.)
Gather the dough in a ball, dust your counter with a tiny amount of flour, and quickly pat dough into a small flat disk. Cut dough in half and then stack one piece on top of the other, flour side down. Use the heel of your hand and press the dough down and divide in half once more. Cover both pieces with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight. This dough can be made a day or two in advance. Makes enough for two 8 or 9-inch pie crusts.