Thursday, January 7, 2010


"The violet hush of twilight was descending over Los Angeles as my hostess, Violet Hush, and I left its suburbs headed towards Hollywood. In the distance a glow of huge piles of burning motion-picture scripts lit up the sky. The crisp tang of frying writers and directors whetted my appetite. How good it was to be alive, I thought, inhaling deep lungfuls of carbon monoxide."
- Strictly from Hunger by S.J. Perelman
There's something about baking that in its very nature is a conundrum. It is both science and art, a contrary craft that is exact in a multitude of variables yet also requires the baker to be unrestrained in both his approach and imagination. Especially in creating a new recipe. Mastering this opposing friction of restraint and abandonment can make the difference between a mediocre offering and a mouthwatering dessert.

Baking for me is a metaphor for life, in how we navigate the myriad ins and outs of doors opening and closing in our salacious yearning to "suck out all the marrow of life". We use distractions like cotton-wool to silence the inner voice that begs to be set free, wild and loose upon the world. So easily swayed by the disapproving opinions of those who themselves are trapped in gilded cages. What we fail to understand is that self-creation is a subtle balance between restraint and abandonment. We must first master discipline before we can fling our souls out into the world. But it is fluidity, the means by which we ebb and flow, that will in the end cushion us from the sharp careening precipices on the road to self-discovery. We must learn to bend, so we do not break. But it is only by surrendering that we truly learn to fly.

"Flying" - Photography by Wayne Levin


“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” – Jane Austen

There's nothing more American than apple pie. Its the quintessential American foodstuff, the symbol of American bounty, ingenuity, and simple good taste. In its original medieval English form "pie," like its French counterpart "pate," meant bits and pieces of meat baked in pastry. It's named after the magpie, a bird known for collecting odds and ends. Over time this catchall savory evolved into the sweet, firmly crusted open-faced tarts of rhyme and fable, arriving in North America with colonists, where the crust became more tender and flaky, the fillings were topped with meringue or a second crust, and the pie was served in its baking dish, not removed from the pan like in the old country. - Excerpt from the article Crust never sleeps by Matthew Stafford

Double Crust Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, chilled
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, chilled

  1. Process flour, sugar, salt in processor until combined. Scatter shortening over top and process approx. 10 seconds until texture is like course sand. Scatter butter pieces on top, short pulses, process mix until like coarse crumbs, approx. 10 pulses. Transfer to bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tbsp of ice water over mixture. Stir, and press the dough together with a stiff rubber spatula until dough sticks. Add another tbsp if dough doesn't come together.
  3. Divide dough into 2 even pieces, flatten into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic, and put in fridge for 1 hour. Let soften slightly at room temp before rolling out.
Apple Pie
2 lb Macintosh apples (4-6) peeled, cored, 1/4 slices
1 1/2 lb Granny Smith apples (3-4) peeled, cored, 1/4 slices
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp of all-purpose flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten
  1. Preheat oven 500° F. Toss apples with 3/4 cup sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, spices. Set aside.
  2. Roll out bottom crust into 12-inch circle. Fit dough gently down into pan. Trim pastry with scissors about 1" beyond the edge of the pie pan. Spread apples in uncooked pie crust bottom. Roll out top crust into 12-inch circle. Lay over top crust. Trim edges to same length as bottom crust. Fold and tuck under edges. Brush with egg white, sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Lower oven to 425° F. Bake for 25 minutes, or until top crust is golden. Rotate pan and lower oven again to 375° F and bake another 30-35 minutes until liquid is bubbling. Cool.

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