Apple Pie with Vodka Pie Crust

I have seen the Cook's Illustrated pie crust with vodka before, but I have been hesitant to try it in the past.  This year since we had to leave the Wednesday morning for Thanksgiving, and I had cookies to make, I was extra short on time for pie making.  Since the Cook's Illustrated recipe is very simplistic  and is constantly reviewed as being easy, I figured this was a good opportunity to try the vodka pie crust.  

Well, I am glad I did.  The crust came out great. It was very flakey and tastey. Very easy to roll out.  This was definitely the EASIEST pie crust I have ever made.   If you are short on time, or need to make a lot of pie crust-this is the crust to make. It will save you a lot of stress. I will definitely use this recipe again, but I won't totally replace my traditional pie crust recipe. 

One tip I have if you try this receipe.  The dough is very sticky.   I rolled out my dough between two pieces of parchment, and then let it firm up again in the refrigerator before putting it on the pie dish to make it easier to handle.  This worked much better.  

Since I didn't bake this pie at home, I was only able to get one good shot of the cooked pie.  But here are some of the pie, all assembled not uncooked.

Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup cold vodka

1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Source: Cooks Illustrated

Apple Pie Filling

3 lbs. apples (I use Granny Smith)

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

3 Tbl. corn starch

1/3 cup apple cider

Peel, core and cut apples into about 1 inch thick slices. Place in a pot large enough to hold the apples with some extra room. Add the light brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the apples. Stir the mixture to coat the apples. Dissolve the corn starch into the apple cider. Mix this into the apple mixture. Turn the heat onto medium to start cooking the apples. Cook on medium heat for only about 10 minutes. The apples will slightly soften and wilt just a little. The sauce will start to thicken. Place the mixture in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until it is cool. Once the apple filling is cool, scoop it into a prepared pie shell, and cover the top with another layer of pie shell. Seal the two crusts together. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 and continue baking for another 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the crust looks golden.

Thanksgiving Cookies

I love fall baking and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to bake for.  This year's Thanksgiving cookies included turkeys, pumpkins, pilgrim hats, fall leaves, and maize.   Thanksgiving was the first holiday I started making sugar cookies for last year and I feel like my technique has improved a great deal since last year.   Every time I work with royal icing I feel like I learn something new and my decorating skills keep improving.

When making this many cookies I've learned that the most important thing is to have a plan and know ahead of time what colors you're using before starting to decorate.   This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.   Keeping the cookies in the same color scheme and reusing some of the icing colors on different cookies will keep decorating more simple and help make the cookies look more cohesive. 

The maize or Native American corn is my favorite cookie.   Maize is very common in the New England area, but I'm not sure if you find in other parts of the country.  These cookies took the longest to make but they were totally worth it.   Each kernel  had to be individually made and the red and orange had to made separate from from the yellow kernels so that the colors didn't bleed.   I used a #3 to make the kernels.

I really love how all the cookies look together and was so happy with how they came out! I just can't believe that Thanksgiving is over and it is time to start planning Christmas cookies.  

In the next few days I'll be posting other Thanksgiving themed baked goods!  Stay tunned!

Fall Foliage Wedding Favors

Last weekend I attended the wedding for a very good friend of the family.  Growing up the bride was my best friend and I was at her house sometimes more than I was at my own.  When she asked me to make the favors for her wedding, I was extremely honored and very excited to contribue to her special day.

The she wanted fall foliage cookies to match the fall in New England themed wedding.  After making up a couple different samples, the bride and groom decided on orange leaves with gold sparkling sugar.  

As excited as I was to do these favors, this was by far the largest baking project I have taken on: 200 cookies.  I had to use my mother's kitchen since her's is significantly bigger and she has way more counter space to hold all the cookies.  Even with all the space she has, we had to set up an extra table to let the cookies dry.

In total between baking, decorating and bagging, these cookies took about 30 hours of actual labor over the course of four days. Although I loved making these, I was glad when they were done.

I do need to recognize my mother who got a crash course on flooding sugar cookies and applying sparkling sugar, and my sister who also helped apply the sparkling sugar.  Without their help these cookies would have easily taken over 36 hours.

Here is the table with all the favors together, bagged and ready to go.

There were so many I couldn't get them all in the same photo.  (I probably could have gotten them all in the same shot, but I was exhausted when I took these final product photos!)

I love how they look together close up!

I'm not sure if I would do this many favors again. I think would take another VERY SPECIAL occassion.  I definitely can't take on a project this big in my current kitchen and its harder to work on cookies when I am not in my own house.