Ol’ Fashioned Apple Goodness

Have you ever made a recipe that is easy, yet at the same time awkwardly hard?! For me that would be my Grandma Peterson’s Apple Pie Bars. Maybe I just went into the first round of creating the recipe with perceived notions of how it would be. Momma MisHappenings had really talked up the ease with which Grandma used to just whip these all together….it’s so easy…. Let me tell you, that wasn’t my experience but I’ve adapted, concurred, and overcome!

Momma sent me the recipe that Grandma had submitted to the church cookbook, or the county cookbook or some other small town cookbook collaboration. I submit it here as evidence that what my Momma and Aunt remember her doing maybe isn’t correct. They both claim that instead of rolling the first layer of dough, Grandma simply smeared it into the pan with a spoon. I just don’t see how it can work the way they remember! I tried it once and couldn’t at all get it to work for me at all. I’ll guide you through my “new” way, and it comes together fairly easily once you know what you’re in for.

In a mixer, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and mix on low. Slowly add the margarine, or butter, in small cubes to the mixer. The fat should be cool but not cold. If it’s soft enough to smear on bread that’s too soft. I’ve made the recipe with both butter and margarine and I don’t see a marked difference between the two…..just use what you have on hand.

Let the fat combine with the flour and sugar until it reaches a grainy, small pebble consistency. While that works away in the mixer, separate your egg. Add the yolk to a measuring cup and save the white for later. Break up the yolk a bit, then add milk up to 2/3 of a cup. Add the yolk and milk mixture to the mixer and let it work until it comes together as a dough. Shouldn’t take long. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and give it a knead or two to just ensure it’s all together.

I would recommend splitting your dough in half, and then steal some from one half and give it to the other. The bottom crust liner needs to come up and a bit over the sides of the cookie sheet, so give that ball a little bit extra dough to get the job done. Grandma calls for using an 11×15 cookie sheet. I don’t have one of those. I have 2 different sized cookie sheets, a 10×15 and a 12×18. I used the large 12×18 for my first batch because I was afraid of overflowing the pan. This created very thin bars and really there wasn’t enough dough to make it work. This week I used the smaller pan and everything came together much better.

Roll out your bottom dough to the approximate size of the pan, and carefully transfer into the bottom of the cookie sheet. I find that using the rolling pin to help pick up the dough and move it. This bottom crust, according to my Momma, Grandma used to use a spoon to just spread the dough into the pan. I tried this once, but for the life of me I can’t get it to spread. The dough isn’t sticky like a cake batter, it’s stiff like pie dough. If you try this and figure out the secret for spreading the dough be sure you let me know!

I don’t measure out the cornflakes, but just do 3-4 handfuls of cereal and crunch it up a bit in your fist before you add it to the top of the rolled dough. I’m not sure the function of the cornflakes. You can’t taste them, but maybe they help absorb liquid from the apples and keep it from soaking into the crust?! Who knows….I just do it cuz Grandma says you need to. I’ve attempted changing Grandma’s recipes enough to know that they only work the way she says they work…..so I just do what I’m directed now!

You’ll add your apples in on top of the cornflakes. The recipe calls for fresh, but if you’re like me and went a little overkill at the apple orchards this fall….you can also use frozen. I have several quart sized bags of prepped apple pie filling in the freezer so that’s what I use for this recipe. You’ll need 1.5 quart bags for this recipe so just be sure you have the bags thawed in advance. You might notice some liquid at the bottom of your thawed bags, just carefully add that to the apples….don’t worry it won’t make the bottom crust soggy. If you’re not using pre-spiced apple filling, you’ll need to sprinkle a layer of cinnamon over the top of the apples at this point.

You’ll now roll out the top crust for the bars. This needs to join with the overhang of the bottom crust, so you can make it a bit smaller than you did the bottom. You want enough to join the two crusts, but you can’t want too much crust piled up along the edges. Again I find it helpful to use the rolling pin to pick up and move the crust onto the top of your apples. Then just carefully work your way around and pinch the edges together till the whole thing is sealed up. You might get a leak or two, but you don’t need to worry about that too much.

You’ll need to find your egg white at this point….hopefully you still have it sitting there! Add a small splash of water to the white and whip it up a bit using a fork. You don’t have to whip it into stiff peaked merengue, just till it gets a bit frothy. If you have a pastry brush, use it to brush the white across the crust to help create a golden crust. I don’t have a pastry brush, so I just drizzle the froth across the top and then use my fingers to carefully spread it evenly over the crust.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes or until it’s golden brown. The top crust might have puffed up a bit at this point, it will be fine you don’t need to worry about it too much. You don’t need to glaze the bars if you don’t want to, but if you’re going to you need to do it when they are fresh out of the oven. You’ll need to add a bit more lemon juice or water to the powdered sugar than Grandma says to make a glaze. I find it easiest to use a large spoon and do several haphazard passes of glaze drizzle across the top of the bars. Then, gently use the back of the spoon to spread the glaze….or leave the messy drizzle if that’s more your style. You’ll need to let the bars too before you cut into them, otherwise the apple filling won’t set and you’ll end up with a little bit of a mess. True life story….the slight messiness is totally worth it to eat one of these babies warm!

Power Prepping Weekend

Just like I do every year….even though I start prepping for Christmas super early…..I’m almost always running around like a headless chicken in the weeks leading up to the big day.  It’s not even that it makes me stressed….I love everything about getting ready for the Christmas season, it’s just a ton of things to get done.

This weekend has been no different.  I’ve been power knitting and baking through the whole weekend.  It’s the time of year for poppy seed bread, and this weekend I will have cranked out a total of 8 loaves.  Yesterday’s loaves were not a smashing success sadly.  I had the dough sitting around all day to rise, except that it just never really motivated.  It did puff up some, but not nearly enough.  I finally had to bite the bullet around 9 pm and start the loaves.  After forming I gave them about another hour in the oven with the light on for warmth….but still to no avail.  I have 4 very dense, brick sized loaves.  They look nothing like what an actual loaf of bread is supposed to look like.  To further rain on my baking parade….all the loaves exploded in the oven, and the top of one cracked while I was trying to de-pan it last night.  Ughs can’t have carbohydrate success all the time I guess.

Today’s dough is looking much more puffed, and I think I only have one knitting project left to go!  It should be a fairly easy something to whip out….so long as I keep count of the rows.  Today is off to a great start and I even had time to prep bolognese sauce for homemade lasagna tonight!  After all, if I’m going to stock the freezer with poppy seed bread I need to get some of the elk and deer meat out.  Plus, cooking today means I shouldn’t have to cook during the week, which is a major plus!  I maybe should have taken photos so that I could write up that recipe….but maybe that’ll be next week.  I have a couple other baking recipes that I could share also just in time for holiday sharing with friends and family!  #sneakpeakmaybe?!

Hope you are all staying warm and feeling festive as the Christmas season moves into full swing.  The only thing missing from my present Christmas view is some snow.  Much to The Engineer’s annoyance….I’ve turned on the crappy Christmas movies on Netflix.  I don’t know what else to do while knitting and crafting.  It must work…..I’ve gotten two big projects finished up knitting-wise already this weekend!

IMG_9171

The Engineer and Scout’s idea of what to do while I’m slaving away with lasagna, crafts, and crappy Netflix Christmas movies!!!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

HAPPY MONTH OF CHRISTMAS!!!!

Every year when December hits I get a little bit…..

tumblr_lvkp9tvZSY1qapbk3.gif

……partly because it’s Christmas time and that’s amazeballs, and partly because it’s Christmas time and I have so much to do!

I maybe got a bit overexcited about having finally bought a tree for the house this year…..and I maybe put up my tree early.  Like maybe too early?!  How early is too early, does anyone really know that answer to that question?  I put mine up before Thanksgiving, but I didn’t decorate it or the garlands until after…..so I think that makes it ok!?  Let’s face it, houses just feel way more cozy and homey when they are decorated for Christmas, and you really only get to experience that feeling for a month….ish.  So, I feel like you should really extend it as long as possible to get the maximum effect!

buddy-the-elf-decorations

The face you make when you maybe decorated early, and you’re worried the neighbors are judging you.

December is also the month of my birthday, and tradition dictates that I do certain things…..namely work as little as possible, workout, and get my nails done!!  I’m happy to report that Friday was a great success in all those categories, except that I did end up work sightly more than originally intended.

img_7419

(Insert overly posed picture of manicure and Christmas ornaments)

I also got some sweet birthday presents this year.  Momma Mishappenings got me a blender and some ornaments for the new tree.  Now I just need warmer weather so I can whip up some smoothies and margaritas!!  Lil Sis got me some of my new favorite lotion and some flowers!

img_7415

I spent the weekend doing laundry and Christmas prep……exciting I know.  But, crafts and knitting aren’t gonna do themselves, so Netflix, tea, and knitting was my weekend to do list.  I did go to dinner and drinks with the BFB and the Hubby in Law last night so that was always a good time.  We intended to try a fun place downtown, but there was a construction accident there the other day and we weren’t sure we could get to our intended location.  Instead, we hit up the Irish pub, and I discovered they had Shiner Cheer on tap…..which is also a symbol that the best time of the year is upon us.  If you haven’t tried it, you need to….and it’s seasonal…..SO GET ON IT SOON!

shinercheercard.jpg

Brewed with peaches and pecans….it’ tastes like the holidays!

The other weekend activity I had to start was Christmas baking.  I only make poppy seed bread for the holidays, but since I can only do 4 loaves at a time, I have to start early!  I’ll link the recipe, it’s a family favorite and definitely worth a try.  Embrace the messy within you, and don’t be afraid of oozing poppy seeds!  I ripped small holes in all the loaves last night and had no explosions in the oven!!  #victory

Pro Tip:  If you have a hole or some oozing….just flip that part into the bottom of the pan…..that will sometimes….usually…..keep the explosion for occurring.  No explosion means a clean oven!

Well, that about wraps up my week of excitement.  Now it’s just onto crafting and knitting like a crazy person to get everyone’s presents done on time!  I know I should work on these things all year, or start earlier at least, but who wants a big pile of knitting in their lap when it’s hot outside?!?  Not this girl, I can tell you that!

Christmas Prepping: Poppy Seed Bread

I’ve had a couple requests to post a blog about all the crafting I’m doing for Christmas presents this year.  This blog will come, but it’s going to have to wait.  I can’t really post about the presents I’m giving to people next week!  To get you in the Christmas spirit though, I thought I’d share a recipe I make for Christmas every year.

I’m not generally much of a baker.  Honestly, I almost never, ever bake.  It’s just so time consuming, it generates a huge amount of dishes, and you have to be so accurate with the measurements.  It does seem odd that I don’t like to be analytical in the kitchen, because being analytical is one of the traits that got me through school and it helps me excel at my job.  Maybe I just need the kitchen to be a place where I can just relax with wine and cook by feel?!?

Whatever the reason, baking just isn’t my forte.  When I do bake, I tend to make bread.  Which is odd because bread generally isn’t considered like “Intro to Baking” level activity.  I always seem to have a huge collection of bananas in the freezer, and every now and again I’ll get a wild hair to whip up several loaves of banana bread.  The other thing I bake “regularly” is my Grandma’s recipe for poppy seed bread.  It isn’t a traditional poppy seed bread.  Forget the visions of lemon poppy seed bread currently dancing through your brain.  This bread involves making some poppy seed goo and then rolling it all up a la jelly roll.

There’s nothing  particularly “Christmas-y” about this recipe, and I don’t remember that Grandma ever made it specifically for Christmas.  However, once she got sick and stopped cooking, I started making the recipe, because someone needed to be making it.  I was in college then, so I always ended up making it over Christmas break.  Now I try and make batches every Christmas and give them out for part of Christmas gifts.  No one else really makes it, so it’s my little attempt to keep a family recipe alive.

 

1919601_100351099995035_3226324_n

These two though…..they hang in my closet and I see them everyday.  Their memory reminds me to stay humble and work hard.

313838_276914812338662_125596557_n-2

A little Nutcracker action, to keep you in the holiday spirit!

The problem with this recipe is that it’s not really much to go on.  My Grandma, and her mother, were that old school breed of women who could cook for days without a recipe at all and everything just ended up perfect.  They used specific bowls to measure thing, and the phrases, “mix till it feels right” and “just throw some in” are what come to mind when I remember cooking with my Grandma at the farm.  I remember calling Grandma one of the first times I decided to bake the poppy seed bread because my goo wasn’t becoming goo.  I had already added way more cornstarch than she had originally told me, and like I often do when things are going astray….I started to panic!  We sat on the phone for a while and chatted while I stood and stirred my goo in hopes that something would start to happen.  She just kept telling me to add more…….few minutes later, “Is it getting thick?”  Nope……”well just add some more!”  So, I guess if you try this, and things don’t seem to be working out, just remember to add more cornstarch!!

Recipe: Makes 2 Loaves

Dough

  • 1 Package Yeast
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Margarine
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 4-41/2 cups Flour

Filling–The Goo

  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 oz Poppy Seeds
  • 2-4 heaping tbs Corn Starch mixed in small amount of water

IMG_0271

Soften the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.  Warm the milk and margarine in the microwave until just melted, and add to the yeast mixture.  Add in the salt, sugar, and egg and whisk well to combine.  Whisk in the first 2 cups of flour.  The last two cups need to be stirred in.  Don’t worry if you can’t get the whole last cup of flour to mix in.  Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth.  Place in a large bowl, cover, and place in a warm space.  Let raise to double and then punch the dough back down and let it raise again.

IMG_0273

This is a double batch, it will raise enough to totally fill this huge bowl.  I only use this bowl for poppy seed bread.  Maybe I’m more like my Grandma than I thought!

While the dough is raising, prep the filling.  Place the milk, sugar, and seeds in a saucepan on the stove.  Heat until just before boiling while stirring to prevent scalding.  Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of water, I just do this in a coffee mug.  While stirring the seed mixture, pour in the cornstarch slurry.  Continue stirring to avoid lumps and heat to boiling.  The mixture will thicken as it cools some, but it’s better if the mixture is too thick.  Runny goo will make your life a struggle later.  Don’t be afraid to add more cornstarch!  I made two batches of bread this weekend.  Yesterday’s batch had goo that was slightly on the runny side, today’s was maybe too thick.  Trust me, thick is definitely easier.  It stays where you put it and doesn’t come oozing out the ends before you can crimp them up!

Once your dough is ready, divide in half.  Roll out half on a floured surface to about 1 foot long and 6 inches wide.  Place a small line of goo about 2 inches from the end of the dough.  Flip the dough over to make a pocket around the goo.  Press down all around the edge to seal in the goo, make sure the get the ends well sealed.  Add another line of goo on the crimp line, and flip the original pocket over to make another pocket.  You’ll keep doing this until you get to the end of the dough.  The goo probably oozed out of the ends slightly , and you might be feeling a bit sticky at this point.  It’s all fine, and I promise it will taste just fine.  Carefully, place the loaf final seam side down in a loaf pan.  I sometimes don’t get my dough sized right, if it’s too big for the pan just squish the ends in a little…..no one will know!

Under the advice of a boy I attempted to spread the filling across the dough and roll it like a jelly roll.  Let’s just say that Grandma’s know how to do these things best.  I have to admit I had always been curious about why it wouldn’t work.  It ended up being much harder to seal, it totally burst open in the oven, and it is definitely the saddest of the 4 loaves I made yesterday.  Live, learn, and trust Grandma on that one I guess!

Cover the pans and let rise slightly before baking at 350 for 45 mins.  Once baked and cooled slightly, tip out of pans and place in bags to freeze or let cool on a cooling rack.  If you didn’t get all the ends and seams sealed up, some of the goo might have burst out of the bread.  Again, this is all fine and won’t effect much other than maybe the floor of your oven. Let cool before cutting so that the goo can reset.  I like mine with butter, but its equally good plain.

 

IMG_5316

You might get some air pockets and you might get some oozing filling, but trust me…..your mouth doesn’t care at all!

The dough can also be used as Long John dough.  I’ve never done this, but Grandma always used the same recipe.  After the dough has raised, roll and divide into equal portions, shape, and deep fry.  In traditional Peterson style, your Long Johns should be topped with vanilla frosting and chopped peanuts.

Happy baking!  If I don’t write again before Christmas, here’s hoping that you and your families have a very Merry Christmas!

❤ MisHappenings