Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Flavors of Fall

This week something magical happened:  It got cold.  Well, it got chilly.  Ok, it got slightly cooler than warm.  In L.A., the word "cold" is relative, but when I have to put away the jean shorts and tank tops, I say it's officially fall.

I might be a wimp about cold weather, but there is one very big benefit to the yearly drop in temperature:  the food.  It's not like people have to be a slave to the seasons when it comes to cooking, but there are certain flavors that just feel more appropriate when there's a crispness in the air.  Pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg...they're warm and comforting and fill your home with inviting fragrance.  And it's just not the same when the temperature in your oven is the same as the temperature outside.

I've got a couple recipes to share this week.  One is inspired by, you guessed it, a tv show.  I've done True Blood, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who, and now you can add Supernatural to the list.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Supernatural, at it's core, is about two brothers who travel around America and fight ghosts, demons, and monsters a'plenty.  One of the brothers, Dean, is a big fan of pie, despite the fact that pie on the show has been followed by little old ladies who kill wayward hikers, a hotel full of cannibalistic gods, or a good old-fashioned zombie horde.  In fact, Dean should probably start thanking his brother every time he forgets the pie with their take-out;  he probably just saved someone's life.

So I decided to make a pear pie.  It's filled with whiskey caramel sauce and topped with a pentagram, so even if you don't watch the show, this would make a great autumn dessert, perfect for a Halloween party. 

My other recipe is one of my favorites:  pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I've been making these every year for a while now.  They're soft and cake-y and full of the flavors of fall.  My roommate even had two for breakfast this morning.  I can't recommend them highly enough.

Perfect for keeping demons out of your pie.

Pearway to Heaven (or Hell) Pie

Pie Crust
2 1/2 cup flour

1 cup cold butter, cubed

1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
6 to 8 tbsp ice cold water

6 big pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
juice from one lemon

Caramel Sauce 
1/2 cup butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1/4 cup whiskey
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 egg white, for brushing over the crust


Place all crust ingredients in freezer for 20 minutes. 

In a food processor add the flour, salt and sugar and pulse a couple times.

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles peas. Add a few tablespoons of ice water and continue pulsing, adding more ice water as needed. The dough should start to hold together.

Remove dough from food processor and place it over your working surface. Form the dough into 2 discs, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour up to 2 days before using.

Peel, core and slice the pears and toss with the lemon juice.

In a sauce pan, add the 1/2 cup of butter and melt over medium heat. Add the flour and mix until the mixture turns into a thick paste. Add whiskey, sugar, molasses and cinnamon and continue stirring. Let it simmer for a couple minutes, until the whiskey burns off (carefully smell the sauce - there will be a noticeable burn in your nose if the whiskey still needs more time).

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.

Take out the pastry discs from the fridge and roll out a disc so that it covers the bottom of your pie dish. Brush the pie crust with egg white so that it doesn’t get soggy.  Put back into the fridge if your caramel sauce isn't done yet.

Add the pears to the pie dish and pour the caramel sauce over the pears, you don’t have to pour it all if you think it’s too much sauce.

Roll out the other disk and cover the pears.  To make pentagram:  remove any excess pie dough and roll out to cut into long strips.  Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and then place your strips of pie dough down to make the pentagram design.  Cut a few slits in the top crust for steam to escape.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Let it cool before serving.  I couldn't wait and ended up with a very juicy (but still delicious) first piece of pie.  So be sure to cool completely so your filling doesn't run everywhere.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 15oz. can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.  Do not use the silicone mat for this one - this is one of the few cookies that will actually stick to them.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

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