Thanksgiving is coming! Traveling? Baking an apple pie?

Slice of Apple Pie

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, and my mother-in-law asked me to bring a pie. I was happy to provide the pie, but I wasn’t sure how to get it to upstate NY in primo condition. I’ve been foiled before by train heaters and bumpy car travel. After much consultation with friends (and my bestie, the internet), I decided to make the dough and filling separately to transport, then assemble and bake upon arrival.

Ingredients

I made the French Apple Pie from The Cotton Country Collection, a cookbook almost everyone in my north Louisiana family owns. This recipe incorporates a custard and apricot preserves into the pie filling.

I baked with Golden Russets from Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, New York.

This heirloom apple has a firm flesh with an intense sweet-dry flavor. It is a great keeper and very versatile for eating, cooking and juicing.

I also added one Granny Smith to make up the required amount and add some variety, always nice in apple pie.

Prep

I made the dough ahead of time, divided it into 2 and froze each piece in plastic wrap. I cooked and spiced my apples and froze them in a gallon freezer bag.

Frozen Apple Pie FIlling

The night before traveling, I made the custard, which I refrigerated.

On travel day, the frozen items went in a tote to cool during the train ride, and the custard traveled with an ice pack in a cooler bag. (Note that you likely could not do this for plane travel due to liquid constraints. In that case, I would probably freeze a prepared but unbaked pie to carry with me.)

Assembly

I was more grateful than stressed by my mother-in-law’s help with the pie construction. She definitely has more experience with pie-baking than I do. She started hands-off but couldn’t help but get involved! It was fun to do together.

Cut Out Pie Crust
I used a small heart cookie cutter to cut holes in the top crust.

Have a tasty Thanksgiving!

Baked Apple Pie

See also my blog post at Farm2Me about freezing pie filling (for a more basic apple pie recipe) prepared with all your extra autumn apples!

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These citrus-flavored cupcakes hit the spot after some Independence Day BBQ.

Fourth of July Cupcakes

I used grapefruit in my Lemon Cupcake recipe, which resulted in a subtle citrus flavor that no one could quite guess. They tasted good, but they could have used more of a grapefruit punch.

I upped the amount of grapefruit zest in the cupcake recipe below. It should make their taste slightly stronger yet not overpowering.

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

Recipe: Grapefruit Cupcakes and Frosting

Makes about 16 frosted cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grapefruit juice
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons grapefruit zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
FROSTING:
1 1/4 sticks butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the grapefruit juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the grapefruit zest to the flour mixture.

Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Do not over mix.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop (about 3/4 full). Bake about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan, then move to racks to cool completely.

For frosting: Beat the butter until smooth and add the vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar, then the grapefruit juice and zest. Add a little milk if frosting is too thick or not smooth. Add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin.

Frost the cupcakes once they reach room temperature.

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Cara-Cara-Orange-Cupcake
Cara Cara oranges, available late winter to early spring, look like regular oranges on the outside, but they are red inside, much like a ruby red grapefruit. In fact, if you buy one by mistake, believing it a regular orange, you might think you’ve gotten a small grapefruit when you cut into it. They are sweet and a little tangy, though, not sour/tart like a grapefruit.

I based my cake on Martha Stewart’s Orange-Yogurt Cake recipe, making a small heart-shaped cake and a few cupcakes. This was a simple, light cake, finished with powdered sugar and served with orange slices and zest strips.

Orange Cake

I do not have a lemon zester that allows for peeling thin strips of zest, so I removed some zest with a knife and cut it into thin slices, which worked fine.

Cutting orange segments always reminds me of my grandmother, who taught me the method (thekitchenista.com has a nice tutorial).

Cara Cara Orange Cake

This cake would probably work well with any kind of citrus. I’m sure it would be a lovely summertime dessert with regular oranges or lemons. I served it after a heavier winter meal when a rich, frosted cake would have been overkill.

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Discussion

butterscotch apple cupcakesI’m known for cupcakes and rarely is anyone surprised when I bring cupcakes to an event. However, sometimes I can be a little crafty.

A friend organized a last minute birthday dinner, and I whipped up a quick half batch that fit in a smaller container than my normal carrier. I was able to conceal the cupcakes for an afternoon of birthday pampering and most of the meal. Ha! I was pleased that the birthday girl was surprised.

katie bday surprise cupcake

For these cupcakes, I used an apple cupcake recipe from Chow, adding some butterscotch extract and using coriander instead of the other spices. I topped them with butterscotch buttercream frosting.

I’d bought the butterscotch extract at Olive Nation on a whim and had been waiting for an excuse to use it. It paired well with the moist and not-too-sweet apple cake.

inside apple cupcake

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Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

These chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream were filled with fresh strawberries steeped in framboise liqueur.

First, I prepared for my finishing touch by dipping whole strawberries into melted chocolate and refrigerating on a tray covered with parchment paper.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

While waiting for my cupcakes to cool, I heated sliced strawberries and the liqueur on the stovetop just long enough to slightly soften the berries. If you want to skip the liqueur, you can use strawberries that have been mixed with sugar to get nice and juicy.

Once the cakes were at room temperature, I used a paring knife to cut a cone out of each cupcake, added a few slices of strawberry, then reassembled. Spoon in a little extra juice or straight liqueur before, if you like, for the cake to soak up (yummy). When re-adding the cone, trim the bottom first or just press it back on! You’ll be covering up the evidence with frosting.

Strawberry-Filled Chocolate Cupcake

Once frosted, I pulled out my chocolate-covered strawberries to finish up these birthday-worthy cupcakes.

Scott's Cupcake
Photo by Scott A. Ettin (aka the birthday boy)

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