Fall used to be my least favorite season. I hated the sound of the crickets at night, signaling the end of another summer. I hated how night rushed in on day, growing more and more greedy as it made each day shorter than the last. I hated how everything seemed to slow down, as if trying to ward off the inevitable winter. 
I love fall. I love everything about. It is stunningly beautiful and refreshing and exciting. One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite bands (Mumford and Sons) is "I'll know my name when its cold again". I feel alive again after the oppressive heat of summer. 
To celebrate the joy of fall, today I went apple picking. And baked a pie. It was lovely, so I decided to share it with you, and give you some apple-pie-making tips. 
Tip #1
Let the sliced apples sit tossed with the sugar and spices in the fridge for at least 2 hours. This allows the apple juice to "drain" from the apples. Trust me on this, you actually don't want all that juice in your pie... it makes the crust soggy. Gross. 

Tip #2
Use COLD butter (or shortening) and COLD water (as cold as you can get it!) This helps make the crust flaky. When the butter is cold, it doesn't completely mix in with the flour. As the dough bakes, that separation between the fat and the flour allows layers to form, resulting in a flaky crust. Using cold water helps the butter stay cold even as your hands heat it up.

Tip #3
Mix the dough with your hands. When you "cut" butter into flour, the best way to do it is press any large pieces of butter between your fingers to flatten the out a bit, then rub one hand against the other, pressing them together. Kind of like trying to start a fire with sticks, only instead of rubbing your hands back and forth, you just rub in one direction. Your goal is to make flat shards of butter, about a nickel in size. When you add the water, toss the flour/butter mixture up from the sides and gently bring all the ingredients together. 

Award-Winning Apple Pie
(It's true... this recipe really has won first place!)

6-8 medium apples (I like to use what's in season)
2/3 c (about 100g) granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 nutmeg
1 tbs flour

Crust (makes enough for a top and bottom crust)
8 oz flour
5.2 oz unsalted butter or vegetable shortening 
2.3 oz ice cold water 
1 tsp salt

Method of Preparation: 
1. Get everything together! Peel and slice the apples, put some the salt in the water, then into in the freezer, make sure your butter or shortening is in the fridge and get out a pie dish or plate. 
2. Place the sliced apples in a large bowl. Mix the sugar and spices together, then toss the apples with the mixture so they are evenly coated. Cover and place the fridge for several hours. 
3. (Make the crust.) Measure the flour into a medium bowl. Cut the cold butter or shortening into small cubes (they don't have to be exact). 
4. Place the cold butter cubes on top of the flour and use your hands to "cut" the butter into the flour. 
5. Make a well; pour the ice cold water in it. Use your hands to bring together the flour and water, mix just until the ingredients stick together. Divide dough in half, loosely form each half into a disk, wrap separately and put in the fridge.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; when it's at temperature, take out the dough and roll out one disk to fit the bottom of the pan. Place the dough in the pan.
7. Lift apple slices from the bowl (do not just pour over the dough) and arrange evenly to fill pie. Dot the apples with a few pieces of butter.
8. Roll out the remaining dough, then place over the top of the filling. Trim and seal the crust, and use a fork to pierce steam vents in the top crust. 
9. Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hour. 
Mmmm there is nothing quite like a sugar cookie. Every so slightly crisp on the outside, perfectly chewy on the inside. With so few ingredients, how can such a relatively simple recipe end up with hard, snappy cookies? Easily, that's how. There's about a million ways your sugar cookies could end up in the land of cookie doom. But hopefully, after reading this post, you'll know what not to do to ensure your next batch of cookies turn out juuuuuust right. 

First things first. The most important rule of all is... mise. en. place. Quite literally, this means "set in place". In regards to cooking or baking, it means having every ingredient scaled (measured out in the amount you need), having all of your tools and equipment ready (like making sure you preheat the oven!) and reading through the recipe in its entirely before you being mixing anything. Mise en place saves you a boat load of trouble later on, plus it just sounds really cool. 

Most cookie recipes use what is known as "the creaming method". This means you take your fats (typically butter) and your sugars, and blend them together on medium speed until they are light and fluffy. Two things are vital to get this step right. First: your fat needs to be soft, but still able to hold its shape. I suggest you take your butter out an hour or two before you plan to bake. But, if you forget... DO NOT MICROWAVE ALL AT ONCE. Yes, I had to capitalize that. Microwaves do not melt butter evenly, and you will have some liquid butter and some that is still rock hard. If you must microwave, chop the butter into even chunks, place in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 10 second intervals until the butter is soft. Melting the butter will cause your cookies to spread thin and cook quickly, making them thin and crispy (which is fine if you want them this way, but not if you don't). Second: make sure you cream for long enough. One or two minutes really is not long enough. Check out the photos below to see the progression in color and texture. 

Chewy Sugar Cookies

2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz butter (softened)
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method of Preparation: 
1. Scale all of the ingredients and gather all of the equipment.
2. Sift the flour and baking soda together into a medium bowl; sprinkle the salt on top. Set aside
3. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or until lightened in color and fluffy in texture. 
4. Scrape down the bowl, then add the room temperature eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bowl down after each egg. 
5. Add the vanilla extract and mix till incorporated. 
6. Add the flour all at once, and pulse until just blended. Do not over-mix. 
7. Use a cookie scoop to scoop and drop cookie dough onto parchment-lined sheet pans.
8. Bake in a 350 oven for about 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. 
9. Cool on the trays for 1-2 minutes, then remove and cool on wire rack. 
After the butter and sugar are creamed, add the eggs, one at a time, and be sure to scrape the bowl down after each egg. Scraping the bowl is super important, as it ensures that all of your ingredients are evenly mixed. You don't want to be left with pockets of butter, or sugar or egg when you begin scooping out cookies.

An important thing to keep in mind is having all your ingredients be close to the same temperature. Let your eggs warm up with your butter, and they will be so much happier than if you try to mix them in right out of the fridge. 

DO NOT SKIP SIFTING THE FLOUR AND BAKING SODA. Yes, this needed capital letters too. Sifting makes sure that you do not end up with little balls of baking soda in your cookies (these are a horrible surprise). It also gets rid of any flour lumps (another nasty surprise), and allows the flour to absorb moisture more quickly so you don't over-mix the dough. 

Finally, invest in some cookie scoops (like ice cream scoops only smaller), some sturdy cookie pans, and if you really want to take your baking to the top, some Slipats (check them out on Amazon). Cookie scoops make sure all of your cookies are the same size... and really, they look fantastic when they are. Sturdy cookie pans allow your cookies to bake evenly, especially when you use Silpats too. I could go on and on about Silpats, and in fact, I may just do a whole post devoted to them! 

Well there you have it! Try out the cookie recipe and let me know how it goes!