Well, vacation is over and I’m back in the swing of things (although somewhat begrudgingly). Kramer and I had a fantastic vacation, and it was especially good to get out of the disgusting New York summer heat. It’s another scorcher today, and I’m wishing that we could go back to Seattle or Canada for just a day to remember what it feels like to not be a disgusting, sweaty mess. I moved to the city for the sweet, sweet cold – for autumn and for snow and to freeze my ass off. I was completely prepared for that. Nobody told me about the awful humidity. Thankfully we have a fairly decent air conditioner and as long as we stay within the comfortable confines of our apartment, I think we’ll make it through five or six more weeks of this before we return to the more mild temperatures that I prefer. I read that it is going to be over 105 degrees in Tempe, though, so I don’t miss that at all. Kramer and I read that while everyone thinks that Seattle is dark and gloomy all year round, New York actually gets more precipitation – Seattle is just ‘misty’ all year round. We really loved Seattle – we ate well, had good company, and did plenty of walking.
Rosé, meats, and cheeses at Melrose Market.
We got into Seattle on the 4th of July, where we met up with Kramer’s sister, Rachel, and her fiance, Eric. We immediately did some good eating and drinking – fried egg, crab, and avocado sandwiches at Seatown, fries and beers at a random bar we happened upon, then a bit of walking before heading back to the hotel for more beers and some swimming. Our hotel did, indeed, have a pool, and we used it for a few hours each day. In Arizona, pools were a dime a dozen and we never really appreciated them. Now, in New York, where you don’t get the chance to go swimming nearly enough, Kramer and I turn into aqua people when we’re near water. For dinner that evening, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Nothing was open! I know that things close early on holidays, but we were shocked at how little there was available. We ended up at Unicorn for excellent tater tots, corn dogs, chicken fingers, and beers in what can only be described as an atmosphere where only a creepy clown would be comfortable. The people were friendly, though, and we enjoyed our trashy bar food because really, how often do you eat that stuff? Afterward, we walked around a bit and watched the fireworks, then stumbled upon an old favorite (especially because it was open), Gameworks. Kramer and I are suckers for Gameworks, Dave and Busters, any kind of giant arcade like that, so we were more than happy. Day two rolled around, with more of the same but at different venues. I’m ecstatic just to be outside these days, so we wandered down to the pier, nibbled this and that at Pike Place (including delicious beef jerky and some salmon), walked to Melrose Market for meats, cheeses, and wine, did some more swimming, then waddled over to Quinn’s for a delicious dinner. My three companions all had fish and chips, while I had the mussels, which were incredibly creamy and plump. We ended the evening at Canon, a beautiful spirit focused library, which I adored. The old timey decorations, the fact that you get to actually sit down, and the antiques (like an actual prescription for whiskey from prohibition era). We couldn’t resist ordering just one round of pork belly buns while sipping on some seriously good cocktails. Do you blame us? The following day was the time for Kramer and I to head up to Canada, so we ended a trip to Seattle the best way we knew how: with dim sum in the International District at Harbor City. We stuffed ourselves silly, beers included, for the low, low price of $40. I couldn’t believe it. The trip couldn’t have finished on a better note.
So, awesome(ly delicious) vacation aside, I’m here to share some food that I actually have a recipe for. I brought these old fashioned apple crumb pies to a friend’s barbecue last month, and I think that they were successful, as they were all gone by the end of the party and that’s all you can ask for. I’m a bit obsessed with miniature pies. I love pie – I’ll take it over cakes or cupcakes or cookies any day – but having to eat something with a fork during an event can be a bit cumbersome. Pie crust is such a perfect vessel for handheld treats, so why not make mini pies as often as humanly possible? In order to stretch my pie dough and make as many little pies as possible, I opted to do an old fashioned crumb on top of the pies, which may have even been tastier than the regular crust versions. Kramer always worries that miniature pies will have too much crust-to-fruit ratio, which is a legitimate concern – using the crumbs eliminates this worry. I used raisins in my pies because that just seems more ‘old fashioned’ to me (plus I, unlike most people I know, actually really like raisins), but you can omit those if you want. I recommend added toffee pieces or even chocolate chips if you want to get crazy, or you can keep things straight forward with just the apple. However you chose to dress up these pies, I can promise that they will be a big hit at your next gathering.
Kramer and me on our first day in Seattle.
Kramer and his sister, Rachel.
Oysters for breakfast.
Potstickers on a stick.
Up the punx.
Combine your apple ingredients and let them sit for a bit to soak up the flavor.
Roll out your pie crust on a well floured surface and cut out circles to fit into your well greased muffin tins.
Fill your pies with your filling mixture, then top with the crumble.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
Allow the pies to cool completely before popping out of the tins.
- 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter, COLD (NOT room temperature), cut into pieces
- ⅔ cup shortening, COLD (NOT room temperature)
- ⅔ cup ice water, plus more as needed
- 4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 1⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
- ½ cup slivered almonds or oats (optional)
- 4 large apples, diced
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- juice of half a lemon
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add in the chopped pieces of cold butter and cold shortening (cold is essential for a flaky pie crust). Blend together with your hands (or, alternatively, a food processor) until you have coarse crumbs (it doesn’t have to be perfect). You can use a pastry cutter, too, but I find that a clean pair of hands work best. Place the dough back into the fridge for 15 minutes or so, so it stays cold. Mix together the water and vinegar in a small bowl. When ready, slowly drizzle it over the dough, a tablespoon or so at a time, gently stirring the mixture with a fork or pulsing with your processor, until fully incorporated and the dough forms into a nice ball. You may not need all of the water. It might seem a bit too wet at this point, but it will dry up while it sits in the fridge. Form the dough gently into 2 loose balls, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or as long as overnight (obviously, overnight is best - I sometimes let this dough sit for 36 hours).
- Whisk together the all-purpose flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add in the cubed butter, and with your hands or a pastry cutter (I prefer to use my hands), blend the butter into the dry mixture until medium sized crumbs form. Add in the oats or almonds, if using. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. I usually make this a day ahead when I make the pie crust.
- Make your filling when you are almost ready to use your dough. Peel, core, and finely dice your apples to very small pieces, otherwise known as a brunoise. Toss them with the filling ingredients, fold in the raisins (if using), and allow the mixture to sit in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter 2 muffins tins (and I mean generously - the better you do it, the easier it will be to pop the pies out later). When ready to use, roll out your pie crust to ½-inch thick on a well floured surface and cut out circles that are a bit bigger than the muffin tins you will be using so that there is enough crust to go up around and form the edges. Fill the pies with 2-3 tablespoons of filling (don't overfill the pies or else they will bubble over and be hard to remove), then sprinkle with a liberal amount of your crumble topping.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crumble is a golden brown and the pies are bubbling. Allow them to cool completely before using a small, blunt knife to help wiggle them out of the tins. I suggest a blunt knife over a butter knife because a bit of sharpness helps ease them out, I've found. These will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge (or at room temperature if it's not summertime) for up to 4 days.