The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Food and Drink

The Best Apple Pie In The World

Food and DrinkAlexandra king4 Comments
salted caramel apple pie

One of the many reasons why I love living in Brooklyn, specifically the beautiful neighborhood of Park Slope, is our apartment's proximity to the best pie shop in the city- Four and Twenty Blackbirds, in Gowanus. A cute little spot on an otherwise forlorn corner of Third Avenue, this place serves slices of amazing homemade pie, with an array of seasonal flavours. And let me tell you it is DELICIOUS. Four and Twenty is my first stop whenever anyone asks me to bring a dessert to a party, and last week I bought one to serve as a birthday cake for my darling friend Lu's 30th. So confident am I of this crowd pleasing pie, in fact, that I find any reason at all to push it onto friends, colleagues and lovers, and when I do, I always, always go for the salted caramel apple pie. Because it's the best and that's a fact.

Last summer, praise be, the rad entrepreneurial sisters behind Four and Twenty Blackbirds came out with a cookbook, which I squirelled away on a shelf ready for a pie-kinda day. I'm not really much of a baker, more of a throw-er in a saucepan-er, and the pesky exactitudes of pastry alchemy therefore has never entirely appealed. But this past Easter Sunday, with an impromptu evening grill out at our place organized for that night and a whole day to unwind in, I decided I'd take a stab at baking this Xanadu of pies. And it was predictably delicious. HOWEVER, like many divine and perfect things, it takes a frighteningly long time to bring together, and is certainly more complex a dish than it might seem. Let me be clear, this is no easy, mix it in a bowl and fuhget about it kind of endeavour. More a crank up your favourite playlist/podcast, don an apron and make yourself a Negroni half way through sortof mission. The end is so worth it though. Soft, sweet, salty, tangy. Robust but light. Comforting. Crowd pleasing. I recommend you break some of the work into steps (which I didn't do but will do going forward) by making and chilling your pie crust the day before. So crank up the radio, put your hair in a ponytail and enjoy a few hours of intimate acquaintance with flour and fat and elbow grease. I'm telling you, this recipe will change your life.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie (from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds Cookbook, with a few tweaks from me)

All-Butter Double Crust:
1 cup cold water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ice
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ lb (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

Filling:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup water
¼ lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 large lemon or two small ones
6-7 baking apples (about 2 ½ lbs)
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
⅓ cup raw sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (ground nutmeg is fine too)
One grind of fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon flake sea salt, plus more for finishing
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar, for finishing


Special Equipment:
9″ pie pan
Pastry blender (I use this one. Hurrah, no mixer required)

STEP ONE: Make the dough (do this the day before if possible- it doesn't take too long)

1) Have all ingredients measured and ready. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl—and bring the butter out at the last minute (you want it to be super cold). At this point I actually also put my hands in the freezer for 30 seconds, so that my fingertips are super cold.

2) Stir flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry blender or your hands. Work quickly, cutting it in until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain.

3) Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice-water mixture over the flour mixture, and cut it using a spatula, and/or your hands until it’s fully incorporated. Add more of the ice mixture, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing each time. It should take 10 to 12 tablespoons total to get the dough to the point where it holds together (sprinkle dry bits with more small drops of water to combine if necessary). The dough should be more on the drier side than wet. Note that you'll have a whole bunch of liquid left over. Just chuck it once your crust is the right texture. Don’t overwork the mix and don’t knead it like bread dough, just pinch it. It should be marbled with thick streaks of butter.

4) Cut the dough into two, and shape each half into a flat disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, preferably overnight, to give it time to mellow. Dough can be refrigerated for three days or frozen for one month.

STEP TWO: Baking day? Yay. Roll out and prep the crust

1) Take the dough out of the fridge 5 to 10 minutes before you roll, so it won’t crack.


2) Lightly flour your work surface and a rolling pin.


3) Begin rolling, starting from slightly below the center and rotating the dough as you go. Lightly sprinkle more flour on everything as you go. If cracks start, cut a piece of dough from the edge and pat it into the crack to patch it (maybe with a bit of water to seal it). Be careful not to let the center get too thin—it shouldn’t be less than ⅛ inch in thickness.


4) You want the dough to be 2 or 3 inches larger than the pan you are using—lay your pie pan facedown on the rolled dough to see if it’s rolled out enough.

5) Butter your pie pan.

6) Fold the dough disc in half, lay it across one side of your pan, and unfold. Make sure there are no gaps between the dough and the pan.

7) Trim the dough along the edges to allow 1 ½ inches of excess.

8) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (you can also freeze it at this step for up to a month if it’s tightly wrapped).

9) Roll out the second disc—this will be for your top crust–the same way. Using a pizza cutter or a good sharp knife (I used the latter. I do not own a pizza cutter) cut the rolled-out dough into eight equal strips. Place those on a pan, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

STEP THREE: Make the caramel, the apple Mixture, and the spice Mixture

1) Whisk together 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is just dissolved.


2) Add the butter and bring to a slow boil.


3) Continue cooking over medium heat until the sauce turns a deep golden brown, almost copper (you don’t have to be exact about the color; just don’t let it get so dark that it burns).


4) Remove from the heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream. Be careful: The mixture will bubble rapidly and steam. Whisk the mixture together well and set aside to cool. This is your caramel sauce. Note that this is too much sauce for your pie. With what's left, either bottle the sauce for future ice cream sundaes/a great hostess gift or dribble the caramel in dots onto some baking parchment, roll up when cooled a little, and sprinkle with a little Maldon salt. You just made homemade salted caramels. Give yourself a hell yeah.


5) Juice the lemon/lemons into a large mixing bowl, removing any seeds.


6) Core, peel, and thinly slice the apples.


7) Dredge the apple slices in the lemon juice.


8) Sprinkle lightly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.


9) Set aside so the apples soften slightly and release some of the juices, 20 to 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, sprinkle the Angostura bitters over the raw sugar.


10) Add the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, kosher salt, and flour, and mix well.

STEP FOUR: Assemble and bake

1) Add the prepared apples to the sugar-spice mixture, leaving behind any excess liquid.


2) Spread the apples in the prepared pie shell so there are minimal gaps. Let the apples mound slightly higher in the center.


3) Pour a generous ½ cup to ¾ cup of the caramel sauce evenly over the apples.


4) Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the flake sea salt.


5) Assemble the lattice on top of the pie (instructions here) and crimp the edges.


6) Chill the pie in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


7) Brush the pastry with the egg wash, and sprinkle with demerara sugar and flake sea salt.
Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.


8) Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is beginning to brown, then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, move the pie to the center rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling—about 30 to 35 minutes longer. Test the apples for done-ness with a knife; they should be tender and offer the slightest resistance.


9) Allow to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

10) Serve with vanilla ice cream. Cry with relief/joy that you have birthed this miraculous pie from your bare hands like the domestic bloody goddess that you are. You are the mother from The Waltons meets Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada when it comes to baking and you are goddam winning. Don't, under any circumstance, ruminate on any of the more tangible outcomes you could have achieved in your career/personal life in the five hours that you spent wondering if your pastry was marbled enough.

 

 

The Best Dinner Party Snack

Food and DrinkAlexandra kingComment
Image via  The New York Times

Last week Isaac, my darling bestie Saskya and I had dinner with a couple whom we can only describe as pro-dinner party hosts. They're natural entertainers, these two-the kind of people who can deftly rustle up a three course supper for five on a Wednesday night, with amazing food made with beautiful and often unusual ingredients- among other things this time, watermelon radishes from that week's CSA box, and, oh so casually, raw honey from the urban hives they tend on the Upper West Side. Amazing, right? Anyway, as we all sat amicably around the dining table, vino in hand, elaborating on gallery life and the latest news in the nutty (ha) Presidential election and the peculiar loveliness of the Vermont accent, our hostess, Jenny, laid out a bowl of nuts for us to snack on. "You must try these" she said. She was so right. I previously got excited about nuts the same way I got excited about buying a new dish sponge- good to have, dependable staple, prolific in kitchens and both found in Rite Aid. But not these nuts, oh no no no. Salty, caramelised, zingy with rosemary. Heaven. The recipe, as it turns out, is by Momofuku Milk Bar superstar chef Christina Tosi, and, luckily for you, my fellow nuts-queteers (sorry) it is childs-play easy. Make these and enjoy your one-way ride to snack (n)utopia (I'll stop now, I swear). The recipe is below.

Christina Tosi's Rosemary Nuts

1 pound raw unsalted nuts of your choice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

⅓ cup packed light-brown sugar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1. Heat the oven to 350°F.

2. Spread the nuts evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes or until fragrant and beginning to brown. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl (set the baking sheet aside).

3. Mix the butter with the sugar, rosemary, and salt, pour it over the warm nuts, and toss with a wooden spoon. Spread the nuts back on the baking sheet and let them cool on the counter for 30 minutes, or until all elements have solidified and cooled. Serve at room temperature.

An Amazing Make Ahead Supper

Food and Drink, Living For The WeekendAlexandra kingComment
Chicken Curry TSWIL

Ladies, gentleman, Romans, countrymen, I have found the perfect chicken dish, courtesy of and lightly tweaked from Shama Mubdi's Bangladeshi Chicken Korma recipe in The New York Times a couple of months back. This is an amazing recipe because it's a cinch to assemble, freezes beautifully and tastes even better the next day. It's delicious, and the perfect one-pot and make-ahead weeknight supper, say I. Recipe below.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry people)

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (you can use bone in too if you prefer it)

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 large onion, peeled

2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ cup whole-milk yogurt

4 to 6 green cardamom pods, cracked open

3 to 5 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 3-inch stick cinnamon

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

2 to 3 small hot green chiles (optional but very much recommended)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

A big handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves to garnish

Method

  1. Place the chicken in a medium Dutch Oven cooking pot (one that has a lid), and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Thinly slice 1/4 of the onion, and set aside. Roughly chop the rest of the onion, and purée it in a blender with the ginger, garlic and 3 tablespoons of water, until smooth. Add splashes of water to keep it moving, if necessary.
  2. Combine the onion purée with the chicken, yogurt, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring. Cover the pot until the chicken releases its juices, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pot, and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring and flipping the chicken occasionally, until tender and the sauce is gravylike in consistency, about 35 minutes. Adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding water or cooking it down. Stir in the sugar. Pierce the chiles with a knife, then add them. Season to taste with salt. Keep warm over low heat.
  4. Heat the butter and oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. After it foams, add the sliced onions, and cook, stirring, until they are richly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the onion mixture to the korma. Serve with basmati rice. Wolf down with gusto.

TGIF- 04/09/15

TGIF, Food and Drink, Fashion & Beauty, Books & Words, Love and Marriage, New York City, TravelAlexandra kingComment
Alexandra King-Lyles
alexandra king-lyles TSWIL

TGIF and happy September! Isn't it such a thrill to feel the seasons changing? Though it remains hot as Hades in NYC right now, there's no doubt that the tendrils of Autumn are sneaking their way through the air on the breeze- there's a clarity in those whispers of wind that promises change. Though I often nurture dreams of packing it all in and heading to California (usually in the depths of a New York January) I know that were I to ever leave my beloved NYC, I'd miss that. We all need markers don't we? And when life is too busy to journal or photograph or commemorate properly, when all the hectic days combine fast and close and linear, it's so nice to have the signpost of a season. Bring on the scarves, jackets and blankets of fallen leaves, say I. I'm ready.

My weekly best of the net below.


Summer may be almost officially over. But it's still hot here. And I'll be sunbathing in the park to this song just one last time this weekend


Taylor Swift vs Socrates
 

This chick gives zero shits. Applause. 


I love Mindy


Emerson Fry goodness making the coming colder weather seem oh so appetising


And this Autumn, I'm totally forcing Isaac to drive us upstate so we can admire some of that beautiful fall foliage


How to really help the world's new refugees 


YUM! 
 

What a cool idea. An app that adjusts the brightness of your computer screen to the time of day. Totally trying it out

A chic ceiling clothes rack


Excited to watch this

A sweet and interesting perspective on travel
 

TGIF- 27/08/15

TGIF, New York City, Food and Drink, Fashion & Beauty, Home and DesignAlexandra kingComment
Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.34.46 PM.png

TGIF! August, you're killing me. I thought things couldn't get much worse after last week but then I contracted a soccer punch of a summer cold that left my mood at a real nadir. Thank goodness for the dream team that is ibuprofen, honey and lemon. And the most crucial team of all, my wonderful friends, who have showered me with love these past two weeks. Jane Austen famously said "there is nothing I would not do for those who are my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature". I've got a team like that behind me. I'm the absolute luckiest. Onwards and upwards! (sneeze). Below, my best of the net this week.

A dreamy piece of objet d'art that's worth the clutter

Hauntingly beautiful photographs of water in New Orleans

A totally refreshing celebrity interview. Big love for Kate Winslet

Eyeing up one of these babes for the Autumn (ignore the old time styling-dangerously cute  and insanely practical in real life)

A good good song for you to make your breakfast to

Chic baskets for earth happy veggie shopping

TV Travel host (and my mate) Kira on visiting some of the world's most remote islands

It was only a matter of time until someone pimped up a jam tart

Cool concept. Good sheets.

Gutted that I'll miss this rad sounding Jennifer Rubell show in London

In praise of Ringo

Anna Karenina's guide to being mesmerising

Spa Green Vegetable Salad

Food and DrinkAlexandra kingComment
Spa Green Salad

I struggled with what to call this delicious hodge-podge of a veggie salad that I made this last weekend, but settled on the deeply annoying "Spa" because that was my instinct at the time, to create an absolute clean dream of a salad, a dish whose luminous healthfulness could be without dispute . This was all sparked by the fact that now that Isaac is opening an art gallery (wait, did i mention that?) for the last week he has been pulling eleven hour days in Chinatown, wielding a giant jack hammer across concrete floors and surviving on a diet of potato chips, beer and gargantuan bodega sandwiches frosted lightly with construction dust (asbestos on the side).

After he came home on Sunday and confessed to another day of Boarshead and Budweiser, all of my wifely instincts suddenly felt compelled to fill his body with green vegetables and healthy things.

So while he grilled some chicken on the barbecue, I raided the veggie draw in my fridge, and came up with this. And if I may say so, it's a winner. Recipe below.

Spa Green Salad

TSWIL'S Spa Green Vegetable Salad

For the salad:

1 head of broccoli

2 handfuls of frozen edamame beans

About 2 to 3 handfuls of sugar snap peas or mange tout

A bunch of trimmed asparagus

About 6 radishes, sliced

A handful of parsley or cilantro or whatever you'd like to garnish

For the sesame/soy dressing (this is adapted from an Epicurious recipe)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

quarter cup/60 ml good quality vegetable oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method:

1) Lightly steam/microwave your green veggies to a delicious crunch. If you don't have either a steamer or a microwave, a big pot of boiling lightly salted water will do. Make sure each vegetable gets the minimum amount of time needed to take it from raw to crunchy. Your asparagus and frozen edamame needs about 5 minutes. Your broccoli and mange tout, 2-3. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool for as long as you can.

2) While your vegetables cool, make your dressing. In a bowl mix together the sugar, soy sauce,  vinegar, and some salt to taste. Add the oils slowly, whisking, and whisk the vinaigrette until it is emulsified. Stir in the sesame seeds if you have them. Note: this makes more than you will need. Yay, more salad in your future.

3) Chop your radishes and mix them in to the veg. Stir in the dressing to taste.

4) Feed to your beloved. Pray for their cholesterol.

 


A Hot Toddy

Food and Drink, New York CityAlexandra kingComment
A Hot Toddy

 

The East Coast has taken a cold weather battering these past weeks, leaving New York City streets covered in a perpetual ooze of grey slush, its cramped denizens sneezing this year's flu all over each other on the bus, and my mood at a real nadir.

From hot water bottles to warm baths to deeply unappealing wooly bed socks, I've tried everything to try and perk up, to little avail. Which is why, my darlings, 8 weeks in, I'm reaching for the bottle. Enter, the hot toddy.

There are lots of fancy recipes out there, all claiming to yield the perfect HT, and loftily recommending everything from star anise to cinnamon sticks to ludicrously expensive rum salvaged from an 18th century pirate's secret stash (I made one of those up) but the recipe I'm sharing here doesn't bother with any of that nonsense.

No, this is the bare-bones store cupboard version; with no need to venture out into the cold for any corner store extras; requiring nothing more than a few basics, and a sudden urge, as I had this icy Sunday afternoon, to ease my sore throat with hot water and lemon and digest my newspaper and all it's grim news via the golden filter of good rum.

See a step-by-step photo guide to hot toddy bliss below.

A Hot Toddy
   Assemble your ingredients. You'll need some spicy rum, a lemon, a cup of boiling water and some honey, which I actually forgot to include in this photo because I'm new at this, ok.

 

Assemble your ingredients. You'll need some spicy rum, a lemon, a cup of boiling water and some honey, which I actually forgot to include in this photo because I'm new at this, ok.

   Cut two slices of that beautiful fat sunshine of a lemon.

 

Cut two slices of that beautiful fat sunshine of a lemon.

     With one slice, s  q  ueeze out the juice and rub the rind around the inside of your cup. Add a second slice in whole, for good lemon-y measure.

 

With one slice, squeeze out the juice and rub the rind around the inside of your cup. Add a second slice in whole, for good lemon-y measure.

   Open up your (not forgotten) honey.

 

Open up your (not forgotten) honey.

     Squeeze it into the cup. About a teaspoon and a half. I like mine on the less-sweet side. You may want a little more.

 

Squeeze it into the cup. About a teaspoon and a half. I like mine on the less-sweet side. You may want a little more.

   Add a measure of rum.

 

Add a measure of rum.

Top up with hot water.

Et Voila! This is so perfect. Medicinal in its lemon and warmth. Convivial over afternoon lounging. Deeply soporific when taken before bed. Press one of these into grateful hands immediately. What are you waiting for?