How to make the best apple pie: a step by step tutorial

There are few things in life that give me that sense of “yes, I am an adult.”  Like learning to drive a stick shift.  Buying my first suit after grad school.  And baking a really good pie.  To me, a good pie shows that you know a thing or two about baking.  And it shows that you really care about the people you share your pie with … because it’s a labor of love.  Total adult territory.

But baking a really good pie doesn’t have to be hard.  Just like driving a stick shift, all you need is a good friend to sit next to you and let you practice.  Since I can’t pull up a chair and be with you in your kitchen, I did the next best thing and put together a step by step tutorial.  You can scroll through the pictures and get the play by play, or you can skip to the end and read the recipe instructions.

 

First things first.  Here are few things that help me make a good pie:

Apple Pie01

Cultured butter.  I started using cultured butter in all my pie crust recipes ever since I saw Elizabeth Pruitt, owner of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, on the Martha Stewart Show.  I followed her recipe for quiche, and I was a believer.  Cultured butter helps make the pie crust light with flaky layers.  It really does make a difference.

Apple Pie25

A deep tart pan or quiche pan.  It makes a beautiful pie, and it’s easy to lift the entire pie out of the pan for an impressive presentation.  You’ll see.

Apple Pie26

A simple pastry blade.  I mix my pie dough by hand, and this helps me keep the dough together.  (And clean my counter tops afterwards!)

Apple Pie02

Cold ingredients.  And keep all your ingredients cold as you go.  Start by cubing the butter and then put the butter in the freezer while you measure out the flour, sugar, and salt and place them in a bowl and whisk them together.  Combine the egg yolks and milk in a small bowl.  Keep the egg-milk mixture in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Now, add the cold butter to the flour mixture and begin rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingers.

Apple Pie03

Work quickly here so that the butter does not warm up too much.  Continue to rub the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea sized.

Apple Pie04

The butter-flour mixture will be very lumpy and the butter will be in different sized lumps.  That’s okay; you don’t want to over mix the butter into the flour.  If the butter starts to come to room temperature, you can always pop the mixture back into the freezer for a few minutes to keep everything cold.

Apple Pie05

Take the butter-flour mixture and pour it on to a clean counter top and form into a long well or trough.  Add 2 tablespoons of the egg-milk mixture down the center.  Then, take both hands and “fluff” the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients like this:

Apple Pie06

 

Apple Pie07

 

Apple Pie08

Then take your pastry blade (a spatula would work, too!) and scrape the dough together.  You can use the pastry blade to make sure that any dry flour on the bottom gets moved to the top so that all of the flour eventually gets incorporated into the dough evenly.

Apple Pie10

Then, make another trough and repeat the above steps until a dough begins to form and the wet ingredients have been incorporated.  As you fluff the flour mixture and remake the troughs, you will notice that the dough is beginning to get sticky and the gluten is beginning to form.  When you are finished incorporating all of the wet ingredients, the dough will be very shaggy and look something like this:

Apple Pie17

Once you have incorporated all of the wet ingredients, form the dough into a mound.

Apple Pie18

Then take the heel of your hand and press the dough out in all directions to help smooth out the butter.

Apple Pie19

Then, use your pastry blade and bring the dough back into a mound and repeat smoothing out the dough once or twice again.

Apple Pie20

 

Apple Pie22Then, form the the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  I usually make the pie dough the night before I plan to bake it.  Notice that the dough is smooth and the butter is “marbled” throughout the dough.  That will turn into light flaky layers!

Apple Pie24 Once the pie dough has rested and chilled, unwrap it and roll out about 2/3 of the dough.  (The remaining 1/3 of the dough can be used for another baking project – I like to roll it out and sprinkle it with cinnamon & brown sugar and bake at 350 for a simple sweet treat).

Sprinkle flour on top of the plastic wrap and use this to help keep the dough from sticking to the counter top.  (You may need extra plastic wrap to make sure it’s big enough to accommodate the size of dough).  Sprinkle flour on top of the dough and your rolling pin.  Roll out the dough so that you have plenty of dough to fit inside your pie dish.  To keep your pie crust from shrinking in the oven, try not to stretch the dough!  So, one trick is to only roll your rolling pin in one direction, and keep moving your dough until a you achieve the desired shape and size you need to fit into your pie dish.

Apple Pie29

Then, take the dough and wrap it around the rolling pin to help transfer the dough into the pie dish.  Again, try not to pull or stretch your dough.  If it breaks anywhere, you can always repair it with a scrap of dough and water later.

Apple Pie30

Apple Pie31

Once you have the dough safely in the dish, gently press the dough into all the sides of the dish.  I use my rolling pin to help take off excess dough from the sides.  Then, I use kitchen scissors to trim any remaining dough, since even the smallest tug on the dough can lead to the crust shrinking in the oven.

Apple Pie32

 

Apple Pie33

Once you have the dough ready in the dish, put it back in the fridge to chill and rest for about 30 minutes.  If you are short on time, you can pop it in the freezer for about 10 – 15 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 350.  Once your pie dough is finished chilling, line it with parchment paper and fill the entire dish with pie weights.  I use dried beans and rice.  Place the pie dish on a cookie sheet to catch any drippings (especially if you are using a quiche pan).

Apple Pie34

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.  Then, carefully remove the parchment paper and pie weights.  Take a fork and prick the dough a few times, then return it to the oven and continue baking until the entire crust is light brown, could be another 10 – 20 minutes.  You have to stay and watch the crust at this point.  Just keep your oven light on and stay close by.  (If the crust begins to bubble up, you can use a fork and poke it back down as it bakes).  This step is important.  If any of your dough is still pale and translucent, the dough will not be light and flaky; it will be doughy and dense.  If you are worried about the sides browning too much, you can take long strips of tin foil and make little “tents” around the edges of your pie crust to protect them.

Apple Pie35

While the crust cools, prepare the apple filling.  Let the apple filling sit at room temperature while you prepare the crumb topping.

Apple Pie36

Pour the apple filling into the pie crust, keeping the apples level with the top of the crust.  (I didn’t end up using all of the apple filling that I made).  After I poured in enough apples to be level with the top of the pie crust, I poured in enough juices so that they came up to almost half way up the pie crust.   The juices should thicken up in the oven and turn into a delightful goo that goes really well with vanilla ice cream!

**The tricky thing about fruit pies is the moisture of the fruit and how much flour to use to help the juices thicken up in the oven.  If you scroll down below, you’ll see the measurements I used.  Now, if your apples are more watery and you are nervous about the filling being to juicy, you can add another tablespoon or two of flour.  The juices in my pie actually thickened up quite a bit and I could have poured more of the juices into the pie, so I really wouldn’t worry about it too much here.  This is where practice making fruit pies comes in handy.  Just do the best you can and write down how much fruit to flour you used, so that for your next pie, you can adjust the ratio if you want.

Apple Pie37

Then pour the crumb topping on top of the apples, forming a large mound.  (I used only 3/4 of  the crumb topping.) I know it looks like a lot here, but it does bake down in the oven.  Bake for about 60 – 75 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and you can see that the juices have started to bubble a bit.

Apple Pie38

Here’s the hard part – wait until the pie is fully cooled (okay, mostly cooled) before cutting into it.  If you cut into it too early, the juices may not be fully set and you’ll have a big (but delicious) mess.  Once the pie is cooled, you can lift the pie out of the quiche pan & serve!

Apple Pie39

Enjoy!

Apple Pie40

 

 

Pie Crust

Here’s the recipe I used for my pie crust – or pate brisee I – adapted slightly from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook:

1.75 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted cultured butter, very cold, cut into cubes

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons milk

 

Cut the cultured butter into cubes and place in the freezer.  Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and use a whisk to mix together thoroughly.  Combine the egg yolks and milk together in a small bowl and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Once the butter is very cold, place the butter in the flour mixture and begin rubbing the butter into the flour by using your hands.  Once the butter is incorporated and the size of peas, pour the butter-flour mixture on to a clean counter top.  Make a long trough and pour 2 tablespoons of the egg yolk-milk mixture down the center of the flour trough.  Fluff the wet and dry ingredients together, and then reshape into a trough and repeat until all the wet and dry ingredients are combined and a shaggy dough begins to form.  Then form the dough into a mound and use the heel of your hand to flatten and smooth the dough in all directions.  Repeat this a few times.  Shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Roll 2/3 of the dough into a large circle, large enough to fit into a large quiche pan (or other pie dish).  Be careful not to pull or stretch your dough.  Trim the dough as needed.  Place the pie dish on a large baking sheet.  Then line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 0 35 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper and pie weights.  Poke the pie crust with a fork a few times.  Return to the oven and bake until the entire crust is a light brown, about 10 – 20 minutes.

Let the crust cool on a wire rack while you prepare the apples and crumb topping.

 

Apple Filling

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced

6 Honeycrisp apples (they were small for Honeycrisp apples), peeled and thinly sliced

(this was about 4 pounds of apples total – just make sure you have a mix of tart & sweet apples)

zest of 1 orange

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1.5 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice (if you don’t have allspice, it’s not really necessary)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of flour

 

Combine all of the above ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.  Wait a few minutes and taste the apples and the juices to check for sweetness and spices.  Adjust to your liking.  I like the apple filling to be sweet and full of cinnamon!

 

Crumb Topping

I use the crumb topping from Barefoot Contessa’s Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp recipe for my apple pies.  Click here for the topping recipe.

Just combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and butter in your mixer and mix until the butter is pea sized.  If you don’t have a mixer, you can rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers.  Once you’re finished mixing the ingredients, take the mixing bowl full of crumb topping and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to make sure it’s cold before adding it to the pie.

 

Now, fill your pie crust with the apple topping.  (I do pour in most of the apple juices so that the pie has a nice “goo” to it that goes well with vanilla ice cream.)  Pour about 3/4 of the crumb topping on top of the apple filling.  Place the pie dish on a baking sheet (to catch any drippings) and bake at 350 for about 60 – 75 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the apple juices are bubbling.

Let cool before slicing into the pie.  You can re-warm the pie by baking it for about 10 – 15 minutes at 350.

 

 

Well hello again

CannonBeach42

 

Yes, I am still here!  Now that Anjali is about to turn a year old (how has it been a year already?!?), I feel like it’s time for me to get back into the swing of things.  I’ve added several NEW yoga classes to my teaching schedule and I plan to start offering Mama & Baby yoga soon.

In addition to teaching more yoga, I plan to post on here about once a week – topics will range from yoga to motherhood – and I will share some new recipes with you.

I look forward to sharing more of my life and yoga practice with you!

Stay tuned.

Namaste,

Chelsea

The Note

After last week’s post, I feel inspired to share a story with you.  A story that I didn’t make up, and a story that really propelled me forward into trusting that all good things were coming.

It was a typical evening last fall – I came home from work, practiced yoga, and planned to have a simple dinner at home.  As I was cleaning up my yoga room, I looked down and noticed a small piece of folded paper.  I picked it up, unfolded it, and read it.  I did not recognize the handwriting: wasn’t mine, wasn’t my husband’s, or my sister’s, or best friend’s.  It was totally unfamiliar, and yet, the message took my breath away.

You are whole.

You are seen.

You are loved.

The note had no name on it, yet I knew this message was just for me.  It was exactly what I needed to hear at that time.  You see, over the months previous to this event, I felt incomplete.  Like there must be something wrong with me because I was having such a hard time.  Truly feeling like I wasn’t enough.

I also felt like the universe wasn’t taking notice of me.  I was trying so hard to make things happen in my life, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Like my heart’s desires were invisible to the planet.  Like my prayers weren’t being heard.

And while I knew that my family and friends loved me, I often felt alone and isolated.

Not exactly what you would expect from a yoga teacher, right?  Honestly, that’s how I felt.  And at the time, I couldn’t see how to break free from those thoughts and feelings.  I was stuck.

And then this message came, as if someone knew exactly what my heart needed to know.

You are whole.

You are seen.

You are loved.

I took this note seriously.  The message was too precious.  It came at the right time.  It landed.  It became my mantra.  Whenever I was stressed, nervous, or simply having a bad day, I came back to this message and reminded myself that I am something more.

I share this with you because everyone on on the planet needs this message:

You are whole.

You are seen.

You are loved.

How many of us carry around burdens — stories or beliefs that we are not enough, we are incomplete or damaged, we don’t matter, and that we are unlovable?

As my mom says, “All God’s children got somethin’!”  Meaning, each one of us struggles.  Each one of us has scars.  Each one of us has pain.  Each one of us has suffered.

But sometimes, out of the blue, we receive a reassuring message of love.  That we are perfect as we are.  That we are named.  That we are so, so loved.

I invite you to get quiet, and to think about what if someone like your best friend or a guardian angel left a note just for you?  A note that just you needed to hear?  Something your heart has been yearning for?  Something you have longed to hear for quite some time?  What would that note say?  How would you feel when you read it?  Most importantly, how would you feel when you shared it?

Pay attention to these messages.  They are out there.  They do come when you need them.  Share them when you know someone needs to hear them.  Because we all need to hear these same messages.  Each one of us.  We all have bad days.  We all have fears.  And we all deserve to feel loved.

Share your message.  Set it free.  Watch what happens when you speak the truth.

You are whole.

You are seen.

You are loved.

Namaste,

Chelsea

Flow, flow your boat …

One of my favorite places on the planet is Strathcona Park Lodge and Education Centre in British Columbia, Canada.  When I was 15, I went on a five day field trip with other students at my high school.  We went hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, and listened to our math teacher play the accordion.  It was here that I really began to love being surrounded by nature.  The evergreen trees, the crystal clear lake, and the tall mountains.  Just gorgeous.  I returned the following summer for another wilderness adventure: we canoed for two days, backpacked for three days, and then canoed back to the lodge for another two days.

On our final canoe trip, the wind was at our backs.  Our guides showed us how to take the tarps we used for the base of our tents and create sails for our canoes.  We set our oars aside and relaxed.  We allowed the wind and water to carry us to our destination.  We told jokes, sang songs, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery all around us.  By ditching our oars and relaxing a bit, we actually got back to the lodge earlier than expected.

I often look back to that memory.  How powerful it was to allow our canoes to be gently guided by the wind and the water.  How easy and effortless it felt.  How much fun it was to relax and enjoy the ride.

So often I find myself paddling upstream.  Working long hours.  Pushing myself to get somewhere.  Putting in a tremendous amount of effort, yet feeling like I’m getting nowhere.  It’s hard work.  And it’s not fun.  Paddling upstream, against the current.  Against the flow.  Absolutely stuck.  Feeling anxious to move forward, but not sure how.  Sound familiar?

Somewhere along the way I think most of us have learned this message: if you want to get anywhere, you gotta work hard, sweat, and to some extent … suffer.  Keep pushing.  Keep trying.  No matter what.

My yoga practice – and my mom – remind me over and over again that to get where I want to go, I need to ditch the oars and go with the flow.  Flow downstream.  Relax.  Trust the process.  Let go.  Enjoy the journey.

When I call my mom in a fit of frustration, she often asks me, “Is this an upstream thought or downstream thought?”  Right.  Usually I am paddling so damn hard upstream that I forget what it is like to simply turn around, take in my oars, and go with the flow.

The year 2011 was an upstream year for me.  It seemed like every time I tried to create change and opportunities for myself, doors kept slamming shut.  I felt so incredibly stuck.  The overwhelming heat of the Oklahoma summer was my breaking point.  I had enough.  I was hot, exhausted, and so not happy.  I noticed how hard I was paddling upstream, and I was ready to try something different.

So I focused my energy on new things.  I created a vision board of what I really did want in my life.  I wrote a description for the life I wanted to live and taped it to my mirror.  Although sometimes painful to see how different this was compared to my current lifestyle, I trusted that all good things were coming.  Step by step.

Although reluctant, I loosened my grip on my oars.  I stopped trying so damned hard to force things to change.  I started to flow downstream.  I trusted that changes were on the horizon, maybe not according to the time frame I was hoping for, but change was coming.  I could feel it.

Once my husband and I set the intention to start our family, I became pregnant within two months.  Once we set a serious intention that we would like to move, my husband literally got a call out of the blue from a stranger, offering him a job he couldn’t refuse.

And now here we are in Portland.  It seems that everything is falling into place, just like the vision boards and vision statement I created for myself months ago.  We couldn’t have planned this better if we tried.  It just happened, step by step, in a very simple no-drama, no-fuss sort of way.  And I know that this all came together because I simply stopped to notice how hard I was pushing, forcing, and struggling to make things work.  And how exhausting it felt.  How it felt like suffering.  And friends, we didn’t come here to suffer.

Let me say that again, we didn’t come here to suffer.  We came here to play, to create, and to enjoy life.

So, I stopped.  I got quiet.  I got really present with what I truly wanted in my life.  And I asked for it.  I meditated on it.  I envisioned it.  And most importantly, I trusted that it would happen.  And now I know it’s possible.

What’s possible for you?

I moved!

Yes, it has been way too long since I updated my website, but I recently moved to the Portland area.  I look forward to blogging more about my adventures of teaching yoga, baking, and becoming a mother!  Our baby girl is due on October 5th!

Stay tuned!

Peace, Love, & Joy

Many yoga students of mine are surprised to learn that my partner is a pastor.  Likewise, people in my congregation are often surprised to learn that I am a yoga teacher.  “How can you be both a pastor’s wife and a yoga teacher?” some ask.  “Isn’t that a conflict for your church?”  I love telling them that I actually taught my first yoga class at our church and continue to offer a weekly yoga class at the church.    These two areas of my life don’t feel separate at all.  In fact, these two areas of my life fit very well together.

So often, when we look at two traditions, we want to see how they are different.  Is one better than the other?  Is one right and one wrong?  Which team are you on?  And so forth.  I think it’s far more productive to see how traditions are similar, how they are working toward the same goal, and what there is to learn from each tradition.

To me, yoga and Christianity share so much in common.  As a Religion and Psychology double major in college, I learned early in my studies that we, as a human family, are looking for a way to alleviate suffering.  Whether through a major world religion, philosophy, or even modern medicine – we as humans want to explain why we suffer and then figure out a way to alleviate suffering.

Both yoga and Christianity strive to alleviate suffering by bringing more peace, love, and joy to the planet.  At least, that’s what yoga and Christianity mean to me.

One way yoga seeks to bring more peace, love, and joy to the planet is by giving people tools to move through the koshas in order to experience wisdom, enjoy a blissful and transformative state, and catch a glimpse of their eternal consciousness, or true self.

Yogic philosophy describes the koshas as a sheaths, or layers, which cover our eternal consciousness or true self.  The koshas are depicted in the illustration below:

The physical, or annamaya, kosha is described as the food sheath and has to do with all the physical needs of the body.  It is completely governed by the external world.  The energy, or pranamaya, kosha is related to the life force and breath that flows through us and enlivens our physical body.  The mental, or manamaya, kosha is related to the mind where all thoughts and emotions are processed.  It is also where illusions and doubts are born.  The wisdom, or vijnanamaya, kosha refers to the reflective aspects of our consciousness.  It is where we experience a deeper insight into ourselves and experience “ah-ha!” moments.  The bliss, or anandamaya, kosha is where we experience integration, connection, and a sense of wholeness or completeness. It is where we experience peace, joy, and love. It is simply being. The self, or atman, is our eternal consciousness that was never born and never dies.  It is the very essence of who we are.  The self is like a light bulb underneath five lampshades or koshas.

We constantly shift back and forth between these sheaths or koshas. Yoga asana practice and meditation help us navigate through the first three koshas and move closer towards wisdom and bliss, closer towards an enlightened way of being.  As we continue to practice yoga and meditation, we can enjoy longer moments of bliss and experience more peace, love, and joy in our lives.

Christianity also brings more peace, love, and joy to the planet.

When I look to the stories of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, I am struck by the ways in which Jesus was incredibly present with people, especially those who were oppressed and on the margins of society.  I think of stories such as the Samaritan woman at the well, the hemorrhaging woman who touched Jesus’ cloak, and how Jesus healed the blind man by the Pool of Siloam.  I also think of the adulterous woman who is about to be condemned and stoned to death in John, chapter 8. Jesus suggested that anyone who has not sinned throw the first stone.  After her life was saved, Jesus did not judge or condemn her, but rather encouraged her to start living a better life.  Instead of seeing this woman as a sinner, or defined by the external world, Jesus saw her as a daughter of God and treated her as such.  I think the miracles performed by Christ are the moments in which he was truly present and invited others to experience who they really are: a beloved child of God.

I think both yoga philosophy and Christian teachings show us that when we allow ourselves to believe that we are something more, and when we treat others as something more, transformation can happen.  We can experience moments of true peace, love, and joy.  We can experience moments without suffering.  The wonderful thing is that with both yoga and Christianity, we can cultivate practices that enable us to experience these moments daily.  We can get on our yoga mat.  We can sit in meditation.  We can volunteer with a local charity.  We can reconnect with a long lost friend.  We can feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  We can sing hymns of praise.  Each moment is an opportunity to be present, to connect, and move beyond what is fleeting and to dwell in a space of possibility.

Christ modeled for the world what it would look like if we lived in a state of bliss, where peace, joy, and love were constants, rather than fleeting moments.  As Christians aspire to be more Christ-like and yogis aspire to break through the first few koshas and live in wisdom and bliss, I believe the world will be transformed.

In this way, I think yoga and Christianity are very compatible.  Both help me be a better person and experience more peace, love, and joy in my life.

I hope this holiday season brings you peace, love, and joy.

Namaste.

New class schedule!

Today is the first day of my new yoga class schedule:

(please note that the Thursday 5:30pm class at the First United Methodist Church has been cancelled; the Friday 8:30am class at the church will continue to meet.)

Mondays: 7:20 – 8:30pm Yoga Mix @ Inner Peace Yoga: $5 drop-in

Tuesdays: 4:30 – 5:30pm Deep Stretch @ Inner Peace Yoga: $5 drop-in

Thursdays: 4:30 – 5:30pm Deep Stretch @ Inner Peace Yoga: $5 drop-in

Fridays: 8:30 – 9:45am Yoga All Levels @ First United Methodist Church in Checotah, $7 drop-in

Fridays: 12:05 – 12:55pm Power Lunch @ The Yoga Room, $10 drop-in

Fridays: 4:40 – 5:50pm Feel Good Friday @ Inner Peace Yoga, $5 drop-in (I will be teaching this class the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Fridays of the month)

Saturdays: 5:00 – 6:10pm Vinyasa Flow @ Inner Peace Yoga, $5 drop-in

Beginning December 18th:

Sundays at 11am – 12:30pm Hot Power Yoga @ Inner Peace Yoga

For more details about my classes (including class descriptions, directions, etc.) please go to my Class Schedule page:

http://www.omtowngirl.com/yoga/schedule

Peace,

Chelsea

Recipe Round-up

Hello readers!

If you are new to OmTown Girl, I love to write about my two passions: good yoga & good treats.  Now that we are finally enjoying cooler weather, and it’s safe to turn the oven back on, I thought I would list my favorite fall recipes featured on my blog so far.

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

Pumpkin Bread

The Best Muffins Ever (banana)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

And if you interested in learning more about me and my path to becoming a yoga teacher, especially how someone from Boston moves to rural Oklahoma, here is my favorite post from the past year … Stick to your Gunns.

Happy baking & happy reading!

Peace,

Chelsea

Whopper of a Time

It seems that whenever I return from Seattle, I am more inspired to write, bake, and deepen my yoga practice.  I feel more like myself in Seattle.

I think it’s because there are mountains, trees, vegetarian fare is easy to find, good coffee is on every street corner (local coffee shops, not Starbucks) and my family is pretty darn awesome.

I like to think my super-cute & super-silly nieces get that from me.

In addition to lots of good food, good yoga, and good friends & family, I was in a wedding!

My friend Sarah’s wedding was a beautiful & joyous occasion.  So much that her puppy, Peanut, decided it would be a brilliant idea to chew on my lens cap.

And eat my make-up brushes.  But we won’t talk about that.

Being the dutiful bridesmaid, I made sure we had some treats to snack on while getting ready.

I found some delicious cookies at Trader Joe’s.  The secret ingredient?  Malt balls.  Sounds weird, I know.  But, the chopped up Whoppers made the cookies seem sort of carmelly.  Everyone loved them, so I thought I would recreate these little guys at home.

I went to Walgreen’s and stocked up on these candies.  Instead of using a bag, I just stuffed the Whoppers into my purse.  I’m sure the cashier thought I was going to sneak into a movie.  I’m a pro at hiding candy like that.

I wanted to make the Whoppers the star of the cookie, so I went with my basic chocolate chip cookie recipe and used Whoppers.

Whoppers Cookies

Here’s what you’ll need for success:

3/4 cup butter flavored Crisco

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2.5 to 3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1.5 teaspoons baking soda

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups roughly chopped Whoppers malt balls (I chopped most of them in half, some in smaller pieces)

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 325.  With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the Crisco, butter, white sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the corn syrup and vanilla and mix well.  Add the egg and mix well.  Then add the egg yolk and mix well again.  On the lowest speed possible, add 2 cups flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until almost combined.  Then, remove the bowl from the mixer and finish mixing the dough by hand.  If the cookie dough seems too soft, add extra flour 1/4 cup at a time.  (I used about 3 cups of flour).  Then add the chopped Whoppers candies and milk chocolate chips if you are using them.  (Paxton secret: when the cookie dough is finished, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of white sugar into the cookie dough and give it a few extra stirs, not too much as you don’t want to over-stir the cookie dough.  We think this gives the cookies a special sparkle.)

Using a heaping tablespoon, drop dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 325 for about 12 – 16 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies.  If your oven bakes unevenly, be sure to rotate the cookie sheet half-way through the baking time.  Cookies are ready to come out of the oven when they are golden brown and not too raw-looking in the center.  Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two, so they can set up.  Using a pancake spatula, transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

This is what a cookie will look like right out of the oven – not too bad, but it’s a little flat looking.  So, to give the cookie more texture, I use my fingers to gently squeeze the outer edge of the cookie towards the center to create more “crinkles.”  Do this when the cookies are still warm on the cookie sheet, before you transfer them to a cooling rack.

This is what the cookie looks like after the little squeezes.  Just a little extra texture.  Pretty cookies = awesome cookies.

*Special note: while warm cookies fresh from the oven are yummy, these cookies actually taste better once they have fully cooled to room temperature.  This gives the Whoppers candies time to cool down.  Otherwise, hot Whoppers are too chewy and will get stuck in your teeth – in a bad way.  Cool Whoppers are crunchy and quite delicious in the cookies. Enjoy!

Have you ever turned a favorite candy into a cookie or dessert?  Please share!

Piece of Cake

When it’s over 100 degrees for a solid month, there’s little incentive to turn on the oven and bake.  So, what’s a girl to do?  Make ice cream cake!

This recipe is a Paxton family favorite and the world needs to know how to make this masterpiece, so I’m sharing it with you.  Don’t be fooled, just because I teach yoga and most of my recipes tend to be healthy, there is nothing healthy about this cake.  And I’m totally okay with that.  It’s the perfect treat for a summer birthday, anniversary, or a lazy Sunday afternoon!

You can use any flavors of ice cream you prefer.  I went for a coffee flavored cake, so I used Starbucks Java Chip on the bottom layer and Caramel Macchiato for the top layer.  Be creative and have fun!

Here’s what you’ll need for success:

1 package Oreos (regular kind)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

2 pints of ice cream, softened

1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (small box)

1/2 cup milk

1 container Cool Whip, softened

chocolate-filled wafer cookies, cut in half (see pictures)

hot fudge

1 springform cake pan

First, take 2 rows of Oreo cookies and place them in food processor and pulse until they form fine crumbs.

Empty the Oreo crumbs into a bowl and add the melted butter and sugar.  Combine with a fork.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the springform cake pan.  Use a measuring cup the pat the crumbs and create a half inch crust along the sides, no higher.  Then put it in the freezer while you work on the fillings.

Let the ice cream & Cool Whip soften quite a bit.  Don’t worry, on a hot day, this will take no time at all.

Place the entire container of the softened Cool Whip into a bowl.  Add the milk and stir to combine.  Fold the entire package of vanilla pudding mix into the Cool Whip mixture.

Then, take half of the Cool Whip mixture and place in another bowl.  Add one pint of ice cream (whichever flavor will be the bottom layer) and fold into one half of the Cool Whip mixture.

Then, pour the ice cream/Cool Whip mixutre onto the Oreo crust and smooth it out with a spatula.

Take your wafer cookies and line them up around the side of the pan.  This is a little tricky, but I know you can do it!  If the ice cream gets too soft and the cookies don’t hold up, you can place the cake in the freezer for a few minutes to help the ice cream thicken.  Then, try lining up the cookies again.

Once all the cookies are lined around the side of the pan, place the cake back in the freezer until mostly set, at least 20 – 30 minutes.  While the bottom layer is freezing, place the last row of Oreo cookies in the food processor and pulse until you have small piece of cookies.  Now is a good time to fold the remaining half of the Cool Whip mixture into your second pint of ice cream.  Now is also a good time to take some of the hot fudge and warm it up (I used the microwave) and set it aside.

Once the bottom layer has set, sprinkle the Oreo cookie pieces on top of the bottom layer of ice cream.

Then, pour the second ice cream/Cool Whip mixture on top of the Oreos.  Using a spoon, drizzle hot fudge on top of the second ice cream layer.

Then, take a toothpick and make little swirls.  Cover the cake with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap touches the ice cream & hot fudge so that a film doesn’t develop on top of the cake.  (Also prevents freezer burn!)

Freeze for several hours or overnight.  Patience … it’s worth it in the end!

Once the cake is frozen solid, take it out and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes.  Remove the outer ring of the springform pan.

Use a very sharp knife to slice into pieces.  The Oreos in the middle are my favorite!

Enjoy your piece of cake!