Finding the way back to (a new) normal + Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie

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Good evening dear friends!

It’s been such a long, long time since I last visited this, my happy place, since I last talked to you, my dear friends. Summer came and went and so did most of Autumn (my favorite season!), and it is only now that the advent is almost upon us that our lives have regained some sort of normality, of calm and that I begin to find the way back to the words I have been wanting to write for a while.

So here I am, listening to The Piano, which is the soundtrack with which I have written every post of this blog, and thinking about the roller coaster of emotions that have been the last few months (pardon the cliché).

You see, On the 1st week of October: 1) We pulled Luka and Zoe out of their new school, worried about the high levels of stress that they were enduring and, advised by a psychologist,  decided to home school them (insert worry, doubts and sadness), 2) We lost our babysitter ( a big deal for expats like us, trust me) and 3)  I started working, from home, on the most amazing project I could have ever dreamed (insert jumps of joy and huge smiles).  Our daily lives, and the plans we had for the immediate future, as you can imagine, changed pretty much overnight, and it has taken a while for all of us to re adjust and find the calm and quiet of a new normal.

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During all this time there were many occasions in which I sat at the computer with the intention to type a new blog post, only to be met by the most atrocious writer’s block. It seemed as though I had run out of words or, rather, as if I had too many words waiting to be said,  too many raw emotions inside of me battling to be put on paper first.  Should I talk to you about the sadness and worry for our children’s well being that had haunted us during September, or should I talk about the relief we found when, unexpectedly and surprisingly, we decided to home school them? And how to discuss the joy, hope and personal fulfillment that  the new project I am working on had brought into my life? How could I piece those feelings together, in a blog post, or two, or three, when I was still dazed myself by all that had occurred?

I couldn’t.

And the more I thought about it, the more daunting the task seemed. As days and then weeks passed by, this first blog post acquired mythical proportions and it became more and more difficult to write.

Until this week, when  I realized I didn’t have to do any of this: that I can  take my time to write about it all in greater detail when the words come to me  in their own time, and that I could just come back here being me, the confused, worried, joyful, warm and simply  happy me that I have always been. And that I could just say hello to you again, bring you a piece of pie, and ask you (like old friends do):

How have you been, my dears, during all this time? 

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And speaking of pie, here’s the recipe I promised:

 

Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie

Ingredients: For the crust:400 grs all purpose flour, 200 grs margarine, cold (the best quality you can find, preferably from the health food store), 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 1/4 cup very cold water. For the filling: 2 big Granny Smith apples, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in cold water, 7 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon.

Preparation:

1) Make the crust: Put flour, sugar and margarine in the food processor. Pulse until the flour reaches a sand-like consistency. Add water while the processor runs, until the dough separates from the bowl. Wrap the dough in foil and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour. Note:  If you don’t have a food processor, use two knives to incorporate flour, sugar and margarine.

2) After one hour, pre heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in two. Roll one half and cover the botton of a pie dish with it.

3) Prepare the filling: Peel and finely slice the apples and put them in the pie dish. Mix the dissolved cornstarch, coconut sugar and cinnamon and pour it evenly over the apples, to coat. Cover the dish with the other half of dough and bring it to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden. Serve warm and, if you are feeling decadent, accompanied by a scoop of good quality vanilla bean ice cream.

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A recipe to say goodbye to 2011:Whole Kitchen’s Chocolate and Pear Mousse pie

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Good morning friends! How are you? Are you ready to say goodbye to 2011? I know I am.

It is funny how the simple act of changing one tiny little number can make us feel like the days ahead are full of possibilities, that new beginnings are possible and that wonderful things await us. I embrace that feeling every year, even if it may be just an illusion for some. I like making time for pausing and reflecting and planning and hoping.

We also have a small tradition for New Year’s eve: we try a new recipe each year. We search old cookbooks, trusted blogs and the internet in look for yumminess and we prepare that. Alas, we still haven’t decided what to prepare this year! Mole Poblano is a strong contender…I’ll let you know next year whether we made it or not! And iIf you would like to give it a try, check Amanda’s blog.

When we started looking for recipes for New Year’s eve, I also started thinking about new recipes to share with you. And I remembered that this recipe, which appeared in Whole Kitchen Magazine back in September, could not be read by those of you who do not speak Spanish and that I had received several requests to share it in English. The problem was that the recipes were exclusively for Whole Kitchen, so I couldn’t publish them here without authorization (and, being a lawyer, everything related to authorizations, copyright, etc, etc is pretty much sacred to me!).

I contacted Silvia, one of the lovely editors of Whole Kitchen, and asked her whether I could publish it or if they would be interested in publishing the recipe in English in their blog. And she, very kindly, made an exception to the general rule due to the fact that my blog is  not in Spanish, and authorized its publication here.  So, my friends, here is the recipe for Chocolate and pear mousse pie that I submitted to Whole Kitchen Magazine (and remember that if you want it in Spanish, you can read it here)

 Ingredients

For the crust:

100 grs de butter

100 grs icing sugar

180 grs self-raising flour

60 grs cocoa

1 egg yolk

1 egg

For the filling:

4 medium-sized pears

100 grs  sugar

50 grs melted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon natural lemon juice

1 envelope of unflavoured gelatin, diluted in 1/2  cup warm water and 1/4 cup cold water

2 egg whites, beaten until stiff

200 cm3 whipped cream

For the chocolate ganache:

200 grs dark chocolate (if you don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate, you can use half dark chocolate, half semi-sweet chocolate)

200 cm3 cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

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Preparation:

1)      Prepare the crust:   In a bowl, mix flour, cocoa and sugar. Make a whole in the middle and add butter, incorporating everything with your fingers  until it reaches an sand-like consistency. Add the egg and the egg yolk and integrate until you have a dough that you can form into a ball. Cover the dough with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Grease and flour a 30 cms pie pan and preheat the oven to 150C/300F.   Remove the dough from the fridge, roll it and cover the pan with it. Bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the dough separates from the borders of the pan. Remove from the oven and let it cool down while you prepare the filling.

2) Prepare the filling: Peal the pears and cut them into medium-sized squares. Place them in a saucepan together with butter, sugar and lemon juice. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the pears become soft.

Once the pears are soft, remove from the heat an let them cool down for about 10 minutes. Place the preparation in a food processor or blender and pulse until having a purée. Add the vanilla and let it cool completely (you may place the purée in the fridge to accelerate the process if you so desire).

Dissolve the unflavored gelatin and add it to the pear purée. Let it rest for 5 minutes so that the gelatin starts to add consistency to the purée.

Whip the cream until firm, being careful not to over do it (we don’t want to make butter!), and add it to the purée once it is ready.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and add them to the purée. Your pear mousse is now ready!

3) Add the pear mousse to the chocolate  crust and place the pie in the fridge until the filling is solid (about 4 hours)

4)      Prepare the ganache. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a heat-resistant bowl. Put the cream in a saucepan and put it on the stove, on low heat. Once the cream starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it on top of the chocolate. Once the chocolate starts to melt, start beating until it reaches a creamy consistency and until firm enough to cover the pie with it.

5)      Pour the ganache over the pie, making swirls with the back of a spoon. You may also put the ganache on a piping bag and decorate the pie with it.

6) Let the pie rest until the ganache is firm and serve.

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If you don’t want your pie to be too chocolatey, you can omit the ganache and serve it uncovered (just crust and filling). It is delicious either way.

Also, if you want to start the New Year with a traditional Cypriot flavour, you can make Vassilopita, a traditional cake  with a coin inside, to be eaten on the 1st of January, the day of Saint Basil.

I hope you like the pie and, most of all,  I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration and a fantastic start of 2012. May all your dreams come true next year, and may you always have illusions to create new dreams!

See you in 2012!

Lemon mousse pie

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Good morning dear friends!

How are you today? How did you start this week? I hope you are all well and happy.

The weather in Nicosia is barely starting to get colder, so my recipes are still in a very summery mood. The one I bring you today was born from an experiment: I was going to meet some friends for tea, and wanted to bring something sweet for the occasion.

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When I was wondering what recipe I could make, I recalled that I had Lemon Coconut Mousse leftovers in the freezer, and I thought I could use them to make a Lemon (coconut) mousse pie.

Since the mousse is very sweet and flavourful, I decided to bake a neutral crust that wouldn’t overpower the filling. The crust I made is the one I generally make with the traditional Lemon Meringue pie (crust, filled with lemon curd, topped with meringue), and which always turns out perfect. It is also a crust that is very easy to adapt: my basic chocolate crust is based on this one, for example.

So, first, I prepared the crust, baked it and let it cool completely. Then,  I adapted the mousse. In order to firm it up and transform it into a proper pie filling, I added one envelope (30 grs) of clear, unflavoured gelatin dissolved in warm water  to it (after defrosting), I mixed everything well, and I poured it on top of the baked crust.

Finally, I put the pie in the fridge for 3 hours, and it was ready!

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Here is the recipe:

1) Make the crust: Mix 200 grs flour, 100 grs butter and 2 spoons sugar, until you get a sand-like consistency. Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk and incorporate them well into the dry ingredients, until you get a workable dough. Make a ball with it, cover it in foil and let in rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. After that, remove it from the fridge, extend it with a rolling pin and cover a 9- inch pie pan. Pinch the base of the crust with a fork in several places so that it doesn’t grow in the oven. Bake at 175C for 10/15 minutes, or until it becomes slightly golden in colour and separates from the pan. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely.

2) Make the filling: Make the Lemon Coconut Mousse according to the instructions given HERE. Add 1 envelope of unflavoured gelatin, dissolved in 1/4 cup of warm water and 1/4 cup cold water, or as per product’s instructions. Mix well.

3) Assemble the pie: Pour the filling into the the baked crust. Put in the fridge for 3/4 hours

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Optional: I like the pie just as it is, but you could also give it a different finish, such as the following:

a) Cover it in meringue,

b) Pipe whipped cream on top, and then  sprinkle some lemon zest over it.

c) Top it with whipped coconut cream, and sprinkle shredded coconut, lemon zest or a combination of both over it.

I hope that you like it!

Have a wonderful week!

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