Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Apple Pie a la Mode

In a recent post, I discuss how I won a cooking competition by baking a beautiful and tasty apple pie. I was unable to locate any pictures of that award winning pie, but that's OK because I can whip up a great tasting pie and take pictures of it any day of the week! 

This post contains 2 recipes. The first is for the dough needed to make the pie crust. The second is for the apple pie. Both recipes came from The Professional Chef, which is The Culinary Institute of America's textbook. I did, however, make a few minor changes of my own. 

I watched a YouTube video titled: CIA Chef of the Century Paul Bocuse. In it, Chef Bocuse says, "To me, butter is the main ingredient in cooking." Butter is now my main ingredient in cooking, too! So, I wanted to pay particular attention to use the best butter in preparing both my dough and my apple pie. I recommend you do the same! (I used Kerrygold Salted Butter.)


Basic Pie Dough (3-2-1)  

Makes 6 lb 6 oz/2.89 kg


  • 3 lb/1.36 kg all-purpose flour 
  • 1 oz/28 g salt 
  • 2 lb/907 g butter, cubed, cold  
  • 1 lb/454 g cold water
Combine the flour and salt thoroughly. Using your fingertips, gently rub the butter into the flour to form large flakes or walnut-size pieces for an extremely flaky crust, or until it looks like a coarse meal for a finer crumb.

Add the water all at once and mix until the dough just comes together. It should be moist enough to hold together when pressed into a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and shape into an even rectangle. Wrap the dough with plastic and chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

The dough is ready to roll out now, or it may be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 6 weeks. (Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator before rolling it out.)

Scale the dough as necessary, using about 1 oz/28 g of dough per 1 in/3 cm of pie pan diameter.

To roll out the dough, work on a floured surface and roll the dough into the desired shape and thickness with smooth, even strokes.

Transfer the dough to a prepared pie or tart pan, or cut and fit into tartlet pans. The shell is ready to fill or bake blind now.


Apple Pie a la Mode

Makes one double-crust pie (9 in/23 cm)


  • 1 lb 4 oz/567 g Basic Pie Dough
  • 1 lb 8 oz/680 g Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 5 oz/142 g sugar
  • 3/4 oz/21 g cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp/1.50 g salt
  • 1/2 tsp/1 g ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp/1 g ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp/15 mL lemon juice
  • 1 oz/28 g butter, melted
Prepare the pie dough according to the recipe directions. Divide the dough in two equal pieces. Roll half of the dough 1/8 in/3 mm thick and line the pie pan. Reserve the other half, wrapped tightly and refrigerated.

Cover the dough in the pie pan with wax paper. Poke a few holes in the wax paper for venting. Add something with enough weight to keep the wax paper from blowing off. (I normally use about 5 pinto beans.) Place the pie pan in the oven and bake at 375*F/191*C for about 10 minutes, or until the crust has the same coloring as pictured below.

Toss the apples with the sugar, cornstarch, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon juice, and butter.

Fill the pie shell with the apple mixture.

Roll out the remaining dough 1/8 in/3 mm thick, and cut the dough into 1 in/24 mm wide strips.

Place the strips in a crisscross pattern over the filling. Crimp the edges to seal.

Bake on a sheet pan in a 375*F/191*C oven until the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Add a scoop of ice cream.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


photo credit: Dewayne Neeley via photopin cc

The first time I played on a football team I was in the 5th grade. I played for my school's team, and we were known as the St. Mary's Vikings. I was horrible! I couldn't throw the ball. I couldn't run the ball. I couldn't catch the ball. So, I played offensive and defensive line. When the ball was snapped I would either rush the quarterback or block a member of the opponent's defense. I usually stood out from the other players on the line of scrimmage. I would carry out my assignment until I got tired, at which point I would stop, turn to the sideline, and stare at the cheerleaders. My logic was simple: If I could put up with the coaches yelling, a lot of running, and survive the blocking and tackling drills at practice each week, then I would be able to to don my Viking uniform, play in the game, and proceed to watch the cheerleaders. What a bright young lad! Watching the cheerleaders is still my favorite part of the game!

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I didn't play football in the 6th grade. The most likely explanation is because there was too much exercise involved, but I can't honestly remember why I decided not to join the team. At the end of 6th grade summer, my brother, sister, and I were ordered by the court to spend two weeks in Arizona with our father. He had petitioned the courts for out-of-state visitation rights. The trip was to be a test. If we came home and told the court appointed psychologist that we had a good time and wanted to return, he would be granted the visitation rights. Things were going fine until my father and I had a misunderstanding. My father watched from inside as my brother and I played. We were playing with a remote controlled car in the driveway. My father's take on the situation was that I had bullied my brother into letting me control the car, so he came outside and called me over. He threw me against a wall and started poking my chest with his finger. He kept asking me, "How do you like it? How do you like getting bullied?" So, I told him that I hadn't done anything wrong and that it was simply my turn to play with the toy. He took me inside and made me sit on the couch, so that we could talk. We got into a fight instead. I called him a fag (it was the worst name someone at school could be called) and, in what seemed like in an instant, he was on top of me. His strong hands gripped my throat tightly. He raised my body up and slammed me back down on the couch, over and over again. Each time he did so, the back of my head smashed into the armrest of the couch. I was crying, I couldn't breathe, and I wondered if I ever would again. He eventually stopped. No other incidents occurred while my siblings and I waited to return home. My father was not awarded visitation rights.

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The events in Arizona affected me deeply; in a matter of minutes, I was forever changed. I came home and signed up to play football. I decided that playing football would be a good way to make myself stronger, so that I would never again be unable to defend myself or my family. In 7th grade I imagined every player on the opposing team was my father. I tried to punish those players for what my father did to me. And I did! If I was up against an opponent that was too big, too tough, or too fast, whatever the case may be, all I had to do was pull out a picture of my father (I tucked one in my uniform before each game). Looking at that picture, after having my ass kicked by the competition, would send me in to somewhat of a bezerker rage. I didn't feel any pain. I was inflicting the pain! And no one could stop me.

 photo credit: Monja · con · patines via photopin cc 

The Vikings got a new head coach when I was in the 8th grade, Coach Conochan. He had played center for the West Virginia Mountaineers, and he's forgotten more about football than I'll ever know. He taught me that the center is the leader of the offensive line. A leader is what I wanted to be, so for the rest of my football career I played as center. I absorbed as much knowledge as I could at practice, and worked on perfecting everything I had learned when I got home. We had a good season, and it was a lot of fun! I was named the most improved player on my team. 

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My high school football coach, Bob Doyle, used the Bigger Faster Stronger, Inc. (BFS) program. If you wanted to play on his team you had to learn the program, so I did just that. While I was still in 8thgrade, I started going to the off-season football training program with the high school students. I had the most trouble with plyometrics; I couldn’t jump over the hurdles or onto the boxes. The high school players were becoming quite perturbed with me because I kept holding them up. I needed to fix this problem. I began jumping over smaller objects on my back porch until this weakness was turned into one of my strengths.  

photo credit: [ changó ] via photopin cc

I was 14 when I started playing football for Chardon High School. We were known as the Hilltoppers. My typical school-day was as follows: 
5:45 am - wake up, get ready for school, and eat breakfast
6:15 am - get to school before workouts started
6:30 am - lift weights in gym (MWF), or plyometrics (TTh)
7:15 am - get ready for school
7:38 am - help the "lunch ladies" prepare breakfast in 1st period study hall (I helped out and, in return, they gave me a half-priced breakfast.)
8:15 am - attend all other classes for the day
2:38 pm - school ends/get ready for football practice
3:15 pm - practice begins
5:30 pm - practice ends
5:35 pm - clean up and go home
6:00 pm - family dinner, do homework, do chores, and try to watch some TV
10:00 pm - bedtime

 photo credit: stirwise via photopin cc

The Hilltoppers had won the State Championship when I was 12. So, my coaches knew what it took to win. They always gave us great motivational speeches! They told us that Tecumseh said, "a single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong." I agree with this completely. However, I always felt that it was my duty to not only be a stick in a bundle, but also to be the binding that held the sticks together. After all, I was the center. I led by example, and my teammates followed me. We worked hard, and when I was a junior, we played in the state championship game! In the final seconds of the 4th quarter, the opposing team threw a hook-and-ladder pass that resulted in the game winning touchdown. I was named team captain when I was a senior. One college sent me a recruiting letter, but I knew I was just too small to play college offensive line (5'8" 165 lbs.). My football career was over.

 photo credit: Wouter Verhelst via photopin cc

My last blog post discussed my first cooking competition and how I decided to play football instead of compete in the State Fair cooking competition. I'm proud of that decision; it made me who I am today. Deciding to put football before cooking has impacted my life in many ways, but none more than my experiences in the United States Army. I went from leading young men on a football field to leading women and men on a battlefield. I was in Baghdad for Operation Iraqi Freedom III. I was a Sergeant and I was paratrooper. During this deployment I was the gunner in a vehicle called the ASV. My Military Police Company was tasked with protecting the main supply routes around the city. So, that all boiled down to my squad getting daily orders for which roads we were to patrol. My squad drove around the city with my ASV in front, followed by two HMMWVs. My job was to protect everyone in the squad. The best way for me to do that was to find the IEDs before the terrorists could blow us up. Once we located a possible IED, we would keep a safe distance away from the device, shut down the flow of all traffic, remain vigilant and look for secondary attacks, and wait for the EOD team to come and dispose of the device. We would go back to work and start the process all over again. Going on patrol meant that I would look through my ASV scope for about 12 hours. Every person, every vehicle, every building, every dead animal, and every pile of trash on the side of the road was a potential threat. It was my job to see everything, figure out the threat level, communicate what I saw with my leaders, engage the enemy, and defend my squad and any other coalition forces. This was the most difficult job I've ever had. The stress of finding the IEDs and protecting my squad was overwhelming. I spent my down-time listening to The Beatles, cross-stitching, and thinking about my home and my family.

 photo credit: ClaraDon via photopin cc

Playing football prepared me for my duties overseas. As the center, I would sprint to the line of scrimmage after the quarterback called the play. The defense would line up in their formation when they saw me running towards the ball. So, I was able to look at their defense and figure out if the play we just called would work well against their defense. We would either run the play called, or I would tell the other offensive linemen any blocking assignment changes, or I would tell the quarterback that he should audible to a play that would put the offensive linemen in the best possible position to attack the flaws in our opponent's defense. There wasn't much time for me to make all the calculations, and there was no room for error. When I decided what the best course of action to take would be, I needed to effectively communicate what I saw to the rest of the team. I always got the job done! My vision, my cunning, and my communication skills had been honed over the many football games I played in. These skills were essential to my survival and to the survival of my squad. I believe that without having gained these skills while playing football, I would be dead. 

 photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

My job in Baghdad was very stressful, but I was good at it. I was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for finding more IEDs than anyone else in my MP Company. I don't care about medals or awards; I care only about the women and men I worked with, just as I cared for the members of my football team. Football made me tough, strong, smart, cunning, and powerful. Playing football turned me into leader. That, in turn, made me into a good soldier. So, in looking back, I'm quite satisfied with my decision to put football before cooking.