Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Autumn holds sentimental value for me. I love it because of the traditions we have adopted over the years like the annual trip to Sonka's Apple Farm for a train ride, the pumpkin festival at the Nut Tree, and my birthday celebration, usually involving delicious autumn food, some great California wines, family, and good friends.
As a child I disliked autumn and that emotion carried over into adulthood. But because it was Jim's favorite season, I grew to love and embrace it too. The change from summer to fall are symbolic of life's constant changes. I'm thankful that autumn gives us such beautiful weather in California and that we are able to be outside for much of it and embrace the beauty and colors it has to offer.
Shiree's Apple Pie
This crust is the one I have been using for 30 years. I believe the reason its so good is because it has butter and Crisco. Butter for flavor and Crisco for flakiness. It is on page 411 of the original Silver Palate Cookbook.
I have added to and changed some of the techniques over the years but have found the amounts to be perfect. You will need a food processor with a metal blade (like a Cuisinart), an extra wide spatula (not the rubber ones you use for scraping bowls), a rolling pin, and a 9" Pyrex pie pan (not metal).
2 1/2 C. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
8 T. butter
6 T. Solid vegetable shortening, chilled
5 to 6 T. ice water, as needed
Shiree's apple filling
About 16 Granny Smith apples
juice of 2 lemons
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. water
pinch of sea salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
dash of mace
3 T. butter
1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of your food processor. Add the chilled butter and shortening in small chunks while the motor is running.
2. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add 5 to 6 tablespoons of ice water with a fork until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Dough should hold together.
3. Transfer mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and with the wrist part of the palm of your hand, rub the dough away from you in small palm size amounts until the coarse mixture resembles dough.
4. Gently and quickly form into two flat circles and place in plastic wrap in the refrigerator while you peel and prepare the apple filling.
5. Peel apples and slice into small pieces. Add lemon juice as you slice and toss occasionally. Stir in sugar, flour, water, salt, cinnamon, and mace. Set aside.
6. Remove pie dough from fridge, remove plastic wrap, and place on well floured surface. With rolling pin roll out dough into large even circles. With an extra wide spatula lift the dough and sprinkle a little extra flour occasionally so it won't stick.
7. Fold dough over in half (this makes it easier to pick up) and place in a 9" Pyrex pie pan. Carefully unfold. Trim off excess dough from the rim.
8. Spoon in apple mixture and dot with butter.
9. Roll out the second dough circle as before but place any excess dough underneath it. Sometimes the top dough doesn't completely cover the pie so this little bit of extra dough helps.
10. Roll out top crust (and this is the hardest part) fold in half and place on pie. Unfold gently.
11. Trim off excess and fold under bottom crust to form a seal. Crimp.
12. Cut openings on pie crust, develop your own design. Mine hasn't changed since the first pie I baked!
13. Bake on the middle rack at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. If it hasn't turned golden enough you can put it on the second rack from the top for the last 10 minutes but watch it so it doesn't burn.
14. Allow to cool slightly before serving with vanilla ice cream.
15. I like a really golden top crust and always brush an egg yolk with a little water over the crust before I bake it.
Posted by shiree segerstrom at 10:58 AM
Friday, October 21, 2011
An overabundance of pillows on the bed is one of my pet peeves. In fact, I have more than a few opinions about how to make a bed and what to shop for when it comes time to change your bedding ensemble. I speak from experience, not just professionally but personally too because I adore a cozy bed.
My Top Ten List and Resources will save you time and frustration when it comes to shopping for your next bedding ensemble. Bedroom design above Albert Hadley.
A bed with too many pillows or accessories doesn't invite you in and I detest those stiff and heavy machine quilted bedspreads that you have to fold down at the foot of the bed. Luxury and practicality can be brought to many of us, in a variety of price points. Keeping the bedroom serene, soft, and inviting is the goal. Bedroom above by Ginger Barber.
1- Best quality mattress and box spring you can afford, queen size is best.
2- Winter weight and summer weight down comforters.
3- 1000 thread count sheets, two sets.
4- Two firm pillows with decorative shams and
5- Matching bed skirt.
6- Two feather pillows for sleeping.
7- Two to three decorative throw pillows, no more.
8- A soft cashmere or Merino wool throw for the foot of the bed.
9- An electric bed warming blanket to use seasonally, a real treat for cold winter nights.
10-High quality synthetic feather top mattress pad. The real feather top pads will poke you.
Sheets rise in quality and price as the thread counts increase. The best quality is 1000 thread count cotton in white. If you choose white keep them pristine by adding Borax to your gentle cycle. I also love the new environmentally friendly detergents and fabric softeners too. I purchase mine at Safeway. The scent is gentle and it feels good knowing you are acting responsibly.
Thread count is just one piece of the bed sheet equation. The type of fiber is important too. The long staple fibers, such as those found in Egyptian or Pima cotton are preferable because the longer the fiber, the softer the hand. Hand is a term used in textiles that indicates the softness of a fabric or it's ability to drape nicely rather than fall stiffly. Bedroom above by Andrew Halliday and David Greer.
When I do custom bedding, I like to match the bed skirt and pillow shams but in my own room I wanted a lighter effect and matched the duvet and shams instead. Bedroom above by Barry Dixon.
Most bedding right now is being put together with white sheets and a white duvet with a decorative bedskirt and coordinating shams and throw pillows. This is now standard in most hotels as well. The reason you need a duvet cover is to protect your investment. Down comforters are expensive and duvet covers can be removed and washed. Bedroom above by Kaye Douglass.
To answer the oft asked question "how many pillows do I put on my bed", two firm pillows for bolstering, two down pillows for sleeping, and two to three throw pillows. Any more than that is silly and cumbersome.
For sitting upright or reading in bed you need a firm pillow, a sleeping pillow, and one throw pillow for behind your lower back. Stack them one behind the other for perfect spinal support. When sitting upright in bed, remember to tuck your hips under like you do for sit ups- ultra comfortable and supported. Bedroom above by Stephen Shubel.
When making the bed, double tuck the end corners by holding the top sheet and blanket away from the bed (not the comforter, it will just lay loose in a soft fold on top). Tuck the excess beneath the mattress and box spring. This is also called military corner. Bedroom above by Susan Tully.
Pull the top sheet and comforter down about 18", like you are folding it down for bedtime. Place the firm pillows against the bedhead, then the sleeping pillows in front of firm pillows, and lastly the throw pillows in front of the sleeping pillows. This is an inviting way to make a bed and makes turn down easy. Bedroom above by Melissa Rufty.
I hear occasionally that people don't care for electric blankets because they get too warm, or they don't feel safe using them. Electric blankets aren't for all night use. They are used to warm the bed before you get into it, a wonderful luxury particularly if you prefer a cool room to sleep in. Bedroom above by Eric Cohler.
The reason so many people prefer down comforters over traditional bedspreads is the weight and insulating quality. Down comforters are feather light but very warm. They have a distinct smell that, to me, means luxury. There are a variety of weights available for specific needs. Down pillows are another luxury worth investing in because they conform to your neck, whether you are a side sleeper or back sleeper. No other pillow filling compares to down. Bedroom above by Kathryn Ireland.
A few bedroom luxuries make winter time less dreary. I get so much enjoyment from my breakfast tray. And his and hers bedside reading lights with dimmer switches are a must. I found dimmer switches made especially for table lamps at IKEA. Please support your own local stores for your bedding and mattresses first. Bedroom above by Ken Fulk.
Since my readership is international, I am including online sources for duvet covers, down pillows and comforters, and high quality bed sheets and I found these site to be most helpful:
Happy cocooning. Bedroom above by Jacqueline Segura.
Posted by shiree segerstrom at 5:52 PM
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Gated gardens ignite your imagination and draw you in. Savannah Georgia, Charleston South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana are my favorite walking cities mainly because of their famed courtyard gardens. If there is a gate I can peak through, or the trickle of a fountain to be heard, my inner voyeur comes out with little or no shame in sight.
My travels through the American south and England inspires me to add to my own garden. I have enjoyed incorporating iron gates and urns, fountains, statuary, topiary, shutters, and bird baths. Though I ended up with a backyard in multiple colors from the many varieties of azaleas and roses that came with the house, it is the evergreen gardens I love best. I'm drawn to the evergreens: boxwood, myrtle, bay, lavender, strawberry trees, olive trees, Carolina laurels. And I love herbs: mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, and in the summer, basil. Rosemary Verey's garden in the Cottswolds was a dear favorite.
The garden I dream of visiting next--Sissinghurst.
Posted by shiree segerstrom at 1:46 PM