We each got an appetizer and a main course. Whereas Corey went with salad and pasta, I wanted something I couldn't get in every Italian restaurant around. After scrutinizing the menu, I paired the Antipasto Misto with a fig and pancetta pizza (they've since changed the menu so I don't remember what it was called). Both courses featured crusty bread with sweet fig, salty smoked meat, cheese and something to add a tiny tang.
(My tower of delicious Italian treats - crusty bread, fig spread (paired so well with my pizza to come), salty prusciutto di Parma, capicola, salumi, sharp provolone, a tangy local cheese and caramelly-sweet candied walnuts for crunch.
Quite the mouthful!)
My pizza - fresh mozzerella with a tang of aged balsamic vinagrette, sweet mission figs, crisp pancetta on a soft, doughy crust.
Next we decided to satiate my sweet tooth. Is that proper English? Probably not. Do I care? Not really.
Anyway, I wanted cupcakes. My friend Katie had texted me a picture of The House of Cupcakes over the summer and I nearly exploded with excitement when I saw it. A WHOLE HOUSE OF CUPCAKES. My greedy little eyes couldn't believe the pixels in front of me. It was even better seeing it in person!
(Note the elation on my face)
Before I get your hopes up (as mine were when I got there), I should tell you that it's not actually a house of cupcakes. Rather, it's a wall full. Still, it was a beautiful display of cupcakes.
There were a lot of traditional flavors like red velvet, carrot and chocolate. Actually, there were several varieties of chocolate cupcakes, all featuring a complimentary flavor like peanut butter or raspberry. Normally I won't order a chocolate cupcake unless it's staring me in the face from behind a sheen of glossy ganache and no other cupcake looks as good. In this case, I spotted a creme brulee cupcake which intrigued me. I had to try it because I love the namesake dessert so much, I wanted to see how it would translate to cupcake form.
Well folks, it CAN be done. Creme brulee makes for a delicious cupcake flavor. The texture was off, though. While the rich buttercream was a slighty denser version of its namesake's silky custard, there was nothing to mirror the signature crunch that makes a brulee, well... brulee. Adding pieces of caramelized sugar would have made this cupcake perfect, but it was pretty good without it.
I could have stopped eating at this point and the trip would have been worth the hour it took to drive to Princeton. However, I had one more round of dessert to face. Yes, folks, you read right. Double dessert. Corey was kind enough to buy me lunch for driving all the way up to see him, but I couldn't accept lunch without giving him something in return. Corey loves apple pie. In fact he loves it so much that he once paid $30 for one that was, in his words, "okay." I wanted to bake him something that would be worth every penny he spent on lunch. For this, I relied on an award-winning recipe from Food Network, and put my own crumb-topping twist on it.
I like my pies spicy. I don't skimp on cinnamon. Nor do I go easy on the ice cream. Whenever I bite into a piece of warm apple pie, I feel like it has a magical way of warming my insides and making me feel like I'm safe at home, no matter where I am.
Caramel Apple Pie - 2003 1st Place AppleRecipe courtesy Marles Riessland
1 hr 8 min
- 8 servings
Pie Crust: (I still haven't conquered this baking fear, so I used good ol' Pillsbury to help me out)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter flavored shortening, chilled
- 1/3 cup ice water
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 6 cups apples (Jonathan or Granny Smith)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purposeflour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 toffee bars or 3 ounces chocolate covered peanut or pecan brittle, crushed (I left this ingredient out and put a little cinnamon in the crumb topping because I'm such a sucker for homey fallish spices)
Chill all ingredients, including the flour and vinegar. Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles cornmeal. In another bowl, mix water and vinegar with the beaten egg. Add the liquid mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to form a soft dough.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Peel and slice apples. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and add apples. Toss to mix. Add vanilla and cream. Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add apple mixture and cook approximately 8 minutes, to soften apples. Turn into pie shell.
Combine the flour and sugar. Mix in butter with fork until coarse crumbs. stir in the crushed toffee bars. Sprinkle over pie. Add top crust. Seal, flute edge and vent top. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 45 minutes longer.