I saw something shocking while I was watching TV Sunday.
Not the Vikings loss to the Green Bay Packers —that was hardly surprising to anyone considering how the Minnesota team has played so far this year.
No, this was something that momentarily sent my mind reeling. It was a ….
Yep. We haven’t hit Halloween yet, and the Christmas commercials have already started. I can’t even tell you what the commercial was for, because my mind instantly went blank, paralyzed by the thought that the big holiday season could be that close.
I really shouldn’t have been caught off-guard. After all, there have already been discussion and plans with my high school girlfriends for our annual cookie bake event — an excuse to get together and get a head start on our holiday baking. But that’s still weeks away!
A quick glance at my calendar shows that it’s just three weeks away. How can that be?
So how far away is Christmas? Back to the calendar, counting the days — 57. Ouch. That’s not long at all.
When I got to the office Monday morning, a package was sitting on my desk. One of the perks of my job is that occasionally a company will send me a book for review. Sometimes they are of no interest to me — scientific journals, badly written novels, trade publications — but sometimes such packages contain cookbooks.
This time, it was a double jackpot — two cookbooks! — courtesy of Betty Crocker. And one, of course, featured Christmas cookies.
So, it’s official. Christmas anticipation season is already under way. From here on out, we will be bombarded by Christmas music, tinsel and ho-ho-hos for the next 57 days.
I intend, however, to put such thoughts out of my mind until at least after Halloween. So, instead of offering you a recipe from that Christmas cookie book, I turn to the pages of the second Betty Crocker offering, “The Big Book of Pies & Tarts,” which contains recipes for just about every kind of pastry imaginable. (Alas, I have to note that there is also a section for “Holiday Pies.” There’s just no escape.)
How about one more apple recipe? This one sounds tasty.
Caramel-Toffee-Apple Pie with Pecans
Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine 6 cups sliced peeled apples; ¾ cup granulated sugar; 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch; 1 tablespoon butter; ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon; ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg; 1 snack-size (4 ounce) container cinnamon applesauce; and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and mixture develops “juice.”
Using 1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box, unroll 1 crust and smooth with hands. Sprinkle ¼ cup chopped pecans over crust, leaving 1½ inches around edge. Using a rolling pin, press pecans into crust without them breaking through other side of crust. Run spatula under crust; place pecan side up in a 9-inch glass pie plate.
Spoon half of filling mixture into crust. Spoon and spread ½ cup toffee caramel dip evenly over top. Spoon other half of filling mixture on top.
Unroll second crust; smooth with hands. Sprinkle another ¼ cup chopped pecans on crust, leaving 1½ inches around edge, and again press pecans into crust using a rolling pin. Place crust, pecan side up, over top of filling. Seal edge and flute.
In small bowl, beat 1 egg with 4½ teaspoons half-and-half or milk with fork; lightly brush over entire crust, including edge. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons white decorator sugar crystals, if desired. Cut 2 slits in top crust. Line cookie sheet with foil; place pie on cookie sheet.
Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake 40 to 45 minutes longer, or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Cool before serving.