Chef Janine Shenandoah Hills and her son, Chef Raineen Hills. Holiday cooking at home. Charlie Miller | cmiller @ syracuse. com
(Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us will be spending the holidays at home. In fact, a recent study found that 72% of Americans will reduce their visits to loved ones during this holiday season. This means that some of us will be cooking the holiday meals for the first time. We reached out to a few experts for this series of stories to help us with this daunting task presented by the Hofmann Sausage Company. )
Syracuse, N.. . Y. . – You can smell the cinnamon, sugar, and butter on the sidewalk outside on Allen Street. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were walking past a bakery in New York City.
« This is our passion, » said Janine Shenandoah Hills. “We both love to cook, and cooking with my son makes it even better. That’s what Thanksgiving is supposed to be like. ”
Janine and her son Raineen are trained chefs who specialize in confectionery. Janine graduated from Keizer University in Sarasota, Florida with a degree in culinary arts and bakes in her commercial kitchen in her Allen Street home. Rai and graduated from the International Culinary Center in New York City. He is a pastry chef at the & restaurant at Saint Urban Wine Bar in Westcott.
When they share Janine’s kitchen, she asks him about measurement conversions (their recipe books don’t measure in cups and tablespoons; real chefs measure by weight. ). He will ask her about the best desserts she made in cooking school and he will try to provide her with one of his.
An apple pie from Chef Raineen Hills and his mother, Chef Janine Shenandoah Hills. Holiday cooking at home. Charlie Miller | cmiller @ syracuse. com
The hills use a variety of apples for each cake. Janine says the apples all have a similar taste, but the different varieties have unique textures. « You can feel the difference with every bite, » she said.
She usually uses two types for each cake. You can choose from Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady and Honey Crisp, depending on which apple orchard you visited or what is available in the store.
Before the apples are peeled, they form a sweet crust known as a pâté sucrée. It’s chilled for hours in one of their refrigerators before they unpack it and flatten it with a rolling pin.
To start building the crust, sift 4½ cups of all-purpose flour with 2 cups of sugar. Mix two sticks of unsalted butter by hand until the lumps are the size of peas. Then add a few tablespoons of water to balance it out. Divide the batter in half, one for the base of the cake and one for the top. Flatten the lump into the shape of a 5-inch pancake and wrap it tightly in plastic.
When the batter gets cold, peel the apples. The mounds use a hand crank peeler to quickly shoot through the apples. You core each apple and cut it into quarters before going into a mixing bowl. Rai sprinkles a few drops of lemon juice over the bowl to keep the apples from browning while the rest is being cut.
In a soup pot, heat the apples over medium heat with cinnamon, nutmeg, cornstarch, vanilla and lemon juice. Then add a piece of butter. The apples will be a little softer.
Roll each pastry pie to a diameter of about 10 inches. Put a piece of dough in a cake plate. Janine uses single-use aluminum plates mainly because she cooks for customers. She also likes the convenience of not having to tidy up the dishes.
Add the apple mixture on top and cover with the other piece of batter. They can be fancy and cut the top peel into strips and create a lattice top, or you can just leave them intact (be sure to cut slits so the apples can vent as they cook). .
« Then I like to dust the top with a little sugar, » said Rai. “It gives it a little sweet crispness and adds another layer of color to the cake. ”
Place the cake on a baking sheet or sheet pan. Bake the cake in a 325-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Charlie Miller finds the best in food, drink, and fun in Central New York. Contact him at 315-382-1984 or email cmiller @ syracuse. com. Follow him on Twitter: @HoosierCuse.
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