I participated in a bake sale once and, for a lack of time, bought slice and bake cookies to make. I've never been a big baker and for that reason I always ate slice and bake--they were my go-to for casual functions when I was supposed to bring dessert. However, after reading and emailing a friend the ingredient list (in case we had to disclose ingredients to purchasers who were worried about allergies), I vowed never to bake slice and bake again.
And thus my journey to TRY to become a baker.
It's been hit or miss when baking from scratch. I made muffins once when a friend was in town that were horrible: eggy, flat, and greasy. I've also made cookies that turned into pancakes. I have had a few victories: some really good chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (recipe from Food & Wine--amazing), I did vindicate myself by making some better muffins...and I can do pies.
Apple pie is one of my favorite desserts. We had a ton of apples from our Farm Share that needed to be eaten, so I made one yesterday!
With our mandoline, I sliced thin (1/8-inch thick) slices of apple (I didn't even peel the apples). Between a 1/2 inch-thick layer of apple slices I would sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg--and I also drizzled some honey. I had three layers of apples with the sprinkling in between, topped it with the crust, then threw it in the oven. Really easy, and aside from the butter in the crust (which, if making pie crust, you know there will be a lot of butter) there is nothing else "unhealthy"--just loads of apples and a touch of sugar!
* 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (I used 2 c. all-purpose, then 1/2 c. whole wheat)
* 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 1 tsp (or 1 3 fingered pinch) salt
* 2 tbs sugar
* 4-8 tbs ice water
Crusts can be frustrating to make, but the key is keeping it cold. After cutting the butter sticks into small cubes, throw them in the freezer for a while. Then, add the butter to the flour, salt and sugar mixture and use your fingers (or a food processor) to mix the butter with the dry ingredients. You want to work the butter and flour into pea-sized lumps of flour. Then, 2 tbs at a time, add the water until you have a dough. Don't mix the water in too much (otherwise the dough gets "tough"). After you have a dough you separate it into 2 discs of dough, place each disc on parchment paper, then put them in the fridge to cool. When ready, roll the dough with a rolling pin and they are ready to bake! (If the dough is difficult to get off the parchment paper, throw it back in the fridge for a few minutes. The parchment paper should peel off more easily.) I used the Ratio book by Michael Ruhlman for the pie crust recipe.
400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375 for 45 minutes.