Time has positively flown by these past few months—I will be done with my first year at Otis in just under two weeks, and Jonji only has one more block, or five-week-long section, to go until he’s done with his first year of medical school. Big things are a-happenin’ down here in LA!
A couple of weeks ago Jonji and I made our first beach appearance in a few months. We joined a group of his classmates on a lovely Friday afternoon to play a little volleyball, frolic in the waves, and lounge on the sand. After a good hour or so of socializing, I sequestered myself in the pages of my book and proceeded to read for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, a bee was so jealous of my enjoyable situation that it decided to commit suicide on my calf, leaving half of its body sticking out of my skin. Bee sting number two in the books! Over the course of that weekend, the sting site proceeded to swell up like an angry pufferfish and itch like crazy. I even got pitting edema (the best part of having a medical student for a boyfriend is clearly the vocab), which was a rather unsettling experience. Seeing that my first ever bee sting had barely phased my adolescent self, I was surprised at the reaction this one gave me. According to the internet, I am among the 10% of people who get intense localized reactions to bee stings. Excellent.
The Monday after my bee-sting filled weekend, Jonji and I paid a visit to Downtown LA to see the Stuff You Should Know Live Podcast. At 10 PM, I might add! That’s what I call livin’ large. When we got there we saw a line trailing around the corner full of people waiting to get in to the theater—a surprise to me, since it was a Monday at 10 PM and it was a live podcast. The show itself was better then I thought it would be: Chuck and Josh were absolutely hilarious, as well as informative. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, I highly recommend it! And no, they are not sponsoring this blog post.
Last weekend was Second Look for the incoming UCLA medical students, which Jonji had a large role in running. The weekend is a chance for accepted students to decide whether or not they want to commit to UCLA for the next four years, so Jonji and his fellow classmates had the job of making the school look good enough to warrant such an important commitment. This meant that I didn’t get to see Jonji that much over the course of the weekend, but I did get some free tacos at their Saturday night social event, the only event I attended. Score! I also had plenty of time to read my new book, called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. After recognizing our shared love of Lord of the Rings, Jason Dupere had recommended the book to me as an extension of my fantasy education. He was right to think I would like it—I haven’t done much of anything except read in the past few days! If I could stay home all day and read, I would. I also realized that I’m a fully atypical college student: if you asked why I was excited for summer break, I wouldn’t say anything like “sleeping in” or “late nights with my friends.” Nope, instead I would say “so I can read my nerdy fantasy novel all day long.” I feel like the winner in this situation.
My friend Alaura and I made a stop-motion video for a class project, which I have posted below. I thoroughly enjoyed making stop-motion, but I also now fully appreciate how much work it takes to make a professional stop-motion video. Not that ours is close to being professional. Oh, and that is the Mordor theme song at the end of the video.
I also interviewed at a digital agency last week, which was a new experience for me. Fortunately (and, I guess, unfortunately), there was little pressure because they told me ahead of time that they didn’t have an open position for me right at that moment, but to come in for an informal interview anyway. However, I was still sweaty-palmed and frantic by the time I found the place (twenty minutes early, I might add), trying not to slow traffic down too much as I searched for the entrance to the underground parking garage. Once I had found the right floor, I managed to bungle a few sentences with the man at the front desk, then sit on the low couch while I waited for my appointment. I stoically (and stupidly) refused water three different times, which I thoroughly regretted once I was sitting in the conference room with an exceptionally dry mouth. Luckily, the man I met with was very personable and kind, so I managed to stop sweating so profusely. All in all, the experience was great practice for me, and a step in the right direction.
I am posting this recipe not because I made it recently, but because I wish I was eating a slice right now. It is also a recipe that I feel all cooks should have, since at some point in life (if that point is everyday like it is for me, just know you’re not alone) you’ll want to make a pie. If you must know, my favorites are blackberry and olallieberry pies, but I still enjoy apple pies, pumpkin pies, mixed-fruit pies… You get the gist. To me, pie is the ultimate comfort food. The warm, delicious scent wafting off the top of a freshly baked pie is sure to lift anyone’s spirits. And hey, just because there’s no holiday in sight doesn’t mean you can’t bake a pie! Trust me, your friends and family will welcome the change. And if they don’t, they’re just plain crazy.
Note: This recipe contains a multi-use pie crust—it’s not just for apples! Substitute any fruit you desire; look up a few recipes if you’re unsure about the ratio of other ingredients.
For the flaky pastry:
2 tbsp (25g) brown sugar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (105g) boiling water
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
3 sticks (340g/24tbsp) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
8–10 apples (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious are all good options—if you have a favorite, use that kind!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice (or juice from half a lemon)
1-2 pinches salt
optional egg wash:
1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp cream, whisked together
sugar, for sprinkling
To make the pastry: Stir 2 tbsp brown sugar, 3/4 tsp fine sea salt, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 cup boiling water together in a measuring cup. Place in the freezer to chill (if you’re leaving it for longer than 30 minutes, set in the fridge instead).
Add 500g flour to a large bowl. Sprinkle half of the butter chunks (12 tbsp) over the flour. Flatten all of the chunks between your fingers and then rub the butter into the flour; grab handfuls and move your fingers like you’re sprinkling salt. Keep working the butter and flour together until you’re left with pea-sized chunks or flakes. Pour this butter-flour mixture onto a large, clean work surface. Spread it out in an even layer, then sprinkle with the rest of the butter chunks (another 12 tbsp). Toss together, then smear the butter chunks into the flour across the work surface—Nicole Rucker says “as if you were sliding a secret message across a table,” which is a fantastic description. Gather the mixture together in a heap again, then repeat the smearing technique until you’re left with large, thin flakes of butter mixed with shaggy flour. Gather the mixture into a heap once more, and make a well in the middle. Pour most of the chilled water-sugar mixture into the middle and fold it into the flour. Pour more liquid as needed to form a shaggy dough—you want to find the balance of working the dough as little as possible and therefore retain big flakes of butter, and working it enough that it will stick together when you roll it. If you need any more liquid, add 1 tbsp of ice water at a time just until your dough comes together.
Form the dough into two rough disks, wrap well in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to two days. You can also store it, well wrapped, in the freezer, for a few months (thaw it in the fridge overnight). If you’ve chilled your dough longer than 2 hours, take it out of the fridge 20 minutes before you plan to roll so it’s not so stiff.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
For the filling: Core each apple and cut into 1/4 thick slices. If you like smaller chunks of apple in your pie, cut each apple slice in half horizontally. Toss the fruit in a large bowl with the lemon zest and juice. In a separate bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the fruit and toss to combine. Set aside.
Make the pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the chilled disks of dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick, or thinner (if you roll it on parchment paper, it’s super easy to transfer the rolled dough to the pie plate). Drape the dough carefully onto a 9-inch pie plate (I like to use a glass one so as to see the dough brown as it bakes). Lift and press the dough down lightly, easing it fully into the pie plate. Cut off any huge amount of excess dough around the edges, but leave about 3/4 of an inch of overhang.
Roll out the other disk of dough the same way as the first. (Alternatively, cut it into even strips if you plan to lattice.)
Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pie plate and spread out evenly.
If you should so desire, cut holes or a pattern into the dough “lid” before transferring it to the pie (or do a lattice). Drape the dough over the top of the pie carefully. Fold the lower overhang of dough over the top and pinch, doing so all the way around the pie so as to crimp the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash, then sprinkle with a bit of sugar.
Place the pie in the oven, with an empty baking sheet on the rack beneath it in case some juice drips over. Bake for 25 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375°F and bake for another 40–50 minutes, until the top is golden brown. If it’s browning too much, drape the pie with a little foil and continue baking, just remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking so the crust can fully crisp up.