Ask Cynthia a Question – November 21, 2014

cooked-turkeySamantha asked:  What do you think is the best way to prepare/cook a turkey?

My answer: Brining has resulted in my most succulent turkeys.

Everyone has their theory on what works best for cooking the Thanksgiving bird, and throughout the years, I’ve tried my share of methods. Here’s an article, Take it easy, the Pilgrims didn’t Brine they’re Turkey, that I found amusing because it reflects some of what I’ve done and how I feel about the different processes.

I’ve brined turkeys that came from the freezer case and those that were fresh without noticing any difference in the final result. Frozen or fresh, I do think it’s best to buy a good quality bird, and I always check the “Sell By” date to make sure it’s as fresh as possible. The brand name I look for in the freezer section is “Honeysuckle White” but I’m not sure that brand is available nationwide.

Please refer to the Recipe of the Month for more details on brining a turkey, if that’s what you choose to do. I’ve found the few extra steps it takes to brine is well worth it to ensure a moist and flavorful turkey.

I generally roast the bird on a bed of vegetables and herbs. To the cavity, I add some of the vegetable/herb mixture along with cut-up lemons and roast it in a large roasting pan with a lid, which I remove about halfway through the roasting process. I’ve also had great success using the roasting bags; I don’t stuff the bird, the dressing is baked separately.

Sometimes it takes a while to get comfortable roasting a turkey, but my advice is to relax and enjoy creating a masterpiece.  Read a story about the year I roasted my first Thanksgiving turkey. Thanks for your question, Samantha, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Keeping the Stuffing in the Turkey


Keep stuffing from falling out of turkey while it’s baking, by covering the stuffed cavity with a heel from a loaf of bread. This seals stuffing in and juices won’t drip out.

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Apple Pumpkin Pie with Crumb Crust

apple-pumpkin-pieThis month’s Recipe of the Month combines the familiar taste of cinnamon, spice and everything nice with crisp fall apples and thick, rich pumpkin to create an unusual and delicious all-in-one pie. For a crunchy twist, I’ve added a sweet and buttery “Dutch Crunch” topping.

Apple Pumpkin Pie (pictured) is sure to satisfy those who have been waiting all year to sink their teeth into the two all-time traditional favorites. This recipe comes straight from the pages of SWEET APPLE TEMPTATIONS so we know every tender bite will say, “The holidays are just around the corner!”

Apple Pumpkin Pie

Apple Layer
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups Cameo or Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 9-inch ready-made unbaked pie crust

Pumpkin Layer
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Crumb Topping Layer (Optional)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pecans, chopped fine (optional)
Whipped cream or pumpkin pie ice cream, optional

Apple Layer Preparation
In a medium-large saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt; cook over medium heat.

Add water and butter to brown sugar mixture; bring to a boil. Add apples and continue cooking and stirring for 4 minutes.

Prick the piecrust thoroughly with a fork; pour apple mixture into pie pastry.

Pumpkin Layer Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, milk, 1/3 cup granulated white sugar, egg, cinnamon and salt until smooth; pour over apple layer.

Crumb Topping Preparation (Optional)

Combine sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon with a pastry blender or fork until mixture is a crumbly texture similar to dry oatmeal; stir in nuts, if desired. Sprinkle over pumpkin mixture.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

If necessary, cover the edges of piecrust with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking time to prevent over browning of edges. If the crumb top gets too dark, place an aluminum foil “tent” over it. Leave the foil loose over the top; don’t tighten it down over the pie.

Cool completely; serve with whipped cream or pumpkin pie ice cream, if desired.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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Ask Cynthia a Question – October 22, 2014


Brea asked: How can I tell which pumpkin(s) are suitable for cooking?

cynthia-briggs-2My answer: To quote the heading of one site ‘There’s the Carving Kind, Then There’s the Eating Kind’ which couldn’t be truer. Pumpkins aren’t created equal, and rule-of-thumb is to use the smaller pumpkins in cooking, especially for pies.

All pumpkins are edible, the bigger varieties used for carving make poor cooking choices because they contain low sugar, have thin walls, and are stringy. You can always puree the meat of the large pumpkins to make soup or pumpkin bread, but most pumpkin recipes, such as for pie, need the smaller and sweeter varieties that weigh 3 to 6 pounds.

Best cooking pumpkins have names like New England Pie, Baby Pam, Peek-A-Boo, Long Pie, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, Trickster, Winter Luxury or Sugar Pumpkin. At a farmers’ market, the farmer can point you toward the pumpkins best for cooking and the name of the variety he/she is selling. A supermarket will usually label the cooking pumpkins as “Sugar Pumpkin” or they’ll be priced by “each” rather than sold by the pound as with carving pumpkins.

Whichever variety you select, make sure it does not have bruises or soft spots. If the pumpkin is greenish when you purchase it, don’t worry, it will turn orange when it ripens in a cool spot (don’t refrigerate). Thank you Brea for you question, and Happy Harvest!

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Remove Coarse Strings from Fresh Cooked Pumpkin


Remove coarse strings from fresh cooked pumpkin by beating it with an electric mixer. The strings will adhere to the fast twirling beaters and leave your pumpkin smooth and string-free.

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German Apple Cake

German-apple-cakeGerman Apple Cake is a vintage recipe that fully deserves the spotlight as Recipe of the Month. A longtime friend, April Poirier, gave me the recipe back in the early 70s. I still have the original recipe, handwritten on a plain recipe card in April’s noticeably neat script.

We’ve both transformed this rich, traditional beauty into cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, layer cakes and sheet cakes for weddings, baby showers, book signings and numerous other gatherings throughout the years. We’ve frosted it with cream cheese frosting, added chocolate chips and drizzled it with a simple glaze; any way you slice it, it’s enjoyed by all. German Apple Cake is a moist and versatile, old-fashioned favorite that celebrates the arrival of autumn and apples.

German Apple Cake

2 large eggs
1-cup salad oil
2-cups granulated white sugar
2-cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
1-teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooking apples, pared and diced
1/2 to 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1-12 ounce jar ice cream caramel (optional)

German-apple-cake-powdered-sugarPreheat oven to 350°F. Beat eggs and salad oil until foamy; add sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla, soda and salt and mix well. Stir in apples and nuts; stir until well coated. Pour into greased and floured 9″x13″ baking pan. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve it plain to apple purists or dress it up with whipped cream, ice cream or caramel sauce (as pictured above).  Below it’s shown simply dusted with powdered sugar.

Yield: 15 delicious servings

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Ask Cynthia a Question – September 30, 2014

Note: This is a repeat question with some modifications from September 2013 because this is the number one question I’m asked about cooking and baking and certainly about apples. Choosing an apple for cooking shouldn’t be scary, look at it as nothing ventured, nothing gained…

cynthia-briggs-2Janet asked:  Some cookbooks simply call for “cooking” apples; they don’t specify what kind of apple should be used in a recipe. How can I determine which apple is best for what I’m making?

My answer:  In my book, Pork Chops & Applesauce, I learned my lesson about not specifying which apple to use for a recipe because people started saying, “I didn’t make the apple dumplings (applesauce, apple cake, etc.) in your book because it didn’t say which type of apple to use.” When I wrote Sweet Apple Temptations I specified in each recipe which apple would work best. Stating the variety of apple to use in a recipe can, however, present problems because there are approximately 2,500 varieties grown in the United States alone and 7,500 varieties grown worldwide. Additionally, what’s available in markets in New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, etc. is vastly different.

My absolute favorite apple for snacking is Ambrosia and for cooking and baking, I like Fuji or Braeburn. I usually purchase Red Delicious or Golden Delicious for salads or snacking. If I have them on hand when I’m making applesauce, I add one or two Delicious varieties in the applesauce along with the hardier apples as a natural sweetener.


The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an informative chart, which states that other than Red and Golden Delicious, nearly all apples can be used for cooking and baking. If you want to make a pie using the Red or Golden Delicious varieties, use a pie recipe specifically calling for Red Delicious apples. My aunt shared her vintage recipe for a cake that specifies Red or Golden Delicious apples. It’s quite delicious, if you’d like a copy, send your request to with “Vintage Apple Cake” in the subject line.

Probably my favorite all-around choice for “cooking apples” is Fuji, Braeburn, Pink Lady, and Honey Crisp, which are good for snacking and/or cooking.  Price is a consideration when buying apples for cooking or baking. Some, like Ambrosia or Honey Crisp, stay high throughout the year, but if you choose, they are suitable for cooking or baking. You can’t miss with this apple chart, it’ll help you choose apples for your cooking or baking project. has an article “All About Apples” that’s quite good. About mid-way through the article is an excellent chart (with big pictures) for finding the apples specific to your locale. Thanks for your question, Janet, and Happy Autumn.

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Easy Apple Slices

apple-slicesCut four “cheeks” off side of apple; cheeks will lie flat on cutting board for easy slicing or dicing.

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