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Showing posts with label apple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apple. Show all posts

Friday, October 1, 2021

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Cake


Fall is here and my body is ready. Going apple picking is one of my absolute favorite things in the world to do, and I'm so fortunate to live in the Midwest where apple picking orchards are a-plenty! Apples are relatively easy to grow, but the trick is that they are not self-pollinating trees so you really need at least two trees to get apples. I don't often recommend doing that if you have a smaller lot, or if you can't commit yourself to getting every apple off the ground before it ferments and gets all of your squirrels and hornets drunk...but if you do have those things covered, then by all means go for it!

The apple, which is not native to the Americas, is one of my favorite ingredients. I write about it a fair bit! That being said, you don't have to get apples fresh from a farm to enjoy them, even though it is recommended. Yes, you could get a bag of apples for $5 at the store instead of driving out to an orchard, paying $36 to pick your own in 88 degree heat wearing fall clothing with your kids screaming at you about being itchy and having to go potty all the time...but if you can get to a farmer's market where they're selling apples you can split the difference and get great quality produce!


These apples are from the farm. They're small but much sweeter than many I could get in the store! I don't mind the bruises at all, and neither should you, especially if you're going to eat them straight away in a pie or cake. There's a ton of perfectly good food wasted every year because it's not exactly "up to standard." You can watch this awesome documentary about it if you're so inclined! Of course, the issues are much more nuanced than just one documentary can present, but it's still interesting to think about.  The bottom line is that when you buy organic produce it will not look exactly perfect like how you see in the grocery store. Food will be in its natural state, with bites and bruises, and it won't matter a lick how it looks if you put it into a cake. 

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Cake
yields 1 9" square or round cake

Caramel

  • 200 g white sugar 
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

Apples

  • 4 small apples, sliced thinly on the mandolin + 1 small apple, cut decoratively
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
Cake
  • 150 g vegan butter 
  • 220 g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 240 g (1 cup) almond milk
This is a cake that takes many steps, but it is worth it. Trust me.

Prepare the pan of your choice by buttering it generously with either non-dairy butter or coconut oil spray. Get all of the sides, of course, but especially get the bottom! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 




Prepare the apples by slicing them thinly on a mandolin or with a sharp knife and tossing them with the sugar, zest, and spices. You may add a tsp of good dark rum if you like, but it is not necessary. Set it aside and prepare the caramel bottom. Slice your decorating apple and arrange it in a pattern on the bottom of your pan. This will be the top!

Add the sugar, honey, vinegar, to a small saucepot along with just enough water to cover the sugar mixture. Pop a lid on top and bring it to a boil. You're going to boil it for about five minutes, or until lovely golden-brown caramel forms, and immediately pour over the apples as evenly as possible. Pop this into the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, just to set it and to ensure that the caramel is evenly distributed among the apple slices. When ready, remove from the oven and set aside.

Cream the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment until quite light-colored and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and whip it all together until completely incorporated and the sugar looks to be mostly dissolved. Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl between each addition. Make sure the eggs are entirely incorporated before going to the next step!

Add in your baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla, and whip together until combined. Add in the flour, a third at a time, while alternating with the milk to make sure no big lumps occur. Scrape down the bowl and give one final stir. Remove the whip attachment and stir in the macerated apple mixture by hand with a spatula. Allow the batter to rest for about 15 minutes on the counter to let the flour soak in. 

When ready, scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake slightly pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and let sit on the counter for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate. If everything goes well, your caramel will still be warm enough to bring the cake away from the pan! Let cool for another 15 or 20 minutes before slicing into it, as molten lava has nothing on hot caramel.

This cake is incredibly soft and moist and will fill your heart with warming love. I can't think of anything more perfectly delectable than this cake for the first taste of fall. It keeps on the counter, covered, for up to four days, but it really doesn't last that long. It's quite excellent with a morning cup of coffee or warmed, after dinner, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I hope you'll give it a try with some apples you pick up from your own local farmer's market!



Thank you so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Favorite Apple Pie

 



My Absolute Favorite Spiced Apple Pie

Favorite Pie Crust

  • 10.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz solid fat
    • Chilled butter, vegan butter substitute, cold lard, or cold coconut oil do just fine!
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • Vodka, as needed

Apple filling

  • 6 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp grand marnier
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground Chinese Long Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ancho chili powder
  • 9 small apples or 5 medium ones, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
To make the pie crust, simply combine your dry ingredients with a fork and rub the fat into the flour with your fingers. Add in some vodka until it's just moist...and mix together! How should you mix this all together, you ask? Well, lucky for you, I've discovered the joys of IGTV:




Isn't that great? I can do tutorials without having to get a youtube channel. 

Simply wrap and chill this dough for at least 30 minutes while you prepare your filling. All you really have to do is combine all the ingredients, except for the flour, toss well, and cover. Let this sit for the same amount of time you're letting your dough rest so the flavors can meld and mesh together. I like to let it all rest on the counter instead of the fridge because you tend to get a lot more juice out! A proper pie has a good dance of moisture and juicy filling, but we don't want to make our crust too soggy. When we can control the amount of moisture in our pie, we're going to have a good time.

When it comes to rolling out your dough, I prefer not to dirty up my counter with tons of excess flour, but to roll it out between two well-greased sheets of parchment paper. I do this for many reasons, but the main reason is that I don't want to mess with my perfectly-crafted ratio of fat-to-flour. After all, if we're going to be exact with our measurements, why screw it all up with more flour when rolling out? The other reason to do it this way is for easy clean-up. Simply give your counter a quick wipe and throw the parchment paper away! All you need is a good rolling pin, a good arm, and plenty of pan-spray to make this perfect. Even better, you can use the parchment paper to help you flip your flat dough into your pie dish. 

I love this glass pie dish because I can see the bottom, and therefore see when things are cooked or not. Glass is excellent at conducting heat, so for me, it is the ideal baking dish. All that must happen now is you gently line your pie dish with your dough and let it chill before adding the filling. I also like to let it chill before I trim it so that the dough has plenty of time to relax. This way, you can let any glutens that may have accidentally developed relax away. 

Your pie filling should have become quite juicy at this point, so now's the time to add your flour! You may need more than 1 oz, depending on how much juice has come out, but definitely don't use less than this amount. So long as the mixture has thickened slightly with the amount of flour but is still liquid, you should be safe. Add your flour, mix well, and fill your pie! 

Use your rolling pin to roll out a top crust and very gently let it fall over the top of the apples. You should have a nice high pile, which is exactly what you want! Don't stretch your pie dough too much, but be sure to let it sit atop your fruit for about 5 minutes before you crimp all the edges. Once the edges are crimped, with either your fingers or your fork, let it chill in the fridge until your oven comes up to 350 degrees F. Be sure to also cut some vent slits in the top. Get decorative at this point, if you like!

Line a sheet pan with tin foil and set your baking rack to the lowest possible setting so that the bottom of the pie tin is close to the bottom of the oven. Bake your pie on the lowest rack for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and your pie filling is bubbling slightly out of the vent slits. 

This next bit is the tricky bit, but it's absolutely essential. You have to - and I'm not making this up - wait to cut open that pie for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight. 

I know, I know! It's apple pie! What is better than apple pie fresh from the oven??? Well, how about an apple pie that stays together and won't flood out into a big juicy, sticky mess, that sogs up your bottom like no other? It's imperative that you let the apples do their thing and let the pectin rest. You must do this, so when you warm up the pie again, by the slice, it'll actually stay gelled together. Apple pie really is quite easy, but the real secret ingredient is time, and time well spent. 

While we're waiting, would you like to learn a thing or two about apples? 

We've all heard that phrase "as American as apple pie", but what if I were to tell you that apples themselves were not native to America? They are, in fact, native to central Asia, and have come to Europe by way of the Silk Road, which is the same trade route that gave Italy noodles, which would eventually evolve into the modern pasta we know today.  Apples were then planted in Europe, and then were brough to the American colonies by - you guessed it - colonizers. So, really...nothing is more American than apple pie, because apples - like most of us - are immigrants that have taken hold of the land and changed it forever!

People loved apples because they're delicious, but more importantly they are incredibly prolific. They do not self-pollinate like peach or plum trees (also from central Asia), but need a partner tree to be next to in order to produce. Once they do, however, they'll give more fruit than you could likely know what to do with! I'm specifically and explicitly forbidden to have a pair of apple trees in my own garden because my husband's childhood was "ruined every late summer" because he, his brother, his sister, and his mother all had to stop everything and process every single apple into apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple dumplings, and more. Now, if you ask, "why not just let the animals have it?" Well, dear friend...

Apples are naturally high in sugar. When sugar meets water, it's going to begin to chemically change, especially with time and the right bacteria. Long story short, they ferment. When you get a squirrel or a deer biting into a fermented apple and drunkenly stagger around your yard, it's likely going to be quite comical. When you get a bunch of butterflies, bees, and hornets flying around drunk, it immediately becomes less fun. Apparently, hornets are like yours truly when they've had one too many - they'll fight anything. 


Apples on the ground are not bad or rotten. In fact, apple trees are exceedingly clever in that they will tell you when an apple is perfectly ripe and ready for eating by letting them fall to the ground with only the slightest breeze to invite you to eat them. So long as they don't have a big bite out of them from a squirrel or bug, it's best to just gather them from the ground. You can store them in the cellar, if you have one, just as they are, in crates. Please keep paper between the layers, however, as they do better this way. I hear that they hold the best when not touching directly, and each apple is individually wrapped with tissue paper. This is the reason we have wax on our apples, you see. When apples touch, skin-to-skin, they'll begin to ripen and ferment. They say you should wash off the wax before you eat them, but I've eaten apples with wax on the skin for years and nothing's happened to me yet. 

You can, of course, make this all into apple butter, or freeze the processed slices in bags. You can make candy apples. You can make it into applesauce, which - by the way - magically replaces eggs in a cake if you are in a pinch and can't go to the grocery store right that moment. You can do all sorts of things! The point is that you must absolutely know that you love apples, that you'll never get sick of apples, and that you have neighbors that love apples before you get yourself a pair of trees. That, and you have an excellent apple pie recipe in your back pocket. 

Serve this pie with ice cream, if you like, but I like it on its own with some good coffee. 

I hope you've enjoyed learning about apples, the history thereof, and the silk road. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Date with a Pressure Cooker

My dear friend and esteemed photographer in the greater Kansas City area, Jani Bryson, called me one day to talk about a canning project she had.

"I just bought a pressure cooker!" she said. "And I need to know if you know how to use it."

I'm a Culinary student at the Art Institutes International in Kansas City, and I've also modeled for her on several occasions. It makes sense that she'd call me for it. So I was all too ready to help out when she mentioned the need for some people to can some produce for her. I asked why and she said "People are all about preserving and fresh foods and the big farm to table movement right now. I could really use some good stock photos."

Well how could I refuse? When we planned a date to get over there, I couldn't help but be excited for it. I was so excited, however, that I forgot to wash my hair, so I had to find an old tie in the back of my car to push it back. Oh well, I thought to myself. Culinarians looking good is only secondary - it's all about the food, today!



Anyway, lots of fun things were on the agenda: green beans, fingerling potatoes, red onions, jalapenos, strawberries and apples, tomatoes and peaches, and lots and lots more.

I guess that potato didn't want to be canned
Earlier in the month, Jani had gone on location to a place where several families went and picked fruit and veggies together. Now the time came to preserve what they had picked, to show the whole process of Farm to Table. It was really a fun project and I was absolutely thrilled to be involved.

Admit it. You want to try it.
There were lots of things to do with the ingredients, but only a limited amount of time since I still had to come home and cook my man some dinner. So we decided on a menu/schedule:

  1. Green beans
  2. Fingerling Potatoes
  3. Onions
  4. Onion/Jalapeno/Garlic compote
  5. Stewed tomatoes
  6. Apple pie
  7. Peach pie
Granted, this was all done over a span of several days, but we got at least all the vegetables done in one night, which is good because I needed another whole night just to work on the pie crusts and dough alone!


Contrary to popular belief, canning isn't just for Grandma anymore. It's a simple thing that one can very easily do in an afternoon. Canning your own food has great benefits - not only does it cost less, but it's a great family bonding activity, and you can also control EXACTLY what goes in your canned goods. The best part about this, from a health standpoint at least, is that you can control the salt content which goes into your food. High sodium intakes cause a fair amount of problems in your system when not addressed, so why not take this simple step to prevent and control it?
The beginnings of a pie

Canning and preserving is actually very simple. All you have to do is follow these simple steps(and you don't even really NEED a pressure cooker):

  1. Sterelize your jars and lids in screaming hot water. 
  2. Sterelize your tools as well, including your canning funnel and a thin spatula(an offset spatula will work) or a few bamboo chopsticks, still attached at the top to each other will do as well
  3. Prepare your food accordingly, be they cooked or raw, steamed or flashed
  4. Get the big solids in first. Arrange potatoes, pop in tomatoes, pack in green beans, etc. 
  5. Fill the jars with the liquid it was cooked in, usually water-base
  6. Use your thin spatula to get into the sides of the full jar and press in towards the center, so all the air bubbles escape. Get out as MUCH air as humanly possible.
  7. Wipe the tops of the jars dry as well as the insides of the lids. Screw on the lids tight as you can, and prepare your preserving vessel
  8. Using either a pressure cooker or a very large stock pot, boil water and set the jars in them. The jar's tops should be coming out of the water. Cover and let boil for 45 minutes, depending on what kind of produce you are preserving. Most pressure cookers nowadays come with guides for preserving and canning foods, so be sure to follow the instructions on this one.
See? Not hard at all! And I'm just a 23-year-old Culinary student! Isn't it amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it?
Did you know that if you cut an apple crossways you see a star?