Monday, October 24, 2011
I'm not going to lie, apple butter is not pretty. After a summer of berries and peaches and plums, apple butter looks well, Brown with a capital B. Despite it's less than photogenic appearance, I make a batch every year using this recipe as my guide. Sometimes I add more spices and sometimes less depending on what I can find in my terribly unorganized spice cabinet. You could even try adding some vanilla or bourbon as both taste great with apples. Heck, make a few batches with different flavorings. Apples are CHEAP right now and I'm sure you have a friend or two who would love to help you peel and chop in return for a jar or two of fall spiced goodness.
yield: about 5, 1/2pints of finished butter
adapted from 101cookbooks
4lbs good eatin' apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces (I used gala and ginger gold, because they were the cheapest)
3-4 cups apple cider
1 1/2-2 cups sugar (I went with the smaller amount)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
Juice of one lemon
5 sterilized half pint jars and lids
1. In your biggest, heaviest pot combine the apples and enough cider to cover them. Bring to a simmer and cook the apples until tender. A bit of foam will form on the surface that should be skimmed off, it's okay if you can't get it all.
2. When the apples are tender, remove the pot from the heat and puree the mixture until it is smooth (an immersion blender is the best tool for this). Stir in sugar, spices and lemon juice.
3. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it darkens in color and begins to pop and bubble, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Make sure to watch the pot carefully and stir often in the last 1/2 hour to prevent scorching. I would usually tell you here to cook the butter until it reaches 220º, but I couldn't get mine above 210º and the set turned out perfect. Ladle the hot apple butter into your prepared jars, wipe the rims with a clean towel and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
In our apartment, each season comes with it's own pattern of light that travels across the floors and up the walls as the days get shorter and shorter. There were a few choice shots on the last roll of film I took that proved, despite this weird warm weather we have been having, fall is here in earnest. At last, it's time to wear sweaters and eat soup and bake lots and lots of bread to eat with all of the lovely jams that we put up all summer. I ate these hearty rolls with apple butter and made some pretty excellent tomato sandwiches with the last of the summer tomatoes.
Emmer Wheat Bread adapted from Beard on Bread
yield: 2 small loaves or 16-20 dinner rolls
4 1/2t yeast
2c warm water (110ºF-115ºF)
1 1/2T salt
3c hard wheat flour (I used hard red wheat)
2 1/2-3c emmer wheat flour (whole wheat would work here too)
1 egg beaten, for egg wash
oats or seeds to sprinkle
2T melted butter, if making rolls
1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/2c of the warm water and let proof while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, remaining warm water, molasses and salt. Then add the yeast mixture.
3. Add the whole wheat flour and 2c of the emmer wheat flour to a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, then stir in the yeast mixture. If the dough seems very sticky and soft add more emmer flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until you have a soft and tacky, but not sticky dough. I used an entire cup of additional flour.
4. Continue to knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and let rise in a warm, draft free area until doubled in size, about an hour.
5. After it has risen, gently press the dough to remove air bubbles, at this point you can divide the dough into two loaves, or 16-20 rolls.
6. To make the rolls, divide the dough into 16-20 even portions and roll into balls. Roll the balls in melted butter and place them in a 13x9 baking dish and cover loosely with a towel to rise. To form loaves, pat each 1/2 of the dough into a rectangle about 6'' wide and 8'' long on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough from the short side, away from you, pinching the crease each time the dough meets itself. Gently place each loaf into a lightly greased loaf pan, seam side down, and cover loosely with a towel to rise. For both loaves and rolls, let the dough rise in a warm draft free spot until doubled in size. While the dough is rising a second time preheat your oven to 425ºF.
7. After the dough has risen a second time, brush the loaves or rolls with an egg wash and sprinkle seeds or oats on the top to garnish. Slide the bread into the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven to 375ºF and bake the loaves for an additional 20-30min until they are browned and sound hollow when tapped. The rolls will need about 10-15 minutes at 375ºF and are done when they are nicely browned on top. Let cool before slicing.
My brother and sister in law are excellent gift givers and they sent me a box chock full of fun, food goodies including a variety of flours including the hard red wheat and emmer that I used in this recipe. Feel free to substitute whole wheat flour for either or both, although you may need more water than is called for here. Also, emmer flour is quite low in gluten and the bread will rise less than traditional whole wheat dough.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
I'm a big fan of the portable dessert: brownies, cookies, hand pies, things that can be eaten with your hands and are easy to transport and share. I made these bars from a mishmash of recipes for a friend's work shop opening/birthday shindig/end of summer extravaganza where there was a whole roast lamb, grilled corn on the cob, coolers full of frosty cold ones, and lots of revelers. When I unwrapped the dishtowel protecting these babies, the call of brown butter must have been irresistible because they were gone before I could even get a photo of them in the pan. I'm sure I don't have to tell you guys this, but sometimes food tastes best when scooped up with a plastic fork and washed down with an icy cold beer, napkins optional of course.
Brown Butter Apple Pie Bars
yield: one 13''x9'' pan, 24-30 bars
Note (9.10.2012): I have made these bars quite a few times since originally publishing this recipe and have found that you can reduce the butter in the crust to 12T, omit the butter in the filling, and substitute up to 3/4 whole wheat flour in both the crust and the crumb topping with no adverse results. In fact, I think the addition of whole wheat flour makes these bars taste better!
For the Brown Butter, Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust
adapted from Alice Medrich
14T butter, cut into cubes
1/2c brown sugar
2t vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350º and line a 13''x9'' baking dish with greased foil or parchment paper.
1. Brown the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently until the milk solids turn light brown and the butter has a nutty fragrance. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. When the butter has cooled a bit add it to a medium bowl and add in the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla and stir. Add the flour and mix until completely combined, don't worry if the mixture seems a little greasy. Press it into the prepared pan and bake it until it is golden, about 20 minutes. Set the baked crust aside to cool.
While the crust is baking and cooling prepare the filling
adapted from CakeSpy
1/4c brown sugar
6 large apples, peeled and cut into thin slices (I used ginger golds and macintosh, but any pie apples would work)
1/4t freshly grated nutmeg
1. Melt the butter and the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples stirring occasionally until they have softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and salt, then stir well to combine.
adapted from CakeSpy
1 1/2c oats
3/4c light brown sugar
1/4t baking soda
12T butter, softened
1. In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, then add in the butter and mix with your hands until it holds together in clumps.
Spread the apple mixture evenly over the prepared crust, then top with the crumble mixture and press down lightly.
Bake the bars at 375º for 30-40 minutes until the crumb topping is golden. Cool completely before cutting into 24-30 squares.