Monday, October 14, 2013

Apples!!!


My grandfather makes a mean apple pie, and always enjoys a slice with a few chunks of the sharpest Vermont cheddar cheese he can find.  It may sound strange, and is indeed an acquired taste, but trust me, Gramps is onto something...it's delicious!

I've had quite a few apple pie slices in my day, and though Gramp's pie has always been decent, quite good in fact, the pie to which all others are judged against my my book will always be Shirley Lawrence's apple pie.  Shirley is my life-long friend Kylee's mother, and this lady can bake!  When you experience Shirley's pie you remember it, forever.

I had my chance to learn a bit of pie lingo in high school when an entire Home Ec. class was devoted to the life skills one would need to make an apple pie.  Truth.  Unfortunately, moments into the lecture, I got a little careless with my peeler and spent the rest of the class in the nurses office trying to stop my thumb from bleeding.  Yes, this really happened.  The morale of the story?  I have too much history with pie, too many expectations, and pie has too many moving parts for me to master.  The crust, the filling, the type of apples you choose...everyone has their way of doing it, so I don't.  I don't make apple pie.  Period.

I do, however love apples, and I have an allergy to eating them raw, so I've overcome my fear of peelers and learned a few (non-pie) baked apple recipes, and I've gotten pretty good at them.

A couple of dietitian friends and I found time to go apple picking last week at Brooksby Farm in Peabody, Ma, and it seemed like a great idea to use my bounty to get back to blogging!  I made one old favorite and one new healthy snack that I found of Foodily, a recipe sharing site.  I hope you find them "A-peeling!"  Sorry, I couldn't resist!



Dried Apple Chips ~ Slightly adapted from a recipe found on Foodily - Posted by Bijouxs


Makes about 30 chips

1 medium apple
1 cup raw or regular cane sugar 
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick (optional)


Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a medium size sauce pan bring the sugar and the water to a boil and stir to dissolve; add the cinnamon stick and adjust the heat to a very low setting.

Using a handheld mandoline, slice the unpeeled apple lengthwise as thin as possible, turning over after slicing half of the apple and using care by keeping the cutting guard in at all times.  If you do not have a mandoline use a very sharp knife to make the thinest and most consistently thin apple slices that you can.  

Gently drop the apple slices one by one into the hot syrup and cook until the slices are almost transparent, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and allow the apple slices to cool to room temperature in the syrup.

Carefully remove the apple slices from the syrup and gently blot between two paper towels to remove excess syrup and lay the slices on the baking sheets.

Place the baking sheets in the middle racks of the oven and dry for about 30-45 minutes, or until crisp. To test, carefully remove a chip from the sheet pan and cool, if it is not crisp continue to bake the slices a little longer.  If you sliced the apples with a knife rather than mandoline you may find that you need to turn them over after 30 minutes and cook for a total of 60 minutes due to the slight variance in thickness.

Remove from the oven and let cool and store in an airtight container up to one day ahead.


Apple Bread ~
Slightly adapted from a Penzey's Spice catalogue recipe 

Makes 1 loaf

For the Bread:
2 Cups apples, peeled, cored and chopped (about 2-3 apples)
2 Large eggs
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup white sugar

For the topping:
1/4 plus 2 Tbsp. All purpose flour
2 Tbsp. White sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Stick of butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 1 standard loaf pan.  Peel, core and slice the apples into chunks (about 1/2 inch pieces).  In a large bowl beat the eggs, with an electric hand mixer until fluffy. Add the oil and beat until combined.  Add the vanilla extract, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and beat until thoroughly mixed.  Next, add the flour and sugar and mix on low just until combined.  The batter will be very thick.  Mix the apples into the batter by hand with a spoon.  Spoon the thick batter into the loaf pan.

To prepare the topping combine flour, sugar and cinnamon.  Add butter and cut into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly.  It is sometimes faster and easier to use your hands for this if you don't mind getting a little sticky!

Sprinkle the topping over the bread batter in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour in the center fact of the oven.  The loaf should feel firm when lightly pressed in the middle.  If is sinks, bake for another 5-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.  The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice.