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Posts Tagged ‘Apples’

A Nice Holiday Treat

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A few weeks ago, I was asked to bake several desserts for a Holiday Bake Sale Fundraiser.  I’m really a sucker for this kind of stuff.  For one, it gives me a reason to bake.  Second, I don’t have to eat all or most of what I bake (which is always a good thing).  I love to bake for other people, and when it goes to a good cause, it’s even better.

I started with a batch of my Candy Cane Peppermint Brownies.  They are always a hit and are always the first to sell out.  They are a dessert I’ve been making at Christmas time for about 25 years and they’ve got a cult following of fans.  For me, I just can’t really eat them anymore.  They’re too sweet and just too over the top for me.  Next I made a batch of Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars by Julia at Dozen Flours that I posted about recently.  Those did well at the sale too.  The sale also had a Christmas Café running where shoppers could stop in for a bit to eat during their shopping – for the Café, I was asked to provide a dessert that would be easy to sell by the slice. 

I didn’t really have a Christmas cake recipe in my arsenal since Christmas for us usually revolves around cookies and candy.  Cake just usually disappears until after the holidays pass and I prepare a Almond Poppy Seed Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for my wife’s birthday at the end of December.  So, I did some surfing on the net and tapped into my fellow food blogger’s stash of recipes to find something that would work.  After checking a bunch of my favorite sites, I finally settled on an Apple Cranberry Holiday Cake I found on Joy the Baker’s blog (She also calls it the All-Purpose Holiday Cake).  This was something a little different from the usual fair found at this sale, so I decided to give it a try.

This is a relatively simple cake to throw together.  I think the majority of the work comes from dicing the apples and cutting the cranberries (If you’ve never cut cranberries before, it’s an interesting task to cut up a bunch of little round berries – try it sometime).  Since I don’t bake many cakes in my Bundt or tube pans, I’m always excited to try something new that will hopefully release from the pan in one piece.

The cake smelled great when baking, kind of like spiced cider being steeped on the stove.  The cake itself is wonderfully dense and moist, not too sweet.  I decided to top it with a cream cheese glaze for a little extra sugar kick and I’m glad I did, because it was just a perfect accompaniment to the cake itself. 

So, how did it do?  It sold out.  The most important thing about baking for a fundraiser is that the items you bake actually sell.  I’m happy to say that all of my items sold out by the end of the sale, making for a successful year and for a happy Oregon baker.

Now, before you ask, I’m currently not planning to post about my brownies because I’m so embarrassed about how easy they are to make, you almost can’t call it baking.  Besides, you simply don’t need that kind of temptation in your life, trust me.

Thanks again to Joy for posting this recipe.

If you would like to see a copy of the recipe, visit the original post on Joy’s site, or click here for a copy on my site.  Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version.

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When Life Hands you Lemons…

…make Apple Crisp, right?  Perhaps, if you’re a baker, you may prefer a Lemon Meringue Pie.  I’m not a big fan of lemons, myself, so I’d probably just say ‘Thanks Life, I appreciate the lemons.  I think I’ll just put them over here for now.  Hey, would you mind handing me those apples behind you?  Yeah, those nice Granny Smiths – right there.  No, I don’t want the lemons right now.  Really.  I know people like lemons, I’m just not a big fan.  Besides, it’s fall, I want to use apples.  Yes, I’m sure.  Look, I’m the one doing the cooking, I promise I’ll use them for something later.  If it bugs you that much, you could just give your lemons to someone else.  Maybe they need a little zest in their lives, ha ha!  Yes, I thought that was funny.  Well, now you’re just being rude.  Just hand me those apples and go, we can talk more about this later.”  Wow, Life can be a real pain in the rear sometimes.

So, I was working on my October challenge for the Daring Bakers.  Pizza was the theme, and I had planned both sweet and savory pizzas.  At the last minute, the night I was going to make them, we ended up with visitors, a large group, so I had to rush things together a bit more than I had planned.  I set out 3 dough balls for my 2 planned savory pizzas and the dessert pizza.

The first one came together just fine, but the second one had a problem.  The dough came apart as I was shaping it, so I had to form it back into a ball.  By the time I had handled it that much, the dough would no longer stretch, so I set it aside to let the gluten rest.  Dough ball number 3 went fine again and I assembled my second savory pizza.  While those were cooking, I was also sautéing some apple slices, butter and brown sugar to prepare my dessert pizza topping.

I returned to that final ball of dough.  The gluten had relaxed and I tried to form it again.  Again, it didn’t work, the dough was tearing and not forming properly.  I decided to try rolling it out and wound up with a tightly wadded piece of dough that would hardly stretch.  I finally had to give up, the more I worked the dough, the worse it got.  That gluten is tough stuff, and a dough like that just couldn’t take the extra work.

So, now I had a house full of guests and no dessert.  The apples were now thoroughly cooked through and placing them into a dish that needed to be baked would have turned them to absolute mush.  I thought about a number of different apple dishes, but the apples I had cooked were sitting in a nice lightly sweet, buttery sauce, reminiscent to me of Apple Crisp.  I had recently read a blog entry by Joy the Baker for an Apple Crisp recipe.  I took the topping from that recipe, laid it out on a cookie sheet and baked it for about 20 minutes.  When it came out of the oven, I broke it up into pieces and used it to top spoonfuls of the tart/sweet apple mixture.

Results?  Success.  Lemons into apples.  Failure into triumph.  Everyone thought I had made a true bake-in-the-pan apple crisp.  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t done the traditional way, but you couldn’t tell the difference.

By the way, if the recipe makes more of the crisp topping than you need, not to worry!  It is a great addition to fresh fruit, ice cream, oatmeal, or even just to munch on (not that I would do that).

Life, I got you again.  You’re going to have to try a little harder to derail me in the kitchen next time.  Pfblllppfff!!!

I’ve posted a copy of this recipe here.  Click on any of the photos below for a larger view of the image.

     

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The following post is a reprint of a post I made on my old site last year – it was my most popular post, so I’m reprinting it here for your enjoyment.

One of the fun parts about baking for me is exploring my family roots through food. Like many Americans, I have a bit of a ‘Heinz 57’ heritage – a little bit of everything. I’ve done some family history research and have found some interesting things – I have relatives that came over on the Mayflower (fully documented, I am a member of the Mayflower Society), which came over from England. I have family that emigrated from Denmark and Germany. My two strongest ties, however are to Ireland (I still carry that family name) and Sweden (I still have family with whom I am in contact there). Since my grandmother and aunts were born in Sweden, I grew up exposed to many of the wonderful foods of that country – in fact, I plan to use them in several blog posts to come (although I can guarantee that Herring Pudding will never grace this blog site – yech!!). That being said, I have no expressions of the Irish side of the family – most of my ancestors died very young and lived under very tough and poor conditions once they came to the US, so they didn’t take much time to record information to pass down the line. So, my list of Irish family recipes is fairly short – zero. I’m very interested in knowing more about what my family may have been eating some 100 years ago when they emigrated – as well as what the Irish people in general like to eat.

I’ve found a number of recipes online that claim Irish heritage or at least popularity, but it can be difficult sometimes to sort out the truth from the other stuff out there in cyberspace. Maybe some of my visitors can recommend some good sites for Irish recipes and history?

In the meantime, as I take a short vacation on the Oregon Coast, I begin looking ahead to the change in seasons to my favorite time of year – Fall. I love the weather, cool, foggy, crisp, clean. When I sense those changes coming, I can’t help but begin thinking of fall cooking – comfort foods – and for me, my favorite Fall ingredient has to be apples. Of course, we can get apples here year-round, but fall is the time when the best of the harvest come in and everyone’s thoughts start to turn to baking with apples.

So, looking at my pile of fresh Granny Smiths, and considering how I might explore some of that Irish heritage, I came across a recipe on Joyofbaking.com for an Apple Scone Cake. Now, if the description of this recipe as posted on Joy of Baking is correct, the Apple Scone Cake is one of the most popular desserts made by home bakers in Ireland (can anyone confirm that??). It certainly sounded like an interesting recipe to try – and, for all I could tell, seemed as if it could be a real ‘Irish’ dessert. Why not give it a try? The concept is interesting – it’s not really a ‘cake’ as I would think of it – it’s really more of a cross between a cake and a pie. Imagine apple pie, but instead of the traditionally flaky pie crust, a more ‘cakey’ scone crust instead. Since I’m not yet experienced in the fine art of pie crust, but have successfully made scones, this seemed like a great gateway recipe to my first ever ‘pie’

Overall the results were very good. Having made this, I would probably make the following changes the next time around: a bit more sugar/cinnamon in the apples – I used more apples than the recipe called for, but didn’t add more sugar to account for that change. Second, I would bake it just a bit longer – I like my apples a bit softer, but this was still pretty good. Third, I might add just a few small pats of butter (not margarine) in with the apples. Lastly, I might add just a touch more sugar to the scone base. With all of that being said, you can click here for a copy of the original recipe with no modifications so you can start at the same point as me. This is a hearty and tasty dessert – perfect for a cool fall (or warm summer) evening – I will definitely be making this again.  Click here for a copy of the recipe I’ve posted on my site.

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