Archive for: apples
You can eat around the core of an apple if you’re having on for a snack, but when you are baking with apples, you will find that you almost always need to remove the core before you start to cook. There are many different ways to remove a core. For instance, you can chop up the apple and slice out the seeds and core with a knife, or you can use a melon baller to scoop it out. It is often quicker and easier to use a tool made for the job, like an actual apple corer.
These gadgets slide right down into the center of the apple and pull out the whole core in one fell swoop, but anyone who has used one know that some models work better than others. I had a slippery one that I put up with for years, even though my hand would slid right off the handle when it got apple juice on it. I replaced it with an OXO Good Grips Corer, which has a non-slip handle and small serrations along the cutting edge to grip the apple while cutting. This model also happens to be Cook’s Illustrated top choice (in a 2007 test) for a corer for its strong performance and very comfortable grip, and the CI stamp of approval is always something that I take into consideration when looking at new gadgets to add to my kitchen collection.
It is fairly easy to caramelize apples on the stovetop, cooking them in a pan with a bit of butter and sugar until they are browned and tender. I often do this when I want a few apples to top off a batch of waffles or pancakes for breakfast in the morning. But quickly cooking the fruit doesn’t draw out as much flavor as slowly cooking the fruit (and the same can be said with many slow cooked foods), so if I have a little bit more time to put into my apples, I opt for oven roasting them instead.
These Oven-Roasted Maple Apples are an absolutely delicious way to enjoy apples, almost like apple pie without the need for any crust. Thick slices of apple are tossed in a mixture of melted butter and maple syrup, then are spread onto a baking sheet and roasted until the apples are tender and the edges of the fruit are caramelized. The maple syrup and butter give the apples a wonderful glaze, but the long and slow cooking intensifies the apple flavor and that is what makes these so delicious. I like to cook them in relatively small batches so that I can eat them right away, while they’re still warm, but you can cook up a bigger batch in advance and reheat them before serving if you want them to serve a crowd.
Sometimes I add a little bit of cinnamon to the maple syrup mixture to give the apples a spicier flavor. You can actually add some nutmeg and cloves to the cinnamon to give the apples a spiced cider flavor, but I will readily admit that I like these best when they are roasted plain with just high quality maple syrup. Serve these on top of waffles for breakfast, or when they are still warm over a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Custard, cake and apples all come together into one spectacular dessert in this French Apple Cake. The recipe was featured in a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated (Sept/Oct 2012). Often, the test kitchen remakes recipes that I am already familiar with, looking for a better way to approach them. This time, I hadn’t heard of this particular kind of cake before, but it sounded too good to resist and I gave it a try as soon as I had a chance.
The cake is rich, eggy and custardy, with 1 1/2 pounds of thinly sliced apples packed into it. On top of that custardy layer is a thin layer of tender, fluffy cake. It’s a very unique combination of elements in this cake, but everything works together beautifully. The vanilla in the cake batter really comes through and is a nice compliment to the apples. I added a cinnamon sugar mixture to the top before baking, which made a fragrant and crisp topping. Making a layered cake like this one may sound like a daunting task when you’re looking at the picture of it, but it is surprisingly easy to make. The most difficult part of the recipe is peeling and slicing 1 1/2 pounds of sweet-tart Granny Smith apples when you start out!
The apples for this cake are cut into very small pieces that are cooked in the microwave prior to being incorporated into the cake batter. They’re cooked covered, so they actually steam in the microwave. This tenderizes the apples and helps them meld a little better into the finished cake, so that you get apple slices that still have some texture but aren’t too hard compared to the custard.
After my own testing, baking the cake several times, I found that I had a few changes over the test kitchen’s version of the recipe. First, I found that their recipe called for so much oil that while the cake was “moist” it was also greasy. I reduced the fat in the recipe by almost 25%. I also compared a cake made with melted butter one made with the oil they called for. While the oil version of the cake did taste good, I felt that the butter cake was just as moist and had a little bit better flavor overall. My taste testers couldn’t really tell the difference, however, so go ahead and use the oil if you want to keep things easy and you won’t miss out.
Apple Cider Butter is one of my favorite fall treats to make. Apple butter is a fruit preserve made by cooking fresh apples with sugar and apple cider and reducing it into a thick rich spread. It is fairly easy to make and well worth the time, as the butter can be put to many good uses in the kitchen (and packaged in jars for gifts). My favorite way to eat it is on top of buttered toast or homemade biscuits, but I’ve baked it into Apple Butter Pie and these Apple Butter Bars are high on the list, too.
Apple Butter Bars are moist, cake-like bar cookies that are made with a generous amount of apple butter in the batter. The intense apple flavor of the preserve gives the finished bars a wonderful apple flavor, which is enhanced with just a hint of cinnamon, ginger and allspice. The bars are baked in a jelly-roll pan, so they turn out to be fairly thin, but are still moist, tender and perfect for snacking.
I used my homemade Apple Cider Butter in this recipe, and I definitely recommend giving that recipe a try to use as a base for this one. If you don’t make your own, apple butter is available in many grocery stores (Smuckers makes a great one) in the fall and winter. Applesauce can make a good substitution, but it doesn’t have the depth of flavor that apple butter does and it doesn’t have additional sugar (even sweetened brands won’t be as sweet as apple butter is). This means that bars made with applesauce instead of apple butter will be much milder, although they will still be tasty, so I recommend adding more spice to liven up your bars if you choose to use applesauce in them.
These bars can be eaten plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar. I usually take the powdered sugar route, personally, but this time around I added a drizzle of vanilla glaze to add a little extra sweetness and dress them up a bit. The bars keep well for several days when stored in an airtight container.
Apple butter is a thick, smooth fruit puree made by slowly cooking fresh apples with sugar. It gets is name from the fact that the finished product is smooth as butter, not because there is any butter in it. There are many types of fruit butter out there, but apple butter is by far my favorite. Apples take very well to being turned into fruit butter and leave you with an amber-colored preserve that is bursting with sweet apple flavor.
My Homemade Apple Cider Butter is actually inspired by Smuckers Cider Apple Butter, which is a delicious product that the company only makes in the fall when apples are fresh from the orchard. It was actually the very product that launched the family-owned company back in 1897. Mine is made with lots of apples, apple cider and a mixture of brown and white sugar. The apples are cooked until they are tender, then pureed and cooked again with sugar until the butter-like finished consistency is achieved. Since you are cooking these apples down, the texture of the apples that you choose to work with doesn’t matter as much as it does when you are choosing apples for baking pie. You can use Granny Smith if you like tart apples or Fuji, which I tend to use.
I find that a blend of brown sugar and white sugar gives the preserve a real depth of flavor and is slightly reminiscent of apple pie – only more intense, because the mixture has been reduced by so much. I have used both plain apple cider and spiced apple cider in batches of apple butter with good results. Choose a good quality, all natural apple cider (or even apple juice) that you like the flavor of and you’ll be very happy with the results.
I use my homemade apple cider butter to top muffins, biscuits, pancakes, waffles and anything else I can think of pairing it with. I’ve warmed it up and put it on ice cream, and I’ve even turned it into an Apple Butter Pie. The rich apple flavor is sweet and addictive. This recipe doesn’t make a huge batch, so I simply store mine in an airtight container in the refrigerator as I use it (which doesn’t take long). If you are into canning, you could certainly can your cider butter after it has finished cooking and you can make a double batch if you want to have a lot of it on hand, or to give as gifts. If you don’t plan on canning, know that when stored in the fridge, a batch will keep well for at least two weeks.