Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Very Sweet New Year with Caramel Chocolate Dipped Apples


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I know that in my last post, I promised a daily update on “The Best Thing I Ate Today”, while travelling through Umbria, Italy. Unfortunately, the internet service at our villa was knocked out by a tremendous thunderstorm and so I was unable to blog daily. I promise to post about the trip very soon. But in the meantime, a very sweet post!

Tonight at sundown the Jewish New Year  (Rosh Hashanah) begins. On Rosh Hashanah, we traditionally dip apples in honey in order to symbolize our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. While this explanation makes sense, I wondered why specifically apples and honey?  Why not bananas dipped into maple syrup?  (Hmmm, I see a new recipe developing).

In researching this question, I came upon an interesting explanation on the website  The insight they offered, regarding the apple part of the equation, goes like this:  “On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit.  The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves.  The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected.  We have confidence that God and the instructions in the Torah could never mislead us.”

They explained the choice of honey with this insight:  “A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey.  Life has this same duality of potential.  We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

While I love apples, honey has never been a favourite of mine. Honey cake can be found on many Rosh Hashanah dessert tables. But not mine. This year I decided to do a twist on the apples dipped in honey. I dipped my apples in caramel sauce and then melted chocolate. Then I covered some of them in mini m&m’s, some in salted chopped peanuts and the rest in skor bits. A sweet new year indeed!

This caramel sauce contains the usual ingredients of butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. However, where it gets interesting is the addition of small amounts of maple syrup and molasses. These 2 ingredients, while small in quantity add a wonderful dimension and depth of flavour to the caramel. A candy thermometer is needed to make these.

Wishing you all a sweet and healthy new year!

To print the recipe for Caramel Apples Dipped in Chocolate, click here.

The Best Thing I Ate Today in Umbria: Days 1 and 2

Yesterday afternoon we left our house in Ottawa on a purple Party Bus with 8 friends to drive
to the Montreal Airport to catch the night flight to Rome. We were meeting up with 8 more friends in Umbria for a 10 day Italian hiking and biking adventure. I thought I would chronicle the journey by reporting each day about the best thing I ate that day.

At 7:00 pm we boarded a Boeing 767 jet at the Montreal airport to fly away on our adventure. Fast forward to Friday morning, 9:45 when
we boarded a Boeing 767 jet at the Montreal airport to fly away on our grand adventure. WHAT????

No, this is not a mind bending thriller about 10 friends who find themselves in a time labyrinth, where each day they wake to the same terrifying day as the preceding one. It’s just an extraordinary tale about modern-day travel gone awry.

On Thursday night, just after everyone was settled into their seats, the airplane door closed and we all fastened our seatbelts. Suddenly, a loud whooshing noise erupted from the front of the plane. It sounded like all the air was being sucked out of the aircraft,  smoke was rising and the flight attendant began screaming , “Evacuate your seats, move back, move back|!” People started running towards the back of the plane and we watched in horror as, what looked like a giant air bag, began to inflate and fill the entire galley kitchen of the plane.

And then all was quiet. Then the pilot’s voice broke through the silence to inform the stunned passengers what had happened. Apparently the emergency exit chute accidentally inflated. He asked us all to sit tight while he radioed his supervisors about next steps. Then the cell phones began flashing as all assembled attempted to document this happening.

We were asked to deplane and await further instructions. Within 10 minutes all the passengers were lining up at the boarding gate again. We joined the line, excited to be on our way again. When we got to the front of the line we were handed what looked like a boarding card. Upon closer examination we discovered that they were meal vouchers so that we could eat dinner at the airport while waiting for them to repair the plane. We all naively believed that they could just stuff the giant inflatable slide back into it’s cupboard and we’d be on our way.

We soon discovered that the exploding giant slide had rendered the plane unflyable and would cost probably $50,000 to repair. They told us that they would have a replacement plane for the next morning. We were instructed to collect our luggage, clear customs and then line up again for hotel vouchers.

Are you kidding me? Clear customs? We never left the country! So. once again we lined up and told our sad tale of woe to the customs agents and then trudged over to the airport Marriott to sleep. Little did I know that the best thing I ate all day would be the Sea Salt Miss Vickies potato chips I ate on the purple party bus.

Fast forward to the next day. I am writing this on the plane as we wing our way across the Atlantic. I told the flight attendant about our trip and my plan to blog everyday about the very best thing I ate that day. I think he felt sorry for me about the late start to our journey, because the next thing I knew he brought me a second bowl of cashews and roasted almonds.  Definitely the best thing I ate all day. They were warm, fresh, crunchy and salty.

Just about to touch down in Rome, so I will be back tomorrow, hopefully with something incredible to report on culinarily speaking.

Peach Pie with Spelt Crust

I finally paid off a debt that had been owing for almost 27 years. I know how terrible that sounds. But let me explain. You see, I owed my husband a peach pie, well 4 peach pies if we’re going to be accurate. In the summer of 1984, I accidentally left the door of our freezer slightly ajar.  It was not until several days later that I discovered what I had done. Aside from having to throw out several hundred dollars worth of kosher meat and some mushy peas, it was not really that big a deal, in the overall scheme of life’s big tragedies.  Until I realized, that at the bottom of that freezer chest were the last peach pies my late mother-in-law had baked for my husband.  In the summer of 1983, she had baked him 12 peach pies, to be frozen and enjoyed over the long winter.  Unfortunately, she became ill and passed away in March of 1984.  At that time we still had 4 peach pies left in the freezer.  My husband could not bring himself to eat those last pies. They were to live in our freezer in perpetuity, sort of a frozen tribute to his mom.

I felt terrible and baked some peach pies right away to make up for the horrible mistake I made. He ate the pies but not with great joy. He smiled, said they were good, but I could tell that they just didn’t measure up to hims mom’s pies. Eventually I gave up because her damn pies grew more incredible with each passing year and I knew I could never bake anything to that would live up to that sainted memory.

I baked crisps, crumbles, grunts, cookies,biscotti, brownies, blondies, cakes, tarts, galettes, scones, hamentashen, rugelach, macarons and 43 kinds of bread, but never another peach pie… until this week, that is. I guess at some deep subconscious level, I still felt guilty about it. Plus, I wanted to show him how much I appreciate him. I mean, how many husbands take the time and care to roll towels for the bathroom like this? Plus, he has the fine motor skills of a surgeon and untangles my necklaces in 2 seconds flat. He always reads the instruction manuals and just last week he figured out how to get the new tamper proof cap off my toothpaste. How could I not bake this awesome guy a peach pie?

Peaches were at their early fall glory this week at our market.

I decided not to use his mom’s recipe but made a spelt crust instead, from Kim Boyce’s “Good to the Grain”. This dough uses a combination of all-purpose and spelt flours. The spelt flour adds a creamy colour and a nutty flavour to the dough. Kim uses a method known as fraisage to ensure a flaky crust. Kim explains how it works, “…you smear pea-sized pieces of fat into the flour to create alternating layers of dough and fat. During baking, the fat melts, creating steam that lifts up the layers of dough, creating a very flaky pastry.”

The peaches do need to be peeled, which adds an extra step, but is not difficult. An “X” is cut into the bottom of each peach and then they are slipped into boiling water for about 30 seconds. The skin slips off very easily after this.

The peaches are macerated with sugar for about half an hour and then the juices are strained off. I mixed in about 1/4 cup of Minute Tapioca for thickening, a tip I learned about from Cook’s Illustrated. Minute Tapioca is virtually flavorless, readily dissolves into the fruit’s exuded juices, and has a neutral texture, exhibiting none of the pastiness of flour or cornstarch. It can be found in the baking section of the supermarket.

After the top crust goes on, Kim recommends a 45 minute rest in the freezer (for the pie, not you!) to chill the dough and prevent shrinkage. Then the pie gets egg washed and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar.

After an hour in the oven, this emerges.

The pie was met with much joy! The gesture was greatly appreciated and if he compared it to his mom’s pie, I certainly didn’t hear it, as his mouth was too full of pie.  Flaky crust, just a bit nutty from the addition of spelt flour and juicy filling, dripping down your chin, just like when you eat a really ripe peach. Really all you could ask for in a peach pie. I think my debt has been finally paid off. What will I feel guilty about now?

Click here to print the recipe for Peach Pie.

Frozen Lemon Mint Vodka Mojito

Ok, so Sept 1 is probably not the ideal time to be posting about frozen lemon mint mojitos. I mean, come on you slackers, it’s back to school, back to work, time to clean out your closets , dust those summer cob webs off your brain and get serious about life again.  On the other hand, maybe just one more mojito and then we can get serious about life again. After all, we still have Labout Day weekend coming up, so summer is not quite officially over yet.

The inspiration for this drink came from a popular non-alcoholic Israeli beverage. Ice, lemonade and mint are blended into a slushy brain freeze inducing concoction known as Limonata. In 2009 I had the good fortune of visiting Israel 4 times. My daughter was spending the year there and, what can I say, one of us had terrible separation anxiety issues! Each time I visited I would drink a Limonata and think to myself, “Oh, this would be so good with some vodka!” Then I would get home and forget all about it. Perhaps too much vodka?

Last weekend my sister, brother-in-law and kids were visiting at the cottage. My brother-in-law (I’ll just call him Mr B.) is a blender virtuoso. I do believe he might have been a professional mixologist in his past life. it was cocktail hour and we were looking around the kitchen for something to create. The day before we made Bellinis and I could just tell that Mr. B. was a bit disappointed with that choice. Too pedestrian and ordinary. He was itching to create.

My sister had prepared a batch of simple syrup earlier in the day and it was chilling in the fridge. I looked in the freezer and unearthed a bottle of Lemon vodka that my son and his friends had not yet discovered. Suddenly I remembered the Limonata and we got busy creating. I squeezed some lemons, chopped some mint and we were on our way.

When I handed Mr. B. a measuring cup and asked him if he would mind keeping track of quantities, he got that wounded look on his face, like when his sainted Toronto Maple Leafs lose to the Ottawa Senators. Measuring is not in the lexicon of a culinary creative genius. When I explained to him that I wanted to feature him and the drink in my blog and that I needed to provide an exact recipe to my readers he perked up a bit and forgave me for my slight. He was excited to be featured in Salt and Serenity!

Our first batch was a bit too tart. The second batch, not quite enough mint. We hit perfection on the third batch. I’m warning you, these go down mighty quickly!

Click here to print the recipe for Frozen Lemon Vodka Mint Mojito.