Tag Archives: Apple

Salted Caramel Apple Hamentashen

Salted Caramel Apple hamentashen 1FI’m not quite sure how I feel about the live-action remake of  Beauty and the Beast (to be released March 17). The original is time honoured and perfect. Frankly, I’m worried. Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a classic. Remember Lindsay Lohan in the remake of Parent Trap? Jackie Chan as the updated Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid ? Billy Bob Thornton in Bad News Bears? Enough said.

But sometimes messing with the classics works. Traditional hamentashen are filled with either prune or poppyseed filling. In this updated version, apples are cooked down to a thick sauce. A big scoop of dulce de leche and a judicious sprinkling of salt are added and the resulting filling is quite sublime. I have to give credit for this filling to the talented blogger Tori Avey. It was her genius idea. I just took it and wrapped it in a buttery almond shortbread shell.with a latteGrating Applesapples cooked downadding dulce de leche

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Hamentashen.

with a latte 2

Caramel Apple Cake

I learned how to make this cake many years ago, at one of my very first professional cooking jobs. I was working in an upscale take-out food shop in Toronto’s Yorkville area called Dinah’s Cupboard. I learned so much from Dinah Koo, the shop’s owner. She demanded perfection and precision and a certain discipline that is lacking in many kitchens. She cooked with big flavours and was a master at presentation. I am forever grateful to her for teaching me so much. It was my job to make 4 of these cakes every day. We baked them in 9 x 13 inch rectangular cake pans and cut the cakes into large squares to sell in the shop.

After I left Dinah’s Cupboard, I didn’t make that cake again, for a very long time. I guess I was sick of it or had just forgotten about it. But then a few years ago I was working on a column for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). It is traditional to have honey cake on Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize a sweet new year, however, I hate honey cake. Luckily, it is also traditional to have apples on Rosh Hashanah, so I decided to feature an apple dessert of some sort. And then, I remembered this apple cake. I decided to bake it in a Bundt pan, to make it look a little fancier. We had several other desserts at our dinner, but this was the first to disappear.

I had forgotten what a great cake it is. It is perfect for entertaining as it can be made a day ahead of time. it is also wonderful for breakfast with a big glass of milk, or at bedtime with a cup of tea. It is a moist, dense, intensely flavourful cake. The outside of the cake gets a bit crispy from the caramel glaze that is poured on top of the cake. The inside is tart from the apples, but also sweet, in that slightly bittersweet way that only dark caramel can be.   This is cake perfection. I am warning you that it is very hard to have just a little bit. Your guests will ask for just a sliver and then they will be back at the cake, hacking away at it for more slivers, until there are only crumbs left. Not that my friends and family are like that, of course!

I decided to make it again this weekend, so I could take pictures and tell you all about it. I went to the basement to find my Bundt pan, and sitting next to it on the shelf were my mini Bundt pans. I decided to make a double recipe and make a big cake as well as some minis. An applepalooza around here! My husband was so happy.

I decided to use a mix of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp apples. You want some tart apples in this dish that will hold their shape when baked.

The apples get peeled and sliced into wedges for a big cake or diced for the mini cakes. Then the apples are then bathed in a sugar cinnamon mixture.

No need to take out your mixer for this cake. Everything gets mixed together in a big bowl. Whisk eggs, vegetable (or coconut) oil, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla extract together. Lately I have been using vanilla bean paste, instead of vanilla extract. You get those pretty vanilla flecks in the cake.

Then the dry ingredients are added to the wet and the whole batter gets mixed. You will think that there is no way all the dry ingredients will get incorporated, as this is such a heavy dense batter. But persist, use some elbow grease and it will all come together. Just think of all the calories you will be burning in advance of eating this cake!

Then the cake gets assembled. It’s a little like making lasagna. Layer 1/3 of the batter into the pan. Arrange one half of the apples on top, then more batter, a second layer of apples and finally the last third of the batter.

The minis are just so adorable!

Once the second layer of apples are covered with batter, into the oven it goes. While it is baking, you can prepare the caramel glaze. Butter, brown sugar and heavy cream are cooked until hot and bubbly.

Once the cake comes out of the oven, it’s time to add the caramel. Now I’ll share with you the secret to what makes this cake so incredible.

Then you must exercise extreme patience and let the cake cool COMPLETELY, before trying to unmold it. Looking at the sad bottom of this cake, all riddled with holes may have you a little concerned. Then you unmold it and it just looks like a boring Plain Jane Bundt cake. But wait, yee of little faith.  Slice into it and taste. You will be a believer!

Click here to print recipe for Caramel Apple cake.

Farro Pilaf with Apples and Raisins

 

Let me begin by apologizing.  Usually when you open up a new post from me you are greeted with a mouth-watering photo of something delicious to eat.  We have a problem here.  This Farro Pilaf with Apples and Raisins is not the most photogenic thing I have ever made.  But do not stop reading here!  I beg of you to be patient and continue on.  Farro-Apple pilaf combines my two newest food obsessions.

First we have farro.  I have fallen hard for Farro!  No, not the Egyptian Pharaoh!  Farro is a Roman grain, cultivated originally by European farmers as far back as 5000 B.C.  Although it is ancient, it seems to be the new darling of the culinary world and is making a big time comeback.  I accidentally stumbled across it when I was doing a search for Tabbouleh on epicurious.com.  I found a recipe for Farro and Pine Nut Tabbouleh.  Intrigued, I printed it out and put it in my “to try” pile.

The next week, I was watching Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network, and she made Cheesy Baked Farro, essentially macaroni and cheese but prepared with farro instead of macaroni. Now I just have to say, for the record, that I love Giada!  I think she has great recipes and she seems like a really fun gal to hang out with.  But I just wish she would cover up that cleavage a little.  Ok, rant over.

Two farro recipe sightings in less than a week.  Now my curiosity was definitely piqued.  I had to try this grain.  However, getting hold of farro was no simple task.  I called around to several local food stores.  Two of them said they had never heard of farro, while the other two said that in Canada, farro was sold under the name spelt.  Then, remembering that farro was Italian, I called Nicastros, Ottawa’s largest Italian food purveyor.  Yes, they told me, they sell “farro in chicchi”.

I came back from Nicastros with 2 boxes of farro.  Both were imported from Italy.  One is made by Martelli and the other is by Pantanella.  Interestingly, on the ingredient list of one box, it says, “100% Spelt”.  On the other box it says, “100% Farro, Spelt, Epautre”.  What??  No wonder people are confused.  I decided to consult Mark Bittman (or Bitty, as Gwyneth Paltrow calls him in “Spain, on the Road Again” on PBS), author of “How to Cook Everything”, and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”.  These books are the modern day equivalent of Joy of Cooking.”

And of course, Bitty cleared things up for me.  Farro and spelt are often confused for each other.  Both are ancient grains from the wheat family. Farro cooks in about 20 -30 minutes and retains a chewy, toothsome texture while spelt takes 60-90 minutes to cook and has the tendency to turn gummy or mushy.  Farro is extremely versatile and can be used in soups, pilafs, risottos or cold grain salads.  It has become my new comfort food.  Plus, it is low in gluten, high in protein, helps fight insomnia and regulates cholesterol levels.  How could I not fall for Farro?

And then we have my second obsession, apples.  Honeycrisp Apples!  Who knew?  Apparently everybody but me.  These apples even have their own facebook page!  These apples hit the market in the fall of 1991.  I just discovered them a few months ago.  Where have I been?  To be fair, I was a little preoccupied in the early 90’s.  By the spring of 1993 I had a 3 year old, a 19 month old and a newborn to care for.  All three were in diapers, so cut me some slack.  But still, my kids are now 21, 19 and 17.  I pride myself on being knowledgeable about new food trends and products, (I’m hot on the trail of cacoa nibs  right now, but that’s a story for another time) but somehow, I missed the boat on this one.

In September, my daughter returned from a a farmer’s market with a big bag of Honeycrisp Apples.  She was positively gushing over them.  Gushing over apples?  This is my child whose first word was “Chocolate.”  I took one bite and suddenly I understood.  This is an explosively crisp apple. It snaps when you bite it.   It is crunchy and juicy all at the same time.  It is so refreshing to eat.  Sorry, was I gushing there?  You will too when you try one.  Oh, maybe you already know about them.  Maybe I really have been living under a rock.  If so, forgive me.

My curiosity led me to a search on where these apples came from.  It’s actually a pretty funny story.  The University of Minnesota has egg on it’s face over this one.  As is the case of most modern hybrid apples, the final product is the result of a lengthy breeding process, experimenting with cross after cross to get the optimal result.  When they finally had an apple they were pleased with, they sent it to market under the Honeycrisp name.  They believed that the parents were  “Honeygold” and  “Macoun”.  However, genetic fingerprinting revealed the shocking truth that neither of these apples were Honeycrisp’s parents.  They knew for certain that one parent was “Keepsake” but the other parent has not yet been identified.  If you know who it is, please advise the University of Minnesota.  Inquiring minds want to know.

I will admit that Honeycrisp apples are best in the fall.  They lose a bit of their “refreshing” nature as they mature.  However, that being said, I boutght a big bag at Costco this week and they were still pretty fantastic.  I decided to combine my two new loves, Honeycrisp and Farro, into one fabulous dish.

Farro can be cooked like pasta, where you boil it in a large quantity of water and then drain it and add it to all the other ingredients.  Or it can be cooked like a rice pilaf, where you saute some onions in oil or butter, then add the farro to coat it in the fat and then add stock and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the farro is tender.  I used the pilaf method.  I decided to add apples and raisins for their delicious sweetness and then I finished the dish with some freshly chopped Italian parsley.  It is absent from the photo as I forgot to add it!  But it really finishes the dish with a fresh note.

To print this recipe, click here.

I’d love to hear from you!