Apple Affair

After time apart, I have been reunited with an old flame. The last time I saw him, I knew something wasn’t right, but I just didn’t know how to fix it. I spent a long time staring at him from across the room, too nervous to approach. I finally got up my courage this week, walked right up to him, and said “I need you.”

And I did.

With three pounds of apples to peel, core, and slice, I really did need him.

My poor apple peeler. When we moved out of our old house, I had to break it apart in order to fit into the original box. (Yes, I keep original boxes because I am convinced I will never stop moving.) Somewhere along the way, the springs came undone, and, when I went to reassemble it, I couldn’t get them back on. I tried to force them into place, but I was afraid of breaking it. I left him, looking lonely, in his cubby on my gadget shelf.

I got it into my head this week that I needed to make apple butter. I hadn’t had apple butter in years, and the idea of it made me a little nostalgic for autumn in Georgia. If you haven’t been to the Georgia Apple Festival and you like apples, maybe, you know, you should. It’s gorgeous at that time of year, and, if it’s possible to make something out of apples, you’ll find it there.

I looked up a bunch of pictures of similar apple peelers online and reconstructed it.  It wasn’t hard, but it took a few deep breaths (and maybe a bit of muttering under them).  Eventually, he was good as new.

Apple butter in a slow cooker is super easy. Your house will smell delicious for the entire day, too. My father-in-law came over and immediately asked what I was cooking because it smelled “like Christmas”. That’s never a bad thing.

Spread this on anything.

Spread this on anything.

Apple Butter

Ingredients:
3 pounds of apples (I used Gala; it was about 9 medium apples)
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (use plain white sugar if you don’t have vanilla sugar ready)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Hardware:
Apple peeler – or patience and a knife and vegetable peeler
Various measuring cups and spoons
Immersion blender
Slow cooker
Bit kitchen spoon

Directions:
Dump all your ingredients into the slow cooker. Stir well, cover, and cook on low for 10 hours, stirring occasionally.

Use the immersion blender to puree the mixture. Make as lumpy or smooth as you like. I like mine very smooth and glossy. Be very careful — I rarely say this, but consider eye protection for this step — if it splashes up, it is thick enough already that it will retain heat and sit and burn you. You might be guessing that I’m speaking from experience here. Ow.

Turn heat up to high and cook uncovered for 1 hour to thicken. Remove immediately to a heat-proof jar or container. Store in the fridge once cooled.

I think you could wrap a ribbon around it, give it away, and have a friend forever.

I think you could wrap a ribbon around it, give it away, and have a friend forever.

Back in Business and on a Roll

I’m back on the internet and back in the kitchen.  I feel like Freddie Mercury dancing around, singing, “Don’t stop me now!”

First of all, check out this awesome present I got from my sweet husband:

28 pieces of Pyrexy goodness

28 pieces of Pyrexy goodness

He ordered it online, and it arrived at my parents’ house the same day I did.  One of the pieces shattered in delivery, but it appears it was faulty packaging.  I didn’t want to take the chance of sending the whole thing back and getting another broken piece, so I opted for a partial refund.  Now I have a 27 piece set! I used nine of the pieces last night, on a whim, to make something I’ve been craving for weeks. I found a recipe online that looked good, but it was vegan.  I’m still not vegan.  I have no interest in going vegan ever again.  Once I started changing the vegan items for others, I started playing around more and more with the ingredients until it barely resembled where it started.  I think I must have said “Well, it’s an experiment anyway!” and “Oh, I hope this turns out well!” about 50 times as I was making it!

While they’re not the same as cinnamon rolls, these guys acted as my main inspiration:

And, yes, I do mean the ones that come in the plastic.

And, yes, I do mean the ones that come in the plastic.

I remember eating these bad boys with my dad.  I don’t think I have ever just taken a bite out of one.  I always had to peel it apart, layer by layer, until I got to the softest, most cinnamony part of the center. I don’t even know if pecan swirls actually have pecans in them because that’s sure not in my memory.  All I know is that, as I started to work on my dough in the kitchen last night with my father as my assistant, I couldn’t wait to pull apart some pastry.

Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Ooey Gooey

Ooey Gooey

Ingredients

For the filling:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup honey powder (if you don’t have honey powder, substitute more brown sugar)
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, chopped and divided
dash of salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

For the dough:
2 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour (if you mix your own, go for brown rice, tapioca, and potato starch)
3/4 cup sorghum flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and filled the measuring cup up to 1 1/2 cups with plain milk — I thought the lemon might be too sour in the dough — and let it sit for about 5 minutes), divided
7 tablespoons butter, divided and melted
Spray or extra butter for pan

For the icing:
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup icing sugar
Half of the chopped pecans from the filling mix
3 tablespoons buttermilk (from the dough division)

Hardware
Large mixing bowl
Two small mixing bowls
Three small reserve bowls (milk, flour, butter)
Bowl or pan for melting butter
Pie dish or other round baking dish
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Oven
Microwave or stove for melting butter and heating milk
Whisk
Knife, spoon, and fork
Parchment paper, cling film, or Press ‘N Seal Wrap (worked for me!)

Directions:
Depending on how fast or slow you are in the kitchen, you can go ahead and preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. I waited to start until I was kneading the dough to preheat because I’m slow.

Go ahead and measure out your vinegar and milk, if you don’t use buttermilk, and let it rest to the side.

For the filling, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, honey powder, cinnamon, half of the chopped pecans (1/8 cup or so), and salt in a small mixing bowl.  Stir together with a fork.  When you are sure it is combined, stir in 1 tablespoon melted butter.  When well-combined, it should look like wet sand.  Set aside.

Start on your dough by combining the all purpose flour and sorghum in the large bowl.  Measure out about 1/2 cup and put in a reserve bowl to the side.  Back in the big bowl, add in baking powder, baking soda, and xanthan gum and stir with the wooden spoon.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the milk mixture in a bowl and set aside.  Heat the remaining milk mixture in the microwave or on the stove.  You DO NOT want it boiling or steaming hot.  You only want it warm.  Slowly mix 3 tablespoons of melted butter into the warm milk.  Because the milk is warm, the butter should not curdle the milk and the milk should not congeal the butter back into solids.  Add the milk/butter mixture into the large mixing bowl, stir a few times, and add 2 1/2 more tablespoons of melted butter into the mix.  Stir with the wooden spoon until you can feel resistance and cannot see any lumps of flour (about 45 seconds for me).

Put down a layer of whatever paper you choose for your work surface. I used Press ‘N Seal wrap because it could “stick” to the surface and was thick enough that I could use it as a tool.  If you do use Press ‘N Seal, just make sure that the adhering side is DOWN; the smoother side should be facing up toward you.

Sprinkle about 3/4 of the reserved flour on the surface and dump your dough on top.  Yes, it is a lot of flour.  Yes, you will need it all. Begin working the dough with your hands and kneading in all the flour.  It will be very sticky, and you will probably think you’ve done something wrong.  Keep going!  Once you have integrated all the flour and you’re starting to notice it looking like a real dough, sprinkle the rest of the flour onto it and knead into the dough.

Once you have it all looking nice and like it might have a promising future as a pastry, spread or roll it out into a 10″x12″ rectangle.  If you want a lot of swirl with thinner sides, spread it a bit further than 10 inches, but maintain the 12 inch side. Take 1 tablespoon melted butter (if you’re doing the math, you should have 1/2 tablespoon left!) and spread it over the middle of the dough, all the way to the edges. Go back and get your filling mixture you made earlier and cover all but the very edges of the dough with it.  There is a lot.  I like it that way.  If you want a higher pastry to cinnamon ratio, use a bit less.  But, then, if you don’t like cinnamon, why are you making cinnamon rolls?

Now for the fun part.  It’s where I found the Press ‘N Seal saved the day.  I literally lifted the front and used it to roll the dough over on to itself.  If you are using a different surface, it may do the same thing. If your dough wants to stick, you might need a metal spatula to pry it up.  Once you have the first roll, lightly press down — you don’t want to mash it into the other side, but you do want it to know where it belongs.  Continuing rolling until you have a log.  If the dough splits open at the end, patch it up.  If it’s in the middle, it probably won’t matter.  Cut the log into eight 1 1/2″ slices — I actually cut some of mine thinner and thicker to make some crispy and some smooshy.  It’s up to you.  Arrange them in a circle around the pie dish, and then squish some in the middle, too.  Press down with your palm to spread them out enough to touch.  Brush with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter.

Bake for 24-25 minutes, but, as always, check on them before the timer goes.  You don’t want your hard work to burn because your oven is different than mine!

While they bake, mix up the icing. Whisk together the cream cheese, cinnamon, icing sugar, and buttermilk until it is combined.  I never remember to sift the icing sugar, so it took a little elbow grease to get the lumps out.  Stir in the chopped pecans.

When the rolls are done, let them sit for five minutes before icing them.  Use a spoon to drizzle as much or as little icing as you want. Do not, however, let your mother dunk her finger into the icing bowl. I would pour the whole bowl of icing over her cinnamon roll before I would let that happen!

Oh, and these guys are great the next day.  Store them in the fridge and pop one in the microwave for about 25 seconds to get it soft and warm again.  They are almost just as good.  Trust me, I just did it.

You can let your mother scrape up some of the cinnamon meltinessat the bottom of the pan.  She'll probably do it whether you allow it or not.

You can let your mother scrape up some of the cinnamon meltiness
at the bottom of the pan. She’ll probably do it whether you allow it or not.

Oatmeal Raisin Wonderfulness

I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but recipes that are already gluten-free are so much nicer.  This Christmas, I treated myself to a Babycakes (look how lovely!) cookbook, and I’m finally getting the chance to put it to use.  And, now I have a new favourite dessert.

I made her recipe for oatmeal cookies and crumbled one (and a half, shh) into a bit of greek yogurt.  It was a beautiful combination.

cookie yogurt

The recipe calls for Bob’s Red Mill products, and I definitely suggest you use them.  There are a lot of other gluten-free products on the market, but Bob’s is reliable and makes a great mix of baking flours.  Whenever possible, I buy their flours.  I even found my first Bob’s flour in Belfast today — oat flour — and I’m going back to buy a bunch of it tomorrow!

So, here is the Babycakes recipe for the cookies.  I hope you try it, love it, and run out and buy the book for yourself.

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1 cup [vegan] sugar
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten free oats
1/4 cup ground flax meal
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1 /2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

Hardware:
measuring cups and spoons
mixing bowl
parchment paper
baking sheet
whisk
spatula
oven

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, oats, flax meal, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla stirring with a spatula. Add the raisins and stir until combined.

Bake for 8 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 7 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the parchment for 15 minutes.

Bakers’ Apples

Bakers’ apples are one of my favourite, fairly simple desserts that aren’t quite as terrible for you as they taste. A couple of months ago, my friend Jessica and I had a baking night in her kitchen. It was a success; I produced four lovely apples, and she made a couple dozen chocolate chunk cookies. I feel as though, despite baking being a worldwide hobby, our little night had more to do to a link back home to the southern US than simply a desire for a sugar coma. All forms of baked apples — sweet glazed apple wedges, apple pie, apple strudel, and bakers’ apples — make me think of my childhood, and all are made infinitely better by the addition of a rich vanilla ice cream. This recipe is not an exception.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed (light, fine demerara can be substituted if necessary)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
4 Braeburn apples (my favourite. Fuji will also work well)
4 teaspoons honey
1 pinch of kosher salt

Hardware:
medium bowl for mixing
paring knife
baking sheet or pie dish
refrigerator
small spoon
wooden spoon for mixing (if you don’t like getting your hands dirty)
melon baller (or a teaspoon)
oven

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Combine all the dry ingredients and the butter cubes in the mixing bowl. I recommend combining with your hands because it produces a better texture, but a wooden spoon can be used if you’re squeamish. Rub the ingredients together between your fingertips until you have small clumps in a loose sandy mixture. Place bowl in the refrigerator while you prepare the apples.

Using the paring knife, cut a small bit from the bottom of the apples to create a stable, level surface. Cut into the top of the apples as if you were beginning to carve a pumpkin. It’s easiest to cut a cylindrical cone shape to start. Scoop the rest of the core and seeds out with the melon baller (if you have one) or a small spoon. Be extra careful not to push through the bottom of the apples.

Place the apples on the baking sheet or pie dish and retrieve your earlier mixture from the refrigerator. Pour a teaspoon of honey into each of the apples, trying to coat the inside walls as much as possible. Spoon (or use your hands) the mixture into the apples. Pack firmly until the mixture is heaped on top (and overflowing onto the sides if you’re like me).

Place in oven on top or middle rack for about 40 minutes. Check on them after 30 minutes. You’re looking for the top of the filling to be a lovely golden brown and the apple tender enough for your paring knife to poke through the skins without much resistance. If you can manage, let them cool for 10 minutes before diving in.