Saturday, October 27, 2012

Apples, apples everywhere - Apple Nut Turnovers, Apple Cider Syrup and Glace Apple Slices!!

Isn't that Glace apple slice a thing of beauty - I just saw the recipe for it by accident on Pinterest while I was oogling a recipe for something else and I realized I just had to make them - they were surprisingly easy, turned out just beautifully and taste like a slice of toffee apple - YUM. Propping up the glace delight is a delicious Apple and Nut Turnover - equally as good and delicious created from a recipe in Country Harvest by Linda Burgess and Rosamond Richardson - a simply lovely book full of cosy photos and excellently reliable recipes for the Autumn season.
 To make your turnovers you'll need to start with making your pastry first as you'll want to bob it in the fridge for at least an hour before you start baking.

Pate Brisee by Martha

This is good for 4 nice sized turnovers - this recipe doubles well.

1 1/4 cups/5ozs of white flour - I also added 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg to the flour just for a little extra autumn flavour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick/4oz butter I always use salted, VERY cold
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice cold water

1. Sift the flour and add the sugar and blend.
2. Grate the butter into the flour.
3. Gently work butter into flour until it resembles coarse meal or swish in a food processor to achieve the same.
4. Add some of the water and test to see if it comes together, if not keep adding water until the dough will squush into a non-sticky ball.
5. Put into the fridge to rest for at least one hour - or as long as you like.

Whilst the dough is chilling you can make the other component parts:
APPLE CIDER SYRUP - make lots of this it is really good on pretty much ANYTHING!

If you use 8fl ounces of apple cider (that would be juice in England not alcoholic cider) all you have to do is gently boil it down until there is only 4 fl ounces left - that's it! When it cools it will go syrupy - if it doesn't, depending on the water content of your juice, then just simmer it a bit more. Allow to cool.

FILLING FOR TURNOVERS - refer to this chart for the type of apples you want to use - I used Braeburns which turned a nice pink and didn't break down in cooking but if you want more filling in your turnover maybe you'll want to chose an apple that turns mushy.

12ozs of apples chopped into bite sized pieces - about 3 medium sized apples
1oz sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon - I'm not a big cinnamon girl but it seemed right in this recipe and this is a small amount
2oz toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans or almonds chopped - I used walnuts.
 1 fl oz/1/8 cup water
1oz butter
4 tablespoons apple cider syrup

1. Cook the apples in the water along with the sugar and cinnamon until mushy if you are using mushy apples or nicely cooked if you are using non mushy, as below:
 2. Fold in the nuts and syrup and allow to cool.
2 1/2oz brown sugar
 1 1/2 oz butter
2 tablespoons cream or half and half
6 tablespoons apple cider syrup

1. Heat sugar, cream and butter together in a small pan until sugar has dissolved and allow to bubble for a minute or so.
2. Add the apple cider syrup and stir - keep warm but not hot.

GLACE APPLE SLICES - wee hee I love these - found the recipe here.
Here's my interpretation: Set oven at 350F and grease a baking sheet lightly with butter.
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 small apple sliced fine on a mandolin - I think I did my slices much thinner than in the MyRecipes recipe but they worked out well - also they don't mention it's hard to get a whole apple slice the way it looks in their picture - and if you do get a whole slice you aren't getting too many of them because they'll only come from the middle part of the apple - so don't be disappointed if most of your slices are just circles with no character. MyRecipes also didn't mention that you need to use a non mushy making apple as mentioned above so check your apples are sufficiently sturdy :)
1. Bring water and sugar to a boil.
2. Allow to boil gently for a couple of minutes.
3. Add a few apple slices and stir them around gently - watch them go transparent pretty quickly especially so if your slices are as thin as mine.
4. When they are transparent gingerly move them to the baking tray -
 - I found tongs were the best way to do this - flatten them out as best you can and bob into the oven for about 5 minutes to start - check how they are if they are starting to go golden they are ready - they actually went white again for me which confused me but when I took them out and put them on a cooling rack they went transparent again. You may have to play with this a little to get them right but you can put them in and out of the oven until they go crisp when cold. DO make sure you take them off the baking tray and put on a cooling rack whilst they are still pretty hot though or they'll stick. Don't throw away the apple simple syrup you have now made - there's always something you can do with it!
  Now to assemble your turnovers.
Set your oven to 350F.
You will need one beaten egg yolk.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out to a square about 12 x 12" and cut into four even squares:
Bob 2 tablespoons or so of the apple mix onto the square thus:
 Dab some of the beaten yolk along the 2 front edges and fold the pastry in half over the filling to form a triangle - press with a fork along the edges to press the top and bottom pastries together - you don't want any gaps or holes of the filling will ooze out whilst cooking. Now wash the top of the turnovers with more egg yolk and a goodly sprinkling of sugar:
Can you believe how yellow my egg yolk is - it's from Farmetta Farm - best eggs around!
 ...and into the oven with them for about 20 minutes until golden brown and piping hot.
 Allow to cool slightly, cover with the sticky toffee sauce and some of the apple mix if you have any leftover - decorate with a glace apple slice or two and off you go - these are SO GOOD!!!!!
If you make these please feel free to post on my Facebook page - I'd love to hear about it!
Here's an excellent apple usage chart from Pocket Change Gourmet and some more info on apple varieties HERE
Until quite recently I thought all apples were created equal and didn't know you used different varieties for different things - now I know!!
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Maxfield Parrish kind of day in Maine.

I have always been very enamoured of the artwork of Maxfield Parrish and love the glimmering glow he achieved in his paintings - a process of layering thin paint 'washes' with alternating ones of varnish - a very clever technique that took inordinately long as each layer needed to dry between coats BUT until I moved to Maine I didn't realize he was basically emulating the amazing almost incandescent glow that is beheld in the scenery of New England at this time of the year. Most especially at twilight - when the leaves seem to be lit from within - I wonder if they are in fact ultraviolet or infrared and what the insects hereabouts are seeing with their superior vision. I cannot describe these colours to you so here, without further waffling, I give you an abundance of photographs that cannot do the scenery justice but give an inkling of the beauty here right now.

and lo - an industrious squirrel has been using an ancient apple tree as a butternut locker -
and also a plate - the treasures have been wedged in here for said squirrel to sit steadfast on the branch and nibble delicately at his treats - clever little thing :)
May your Autumn be as colourful!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rock Cakes - simple, sweet and quick

Thus called because you mound them in craggy peaks to bake and hope they stay that way. My Mum made these a lot when I was growing up in Manchester and I think I also remember being taught how to make them in Domestic Science class at school - they are pretty much a no fail delight - very easy and nigh on impossible to mess up even for a beginner baker. They taste to me how I wished scones tasted - sweeter and more cakey and they cry out for butter and either jam, honey, lemon curd or even Golden Syrup - they are a mish mash blend of biscuit/cookie/cake/scone and are such a nice treat with a cuppa.

The ingredients are simple:
 and the recipe I used is from "A Tale of 12 Kitchens" by Jake Tilson - family cooking in 4 countries, "every aspect has been created by artist and passionate cook Jake Tilson" - a fun and image filled book.

Pre heat the oven to 375F. Have a buttered baking sheet to hand.

As usual I give the ingredients in weights as you get a more reliable result :)
This recipe makes 8 medium sized cakes/buns

8oz white flour, unbleached preferably
5oz sugar preferably white
4oz/1 stick of butter (I always use salted Kate's but you can use whichever you prefer)
4oz sultanas/white raisins - I only had regular raisins so I used those.
1 large egg whisked with 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
Pinch of salt

1. Put flour, sugar and salt in a bowl or the bowl of a food processor - chop butter in and either whizz in the machine or as I do because I love the process of baking - gently rub the butter into the flour with your hands until you get a mixture that looks like fine breadcrumbs thus:
 2. Add the raisins and stir to distribute evenly.
3. Stir in the egg/milk mix until the dough comes together.
4. Using a fork pile into craggy heaps onto a buttered baking sheet - 8 piles should do the trick. (You'll see below I only have 4 because I try out the recipe cut in half first in case it doesn't work - plus there are only 2 of us and if I always bake the whole amount we will always eat the whole amount :)

 5. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown
Mine spread quite a lot which I was worried about at first because they weren't looking rocky enough for me but they tasted so good I didn't care and I will make them again the very same way.

Do let me know if you make them and feel free to post pics of such on my Facebook page - HERE!!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Autumn's glow continues and I find a new friend.

In between torrential downpours, big blows and days of mist and mizzleness I managed to take these photographs of Autumn 2012 in and around Belfast, Maine. I just love the patterning of the leaves against the sky - perfect textile designs in the making.

Asters and Rose Hips
My new friend Bert the Porcupine chowing down on Blueberry Hill
Grove Cemetery, Belfast, Maine

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”

by Humbert Wolfe 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Toffee Apples - epic fail and now we're talking!!

This is how an old fashioned toffee apple should look :)
This is NOT how a toffee apple should look :(
Not only is the toffee sliding off but also the colour of the toffee means it got too well cooked and tasted burnt :(
So what happened? The fail apple was a lovely crunchy organic apple and I thought it would be perfect for a toffee apple - I did read up first about making toffee apples and most said either wipe very well or even boil in hot water for a minute or two to remove the food wax used on apples to keep them fresh - I thought maybe organic apples didn't have the wax but I was incorrect and indeed they do - there are 3 reasons your toffee won't stick to your apples 1. Food wax coating - 2. The apple is too cold - 3. The apple has ANY moisture on it - so avail yourself of a unwaxed apple that is warm and completely dry. Some recipes also said that the toffee should go all the way up to the stick and partially coat it and that helps the toffee stick to the apple but I wanted to see some of the apple and the recipe worked the second time without doing this - but of course you can do it either way.

The top successful apple is a Belle de Boskoop apple from a nearby orchard in Unity Maine which for sure didn't have any wax - it had that nice dry hand old fashioned apples have - it also is a GREAT apple for toffeeing because it is super crunchy, juicy and tangy in flavour - not too sweet but also not too sour.

The taste of a good toffee apple is a wonderful thing - the thin cracky, sweet crunch of the toffee and then the crispness and sharp juice of the apple is such a great combination and reminds me of all the fairs I went to as a child in England. Toffee apples have been a great favourite at Autumn Fairs since Medieval times when they were coated in honey and beeswax - hmmm - not sure about that.

So off we go - it's a simple recipe but it's not easy. It can also be dangerous - hot melted sugar can give you a VERY bad burn so be careful - I recommend children should watch whilst adults make the recipe and children should be adult supervised every second of this recipe - so BE CAREFUL!!!!!  You do need just one special ingredient and that's Tate and Lyle's Golden Syrup - a very delicious sugary treat that tastes not only sweet but buttery too - it is available at the Belfast Coop for local friends and lots of Supermarkets now carry it too - it is an essential ingredient of many British Puddings like Treacle Tart - yes I know it's called Treacle (molasses) Tart but it's made with Golden Syrup!! - I think maybe you could use corn syrup instead of the Golden Syrup but am not sure.

You may have to make this recipe a couple of times to get it right and read up on what other recipes say just to get a feel for the process. Always read the recipe through first to get a sense of what you will be doing and when.

This is enough for 4 medium sized apples that are warm, DRY and free of food wax - you can pre boil the apples for a couple of minutes if you think your apples are waxed, which they probably are, spear the apples with the lolly sticks or twigs, I used twigs from our apple tree, before you get started and make sure they are in there securely for when you twirl in the pan to coat. 

Have a tray covered in parchment/wax paper ready to put the apples on when they are coated. DO NOT taste or touch the toffee while it is hot!!!!! 

Weighing the ingredients is important to get the toffee right:

8ozs sugar 
2oz butter
4oz Golden Syrup
3 fluid ounces water
Big pinch of salt (if you like that salted caramel flavour so au courant)
Tiny pinch of cream of tartar - I used it in the first recipe that didn't work and not in the second that did so maybe this ingredient isn't that important! 

1. Put all ingredients in a small, deep pan preferably with a heavy bottom.
2. Bring quickly to a rapid bubbling boil and if you have a reliable candy thermometer head for soft crack stage which is about 280F (all the books and recipes I have looked at have different temps for the different stages and I plonked with a number in the mid range of them all) - my thermometer is rubbish - you can check the efficacy of yours by testing it in a pan of boiling water and it should read 212F or 100C at sea level -  so I went by the colour and look of the bubbles and also by dropping drops of the toffee into a cold glass of water - I found when the drops kept their shape and left a thread that was right for my mix but sweet/candy making is not so easy to do and sometimes it doesn't work according to the recipe (sorry!) - I am surprised mine worked yesterday as it was very humid here in Maine and that can very adversely affect the mixture so do try to chose a dry day if you can. Anyhow this is how the bubbles looked just before I took the mix off the heat - they got a somewhat milky look and were viscose and thick - more like lava than boiling water - just don't let it get above 280 or start getting too dark - which it can do VERY quickly.
 Now you have to work quickly - dip and twirl the apples to get a nice coat of toffee - let them drip a little and then deposit on said parchment paper to set - they will take quite a while to cool - maybe an hour or so. By the third apple the toffee may be starting to set so bob back on the stove again but make sure not to let the toffee catch and burn on the bottom of the pan. Any leftover toffee can be poured onto the parchment and left to cool then hit with a blunt instrument to crack into lovely buttery toffee pieces - yummmmm

Ta dah - my delicious toffee apple - wee heee....only one came out nice enough to photograph - so don't be dismayed if yours aren't 'perfect' - they're homemade and should look like it :))) Do you think I got a little carried away with the apple twig in this one?
 One with extra toffee on the side.

 I recently read a book about confectionery through the ages "Sugar Plums and Sherbert - the Prehistory of Sweets" by Laura Mason and learned how fickle and hard toffee making can be - a very exact science in an inexact world - it amazes me that people in the 15 century were making wildly elaborate confections in big cauldrons over wood fires - boy did they know what they were doing but then again they did naught else - no shopping online, answering e-mails , texting their thumbs off, watching telly - you know!!

So let me know how you go with your toffee apple making, please feel free to post pics on my Facebook page HERE and here are some delightful scenes from this Autumn in Maine - these pictures aren't so much about the glow of Fall, which hasn't happened too much yet, as about the beauty of the tapestry like textures and colours that abound at this time of year. In my mind they could all be beautiful textile designs.