Sunday, November 4, 2012

New Life for Caramel Apples

The other day, Nick and Mark made caramel apples.  Unfortunately they aren't like me and used box mix, so it was a little strange.  Very chewy.  Like, rip your teeth out chewy.  So a lot of the apples went to waste; they were put into Tupperware containers and forgotten.  The caramel sort of melted off them, but the apples were still sticky.  I didn't want to waste a bunch of perfectly good, if sticky, apples, so I found a couple apple recipes to bring to my aunt's baby shower today.

First, last night I made cookies.  I used a recipe from one of the magazines that Mark got me this week.  The recipe called for frosting on the cookies, but I didn't feel like they needed it.  They certainly would have looked better - my drop cookies always end up looking pretty asymmetrical - but they were pretty darn good without any frosting.  They are spiced with all sorts of great fall spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and they have apple cider in them too, along with chopped apples and walnuts.  I actually had only 1/4 cup walnuts when it called for a cup, which I prefer anyway.  I ended up peeling the apple right in its Tupperware, hacking off pieces, and chopping them up for the cookies!  Mom and Susie were here last night when I baked them, and they loved them; they agreed there was no need for frosting. The bites with apple are my favorite!

In addition I made dinner for me, Mom and Susie last night.  I knew since it was just us, I could make something I have been dying to try: mushroom stroganoff.  I love beef stroganoff - just not the beef part.  And I adore mushrooms.  So this meal was perfect for me: mushrooms, creamy sauce, egg noodles - and to top it all off, it's from Skinny Taste!  A low fat, meatless, delicious dinner?  Pefect.  The sauce has some surprising ingredients, like tomato paste (it hides in there, I swear you'd never know there was tomato!), beef broth, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce.  The recipe calls for 3 different types of mushrooms, but my local store only had button mushrooms, and so buttons it was.  As always, I added in more pasta than the recipe called for, which might have been a bad idea because the leftovers look pretty dry now, but last night everything was delicious!  So much flavor for a quick, meatless, low fat meal!

This morning, I salvaged another apple and made baked apple cider donut holes.  If you try to make these, try not to look at the pictures; your end results will look nothing like them!  They look more like pumpkin donut holes... and these look more like lumpy roundish cookies... so I was really nervous.  I was also concerned that my "batter" was not really a batter.  It was much more like a dry dough.  But I mashed it into a mini muffin tin and it came out just fine.  I was nervous they'd be dry since the batter was, but the cup and a half of chopped apple definitely made up for the lack of liquid in the dough.  It didn't hurt that they are brushed with butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  I got some compliments on them, and Rachael ate three for dinner.  I brought a plate of these and the cookies to the shower.

Tonight I made guacamole.  I don't know why it has taken me this long to make my own guac, because I adore this stuff.  It's so easy and quick to throw it together soon.  I need to keep avocados on hand more often.  Tracy said she doesn't usually like guacamole but loved mine, and Kelsey agreed.  This was a big hit, and we ate a whole bag of tortilla chips with it!

I also made another baked Alaska.  My mother has been begging me for it ever since I made the other one Thursday.  It really is not very hard to make - it just takes a while.  If you want to try one, I recommend changing the order of the steps.  I will post it just the way good old Martha intended, but the longest "wait" time is once you have the ice cream scooped into the bowl and you put it in the freezer for two hours.  I'd do that first, and then you can do the other two layers while the ice cream freezes.  Then, it is possible to start this and eat it within 2 and a half hours, which is not so bad considering the fancy schmancy outcome that you get!  The grocery store downtown didn't have pistachio ice cream, so I used maple walnut.  I was worried this would clash really badly with the cherry ice cream, but everyone loved it again just like last time.  I don't even bother having any so I don't see the big craziness about this dish, but people go nuts for it!

baked apple cider donut holes

spiced apple drops
from 100 Best Cookies (Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications, 2012)
makes about 40 cookies

1/2 cup softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg
1/4 cup apple juice or apple cider (I used cider!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped, peeled apple
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 recipe apple frosting (optional; I didn't use it)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves.  Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. 

2) Beat in egg and apple juice until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour, along with the apple and walnuts.

3) Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute.  Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool.  Frost cookies with apple frosting.

Apple frosting: In a large bowl, beat 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and enough apple juice (3-4 tablespoons) with an electric mixer to make frosting a spreadable consistency.

baked Alaska
from Martha Stewart

6 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated                                       
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 pints pistachio ice cream, slightly softened
1 1/2 pints cherry ice cream or berry sorbet, slightly softened
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 recipe Swiss meringue frosting (see below)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.

  2. Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and the egg yolks in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; whisk, on medium speed, until pale yellow and thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla, and fold in melted chocolate just to combine.

  3. In a medium bowl, combine egg whites and pinch of salt in bowl of electric mixer; whip, on medium speed, until frothy. Add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar; beat until stiff. Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

  4. Carefully pour batter out into prepared cake pan. Bake until cake is set and top is dull, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack.

  5. Spray a 5-cup-capacity metal bowl with cooking spray; line with plastic. Pack base of bowl with pistachio ice cream; layer cherry ice cream over pistachio, then finish with another layer of pistachio ice cream (or layer ice creams and sorbets as you desire). Pack firmly, cover surface with plastic wrap, and place in freezer. Freeze until ice cream is very hard, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours in advance.

  6. Place cake on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Remove ice cream from the freezer, and invert bowl over cake. Keep the ice cream covered with plastic wrap, and return ice-cream cake to the freezer.

  7. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.Fill a pastry bag, fitted with an Ateco #5 star tip, with meringue; pipe onto ice cream in a decorative fashion, or spoon meringue over ice cream and swirl with a rubber spatula (that's what I do). If ice cream starts to soften, return cake to freezer for 15 minutes.

  8. Place in oven, and bake until meringue just starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve immediately.
Swiss meringue frosting:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1.  Fill medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.
2.  Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing between your fingers.
3. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use meringue immediately.

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