Month: October 2015

Caramel And Candied Apples: A Slice Of Sweetness

N. went apple picking last week and brought back enough fruit to make apple quesadillas for a work potluck. Inspired by her adventurous recipe and the bounteous selections of organic apples at the farmer’s market, I bought a few different varieties and made dessert for two.

The small organic apples are a great snack, but their diminutive shape also makes them more manageable to dip in melted caramel or sugar syrup. Playing around with a classic recipe meant that the candied apples didn’t have to the neon-red color that kids adore. Instead, a hint of red highlights their natural appearance. When these caramel or syrup-covered apples are sliced, each piece is covered with just enough sweetness to satisfy sugar cravings!

Caramel Apples

Caramel squares – 5-6 oz. (available in candy aisles in packets containing individually wrapped pieces)

Whole Cream – 1-2 tbsp

Apples – 4

Wooden skewers – 4

Lightly buttered waxed paper (or a few vases) to hold the sticky apples

  • Halve the wooden skewers.
  • Wash the apples and dry them thoroughly. Remove the stalk, and pierce with the skewer. Refrigerate the apple lollipops while you are working with the caramel. (Warm caramel sticks easily to the cold apples)
  • Add the caramel squares to a small pan. On medium heat, melt the caramel. Using the back of a wooden spoon, bring together the separate caramel squares.
  • Add the cream a little at a time, until the melted caramel becomes a thick, gooey mass.
  • Remove the skewered apples from the refrigerator and dip them one at a time into the warm caramel. Tilt the pan as you swirl the apple, to coat it completely and evenly in caramel.
  • Place the coated apple on waxed paper or keep it upright in the vase to catch the drips. Repeat for all the apples.
  • Refrigerate the fruit until the caramel hardens.
  • Remove the apples from the refrigerator about 5 minutes before serving, so that they can be cut easily into slices.

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Candied Apples

Sugar – ½ cup

Light corn syrup – ¼ cup

Water – ¼ cup

Red food coloring – 2-3 drops

Cinnamon stick – 1

Apples – 4

Wooden skewers – 4

Lightly-buttered waxed paper or a vase to hold the sticky apples

  • Halve the wooden skewers.
  • Wash the apples and dry them thoroughly. Remove the stalk with a corer, and pierce with the skewer. Refrigerate the apple lollipops, while working with sugar syrup.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a small pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer for about 20 -25 minutes. The syrup should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick.
  • Remove the skewered apples from the refrigerator and dip them one at a time into the warm sugary mixture. Tilt the pan as you swirl the apple to coat it completely and evenly.
  • Place the syrup-coated apple on waxed paper or keep them upright in the vase to catch the drips. Repeat for all the apples.
  • Refrigerate the fruit until the syrup hardens.
  • Remove them from the refrigerator about 5 minutes before serving, so that they can be cut easily into slices.

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Notes:

  • Apples should be small since this makes them easier to coat. Pick apples that do not have the shiny waxy surface or else they will not coat easily.
  • Look for firm and slightly tart apples as they pair well with caramel.
  • Dip sugar-coated apples into a mix of granola and nuts or crushed pecans for more texture. Flavor with a dash of chili for a combination of spicy and sweet tastes.
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Edible Carvings: Transform The Everyday Meal

The switch to the fall season happens swiftly in grocery stores. Bins piled high with gleaming red apples and yellow-orange gourds reflect autumn colors, replacing the greens of watermelon and zucchini. Soon ,carved pumpkins or even carved turnips (as my relative informed me is customary on the Isle of Man to indicate the start of Celtic New Year) will be filled with candles and light up doorsteps on cold evenings. As I cut and scooped out the flesh of butternut squash and pumpkins on an unusually cold day to make soup, I was reminded of my time with family in Bangkok.

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Thai cooking showcases the aesthetics of visual presentation for even the simplest of meals. This is not the complex carrot birds or mosaic watermelons done in restaurants, but simple shapes of a carrot leaf or a hollowed out fruit. With the use of tools such as a paring knife to carve out a melon petal or a peeler to form ridges on a green mango, every meal is transformed. With this in mind, try using  pumpkin or butternut squash as containers to hold thick stew or curried vegetables and dine visually on a feast of color and texture of fall.

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Onion Rings And Fritters: The Batter Matters

Whenever I am out of town, as I was last week visiting A. and N., I tend to gravitate to foods that I find difficult to make at home. This time around, I picked onion rings as a side dish with my fancy burger. The much-anticipated meal was a disappointment; the onion rings were crisp, but the coating mixture was tasteless. The ideal onion ring has onions with a silky-smooth crunch and a flavorful covering. The pressure to create perfectly golden and crisp rings hardly mattered, as I realized it was all about the batter.

The batter could be made with chickpea flour (besan) and a host of spices as in the Indian version of onion rings (pakora) or tempura, panko crumbs, or flour mixed with milk, buttermilk or beer. Homemade pakora, when I was growing up, was made without a deep fryer or a thermometer to measure the ideal oil temperature of 350-360ºF needed for crisp rings. Not having the right equipment or the grease factor became distant concerns, and flavor won the day.

How To Check If Oil Is Hot Without A Fryer Thermometer:

  • When hot, the oil on the surface has a shimmer and movement.
  • When holding your palm about six-inches above the hot oil, the heat should be felt on your hand.
  • Drop a small amount of batter into the hot oil, and the batter should fluff up or puff up and come sizzling up to the surface. If it is a pale brown, the temperature is perfect to start frying. If brown, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool before checking again.
  • The exposed surface area of the pan or wok should be small to keep the heat from dissipating.

Pakora

Onion – 1

Chickpea flour (besan) – 1 cup

Bicarbonate of soda – ¼ tsp

Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp

Chili powder – 1½ tsp

Garam masala – 1 tsp

Salt – 1-1½ tsp

Water – ½ cup

Vegetable oil – ½ -1 cup

  • Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  • Add the water to make a thick batter.
  • Peel and cut both ends off the onion. Slice in ¼-inch thick rings. Add the sliced onions and mix into the batter.
  • Keep aside for 10-12 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a small wok or deep frying pan.
  • Add a tablespoon of the onion batter to the hot oil. The batter should puff up immediately and start to turn a golden brown. Flip the onion ring over and fry the other side for a few seconds. Don’t overcrowd the wok. Keep rings separate.
  • Remove and drain on a rack to prevent steam from making the rings soft.
  • Serve immediately.

 

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Trifle In October: National Dessert Month

Two of my friends recently shared memories of a dessert that both their mothers had made – a combination of Jell-O, Cool Whip, marshmallows, and canned fruit. They both acknowledged that they wouldn’t make the dessert because of the many processed ingredients, but they still savored the memory. Like most comfort food, the ingredients are a combination of all that is no longer popular, yet together comprise textures and flavors that stay with us forever. My friends’ conversation reminded me of another delicious dessert that had some of the aforementioned unfashionable ingredients.

As October 1 is designated as start of dessert season, it was the time to start with a classic. Trifle is my husband’s favorite pudding from the many years he spent in the U.K.. Without the traditional English ladyfingers and Bird’s Eye custard that are not readily available in the US, I had to tinker with the ingredients. Dessert, after all, should always take us to a happy place. Have an indulgent month!

Trifle

Pound cake – ½ loaf, cut to fit the base and sides of a bowl

Port (or sherry) – 4-5 tbsp. (enough to soak the cake)

Mixed fruit cocktail – 15 oz. can

Strawberries, Raspberries, grapes – 1 cup

Strawberry Jell-O – 6oz packet

Whole Milk – 1 pint

Egg yolks – 4

Sugar – 2 tbsp

Vanilla essence – ½ tsp

Whipping Cream – ½ pt, whipped until it forms firm peaks

  • Use the fruit syrup replacing some of the water needed to prepare the Jell-O according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Cut the fresh fruits into small chunks and mix in with the mixed fruit cocktail.
  • Layer the bottom and sides of the glass bowl with pieces of cake.
  • Pour the port over the cake, making sure all of the pieces are soaked through.
  • Add the fruits on top of the cake.
  • Pour the Jell-O over the fruits and cake. Once cool, refrigerate until the Jell-O is set.
  • Meanwhile, mix the eggs, sugar, and essence together in a bowl.
  • Heat the milk in a pan the milk to just before it starts to boil. Remove from heat.
  • Take a tablespoon of the hot milk and add it to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix. Keep adding a few tablespoons of milk at a time, until the egg-sugar mixture is warm (this is to avoid curdling). Add the egg and milk mixture back into the pan containing milk. On low heat, continue to cook (about 15-18 minutes). The custard is ready when it is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.
  • Pour over the set jelly.
  • Spoon the whipped cream over the custard.
  • Decorate with sliced fruits.

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