Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Apple Digest, or Ways To Use Up a Lot of Apples

Jenean and I went apple picking with our parents this past weekend, a traditional New England fall activity I have actually never done before.  It was fun!  And Seasonally Appropriate!  Festive, even.  The orchard, up in Amesbury MA, is a really beautiful family farm, and seemed to have about 20 varieties of apple tree growing on gorgeous rolling hills. 
Also, they had free range egg-laying chickens, and (heartwarmingly) a hot dog cart!
There were of course delicious apple cider donuts, still hot from the donut-making-fryer (which you could watch in action, plopping rings of batter into the hot fat, and after a brief float, a little metal gate flips them over, and then they float further down to a conveyer belt which dumps them into cinnamon sugar, reminding me of that Homer Price story I loved as a kid).

I went a little nuts in the orchard, and came home with nearly 10 pounds of several kinds of apples.  I assembled a list of recipes I'm going to make to use them all up, and I thought I'd share some here (since this time of year, lots of people might be in my same high-apple-to-human-ratio situation).

My list:
Tarte Tatin (haven't done this yet... I think I might not have the right kind of apples, AND I'd like to use it as an excuse to try making my own puff pastry)
Whole Wheat Apple Muffins (maybe the world's best muffins, see below)
Apple Cheddar Scones (maybe the world's best scones)
Apple Chips (see below)
Apple Brownies
Apple Pie (obviously)
Apple Brandy (My favorite way to make use of the cores and peels and scraps from all my other apple endeavors, see below!)

I think I'll probably run out of apples before I get through all of these.  Incidentally, the first thing on my list should be to eat these raw!  Apples straight from the tree are so juicy and crisp and flavorful, eating them on the spot, in the orchard was maybe the most delicious snack ever.  And slicing them on top of peanut butter toast, with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey seems like an undeniably great breakfast.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
(from King Arthur Flour, by way of smitten kitchen)

These are SO MOIST, and so tasty.  And there really isn't too much sugar, and the chunks of apple are big enough that you really get a juicy tart hit from them throughout.  They come together in about 20 minutes of prep time, and bake up in about 15 minutes.  They keep super well, and are nearly as good on the second and third days, especially if you toast them a little to crisp up their tops.

4 oz (1 cup) whole wheat flour
4.5 oz (1 cup) white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk, sour milk, or a half-and-half mix of yogurt and milk (my go-to)
2 large (or 3 medium) apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks (1/2 inch cubes or even a little bigger)

Preheat oven to 450.  Combine and sift or whisk all the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt).  Cream the butter with the white and brown sugars until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until combined.  Add the buttermilk/yogurt-and-milk, and mix briefly.  Add the dry ingredients, and mix on low until just combined.

Fold in the apple chunks and scoop into muffin tins (greased, or sprayed with baker's spray, or lined with paper liners).  I got 20 standard muffins from this batch, and filled them right to the top (this batter is thick enough that you can get away with over-filling).

Sprinkle the tops with a little brown sugar (or cinnamon sugar, if you'd rather!).   Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 and let them go 5-10 minutes more.  7 more minutes was exactly right for me.  Cool briefly in the tin, then turn out to a rack to cool completely.

Apple Chips
(various internet sources)

I was so excited to find out you can make apple chips (or apple rings) without anything at all besides sheet pans and an oven!  You don't need any ingredients except for the apples themselves.  These make a great snack with popcorn and tea.

2 apples

Using a melon baller (or an apple corer, if you have one!) scoop out the core of the apples, but no need to peel them.
Have two sheet pans lined with parchment or silpats.  Slice the apples into rings as thin as possible.  I used a super sharp knife, but if you have a mandoline slicer big enough for your apples, go for it.

Try for about 1/8 of an inch thick.  (The main thing is to try to keep all your slices pretty similar in thickness, but even that isn't too big a deal - you can remove them as they crisp up and leave thicker ones in longer.)

Lay the slices out on the sheet pans so they don't overlap. 
Bake at 225 for 2 hours, flipping after an hour, then reduce the oven to 200, and leave for another 3-4 hours, until they feel dry and crisp (if you underbake them, you might end up with semi chewy apple rings, which isn't the worst thing that could happen).  Alternatively, you can easily get away with slicing these, throwing them in a 200 oven right from the start, and leaving them all day while you're at work, and have beautiful apple chips waiting for you when you get home (I tested it at 8 hours at 200 degrees, no flipping, perfect apple chips).

Let cool before storing in an airtight container.  These keep well, but they're so crispy and delicious (practically potato chip texture!!) and guilt-free as a snack that we haven't been able to keep them around for long.  I've seen some recipes suggest a sprinkle of cinnamon or even sugar, but they're so good without any addition, so I like to keep them simple.

Apple Brandy
(adapted from a recipe in Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton)

I make this using the saved and frozen scraps from many apples baked into other things.  The freezing step actually aids in releasing more apple juice and flavor into the brandy, I think (I tried it once with unfrozen apples, and it just wasn't as good).

1 quart of frozen apple scraps (OR 3 whole apples, cored and diced, according to Vinton)
1 (750 ml) bottle of brandy (not top quality... not even particularly good!)
1/4 sugar (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Combine everything in a large glass bowl or jar (save the brandy bottle for later).  Cover, and stir once a day for 2 weeks.  Strain and funnel back into the bottle.  Delicious as an after dinner sipping drink, but would be a great addition to caramel sauces, whipped cream, chai, a pan sauce for pork chops, etc.

1 comment:

  1. YUM! Wonderful post on apples! Getting me super inspired! Would love to take my little one apple picking once he's a little older! ;)