Monday, October 28, 2019

Brown Butter Apple Blondies

  Every so often, I'll receive a text from someone with a link to a recipe. Usually it will contain a message that says something along the lines of "this needs to happen" or "when are we making this?"  That's exactly how this recipe came to me, from my sister, Cathy. She sent me the link with a text that simply said "Yum." Clearly, that says it all! Browned butter, apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon?? What's not to love?  It has "This needs to happen" written all over it. Apple desserts are my absolute favorite, so I knew I needed to try it, especially since the recipe is from Sally's Baking Addition. (Seriously, if you've never checked out her blog, stop what you're doing right now and go check it out!!) This is a great party dessert because it's always good to have a sweet picky uppy something for your guests. Halloween? Thanksgiving? Christmas? They go with any holiday! Of course, they're also perfect for just any day when your kids want a little after school snack. SO good!
Cath, you were absolutely right about this one. YUM!

2 cups peeled chopped apples (about 2 medium apples) 
2 tbs pure maple syrup (or brown sugar) 
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces* 
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 
1 2/3 cups packed light or dark brown sugar 
2 large eggs, at room temperature 
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Brown Butter Icing:
1/4 cup unsalted butter 
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar 
2 tbs milk 
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

  1. Important before you begin! I recommend browning the butter for the blondies and icing first. You can brown the butter for both the blondies AND the icing together. Once it’s all browned, set 4 Tablespoons (2 liquid ounces) aside for the icing in step 8. The rest (8 liquid ounces) is for the blondie batter, used in step 6.
  2. Brown the butter: Slice the butter into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep stirring. After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning and you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan. You will smell a nutty aroma. See photo and video above for a visual. Once browned, immediately remove from heat, pour into a heat-proof bowl, and set aside until ready to use.
  3. Prepare the apples: Meanwhile, return the pan to the stove. (No need to rinse out!) Add the apples, maple syrup/brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir and cook over medium heat until apples have slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes. Set apples aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished blondies out (makes cutting easier!). Set aside.
  5. Make the blondies: Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup browned butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the apples. Batter will be thick.
  7. Evenly spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out *mostly* clean. Remove from the oven and allow the blondies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
  8. Brown butter icing: Heat the remaining 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) of brown butter in the microwave for a few seconds since it has likely solidified by now. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. If needed, add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken or more milk to thin out. Drizzle over cooled blondies, then cut into squares.

Normally, I would tweak a recipe to suit my own taste, but this one is already perfect. In fact, I even left the directions exactly as Sally has written them, because there was no reason to change them!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Cheesy Dapper Apple Squares

  Do you like the combination of salty and sweet? I love love LOVE it, so it's always exciting when I find a new recipe with that particular dynamic. Usually my go-to is anything with salted caramel, but then I found this recipe. It uses a classic paring, apples and cheddar cheese, which is a marriage made in salty sweet culinary heaven! I once read an article that said "apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze!" I guess I can't argue with that, huh?
 Now, if you've never heard of serving sharp cheese with apples, think of a fancy schmancy party where they serve different kinds of wine with a plate of different fruits and cheeses. It's the same thing! They just GO together. I've heard of melting slices of cheddar cheese over a warm apple pie, I've also heard of cheese being baked right into the pie crust, but I've never seen it baked into a layered apple square such as this. It's fabulous! I found this exact recipe on several websites and no one seems to vary it very much, so I immediately knew that it would be pretty perfect as is. I think I read somewhere that it's a Pillsbury Bake Off winning recipe, but I have no idea exactly who came up with it in the first place. I saw another comment that said she has been making this recipe for over twenty years, so it just goes to show you that you just can't beat something that stands the test of time.
 Give this recipe a go for your next Fall get together. Halloween Party? Thanksgiving? Or just any random day you're feeling a little salty and sweet. It's definitely a new favorite!!!

1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
6 oz extra sharp Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
2-1/2 cups baking apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts or slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, baking soda, and butter. Set aside 1-1/2 cups of the crumb mixture and pat the rest into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Place the cheese slices on top of the crumb mixture.
In a medium-size bowl, combine the apples and granulated sugar. Layer over the cheese. Add the nuts to the reserved crumb mixture and sprinkle over the apples. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely, or chill,  then cut into 2-inch squares.

Extra sharp cheese is definitely the way to go here. You really don't want a mild Cheddar because it needs to stand up against the sweet. 
The only variation I saw on all of the sites I read was the addition of a little cinnamon in the crust. I contemplated adding spices, but decided against it because I didn't want it to compete with the sharpness of the cheese. I'm sure it will work whichever way you decide to go.
Instead of doing slices of cheese, I finely shredded mine. It just seemed to me that I could have more even coverage with the shreds. Tbh, I wanted MORE cheese, so I think I'll add a little extra next time.
And since I was using sweet Honeycrisp apples instead of a tart Granny Smith, I added a little spritz of lemon juice when I tossed the apple slices with the sugar, just to brighten the flavor a bit.  I left out the chopped nuts because I didn't hand any on hand, but you do you!
Oh, one other thing.. I've seen this recipe on some sites that say to grease the pan, others say ungreased. Anytime I'm making dessert squares, I always line the pan with parchment paper because it not only makes it easy to lift the whole batch out of the pan in one piece, but it also gives a little extra nonstick insurance, which is always a good thing.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Spiced Apple Chili

  What? Apples in CHILI? I know. I know. It sounds crazy, but just go with me on this one. Have I ever lied to you before? Seriously, it's one of the best chilis I've ever tasted! The apples bring a little hint of sweetness to the party, and the warm spices round everything out. So, with all the apples and cinnamon, you're probably thinking "does it taste like apple pie?" Nope! Not at all! It just tastes like a fabulous bowl of chili with a tiny little tweak, that's all. And the apples bring a heartiness to the dish, kind of in the same way that potatoes do in a beef stew. It's super easy to make too! You brown the beef and then basically just throw everything in the pot and let it simmer. It's ready in about an hour! Easy, right? Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the recipe is from Taste of Home, so you know it's tried and true and test kitchen approved. It's just plain delicious! I like mine with shredded Cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream, but you do you!

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
3 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 cups beef broth
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 can (15oz) chili beans, undrained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Optional toppings: shredded white cheddar cheese, diced red onion

 In a Dutch oven, cook and crumble beef with onion over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink, 5-7 minutes; drain. Add tomato paste, spices, and garlic; cook and stir over medium heat 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and broth until blended. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer, covered, until apples are tender and flavors are blended, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with toppings as desired.

One of the things I love about this recipe is the balance of spices. Each one is definitely in the show, but nobody steals the spotlight. The amounts are exactly spot on. The only thing I might do differently is to add a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes for a little spicy hit. I don't like to burn my face off with heat, but just a little spicy poke is pretty nice.
Btw, this would be FABULOUS on a hot dog. Is anyone else thinking Halloween dinner? Who's with me?

Monday, October 7, 2019

Invisible Apple Cake

 Have you ever heard of an Invisible Apple Cake?? I must say I had never heard of it until recently when I was browsing apple recipes. Apparently it's a thing! Now, don't quote me on this, but I believe it's a French thing, and it's now very popular in Japanese cuisine. Who knew? 
 Ok, so what exactly is it? Well, it's lots and lots of VERY thinly sliced apples that are coated and baked with the tiniest amount of very thin batter. Sounds good, right? So, wait... does that mean the cake is invisible or the apples? Seems to me that all you see are the apples and they're being held together by an invisible cake. Yup. I'm going with that. Alrighty then! It's fun to find a new something to bake, isn't it?
 I found many versions... some baked in a loaf pan, some with regular granulated sugar, some with sliced almonds on top... but I decided to try this one from a blog called Seasons and Suppers. I'm sure all the other versions are delicious too, but I liked the idea of using brown sugar and baking it in a round pan.
 Make this for a special occasion, or holiday, or just because you love apples. Serve it at room temperature, chilled, or better yet warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or whipped cream. Or homemade caramel sauce. Or all of the above! I have yet to meet an apple dessert that I don't love, and now I have another one to add to my repertoire! I'm pretty sure the real reason it's called INVISIBLE is that it will disappear in no time! YUM.

6 large Golden Delicious apples peeled 
2 large eggs 
1/4 cup brown sugar 
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp butter 
6 1/2 Tbsp milk 
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
Pinch of salt

 Preheat oven to 400 F.
 Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until very light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Melt the butter in saucepan or microwave bowl. Add the milk and stir well to combine. Allow to cool slightly, then add to the egg/sugar mixture. Mix to combine.
Sift together the flour and baking powder, then sprinkle over the egg/sugar mixture. Mix just until combined.Quarter the peeled apples and remove the core. Use a mandoline to slice each quarter into thin slices. (if you don't have a mandoline, just use a very sharp knife to slice them very thinly by hand.) Add the apple slices to the batter. Gently stir the apples in the batter to ensure all apples are coated. Pour into prepared pan, making sure to fill in all gaps between apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set. If desired, you can turn on the broiler for a minute to brown up the top of the cake. Leave in pan to cool, then run knife around edges and remove outer spring form pan ring. Dust with icing sugar, if desired.

Instead of Golden Delicious apples, I used Honeycrisp. Why? Because they're my favorite! This dessert is not overly sweet, so you definitely want to use a sweeter variety of apple instead of, say, a tart Granny Smith. That would be another reason to serve it with caramel sauce or ice cream, otherwise it doesn't really feel like a DESSERT.
This cake has none of the usual spices in it, but if you're all about the cinnamon and nutmeg, GO FOR IT! You can even use an apple pie spice blend, if you'd like. I think a teaspoon would be plenty! Also I may or may not have been a little heavy handed with the vanilla extract. (I make my own vanilla extract with bourbon, and a little extra bourbon in an apple dessert is definitely not a bad thing!)