Twisted Tuesday: Baked Apple – Apple Pie

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” — Jane Austen

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Jane Austen couldn’t have been more right, and I think if she were alive today, I’d invite her over for this twist on an all time favorite dessert. We could discuss whether it was sense or sensibility that made me decide to make a baked apple apple pie..

I say it was my good sense to utilize my undeniable sensibility.

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I love apples. So it’s no surprise that I love apple pie…and it’s no surprise that I love baked apples. I think that apple pie has a little bit of an edge over the baked apple, because I love the crust so much. But then again, I love the walnuts and raisins in the baked apple. Because I’m so carried away with my love for both apple pie and baked apple, It only made “sense” to me to combine the two… to enjoy the best of both worlds! Sense and Sensibility!

And the best of both worlds these little desserts turned out to be!

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I was happy to find that they not only maintained their shape while they baked, but were soft enough to cut with a fork. Served warm, the syrupy brown sugar mixture just poured from the middle of the apple to mingle with the vanilla ice cream.. Delicious.

These pretty little apples are the perfect dessert to delight your family and friends!

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Baked Apple-Apple Pie
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8”x8” baking dish with vegetable spray.

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The Apples:
4 Apples (your choice in variety)
Juice of one lemon
Carefully core the apples to about 1/4 inch of the bottom of the apple. Peel the apple and discard the skin. Coat the apple with the lemon juice to prevent it from browning.

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Walnut Raisin Filling:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter

Combine the brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, and melted butter in a small bowl. Generously fill the center of each apple with the filling.

Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

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In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together.  Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir.   The dough will be sticky.

Divide the dough in four balls. Use plenty of flour, and roll the first ball into a 1/8” thick circle. Place an apple in the center, and begin to fold the dough up around the apple, slicing the dough to fit the apple until the whole apple is covered in dough. Roll the scraps and cut two leaves from the dough with a knife. Form a small stem with the dough. Attach by pressing the leaves and the stem to the top of the dough covered apple. Place in the prepared baking dish.

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Bake for an hour or until the apple is tender (test with a knife from the back of the apple), and the crust is golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and caramel sauce.

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Caramel Sauce:

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, and salt over low heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla. Cook for about three minutes until thick and bubbly.

Serve warm over apple pie and ice cream.

Enjoy!

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Spanish Bar Cake

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I’ve never been a fan of spice cake. Now, I say that I’m not a fan, but that does NOT mean that if you put a piece in front of me, I wouldn’t eat it. Quite the contrary, I would eat it, and I would most likely enjoy it. I know. It’s crazy. But it’s cake, and I love cake! Just not spice cake.

Having said all that nonsense, there are times that I’ll get a craving for Spanish Bar Cake. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…. Spanish Bar Cake is basically a spice cake with raisins. But it’s so dense and moist at the same time, and with all of those plump little raisins in every bite, how can I resist?

I’m fickle.
I’m spice cake fickle.

Add cream cheese frosting to the insanity, and I’m over the edge. Throw some walnuts on top, there’s no going back, and you’ll find me heading for that second piece.

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Now ask me about spice cake.
And I’ll tell you I’m in love.

Fickle.

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Spanish Bar Cake

Just a quick note: I had to call my mom for this recipe, as she is the keeper of all things good. While she was reading her ingredient list to me, she said that it calls for two cups of granulated sugar. But then she said that there was a hand written note that said you could use one cup of granulated sugar, and one cup of brown sugar.

After thinking about it for about one-fifth of a second, she said: “I think that’s what you should do. The molasses in the brown sugar will bring such a great flavor to this cake”.

Mom was right. I love her.

Things to do first:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour a 9” x 13” pan

The Ingredients:
3 cups water
2 cups dark raisins
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar (~or~ one cup granulated sugar plus one cup brown sugar)
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
4 cups flour

In a large saucepan, bring the water to boil over high heat. Add the raisins, vegetable shortening, cinnamon, cloves, and coffee to the boiling water. Remove from heat, and let cool.

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In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar(s), and salt until well blended. Add the cooled raisin mixture and beat until well blended, about three minutes.

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Pour into prepared 9” x 13” pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.

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NOTE: Baking time will most likely vary. While this recipe called for 1-hour baking time, it only took 45 minutes in my oven. Keep an eye on the cake while it’s baking.

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Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 – 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
½ cup softened butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Spread over cake, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts if desired.

Enjoy!

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Pear Salad

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After that humungous burger on Thursday night; I was in the mood for a much lighter fare last night…

Before I start…I’d like you to check out Ngan’s blog, and the lovely Pan Roasted Pear Salad with Arugula, Parmesan, and Pecans. Ngan was so kind, and so gracious about me posting my pear salad today, and it’s truly appreciated. We were completely on the same wavelength yesterday with our pear salads…and I still say that great minds think alike!  I’m still overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness of my fellow bloggers. Truly.

I mentioned a couple of months ago, that even though it’s winter, and the perfect time for soups and stews, there are times when I prefer a light salad….especially after a good month of eating nothing but heavy foods, and this salad is absolutely perfect.  It fulfills my desire for both sweet and savory, and I walk away feeling tremendously satisfied.

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My boss took me to the Red Coach Inn in Niagara Falls a couple of weeks ago, and I was completely enamored not only by the atmosphere of the restaurant, but also by the salad that I ordered.  It was a simple poached pear salad, served with dried cranberries, candied walnuts, goat cheese, and a wedge of bibb lettuce , served with a maple fig dressing. It’s usually unlike me to finish a meal, but this one? I cleaned my plate.  The salad, along with the company, was superb.

I loved this salad so much, that I decided to recreate it for Christmas dinner.  As I was writing out my grocery list, I thought that I should change it up a bit.  While I loved the goat cheese with this salad, I really thought that the pear would pair so well with bleu cheese.  I was right.  The tang of the bleu cheese and the sweetness of the pear really danced. I mean, really, really danced…

I served a buffet on Christmas Day, so I just cut the pears up into little cubes and served it in a big bowl, only for the ease of it all.  But if serving it as an individual salad, then fanning the pear is definitely the way to go, or better yet, poach the pear whole, and make it the centerpiece of the salad. No matter how you serve it, this is truly a beautiful and delicious salad.

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I used butter lettuce, which is really Boston bibb.  I did make the maple fig dressing, but after poaching the pears in my friend Jim’s Chateau Niagara Riesling, I made a Riesling reduction; and added that to the vinaigrette.  It was divine.

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I really wanted some fresh figs to serve with the salad, but all I could only find dried figs.  The dried figs worked out perfectly because they were very fresh, and not very chewy at all.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me anyway; I love dried figs, regardless if they’re soft or hard to chew.  I actually threw them in with the pears as they were poaching, and made a fig jam using the Riesling reduction, and then drizzled the fig balsamic vinegar over the jam. I’ll be making this jam again soon. Delicious. As soon as I can find fresh figs in the stores again, you can be sure I’ll be trying them in this salad.  There is no doubt that they’d be the perfect addition.

The beautiful part of this salad; is that it can be easily made for a crowd, or just as easy to make an individual salad.  Personally?  I’d poach a few pears and store them for up to four days in the refrigerator.  Make another salad, or enjoy the pear on it’s own. Remember to store them in their liquid, which means that if you’re going to make a reduction for the vinaigrette, then you’ll have to split the liquid so you have enough to store them.

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Pear Salad
(Serves Four… Or Two)

Just a quick note.. this recipe really only needs two pears, which is technically good for four salads. Technically.  But for me?  It’s good for two salads.  I need one pear to nibble on while I’m preparing the salad.  Hey, don’t judge!   Try poaching a pear in Riesling, and then not feel the urge to taste it!!  And once you do, there’s no going back….

Trust me.
Throw an extra pear into the wine.

I was discussing this salad yesterday at work with my friend Chris (yes, the chefman), and he asked me if I would be using Bosc pears.  I asked him why, and he told me that Bosc pears are all they ever use at the restaurant. They are the best for poaching.  They’re a pretty shape, and they tend to hold their shape the best.  I didn’t use Bosc for this salad, but I will remember that from now on.  In the past, I’ve used red pears, and D’Anjou on Christmas day.  I have a picture of the D’Anjou that I poached, and he’s absolutely right, they didn’t hold up well in the liquid. I just cut them into cubes. They were still delicious, just a little mushy on the outside.  For this recipe, I used Bartlett. Why not Bosc as the chefman suggested?  Because I had already gone shopping before we had that discussion! Otherwise, Bosc pears, it would have been..

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Here’s what you’ll need:

Butter Lettuce
Bleu Cheese (your favorite kind)
Poached Pears (Recipe to follow)
Candied Walnuts (Recipe to follow)
Fig Jam (Recipe to follow)
Dried Cranberries
Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette (Recipe to follow)

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Poached Pears
3 cups Riesling (or your favorite white or red)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 pears (Bosc, Bartlett, Red…it’s really your personal choice)

Now, here is where you can get really fancy, and add orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise…etc, and that’s really delicious.  But for this recipe, I just wanted a simple pear/wine flavor.  The simplicity works for this salad..

Bring the wine and sugar to a boil, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved.  Reduce to a simmer, and add the pears. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Watch them, the time will vary according to the ripeness of the pear.   Remove from the liquid, and set aside.

If you are going to add the Riesling reduction to the vinaigrette, then continue to simmer the liquid until it reduces to a syrup; it will be about 1/3 of the liquid.  Set aside to use in the vinaigrette and jam.  Store in your refrigerator to use in other dressings, drizzle on roasted vegetables, etc.   Drizzle it over goat cheese and serve with water crackers.  Just don’t let it go to waste!!

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Fig Jam
6 dried figs, 8 if they’re really small
¼ cup Riesling Reduction
Fig Balsamic Vinegar

While the pears are poaching, throw dried figs into the saucepan with them.  Poach the figs for about 15 minutes or so, or until they are softened.  Save a couple of the figs for presentation (and eating) purposes, and throw the other four poached figs into a small food processor along with the Riesling reduction, and process until it turns to jam.  Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar in mini bowls, or on the side of the salad.

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Candied Walnuts
1 cup walnuts
1 tsp butter
½ cup brown sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and brown sugar until the sugar is melted.  Add the walnuts and stir until they’re coated with the sugar mixture.   Pour the walnuts onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes so that the walnuts take on that yummy toasted flavor.  Remove from oven, let cool.

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Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
I buy my Fig Balsamic Vinegar at D’Avolio.  I’m lucky to be centralized between a couple of their shops.  If you can’t find Fig Balsamic near you, you can order from them online!

1/3 cup Fig Balsamic Vinegar
3 tablespoons Riesling reduction
½ cup olive oil (use the light olive oil, not extra virgin)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Pour the vinegar, Riesling reduction, olive oil, salt and pepper into a blender. Blend until emulsified.

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Assemble the salad:

You can pretty much use your creativity when it comes to assembling this salad.  Slice the pear at a diagonal to about 1/2” before the top, and fan it.  Leave the pear whole as the centerpiece in the salad. Chop it into cubes.  It’s really all up to you and your taste in presentation!!

Add the lettuce, cranberries, and walnuts to the plate.  Arrange the pear on top. Sprinkle with bleu cheese, and drizzle with the fig balsamic dressing.  Serve with the fig jam.

Enjoy!

Cranberry Pancakes

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is relaxing and delicious…

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My daughter Katie and her boyfriend Ryan inspired me to make the recipe that I’m about to share with you…. Cranberry pancakes…. And they gave me their blessing to post about them.

Every year my mom will make a double batch of her cranberry relish a couple of days before Thanksgiving. And then the day before Thanksgiving, she and I will start preparing the stuffing, bake the pies, etc… and we will sneak a spoonful of her cranberry relish here and there while we are cooking. On Thanksgiving, she will put it in a pretty dish for dinner, and then afterward, she will split the cranberry relish for the both of us and put my half in a jar to take home. I love to bring that jar home, it’s readily available for me to just take a spoon and eat right out of the jar when the mood strikes me, which is pretty much all day long!

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But last year…Katie and Ryan came along and announced that they love it too. And then… they took it one step further…

It was a few days after Thanksgiving last year when I received a text from Katie. She and Ryan were making pancakes for breakfast one morning, and they decided to add some cranberry relish to the batter.

Cranberry Pancakes?!
Genius.

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I didn’t get to taste them, but Katie talked about them all year long, and just how delicious they were. I could only imagine, because I love cranberry anything.

And then….

A couple of weeks ago, she informed my mom that she would like to take a jar of the cranberry relish home too, so that they could make the pancakes again.

Ok….What??
I mean, seriously?
You’re treading on my territory, Kathryn.
Yes, you’re my daughter, but I’M supposed to get that jar of cranberry relish….

My mom always comes to the rescue…

My parents made a five gallon bucket (I exaggerate, it was more like four batches..) of the relish to meet the needs of her one and only daughter, and her eldest granddaughter. I do have the recipe, which I’m about to share with you… but you know, nothing tastes as good as your mom’s cooking… and this relish is high up there in the food rankings of one Marcia Bucolo.

For the record…I would have given my jar to Katie without a second thought… but I think you already knew that..

I do believe that this is a common recipe, but this is the one that my mom has been making ever since I can remember, pretty much all of my life…

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The Cranberry Relish
1 – 12 oz package cranberries
1 large orange cut in wedges
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Blend cranberries in food processor till chopped. Add the orange wedges and process till finely chopped. Pour into a bowl and add sugar to your taste.
And then Marcia says: Add nuts and enjoy!

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The Pancakes
This recipe will make about 8 to 10 large pancakes.

When I asked Katie how they made them last year, she told me that they made a basic pancake recipe, and then added a spoonful to the top of the pancakes while they were cooking. I made them with my own pancake recipe for the first time this past Monday night. Of course, my laziness compelled me to stir the cranberry relish into the batter, rather than add it to the pancake while it was cooking. Yeah, it didn’t work. The pancakes were really dense rather than the light and fluffy texture that they usually have.

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So tonight, I tried them again. This time I followed Katie’s advice, and added a spoonful to the raw side of the pancake while they were cooking. They turned out so light and fluffy…absolutely perfect!

If you know me, then you’ll know that I started building on this recipe with a ton of last minute thoughts… While I was cooking the pancakes the other night, I started thinking that it would be really delicious to have cranberry syrup to pour over the pancakes. Better yet, wouldn’t it be really delicious to have cooked cranberries to pour over the pancakes? And…wouldn’t it be really lovely to have some orange butter to melt over the top? While we’re at it, let’s just add a little whipped cream to top it off.

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Honestly? The pancakes are perfect for any holiday breakfast!!

3 cups cake flour
2 eggs
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

Vegetable oil for greasing pan

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk and vegetable oil just until the ingredients are moistened and blended. If you want really fluffy pancakes, don’t over mix the batter.

Grease the frying pan with a little bit of vegetable oil, and heat over medium-low heat. It’s ready when a drop of water dances when splashed onto the pan. For each pancake, add 1/3 cup pancake batter to the pan. Sprinkle two teaspoons of the cranberry relish on the raw top of each pancake while it is cooking. When the top of the pancake begins to bubble, it’s ready to flip. Cook for about another minute and a half. Remove from the frying pan to a dish. Repeat until the batter is gone.

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The Cooked Cranberries
1 – 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add the cranberries, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until thickened into a jam type consistency, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from heat, and pour into a bowl to cool. Serve this cranberry sauce cool, or while it’s still warm with the pancakes.

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The Orange Butter
¼ cup butter, room temperature
½ tsp orange zest

In a small bowl, mix the butter and orange zest until well blended. Serve with the pancakes.

The Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla

In a small bowl, whisk or with a hand mixer beat the heavy cream until peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla, and mix until blended. Serve a dollop with the pancakes!

Enjoy and Stay Safe this Holiday!!

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