Maple Baked Apples with Dried Fruit and Nuts

An old-fashioned dessert with a modern twist. This recipe, adapted from Claudia Fleming, the former pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, is sweetened with maple syrup and loaded with dried fruit and nuts. A delicious and guilt-free dessert with the flavors of autumn.

6 servings
Preheat oven to 375F

1/3 cup brown sugar
3 T. chopped dried cherries
3 T. chopped dried figs or apricots
2 T. chopped sliced toasted almonds
2 T. chopped toasted pecans

6 firm baking apples like Cortlands, cored and unpeeled
3 T unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces

1/2 cup apple cider
2 T. maple syrup

Mix the brown sugar, dried fruit and nuts together in a small bowl.

Cut a little off the bottom of the apples so they stand nicely.

Remove the core, but don’t go through to the bottom.

Using a melon ball cutter, cut away some apple to make room for the filling.

Place the apples in a baking pan and stuff the tops with the fruit and nut mixture. Place a piece of butter on top.

Mix apple cider and maple syrup together and pour into the bottom of the baking dish.

Bake the apples, basting with the cider mixture occasionally until the apples are tender, 25-35 minutes.

Transfer to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep them warm while you prepare the sauce.

Pour the pan juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until sauce becomes syrupy, then pour over apples before serving.

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Wood-Fired Focaccia Two Ways

ONE RECIPE… TWO TOPPINGS…BOTH HEAVENLY

Who doesn’t love a freshly baked focaccia, one scented with fresh rosemary and sea salt, or topped with roasted tomatoes and thyme? You may be surprised to know that focaccia is quite easy to make at home! Whether you have a wood-burning oven or a conventional one, give this a try. You won’t be disappointed. Allow 2 days, as the dough needs a cold first rise in the refrigerator overnight.

Focaccia

Recipe adapted from Jim Lahey’s, My Bread

1 cup Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2-1/2 cups cool water
4-1/2 cups (600 grams) bread flour
2-1/2 t. dry active yeast
1 t. sugar
1-1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup good quality olive oil

In a small covered saucepan, cook the potatoes in the 2-1/2 cups water until soft when pierced with a fork.

Using a blender, immersion blender, or food mill, puree the potatoes with the cooking water until smooth.

Allow the mixture to cool to 120F, checking with a yeast thermometer.

   In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar, and half of the salt.

Add the potato puree and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a wet and sticky dough.

Sprinkle a few drops of olive oil over the top of the dough, spreading evenly with your fingers to prevent a skin from forming. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise overnight in the refrigerator.

Next day, dough has tripled in volume. If it appears I have more dough in my bowl than you may have, it is because I am working with a double recipe.

Lightly oil a 13 x 18 inch rimmed baking sheet. Scrape the dough onto the pan. It will be sticky. Gently ease the dough across the pan, then oil your hands and press the dough evenly out to the edges.

Drizzle with 3 T. of olive oil and add the topping of your choice. Here I am adding fresh rosemary and sea salt. Use your fingertips to dimple the dough.

Roasted tomatoes and thyme

Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it has risen to the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.

If baking in a conventional oven, preheat it to 400F. Once risen, bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Cool on a rack.

In a wood fired oven, bake at 600F until nicely browned, about 6 minutes, rotating for even baking. Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

It doesn’t get much better than this!

Healthy Treats for your Best Friend

There is no denying that our dogs are always there for us, offering unconditional love and companionship while asking for so little in return. Why not reward them with homemade dog biscuits, which are not only healthier, but more economical as well.

These treats last up to 4 months in the freezer or 2 weeks in the refrigerator. That is if they last that long!

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

Makes approximately 40 small biscuits

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 t. baking powder
1 T. flax seed
3/4 cup soy or skim milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 T. honey

350F
Mix dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.
Process milk, peanut butter, and honey in a blender until smooth.
Add to dry ingredients in bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
Roll out to 1/4″ thickness on a lightly floured board.
Cut into shapes with cookie cutters.
Bake 20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

What’s cooking? Smelling the peanut butter.

Licking the bowl.

And now fully committed.

Looks like we’ve got a satisfied customer!

Pumpkin Muffins with Candied Pepitas

Fall and pumpkins go hand in hand, so kick off the season with these delectable muffins. They are soft and tender, mildly spiced, and topped with candied pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, adding a nice element of crunch. They are oversized, but it may be hard to eat only one.

Candied Pepitas

3/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 egg white
1/4 cup sugar

Line a small tray with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the egg white and sugar, then add the pepitas. Spread onto the tray and leave uncovered to dry overnight . On a humid day, this can take 24 hours.
Next day, break apart into separate pieces.

Pumpkin Muffins

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 T. light or dark molasses
4 eggs
3/4 c. fresh orange juice
1-16 oz. can pumpkin puree
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. Kosher salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves

makes 12 large muffins
350F pre-heated oven

Spray, or butter a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

In mixer, cream together butter, sugar, and molasses until light and fluffy. On low speed add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in orange juice and pumpkin, beating until combined.

It will look curdled like this.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then gently fold in the egg mixture only till combined. The batter can be made ahead to this point, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days, if you wish.

Fill the prepared muffin cups with the batter to the rim. Sprinkle evenly with the candied pepitas.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes until tops are golden brown and the centers spring back when pressed. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove from the pan.

Recipe adapted from Flour Bakery by Joanne Chang