Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Keeping the doctor away

I had a really good mail day recently.  It helps that I got tired of the stack of bills needing to be shredded--one evening I switched everything to paperless that I could manage, which means most of the mail now is either total junk or good stuff.  On the day in question, I think I got a new Cook's Illustrated magazine, an issue of Bon Appetit, a Crate and Barrel catalog, a Stash Tea catalog and a King Arthur catalog.  Definitely good stuff. =)  (And you can probably guess, I don't check my mail every day--it had kind of piled up.)  In the back of the KAF catalog, there were some fun Halloween treats, including a picture of Boiled Cider Caramels.  I quickly jumped online to find the recipe.

I will probably end up making the caramels sometime during the holidays.  But I wasn't in the mood to cut up and wrap lots of pieces of caramel.  Then it occurred to me that I could add boiled cider and spices to one of my favorite caramel sauces and come up with something similar.  I decided to go with a classic recipe from Cook's Illustrated, scaling it back by half since this was an experiment.  I added a bit of corn syrup for insurance against crystallization.  Once I'd whisked the cream into the caramel, I added boiled cider one tablespoon at a time until I had a flavor I liked.  I made my own version of apple pie spice by adding a mix of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.  I also added more than the original pinch of salt, since I like salty caramel.

The verdict?  I was a bit surprise at how much flavor the boiled cider brings to the caramel, but I'm still trying to decide if I'm happy with the amount of spice.  It seemed a bit heavy on the cinnamon at first, but was better after a day or two.  The caramel is tasty on top of vanilla ice cream and stirred into tea or warm apple cider, but it's really good as a dip for apple slices.  I know, big surprise, right? =)

I'll definitely be making this again, and playing around with it some more.  I'm including my rough recipe if you'd like to try it yourself.  If you haven't made caramel before, here's a good resource from Fine Cooking, including a video so you can see what it's supposed to look like.  (I do things a little differently, based on the Cook's Illustrated recipe.)

Apple Cider Caramel Sauce
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated and King Arthur Flour)

60 grams (2 ounces) water
200 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
22 grams (1 tablespoon) light corn syrup
115 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
60 grams (about 3 tablespoons) boiled cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
15 grams (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter

Pour the water into a heavy 2-quart saucepan.  Add the sugar to the pan, pouring it into the center so none sticks to the sides of the pan.  Add the corn syrup and swirl the contents to combine.  Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Remove the lid and continue to boil the mixture until it turns straw-colored, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the syrup until it turns dark amber, about 5 minutes longer.  Remove the pan from the heat and add about half the cream.  The mixture will bubble vigorously.  Once the bubbles subside, add the rest of the cream and whisk the mixture until smooth.  Whisk in the salt, boiled cider, and spices, then whisk in the butter.  Allow the mixture to cool until just warm before serving.  The caramel sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.  Makes about a cup.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An apple a day

I like baking stuff for breakfast on the weekends.  It's partly because I have more time then, and also because if I make something on Sunday, we can generally eat the leftovers for breakfast for a few days, making weekday mornings a little less hectic.  The only problem is that I'm frequently indecisive about what to make.  I think that scones sound good, for instance, but then can't settle on a recipe.  Part of the problem is that I'm trying to find something that the girls will eat, too.  So when I saw the recent blog post from KAF, I was thrilled.  Fresh apple scones sounded delicious, and even better, didn't have anything in the ingredient list that seemed kid-unfriendly.  (Both girls complain about nuts, and B doesn't like dried fruit "in things.")  Plus I can't seem to help buying lots of apples every time I go to the store this time of year, so it's good to find new ways for us to consume them. 

The scones get a double dose of apple-y goodness--applesauce provides some of the moisture in the dough and there are pieces of chopped apple folded in.  Since the recipe calls for half a cup of (unsweetened) applesauce, I took the easy route and used one of G's single serving cups that she takes in her lunch.  (B likes the blueberry ones, but not the plain.)  There's also a nice amount of spice.  Since I don't have apple pie spice on hand, I used a mix of cinnamon, allspice and freshly grated nutmeg.  In addition to the ground spices, you add cinnamon chips to the dough as well.  I pretty much followed the recipe as written, which I'm not always very good about.  Sometimes it's just easier to make round drop scones, but I did the triangles this time.  The recipe calls for freezing the scones before baking, to keep the butter chilled. I can't fit one of my big sheet pans in my freezer, so I used two smaller quarter sheet (13"x9") pans and put one round of dough on each parchment-lined pan.  Since I like glaze on my scones, I skipped the cinnamon sugar topping.  Once the scones were out of the oven and had cooled for a few minutes, I mixed up a quick glaze flavored with boiled cider and drizzled it on top.

The verdict?  These are quite good.  This is the first time I've actually followed the instructions to freeze the scones before baking (which has come up in other KAF scone recipes), and I could tell a difference in the texture.  I'll be better about remembering to do it in the future, maybe even making the dough the night before & freezing them overnight.  The flavor combination was great.  G was skeptical at first ("I'm not eating those!"), but decided that she'd try one after she concluded that they smelled pretty good.  The glaze worked out well, giving just a little bit of extra apple-y flavor.  

If you'd like to give these a try, you can find the recipe here at King Arthur Flour.  The glaze recipe can be found on their site as well. (here--scroll down; I used milk instead of cream & added a pinch of cinnamon)  These scones are definitely going to be in our rotation a lot for the next few months.