Salted Caramel Apple Sundae with Brandy White Chocolate Sauce

See that photo above? I’m hoping it’s making your mouth water just enough for you to forgive me for posting late…again. Also, while I write this, I’m sitting in my kitchen being enveloped by the most delicious smell of homemade bagels in the oven – you’ll be seeing that post next!

I feel like I should share with you something my adviser wrote to me before I moved up here this Fall. In response to my surprise at the number of courses I was signing up for, he said my first semester is truly a “sink or swim” regiment designed to get the majority of requirements out of the way as soon as possible.

I know my future self will appreciate the lighter course load once research begins in the Spring…but that’s making the very large assumption that my future self will still be here studying: right now I think it will take a small miracle to get me through the next month and a half. Last week, after multiple 4-hour nights still did not improve my workload any, I stayed awake for just over 35 hours to finish all my assignments. And those were just of the regular, run-of-the-mill, homework type. I’m pretty sure you can feel my panic through the screen right now, haha.

So, I’m still in my kitchen as frequently as I can possibly manage, but I’m making no promises on posts between now and Christmas, haha. The bagel post, I’m sure, will find its way up somehow in the next week or so, but other than that it’ll just be a matter of luck really. Let’s all hope I can “swim” better than I can cook!! 🙂

Salted Caramel Apple Sundae with Brandy White Chocolate Sauce

(this post was inspired by Jeni’s Splended Ice Creams, this sauce recipe, and this post my brother linked to me – thanks Al!)

* enough for 6 sundaes *

Ingredients:

1 gallon-sized ziplock freezer bag

ice bath

6   large apples (as symmetrically round and flat-bottomed as you can find)

1   C   chopped almonds or other nuts as you prefer

For the Ice Cream…

(makes about a pint)

2   C   whole milk

1   T   plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1½   oz.   cream cheese, softened

¼   t   fine sea salt*

1¼   C   heavy cream

2   T   light corn syrup

2/3   C   sugar

2   t   pure vanilla extract

*Note: Jeni’s original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon of salt, but we both found that too salty for our tastes. Remember that the ice cream base will have a milder flavor than the final frozen/proofed ice cream! I’d rather you find you can’t taste the quarter teaspoon salt and have to add more in the future than have your frozen ice cream turn out so salty it’s inedible (what happened with my first batch).

For the Sauce…

250   grams   (~ 9 oz. ) white chocolate

1    C   heavy cream

1-2   T   brandy (taste after 1 and see how you like it, we liked it boozy)

Procedure:

1) Prep Step: Mix about 2 Tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Mix the heavy cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout. Finally, fill a large bowl with ice and water (lots of ice!) put in fridge until needed.

2) For Ice Cream Base: Prepare the caramel using a “dry-burn technique” – Jeni describes this very well in her book, but if you don’t have a copy you should first consider buying one (have you heard of her flavors??) and then check out Dave Lebovitz’s page on making caramel. Basically you need to: heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over Medium heat until melted and golden-amber in color. Remove the caramel from the heat and, stirring constantly, sloooowly add a bit of the cream/corn syrup mix to the pan (be careful, it can splatter!). Stir well until combined then add a little more and repeat the process until all the cream/corn syrup is incorporated.

2) Return the caramel blend to Medium-high heat and add milk. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 4 minutes before removing from heat and gradually whisking in the cornstarch slurry. Bring mixture back to a boil and cook, stirring frequently with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened (about 1 minute) before removing from heat to cool. If any bits of solid caramel remain, pour mix through a sieve.

3) Add about a third of a Cup of the hot caramel mix to the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Pour the dissolved cream cheese/caramel blend back into the main caramel base and whisk until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and whisk. Finally, pour the mix into a 1-gallon ziplock freezer bag and submerge in the prepared ice bath. Let it cool, adding more ice if necessary, until cold (not warm, not cool, but COLD!) – about 30 minutes.

4) As ice cream base chills, prepare the Sauce: very carefully, melt white chocolate in a saucepan over Low heat (it is VERY easy to overheat white chocolate and have it seize on you. I’m speaking from experience here.) or use a double-boiler over barely-simmering water. Add the cream and stir until fully combined – you’re basically a white-chocolate ganache. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, stir in half of the brandy and taste. Add more brandy as desired. Store in an airtight container until ice cream is ready.

5) When ice cream base is cold, pour into ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions. Once the ice cream has churned, pour into an airtight container, press a piece of cling-wrap tightly to the surface, and freeze until firm (I left it overnight, Jeni recommends at least 4 hours).

6) Once you have both the sauce and the frozen ice cream, prep your “apple bowls” by using a melon-baller or teaspoon and hallow-out one apple per serving. I left most of the flesh in my bowls due to simple laziness, but you can pack more ice cream in them if you do a thorough job. If you want to prep your apples ahead of time (while ice cream churns, for example) just sprinkle the bowls with lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown. Finally, rough-chop your almonds or nuts of choice for topping.

7) Assemble your sundaes! Add a scoop of ice cream to each apple bowl followed by a drizzle of brandy sauce and a sprinkling of nuts. Enjoy immediately. 🙂

Beezer’s Notes:

With the exception of the too-salty first batch (see note above), my recipe mash-up turned out beautifully. I’m a big fan of the brandy white chocolate sauce especially; besides being an excellent sundae-topper it’s also yummy as a fruit dip – keep it chilled and I bet it could even work well as a frosting. To be honest, it must be the brandy; I’ve always found white chocolate to be too sweet in the past. The caramel ice cream, of course, also has an amazing flavor and worked as well with the apple bowls as I had hoped it would (so caramel doesn’t have to be hot and sticky to go with apples! haha); also, its slight bitterness really helps temper the sweet sauce.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥    ♥    ♥    ♥

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Apple Chips

This is one of those posts that’s for a recipe so simple I feel silly sharing it. But, then again, almost everyone I know loves apple chips and yet no one seems to make them so I thought that I would post in hopes of encouraging you to put aside whatever doubts you may have about the process and give it a try. They’re just THAT good. It’s true that this recipe should be saved for either a lazy day of lounging (in my case, always with a book) or a chore day where you will be about the place for a few hours. You’re not going to be baking the apple chips as much as dehydrating them – so yes, those of you with food dehydrators are welcome to feel smug here – and that takes time. Usually patience is something I struggle with in the kitchen, but I loved how the smell of sweet fruit and spice slowly filled every corner of my little apartment and it didn’t seem like much time at all until the chips were ready.

Pink Lady with cinnamon only.

While the weather here in VT has taken a turn for the better – we’ve almost made it a full week without any rain! – the month of July has so far been riddled with problems to the point where I feel nearly as stressed as I did while employed. Well, trouble always does seem to come in groups for me… and I have three cookbooks sprouting tagged recipes just begging to be made. I’m hoping to squeeze a few in before jetting off to the West Coast for a family reunion and escaping my most recent stresses for at least a week. I haven’t seen my dad’s side of the family in years and there’s nothing I want more right now than to chill in a folding chair in Halfway Oregon (called “Halfway” because it is literally halfway to nowhere) and drink Dr. Pepper with my country-clan. New England angst can get a bit too much sometimes, even for me.

Granny Smith with cinnamon and sugar.

 Although I don’t think I could ever go as far as to call myself a “country girl” – hippie, yes, but that’s different as I’m sure both sides would agree – I used to ride and jump horses for a good ten years and feel automatically at home around a farm. My uncle’s cattle ranch was always a fun place to visit and since my family could only afford to fly out every 5 to 8 years or so even being a small place it never lost its appeal. A great BBQ is a given at one of these gatherings and one year we ate giant elk steaks thanks to a relative’s successful hunting expedition. If we were lucky, my uncle would let us ride his grumpy horses. I remember my dad and I were the only ones brave enough to canter them around the large rocky field one year. My cousins also had a trampoline – something my parents insisted was too dangerous for me and my siblings back home (…so they let me jump a thousand-pound animal but I couldn’t bounce on a trampoline? I just realized how nutty that was, haha) – and even as teenagers we milked that rusty thing for all its worth, bouncing on it with the toddlers in the group.

Because of school and my trip to Japan, I haven’t been back West for almost 10 years now. I know the horses aren’t around anymore (bummer) and I hope the trampoline has long since been retired, but yes…a folding chair, ice cold Dr. Pepper, and a hot country breeze would be fantastic right about now. 🙂


Apple Chips

(makes 1 bowl of chips, good for 2 to share or one to scarf)

Ingredients:

2   apples of your choice

8   T   cinnamon

4   T   sugar, if desired

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F. Using a mandolin, if available, or a very sharp knife slice whole apples as thin as possible. I sliced them lengthwise and picked out the seeds and tougher bits of flesh as I went, but – I didn’t think of it til after – if you slice the apples from the bottom up you can get a lovely star shape in the centers of each slice. If you’re one for aesthetics give it a try and see how it goes. 
  2. Spread slices in a single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheets and sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar (if using). Place the chips in the oven and do some household chores for 1 hour. Here, if your oven’s like mine and has uneven zones, you might want to swap and rotate the baking sheets halfway through.
  3. After 1 hour, remove chips from the oven, flip them all, sprinkle on the remaining desired toppings, and return to the oven for an additional hour or until lightly browned, curled, and crisp.
  4. When ready, remove chips from the oven, and let cool for a few minutes before serving (or they all will seem chewy with the heat).


Beezer’s Notes:

This is my first time ever making apple chips, although I’ve always wanted to since inhaling an over-priced bag of them a few years back. I knew I’d need a mandolin, since my knife skills – and my knives, let’s face it – aren’t the best so I had to wait until I could get my hands on one. After the cooking time the chips were pleasantly curled and, despite my fear that they would still be chewy, all but the largest slices were as crunchy and yummy as the expensive store-bought chips – success! The largest slices could have gone another half hour in the oven, but that’s an easy fix for next time.

As for the winning apple? It’s a split: I was surprised I preferred the Pink Lady chips with just cinnamon, but Brad liked the Granny Smiths with both cinnamon and sugar. There are many more varieties easily available here and I’ll have to keep experimenting. Start with your favorite snack apple and topping and tell me what you think! Oh, and here’s a thought: for a real VT-flavor try dusting the chips with granulated maple sugar…mmmmm…

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Applesauce Cupcakes with Vanilla Cinnamon Buttercream

 

I had my very first bite of buttercream on a trip to New York City a few months back. Unlike my previous trips to NYC, this one was rather spontaneous: my father is a pilot and happened to have a layover in Manhattan for a weekend. He invited my brother and I up to stay with him and explore the city. Now, as many times as I’ve been to the Big Apple I’ve had the poor luck of 1) never being free when the Met was open and 2) never going to a fantastic bakery. I determined this time around to check both off my list.

We went through the beautiful and thoroughly amazing Egyptian exhibit at the Met our first day there. They had the expected artifacts – a decorated sarcophagus, large and small busts, carvings of animals – but they also had full walls of hieroglyphics, pottery and glassware, and incredibly detailed jewelry. I haven’t watched a Discovery Channel special in years (no t.v.), but I really don’t remember ever hearing about the Egyptians wonderful work with glass.

We also made it to two incredible bakeries in between The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway (!!) and shopping outings with a local friend. First, my friend took us to Two Little Red Hens bakery where their blackout cupcake made me want to pack up and move to the city right then and there. No joke, this cupcake is heaven and hell in a pretty papery cup: if I lived even remotely close to them I would be drawn to them like a moth to a flame and would probably have a heart attack by the time I’m 40 since I would have no power to stop the indulgence. I’m warning you, this cupcake’s dangerous, haha!

The second bakery we visited was one I had heard a lot about: the Magnolia Bakery was packed when we arrived in the early afternoon. We ordered lemonades, a few cupcakes, and their famous banana pudding. Their banana pudding is nearly as dangerous as the blackout cupcake at Two Little Red Hens, but I did manage to put the spoon down eventually. The cupcakes were delicious as well, but entirely different animals from the previous ones; they were light, airy, smallish cakes with generous swirls of buttercream on top (see? I’d get back on topic eventually). Unfortunately my camera’s battery died right as I was trying to capture proof of my visit, so I’m sorry for the lack of a photo. You’ll have to make do with this one of a cookie at Dean & Deluca’s instead


Anyway, my first introduction to buttercream was a happy memory and so when I decided I wanted to make Deb’s applesauce cake a few months later – but yet didn’t want to shuffle to the store for the cream cheese required in the frosting – I came up with the crazy notion that I’d give buttercream a try since all the ingredients were already at my fingertips. Now, in retrospect (and after eating my creations) I highly suggest the ORIGINAL cream cheese frosting for these babies. I wouldn’t call my experiment a failure, per say, as both components were very tasty….but they simply do not go well together. I’ll explain below in Beezer’s Notes, but please just trust me on this. I’ll provide the recipes for both cupcakes and buttercream since that is what I’ve learned, but in the future I hope to make them with equally complimentary counterparts for each.


Applesauce Cupcakes with Vanilla Cinnamon Buttercream

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes…

2   C   AP flour

2   t   baking powder

1/2   t   baking soda

1/2   t   salt

3/4   t   cinnamon

1/2   t   ground ginger

1/8   t   ground cloves

1   stick unsalted butter, softened

1   C   packed light brown sugar

1   t   vanilla extract

2   large eggs

1½   C   unsweetened applesauce

For the Buttercream Frosting…

1   C   sugar

4   large egg whites

26   T   butter, softened (3 sticks + 2 T)

2   t   vanilla extract

1/2   t   ground cinnamon

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter 2 jumbo non-stick muffin tins. I didn’t bother with paper cups since I was right in guessing that the heavy cake batter doesn’t rise all that much, but feel free to use them in lieu of greasing if you’d prefer.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy – about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, before adding in the applesauce.
  3. At low speed slowly blend in the flour mixture until just combined. Deb warned the batter will look a little lumpy and mine certainly did, but she’s also right that it will turn out delicious and smooth once baked.
  4. Pour batter into cupcake pans and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for at least 15 minutes before turning them out to cool completely on a rack.
  5. While cupcakes are cooling, beat up the buttercream: whisk egg whites and sugar together in a double-boiler or (if you’re like me) in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Keep heating and occasionally whisking until you can’t feel any sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.
  6. Transfer the egg mix to a stand mixer and whip on High until it has turned white and just about doubled in size. Add the vanilla and whip until fully incorporated. Finally, add 1 stick of butter at a time, whipping well between each. Continue whipping (it does take some time!) until the frosting has pulled together and develops a smooth sheen, about 5 minutes. Also, while I haven’t tried, I’m sure this can also be done using a hand-held electric beater and a LOT of patience. Has anyone succeeded this way?
  7. Top the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream frosting. Top with ground or freshly grated cinnamon if desired. Will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Beezer’s Notes:

I can’t call these cupcakes a failure even if they were somewhat unsatisfying. It wasn’t their fault. The cake was exceptionally moist and full of spiced flavor. It had a similar consistency to banana bread and I could easily convince myself that this could count as one of my fruit servings for the day. The buttercream was just about as impressive, it had a sleek shine to it and a wonderfully light billowy texture. The flavor of the buttercream was easily overpowered by the cupcake, though, and the two so completely opposite densities made eating the cupcakes a little awkward.

In the future I would love to make these cupcakes again. They are the perfect size and have a hearty structure for carting them around to potlucks and parties. I will definitely choose a more robust frosting, though, to better compliment the dense cake. Having a light sweet frosting with a fruit cake was also a bit odd as the zing of the more traditional cream cheese frosting seems to bring out the fruity flavors more. There was one commenter on Deb’s buttercream post who subbed it for cream cheese frosting on a carrot cake and loved it, so this confirms my suspicions that it may not have only been the densities at play here. Carrot cake is more savory than apple and the sweet buttercream may have balanced it well in that case. With this apple recipe, though, I’m going to try cream cheese next.

Overall Enjoyment: ♥    ♥    ♥

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