Tag Archives: apples

Apple Crisp Salted Caramel Bars

apple crisp salted caramel bar on table
apple crisp salted caramel bar

Phew. Encapsulating the past year in a blog post requires a level of dedication that someone who just made a four-layer dessert does not possess.

Now that I’m settled in yet another (new) city, I feel ready to declare myself “baaaaaack.” I have my own kitchen with every gadget I could possibly need. (All that’s left is another oven.) I am entering fall, also known as prime baking season. And, most importantly, I am healed, both mentally and physically, from the challenging experiences of the past few years.

Now I just need some more friends to share these bars with…

About those bars: imagine if an apple crisp mixed with salted caramel sauce and then melted into a shortbread cookie base.

I know this recipe looks intense, but it actually comes together pretty quickly. Then again, I have a dishwasher again. I CAN DO ANYTHING.

Shortbread base:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
2) Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor, process the flour, sugar and salt briefly, then add the butter and process until the mixture begins to form small lumps.
3) Sprinkle mixture onto the baking pan and press the mixture evenly onto the bottom.
4) Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely while preparing other ingredients. Keep the oven at 350 degrees.

Salted caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

1) Follow these directions from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
2) Once the caramel has cooled and thickened, pour it over the cooled shortbread base and spread evenly.

Apple filling: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 cup cornstarch

1) Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then stir in the apples. Cook for about five minutes to let apples release their liquid.
2) Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Let cook for another five minutes.
3) Stir in the cornstarch and cook for another minute, until liquid has thickened. Set apples aside to cool, then spread them over the salted caramel shortbread base.

Crisp topping:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cut into pieces

1) Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or paddle attachment on a stand mixer to combine cold butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
2) Sprinkle crisp crumbs over the apples in the baking dish and press crumbs gently into the pan.
3) Place the baking pan on a center rack in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until apples are bubbling and crisp looks, well, crisp.
4) Let the bars cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing. You might even want to refrigerate them for an hour to make sure that they don’t crumble.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple

roasted brussel sprouts

plated roasted brussel sprouts

As any writer or English major knows, finding oneself lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood with less-than-welcoming surroundings is an experience rife with opportunities for a story of transformation and self-discovery.

This story is one such example.

Several months ago, while I was still living in NYC, I exited the subway, walked the stairs onto the street, and stopped cold at a nearby intersection. I had no idea where I was. Instead of turning around and getting back on the subway, I stood on that street corner and cried. And cried. Self-pity shaken with alcohol makes for one pathetic cocktail. And wasn’t I entitled to feel sad? I was sure, so sure, that by that point in my life I wouldn’t be the kind of person who a) got absurdly lost (by any meaning of the word) and b) didn’t immediately know how to be found again.

If my high school Xanga posts — saved on my computer for posterity — are any indication, there were few things in life I looked forward to more than adulthood.

Adulthood, I surmised, afforded a certain level of clout and respect that would, among other things, no longer cause people to question why I needed to go to bed by 11. (As it turns out, this question still arose frequently when I lived in NYC. As an adult.)

Most importantly, I would be able to get things done.

These “things” are only slightly less vague now than they were when I was 16. Back then, I wanted to save the world. Today, I think I can content myself with improving a small pocket of it. (How is another story for another day.)

I was not really pursuing that particular goal the day I found myself at a literal and figurative intersection in east New York. The plan was to enjoy a boozy brunch followed by the Manhattan Pride Parade. The brunch part was easy enough: drink mimosas, punctuate that drinking with eggs Benedict. What followed was an emotional encounter that left me depressed and distracted.

Lost, and then really lost.

It took me a few minutes to notice that people were coming out of their houses to stare at the sad girl being sad for reasons that extended far beyond the booze and the earlier discussion and the loss of control. Even then, I saw myself with the eyes of those watchful neighbors and I wanted to roll my eyes at her, too. Oh, to be young and privileged. Instead, I called a cab, where I left behind the last of my cash and a decent amount of my dignity.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, that day signified the beginning of the end of my time in the city. Somehow, the trajectory I had planned to follow — it all started with post-college city living — left me feeling suddenly and irrevocably stuck.

Moving back to North Carolina was one way I could imagine regaining momentum.

Being an un(der)employed 25-year-old living with my parents again isn’t so bad, really. I’ve been pleased to discover that you really can go home again, and the people there (i.e. parents) will even feed you until you regain enough emotional strength to (hopefully) fight battles for those who don’t have the time or luxury of contemplating how to live their lives to the fullest.

Since ’tis the season for such things, anyway, I’d like to take a moment to say how thankful I am for such luxuries. I hope I can lead a life that proves it.

Like how sometimes I feed my parents, too. I recently made them these roasted Brussels sprouts that would, incidentally, make for a great Thanksgiving side dish. The original recipe can be found here. I adapted it to include more bacon because of this classic video and also because I felt like it.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple:
Serves 4 or so
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 cups Brussels sprouts, peeled, ends trimmed, and halved or quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 apples, cored and diced
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until browned (about 10 minutes).
2) Add Brussels sprouts in a single layer, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until the Brussels sprouts begin to brown lightly (about 15 minutes).
3) Add the apple as the final layer. Roast until Brussels sprouts are browned and tender and apple has softened (about 15 minutes).
4) Toss the finished roasted dish with vinegar and serve immediately.

Apple Onion Cheese Tart

I am not private in my opinion of comfort foods. This blog, if nothing else, serves as a testament of my devotion to all things warm and buttery. Living so far from home necessitates cooking with an excess of butter from time to time. Is a flaky tart an acceptable replacement for my brother’s bear hugs or my sister’s permeating laugh? Well, no. But it makes a decent consolation prize.

Being a resident of New York City is taxing in all the ways you’ve heard (including, quite literally, taxes). There is no loneliness quite so profound as the one experienced while surrounded by a sea of strangers. Cures are difficult to come by. When home is a few bites away, sometimes that’s enough. In any case, it has to be.

This recipe comes from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, which is my go-to resource for fresh and, obviously, simple food. Alice actually has the onion tart and the apple tart listed as two different recipes, but the two foods seemed like such a complementary pair. The dough recipe required no modification. It actually bubbles butter. Now that, my friends, is enough.

Tart Dough:
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water

1) Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
2) Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Tart Filling:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup cheddar or goat cheese

1) Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan on medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally, cooking for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are brown and soft. Let cool.
2) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
3) Spread cheese over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Starting at the outside, layer the apples slightly over one another and work toward the center. Apple slices in the center should be layered about 1 inch thick.
4) Sprinkle the apples with the cooked onions. Fold the border over the apples and onions to make a crust.
5) Mix the egg and milk or water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Apple Bacon Cheddar (ABC) Sandwich

Is it possible to crave a food you’ve never eaten?

That’s a rhetorical question, really, because I’ve been craving this sandwich for weeks. I mean weeks. And yet I can’t remember ever eating one.

But what’s to understand? I like apples. I love cheese. And I rarely eat bacon, but that might change now.

Yes, you could say that this recipe is as easy as A.B.C.

Apple Bacon Cheddar Sandwich:
Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
cheddar cheese, shredded
bacon (I used maple-smoked)
rustic bread, like ciabatta or French bread
salt & pepper, to taste
mayo (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut bread at preferred width, then split in half. Lay pieces open-faced on a cookie sheet.
2) Sprinkle both sides of the bread with cheese, salt and pepper. Top one half of each sandwich with apple slices.
3) Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and apple slices are softened.
4) Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp.
5) Once bread is removed from oven, top apple-covered bread slice with bacon. Spread on mayo to other side of sandwich as desired. Place slices together.

Apple Dumplings

It’s fall here, allegedly. You know, time for scarves and down comforters. At least, that’s what I keep trying to tell North Carolina weather every time the thermometer hits 80 degrees.

I thought I’d use reverse psychology and make an utterly fall dessert that would force temperatures to concede defeat and admit that 65 degrees would feel sublime. So far, no deal. But I think I’m on to something with these dumplings…

Warm, soft apples encased in pastry dough. Baked in a sugary gravy. At least somebody around here gets to snuggle up.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Apple Dumplings:
6 Granny Smith apples peeled & diced
Whipped cream

For pastry
2 C. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 TB butter, diced + extra for the filling
3/4 C. milk

1) Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Work in butter and add milk. Mix until a dough forms.
2) Turn out onto a floured counter and knead until smooth. Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares, as large or as small as desired.
3) Put a few apple pieces onto each square along with a dash of sugar and a pat of butter. Fold the corners inward to make a square, making the corners overlap in the center. Place into a baking dish.

For sauce
2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 TB flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 C. boiling water
1/2 C. (one stick) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

1) Stir sugars, salt and flour together in a pot. Stir in boiling water, add butter, vanilla and cinnamon and place over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken a bit.
2) Pour 3/4 of the sauce over the dumplings and bake at 400 degrees covered for about 30 minutes.
3) Pour the rest of the sauce in and sprinkle with crushed almonds. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until brown. Serve heated with whipped cream.

What’s your favorite fall recipe?