If an apple a day really does keep the doctor away, I should be in good health through the rest of the year.
I recently wrapped up The 2012 Apple Challenge — 31 consecutive days of apple dishes designed to showcase the apple’s versatility.
The whole idea stemmed from a bad case of writer’s block. My column was due and the ideas weren’t coming. I knew I wanted to focus on apples, a food that signifies fall in my mind, but wasn’t sure which angle to choose.
Sweet? Savory? Cooked? Fresh?
Unable to make a decision, I chose all of the above.
The concept was simple. October is National Apple Month. To celebrate my favorite fruit, I would make one apple dish a day throughout October.
I approached the project with enthusiasm. I love cooking challenges. I’ve never participated in one myself, but the people on TV and the writers of blogs I read make it look fun, so why not?
My goal was to have a mix of sweet and savory, showcasing recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wanted desserts and side dishes, entrees and snacks. I wanted to highlight the apple’s versatility and challenge myself to cook outside my comfort zone.
Four weeks and roughly 19 pounds of apples later, I consider the challenge a success.
It got off to a rough start. I burned my arm while baking the second recipe — sausage apple stuffing — and now sport a faint scar on my right forearm.
Two weeks into the challenge, while making an apple cake, I learned a valuable lesson. If a recipe calls for a Bundt pan, use one. I have two failed cakes and a kitchen that smells of burned apples as proof.
The day I made homemade applesauce was a highlight. Both of my kids like apples, but have never warmed up to applesauce. The homemade version, however, was a hit.
Curried chicken with apples was another new recipe everyone in my house enjoyed. Even better, it can be prepared in less than 30 minutes with ingredients most people have on hand.
Walking into the newsroom with containers of apple cinnamon rolls, caramel stuffed apple cider cookies and applesauce-spice cupcakes for my colleagues was — pardon the pun — a treat. Who says snack duty has to end after elementary school?
I researched apples, learning what varieties were best for baking, cooking and preparing fresh. I stopped buying Honeycrisp apples for my lunch and tried Pink Lady, Jazz and Gala apples instead.
I visited orchards, read cookbooks and peeled more apples than I care to count. But, I couldn’t help it……. I used 57 (roughly 19 pounds) of apples.
I knew the final recipe of The 2012 Apple Challenge would be a pie, but there are as many pie recipes as there are varieties of apple. Unable to choose, I opened it up to the readers, asking for apple pie submissions.
The two recipes I chose illustrate apples’ versatility. Bot recipes use the same apples, but the difference of preparation and ingredients produces two very different desserts.
This is a moist crust and rolls well. Divide the dough in half, then lightly flour the rolling surface which needs to be at least as big as the pan. (Hint: Lightly flour, then place the pan over the surface and make some impressions of where the dough needs to ‘roll to’ before you place the dough on the surface.)
Once you have rolled the dough fairly thin, fold in thirds to move it to the jelly roll pan. Nestle into the pan. Fix any ‘breaks’ in the crust by wetting your finger, gluing edges together with the wet finger, and then tap with a floured finger. Cut this crust off at the top of the edge of the pan; there will be no hang-over edge on this portion.
Mix the first three ingredients together. Sprinkle about ¼ of the mixture on the pie crust in the pan.
Mix the apples with the remaining mixture, then spread on the crust. Sprinkle the red hots and the butter over the apples.
Roll out the last half of the crust, and folding into thirds, place onto the pie, unfold, and cut the crust to hang about 1 inch over the edge of the pan all the way around. Tuck this behind the other crust so that the first crust is ‘interior’ to the other, and crimp the edge, sealing it. Make several slashes on the top crust to let air escape while cooking. Sprinkle the crust with more sugar to help it brown, and bake 1 hour at 375 degrees.
When the pie is finished baking, you can drizzle some powdered sugar glaze on it, enjoy it with some ice cream or eat it plain.
Source: Sandra Fiegen
NOTE: This pie was extremely easy to make, extremely easy to cut and my colleagues loved it! You can easily eat this pie by hand – why dirty a plate, right?
1 egg, beaten in medium sized bowl
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cups diced apple (I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Jonagold apple)
This will be a thick mixture.
Spread in a 9 inch greased pan or 2 quart greased microwavable dish, if cooking in microwave. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes (until the center is set) or microwave. The amount of time to microwave this torte depends on the microwave. A microwave with 1100 watts, at 80 percent power, will cook this torte in 6 minutes.
Source: Karen Hass
NOTE: I made this recipe in the microwave and loved it! It looks more like a cake than a torte when you first take it out, but let it set and you get this wonderful crisp crust, almost like eating a giant fruit-filled cookie. I had my piece with whipped cream on top, but ice cream and a drizzle of vanilla would be great, too.