DIY Dried Apple Slices

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Dried Apple Slices

I was feeling like making a healthyish muffin recipe (Apple Apricot Muffins) which uses dried apples and apricots, but I didn’t have any dried apples on hand. But I do have plenty of fresh apples, and it turns out that drying them yourself couldn’t be easier. I have an old low quality food dehydrator that I’ve kind of given up on, so this was a test of the oven method, and it worked great. It also helps that we have a second oven in the drawer space underneath the regular oven, which comes in handy whenever I want to dry something for a long time on low heat.

There’s just a few key decisions to make. If you want to preserve the apple skin, which make the slices look prettier and increases their fiber content, then don’t peel them. Similarly, if you want the slices to have the pretty star shape in the center, don’t core them. But if you don’t like these chewy dried bits, go ahead and peel and core them. In that case, you’ll end up with more traditional looking apple rings.

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Apple slices soaking in lemon juice and water

Ingredients:

  • ~ 3 medium apples per baking sheet
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • bowl of water
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Apple slices about to go in the oven

Steps:

  1. Setup a large bowl of cold water with lemon juice.
  2. Slice your apple in 1/8 inch slices, starting at one end.
  3. Soak the apples in the water for 20 – 30 mins. to minimize browning.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  5. Spread a kitchen towel on your counter and place the apple slices on it. Pat them dry.
  6. Transfer the apple slices to your lined baking sheet(s).
  7. Bake the apple slices for about 3 hours, and flip the slices. Then bake for another hour or so. The exact time will vary based on your oven’s true temperature, the thickness of your apple slices, etc. I turned the oven off after about 4 hours, and let them sit in the oven for another 30 mins or so. At this point, mine were dry but soft in texture. If you want them to be crunchy, let them go another hour!

 

 

Apple Apricot Muffins

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Apple Apricot Muffins

This recipe is slightly adapted from the Cheese Board Collective Works cookbook (2003), and we’ve been enjoying it for over 10 years. It produces a mildly sweet pastry with a moist interior, and chewy chunks of dried apple and apricot. It also features oats, pecans, and wheat germ, and uses vegetable oil instead of butter, so I think of it as existing on the healthier side of the breakfast world. It’s a good Fall recipe and will leave you sated until lunch time.

You can prep all of the dry ingredients in advance, as I did, or you can even go as far as mixing the complete batter and storing it in the fridge until the morning. There’s a short resting period required for the oats and dried fruits to soak and expand, so don’t forget to figure this in to your prep time.

(Yield: about 15 muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup of whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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Muffin cups of batter

Steps:

  1. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the dried fruits and nuts. (I use kitchen shears to cut the fruit into pieces, which seems to go faster and be less sticky than using a knife.)
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir gently until the majority of the flour is integrated.
  4. Let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes to allow ingredients to soak and expand fully. (At this point, you could refrigerate the batter until the morning.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease or line your muffin pan.
  6. Fill muffin cups to the top and bake for about 28 minutes. The muffins will be a deep golden brown, firm, and springy. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
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Apple apricot muffin with a little butter – yum!

 

 

Pear and Almond Scones

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Pear and almond scones with sides of clotted cream and pear butter

These are the best scones I’ve ever made. Pears and almonds were clearly meant for each other. I offered clotted cream and pear butter on the side with these this morning, since I had some of both, but that just turns them into straight up dessert. The only accompaniment they really need is a hot mug of your favorite tea.

The first time I whipped these up was just a month or so ago, but it’s pear season and I keep picking or buying them from farms and patiently waiting for them to ripen. Pears are unusual in that they don’t ripen on the tree, but only after picking. This works out well because so many other fruits that I like to pick demand to be dealt with as soon as I get them home. For this recipe, try to use moderately ripe but still somewhat firm pears. If they’re super ripe, they’ll become mushy when you roast them.

After making this recipe a few times, I feel confident that I’m recommending the right amount of liquid to bring the dough together. But I’ll also share with you a tip for scone making that I learned from the Cheeseboard Cooperative’s cookbook. They suggest having a little extra cream and/or buttermilk on hand, and gradually adding it if the dough isn’t coming together and there’s still lots of dry flour in the bowl. I’ve definitely made some scone recipes where an extra tablespoon was required, and then there were even ones where I was sure the recipe was off by a 1/4 cup of liquid. It’s not just you… it’s that the air is more or less humid that day, your flour is retaining more or less moisture, etc.

A few special notes:

  • I highly recommend getting a pastry cutter for integrating cold butter into flour. I’ve tried a few kinds and the wire type pictured below works best. I use it for scones, as well as pastry/pie crusts.
  • I had a hard time finding almond paste recently (not marzipan, which has more sugar, and is used for candy making), so I ordered several 8 oz. boxes of it from Amazon recently. Zero regrets. 😉

Ingredients:

  • 3 pears or about 1 pound of ripe but somewhat firm pears
  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 4 oz. of almond paste, cut into little squares or grated
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 2 eggs (1 for the dough and 1 for brushing the scone tops)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the egg wash
  • (optional) 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks (refrigerator cold, not frozen)
  • (scant) 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • sliced almonds
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Pear and almond scone batter before pressing and cutting

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Peel, core, and cut the pear into roughly 1-inch chunks. Spread the pears onto the baking sheet and roast for about 20 mins. They should be lightly browned and dry on the surfaces when done. (My pears were less ripe and in bigger pieces than the first time I made these, so they took more like 35 mins. to roast. But the scones turned out oh-so-good with perfect caramelized chunks of pear.)
  3. Whisk the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. (You could tackle these first three steps the night before to save time the morning of.)
  4. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until the butter is integrated and is about the size of small peas. Gently stir in the almond paste and the pear pieces with a large spoon.
  5. Whisk the egg and then add it along with the cream and almond extract to the flour mixture. Mix gently until the dough starts to come together. If there’s lots of dry flour still, add a drizzle of additional cream to the mixture and stir gently. Try not to stir aggressively in order to avoid smashing the pear pieces, which will make the dough really sticky.
  6. Drop the dough onto your parchment paper and flour your hands a bit. Press the dough by hand into a round about 1 1/2 inches tall. Cut into 6 wedges. Spread the wedges a few inches apart on the baking sheet.
  7. Whisk an egg with a dash of salt and a teaspoon of water, and brush the tops of the scones lightly. Sprinkle a little sugar, and then a few almond slices on each scone and put them in the oven.
  8. Bake for 25 – 28 mins. until they are lightly browned.
  9. Let cool on wire rack for 5 – 10 mins. and serve.
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Pear and almond scones fresh from the oven

Passion Fruit Curd

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Cream scones with lightly whipped cream and dollops of passion fruit curd

It was probably our honeymoon in Tahiti that kicked off my love affair with passion fruit. A yellow skinned variety grew wild on the island of Moorea and we picked and ate whatever we could get our hands on. Oh, how I wish I could grow passion fruit here in Oregon. I did discover years ago that I could order a big box of the fresh fruits from farms in S. California, as well as you can find bags of maracuya pulp frozen in Mexican groceries. The frozen pulp works perfectly here and is a lot more reasonable than buying the fresh fruit in grocery stores.

(Yield: 2 1/2 cups curd)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 eggs beaten lightly
  • 1 cup of passion fruit pulp
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Passion Fruit Curd

Steps:

  1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Avoid boiling the water as it can cause the egg to congeal into hard bits.
  2. Place all ingredients in top of double boiler and cook over gentle heat until mixture thickens. Whisk often for 20 – 30 mins., until curd sticks to spoon without running off.
  3. If you see bits of firm white egg in the curd, you can strain the mixture with a sieve.
  4. Pour into jars and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator and use within a month.

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Strawberry Raspberry Custard Pancake

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Raspberry custard pancake

Some of you may have noticed that I treat pancakes like they’re the sixth food group. Therefore, I’m obliged to cook what seems like dozens of pancake recipes. This one is definitely in the dutch baby family, but comes out a bit more custardy. The fruit requires some prep, so this is a good weekend recipe, and will certainly impress guests if you feel inclined to share.

When I look back at my photos, I see that I’ve typically made this recipe in June when strawberries and raspberries are in season locally, but you could also use frozen fruit or different fruits altogether.

I’ve slightly adapted a reader-submitted recipe from Sunset magazine circa May 2011, where the author notes that the recipe originates from Finnish relatives.

Serves 4 to 6 people, depending on your generosity.

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Raspberries and strawberries from our June garden

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons of honey divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (2% works fine)
  • 2 cups raspberries, divided
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 pound of strawberries, hulled and sliced

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Steps:

  1. Set a 9 x 13 inch baking pan in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
  2. Whisk eggs, 1/4 cup of honey, and the lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add salt, flour, and 1/4 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk.
  3. Puree 1 cup of raspberries in a food processor until smooth and strain and discard seeds.
  4. Remove pan from oven; add butter and swirl until melted and golden. Pour batter into pan. Then pour raspberry puree over batter in wide ribbons. Gently deliver the pan into the oven.
  5. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake about 20 mins., or until pancake is a deep golden color and bubbling up in spots.
  6. Combine strawberries and remaining 1 cup raspberries and 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey in bowl, let stand at least 10 mins.
  7. Cut pancake into rectangles, spoon fruit over pancake, and serve immediately.

DIY Clotted Cream

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Currant scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam

Last weekend I went out for tea with friends at the Clockwork Rose Tea Emporium in Beaverton, and one of the treats was homemade clotted cream with scones. So naturally I thought, “I have to make clotted cream.” Most groceries in the US don’t carry it, so particularly if you like scones, it’s a handy skill to pickup. Lo and behold, it’s super easy; it just takes some time. But just imagine how you’ll impress your friends at brunch!

There’s just one ingredient: heavy whipping cream. Preferably unpasteurized if you can find it (I couldn’t), but pasteurized works too (just avoid ultra pasteurized). To make about 8 ounces of clotted cream, use 2 cups of cream. You could make more or less, as the finished product does go a long way.

I used the directions below and it came out just like the English luxury clotted creams I’ve had in the past – except fresher! (And at least half the price!)

I suspect you could make it in a crockpot instead of the oven; so next time perhaps I’ll try that and update you.

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Cream after 12 hours in the oven

Steps:

1. Pour cream into an oven-safe heavy bottomed pot. I used a stainless steel one and it worked beautifully. The cream should come up the side of the pot at least an inch. Cover with lid.

2. Place covered pot in 180 degree oven for about 12 hours. It should form a yellowish thick skin on the top (this is the clotted cream). Remove from the oven and let cool. (Be aware some ovens automatically turn off; I think mine did right around the 12 hour point.)

3. Place pot in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Then remove from refrigerator, and scoop the thick cream off the top into a jar. Store in the fridge. The remaining liquid in the pot can be used in baking.

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Clotted cream after 8 hours in the refrigerator

Banana Bread

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Several months ago I happened upon a scrumptious banana bread recipe in an unlikely place… a kid’s magazine. The recipe below is just slightly adapted from Joanne Chang from the Flour Bakery in Boston, and was featured in kazoo magazine issue #3. The recipe produces a sweet, tender crumbed, delicate banana bread, with slightly addictive qualities. If you happen to have 7 ripe bananas laying around, you should definitely make 2 loaves!

I’ve made this a few times now with my 7-year old, and it’s definitely good for teaching her about fractions, and following a sequential procedure. However, there are a few steps, namely the extended period of beating the eggs and sugar, that are honestly not very kid-friendly. So, feel free to make this on your own in half the time it takes to collaborate with a kid in the kitchen! 😉

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 ripe bananas mashed
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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Mixing dry ingredients into the wet ingredients

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a big bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric hand mixer until they’re light and fluffy ~ about 8 minutes!
  4. With the mixer on low speed, drizzle the oil slowly into the egg mixture, so that it doesn’t make the batter collapse.
  5. On low speed, mix in the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla.
  6. Stir in the dry ingredients with a spoon, until the flour totally disappears.
  7. Pour the batter into your pan and bake for 60 – 75 mins. It should spring back when touched. (This time it took 78 mins. to bake! I suspect that the time is variable based on the size and ripeness of your bananas.)
  8. Let cool for about 20 mins. and then slice and serve.

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Blondies

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Blondies with Chocolate Chunks and Toasted Pecans

I can’t take any credit for this recipe, except perhaps in the faithful execution and judicious sampling of said blondies. This one comes from smittenkitchen.com, which offers a lot of excellent breakfast and dessert recipes. She shares recipes for other meals, but I just don’t pay those much attention.

I think I’ve always known that blondies could be great, but more often than not, whatever you find in a store or bakery is just ok. With this recipe, I could tell something special was coming together when I was adding the chocolate and nuts to the batter. It was such a lovely caramel color from the dark brown sugar and shiny with browned butter. You really should make these and take them to a gathering or invite friends over. But you should probably avoid being alone with a big plate of them.

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blondie batter

Technically speaking, you could swap out the chocolate for dried fruit, or use other nuts, or even white chocolate, and you could even skip browning the butter … and I’m sure those are all fine and good options. But the combo of semi-sweet chocolate and toasted pecans won over everyone at my house, including my 7 year old who said “show it to me” before she would agree to having a piece in her lunch box!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick butter, melted and browned
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • flaky salt for sprinkling on top of the batter

Steps:

  1. Butter or grease an 8×8 pan.
  2. Melt the butter and brown it gently by swirling it and watching carefully to avoid letting it burn.
  3. Mix melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
  4. Stir in flour and salt, and then mix in pecans and chocolate.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with flaky salt.
  6. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will have a shiny and slightly crackled appearance.
  7. Let cool for 10 mins. and cut into squares.

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Aunt B’s Apple Butter

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Apple Butter

When I was growing up, my Great Aunt Barbara in South Georgia would occasionally send my family jars of homemade jam, jelly, and apple butter. These little jars of sweets were always a warm reminder of far away family, as well as the tastes, smells, and kindnesses of Aunt B’s home.

As an adult, I eventually had her write down a few recipes for me, including the apple butter. I make it yearly now, and we enjoy it liberally on Apple Cottage Cheese Hotcakes, or toast and such. At some point years ago, I realized I preferred not to use tons of sugar in my preserves, so I reduce the sugar here from her original 6 cups to 2 1/2 cups.

(Yield: 5 pints)

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Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds of apples (weight before cleaning)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 box low sugar pectin; OR, 6 teaspoons Pomona Pectin and 6 tsp. calcium water

 

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Steps:

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples and place them in a large pot or dutch oven. Pour in 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 20 – 25 mins. or until tender. Stir occasionally. (I’ve also used a pressure cooker for this step which brings the cooking time down to about 10 mins.)
  2. While apples are cooking, prep your canning jars, lids, and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions. Heat a large pot of water to a boil.
  3. Mash the fruit with a potato masher until it looks like thick apple sauce. (If you prefer a smoother texture, you could put the apple mush through a food processor or blender.)
  4. Stir in sugars and spices and pectin and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Pour mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving a quarter inch of head space. Place lids and rings on jars and lower into the pot of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the lids and boil jars for about 5 mins. Remove from the water and let cool on a rack.

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Apple Cottage Cheese Hotcakes

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Apple Cottage Cheese Hotcakes with pear butter

When we lived in California, we’d occasionally drive to the Lark Creek Inn in Marin for a decadent breakfast, back when they still used many of Chef Bradley Ogden’s recipes, but after he’d moved on to Vegas. At some point, my husband bought Ogden’s Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner cookbook (from 1991!), and we started enjoying a few of his delicious breakfast recipes at home. Apple Cottage Cheese Hotcakes have stood the test of time at our house, and we usually serve them with homemade apple butter. Today I realized I’m all out of apple butter (good thing we just picked 10 pounds of apples yesterday), so we enjoyed them with yummy pear butter instead.

(Yield: 1 dozen pancakes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup large curd cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 3/4 – 1 cup peeled and grated tart apple
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Apple cottage cheese hotcakes on the griddle

 

Steps:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolk, milk, cottage cheese, butter, and lemon zest.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture, stirring until the dry ingredients are just moistened.
  4. In a small, dry, clean bowl beat the egg white with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg white and the grated apple into the batter until just a few traces of the egg white are still visible. Be careful not to over mix.
  5. Grease a griddle or large nonstick pan on moderate heat. Use a 1/4 cup of batter for each hotcake and pour onto the hot griddle. Cook the hotcakes on the first side until they are puffed and full of bubbles, looking dry at the edges, then turn and cook for one or two more minutes.
  6. Serve with apple or pear butter, or maple syrup.

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