Archive for September, 2012

The quintessential Autumn pudding: Spiced Apple Strudel (with a bit of tarting up)

Well, this is my first post in a couple of weeks – the OH and I have been away on holiday in Prague in the Czech Republic. It was amazing! Such beautiful architecture, rich history and fantastic beer! I’m not a beer drinker generally, but it’s impossible to go there and not indulge in a pint or two! 

The only down side is that Czech food doesn’t tend to be all that variable… Which is to say that if you’re not overly keen on pork or bread (or bread dumplings) this may not be the destination for you. I like both well enough, but I’ll admit I was longing for some vegetables by the end of the week.

There wasn’t much in the way of puddings on offer, either (although given how full the main course generally left me, even my separate pudding stomach had to be drafted in to cope with the carb influx!) – the one evening I did have pudding I had the ubiquitous Apple Strudel. Or did I? Out of curiosity, who covers their Apple Strudel with chocolate sauce? And who leaves the skin on the apple? Not convinced this was a good choice, but never mind. 

Getting back to the UK, Autumn is well under way; gales, heavy rain, and dark mornings. Joy. Just the sort of weather for a proper Strudel, or my made-up version of one.

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Tart (‘s) Apple Strudel 

1 Sheet puff pastry

1 large cooking apple and 1 or 2 small eating apples

Juice of half a lemon

A couple of handfuls of sultanas

A handful of mixed peel

A couple of tablespoons of home-made Orange and Cardamom rum (or a fruit liqueur of some description)

A couple of handfuls of granulated sugar (plus a bit extra for dredging)

A couple of teaspoons of butter

Plain flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, toss the sliced apples with the lemon juice until the apples are thoroughly coated. Add the raisins, peel, spices, sugar, liqueur and the 2 teaspoons cold cubed butter and toss well. Set aside.

Lightly dust the counter or work surface with flour. Lay the puff pastry on top and dust the rolling pin with additional flour. Gently roll the puff pastry to 1/8-inch thickness.
Spread the apple and raisin mixture over the bottom half of the puff pastry square leaving about 1-inch of space along the side edges (I try and drain off most of the liquid from the apples to keep it crisp). Fold the top half of the puff pastry over and pinch to seal the edges together.

Brush the entire strudel with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with sugar. Using a serrated knife, make diagonal slits across the top of the strudel.

Place the strudel on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Autumn again…; Orange Spiced Molasses Cookies (wheat and dairy free)

Cycling back from work this week I caught a scent on the breeze – bonfire smoke – a scent indicative of only one thing; Autumn is here. The air is crisp in the morning, it’s getting dark before 9pm, the woollen clothes which have been safely stored away for the summer now call out seductively from under the bed. On the one hand I’m sad; we’ve barely had a summer here this year, and I’m not ready for it to be over yet. But on the other hand I love Autumn; it is the harvest season, full of promise and the rewards. The particular blue of sky, the turning leaves, the drawing in of the nights is comforting and familiar. A wonderful variety of fruit and foragable goodies becomes available, and once again we can indulge in a bit of stodgy cold-weather food (I’ve already brought the slow cooker out from it’s summer retreat)! Autumn draws me to rich flavours and warm tones: stewed apple, cinnamon, ginger, treacle. And I recently came across the perfect Autumn biscuit: Orange Spiced Molasses Cookies 

They worked out very well, but in future I would add a bit of apple brandy too, or rum, and possibly a bit more apple sauce.

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Makes ~40

INGREDIENTS

ROLLING SUGAR

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

COOKIE DOUGH

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 5 tablespoons butter alternative, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses (I used treacle since it’s easier to get in the UK)
  • 7 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups wheat-free flour mix

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
  2. To prepare the rolling sugar: Pulse 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon orange zest in a food processor until well combined. Place in a shallow dish and set aside.
  3. To prepare cookie dough: Grind oats in a blender until they look like a fine powder, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed.
  4. Beat butter and 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons orange zest and beat another 2 minutes. Add molasses, applesauce, egg yolk, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper and salt; beat on medium-high until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
  5. Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the ground oats. Scrape down the bowl; with the mixer on medium, slowly add whole-wheat flour. (The dough will be moderately sticky.)
  6. Using a slightly rounded tablespoon of dough, roll into balls, then roll in the rolling sugar to coat. (If necessary, wet your fingers to help roll without sticking.) The zest will make the mixture slightly wet and it will clump; lightly brush off the excess so that just a thin coat is on the cookie. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake the cookies in batches until the edges are set and the tops are cracked, but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 10 minutes.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 8 minutes. Serve warm or cool on a wire rack.

Techie thank-you biscuits: Chocolate and Apricot Kernel Cookies

A friend, the lovely Raf, recently performed a Lazerus upon my poor old laptop and coaxed it back to life – huzzah! It would seem that the laptop manufacturers, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to partition the model’s fairly small hard drive – and I (being a hideous technophobe) hadn’t realised this and assumed it was a RAM issue. Long story short, my laptop stuttered back into life and should totter on for a few more years.

So in return, as a thank you, I did what I am happiest doing; baked stuff! But again, I was suffering from a bare-cupboard-baking scenario. Hmmmmmmm. Oats, apricot kernels, a little bit of chocolate. Right.

But dear old Delia came to the rescue with her Chocolate Almond Crunchies recipe – which, as always, I bastardised with whatever I had in the cupboard.

Chocolate and Apricot Kernel Cookies

Ingredients
 2 oz (50 g) sweet milk chocolate
 1½ oz (40 g) Apricot Kernels
 4 oz (110 g) butter
 3 oz (75 g) demerara sugar
 1 dessertspoon golden syrup
 4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
 pinch of salt

4 oz (110 g) porridge oats

Method

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C) and grease two baking sheets measuring 14 x 11 inches (35 x 28 cm), lightly greased with groundnut or another flavourless oil.

First of all, using a sharp knife, chop the chocolate into small chunks about ¼ inch (5 mm) square.
Now put the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan, place it on the gentlest heat possible and let it all dissolve, which will take 2-3 minutes. When the butter mixture has dissolved, take it off the heat. Meanwhile, toast the apricot kernals in a dry pan until they start to brown – as you would for almonds.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour and salt and add the porridge oats and half the chocolate and kernels, then give this a quick mix before pouring in the butter mixture. Now, using a wooden spoon, stir and mix everything together, then switch from a spoon to your hands to bring everything together to form a dough. If it seems a bit dry, add a few drops of cold water.

Now take half the dough and divide it into nine lumps the size of a large walnut, then roll them into rounds using the flat of your hand. Place them on a worktop and press gently to flatten them out into rounds approximately 2½ inches (6 cm) in diameter, then scatter half the remaining chocolate and almonds on top of the biscuits, pressing them down lightly.

Once you have filled one tray (give them enough room to spread out during baking), bake them on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes while you prepare the second tray. When they’re all cooked, leave them to cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

The bitterness of the apricot kernels contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the chocolate, and seemed to go down very well with the intended audience 🙂

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