Apple Crisp

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Crumb topping is magical. Someone had to say it. I grew up with a Czech grandmother who always welcomed us with sweet yeast dough pastries that had sweet poppy seed and prune fillings. She made a sweet yeast cake that had fresh plums on top. Covered in crumb topping. I think everything had crumb topping. Maybe that’s just how I remember it.

The words “I love you” didn’t pass through her lips often, but each meal, each pastry, was all that we needed to know that we were loved. She had a white metal table in her kitchen, by the back door, that she used to let the dough rest. It greeted us every visit. Her glass paneled kitchen cabinets were windows into her never spoken about past, with mismatched plates and bowls. It was wonderful. She was an excellent cook, but her baking was accomplished without every measuring anything. “Just feel the dough.”, I would hear her say to my mother, in her thick Czech accent.

Well, I’m out of the sweet dough business since the kids have flown the coop. But I still love crumb topping. I put it on apple pie, instead of a top crust, and on apple crisp. It’s never as good as Grandma’s, but I keep trying.

Let’s make some apple crisp. That’s always in season in my house. It tastes like apple pie, but without the work!

 

Apple Crisp

 

5 cups (about 6) Granny Smith or other baking apples, peeled and sliced

¾ cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. salt

1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1.5 quart baking dish (or thereabouts) and spread the peeled and sliced apples in it. I like to cut each apple into about 10-12 slices. Granny Smiths are a hard apple and will cook faster if you slice them thinner. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of water over the apples. Pretty easy so far! Now for the crumb topping. Please note there is no oatmeal in this recipe. If I want oatmeal, I will make some for breakfast. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the pieces of cold butter with your fingers, a pastry blender or you could use a food processor. You want it to resemble coarse crumbs with pea-sized chunks of butter. I said butter…sigh. Spread this mixture evenly over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the topping is browned. I like to stick a sharp knife in a few apples to make sure they are softened. This is best served with vanilla ice cream! Serves six.

 

This recipe is adapted from THE FANNY FARMER COOKBOOK.  I’ve been using this cookbook since I got married. Tried, true and torn with love.

Frittering the day away…..

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Apple Fritters

 

Apple Fritters are another one of my childhood food memories. On a late Fall or early winter morning, my mother would treat us with these fritters. Rarely did we eat food that lacked in nutrition, making these extra special! What could be better for breakfast than sweet apples fried in a luscious light batter topped with cinnamon sugar? That’s right, NOTHING! She was very health conscious. She drained them on paper towels. Then we would douse them in cinnamon sugar. Cinnamon is very healing. Yes, that’s my defense!

The trick with apple fritters is to use soft apples like Macintosh apples. They cook up very quickly. Hard apples would take too long, in this recipe, and the batter would probably burn. If you only have a harder apple like a Granny Smith, I would dice them and put a handful into the batter and spoon this into the hot oil. It’s not the same, but will still be tasty. The biggest trick to frying food is to make sure the oil is hot enough. It sounds obvious, but I’ve often tried to rush the process when the oil wasn’t at the right temperature. Foods will cook in warm oil, but they will not become crisp and golden. Your food will absorb less oil if the oil is hot.

 

3 eggs, separated

1 heaping tsp. sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1-¼ cups of milk

4 medium Macintosh apples

Cinnamon Sugar

Crisco or vegetable oil for frying

 

Separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs into two bowls. Add to the yolks, the sugar, salt, flour and milk. Mix until the batter is of a light pancake consistency. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Peel and core apples. Slice the apples into the shape of donuts (hole in the middle) and dip a few at a time into the batter. photoThe apple slices should be somewhat thin, maybe about ¼ inch thick.

My mother always used an electric frying pan for these. Heat the pan at 360 to 380 degrees and add enough Crisco to deep fry the apples. I would suggest about ½ inch of oil. You will have to add some more Crisco after one or two batches. If the oil looks like it’s getting too hot and browning, add some more Crisco to cool it a little. I don’t use an electric frying pan. I don’t even own one. I use a skillet on the stove stop. I use a thermometer to make sure the oil is the right temperature. It’s usually at a medium-high heat. If you’re not sure, try putting one coated apple slices in the oil. It should bubble and hiss in the oil. It doesn’t take long for these to cook. You just want them golden. I put about 4 or 5 apple slices in at once to cook. Don’t walk away! They cook quickly.photo I use a long carving fork to turn them over in the oil. You can use two knifes or a spatula. Whatever you feel works for you. Here’s a tip when cooking with hot oil, when you’re turning food over in, turn the food away from you, like towards to back of the stove. You don’t want hot oil to splash you, but the stovetop can be easily cleaned. You know it’s time to turn them when the sides have browned. I lift the cooked fritters out the pan with a slotted spoon, so oil can drain away. Place the fritters on a paper towel lined cookie sheet. photoThis helps absorb some of the extra oil. Then I sprinkle the hot fritters with cinnamon sugar. These fritters are fabulous hot or cold.

 

Note: Please discard the oil after you cook the fritters. I let it cool in the pan, and then pour into a heatproof container like a glass measuring cup. I either freeze or refrigerate the oil so that it hardens. Then I toss it in the trash in its hardened state. Do not pour the oil down your drain, unless you want to call a plumber. This will clog it for sure!

 

Miss Fancy-Pants Brunch idea

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

 

Christmas morning I had a crowd for breakfast. I typically make my Egg Strata (previously posted) with bacon. I knew that I would need a little more to feed my family. I had printed out this recipe a while ago, and thought what better time to try it. I was so right. They were delicious. The pancakes are very light with a great lemon flavor. I had tasted the batter and thought there wasn’t enough lemon, but left it alone. I’m glad I did. Once the grated lemon zest hits the heat, the flavor pops. The ricotta makes the pancakes very light. These might be on the menu for tomorrow too. It’s a perfect “fancy” brunch recipe, or something to nosh on with your kids. The original recipe called for sautéing apples and serving them over the pancakes. I wish I had done this. But, hey it was Christmas and I was tired from a week of cooking. The thought of warm apples and maple syrup makes me tingle. Try this recipe. If you’re nervous, keep that box of Aunt Jemima nearby. I am betting you won’t need it. There are no pictures of these pancakes. They were gone by the time I thought of it.

 

4 large eggs, separated

1 1/3 cups ricotta

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

1 ½ tablespoons grated lemon zest

½ cup all-purpose flour

 

Melted butter for brushing the griddle

Maple syrup, as an accompaniment

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks; whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle to a medium heat. When drops of water scatter over its surface, brush the griddle with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by ¼ measures and cook the pancakes for about 2 minute on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof pan and keep them warm in a preheated 200-degree oven. Transfer to a serving platter to serve.

I may be the last one on the planet that has heard of this recipe. The original, original recipe was from Gourmet Magazine 1991. I think I was deep in diapers and trying to stay sane. It is the best excuse I got. I was not reading Gourmet Magazine in 1991. I was reading picture books and watching PBS children’s programs. This trend continued for many years……

Serve the pancakes with maple syrup, and if you’re smart, with sautéed apples. They make about twelve 3-to-4-inch pancakes.

 

Here is the Smitten Kitchen recipe. There are pictures and detailed directions if you need them. If you haven’t visited this website, you should. It is fantastic!

NOTE: I made these pancakes today. I added a tsp. of lemon juice and made the apples. Oh please make the apples. It’s like apple pie on pancakes.photo And, for the love of bacon, please bake your bacon

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