Sunday, August 14, 2011

Apple-A-Day (in a tasty way)

I should know after living in Sonoma County for so long that apple and pear season are close together and that I am kept busy for weeks trying to keep up. This year they both seemed to hit at the same time. The Gravensteins were later than usual. (Or were the pears early?) In any case, I find myself with plenty of both and hate to see the electric bill next month because we've gotten so much of both that the dehydrator will be going 24/7 just to try and keep up. On the up side to this, I will get to have one of my favorite simple salads that I first enjoyed in Sicily a few years back. If you're staying on the light side, Apple and Pear Salad is the perfect ending to a meal. Easy, delicious and fresh. Those three words say it all.

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon
2 firm ripe apples
2 pears

Simmer water and sugar just until sugar melts. Cool and add lemon juice.
Wash, peel, core and dice apples and pears into 1-inch cubes.
Place in bowl and pour syrup over them gently mixing well. Let them macerate in liquid for at least 1/2 hour. At this point you may wish to discard some of the liquid if you find there is too much but you want some to remain. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

A few years back when the apples were coming on fast and furious, I put a call out to friends at the old Nora's Kitchen forum for apple cake recipes. Don't remember how many I got and made but this one from Canada came up a favorite and I've been making it (and sharing the recipe with grateful friends) ever since. Be forewarned: It's gooey, buttery and a certain diet-buster. But it's worth every calorie and gram of fat!

BC Apple Cake

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 cups, cored, peeled and diced apples

Preheat oven to 350°F
Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan.
Bake for 45 minutes.

4 oz unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup milk

Cook icing ingredients in a small saucepan for 2 1/2 minutes. Poke holes in cake while sill warm and pour icing over the cake.

I don't know where blueberry muffins originated but they have come to be an American classic.

Even so, I was never really a big fan. Like most other muffins (except corn, which I love) I could take them or leave them and would if something better was on the table. These, however, are an absolute treat. The butter crumb topping crowns these glorious breakfast staples which I would even have at midnight or any other time of day.

Blueberry Muffins

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
> 1/3 cup whole milk
> 1 large egg
> 1 large egg yolk
> 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
> 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
> 3/4 cups sugar
> 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
> 3/4 teaspoon salt
> 2 cups blueberries
> For topping:
> 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
> 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
> 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
> Put rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375°F.
> Generously butter muffin tins.
> Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, remove and
> whisk in milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
> Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a
> medium bowl. Add milk mixture mixing until just
> combined. (Do not over mix. Some lumps are
> OK.) Gently fold in blueberries distributing evenly.
> Divide batter among the cups.
> Combine topping ingredients in a bowl and rub together with
> your fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle over tops of
> batter.
> Bake until golden and crisp and a toothpick inserted in the
> middle comes out clean. 18-20 minutes.

Cool on rack for 15 minutes and run knife around edges of muffin tops. Carefully remove. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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