Apple Cider Custard Tart

I was able to give my dad his Father’s Day baked goods while I was in CT last week, since today I’m back up home in MA, and my dad is out and about visiting my grandma and other friends in the Mid-Atlantic.

My Dad and me at my graduation last year. Please disregard my wind-blown hair.

But it’s ok, really.  My dad is a very simple man.  Before my baking obsession struck, the usual question of “what do you want for Father’s Day/your birthday/Christmas?” was met with virtually the same list of items year in and year out.

Socks, tennis balls, and/or a new grill cover.  Simple, no?  I swear I’ve gotten him like three grill covers and they all seem to fall apart or disappear.

Now that I can’t get myself to stop baking, I try to make him special items when these times roll around.  They usually involve chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  Nothing less for the man who I find myself resembling as I get older.  The man I’d call when my car wouldn’t start, when I got my heart broken or when I needed a another pair of eyes to edit an essay.  Thanks Dad, for all you’ve done, and all you do.

And to all the dads out there, I dedicate this tart.  I know apples aren’t “in season” (hey, apples are always in season somewhere in the country), but I’ve wanted to make this tart for a while, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying cider during springtime.

The dough of this tart is sweeter than traditional pie dough, and I almost ended up snacking on bits of it while making the lattice.  The cider is reduced and turned into a lovely layer of spiced custard, which pairs wonderfully with the sweet dough, creating a treat worthy of all Dads on their special day.  Happy Father’s Day!

Apple Cider Custard Tart

Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

Makes one 9” tart

For the dough:

¾ cup powdered sugar

1¾ cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

2 tsp grated lemon zest

½ cup (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

For the apple cider custard filling:

2 cups apple cider

3 large eggs

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

4 Tbsp (half a stick) unsalted butter

First make the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest Massage the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until it has the consistency of coarse meal.

Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in the egg.  Once it is semi-incorporated, switch back to your hands, and gather the dough together.  Add water 1 Tbsp at a time if the dough seems dry.  Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours or overnight.

While the dough is chilling make the apple cider custard.  In a medium saucepan, boil the apple cider until it has reduced to a half cup of liquid.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and brown sugar. While mixing constantly, very slowly pour in the reduced apple cider.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour back into the medium bowl through a fine mesh strainer to remove lumps.

Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Cover immediately and refrigerate.

To assemble and bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9” tart pan with removable bottom and set aside.  Let the dough sit for 5 minutes, then roll it out on a floured surface, reserving one fourth to make the lattice topping.  Fit the rolled out dough into the prepared tart pan.

Spread the apple cider custard into the tart shell.  Roll out the reserved dough and cut into long strips creating a design, or cut using cookie cutters into shapes.  Bake for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.


Cornmeal Apple Bread

As a student, I was always very conscious of deadlines.  Because I work horribly under pressure (probably why I’m such a bad test taker), I always liked to get assignments and papers done early and then have time to go back over them a few times to make sure I had exactly what I wanted to hand in.

But it seems my deadline awareness only pertains to physical assignments.  Yep, it’s my academic dirty secret: I am really bad at studying.  I always think to myself, ‘It’ll be ok, you know the material, you’ll do fine…’ and honestly, I usually did ok.

Except now I’m facing a bigger test, the GRE.  The test that could (and probably will) ultimately decide where I go to grad school.  So obviously I need to do well.  And to do well, I need to study.  But getting myself to do it is sooo hard.

I’d much rather have staring contests with Izzy, who sleeps with her eyes open so I always lose, or bake up a loaf of cornmeal apple bread.

Don’t worry though, I made flashcards and am brushing up (or should I say dusting off) my math skills, and I’ve still got a month.  The next step is to start taking practice tests every chance I get.  I’ll get there; I’m getting there, but in the meantime, here’s some bread I made while I probably should have been studying.  The cornmeal in the batter gives it great texture and substance, and the sweetness of the apples makes it a great breakfast or snack option.

Apple Cornmeal Bread

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Makes one 9X5” loaf

1 cup buttermilk

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

½ cup sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp salt

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces

½ cup dried apple, diced

 Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 9X5” loaf pan and set aside.

Whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter and eggs in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, making sure they are evenly combined.

Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry, stirring until everything is just moistened.  Gently stir in the fresh and dried fruit, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 50 mins to 1 hour, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10-15 mins before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding.  Invert and cool right side up.  Serve warm with jam or butter.

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Ohhhhh, relaxing bunny.  Luke and I plan on getting a second rabbit someday so he and Izzy can do this together.  If there’s one thing cuter than a cuddly bunny, it’s two bunnies cuddling each other.  Also, his name would be Cumberbatch.

While KA was visiting, we started watching Sherlock, a BBC series that is a modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic works.  Holmes uses a cell phone and Watson blogs.  Each season has 3 episodes that are 90 minutes long.  It’s great, and I highly recommend it.  The new rabbit’s name comes from the actor who plays Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch.  What a name…and yes I know he’s kind of weird looking.

Ok, sorry for gushing about a television show.  It’s not something I do regularly, but I thought it was relevant, given the talk of bunny names.

But on to the food.  It seems I have forgotten what season it is with my posts featuring pumpkin and apples, but let’s be real.  There’s no law against eating pumpkin in April.  Or apples.

Or apple pancakes.  On a Wednesday afternoon.  The pieces of shredded apple stay a little crisp and lend a delightful texture to these pancakes, though do make sure the batter gets cooked thoroughly.  I added cinnamon chips because, well, I don’t actually think I need a reason.

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 12-15 pancakes

2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar
3 medium apples, peeled and coarsely grated

½ cup cinnamon chips (optional)

Mix the eggs with the milk in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, spices and sugar together.

Combine the wet and the dry ingredients and stir in the apples and cinnamon chips if using.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet over low to medium heat. Drop large spoonful of batter into the pan and flatten it out a little to help them cook thoroughly and cook until golden brown underneath. Flip the pancakes and cook them for an additional two or three minutes.  Transfer to plate and serve with your favorite toppings.

Apple Tea Cake

This past Sunday, Luke and I had our second cake tasting.  The place we went to completely blew the first bakery out of the water.  At the first place, we had to “order” slices of cake we wanted to try, but at this place, they just brought us a slice of everything.

AWESOME.  Obviously, we didn’t eat all of the cake, but it was fun to try a bunch of different flavors and then choose our favorites.  Luke and I have similar taste in cake, so winners were defined early.

We have two more tastings this coming weekend, and I’ll let you all know what we decide on.

Now on to this cake.  Quite different from wedding cake, but delicious nonetheless.  I made this recipe in order to use up some milk and wasn’t expecting much, but this cake was really something.

Super moist, and I loved the apple cinnamon stripe through the middle.

It’s supposed to be made in a large loaf pan, but I decided to do mini loaves.  Don’t ask me why, it was a very strange whim.  I had already greased my normal loaf pan by the time I changed my mind.  Either way you make it, this cake is bound to please.  It also makes a great breakfast!

Apple Tea Cake

Adapted from Collaborative Curry

Makes 1 standard loaf or 3 mini loaves

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

2 large eggs, plus one egg yolk

¼ tsp lemon zest (optional)

½ cup buttermilk

1 small apple, peeled, cored and sliced thinly lengthwise

1 tsp cinnamon

turbinado sugar for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan or mini loaf pans and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until it turns pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time and beat well to mix in.

Add about a third of the flour mixture into this and mix to combine.  Pour in half of the buttermilk and mix well. Repeat until with remaining flour mixture and buttermilk.

Spoon in a third of the batter in the pan.  Layer with half of the apple slices and top with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.  Pour 1/3 of the batter on top and level with a spatula. Arrange the remaining apple slices, topped with rest of the cinnamon.  (I only did one layer each for the mini loaves.)  Top with the rest of the batter, level it and bake for about 45 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.  Remove cake from the oven and cool for about 5 minutes on a wire rack in the pan.  Invert once the cake is just warm.


Baked Apple Donut Holes

And so ends another year of football.  Too bad the Patriots lost, but you can’t win them all.

It was still a lot of fun to be at a Super Bowl party, observing the different ways people watch/prepare to watch the big game.  Some people started mentally preparing themselves an hour before the game started.  Hey, whatever you gotta do.

Some were physically incapable of sitting during the game, and instead paced nervously or stood agape, leaning against a wall.  Some made comments that the quality of football refereeing seems to be declining.  Others made ref death threats.

Some made bets as to which play would be run next, or that the commercial immediately following the coin toss would be for a car company.  (It was, by the way.)

Some watched and chatted idly while enjoying snacks and the company of those around them.  And some, (i.e. me) almost fell asleep on the couch twice.  I never claimed to be a super fan here guys.

Well, I guess I am a super fan. Not of football, but of these little donut holes.  I think I ate like 10 a day until we ran out.  How can you be a fan of little balls of sweet dough dotted with apple chunks, baked to tender perfection and rolled in cinnamon sugar?  Definitely a winner in my book.

Baked Apple Donut Holes

Adapted from Baked by Jen

Makes about 24 donut holes

1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups bite size chunks of peeled apple

For the Coating:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Grease 2 12 count mini muffin pans.  Set aside.

Whisk the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Add the cold chopped butter. Using a pastry cutter (or your fingers), work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Mix in the milk and fold in the chopped apples. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until incorporated, using a spatula or spoon, making sure not to overmix. Place a tablespoon of batter into each mold of a greased mini muffin pan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the donuts are just golden. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10mins.  In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.  Unmold and lightly brush each donut with the melted butter. Dunk in the bowl with the cinnamon sugar mixture and roll around to ensure the entire thing is covered. Shake off excess sugar and serve immediately.

Apple Cheddar Scones

After today, I will be taking a short hiatus from posting (just a few days) as I go down to Philly to visit my grandmother.  Of course I’ll be bringing my computer, as I can’t be separated from it, and yes, she does have Internet, but sadly it’s a dial-up connection.  Tonal modem that cuts off the phone line and all.

I don’t even want to think about how long it would take to upload a photo onto her computer.  Let alone 5.  So, if I can find some magical bars of wireless somewhere, I’ll try and post, but if not, a few days isn’t so bad.

Hopefully these scones will tide you over.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they are the most delicious scones ever.  They are like crack scones.  They are seductive and enticing in all the right (or wrong) ways, and I had to freeze a large portion of them to keep myself from devouring the whole batch and depriving Luke of their amazingness.

Words truly are not sufficient to describe them; they are ineffable.  I’ve totally been waiting to use that word in a sentence.  Anyway, make these scones.  They will make your house smell great.  I would advise sharing them, otherwise you may fall victim to their spell and end up with scone crumbs all over the floor and a belly ache.

Apple Cheddar Scones

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 8 scones

2 firm tart apples
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, or grease with cooking spray.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. (Chunks, not slivers.) Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge.) Leave oven on.

Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.  Cut in the cold butter with fingers or forks until the butter is pea-sized.  Cut the apples chunks into bite sized pieces, and add them, as well as the, cheese, cream and one egg, stirring until just combined with a wooden spoon.

Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 8 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been greased or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remember, you’ve been warned.


Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Enter the year of the dragon.  Last year was the year of the rabbit.  I’m glad we managed to get Izzy during that time frame.  Luke is a dragon, so now you all know.  And I’m a snake…which is the next year to come, just in case you were wondering.

During the celebration of western New Year, I made this cake with my mom.  Before going down to CT I had some egg yolks to use up for whatever reason, so I decided to make pastry cream.  Caramel pastry cream to be exact.

I brought it along for the journey with the explicit purpose of pairing it with an apple cake.  I originally had hopes for a caramel apple layer cake, but my mom didn’t have round cake pans.  I was crestfallen, but determined to use that pastry cream nonetheless.

Since she did have a bundt pan, we decided on an apple cider bundt cake.  We had after all, just visited the local orchard/market and had picked up a fresh half gallon.

This cake is down right tasty, with or without the pastry cream.  It also ended up being breakfast the next morning, I love how bundt cakes are versatile like that.

Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Adapted from Pixelated Crumb

2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup apple cider, heated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan, or spray with cooking spray.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add in eggs one at a time, beating after each, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat until incorporated.

Add in ¼ of the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Next, add in 1/3 of the buttermilk.  Continue to alternate adding the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and beat until smooth.

Slowly add in heated apple cider.  Mix until just combined.  Wipe down sides of the bowl, then transfer batter to the prepared bundt pan.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.  Invert cake and let cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.

Caramel Pastry Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

3 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Spread the ½ cup sugar in an even layer in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar begins to melt around the edges.  Using a heatproof spatula, slowly drag the liquefied sugar to the center and stir gently until all the sugar is melted.  Continue to cook, stirring infrequently, until the caramel turns dark amber in color and begins to foam a bit.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk.

The caramel will bubble up vigorously, then the bubbling will subside.  If the caramel seizes into a hardened mass, (like mine did) whisk the mixture over low heat until most of the caramel is dissolved.  Don’t worry about any small chunks; they’ll dissolve later.

Sift the flour into the caramel mixture, then whisk to break up any clumps.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in a small amount of the hot thickened caramel mixture.  Scrape the yolk mixture into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, and cook until thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise.  Press the pastry cream through a mesh strainer set over a large bowl, then whisk in vanilla and salt.  Let cool completely.  Cover remaining pastry cream and store in the fridge.