Christmas!!!

Candy Apple Cheesecake

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What’s your favourite dessert to order at a restaurant? Cheesecake? Crème Brûlée? What if I told you that I have a dessert recipe that contains the best elements of both of those? The crackling burnt sugar of the crème brûlée on top of the creamy smoothness of a vanilla cheesecake, with a bite of delicate apple surprising you every now and then. Could anything be more alluring than that?

Candy Apple Cheesecake
Candy Apple Cheesecake

This summer my family had our second annual backyard campout at my sister’s place. It can only be called a campout because we eat and play outside two days in a row and have a campfire in the evenings. We, um, all go home to our beds at night. Don’t laugh; someday you will understand. Maybe. Anyway, we were planning the food and I asked my sisterchicks what dessert we should have on Sunday noon with our grilled hamburgers. Without missing a beat, one of them replied, “Crème Brûlée”. Of course! Who doesn’t have Crème Brûlée with hamburgers at their campout? It seemed totally normal to us and furthermore, it was providential, because I had a lot of egg yolks in my fridge left over from a Pavlova I had made earlier. And so it was, and the Crème Brûlée slid deliciously down our gullets that hot sunny September noon in my sister’s back yard.

I made this delightful cheesecake for my daughter-in-law’s birthday party on Sunday. It was a hit, even though the crust was a little soggy and the cheesecake had flattened due to water leaking through the required foil wrap. I eliminated the water bath the second time I made it and it seemed okay without it, so you don’t have to worry about a waterlogged cheesecake. It is unapologetically decadent for those occasions when you want an unapologetically decadent dessert. This particular cheesecake has a lighter, less cakey texture than most due to the custardy filling method. I used gluten-free gingersnaps for the crust and that added the perfect amount of spice. Add the crackling sugar topping… I’m telling you; this baby is gooood! Good enough for Christmas, in fact.

Candy Apple Cheesecake

Candy Apple Cheesecake

For this dish I chose to use Crispin (also known as Mutsu) apples, because they hold their shape nicely when cooked. Plus the flavour and crunch of them is phenomenal right now. I love to eat them fresh too. The Crispin is a large, firm, yellowish-green apple. 

Note: Various people have asked me which culinary torch I would recommend. I have the Orblue Culinary Torch and have been extremely pleased with it. I can’t wait to try it on a meringue. 

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Crispin (Mutsu) Apple

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views and stories are my own. 

Candy Apple Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:

Candy Apple Cheesecake
Candy Apple Cheesecake
  • 1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs (approximately 255 gr) (you can use gluten-free cookies if you wish)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Cheesecake:

  • 3 (8 ounce or 250 gr) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream (do not whip)
  • 10 large egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites for another use)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced firm apples (I used Crispin)
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar (for the brulée)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Get out a 9-inch springform pan. With a rolling pin or food processor crush the gingersnaps into fine crumbs. Melt butter in a medium bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs and sugar and stir together with a fork. Press firmly into ungreased pan. Set springform pan on a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325° F. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese for 4 minutes, making sure to scrape sides and beaters to incorporate any lumps. Add 1 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat for another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the cream on medium low heat until it is hot, but not boiling.

Beat the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl until they are thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. While beating the yolks, pour cream slowly into the bowl, beating all the while, so that the yolks don’t curdle.

Beat the cream cheese mixture on low while adding the yolk/cream mixture slowly to it. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to eliminate any lumps. The batter is pretty thin. Peel and chop apples and fold them gently into the batter by hand. Pour the batter over the cooled crust, smoothing top.

Bake for 90-95 minutes. It is done when it is turning golden and is mostly set in the middle, yet jiggles slightly when you shake it gently. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to cool down. Let the cheesecake cool gradually for 1 hour in the oven. Remove cheesecake and finish thoroughly cooling on a rack before covering and refrigerating it for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, gently loosen sides of pan and transfer cheesecake carefully to serving plate. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of cheesecake. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar or you can try putting it 6″ under the broiler for a few minutes, but watch very carefully! It burns easily. If you use the broiler method, don’t put it on the serving plate until the caramelizing is done. I like the control I have with my torch. It will take several minutes to do the entire surface. The sugar is done when it starts to liquify and turns a dark golden colour. Let it sit for a few minutes to harden. Cut with a knife dipped in hot water and cleaned between every slice. Garnish with thin apple wedges, broken gingersnap cookies, pomegranate seeds, frosted cranberries, or whatever you wish!

Note: I did try the waterbath cheesecake method again, and I will confess that the end result is a creamier cheesecake. If you choose to try it, here’s how. Lay three pieces of heavy-duty foil on your counter. They should be about 5″ larger than your springform pan on all sides. Set your pan in the middle of the foil, then carefully fold up the foil around the sides of the pan. Begin curling the top edges of the foil together, and keep curling until you can curl them around the very top rim of the pan. Tuck any stray edges up under the curl. You don’t want to have it hanging into the cheesecake. Bake the crust normally without the water bath. Heat water in a teakettle. When the crust is done, set it into a large pan or roaster with deep sides that is big enough to hold your pan. Pour the filling on top of the crust. Set the pan in the oven and carefully pour the hot water around the sides of the pan. Bake, cool in oven, then take the pan from the water and remove the foil for the last cooling outside of the oven. There you go!

Festive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping

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My husband grew up farming hogs before his family delved into the world of apples, so it is probably no coincidence that his favourite meat is pork. Nor is it surprising that he especially loves pork and apples together. They are a natural team – everyone knows that, even those of us who didn’t grow up raising pigs and apples in our formative years.

Many years ago, I discovered this recipe for an Apple Crusted Pork Loin.  I have made it many times when I want an entree that has significant Wow Factor. It is stunning, flavourful and out of the ordinary, without an excessive amount of care. In fact, I made it for TV celebrity chef Lynn Cawford when she joined us for an evening of “Mennonite food”. True story. I told her this is a dressed-up version of the typical sausage or ham dinner that Mennonites love to serve and eat.

Apple Crusted Pork Loin
Apple Crusted Pork Loin The original recipe without cranberries – it’s still pretty, though.

Most recently, I made it for a local youth Christmas banquet that we were catering. Before you ask, the answer is “No.” We don’t have a catering business; it is simply a hobby that we exercise occasionally for people that we really love. For this particular event, I decided to add chopped fresh cranberries and a few more spices than the original recipe has. It had a wonderful depth of flavour and the cranberries sparkled like jewels nestling in the chopped apple topping. So if you’re still dithering about which meat to serve at your Christmas dinner, look no further!

Ask your butcher for a 4-5 lb pork loin roast. This is not those little pork tenderloins, it is a round tied roast about 4 inches in diameter. Pork loin is actually a lean meat; do not overcook it or be afraid to eat it!

 

I have simplified the original recipe somewhat because of the amount of times I roasted larger quantities. Be sure to snip and remove the strings BEFORE topping with the apples. Just trust me on this one; you will regret it later if you don’t.

Festive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping
Updated recipe with little red bits of cranberries peeking through! Served on kale and garnished with Martin’s Apple Chips and my own pickled crabapples.

For this dish I chose to use Crispin (also known as Mutsu) apples, because they hold their shape nicely when cooked. Plus the flavour and crunch of them is phenomenal right now. I love to eat them fresh too. The Crispin is a large, firm, yellowish-green apple. 

We still have frozen Ontario cranberries from the bogs of Bala, Ontario!

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Crispin (Mutsu) Apple

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. All recipes, views and stories are my own. 

 

Festive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons flourFestive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (yes! get it if you don’t own it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning
  • 1 boneless rolled and tied pork loin (4-5 lbs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Apple Cranberry Topping:

  • 1 cup finely chopped unpeeled tart firm apple (Crispin, Empire, Spy)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves or allspice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed or snipped chili flakes (optional)

Directions

Important: Do Not Cover This Roast Or Any Other Loin Cuts At Any Point During Cooking. You will end up with a rubbery product that will disappoint you.

Set pork loin on a shallow foil-lined baking pan. In a small bowl, combine the flour with the seasonings. Rub them over the roast on all sides and the ends. Drizzle with oil and bake uncovered at 500° F for about 10 minutes. Lower heat to 325° F and bake uncovered for 1 1/4 hour longer.

Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients. Remove roast from the oven; snip strings and carefully pull them out of the meat. Spread topping over the top of the roast and bake uncovered for another hour or until meat thermometer reads 160° F. You don’t want to overcook it or the meat will be dry. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4″ slices. An electric knife works well for this. Arrange on a bed of kale and garnish with apple wedges, grape tomatoes, pickled crabapples or fresh/frozen cranberries. Serve and bask in the oohs of delight.

Double Apple Scones

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Double Apple Scones
Double Apple Scone turned into Triple Apple Scones!

Scones. How my world has been brightened by the advent of these crusty, crumbly versatile treats. There are the hearty, oatsy varieties, developed to stick to your ribs as you trek out on the cold, windy Scottish Highlands for a tryst with your ain wee bonnie laddie. There are Irish scones and Dutch scones. Then there are the delicate golden types that you eat daintily, spreading them with clotted cream and blackberry jam while crooking your pinkie as you drink your tea out of beautiful bone china teacups and pretend that you are in the presence of M’Lady England. Yes, mum. I love them all. They each have their place in my multicultural world.

For breakfast, I tend to go for the heartier kinds of scones. I want one that will hang in there until noon; one that I can break off and savour with my freshly ground and brewed coffee while watching the birds flitting about on my feeder.

When I came across this recipe, I was intrigued because it uses applesauce as the liquid ingredient instead of the usual cream, as well as fresh apple chunks. Since applesauce is part of our heritage every bit as much as my long, swinging braids were in my childhood, my eyes perked up at the notion of including it. I expected the scones to be missing their crusty exterior because of the applesauce, but they still had it. Jackpot! It stayed in my file.

Double Apple Scones
Golden brown. moist and chewy Apple Scones

Here are a few tips about scone-making that I have learned and will pass on to you. (Yeah, don’t mention it. I’m just nice that way.) As always, click or hover on the images for descriptions and captions.

1. Use well-chilled butter and grate it. This can be done by freezing it for 30 minutes, or using butter that has been kept in the fridge. This saves the step of cutting it in with a pastry blender. Handy-dandy! I made a double batch here because I like to give things like this as gifts.

2. Mix the liquid into the dry ingredients until it starts to hang together in clumps, then tip the mass out onto a heavily floured surface, and knead about 10- 15 turns, just until it forms a ball shape. Divide the ball in two and flatten each half into a 7″ by 3/4″ thick circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges and place them on a tray, leaving 1/2″ in between the scone wedges. 

3. Freeze the scones after cutting into pieces and bake them from the frozen stage. The freezing actually relaxes the gluten and causes them to puff up more. This is a huge time-saver; just pull them out of the freezer the morning you want to serve them and bake them. Oh joy, oh bliss! Fresh scones, just like that.

I used my homemade applesauce (remember? it’s part of my heritage) but we do also sell a great home-style unsweetened applesauce at Martins, made with our very own apple supply. 

For this recipe I used the ever-popular Cortland. Its red, streaky skin and pure white flesh make it great for sauces and baked goods, as well as eating out of hand. It has a wonderful old-fashioned flavour that evokes memories of apples stored under blankets in our cold cellar at home. 

How do you pronounce the word “scones”? Well, apparently you may pronounce it whichever way you choose: skahns, skones, or skoons. Take your pick. I pronounce them skahns, because that’s how I mostly heard it pronounced in England.

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. All recipes, views and stories are my own. 

Double Apple Scones

Ingredients

Double Apple Scones
Double Apple Scone turned into Triple Apple Scones!
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ( you can substitute half whole wheat, if you like)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon cloves)

 

  • 1/2 cup very cold or frozen butter, grated
  • 1 cup fresh apple, washed, unpeeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks (I used Cortland)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional, but we sure like the addition!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • cream or milk for brushing on top
  • 1/4 cup coarse or fine sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then grate the frozen/chilled butter and stir it in with a fork. Add the chopped apples and cranberries and lightly stir them in. Whisk the eggs, add the applesauce and vanilla and whisk again. Stir the liquid mixture into the bowl until the mixture begins to clump together. Turn it out onto a heavily floured surface and knead lightly for 10-15 turns.

Divide the mixture into two balls, flatten each into a 7″ circle, about 3/4′ thick, then cut each circle into 6 wedges with a knife dipped into flour or run under cold water.  Try to have the edges the same height as the middle; not thinner. Brush the tops with milk or cream, then sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar. Place on a tray covered with parchment, leaving at least 1/2″ between each scone, and freeze for at least 30 minutes (overnight works great).

Before baking, preheat oven to 425° F. Once it’s hot, bake the scones without thawing them for 18 – 22 minutes. Let them cool on the tray for five minutes before serving. Eat them plain, or spread with butter or honey. Or… slather them with a dab of apple butter like we do and turn them into Triple Apple Scones! Delight in every bite.