Desserts

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

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Maple and Brie Baked Apples (2)

For the last few weeks our internet has been floating in Never-Never Land. Those that write blogs depend heavily on internet, for how shall they post recipes without any pictures? And how shall they load pictures without any internet? And how shall they have internet unless it is restored? Thankfully, after much trotting on various rooftops and tapping of keyboards by people who know how to trot on rooftops and tap on keyboards efficiently, we are back in the Land of Now. Just in time to squeak in another maple recipe for March.

Although baked apples go way back in time, I don’t personally have a lot of history with them myself. I remember my grandmother making them occasionally, and my mom making them occasionally, and me making them occasionally, but that’s it. So this is not an old family recipe, it’s just a great way to serve apples. It’s simple, gluten-free, easy to make for two or twelve, and… you’ve gotta admit it… kind of pretty.

But! the plate it’s on… now, that’s got history. It’s an Antique. Please repeat that phrase reverently with me. It’s an Antique! Depression-era Milk Glass, to be precise, for those of you who care as I do for old, precious dishes. My family used to own a gift shop in the village of St. Jacobs and one thing we sold was antiques. It was so much fun going with Mom and Dad to auctions to buy them and research the value of them. I am of the firm opinion that old, precious dishes are to be used and enjoyed, so it seemed right and proper that this traditional dessert should be showcased on a heritage plate.

For this recipe, I used a similar syrup as the Maple Mustard Chicken in my last post. By the way, thanks to those of you who tried that recipe and messaged to say how well you like it! That is music to a food blogger’s ears, let me tell you. I cored an Ida Red apple, stuffed it with pecans and Brie cheese and basted it with the syrup. If you prefer sweeter apples, use a Gala or something similar that holds its shape well. I always peel them halfway down, both for aesthetics and because the peel gets a little tougher from baking.

Maple and Brie Baked Apples (3)
Check out that deliciously oozing centre!

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

Ida Reds are a favourite of many bakeries for strudels, cakes, and muffins. They are a deep red colour with a semi-tart flavour and resist browning after being cut.  

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

Ingredients

  • 2 large, firm apples (sweet or tart, your choice!)Maple and Brie Baked Apples
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Amber)
  • about 8 pecan halves
  • 4 Brie cheese slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Core the apple with a thin knife (a filet knife works well) or an apple corer. Make the hole large enough to stuff with 2 slices of Brie cheese. Peel the top half of the apple. Heat the butter and maple syrup together just until it begins to boil. Place the apples in a baking pan and stick 3 pecan halves down the hole to the bottom of the apple. These help to keep the Brie inside the apple. Stuff tightly with the Brie slices, top with another pecan half, then scoop the boiling syrup over the apples. Baste the apple with the syrup from the baking dish a couple of times while baking. Bake the apples for at least an hour, or until the skin begins to split and the apple is soft to your fork, but still holding together. Place the apples on your prettiest plates and scoop the syrup from the pan over top. Serve with ice cream, if you wish.   

*Because I wanted to experience the flavours of the Brie and the maple syrup, I opted not to add cinnamon. I’m sure it would be good with cinnamon, though, so go ahead and add it if you like!

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!

Peach Blackberry Shortcake

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The peach season is winding down, and I feel as though I must quickly post a peach recipe before it’s over. Also, I still need a dessert to round out the blog menu! You see, creating a food blog is different than putting together a cookbook. When you’re writing a recipe book, you assemble all the recipes and publish them all at once. With a blog, your head is swimming with ideas, but you publish them one at a time, lovingly and painstakingly. You may consider each recipe a gift, chosen carefully and handed to you with love at special occasions. Okay, enough with the gushing sentiments. I’ll stop before I have you all in tears.

Because I did not make a single strawberry shortcake this year, I vowed that peach season would not skid past without a peach blackberry version. In my mind, peaches and blackberries fit together like sunflowers and bulrushes in a fall bouquet. You can have them separately, but the two together add a stunning Wow factor, both in looks and flavour. Yesterday I was in at our store and got a basket of peaches and a quart of blackberries to pair together in some goody. Last night, we had a special family dinner in honour of our youngest going away to college, and moving out for a year. Voila! My reason to make this shortcake was born.

I love shortcakes, especially the biscuit variety. In fact, I love all things biscuit-related: scones, shortcakes, and biscuits themselves. On our honeymoon, we spent some time in the South, where I learned how to make a proper biscuit that does not have the texture of sawdust. You’ve all had those, I’m sure; the kind that come out your nose if you sneeze. Or like one I had at a High Tea at a heritage homestead that flew off the table when I tried to saw it asunder to butter it and landed on the grass with a thud, with nary a dent or a crumb out of place. Nope, my biscuits have to be flaky yet moist; crusty yet soft. Sometime, I will share that recipe with you. Meanwhile, here’s the shortcake.

The key to any biscuit-type recipe is to cut in the butter with two knives or a pastry blender until the crumbs are a little larger than a small pea. This helps to create the flakiness. Now stir the liquid in with a fork, swirling from the outside towards the centre, just until the dough gathers together. Lastly you tip it onto a floured surface and gently knead it with the heels of your hands (that’s where your hand meets your wrist) about 20 times. Pat it and shape it, and mark it with B. Hmm, how much do you bet that old nursery rhyme was written about shortcake?

Peaches should be firm when you buy them, with good colour. They ripen quickly, so if you buy them ripe, they will be over-ripe by the next day. Spread them out on a towel or newspaper at room temperature to ripen. They are ready to use when the shoulders around the stem end depress when you press them slightly. Ideally, they will be ripe within two days. 

Your supplier will thank you if you do not squeeze them before buying. We would cringe when customers did that at the market, then ask “Why are these peaches so hard?” In our heads: “Ummm, ma’am, do you have any idea what these peaches would look like if they were soft and you squeezed them like that?”  But of course we didn’t say that. We’d just smile and reply sweetly with information on ripening peaches.

Peach Blackberry Shortcake

Ingredients

Fruits

  • 3 cups washed and sliced fresh peaches (I leave the skins on)
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Fruit Fresh or other anti-browning agent

Shortcake:

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • Milk or cream (optional)
  • Coarse sugar (optional)

Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a large bowl, combine sliced peaches, blackberries, sugar and Fruit Fresh, and toss very lightly. Chill until ready to serve. Preheat oven to 425° F.

In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients for the shortcake. Cut cold butter into 1″ chunks, then cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of large peas. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, then stir in the sour cream. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients with a fork until the mixture holds mostly together. 

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 20-25 turns, or until starting to smooth. Roll or pat into an 8″ circle on a lightly greased pizza pan. Cut a 2″ hole in the centre to form a ring. This hole keeps the shortcake from having a doughy centre. Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 12- 15 minutes or until lightly browned. It will expand and puff up. Cool until ready to use.

Put all topping ingredients in a small deep bowl and whip until stiff. 

Just before serving, slice shortcake into two layers. Spread cream on bottom layers, saving a little for top garnish. layer most of the fruit on top of cream. Carefully place the top layer of shortcake over fruit. Garnish with remaining cream, fruit and the little cutout. Cut into 8 wedges to savour the fine tastes of summer!