Apple Crisp

It’s October, which means that mornings are starting out clear and cool, evenings are getting darker sooner, leaves are changing colors, and we finally closed the windows in our bedroom (but don’t worry, the heat won’t be on for another few weeks!).  You know what else happens in October??  APPLE CRISP SEASON!!!  Yes, it’s officially the best time of year to enjoy warm, cinnamon-y baked apples with a sugary, spice-filled topping and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream on top.  YUM!!

Apple Crisp

Matt’s dad visits up state New York every fall and inevitably returns with dozens of freshly picked McIntosh apples.  When we were at Matt’s parents’ house last weekend we loaded up a big grocery bag full of apples and then set about finding an apple crisp recipe worthy of the season.

Like many of my favorite recipes, the recipe below is from our trusty cookbook, The New Best Recipe.  I can’t stress enough how fantastic this cookbook is.  It has detailed, easy to understand instructions, long intros about how and why the authors chose certain ingredients or cooking methods, and tons of illustrations.  Not that you really need an illustration for apple crisp, but that feature has definitely come in handy for some of the more complicated recipes that we’ve attempted.

Apple Crisp

With this back story in mind, it should come as no surprise that this recipe for apple crisp turned out perfectly.  The McIntosh apples melted into a flavorful, applesauce-like filling and the firmer Granny Smiths held their shape and gave the crisp a good texture.  There’s just the right amount of tart lemon to offset the sweetness of the apples and the topping was absolutely delectable.  In fact it’s making my mouth water right now just looking at the photos!!! 🙂

Apple Crisp (serves 5-6, from The New Best Recipe)

For the topping…
6 tablespoons Flour
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup coarsely chopped Almonds, Pecans, or Walnuts (I used sliced almonds)

For the filling…
3 McIntosh Apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon Grated Zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar

Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:
Start by making your topping.  Combine the flour, sugars, spices and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend for a few seconds to mix.  Add in the pieces of butter and pulse the food processor 10 times for 4 seconds each.  Don’t overmix the topping.  Accordingly to the original recipe, your topping will first look like dry sand, then like coarse cornmeal.  Add in the nuts and pulse again 4-5 times for 1 second each.  Refrigerate the topping for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling, combine the apples, zest, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl and mix well to coat the apples.  Use a spatula to transfer the apple mixture to a 9-inch deep dish pie plate (make sure to scrap the sides of the bowl to get all of the sugar and lemon flavor!). 🙂

Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over the apple mixture.  Bake the crisp in a preheated 375° oven for 40 minutes, then increase the heat to 400° and bake for another 5 minutes until the topping is golden brown.  Remove the crisp from the oven and allow it to cool slightly for 10-15 minutes or as long as you can wait… it will smell GREAT at this point!  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

1171 Apple Crisp

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Rainy Day Cupcakes

It has been raining all day (2.12″ worth of rain so far!) so I haven’t been able to do much in the yard besides watch the grass seed we planted last weekend wash away.  Oh well!  I decided to make the most of being stuck inside by tackling a cupcake recipe.

Baking is not my strong point and we’ve had more than one frosting recipe go awry, so I was delighted when these cupcakes turned out exactly right!  The frosting is light and fluffy and the cakes puffed up nicely in the oven.

As you’ll notice, most of my photos are rather dark.  Believe it or not, I was actually taking the photos by a big window at 4:00 in the afternoon but it’s so dark out that these look like night shots.  I think the dark shadows convey the mood of the day pretty well.  Oh, and I also listened to Johnny Cash the entire time I made these so he added a bit of moodiness as well.  🙂

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting  (from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

You will need:
For the cupcakes…
1 1/2 cups Self-Rising Flour
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs, at room temperature
1 cup 2% Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For the frosting…
3 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons 2% Milk
9 ounces Semisweet Chocolate
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 cups Confectioners’ Sugar

Directions:
Combine the two flours in a small bowl and combine the milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup.  Set both mixtures aside.

In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is smooth.  Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture in three parts, alternating between flour and milk and beating  between each flour-milk addition.  Do not overbeat.  Use a silicone spatula to scrape the batter off of the sides of the bowl and make sure that all of the ingredients are well mixed.

Spoon the batter into lined muffin tins and fill each cupcake liner approximately 3/4 full.  In my case, this yielded 20 cupcakes.  I only have one muffin pan so I did a batch of 12 first and then a batch of 8.  Place the muffin pan on the center rack of a preheated 350° oven and cook for approximately 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes completely before icing.

For the frosting, start by melting the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water.  When the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to lukewarm before adding it to your frosting mixture.

I finally got to use the double boiler that my brother got me for Christmas!

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy, approximately 3 minutes.  Add the milk and beat until smooth (watch out, it splatters!!).  Add the melted chocolate and beat for approximately 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat for another 3 minutes.  Gradually add the sugar and beat on low speed until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.

My first successful frosting! (There have been many failures before this..!)

To frost my cupcakes, I transferred the frosting into a large resealable gallon bag and snipped about 3/4″ off of one of the corners.  I squeezed the frosting out onto each cupcake and then used a knife to spread the frosting evenly over the cake.

What do you do on a rainy Sunday when you can’t go outside?  Please share!  🙂