Cooks Exchange

Apple season brings sweet pleasures

It might be just me, but apples seem sweeter and crisper this fall.

My daughter and husband always love apples. I never could keep a bag around for long. Now, my 2-year-old granddaughter is following right in their footsteps. She loves apples any way you can fix them, from raw slices to apple dumplings to apple cake to apple fruit bars.

To me, apples were OK. My favorite way to eat them, if they were tart and crisp, was with good quality cheese and a glass of Chardonnay. They were not my favorite fruit, and I certainly wasn't an apple pie lover.

This fall, I have been buying bags of Granny Smith and Gala apples. To me, these are the best-tasting ones for cooking or baking. Perhaps my tastes are changing or perhaps I never before bothered to experiment with apple recipes. I thought apples were boring.

Along comes granddaughter, and everything changes. I have made fresh apple cakes, apple dumplings and even a really good apple pie -- this from someone who never ate apple pie, which to me was a bland, doughy dessert.

My favorite experiment is the apple dumplings. I love blackberry dumplings, so I thought I probably would like apple ones, as long as the apples weren't mushy. Cinnamon and nutmeg add just the right spices to the dumplings. The one-layer fresh apple cake that I took to a snack supper last week ranked high on my apple scale. From "101 Days of Holiday Recipes and Crafts" newsletter, it was quick, flavorful and ready from start to finish in less than 45 minutes.

Apples and Halloween make good companions, too. When I was young, a banker in my hometown filled washtubs with apples and let us bob for apples. Yes, it was a gentler time, but we love trick-or-treating at his house.

My daughter and I make caramel apples as a treat for our family. I like the caramel, but my favorite is the hard, red, cinnamon candied apples that crack when you bite into them.

Oooh, I would like one of those right now.

Today, I thought I would share my experiments with you and offer some candy apple recipes just in time for Halloween.

Aunt Shari's Caramel Apple Dumplings reci

pe, which I found on Pinterest, was the basis for my experimentation. It's from thatsmyhome.com/ That recipe did not have the fragrant spices that I like with apples, so I added some. I have made this several times because it is so easy and economical. I also increased the sugar amount in the dumplings because I didn't want them to taste like dough. As I said, I added 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon to the sauce.

MINE AND AUNT SHARI'S CARAMEL APPLE DUMPLINGS

Sauce:

1- 1/2 cups water

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Dumplings:

1-1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sauce: Mix together in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Dumplings: Mix together and fold in 1 cup of chopped, peeled, cored apple. Drop by tablespoons into the sauce mixture. Cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes over medium low heat. Sprinkle with additional nutmeg when done. Serves 4.

Can serve warm with whipped cream, non-dairy whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Note: This recipe can be made with no-sugar-added by substituting Splenda brown sugar substitute and Splenda granulated sugar substitute.

OLD-FASHIONED APPLE SPICE CAKE

Batter:

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar (original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but that was not sweet enough for a cake, maybe a coffee cake)

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1/3 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

1 large apple (or 2 small apples), peeled and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (not in original recipe)

Optional: Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a round cake pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, lemon juice, milk, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until fluffy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Spread batter evenly into prepared cake pan.

Arrange sliced apples on top of batter. Dot with additional 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This cake took 30 minutes in my oven.

Serve with whipped cream, non-dairy whipped topping or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Note: This cake, too, could be made no-sugar-added by using sugar substitutes for brown sugar and granulated sugar.

Serves 6; preparation time, 15 minutes; cooking time, 25 to 30 minutes.

My favorite caramel apple recipe can be found on a package of Kraft caramels. My grandmother used it, and so do I. You can add your own variations of chocolate, nuts, coconut or candy-coated chocolate candies or candy corn. Crisp Granny Smith apples are a must for this treat.

LOADED CARAMEL APPLES

1 package (11 ounces) caramels

5 Granny Smith apples, washed, well dried

Toppings (see tips)

Melt caramels as directed on package.

Coat apples with caramel as directed on package. Do not refrigerate.

Add your choice of toppings. (See tips.) Refrigerate 1 hour or until caramel is firm.Remove apples from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly.

Variations:

Chocolate-Pecan Caramel Apples: Coarsely chop 1 cup pecans. Melt 2 ounces white chocolate with 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate as directed on package; mix well. Drizzle over apples. Press nuts into chocolate.

S'more Caramel Apples: Coarsely chop 5 graham squares. Melt 2 ounces white chocolate with 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate as directed on package; mix well. Pour over 2 cups miniature marshmallows in microwaveable bowl; toss to evenly coat. Microwave on high 15 to 20 seconds or just until marshmallows start to puff. Swirl gently with spoon to marbleize. Immediately spread onto apples. Carefully press graham pieces into marshmallow mixture.

Peanut Butter-Swirl Caramel Apples: Melt 3 ounces white chocolate as directed on package; mix with 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter until blended. Drizzle over apples.

-- Recipe from Kraft Foods

More puppy chow

John Brown asked for a recipe for a snack mix for people called puppy chow, and another reader has sent in a favorite recipe for him.

"This is my granddaughter's recipe. She began making it at age 12," said Carolyn Radley of Bradenton, Fla. "Now married, she makes it for her own children ages 3 and 5. We use Crispex as our brand of Chex cereal."

PUPPY CHOW

Microwave 2 cups chocolate chips and 1 cup crunchy peanut butter until melted. Remove and add a 12-ounce box of Crispex cereal and toss to coat well. Add a 16-ounce package of confectioner's sugar, coating well. Store in a tight-fitting container.

-- Submitted by Carolyn Radley

Coming next week

Rosalind Lane of Picayune puts Dr. Pepper to use in some unusual ways.

Still need help

"I lost my favorite recipe for squash, a summer squash au gratin," Frances Saucier said. "If you have this recipe, please share."

Readers, do you have a summer squash or yellow squash au gratin recipe? If so, please send it my way for Saucier.

Reader Brenda Roberts of Ocean Springs wants a healthy, low-sodium chicken curry recipe.

"I am a diabetic and heart patient. Can you help me?" she said. "Being that I am a heart patient, I can't have a lot of sodium or fat. I hope someone can help me."

Where can James Kittrell find an already made, good coconut pie? Let me know your favorite restaurant or bakery.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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