The Iron Cupcake

Food, design, fun stuff.


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Birthday Fritters

Today’s my birthday. Yeaaaayyyyy!

Normally my beautiful and awesomely talented wife would bake me a cake (something she’s very gifted at doing, hence the name of this site.) But this year, I saw that Cook’s Country (aka the America’s Test Kitchen folks enjoying a sunny vacation in Vermont) released an apple fritter recipe, I had to try it. Thus, in lieu of cake, I decided to make birthday fritters. (They’re basically little deep-fried cakes, so, close enough.

Again, I took these photos on the fly with my iPhone, in the interest of time. It called for Granny Smith apples, but we had an overflow of other types from our apple picking in the Hudson Valley adventure a couple weeks ago, so I used the tartest of those—Empires. They were quite a bit smaller than the grannies they used, so I used 4 instead of two.

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Peel ’em, chop ’em into 1/4 inch pieces, and dry on paper towels.

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Mix up the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg.

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Throw in the apples,

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And toss to coat with the dry ingredients. This is meant to soak up any more moisture from the apples and prevent wet fritters.

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Then put together the liquid portion, which is apple cider, eggs and melted butter.

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Toss it with the apple/flour mixture till it’s sort of pasty and sticks together well.

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Meanwhile, assemble the glaze. Confectioners sugar, cider, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

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Mix till it’s pretty and looking like what it is: autumn-flavored liquid sweetness.

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Now the fun part, and you need to work pretty quick here. Heat some oil in a Dutch oven to 350, and fry the fritters in 1/3 cupfuls. Once you get them in the oil, you need to press them down with the back of a spoon so they flatten out a little and cook evenly. Just a couple minutes per side and you’re good.

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Then cool on a rack for a few minutes,

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And add a heaping teaspoon of glaze into each one.

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Feast your eyes.

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They’re basically donuts, minus the holes, with big bits of apple in them. And they are seriously good, and just what I wanted on this lovely day in early autumn. Happy birthday to me!

Speaking of donuts, and my birthday, my parents gave me this lovely vessel of liquid bliss:

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Yes, that says “Bacon Maple Ale.” It’s got an image of a dude drinking a frosty pint in front of a flag with pigs and maple leaves. And it’s presented in a piggie-pink bottle. This is going to be fun.

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Pesto Omelette

After letting the chickens out of their coop this morning, I wandered into the garden and thought to myself, “Hmmm. not much left.  What can I make for breakfast?”  Then I spotted the gigantic columnar basil plant and thought of pesto.  I’m eating a lot of eggs these days, considering they keep showing up in the back yard, so thought maybe a pesto omelette would be interesting, but there’s a chance it could also be weird and gross.  Having just gotten a new iPhone, I’ve been playing with Siri a lot.  So standing there in the garden, I asked her: “Siri, tell me about pesto omelettes.”  She did a quick web search, and it turns out, it’s a thing!  So I grabbed some basil and a leaf of chard (thinking it couldn’t hurt to throw in there too,) and set off to cook.

Since this was a breakfast on a work day, I didn’t bother using my fancy DSLR or worrying about lighting too much.  I just snapped off a few shots with my phone.  Not the greatest pics, but not bad for being in a hurry!

I started with this much basil and chard:

I washed it, chopped up the chard, pulled the basil off the stems, and threw it in the food processor with some walnuts, good California olive oil, and salt.

Gave it a whirl and remembered pesto usually calls for parmesean too, so I grated some in after the first spin.

Then I made a quick two-egg omelette with my new 13-dollar non-stick pan and added the pesto.

I rolled it off onto a plate and topped with a little more pesto and parm.

And served it with some pinto beans cooked with some EVOO and smoked sea salt.  (Beans?! Yep, I’m watching my carbs at the moment, and beans make for a great breakfast side dish.)

It was damn good, if I do say so myself.

 

Speaking of my new iPhone, just after letting the girls out this morning, I thought I’d play with the new panorama feature in the camera app.  It works remarkably well for something so automated!  It does distort things a little, making it look like our house and our neighbor’s are right next to each other, but cool none the less.  Pay no attention to the kids’ toys strewn about the yard.  Or the rectangles of bare lawn where the chickens scratched up the grass!


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Caramel Apple French Toast

We had an absolutely great day yesterday. On a whim, I suggested that we drive to Newburgh, NY, just over the Hudson River, to Lawrence Farms Orchards for some apple picking. This was such a great place, with not only apples, but pick-your-own broccoli, cabbage, grapes, sweet & hot peppers, kale, winter squash, pumpkins, and more. We picked about $75 worth of fresh fruit and veggies!
But now we’ve got to use it all. So this morning, I made caramel apple french toast, adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe. That recipe called for maple syrup to be mixed in with the apples, which I was fresh out of, so I just used sugar, and it was still awesome.

I started with a nice loaf of Challah, which was easy to find at TJ’s since this weekend begins Rosh Hashana.

Slice up a few apples and cook them in a skillet with some butter.

Get the bread soaking up that egg mixture,

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Get the apples good and caramelized, and mix in some sugar, a little water, and some cinnamon.

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Give the bread a few minutes on each side on a hot buttered griddle,

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And serve it with the hot apples and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

It was sweet, crispy on the outside and custardy on the inside, and filled the house with the smell of cinnamon and apples. Perfect for an early autumn day. A good and hearty breakfast for all. (Parker was a fan.)


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The Great Buckwheat Pancakes Rerun!

Wife had a great idea the other day: since it’s kind of a big deal to make pancakes, and we don’t have time to do it all the time, why not make extra and freeze them?  So I made the same buckwheat pancake recipe as last time (only I didn’t have buttermilk, so I used regular milk and used exclusively baking powder to make up for the lack of acid in the milk).  I made a double recipe so we’d have extra. They turned out great, and when we were done we had a good 8 pancakes left over.  I cooled them on a rack, and put them in ziplock bags with squares of parchment paper between each to keep them from sticking.  This works remarkably well!

For this morning’s Pancake Rerun, I pulled them out of the freezer and threw them in the toaster oven on the highest “toast” setting.  Then chopped up some fresh local peaches, (I LOVE peaches when they’re ripe and in-season), whipped up a quick batch of whipped cream, and that’s it!  Instant (well, near instant) pancake nirvana.  And I didn’t wreck the kitchen (as I have tendency to do when I cook.  I’m working on it.)

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And in the spirit of the season (Pun!), I was perusing Pinterest and found this:

Apple Pie Infused Bourbon

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Not only does that look crazy good, but it sounds super easy to make.  I’d probably use an inexpensive bourbon like Jim Beam, since I wouldn’t want to alter the flavor of high-quality bourbon.  You could have it on the rocks, or with a bit of club soda, or make lovely autumn cocktails, like Apple Pie Bourbon Sweet Tea.

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Yes please.


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Mile-high Apple Pie

I’ve been wanting to bake a really good apple pie for a while now.  There are so many varieties to choose from, but I wanted one that wasn’t too gloppy and was jam packed with apples—ones that really maintain their shape and a bit of bite after baking.  After some recipe researching, I decided to go with the Deep-Dish Apple Pie from one of my favorite cookbooks, America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete TV Show Cookbook.

I love all things ATK, including Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.  They rarely steer me wrong.  (I even listen to the America’s Test Kitchen Radio podcast.  Obsessed much?)  What I love about the show, and the cookbook, is that they give a detailed explanation for WHY a recipe works.  The sort of information that, over time, can help you to cook without a recipe.  (But, as I’ll explain below, after this experience, I plan to ALWAYS follow a recipe when baking!)

The recipe for “Deep Dish” apple pie called for 5 lbs of apples.  Which worked out to be 11 apples.  At approximately 8 servings per pie, that’s more than one and a third apples per serving.  Off to a good start!  The recipe calls for using half tart apples and half sweet, so I used a combination of granny smiths, golden delicious, and braeburns.

I started with a recipe for “Foolproof Double-Crust Pie Dough” from the same book, which uses a mixture of butter and shortening, as well as a mix of water and vodka.  The vodka is supposed to keep the crust from getting tough, since apparently flour can’t form gluten in alcohol.  Huh!  Anyway, I’m sure it WOULD have been foolproof if I had just stuck to the recipe, but I decided to use pastry flour instead of the all-purpose flour it called for.  This caused the dough to be VERY wet, almost like thick pancake batter.  This made it very hard to work with.  (Jess thinks it may have also been due to the very high humidity, which was about on par with a humidor. In a sauna. In monsoon season.) For the top crust I worked in some extra flour to compensate, but I may have ended up making it a little tough.

I used our fancy schmancy apple peeler doohickey, which peels, cores, and slices an apple in approximately 7.6 nanoseconds.  And it leaves you with an 8-foot-long continuous string of peel, which is pretty fun.  I highly recommend picking one of these up if you deal with apples more than once a year.  I think ours was nineteen bucks at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Anyway, another interesting thing about this recipe is that it has you precook the apples.  I don’t have a ton of experience baking pies, but according to ATK, just stuffing a big pie like this full of fresh apples will cause them to shrink as the pie bakes, creating a gaping cavern under the crust.  So this process reduces the moisture and helps the apples’ natural pectin to set up, creating more body later.  After you cook them on the stove top with some sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest, you spread them out on a baking sheet to cool.

Drop them into your pie pan with the bottom crust in place,

Then pour over a little bit of the reserved juice that cooked out of the apples on the stove top and put on the top crust.

Add some slits for air to escape during baking, give it an egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for almost an hour.

Perdy, ain’t it?

And viola!  Beautiful, aromatic apple pie, with tons of apples per slice.  Whip up some fresh whipped cream,

and you’re good to go.  I never use a recipe for whipped cream, since it’s about as easy as boiling water:  Pour some heavy cream into your kitchenaid/blender/food processor/bowl with egg beater or even hand whisk, (about a cup in this case,) a few tablespoons of sugar, and a small drizzle of vanilla extract, and whip until it’s done.  (Just don’t over whip, or you’ll get butter.)

Was this pie perfect? No.  It was fairly labor intensive, and somehow the “foolproof” crust foiled this fool.  And while I prefer a pie with more obvious apple consistency than mush, this one could have used a LITTLE more mush.  But overall, I’d say it was a darn good first attempt.  And best of all, my fans loved it.

Speaking of America’s Test Kitchen, I came to find out that Robert Papp, the cover illustrator of my Cal Ripken, Jr. books is also the painter of the beautiful covers of Cook’s Illustrated.  I told him I’m a big fan of the magazine and all things America’s Test Kitchen, and he sent me two signed prints!  Pretty awesome, huh?  You can buy prints (including stretched canvas) here. They look darn good hanging on my wall.