German Apple Pancakes

These apple pancakes are my favorite Sunday morning breakfast. They look beautiful and have a sort of special occasion air about them. The flavor of the apples and walnuts really shine through and juxtapose the texture of the egg batter that surrounds them.

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They are delightfully different from everyday pancakes and perfect for a pampered Spring morning. So, thanks to Uncle Steve (who first taught me how to make them!)  I have the perfect breakfast in bed meal for my mom on Mother’s day. Pair them with a cappuccino, vase of fresh flowers and a hug to let mom know how much you love her.

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German Apple Pancakes

From: Chrissy Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples (pick firm, sweet apples that are a little tart like Honey Crisp, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Gala and Empire)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • ½ tea cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ tea kosher or sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

  1. First, prepare the apple filling. Peel and dice the apples and place in a small pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ tea cinnamon. Sautee on medium heat for about 10 minutes (the apples will begin to soften and will develop a sort of cinnamon/sugar syrup)
  2. While the apples are softening, sift together the flour, salt, and remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  3. Add the eggs and milk into the flour mixture, being careful not to over mix (a few lumps are okay).
  4. When the apples are done stir in the walnuts and take off the heat.
  5. Grease two 9 inch cake spans (spring-form pans are ideal) by putting one tablespoon of butter in each pan and placing the pans in the oven for a few minutes until the butter melts. Swirl the butter around so it covers the entire bottom of the pan and goes up the sides of the pan too.
  6. Pour the flour and egg batter into the pan. Spoon on the apples and walnuts so they are evenly dispersed.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes at 425°until the edges start to become golden brown and curl up. The eggs will fluff and rise in the process.
  8. Now, this part is a bit tricky. If you used the spring-form pans, release the spring and with a spatula transfer the pancakes to a place. If you used a normal pan, trace the edges of the pancake with a knife before transferring it to a plate.
  9. Top with powdered sugar and enjoy!

An Italian Sugar Rush

The last article I posted was all about forgetting about time. It was about leaving that sauce on the stove until it was good and ready. This post, however, is the complete opposite. Making torrone is one of the rare moments where I can be seen moving quickly, almost rushing. It’s such a rare event, that my family doesn’t know what to do with me. They laugh as I buzz around the kitchen, impatient while the sugar is melting and having a mild-panic attack as the hot candy hardens while I cut it, little stands of sugar freezing mid-air.

 
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This kind of torrone is not the typical variety that most people are accustomed to. It is not the white, nougaty candy that comes packaged in a pretty box. For years, I didn’t even know that type existed. All I knew was the dark, honey- colored, almond candy topped with “dottie sprinkles” that my great Aunt Mary made every year for Christmas. Maybe, like me, Aunt Mary got a kick out of the hustle and ‘danger’ of making torrone and that is how it became a family tradition that hasn’t been skipped in what I can imagine is well over 50 years. Torrone di mandorle e miele (as it is formally known) is a sweet adventure in what toasted almonds, honey, and sugar can be capable of doing. An adventure in how three ingredients can transform into cheerful, little bites of holiday bliss and memory.

 
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Almond and Honey Torrone

From: Christina Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 orange
  • Dottie sprinkles (rainbow non-pareils)
  • Greased (buttered) glass/marble/pyrex cutting board (a non-wooden surface that can withstand high temperatures without breaking)
  • A wooden or metal mold

Directions:

  1. Before you begin, make sure that everything is ready to go. Grease your cutting surface and candy mold, get out the dottie sprinkles and orange, and pour your glass of drinking wine (optional). In French, gathering all of your cooking materials and ingredients before you actually start cooking is known as having your “mise en place”. Most of us don’t cook at home with everything carefully thought out and prepared ahead of time, but for torrone, having your mise en place is essential.
  2. Now, put the two cups of sugar in a medium to large sized pot over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir the sugar even at this beginning stage. Keep stirring until the sugar is melted. This might take a little while. First, the sugar will start to clump together. Then, it will darken in color and melt.
  3. When all of the sugar is melted and there aren’t any clumps, add the honey. The honey will make the sugar bubble and fizz a little- this is normal.
  4. Next, take the sugar and honey off the heat and quickly stir in the almonds. This will be a bit messy, but that’s okay. This is also the point where mild chaos might ensue because you need to work quickly from here on out!
  5. Pour the mixture into the greased candy mold. Being VERY careful, use the orange (which acts like a greased spatula) and roll it over the mixture to flatten it out. The candy will be super, super, hot.
  6. Once the mixture is flattened, liberally shake on the sprinkles. Use the orange once again to push the sprinkles into the candy.
  7. Continue to work quickly and carefully and begin to cut the candy into little squares. This must be done with haste because as you will find out, the candy is fast to harden and might even freeze in little strands in mid-air. Also be sure to eat a few pieces while the torrone is still kind of hot. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
  8. Once all the candy is cut and cooled, store in an air-tight container. Torrone lasts for a good three or four weeks so you can enjoy it during the entire holiday season!
  9. Note: cleaning the pot that you melted the sugar in will look impossible and menacing. I promise it isn’t. Just fill the pot back up the water and heat on the stove. The hard sugar and almonds will melt off into the water.

The Food of Fall

Note from the editor – This post was written by Francesca, Heide’s 8-year-old daughter, and Gabrielle’s little sister. She requested that we fix the spelling, but you can see the original letter in all its glory below. Please direct all fan mail to the comment section!

 

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I recommend pumpkin spice syrup. The food of fall is better than any other season. Pumpkin pie, let’s eat! I love fall because of the fragrance in the air, the food, this shade of orange (fall leaf orange), all the colors of the leaves and of course, the pumpkin pie! Pumpkin pie I think is the best dessert ever! Better than ice cream!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

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I think my mother’s recipe for pumpkin pie is the best! (Sometimes I like a touch of ice cream on top!) I don’t think I’ve ever tried pumpkin bread but I bet it’s great! I love everything about fall! Fall is my favorite season! When I go to dance class, I like to look out the window at the trees and watch them changing colors (there are a lot of trees on the way to dance class!). I love jumping in the leaves! I love going to Chester and Essex in the fall.

 

 

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In Essex there’s this field by the ocean that I like to dance in (Irish step dance of course). I recommend going to Essex in the fall! Don’t waste the season while it’s here!

 

 

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Smoked Basmati – No Ordinary Grain

I don’t know about you, but I often become obsessed with one food. I’ll suddenly make carrot soup every week or try salmon 10 different ways in a single month. Right now, I’m on a rice kick, which is surprising since I didn’t love rice growing up – we ate mostly meat and potatoes.  When we had rice, it was always plain without much seasoning, so it was kind of boring. For years, I avoided making rice, and when I was forced to, it was almost never fluffy and flavorful.

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

I forced myself to learn how to make perfect rice now that I cook so many Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian dishes. Many cultures prepare rice in many different ways – one day soon I’ll show you how to make Persian jeweled rice (if you beg me enough and maybe make me cookies) – but there is very simple fool-proof way of making any long-grain rice that is perfect every time. The key is that every grain must be coated in some sort of oil or fat.

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

We are lucky enough to live near Sayad (http://www.sayadmarket.com), a great Middle Eastern grocer and a great place to buy ingredients, including many types of basmati rice. I came across this smoked rice – which apparently Persians love – called Scheherazade Black Label (I know, right?  You’d think we were talking Scotch!). The rice is grown in India, but smoked in Germany with a special blend of woods. It smells like the best bonfire ever. It almost looks like pasta and the aroma of burning timbers hits you immediately when you open the bag. Fortunately, I you can also get this extraordinary rice online at Kalamala (http://www.kalamala.com/products/basmati-rice-black-label), a great resource for Middle Eastern products, and it is also available at Amazon in smaller quantities. This amazing rice is also the longest in the world with the grain averaging nearly 20 mm (almost ¾ inch) long. And on top of everything else, it is incredibly fluffy. The grains curl but they don’t break. It isn’t everyday I would describe rice as beautiful, but it really is.

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

So go buy this rice online or visit a Middle Eastern store, and use this fool-proof recipe to make this any basmati rice you like. And then make Khoresh-e Fesenjan Ba Jujeh, Persian Chicken Pomegranate stew we told you about earlier this week (if you do, please let us know!)

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

Do you know of any other unusual rices or do you have an unique preparation? Let us know so we can share the joy of rice with others!

Cardamom Scented Basmati Rice

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basmati rice*
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ¼ -1/3 cups water (depending on the brand)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons cardamom**

Directions:

  1. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh colander 4-5 times until the water is no longer cloudy. Drain well.
  2. Melt the butter in a 4-6 quart heavy bottom pot over medium heat.
  3. Add the rice and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until all the grains are coated with butter.
  4. Stir in the water and salt and bring the rice mixture to a boil.
  5. Mix one more time, and then reduce heat to low.  Place a sheet of parchment paper between the lid and the pot and cover.
  6. Let rice cook for 18-20 minutes (depending on the brand of rice) until the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Take it off the burner and let the rice stand covered for 10 minutes (Do not lift the lid or stir!).
  8. Uncover rice and add cardamom. Fluff rice and serve.

*This recipe works for jasmine scented rice as well.

    **You may also leave out the cardamom if the dish you are serving is complex and does not need a boos of additional flavor.

      Baking with Oma: Apfelkuchen

      I probably shouldn’t, but I’m just going to say it. I am not a baker. I can fake it, but it isn’t my thing. Okay, I said it. I feel better.

       

      My mom, known as Oma to the girls, came over this week to start teaching us her time honored yeast cakes, tarts, and strudels. We’ve been meaning to pick her brain for a few years and I kid her all the time when I say we need to get these recipes on paper before she gets too old. I can say this because my mom at 78 is totally youthful and awesome, and has all her marbles. Lucky girl.

       

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      Gabrielle has been dying to learn Oma’s chocolate yeast cake, an absolute must every Easter and Christmas morning at our house. She labored for several hours and of course it was perfect. Gabrielle, you might guess, loves to bake. She was smiling from ear to ear with when her creation came out of the oven. [Edit from Gabrielle – it was, in fact, perfect. Read post here!] I decided to make another venerable favorite – a German cake made with tart dough, but baked in a rectangular form. The dough recipe was in German so that meant translating the directions and measurements, which Oma faithfully did. We were doubling a basic recipe and adding new ingredients that have been added over the years. I unfortunately did the conversions from grams. Big mistake. It seemed like it was going well until I took the dough out of the fridge after the compulsory “resting” phase, and tried to roll it out. It seemed very moist, which it was because I forget to double the flour! You can’t do that baking. If a savory recipe calls for 4 cloves of garlic and you only add two, oh well. If you don’t double the flour in a cake, it’s a disaster. Lesson learned, new bakers, you can’t really add 2 more cups of flour after the “resting” phase.

       

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      And that is why I like to cook so much more. I can make mistakes and no one will know. In fact, mistakes often make dishes better, but more on that another day. My mother refused to give up on the dough. We DO NOT waste ingredients, she said. So she worked her magic and somehow added the missing flour to the finished dough. I don’t know how she did it, but the cake was very good and it didn’t get all weird and gluten-y, which is supposed to happen when you overwork dough. So here is the Correct recipe and the final product, a delicious cake, with almost perfect texture (firm but a bit crumbly) and the just the right amount of cinnamon and sugar. Mutti, you’re a genius.

       
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      Below you’ll find my mothers perfect recipe, free from my silly mistakes! Let us know if you decide to make it! And do you have any time honored family traditions? Tell us about them below!

       

       

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      Oma’s German Apple Cake

      From: Heide Lang

      Ingredients:

      • 4 cups (250 grams) flour
      • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250) grams unsalted butter
      • 6 tablespoons sugar
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla
      • 2 eggs lightly whisked
      • Pinch salt
      • 4 Granny Smith apples cored and peeled
      • Scant ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
      • 3-4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

      Directions:

      1. Place the butter in the freezer for a least one hour before.
      2. Cut the butter in one-inch slices.
      3. Place flour in a large bowl. Add butter and sugar.
      4. Using a pastry blender or food processor, blend until mixture is crumbly and much of the dough is in pea size pieces.
      5. Add the vanilla, eggs and a pinch of salt. Mix until just well blended.
      6. Divide the dough in half and roll each into a ball. Flatten the ball to create a disc and wrap them each in wax paper or plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
      7. Slice the apples 1/8 inch thick, preferably using a mandolin so all the pieces are the same size. Set aside.
      8. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out both halves to fit a 13 X 9 pan, preferably with a one-inch rim.
      9. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly on the bottom of the pan.
      10. Add the apples, being sure to evenly distribute them on the bottom of the pan.
      11. Sprinkle 3 or 4 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar evenly over the apples.
      12. Take the second rolled out dough and carefully place it on top of the apples. Tuck in the dough on all the sides so an even crust will form.
      13. Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown. Let cool in pan and cut into squares.
      14. Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.

      Before you make a chipwich…

      … remember to freeze the cookies. And the ice cream. Otherwise you may end up with ice cream-soaked cookies…

      … and you may have to feed them to your six-year-old sister…

      … and she may just get a sugar high and start running around the house and tumbling over the couches singing “James and the Giant Peach? James and the Giant Peach!”

      Although for the record, the song was pretty cute. And the cookies tasted really good. But still. Consider yourself warned.