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Apple Crumble

I’ve been getting a lot of apples and pears in my CSA. A LOT. A friend of mine invited me over to her house to break the Yom Kippur fast, so I decided to bring an Apple Crumble Pie. This recipe is for a very large (13 x 9 inches) tray of Apple Crumble, but I decided to divide the filling between a 9-inch (alas, store-bought) piecrust and a 10-x-7-inch baking dish.

I think that this recipe is an amalgamation of a few different apple pie and apple crisp recipes I had looked up last year. It’s really easy to play around with it and figure out your ideal combination of flavors. I, predictably, decided to sweeten the filling with sucanat, as it has become one of my favorite natural sweeteners because of its rich molasses flavor. You can, of course, substitute sugar. Our CSA bag has included a variety of apples, so I used whatever was in the bag: Cortland, Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Empire. I like the variety of flavors and textures that result from combining different varieties of apples, making each bite a bit of a surprise.

Apple Crumble or Apple Crumble Pie

Ingredients

Topping:

  • 2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Filling:

  • 4 pounds mixed apples
  • 2/3 cup sucanat
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Vanilla ice cream

Procedure

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease a 13-x-9-x-2-inch glass baking dish.

Mix oats, brown sugar, and flour in a bowl.  Add butter and rub in with fingertips until topping comes together in moist clumps. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Mix all filling ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.  Transfer to baking dish.  Sprinkle topping over.

Bake crumble until apples are tender and topping is brown and crisp, about 55 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Spoon warm crumble into bowls.  Serve with ice cream.

Note: If you’re baking this recipe in a pie or 2 smaller baking dishes, check on it after about 40 minutes. You don’t want the crumble to burn.

Ready for the oven.

CSA Quandary: Zucchini

For the past two weeks, I’ve received four pounds of zucchini in my CSA share. I like zucchini just fine, but it’s not my favorite vegetable, so (with the help of Facebook and Twitter) I crowd-sourced some ideas of what to do with my bounty. Food writer Leah Koenig linked me to her zucchini post on Saveur’s website.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake piqued my interest because of its seemingly bizarre combination of ingredients. The recipe is good — very easy to follow. I, of course, complicated matters because I was missing a few ingredients and had no interest in schlepping out to the grocery store at 9pm. The missing ingredients: corn oil, one of the two eggs, and buttermilk.

The substitutions:

  • Corn Oil: The only cooking fats in my house last night were virgin coconut oil (I didn’t want to make the cake coco-nutty), butter, ghee, and duck fat. (This is why I need to go grocery shopping sooner rather than later.) I decided to go with melted butter. If I hadn’t just finished all my olive oil, I would have used that as a replacement.
  • One Egg: Having gone to a culinary school with a heavily vegan curriculum, I learned that flax seeds can act as egg replacers in baked goods. 1 egg = 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds + 3 tablespoons water
  • Buttermilk: I happened to have whole milk on hand. Generally, 1 cup buttermilk = 7.5 ounces milk + 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar or lemon juice.
The results were good, although I think I overcooked the cake slightly. I’m still figuring out the calibration of my oven. I also omitted powdered sugar because my sweet tooth simply isn’t that strong. Here is the recipe as I have prepared it.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread (tweaked)
Serves 8
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds, finely ground
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 ounces whole milk
  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 9 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Procedure
  1. Make Egg Replacer: stir together ground flax seeds and water. Set aside.
  2. Make Buttermilk Substitute: stir together vinegar and whole milk. Set aside.
  3. Working in batches, put a small mound of zucchini in center of large square of double-layer cheesecloth. Gather corners together and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer zucchini to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a deep 9″ cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat together remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add melted butter, beating well. Beat in egg, then egg replacer. Add vanilla, reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture and buttermilk substitute in 3 alternate batches. Stir in reserved zucchini.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool. Invert onto a plate and dust with sugar.

Not the prettiest presentation, but it sure is tasty!

Comfort Food II: Banana Pudding

And now, the second installment of the Comfort Food series.

Generally, my desire for salt outweighs my sweet tooth, so my comfort foods tend to be savory. Pudding is a major exception: I just love the texture and sweetness of pudding. Especially vanilla pudding. Growing up, my experience with pudding was mainly the Jell-O ® pudding cups. Most of what we ate as kids was prepared from scratch by my mom, but she didn’t really do desserts (she still doesn’t). So, occasionally, she would let me have Jell-O ® pudding cups in my school lunch. I had never even heard of banana pudding until much later in life — college? later than that? — because, as I’ve mentioned before, I was raised by foreigners. But, I’m so happy that I did eventually discover banana pudding! I happen to love Nabisco ® Nilla Wafers. There’s something very comforting about how simple they are. And, generally, my dessert tastes tend toward the very plain (sponge cakes with chocolate frosting, angel food, custards, etc.).

After deciding to focus on comfort food for this blog, I decided that I must make my own banana pudding. But, of course, I couldn’t go the packaged/instant route. I had to make it from scratch. ALL of it. Luckily, Alton Brown did an entire Good Eats episode on banana pudding, including making vanilla wafers from scratch. Hallelujah!

So, first, I made the wafers following Alton’s recipe almost exactly. The only deviation in ingredients was that my vanilla sugar has specks of vanilla bean in it (which makes for a lovely looking cookie, picture below). Also, I don’t own a stand mixer, so I used a handheld electric mixer. The cookies turn out more buttery and more complex than their Nabisco ® brethren. Definitely an improvement on the original.

Vanilla Wafers

Alton Brown, Yes We Have No Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces all-purpose flour*
  • ¾ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 ½ ounces vanilla sugar*
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

*Yes, this is measured by weight. Please do yourself a favor and buy a kitchen scale. I have a digital one, but an analog scale is just fine, too. Just do it.

Procedure:

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350ºF.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

Now, for the pudding part of the banana pudding. Hmmm… I don’t know whether it was me or the recipe (probably a combination of the two), but I wasn’t thrilled with how this pudding turned out. The vanilla pudding was too sweet, for one (and I didn’t even add any banana liqueur, nor did I sweeten the whipped cream). I don’t think Alton calibrated the pudding recipe to account for the ripeness of my bananas. Also, the texture was off, a little grainy — but I’m pretty sure that’s because I didn’t stir the pudding the whole time it was cooking. Remember, kids — CONSTANTLY STIR YOUR PUDDING!

Alton Brown’s Refrigerated Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 45 vanilla wafers
  • 4 ounces banana liqueur
  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold

Procedure:

Combine ¾ cup of the sugar, the cornstarch and salt in a 3-quart saucier. Add the eggs and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the milk and whisk until well combined, about 30 seconds. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 172º to 180ºF, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will begin to

thicken and bubble around the edges. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, being sure each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Cover the surface of the pudding with a round piece of parchment and refrigerate until the pudding reaches 45ºF, approximately 2 hours.

Lay the vanilla wafers on a half sheet pan. Slowly and evenly pour the banana liqueur over the cookies. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Toss the banana slices with the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Spread a small amount of pudding in the bottom of a 1 ½-quart glass mixing bowl. Cover with a layer of vanilla wafers, followed by a layer of banana slices. Spoon 1/3 of the remaining pudding on top of the bananas and repeat, ending with a layer of pudding.

Put the whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and whisk just until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream over the cooled pudding and spread to cover completely. Top with any remaining soaked cookies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

For more on banana pudding, check out A Sweet Spoonful, and an alternative sugar cookie recipe from My Life Runs on Food.