Week 18: Turning off the lights

Whew, a solid eighty recipes later and we’re left wondering where the time has gone! To help you sort through the morass of delightfully delicious proposals for how to rid yourself of a few too many potatoes, what follows are a number of thoughtfully put together menu ideas, created with little to no regard for balance, nutrition and praticality.

The apples-all-the-way menu

The ideal spread for entertaining good friends and anyone else in need of Calvados. The recommended spirit: cidre (hard apple cider). No messing around here.

Starter (Entrée) : Danish apple soup

Main course (Plat) : Escalopes normandes (veal, cream, Calvados and apples)

With a side of : Himmel und Erde (Heaven and earth)

Course of fine cheeses accompanied by : Marmelade de pommes râpées au gingembre (Apple-ginger marmalade)

Dessert :  Apple pie, of course!

The down and dirty carrot menu

A kid-friendly meal that will improve your eye-sight and your hair color. The recommended drink : carrot juice.

Starter (Entrée) : Carrot soup

Main course (Plat) : (Mock) Irish stew

With a side of : Ginger-glazed carrots

Course of fine cheeses accompanied by : Confiture de carottes aux zestes d’orange et pistaches (Carrot-orange-pistachio jam)

Dessert :  Why, none other than the legendary Carrot cake.

Potatoes on the mind

When you know your guests are arriving hungry, look no further. The recommended drink : Vodka (roll out the barrels, they’re all spending the night).

Starter (Entrée) : Spargel-kartoffel salat, dazu guacamole (Asparagus-potato salad with guacamole)

Main course (Plat) : Potato soufflé

With a side of : Tempting potato cake

Course of fine cheeses accompanied by : Potato bread

Dessert :  Morillenknödel (A German potato dessert)

We could go on and one, a French menu, a German menu, a Spend hours slaving over a hot stove on food your children won’t touch menu.

but to wrap it up in style (and a touch of sincerity), we bring you…

The Best of “Chez Maureen” menu

A feast that is guaranteed to knock the socks off any Normand.

Starter (Entrée) : Karoo carotene soup

Main course (Plat) : Medaillons de lotte au cidre (Monkfish in cider)

With a side of : Crunchy oven-roasted potatoes

Course of fine cheeses accompanied by : Potato bread and Marmelade de pommes râpées au gingembre (Apple-ginger marmalade)

Dessert :  Apfel-Mohnkuchen (Apple-poppy seed cake)

And last of all, the apples in their final hours:

Apple butter

Apple fruit leather

Apfel-Mohnkuchen (Apple-poppy seed cake)


Apple butter

When visiting other countries one of my favorite things to do is go to the supermarket. I find it incredibly intriguing to walk up and down the aisles looking at all the different food products one can buy. (The other members of my traveling party find it somewhat less exciting which means I never get the proper hour and a half peruse that I hope for.)  It’s true that you can find the same box of Kellogg’s or bottle of Coca-Cola or Pampers diapers pretty much everywhere but that’s not what interests me. I love to check out the local offerings—crackers, cookies, cheeses, jams, conserves. We almost always return home with at least a few foreign specialties. And believe it or not, when it comes to American supermarkets (America is, after all, one of our most favorite travel destinations) apple butter is one of those rare items that has not yet been exported and marketed to the world economy.

Apple butter, as Jan was disappointed to discover, contains no butter. It’s basically a generously spiced and sweetened applesauce reduction sent through a sieve. A quick search of its potential uses returned quite a lot more than just “nice spread on toast”: marinades, glazes, a frosting alternative, even an apple butter ice cream. But the most compelling reason we had for making it: I like apple butter, a lot.

This version of the recipe is derived from the one featured on Simplyrecipes.com. I understand however that there are long-standing apple butter traditions in many different corners of the U.S. so if you don’t like this one, ask your neighbor.

Apples, 4 lbs (2 kg), preferably cooking apples like Granny Smith but my off-brand apples worked great!

Apple cider vinegar, 1 cup (240 ml)

Water, 2 cups (480 ml)

Sugar, up to 4 cups (800 g)

Cinnamon, 2 tsp

Ground cloves, ½ tsp

Allspice, ½ tsp

Lemon, 1, grated rind and juice of

Ginger, fresh, grated, 1 nice piece (optional)

  1. Quarter the apples without peeling or coring. (You like this recipe already don’t you? The advantage to not peeling and coring now is that the pectin needed for the apple butter to gel and some of the apple flavor is in the peels and the cores. The disadvantage is that it makes step #3 a real pain, which can be avoided by peeling and coring now. It’s a classic lose-lose situation so you might as well bite the bullet and get rid to sieve!)

2. Place the apples in a large pot. Add the vinegar and water. Cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Push the softened apple mix (together with its juices) through a fine-meshed sieve using a pestle. Measure out the resulting apple pulp. Add ¼ -½ cup (50-100 g) of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Start with less sugar. It’s much easier to throw in an extra ½ cup (100 g) later than it will be to take one out.

4. Add a dash of salt, the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon juice and rind and the grated ginger. Taste the results to make sure you’re satisfied with the spices. If not, add more.

5. Cook the seasoned pulp in a large wide-bottomed pan over low heat for 2-4 hours. Stir occasionally. When the apple butter has thickened test whether it’s done by dropping a spoonful onto a freezer-chilled plate. The apple butter should not be runny.

6. Pour into sterilized jars. Turn the jars over to cool.

7. Enjoy on toast, on croissant, on pancakes, on scones or even straight out of the jar for a blast of autumn.

Apple Butter

This version of the recipe is derived from the one featured on Simplyrecipes.com. I understand however that there are long-standing apple butter traditions in many different corners of the U.S. so if you don’t like this one, ask your neighbor.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Apples 4 lbs (2 kg), preferably cooking apples like Granny Smith but my off-brand apples worked great!
  • Apple cider vinegar 1 cup (240 ml)
  • Water 2 cups (480 ml)
  • Sugar up to 4 cups (800 g)
  • Cinnamon 2 tsp
  • Ground cloves ½ tsp
  • Allspice ½ tsp
  • Lemon 1, grated rind and juice of
  • Ginger fresh, grated, 1 nice piece (optional)

Instructions

  • Quarter the apples without peeling or coring. (You like this recipe already don’t you? The advantage to not peeling and coring now is that the pectin needed for the apple butter to gel and some of the apple flavor is in the peels and the cores. The disadvantage is that it makes step #3 a real pain, which can be avoided by peeling and coring now. It’s a classic lose-lose situation so you might as well bite the bullet and get rid to sieve!)
  • Place the apples in a large pot. Add the vinegar and water. Cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Push the softened apple mix (together with its juices) through a fine-meshed sieve using a pestle. Measure out the resulting apple pulp. Add ¼ -½ cup (50-100 g) of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Start with less sugar. It’s much easier to throw in an extra ½ cup (100 g) later than it will be to take one out.
  • Add a dash of salt, the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon juice and rind and the grated ginger. Taste the results to make sure you’re satisfied with the spices. If not, add more.
  • Cook the seasoned pulp in a large wide-bottomed pan over low heat for 2-4 hours. Stir occasionally. When the apple butter has thickened test whether it’s done by dropping a spoonful onto a freezer-chilled plate. The apple butter should not be runny.
  • Pour into sterilized jars. Turn the jars over to cool.
  • Enjoy on toast, on croissant, on pancakes, on scones or even straight out of the jar for a blast of autumn.

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Apple fruit leather

I know, fruit leather sounds a bit odd if you didn’t grow up on Stretch Island Fruit Leathers. (Other kids got Snickers. My mother sent fruit leather to cousins and friends inside birthday cards for years and has now transitioned to mailing us an envelope full quarterly. Stretch Island is even considering naming a new flavor after her: Fruity Frances, at last report.)

If you are familiar with the fruit leather concept, then you’ll be happy to know that you can stop paying $0.50 a pop for them and just make your own. Properly hiding and strictly rationing your homemade leather is highly recommended as it otherwise goes very fast!

The recipe I followed is from a book called Feed me, I’m yours. It’s a hand-me-down from Fruity Frances in the spirit of “now it’s your turn to feed them, they’re yours”. That said, it’s quite a handy little manual with instructions on preparing everything from alphabet pancakes to homemade Play-doh.

Apples, 2-4

Honey, 1 tsp. per apple

  1. Peel, core and slice the apples.

2. The next step is to make a relatively uniform puree out of the fruit. One method is to blend the sliced apple in blender or food processor. The other option is to freeze and then defrost it. I opted for the second method as it cut out the arduous task of cleaning the blender.

3. Place the blended or defrosted apple slices into a pan and cook for 5 minutes over moderate heat. Drain off excess liquid.

4. Add 1 tsp of honey for each apple. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

5. On large baking sheets, roll out a piece of plastic wrap. Place a ½ cup or so of the honey-apple puree in the middle. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, as big as the first.

6. Using your hands and the backside of a large spatula, flatten the puree out as thinly and as evenly as possible. Stop short of the edges of the plastic wrap.

7. Place in the oven and set the oven as low as possible. I started with about 100°F (40°C) and then went up a bit from there. Leave the trays in the oven overnight or until the puree has completely dried out.

8. Remove the upper layer of plastic wrap and roll the dried fruit leather up. Cut the roll into smaller pieces.

9. When you’re ready to enjoy, unroll the fruit leather and throw away the plastic. (Smaller children will require adult assistance.)

It’s worth noting that the same recipe will work with pears, peaches or nectarines.

Apple fruit leather

The recipe I followed is from a book called Feed me, I’m yours. It’s a hand-me-down from Fruity Frances in the spirit of “now it’s your turn to feed them, they’re yours”. That said, it’s quite a handy little manual with instructions on preparing everything from alphabet pancakes to homemade Play-doh.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Apples 2-4
  • Honey 1 tsp. per apple

Instructions

  • Peel, core and slice the apples.
  • The next step is to make a relatively uniform puree out of the fruit. One method is to blend the sliced apple in blender or food processor. The other option is to freeze and then defrost it. I opted for the second method as it cut out the arduous task of cleaning the blender.
  • Place the blended or defrosted apple slices into a pan and cook for 5 minutes over moderate heat. Drain off excess liquid.
  • Add 1 tsp of honey for each apple. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • On large baking sheets, roll out a piece of plastic wrap. Place a ½ cup or so of the honey-apple puree in the middle. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, as big as the first.
  • Using your hands and the backside of a large spatula, flatten the puree out as thinly and as evenly as possible. Stop short of the edges of the plastic wrap.
  • Place in the oven and set the oven as low as possible. I started with about 100°F (40°C) and then went up a bit from there. Leave the trays in the oven overnight or until the puree has completely dried out.
  • Remove the upper layer of plastic wrap and roll the dried fruit leather up. Cut the roll into smaller pieces.
  • When you’re ready to enjoy, unroll the fruit leather and throw away the plastic. (Smaller children will require adult assistance.)

Notes

It’s worth noting that the same recipe will work with pears, peaches or nectarines.

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Apfel-Mohnkuchen (Apple-poppy seed cake)

As you may have gathered from its esteemed position on the Best of chez Maureen menu, this cake stole the show. It took 4 adults two nights to finish it and we were all holding our stomachs, moaning about how full we already were as we licked the last poppy seed crumbs from our plates.

Where do I start? First, the crust: a ground hazelnut cookie-like crust forms the base of the cake. I seriously considered stopping my preparations after I had made the crust and just baking it straight into cookies, or maybe eating it directly out of the bowl. It’s ridiculously good.

Second, top that with poppy seeds soaked in milk and butter and combined with egg and sugar. Not a handful of poppy seeds, not a little sprinkling of poppy seeds, ½ lb (250 g) of poppy seeds. (Now we all know that a single poppy seed doesn’t weigh much so it’s easy to extrapolate just how many poppy seeds this might be. In other words, if an Afghan farmer comes to your door to sell you a 50 kg bag of poppy seeds, you should probably politely decline.)

Third, on top of the poppy seeds comes a layer of sweet apple spiced with cinnamon. The whole cake is then finished off with some decorative “cookies” cut out of the same hazelnut crust. It’s really a piece, this cake. I estimate that under normal conditions one cake could easily satisfy 12-16 adults, without causing abdominal discomfort.

The recipe is another treasure from the Buchenberger Landfrauenverein’s trove of apple recipes. Remember: gift store, Nationalpark Kellerwald-Edersee on your next cross-country trip in Germany.

For the crust:

Flour, 1-2/3 cup cup (200 g)

Baking powder, 1 Tbsp

Sugar, 2/3 cup (125 g)

Vanilla sugar, 1 package (Is this a product marketed in the U.S.? I can’t recall ever using vanilla sugar packets as a child. If not, add a teaspoon of vanilla flavoring and maybe an extra teaspoon or two of sugar. Then, next time you’re in Europe, pick up some packets when you tour a local supermarket.)

Butter, ½ cup (125 g)

Egg, 1, separated

Hazelnuts, ground, lightly-roasted, 5 ounces (150 g)

  1. Soften the butter and mix it together with the sugar. Add in the egg white and ½ of the egg yolk (the other ½ will come into play later on.). Mix well.
  2. In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and hazelnuts.
  3. Add the flour-hazelnut mix into the butter-sugar-egg mix and combine thoroughly.
  4. Knead into a dough. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the other ingredients.

For the poppy-seed filling:

Poppy seeds, ½ lb (250 g) (now, the recipe calls for the poppy seeds to be freshly-ground. I have not yet determined how to do this, having unsuccessfully attempted to grind the seeds in all of the grinding devices we have on hand. If you know the secret to grinding poppy seeds, go for it – and don’t forget to show off in the comments section!)

Milk, hot, 2/3 cup (150 ml)

Butter, soft, ¼ cup (50 g)

Egg, 1

Sugar, ½ cup (100 g)

Powder for vanilla sauce, 1 package (I know, I know. This is a bit of an exception here at chez Maureen. I would never buy vanilla sauce in powder form but I decided to make the plunge. I bought a powder for “crème anglaise”. In the U.S. maybe a package of vanilla pudding mix would work. Next time we are in Germany I will do a bit of investigative research on what exactly is included in a package of “Saucen-Pulver Van. geschmack” so we can figure out what to substitute in.)

  1. Heat the milk and the butter in a small saucepan. When the milk is hot, add in the poppy seeds. Mix well.
  2. Set to rest for 15 minutes and then refrigerate.
  3. When you are ready to use the poppy seeds, mix in the egg, sugar and vanilla sauce powder.

For the apple filling:

Apples, 2 lbs (1 kg), peeled, cored and cut into small pieces

Sugar, 1/3 cup (75 g)

Cinnamon, 1 tsp.

  1. Combine the apples with the sugar and cinnamon in a pan. Cook gently to soften the apples.
  2. Refrigerate the filling.

Assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Separate out 1/3 of the dough for the crust. Roll it out onto a floured service and cut out small round cookies. (I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter because I was serving the cake to lovers. You too are free to be creative.)
  1. Butter a springform pan, 11 inch (28 cm) in diameter. Roll ½ of the remaining dough out onto the bottom of the pan. Press the remaining dough along the inside walls of the pan.
  1. Spread the poppy seed filling onto the crust.
  1. Top with the apple filling.
  1. Lay the cut-out cookies onto the top of the cake.
  1. Combine the ½ egg yolk with 1 Tbsp of milk. Brush onto the cookies.
  1. Bake for 40 minutes.
  1. Eat your heart out.

Apfel-Mohnkuchen (Apple-poppy seed cake)

The recipe is another treasure from the Buchenberger Landfrauenverein’s trove of apple recipes. Remember: gift store, Nationalpark Kellerwald-Edersee on your next cross-country trip in Germany.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Flour 1-2/3 cup cup (200 g)
  • Baking powder 1 Tbsp
  • Sugar 2/3 cup (125 g)
  • Vanilla sugar 1 package (see Note below)
  • Butter ½ cup (125 g)
  • Egg 1, separated
  • Hazelnuts ground, lightly-roasted, 5 ounces (150 g)
  • Milk hot, 2/3 cup (150 ml)
  • Butter soft, ¼ cup (50 g)
  • Egg 1
  • Sugar ½ cup (100 g)
  • Apples 2 lbs (1 kg), peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • Sugar 1/3 cup (75 g)
  • Cinnamon 1 tsp.
  • Poppy seeds ½ lb (250 g) (Freshly ground, see Note below)
  • Powder for vanilla sauce 1 package (see Note below)

Instructions

For the crust

  • Soften the butter and mix it together with the sugar.
  • Add in the egg white and ½ of the egg yolk (the other ½ will come into play later on.). Mix well.
  • In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and hazelnuts.
  • Add the flour-hazelnut mix into the butter-sugar-egg mix and combine thoroughly.
  • Knead into a dough. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the other ingredients.

For the poppy-seed filling

  • Heat the milk and the butter in a small saucepan. When the milk is hot, add in the poppy seeds. Mix well.
  • Set to rest for 15 minutes and then refrigerate.
  • When you are ready to use the poppy seeds, mix in the egg, sugar and vanilla sauce powder.

For the apple filling

  • Combine the apples with the sugar and cinnamon in a pan.
  • Cook gently to soften the apples.
  • Refrigerate the filling.

Assembly

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • Separate out 1/3 of the dough for the crust. Roll it out onto a floured service and cut out small round cookies. (I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter because I was serving the cake to lovers. You too are free to be creative.)
  • Butter a springform pan, 11 inch (28 cm) in diameter.
  • Roll ½ of the remaining dough out onto the bottom of the pan.
  • Press the remaining ½ of the dough along the inside walls of the pan.
  • Spread the poppy seed filling onto the crust.
  • Top with the apple filling.
  • Lay the cut-out cookies onto the top of the cake.
  • Combine the ½ egg yolk with 1 Tbsp of milk. Brush onto the cookies.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Eat your heart out.

Notes

Vanilla sugar : Is this a product marketed in the U.S.? I can’t recall ever using vanilla sugar packets as a child. If not, add a teaspoon of vanilla flavoring and maybe an extra teaspoon or two of sugar. Then, next time you’re in Europe, pick up some packets when you tour a local supermarket.
Poppy-seeds : Now, the recipe calls for the poppy seeds to be freshly-ground. I have not yet determined how to do this, having unsuccessfully attempted to grind the seeds in all of the grinding devices we have on hand. If you know the secret to grinding poppy seeds, go for it – and don’t forget to show off in the comments section!
Powder for vanilla sauce : I bought a powder here in France for “crème anglaise”. In the U.S. maybe a package of vanilla pudding mix would work. Next time we are in Germany I will do a bit of investigative research on what exactly is included in a package of “Saucen-Pulver Van. geschmack” so we can figure out what to substitute in.

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Will the last apple out please hit the lights?

One Comment

  1. Wow. Slow clap, Maureen, for a blog as entertaining as it is inspiring. Please say there’ll be an encore? BRAVO!

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