Caramel Apple Dumplings

Yea, I’m stuck in fall.  I’m not going to lie.  You can see it pretty much written all over this blog.  And I’ve also a sick obsession for the apple recipes as well.  It’s just that the apple, cinnamon, pie pastry texture and tastes all remind me of home.  Being here in this country that only has two seasons really leaves me reaching out to fill those I’ve missed in Ohio!

I love etymology.  That’s why I like language so much.  And it’s extremely interesting to me when I find a connection between two words that others are not as excited as I am!  I found that nostalgia has some interesting roots.  Nosto is greek for home and algos pain.  So, in a sense nostalgia just means homesickness!  Now, you can’t tell me that is cool.  If you can’t admit to it you just need to leave.

DSC_0093-1

Really… how could you blame me for being stuck on apple deliciousness?  Are you seeing this?  I’m about to swallow my own tongue!

Caramel Apple Dumplings

6 McIntosh Apples (as this serves six people)  Do we have McIntosh apples in Peru?  No… so we had to just find something softer that would cook nicely.  This is the beaut we found.

DSC_0018

Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter

Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk

Caramel Sauce
You can use store bought OR you can make this
Caramel Comfort Sauce… really, which sounds more fun?

First you can get your sauce ready.  Super simple.  Are you ready?  Throw the water and sugar in the pan and start to bring it to a boil.  Put in the cinnamon and nutmeg.  When the sugar-water comes to a boil put in the butter and let melt.  Mix it up and when it’s melted completely remove from the heat and set aside.

To cut and peel your apples, cut them in half and then cut out the core.  I’ll show you some pictures, because I’m not sure how to explain with words.  Then, peel those halfs.  Don’t cut them into quarters because then you’re going to have a great time trying to hold them together when you wrap them up in dough!  That’s sarcasm by-the-way.

DSC_0058 DSC_0059 DSC_0047

Make sure you keep your apple halves with their mates… otherwise you could end up with some silly-looking dumplings.

Once you’ve got your apples ready get on your dough.  In a bowl mix together your dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and then start to cut in your shortening.  If you’re like the Handicapped Kitchen and you don’t have shortening you can use butter (which I perfer anyway).  Cut in the shortening until you have what looks like fine crumbs.  Then add your milk just until the dough comes together in a ball.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle measuring about 18”X12”.  Then cut the dough into six squares.  So, that should be two horizontally and three across the length.  If you were a math major in college than you can figure out easily that that’s six equal squares!

Working one at a time, place an apple in the center of one of your perfect squares (that’s nearly impossible) of dough holding the halves together.  Pour a nice unhealthy amount of sugar into the center of the apple and shake a pretty portion of cinnamon and nutmeg over the apple and settle a pat of butter on top.  Fold up the four corners of the dough and pinch it closed.  You can also use water to help seal it better.

Place in a pre-greased baking dish.  When you’ve got all your dumplings set in the pan pour the sugar mixture we made earlier over the apples making sure to dump it over each dumpling.  Then, sprinkle with more sugar!  SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR!  Kind of reminds me of Rebecca Black’s FUN FUN FUN!  Oh dear… poor girl.  Anyway, bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes or until you can easily poke a fork through easily.

Let cool and drizzle with caramel sauce while still warm.

TIPS:
1.) Use smaller apples so your dough will easily cover those babies.
2.) Some of my apples fell apart in the oven, but with my quick smarts I pulled some toothpicks out of my drawer and secured the apples together sticking the toothpicks through the apples in a crossing-action.

So, are you going to make these things?  Are you going to eat them in the middle of the sweltering summer?  Does it matter what time of the year you eat Apple Dumplings????  I think not.

Cinnamon Bread Twists

I think I may have mentioned this in the past, but I love Mondays.  Now, I can already hear the grumbling coming from the Northern Hemisphere, but this is my day off.  And it’s such a beautiful day.  It’s the only day that I do not leave the house.  Seriously, I don’t step a foot out the house.  My hair stays a comfortable rat’s nest, my contacts have an extra day to sleep in their solution watery bed, and a blanket is carried around my shoulders wherever I go in the house.  Sigh.  It’s true bliss.

Another part of my Mondays that I love, that involves you, is that I write my new blog posts!  For this very reason your grumbles about Mondays should turn to giddy shrieks and playful dances.  Mondays are a blessed day. 

DSC_0633-1

These are the pretty, pretty, twisty, yummy cinnamon sticks you’ll make this week, right?  They are pretty simple to make also!  Yummmmm

Cinnamon Bread Twists

Bread Twists
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups warm buttermilk
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
6 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze
2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoon hot water

DSC_0586-1

NOTE: Warm buttermilk looks curdled… that’s normal.
NOTE: These go really well with coffee too.
NOTE: You’re going to love these and maybe eat them all by yourself.

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water and let sit 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.  (If you want to learn about yeast go to my last post).  Then add the buttermilk, butter, sugar, eggs, salt and baking soda and mix well.  I used a fork to cut in the butter. 

Stir in the flour bit by bit until a soft dough is formed and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  Put the dough in a bowl and let rise for 1-1/2 hours in a warm place. 

When the dough has risen double it’s original size punch it down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Roll out each half into a 16”x9” rectangle.  Brush the melted butter on the dough leaving about a half inch untouched along the side that measures 16”.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture overtop and press down with the palm of your hand lightly.  This is just to secure the sugar on the dough and make sure it’s sticking.  Fold the dough in half lengthwise.  Your dough will now be 16”x 4 1/2”.  Along the 16” side pinch the dough to seal the edge.  Then cut into 4 1/2×1” rectangles.  Each strip you cut, twist two or three times and set on a pre-greased cookie sheet.  Cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.  While cooling mix the glaze ingredients and then spoon over the warm twists.

DSC_0642-2 

That’s right… so easy, so yummy.

Alive Or Dead? How to Proof Your Yeast

Mold is so gross.  I once lived in a house that was nasty.  It was rented and it was also in this condition when I arrived, so I’m not embarrassed to tell you this.  When I moved in, I wanted to do a heavy cleaning… but, there was black mold in the shower and suddenly, I was very scared to touch it.  Being the son of my mother, who formed in me fear of filth, I did research on it and found it would probably be less work just to leave it be.  Black mold and I co-existed even though in the shower I often felt like Harry Potter facing Lord Voldemort… one of us must die!!!!

DSC_0022

It’s always a bit strange for me to think that when I’m eating bread I’m eating a different specie of the man-eating black mold I had in that shower.  Yeast!  Apparently it comes from a Sanskrit word yas which means, “to boil.”  We all know what yeast does though, right?  It makes our breads grow!  Baking powder and baking soda do this as well, except they rely on chemical means to make breads leavened.  Yeast, instead, is a living thing that actually feeds off of the dough!  Have I turned you off from bread yet?

Peruvian markets are strange.  You can go to a super market and find things close to how they would be in the U.S.A, but you pay the price.  Walk into the Peruvian market place and you are bombarded by strange sights and smells.  The smells are more raunchy than the sights, which makes me wonder every time how the market still functions!  Why do people come here!!!  Besides the smells the strangest thing, to me, is how you receive what you ask for.  Practically everything comes in a plastic bag!  Flour, sugar, eggs, soda!  They hand you this bag and you think… how am I going to get this thing home in one piece?  Well, several months ago we walked into a market and bought yeast and behold, yeast in a bag! 

I’m not quite sure why we bought so much of it, but we have a heaping bag of yeast and I don’t make bread that often.  The problem I ran into was wondering whether my yeast was good anymore!  So, it’s become the common practice in my kitchen to proof my yeast to make sure that it’s still good! 

Proofing is something that some recipes already call for.  You know, the bread recipes that tell you to dissolve the yeast in a cup of warm water, blah blah blah.  But, it’s believed that you don’t have to even do that as the yeast in the States is more reliable.  However, if you are extra cautious, or you just like to feel like you are a super experienced baker and like the feeling of going the extra mile in the kitchen, this is how you proof your yeast.

Imagine yeast is like a kitten instead of a fungus… I think that helps.  Kittens need water, food and a place to call home (a.k.a. my ARMS!).  It’s the same with yeast.  Yeast needs three things to grow: moisture, food and warmth.  By giving it these three things you will know if your yeast is still alive or dead.

Fill a glass with 1/4 cup warm water.  It should feel like a pleasant warm shower to the hand.  What a pleasant warm shower is varies among people.  For me, I like to have my skin boiled off.  That’s pleasant.  But, just remember, if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast.  Think, nurture.  Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in the water.  This is the food.  Yeast loves simple sugars.  Then dissolve 2 teaspoons of yeast in the water and let sit in a warm place.  In five minutes you should have bubbly, beer-smelling, yeasty water!  If nothing has happened, it’s time to call it quits, your yeast is D.O.A.  Shed a few tears, get some closure and go to the store and get yourself some new yeast.

Don’t freak out if your yeasty mix doesn’t overflow like mine in the pictures.  I used a high ratio of sugar and yeast to make it super bubbly. 

This really may not be necessary for you to do at home, especially with how tightly sealed the yeast is in stores you should not have any problems, but if you’d like to experiment and see how this works by all means go for it. 

Sort1-2

TIP!  Try this the next time you are baking bread!  Breads need a warm place to rise and here’s a perfect way to give it just that.  Take a microwave safe cup and fill it half way with water and nuke it for 3-4 minutes.  Then, working quickly, scoot the cup to the far back corner of the microwave and place the dough in the microwave and close the door.  Let it rise for the time specified in the recipe.  The cup will continue to let off steam and will keep the dough in a moist and warm climate, perfect for rising!   

Apple-Cinnamon Scones

Bon Jour!  I love languages.  I’m currently teaching myself French.  J’aime le Francais.  Oui oui!  If you cannot not take yourself seriously, then you may have some trouble learning a language.  What’s the number one attitude needed in learning a language?  Humility.  You make a ton of mistakes and people will look at you like you’re an idiot.  You will say things like, “You’re mom is a fat cow,” when you really want to say, “You’re mom makes great cheesecake.”  People will cry.  You will cry.  You will have a black eye and that’s why you cry.  But, it’s all for the sake of learning the beauty of another language.  So, if you want to learn a language, just know, you will never save face.  You, in fact, do the exact opposite.

DSC_0050

I’ve only ever had one scone before I had these.  It was a tad on the dry side and then sat in the backseat of my ‘94 Mercury Cougar (yea, I was so pimpin’) until I found it a few months later moldy and crumbly.  It wasn’t the best experience to have for my first scone.  But, as a baker, I thought for sure scones would not be a popular as they are if they really were not that good!  I devised to try to make these Apple Cinnamon Scones!

You’ll notice I cut some of the shapes into hearts.  That’s because it was a month ago that I made these and am now just posting the entry.  Wow.  I’m such a great blogger.  If you saw me right now you’d scread, “Holy crap!  Go back to bed!”  But, that just shows you the dedication right now.  I hope that makes up for it.

DSC_0003

Apple-Cinnamon Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (I did not use these for two reasons… EXPENSIVE and I don’t like them)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 whole egg
  • A handful of sugar (for topping)
  • cinnamon to taste (for topping)
  • In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon.  Then, cut in the butter using a pastry mixer, or if you’re out of luck and don’t have such heavenly utensilry like me you can use a plain ol’ heavy duty fork.  Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

    You can cut up the apples now, or have them cut up before hand.  I thought about grating the apples, but I worry for my fingers.  When your apples are cut up into small cubes mix them in the dry ingredients, along with the walnuts if you decide to go that way.

    In a small bowl mix the egg yolk (set the egg white aside for later) and milk well with a whisk.  Then, add that to the dry ingredients just until the dry ingredients are moist.  You don’t want super sticky dough.

    Lightly flour your working surface and roll the dough out to 1/2” thickness.  If you want round scones use a round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter.  But, if you don’t want to have to reroll the dough out, which can be a pain, separate the dough into four sections and form them so they are round.  Flatten them down a bit and cut each into four pieces so you should have 16 in total.

    DSC_0038

    In another small bowl mix the egg white with a whole egg (no good reason for the extra egg white, just wanted to cut down on waste) and in another small bowl mix the handful of sugar and some cinnamon.  You can taste the sugar cinnamon mix to see if it has enough cinnamon in it.

    Dip each scone in the egg mixture and then the sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and bake at 400 F for 20-22 minutes.  They are soooo good fresh out of the oven.

    DSC_0052