FINALLY FEELING LIKE FALL

Single Salted Caramel Apple | for the love of the southWhile being raised in Louisiana, it was difficult to distinguish by the weather when summer had departed and autumn hushed in its place. Foliage and temperatures never seemed to alter, but there was one event that took place in the kitchen, which inaugurated the turn of the season.

Like clockwork around this time of year, my mom would buy the most beautiful red and green apples she could find, lined them all in a row on our ivory-speckled Formica countertops. She speared them with snowy lollipop sticks and deliberately dipped the rosy apples in a fiercely red candy concoction and spun them ever so slightly so the neon confection perfectly coated the matte skin of the ruby apples. Jade-hued apples were adorned with a disk of latte-colored caramel conveniently prepped with a teeny hole in the center to fit over the sticks. She popped them in a warm oven where the caramel leisurely oozed, skirting the apples and finally pooling at the bottom of the baking sheet.

I remember watching my mother stand in charge over the scalding sugars and melting caramel like an enchantress at her cauldron churning out one flawless apple after another. Bubbles had mysteriously suspended in the thick, gleaming façade, wafts of sugar pervaded my senses, the hard coating covering the apple cracked under much application of my tiny jaw, and my chin was neon red and tasted somewhat of caramel for the rest of the afternoon. I knew in that small, sweet kitchen fall had officially begun.

Salted Caramel Apples | for the love of the south

Recipe: Inspired by Donna Hay

Makes 8 small apples

Note: You can use any apple you like for this recipe, but I use Golden Delicious (they are a favorite of mine!) Also, instead of using wooden skewers for the apples, I used twigs that had been thoroughly scrubbed and dried to give the dish a more natural look and feel!

8 wooden sticks

8 small apples, washed and dried

1 ½ cups light corn syrup, divided

2 ½ sticks of butter, chopped into cubes

2 cups of sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon of coarsely ground sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

Insert a stick into the center of each apple and set aside.

Place 1 cup of the corn syrup, butter and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is well combined. Bring to a boil. Swirl the pan every few minutes while the mixture is boiling, and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 275 degrees.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in vanilla, remaining ½ cup of corn syrup and sea salt. Dip the prepared apples into the caramel and place on a cookie sheet fitted with a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle the tops of the apples with more sea salt if desired. Set aside for 30 minutes to completely harden. Enjoy!

Crème Brûlée

I come from a humble background. Meals were about making the best of the ingredients we had and spending time with family. There were no bells, whistles or crème brûlée dishes. But still, the idea of having a crème brûlée for dessert reminds me of the south. It’s a comforting dessert. It’s cream and sugar and goodness in a tiny dish. There is something magical about the warm cream and berries marrying together in a steam bath. The conversation that takes place between the custard and berries would make you blush. So what happens in the oven stays in the oven. But then, it turns into Christmas as the custard and berries gets christened with white sugar. And it makes a great sacrifice and endures being torched for our own delight, but oh the satisfaction to take the back of a spoon and crack the sugar into infinitesimal shards. It’s heavenly, it’s destructive, it’s comforting, and it must be Southern.

Recipe: Adapted from John Besh’s My Family Table: Serves 8

 2 Tbs. butter

1 quart heavy whipping cream

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

10 egg yolks

¼ cup berries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of crème brûlée dishes or 3-inch ramekins. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil and stir to make sure that the sugar dissolves. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and let the vanilla steep for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

In a mixing bowl, mix the egg yolks with a whisk and slowly add the cream mixture until well incorporated. Place the berries at the bottom of the buttered dishes. Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins and put into a larger pan. Fill the pan halfway with water. Bake the custards in the water bath for 30-40 minutes, until the custard is no longer giggly in the center.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and remove the ramekins from the pan. Let the custard cool completely. Before serving, sprinkle the tops with a few spoonfuls of sugar. Caramelize the sugar until is melts, gets darker and covers to custard tops. You can brown the tops with a broiler or a torch.

Blackberry Turnovers

Hot, steamy Louisiana summers became a little more bearable with a bowl filled to the brim with blackberries and honey. I remember lugging a pale, pink wash bucket that matched my pink flower bucket hat to the blackberry bush in my grannie and paw-paw’s backyard. The bucket was the chosen vessel for my little, plump, black treasures. My paw-paw taught me how to pick blackberries. I remember his strong, patient voice warning me of the thorns, how to gently pull the fruit off the bush without breaking the stems, and what the color of a perfectly ripe berry looked like. So I heeded his advice, slowly reached my little arm into the bush and lightly picked the fruit from the plant.  Within moments, my bucket was filled to the top. With all of the courage in my arms and my legs, I lifted the bucket to my neck and hugged the pink pale all the way to my grannie’s utility room. My treat would be a bowl of blackberries sweetened with either sugar or fresh, local honey. I loved the way the little berries burst in my mouth. You could always tell whenever I got into the buckets in the utility room, the confirmation lied on my teeth, stained dark purple from the berries. I could never hide the evidence because I could not help but smile after devouring the little gems.

 

Recipe: Makes 8

2 cups of blackberries

½ cup of sugar

¼ cup of water

1 teaspoon of pectin

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 package of puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

1 Tbs. raw sugar

Combine blackberries, sugar, water, and pectin in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat. Add vanilla. Boil for 20-30 minutes, skimming the foam on top. Cool for 30 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll puff pastry on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Cut each sheet into 4 equal squares. Fill the center of the squares with 1 Tbs. of blackberry filling. Seal the edges with egg wash. Fold corners together to form a triangle. Crimp edges of the pastry with a fork and puncture the top of the pastry enough to allow the steam to escape. Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream!

 

 

King Cake

 

Growing up, I believed everyone in the world celebrated Mardi Gras. I thought everyone had off for Mardi Gras holidays or as we religiously called it in our private school, “Hallelujah Holidays.” And I was shocked to know that the rest of the world was deprived of king cake, sha. King cakes are traditionally baked in a circular shape that represents a king’s crown. Hidden inside of each cake is a tiny, plastic baby that represents Jesus (don’t choke on baby Jesus, that’s bad luck). Whoever finds the baby is supposed to buy the next king cake and will have good fortune in the future. The colors purple, gold and green that are used to decorate the cake represent justice, power and faith. These cakes were the best part of Mardi Gras to me whenever I was little. We grew up Christian, not Catholic, so the only tradition that we were able to engage in was eating king cake. I loved finding the little baby inside these cherished cakes. When left alone, my sister, Hope, and I would try our hardest to dig in the cake with seamless efforts. Without much astonishment, we failed every time. Baby Jesus would not tolerate cheating apparently…

 Recipe: Serves 6

* This recipe calls for puff pastry instead of the traditional brioche bread recipe. Also, most king cakes use purple, gold and green colored sugars, but I use colored royal icing. The grocery store that practically all of my king cakes came from in southwest Louisiana, Market Basket, used icing instead of sugars to decorate their cakes.

Cake:

1 package of puff pastry, thawed

1 Tbs. of butter, melted

2 Tbs. of sugar

2 Tbs. of brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup of blueberry filling (if you use canned, I won’t tell a soul)

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 4000

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface. Lay two sheets of pastry side by side and crimp the two pastries together. Makes sure that there are no seams. Leaving a 3-inch border, brush the melted butter onto the pastry, and then sprinkle on both brown and white sugar. Layer the cinnamon on top of the sugars. Press down lightly with your fingers. Add the filling on top of the sugars and cinnamon. Starting with the end closest to you, gently roll the pastry up jellyroll style. Connect both ends together to form a circle with the pastry. Transfer to a cookie sheet layered with parchment paper. Brush egg wash onto the pastry and bake for 25 minutes or until brown. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before icing the cake.

To make the icing:

3 cups of powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1 tsp. of lemon juice

Purple, gold and green food gels

Combine the sugar and egg white in a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment. Whisk together until shiny and can hold its shape. Add the lemon juice (add more if the icing is too thick). Take 3 mugs and line them with Ziploc bags. Spoon 2 tablespoons of white icing in each mug. Add the 3 different color gels in the 3 individual mugs. Close the bags and mix the color into the icing until you have the desired hue.

Once the cake has cooled, put a thin layer of white icing. Push the icing to a corner of the bag and snip a tiny piece of the corner off. Gently squeeze the icing onto the cake, one color at a time until you have all 3 colors displayed onto the cake. Let the icing harden slightly before serving.