APPLE FRITTERS & AN ANNOUNCEMENT

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Professor Moser was my English professor as well as a sort of grandmother figure to me during my freshman year of college. She was a petite, elegant woman with excellent posture and perfectly coiffed hair. She would prefer for me to say she was more of a godmother figure than a grandmother because she was oblivious of her age. We spent time after class in lively debates about novels, classic movies, and, of course, food. She was full of wisdom, and I astutely sat next to her soaking it all in. So, when the first lovely autumn day arrived in Waco that year, she declared it the perfect day for a long lunch.  We piled into her sleek white Cadillac and made our way down a long winding road, which at the time felt like it led absolutely nowhere, but she assured me the road steered us to her favorite little café in the heart of a quaint Amish community.

We sat in the center of the dining room, under stained glass windows and beautiful wooden beams. There was a steady fire in the stone fireplace. (It was pleasant even though it wasn’t quite cold enough for a fire, but it reminded me of my grandmother in Louisiana who lights a fire whenever the temperature dips below 60oF.) We enjoyed a meal of roasted meats, bread made from freshly milled flour and lettuces picked from a garden located just behind the restaurant. When it was time to order dessert, I couldn’t decide between the praline ice cream or apple fritter. Both looked wonderful and seemed quite “autumnal”. We ordered two of both. “Life’s too short to choose just one dessert,” she said decisively.

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As I dipped the last crumb of fritter into a melted puddle of praline ice cream, she looked at me sternly and said, “If you don’t become a writer, you will be the biggest waste of talent I’ve ever met.” I sat stunned and secretly impressed by her polite bluntness. “Well, I’m going to be a scientist,” I said resolutely, like most young people do. She smiled and nodded, as if she had a glimpse into the future, all the while knowing I would be amazingly mistaken.

This is one of those treasured memories I keep on a shelf, always at hand. On the same shelf are words of encouragement, gentle nudges from loved ones, challenges, victories and failures. All this to say, I can look back and say the Professor was right. You see, I’ve been keeping a secret. A rather big secret.

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For a while now, I’ve been working behind the scenes with my agent on a proposal for my first cookbook, and I’m pleased as punch to announce it will be released March 2018 by Harper Collins! All of the recipes, with the exception of a few favorites from this site, are brand new. I can’t wait to share them with you! Thank you for your words of encouragement along the way, for emailing me letting me know my grandma’s blackberry pie recipe was the hit of your family dinner, and for sharing your personal experiences from home.

Here’s to a season of new adventures! x Amber

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Vanilla Bean Glazed Apple Fritters

Makes 6

Note: To make the Vanilla Bean Glaze simply whisk together 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract, 2 tablespoons milk and ¾ cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl just before frying the fritters.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1½ tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon instant yeast

1 egg, room temperature

½ teaspoon lemon zest

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons raw cane sugar

1 large apple, peeled, cored, cut into ½” chunks

Vegetable oil, for frying

 

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a beater attachment, combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast, egg, zest, and water. Beat on a medium speed for 8 minutes, or until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Allow the dough to rest for 1 minute.

Start the mixer up again on medium speed and slowly add 2 tablespoons of butter, about a teaspoon at a time.

Once the butter is incorporated, mix on a high speed for 5 minutes until glossy, smooth and elastic.

Turn the dough into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Knead the dough for a moment, just to let the air out, recover, and chill for 24 hours.

In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter, cinnamon, raw cane sugar and apple. Cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Allow the filling to cool either on the countertop at room temperature or in the fridge until you are ready to make the fritters.

After 24 hours, plop the dough onto a generously floured surface. Press the dough into a 12×9” rectangle. Spread the apples onto half of the dough and fold the remaining half over the apples. Pinch the edges together.

Using a knife or a pastry scraper, cut dough into ½” strips, then cut crosswise into ½” strips again. Repeat this process again, but this time on the diagonal.

Flour your hands well and gather the dough pieces together to for a log.

Slice the log into 6 equal pieces.

Transfer the fritter dough onto 2 rimmed baking sheets dusted with flour. Flatten the fritters while pressing them together. I mean flatten! This will ensure the fritters will not fall apart when fried. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let the fritters rise for 1 hour.

In a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, heat 2” of oil until it reaches 360oF.

Using a spatula, gently lower the fritter dough into the oil. Don’t crowd the pot. (I fry 1-2 at a time!) The fritters fry quick, about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and fully cooked.

Remove the fritter with a spider or slotted spoon onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

While the fritters are still warm, dip the top of the fritter into the glaze. Allow the glaze to set and enjoy!

MUSCADINE MISSION

Muscadine Focaccia | for the love of the south

Earlier this week, I woke with bated breath. This happens every so often during the year. The excitement revolves around the arrival of my favorite seasonal produce, especially crops that have a tendency of poking their head out without notice like a prairie dog and quickly disappearing.

With wild abandon, I fling open the windows of my loft and deeply inhale the warm, summer air. I barely run a comb through my blonde bob, throw on a white tee and denim shorts, and stumble into my black rubber boots. This is no time for vanity. I have been impatiently waiting for muscadines to arrive for a year. An entire year! Today is the day they arrive. I can feel it in my bones.

The light of day barely began creeping over the grounds of the Carnton Plantation. Sunbeams welcome me into the garden as I walk the pea gravel paths. Ruby tomatoes and ladyfinger okra pods thrive on their stalks. Sunflowers keep a watchful eye out as they tower above everything else in the garden. Chive flowers with their violet crowns sway in the breeze on their long, elegant stems.

Muscadines | for the love of the south

Keeping on task, I walk to the edge of the garden where I know there is an archway of muscadine vines. I stop in my tracks, pea gravel flying every which way. I spot the beauties dangling like deep, wine-hued baubles on a lady’s arm. I pluck a few muscadines off their vines and pop them into my mouth. The skin of a muscadine is thick, much thicker than that of a grape. The skin bursts and separates from the pale green flesh as I bite into it. The combination of tart, chewy coating and the sweet, squishy flesh is delightful. Using my teeth, I strategically fish out the seeds from the muscadine, which are neon green and the size of a sunflower kernel, and discard the seeds by the base of the vines. I sit on an iron bench in the garden, fully content with a pile of muscadines in my lap. Muscadine season is officially mine for the taking, and I’ll cherish it for as long as it lasts.

Muscadine Focaccia | for the love of the south

Muscadine Focaccia:

Makes 1, 10” focaccia

Note: Leave smaller muscadines (the size of a marble) whole and cut larger ones (the size of a cherry) in half and discard seeds. If you can’t find muscadines, substitute with a lovely grape like Concord.

306g all-purpose flour

8g sea salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 cup warm water

2g active dry yeast

1 teaspoon light olive oil

1 cup muscadines (See Note)

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. In a small mixing bowl, combine water, yeast and olive oil. Make a well in the flour and pour the water and yeast mixture in the center of the flour. Knead until combined, about 3 minutes. Place a tea towel moistened with warm water over the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. The warm water clinging to the tea towel will create a warm, moist environment for the dough to rise.

On a floured surface, knead the rested dough for 3 minutes. Place the dough on a heavily floured plate or baking sheet, sprinkle with more flour and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to slowly rise in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Whenever you are ready to make the focaccia, take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before shaping.

In a small bowl, combine muscadines and the remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and gently pull the dough into a 10” inch circle. Place the dough in a generously buttered 10” skillet. Cover the top of the dough with the muscadines (including any juice that has come out of the muscadines), pressing the fruit firmly into the dough. Cover with a warm, moistened tea towel, and allow the dough to prove once more for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400oF. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving. This sweet focaccia is also lovely slathered in ricotta and drizzled with honey.