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Archive for January, 2013

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I don’t consider myself much of a collector, but if there was one thing I could easily amass it would be cookbooks. For me, getting a new cookbook is a process. First I browse the pages, admiring the design, layout and beautiful photography. Next I read it, cover to cover, before finally diving in to try out my first recipe.

I received several cookbooks for Christmas (yay!). My first experiment was with Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking. It’s a beautiful book that’s chock full of helpful base recipes, creative variations and fun background stories about her tastings and travels throughout the craft world. There are a lot of recipes that I want to try out here, but I started with Apple Fritters.

I was looking for an easy dessert for an ordinary weeknight and that’s exactly what this recipe is. We all know that anything fried is best eaten that same day, well, pretty much right away, like while it’s still hot – yum! This recipe makes just enough for 4-6 people and requires ingredients that you probably have in your pantry right now.

Pair it with your favorite ice cream and its fancy enough for a dinner party. Bon appétit!

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Apple Fritters
Adapted from The Craft of Baking
Makes 8-10 doughnuts

Ingredients
¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
¼ cup, plus 7 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 ½ teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup beer (pilsner or lager preferably)
1 large firm baking apple, such as granny smith, mutsu or crispin
Oil for frying (peanut oil is great but canola oil works just fine)

To make the fritters
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ¼ cup of sugar, ¾ teaspoon of the cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Whisk in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then one third of the beer, alternating until combined in three additions. Whisk well to combine, then set the batter aside for 30 minutes to rest.

Peel core and slice the apple into 10, 1/8-inch thick rings. Spread out the rings on a plate. Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar with ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle over the apple slices. Let the slices sit for 20 minutes as they absorb the sugar.

In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Fill a high-sided pot with 2 inches of oil and begin heating to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and gently, but thoroughly, fold them into the batter.

Once the oil is ready, in batches dip the apple rings into the batter to coat both sides and fry, turning once, until the fritters are golden and crisp, about 3 minutes total. Drain them on a paper towel before immediately tossing them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve warm.

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Extracts

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For Christmas I always make some form of homemade food present for my friends and family. The first year of my adulthood I made tins full of Christmas cookies. I loved the process of setting aside two days close to Christmas and turning my kitchen upside down with 10-12 different types of cookies. It felt so festive. I kept the cookie tins going for a few years, but eventually job responsibilities took over and I began to have less and less time to bake close to the holidays.

This year I needed an idea that was easy to execute and not as perishable as cookies, since I would be seeing different groups of people at different times. The answer – Extracts! I wanted to make my own extracts for a few years now but had never tried.

For Christmas 2012, I made vanilla and peppermint extracts. This is a great gift for the holidays, or any time of year. It’s incredibly easy and will definitely impress the recipient. It just requires some advance thinking, as the brewing process takes 4-8 weeks. I purchased small bottles from Amazon and made my own labels. If you’re giving these away as gifts, I would recommend using one or two ounce bottles. Amazon is also a great place to purchase vanilla beans.

For your friends who are more adventurous in the kitchen, you can easily vary this base recipe to make orange or lemon extracts by using the peel of the fruit or nut extracts by using whole, skinned nuts. The sky is the limit!

Vanilla Extract
Makes 1 ½ cups of extract, or enough to fill two small mason jars

Ingredients / equipment
8 vanilla beans
1 ½ cups of your favorite vodka (I used Svedka)
2 small mason jars with lids

To make the extract
Split each vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the beans. Add the beans and bean stems of 4 vanilla beans to each mason jar. Split the vodka between two mason jars, filling each with approximately ¾ cup. Seal the jar and place in a cool, dark cabinet for 4-8 weeks. Shake the jars a few times a week to redistribute the flavor.

Peppermint Extract
Makes 1 ½ cups of extract, or enough to fill two small mason jars

Ingredients / equipment
Bunch of fresh mint leaves
1 ½ cups of your favorite vodka (I used Svedka)
2 small mason jars with lids

To make the extract
Bruise a handful of the fresh mint leaves by roughly pulling the leaves apart with your fingers. Fill each mason jar about ¾ of the way with the leaves. Split the vodka between two mason jars, filling each with approximately ¾ cup of vodka. Seal the jar and place in a cool, dark cabinet for 4-8 weeks. Shake the jars a few times a week to redistribute the flavor.

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