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Classic Apple Crisp

October 17, 2011

When I see my children voraciously take down one apple after another, it is hard for me to believe that I hated apples as a child.  But you remember those days, do you not?  Living in a suburban/ urban community before the food revolution, when an apple was a Red Delicious, donning a shiny waxy coat, stored for too long under the wrong conditions.  Apples were mealy and bland with tough skins and I did not want to eat them.  At around age 10, I discovered Granny Smiths.  Ohhh a tart apple, I began to adjust my verdict, but still they were nothing to sing of.  It may have been a long journey, but I have finally learned the virtues of the apple.

We have one apple tree in our backyard, but it supports five varieties of apples, all grafted on different limbs.   These are REAL apples.  Apples with character, flavor, aroma, variations of texture and shape. The apples ripen at different times keeping our family flush with apples through most of the season.  For this we are grateful, because our kids love apples.  No need to tell them the “apple a day” story, left to their own devices they would gladly eat more than that.  Fortunately, my parents have multiple apple trees, so our pantry generally has a large box of apples to choose from through the months of August and September.  We also keep a box full in the fridge for longer storage.  What we can not fit in the refrigerator is cooked down into applesauce, sliced and dried, or cut and bagged for the freezer.  This ensures we can enjoy the taste of our own apples through the winter.

One of the simplest and most delicious ways to treat apples is to prepare a Classic Apple Crisp.  The apples are cored and sliced, then tossed in a bit of sugar.  Lay them down in a buttered baking dish and sprinkle a mixture of flour, butter, oats, and brown sugar.  Sweet, tart, buttery, delicious.  Do not leave out the vanilla ice cream.  In fact if you ask my son, he will straighten his posture, squint his eyes, and tell you, “The rule is: you must have ice cream with apple crisp” in a tone that is frighteningly authoritative for a five year old.  It is best to do what he says.

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There is a rule in our house: if I am going to make something decadent, there has to been people to share it with (preferably out of the house.) Sounds sensible, doesn’t it?  The problem is that from an early age I have learned to find the loophole in almost every rule.  And here is the loophole:  my brain is always inventing excuses to make decadent things and then share them.  My ear is cocked for someone celebrating a birthday, a friend with a new child, a neighbor in the middle of a remodel, an unexpected house guest, you get the picture.  So when a friend mentioned they needed a dessert for a moving party, I immediately jumped on the idea of making these brownies!

I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart Living Desserts.  Her original recipe is excellent.  In fact it is so good that I have not been able  to bring myself to try a different recipe since I discovered hers years ago.  Martha’s recipe calls for baker’s chocolate but, I swapped that out for unsweetened ground cocoa because that is what I prefer to have on hand.  She also calls for a half cup of chocolate chips, which are a nice addition, but I feel they detract a bit from the phenomenal texture and taste of the brownie itself.  I left them out.  Taking a tip from Cook’s Illustrated, the walnuts are sprinkled on top of the brownie instead of mixed in the batter.  This prevents the top from cracking when you slice the brownies.  It also makes it clear that to anyone with allergies that the brownies contain nuts.  As a finishing touch, I sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top of the warm brownies.  This adds a nice salty contrasting crunch as well as gives a little sparkle to the brownies.

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Chocolate Pudding

February 13, 2011

Originally I was planning on making a decadent chocolate mousse for Valentine’s Day.  I craved the over-the-top chocolately richness of a mousse, but at the store with cream in hand, I reconsidered.  Valentine’s Day or not, I wasn’t feeling like I could justify my family and I consuming a pint of cream.  Then I remembered pudding! Chocolate pudding may be the ultimate chocolate comfort food.  Each bite sings of childhood, yet by using dark chocolate and  the optional addition of liqueur, it can be quite the adult indulgence as well.

This chocolate pudding is very rich.  It incorporates both unsweetened cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate.  As with all chocolate desserts, it will only be as good as the chocolate you use.  I like Ghiradelli, which is widely available in supermarkets.  Feel free to cater to your personal craving.  If you want something even more rich, use bittersweet chocolate in place of the semi-sweet.  If you want a milder chocolate flavor, more akin to the kid-friendly box pudding mixes, cut the semi-sweet chocolate in half.  You can experiment with low-fat milk as well.   It would probably work fine, but I haven’t tried it myself.  You really can not go wrong.  Plus, if you have only made pudding from the box, I imagine you will be fully converted to this method.  It is super easy and quick and the result is tremendously satisfying, just look at my happy Little Miss!

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