Sunday, June 12, 2005

Apple Phyllo Cups

Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I made these at work this week and they were a huge hit. The other staff kept coming into the kitchen and looking in on me as I made these up, all saying, "We never get stuff like this here!" Indeed. I have seen what they're used to in terms of baking and I'm not surprised they're easily impressed.

These are super easy to make and make quite an elegant dessert or snack. They can be plated up with a rasperry coulis or just eaten cold. We made something like these in school, which is where I got the idea.

Here's what you need:

- about 2lbs of apples, preferrably Granny Smiths because they're nice and tart and keep their shape during the cooking process
- some lemons (juice and zest)
- cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves - all to taste
- melted butter
- raisins if you like them
- candied citrus peel, if you like it
- left over cake crumbs, cookie crumbs, or even bread crumbs (not entirely necessary but a good idea if your filling is too liquidy)
- a package of phyllo pastry, thawed
- muffin tin

Get yourself a large bowl and fill it with water. Quarter a lemon or two, squeeze out the juice and throw the quarters and juice into the bowl. This will keep the apples from turning brown. Peel & core the apples and place them in a bowl of water as you go. When they're all done, dice them roughly. Place in a saucepan with about a cup of water and bring to a boil. Add your spices, raisins, and peel, if using. Add the juice and zest of another lemon. Simmer until the apples are tender, which should take about 5 - 10 minutes, depending on how big you cut them. Add about 2 tbsp of cornstarch dissolved in an equal amount of cold water. Stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat.

You'll need to make your cups about 4 - 6 sheets of phyllo thick. Lightly grease the muffin tins with melted butter. Very carefully separate your sheets out and cover the remaining phyllo with plastic wrap; it dries out quickly and it must be covered when you're not working with it. Now separate the phyllo into 2 - 3 layers each and brush lightly with melted butter; put your layers back together. Depending on how large your muffin cups are, cut the phyllo with a sharp knife into squares as best you can. The corners should come up well over the sides and when you press the middle into the bottom of the tin, and should be tall enough when pulled to gether to form little points. Rectangles are ok, and often inevitable. You can move around your phyllo layers to make the points work, but make sure the sides are high enough to accommodate the filling. You don't want any leaks or you'll never get these out after baking.

Check out your filling. If it's liquidy, you'll want to put in your crumbs to absorb some of the liquid and help prevent the filling from making the phyllo mushy. Or, add an extra layer or two of phyllo. Put a bit of filling in, enough so that you can pull the corners of the phyllo over the top and twist closed. Twist close, and work quickly from now now on so the phyllo doensn't dry out. When you've completed making the cups, brush the tops with some more melted butter. Bake at about 375F until just golden brown on the tops. Lift one out carefully to make sure they're golden on the bottom. Remove immediately from the muffin tins, preferrably with tongs, and cool on a wire rack. This step is essential, or the steam will turn the cups mushy on the bottom.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Creme Anglaise and ice cream would be lovely with this, as would the aforementioned raspberry coulis. Do not store in the fridge; the humidity will make the phyllo go soft.

Notes to the readership.

1. Work very, very carefully with phyllo as it is extremely fragile. Also, as I mentioned, it dries out quickly, so make sure you have your filling and muffin tins all ready to go before you cut your phyllo up.
2. Deeper muffin tins are better than shallower ones, just for the sake of presentation and use of phyllo, but use what you have on hand.

Enjoy - and as always, let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Lemon Ice Cream

Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Anita found this recipe yesterday in one of Richard's cookbooks. I'd been looking for a lemon ice cream recipe, actually, and this was absolutely fantastic! Anita, upon tasting it, thought she'd died and gone to heaven. She, like me, is a lemon fanatic. Aside from being delicious and refreshing, this also is a great palate cleanser.

My ice cream maker is a Cuisinart and it has a drum with a freezing liquid in it, and so you just freeze the drum over night, then plug the machine in and attach the drum, add your mixture, turn it on, and about 20 minutes later, you have ice cream. You put the ice cream into the actual freezer for a bit just to firm it up.

Here is the lemon ice cream recipe.

zest of 2 lemons
juice of 3 lemons
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream (35% only!)
1 cup whole milk

I whisked this all together in a clear glass measure and away I went. Like I said, it was great.

You don't have to worry about the lemon curdling the milk and cream because the citric acid won't curdle anything with a fat percentage above 35%, so make sure you use the full whipping cream. Don't cut corners or calories by using half and half because this just won't work.

I used the zest and juice of one lime because I was down a lemon, and it worked fine.

My basic ice cream recipe is the following.

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar

To this you can add pretty much whatever your heart desires. I usually add about a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Also try cocoa powder to taste (sift it in), chocolate chips, mint & chocolate chips (about a tsp or two of mint extract but use your own judgement), or Grand Marnier or Bailey's Irish Cream to taste. But beware: adding alcohol will affect the freezing of your ice cream, so add it at the very end when the ice cream has already done it's freezing so you won't get a slushie!

Homemade ice cream is the best because you can use all natural ingredients and you know exactly what goes in it. Store bought contains all kinds of nasty chemicals and crap you really don't want in your body. My ice cream maker cost me about $80 Canadian, and I've gotten a lot of use out of it. A great investment, I must say.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Reflections on Failure

I just made a chocolate chip cookie recipe that was, in my mind, a resounding failure. I'd made the recipe successfully before once or twice back home, and didn't think I'd have any problems here.

There were some differences. For one thing, I used whole oats instead of quick oats, which may have affected the absorption of liquid. The baking soda may have been too old. The oven, I know, is not accurate. And the elevation may be different here than in Ottawa.

Nonetheless, I'm super annoyed. I rarely make anything at home that is this off the mark, and I feel like I've wasted some precious ingredients that were not purchased by me to begin with. There is no rum ball bin here to hide my shame or make something of them at later date to disguise my mistake. I will just have to live with this and do my best to learn from it. I know where the possible mistakes might have been, and so I must keep them in mind in the future. And that's pretty much all I can do.

But bear this in mind: no recipe is necessarily foolproof. Change one ingredient or make the recipe under completely different circumstances and you may find you get a completely different product in the end, as I have just done. But the important thing is to not panic and throw away the recipe. The important thing is to analyze and theorize, and keep experimenting. If you believe the recipe is worth it, you might be rewarded in the end.

And when in doubt, change the name. I will call these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, "oatmeal chocolate chip lace cookies." Chances are, no one is going to know the difference, and you can claim you invented the whole thing yourself, thus making yourself out to be brilliant.

It isn't necessarily failure, it's revisionism.


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