Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Apple Season

I love fall. I love cool weather, turning trees, crisp air... of course, none of these things happen in Texas. But fortunately, the one perk of fall we do get is the apples, especially Honey Crisp Apples. mmmm. So this past week I made a myriad (okay only 2) of apple recipes. I made Apple Zeppole with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Apple Strudel.

The apple strudel came from my Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine. And, while I honestly didn't love it because of the cream cheese in the crust (i hate cream cheese), everyone else did love it. Between Justin and my parents they were demolished in 2 days. What I did love about this apple strudel was that i got to use my food processor for the first time ever!

Apple Strudel:
1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
6 oz cream cheese, chilled and cubed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs milk
3 granny smith apples, cored and cut into chunks
3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted
3/4 cub pitted dates
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tsp ground nutmeg

Start with your food processor and pulse the flour, cream cheese, butter, and 1/4 tsp salt until the mixture resembles course sand. Funny story... since i'd never used my food processor and apparently don't believe in reading manuals, i thought that the "mini bowl" was the only option and tried to stuff everything in to it, needless to say, it was a huge mess. Add the milk and pulse until the dough just comes together, about 3 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a work surface (i used a wood cutting board) and shape the dough into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Next, using your handy food processor, coarsley chop the apples, pecans, and dates with 1/3 cup sugar, the nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and transfer to a bowl. I actually went way overboard on this and made it really almost mushy, but it was awesome. Also, i had a really hard time finding pitted dates and had to buy regular ones and get Justin to pit them for me.

Finally, preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured work surface (in my case a wood cutting board), working with 1 piece at a time, roll out the dough into a 1/8 inch thick square (that's really, really skinny) and cut into three 3 1/2 by 10 1/2 inch rectangles. I didn't have a rolling pin, so I used a cup.

Spread about 1/2 cup of filling over the bottom half of each rectangle, leaving a thin border, and fold the top of the rectangle, leaving a thin border, and fold the top of the rectangle over the filling.

Seal the edges with a fork and cut a 1/2 inch vent on the top. I just used my fingers to seal the edges - it worked! Transfer the strudels to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden, the recipe says about 15 minutes, but it took me closer to 20 or 30.

The Apple Zeppole on the other hand, i absolutely adored. Though, this is the first fried food i've ever made in my life, and it was a huge mess. I will not be making any friend twinkies or fried ice cream any time soon. This is a Giada De Larentis recipe from foodnetwork.

Apple Zeppole:
1 large apple, peeled and grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Olive oil for frying

In a medium saucepan combine the butter, salt, sugar, and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Take pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Return the pan to medium heat and stir continuously until mixture forms a ball. Food network says about 3 to 5 minutes, but it took me around 2. Transfer the flour mixture to a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Beat until smooth. Add the grated apple and stir to combine. (Be careful when you grate the apple to use a big enough grater, I started with a regular small cheese grater and it was making apple mush) If you're not frying immediately, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Combine the whipping cream, 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whip until medium soft peaks form. Transfer the whipping cream to a serving dish. (I did this the next day when I planned on serving the Zeppole - obviously you don't want to make whip cream ahead of time)

Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches - or thereabout. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F. Also, i don't have a deep fry thermometer. I just used a meat thermometer, and making sure it didn't touch the bottom of the pan, took a good guess at when it got hot enough since my meat thermometer only goes up to 250.

Using a small ice-cream scooper or 2 small spoons, carefully drop about a rounded tablespoon of the dough into the hot olive oil. Turn the zeppole once or twice, and cook until golden and puffed up, about 4 minutes. Again, I only cooked each one around 2 or 3 - you'll know when they're done though. Fry the zeppole in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. Transfer the zeppole to a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar using a small sieve. Serve with the cinnamon whipped cream alongside for dipping. YUM.

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