Sunday, October 31, 2010

Apple-Blackberry Crisp

This past summer, my mum and I stopped at an Amish farm stand and bought some gorgeous blackberries. We waited for quite some time for someone to come out and help us and this little girl was sitting on their porch quietly the entire time just looking at us and barely making a noise.  She couldn't have been more than a year old and I was surprised to find her out there on her own. She has the sweetest face and looked so cute in her little Amish outfit.  I almost thought she was a baby doll!

Their farm was immaculate and the wheat fields were bright gold and swaying in the wind making the most calm de-stressing sound. I could've taken a nap laying in that field after eating our blackberries!

 We brought the blackberries home and my mum was reminiscing about how her grandmother used to make apple blackberry pie. Well, we didn't make it then as it wasn't apple season.  But, it is now!  I have tons of honey crisp apples left from our last trip to the orchard...the ones that Audrey is munching on in this photo we recently had taken up at the family farm. I also found blackberries on sale at the local market and thought I'd make an apple-blackberry creation as my mum was coming over to visit. 

I didn't feel like making a traditional pie, so I went with a crisp. I cooked the apples slices first with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to cook them down.  It's nice to just throw everything in together to bake, but if you do that with the blackberries, I suppose they would be complete mush.  The apples cooking on the stove top smelled amazing!  And, they looked so pretty when you tossed them in with the blackberries.

The blackberries cooked down and bubbled up making an amazing blackberry apple jam with soft chunks of fruit and a crispy oatmeal crust on top.  It was amazing served warm with vanilla bean ice cream in the company of my wonderful family. Mum really enjoyed it too!  I still have some of the blackberries left and may have to come up with another treat to make as mum is visiting me this week.

Recipe for Apple-Blackberry Crisp
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma recipe for Apple-Blackberry Cobbler)


Fruit mixture:
  • 2-3 lbs. peeled and cored apples cut into slices (I used honey crisp)
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs. cornstarch
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 pints blackberries
  • 1 cup rolled oats (regular or quick cooking)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (room temperature)
In a large stock pot, stir together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cornstarch, lemon zest and lemon juice. Transfer to stove, cover and set over medium heat. Cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until almost tender. Fold in the blackberries and transfer to an oven safe baking dish.
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
For the crisp topping, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crisp topping over fruit filling until covered completely.
Bake the cobbler, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 35-45 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes

There were a few pre-Halloween occasions that called for a treat so I made a few different Halloween inspired cupcakes, but my favorites were these friendly ghosts.

For my daughter's Montessori Fall Festival cakewalk I did a simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream and a sprinkling of candy corns.  I even bought some special window top cupcake boxes this year so people at the cakewalk could easily view the treats inside. 

My friend hosted her annual Halloween party in her amazing barn and asked me to bring some cupcakes.  I made several fondant ghosts to top the remaining vanilla cupcakes.  It was too much work to make 20+ ghosts, so I colored the rest of the buttercream orange and decorated them with brown sprinkles and candy corn.

To make the fondant ghosts, I started out by cutting giant marshmallows in a cone shape and made sure it was a little rounded on top.  By cutting the marshmallow, I was able to get it the shape I wanted and it also made the marshmallow nice and sticky for the fondant to adhere.  I referenced my marzipan book and it had a guide for ghosts using a cone shaped and round piece of marzipan under the circle, but you needed to hold them together with a toothpick and I didn't want to have a sharp toothpick in the cupcakes that little kids would be eating.  So, I tried out the marshmallow idea. What kid doesn't like marshmallows!?

Next I rolled out my white chocolate fondant and cut out large circles that were draped on top of the marshmallow and then crimped a little at the bottom.

When I was in England recently, I bought a package of caramel and chocolate decorating tubes and used the milk chocolate one to make the eyes and mouth.  This was much better to use than the gel decorating tubes as they are quite gooey.  The chocolate was easy to put on and hardened nicely.  Plus, the chocolate color matched the dark brown cupcake papers I baked them in.

Our neighborhood has our Halloween party this coming weekend and my family is visiting, so I'm sure I'll be inspired to create some other fun fall goodies.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Charming England, Memories of Nan, Afternoon Tea and Custard Galore

It was a bittersweet trip to England this past week, but mostly sweet.  We enjoyed lots of time with family, shared memories of Nan and celebrated her life.  I enjoyed this cup of tea with my Aunt who reminded me these were my Nan's favorite cookies.  I had actually made her some of the traditional palmiers for her last birthday. We had a nice visit with Auntie Vera and she gave us her version of the recipe for "Granny's Christmas Cake" and told us the whole history of when they originally started making it back in India. We'll see how it turns out for Christmas this year!

We had another stop at a nice cafe with my Aunt and Uncle to enjoy some treats and coffee (and an espresso sized milk for Audrey).

Dinner one evening brought us to the Giant's Rest, my favorite pub, where I used to study by the fire with a glass of red wine the winter I went to school there. I was anxious to review their chalkboard of puddings available for the day. 

We chose the butterscotch and apple crisp to share.  It comes covered in custard and we actually asked them to hold back a little on the custard, so they just doused half the dessert with it.  Audrey enjoyed an entire bowl of mandarin organge sorbet.

My cousin and godmother, Ann, always makes nice desserts.  They made a chocolate sponge cake the evening we were there for dinner.  And, again there was more custard.  This was such a yummy warm dessert! 

The day before we left we were able to make it to Alfriston for afternoon tea.  It's our favorite spot and where we often came with Nan.  In fact, we were seated at the same table we always sat with her and I sat in the same chair that I remember her being in when she last went there with us.  We shared a ploughman's lunch and had cream tea with scones.  The clotted cream is amazing!

The Singing Kettle is just a little tea room, but so quaint.

Here are a few sights as we walked around Alfriston that afternoon.  This was such a neat old watering can and the flower arrangements everywhere are gorgeous.

I love the custom painted house numbers.

The shops are full of amazing things and the general store counter is filled with fun pastries, candies, teas and jams.

The streets are miniscule in this town and there are beautiful views of the downs.

You don't see these too much anymore!

There are many days that I think about the quiet and sweet little town of Alfriston.  Why couldn't I just live in this beautiful Rose Cottage and walk up the road to run one of the tea rooms?