Salted Caramel Apple Bites

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It’s Apple Harvest time!  And you know what that means… Dessert.  How about a twist on the traditional apple pie?  I don’t mean to knock America’s favorite dessert, because I will make a couple of those too this season, but I have been on a kick for mini or two-bite appetizers and desserts lately.  This one is definitely a winner!  Finely diced sweet apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and lemon juice sauteed to tender deliciousness, then spooned into graham cracker cups and topped with a drizzle of salted caramel.  All I can say is, yum!

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I just picked my apple crop the other day.  I have three apple trees in my orchard; Fuji, Pink Lady and Pippin.  Each type of apple has it’s own flavor and texture.  The Fuji apples are really sweet and firm and more yellow in color.  The Pink Ladies are sweet but more delicate and the Pippin is also firm but bright white with a bit of tartness.  When blended together, they are a total delight.  I always make applesauce with whatever apples are left (probably in another week or so and just in time for Hanukkah and Potato Latkes-more on those later) but first I wanted to make some mini apple pies and ran across a recipe for some mini caramel apple crisps from Princess Pinky Girl which looked pretty delicious and cute too.  I changed it a bit based on my own apple pie and crust recipes and to make it a little easier to prepare, aka easier clean up but she was definitely my inspiration.  I also decided to make my own caramel sauce.

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Alas, now I see why caramel sauce is so expensive! The sugar goes from undercooked to burnt in a nanosecond so make sure all ingredients are measured and room temperature.  The first time, I didn’t caramelize the sugar enough because I was afraid it was going to burn, so the taste was right but the sugar was still a bit crunchy.  I was able to fix it by reheating the jarred syrup in the microwave on 80% power and all the sugar crystals went away leaving a nice creamy syrup. Most caramel sauce is made with heavy cream, which I don’t buy, so I decided to try substituting plain yogurt and was quite happy with the results.  To make a vegan sauce, use vegan butter and yogurt.  Otherwise use any kind you like but I would recommend full fat yogurt, which is better for you anyway. Good fat helps your body absorb the nutrients in the food and apples have plenty of those.  This caramel sauce gets thick as it cools, so warm it up in the microwave to use again.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble to make homemade caramel sauce, just pick up a jar at the supermarket.  There are some really delicious ones available so your minis will turn out just as good as if you made it yourself.

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TIPS:  Caramel Sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  For easy drizzling, try these little plastic squeeze bottles I found at World Market for $1.99 for the three bottles.  They are the perfect size for drizzling sauce, dressing or toppings on pretty much anything.  I have filled the white one on the far left with caramel sauce which made drizzling a breeze instead of a goopy mess.

SALTED CARAMEL APPLE BITES

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CRUST

3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 14 graham crackers)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

FILLING

4 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsn lemon juice
2 1/4 Tbsn flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup water

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE (OR STORE BOUGHT)

1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsn salted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
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  • If making caramel sauce, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt butter. Mix in sugar and cook until the mixture turns a coppery color,or reaches 350 degrees if you are using a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and taste to make sure sugar is all caramelized.

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  • Mix in yogurt and stir using whisk for 2 more minutes. Stir in vanilla until well incorporated.

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  • Pour hot caramel sauce in a jar and allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You may need to reheat it to use again as it thickens when cooled.

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  • If you are using graham cracker crumbs, combine them with the sugar and stir in melted butter. If you are using graham crackers, break them into smaller pieces and process in a food processor or blender into crumbs.  Add sugar and melted butter and process on low until combined. The mixture should easily form a ball when pressed together but should not be wet.  Add another couple of Tablespoons of melted butter if its too crumbly.

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  • Divide the graham cracker mixture among the greased muffin tins, either 24 mini or 12 regular.  Using the back of a spoon or your clean thumb, press mixture into bottom and sides, forming a small cup.

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  • Bake minis for 5 minutes and regular for 10 at 350 degrees, and let cool. They will raise up while hot but flatten back out when cool.

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  • Combine all filling ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and cook on medium low heat, partially covered, until softened, about 10-15 minutes. If it starts to stick add a bit more water.

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  • Spoon filling into graham cracker cups and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

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  • Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Use a knife edge to loosen from the muffin tin ad place on a serving platter.

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  • Drizzle with caramel sauce.  Thank yourself for making these heavenly bites…

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Caramel Apple Mini Bites

  • Servings: 24 mini or 12 regular
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
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CRUST

3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 14 graham crackers)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

FILLING

4 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsn lemon juice
2 1/4 Tbsn flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup water

CARAMEL SAUCE

1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsn salted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla

  • In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt butter. Mix in sugar and cook until the mixture turns a coppery color, or reaches 350 degrees if you are using a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and taste to make sure sugar is all caramelized.. Mix in yogurt and stir for 2 more minutes. Mix in yogurt and stir using whisk for 2 more minutes. Stir in vanilla until well incorporated
  • Pour hot caramel sauce in a jar and allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
  • If you are using graham cracker crumbs, combine them with the sugar and stir in melted butter. If you are using graham crackers, break them into smaller pieces and process in a food processor or blender into crumbs.  Add sugar and melted butter and process on low until combined. The mixture should easily form a ball when pressed together but should not be wet.  Add another couple of Tablespoons of melted butter if its too crumbly.
  • Divide the graham cracker mixture among the greased muffin tins. either 24 mini or 12 regular.  Using the back of a spoon, press mixture into bottom and sides, forming a small cup. Bake minis for 5 minutes and regular for 10 minutes at 350 degrees and let cool.
  • Combine all filling ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and cook on medium low heat, partially covered, until softened, about 10-15 minutes .  If it starts to stick add a bit more water.
  • Spoon filling into graham cracker cups and bake for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Use a knife edge to loosen from the muffin tin and place on a serving platter.
  • Drizzle with caramel sauce.  Thank yourself for making these heavenly bites…

 

Cupcake Love

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I don’t do a lot of baking and (spoiler alert!) I did not bake these cupcakes.  It was just my birthday, which, of course means I got to indulge myself.  Sometimes you need to go with delicious over nutritious and I thought cupcakes would be the perfect dessert to serve at the lake.  It’s easy to mix and match several flavors so you can please everyone. Plus, people will often say no to a slice of cake but not hesitate to eat a cupcake. People love cupcakes, which are quite the food craze of the moment.  There is even a reality show, ‘Cupcake Wars’ on Food Network which pits bakers against each other for prize winnings, so I guess we’re on trend.

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These yummy treats are from Cupcake Love, a cute little cupcake shop on Maine Street in Bridgton, Maine. The owner and baker extraordinaire, Shannon Lyon, puts her creative spin on traditional cupcakes taking them, literally, to new heights.  For someone like me who enjoys making my food into fun edible towers, her cupcakes are simply irresistible, like this Brownie Sundae.

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Or this Vanilla Chocolate Chip which is almost too cute for words.

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I love coconut cake so ordered a dozen Coconut Cupcakes and was not disappointed with the yummy coconut buttercream topped with toasted coconut.  Hard to resist?  Why even try?

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So you might think it is cruel and unusual to post this when you might be too far away to just pop in and pick up some of her cupcake creations.  On the other hand, those of you that are bakers can consider this inspiration.  Go tall!  Check out Cupcake Love on Facebook for hours or more yummy flavors.  Stop in if you’re anywhere near Bridgton but go early since she usually sells out.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Santa Rosa Plum Crisp

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Looking for a simple 4th of July or summer dessert?  How about an easy Stone Fruit Crisp? Plums are in season right now as are other stone fruits like peaches, cherries and nectarines. Crisps are very forgiving to make as there is little that can go wrong, no crust to make or fruit to arrange. Just cut up your favorite fruit, sprinkle it with a yummy topping and bake. The beauty of this dessert is it’s simplicity.  This recipe is easily made vegan and gluten free and for a dessert, it’s pretty nutritious.  The oats and almond flour combined with the fruit and dates are loaded with vitamins and minerals ( and fiber, of course).   As an added bonus, your kitchen will smell divine!

I have a wonderfully prolific Santa Rosa plum tree in my garden in California.  Usually I make plum jam which I put on toast or in my yogurt for the rest of the year.  This spring in California has been so dry and warm that my plums were ripe and falling off my tree almost before I realized I was losing my crop.  So right before my summer move to Maine, I gathered everything I could reach and decided to take them with me since I didn’t have time to do anything with them in California.  I ‘smuggled’ the plums and some Meyer lemons, also from my garden, to Maine in my suitcase which I checked. I didn’t dare carry it on, since one of my friends once took home some of my lemons in her carry-on and security thought they were hand grenades. (Well they are rather large lemons!)   I decided it was not worth the risk of possibly having to dump them so packed them in with my shoes and extra clothes and hoped for the best.

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The lemons made the trip very well but a few of the plums got a bit bruised on their journey and are no longer quite as perfect for eating, so I decided to make a plum crisp.  Since I have yet to do a complete restocking of my pantry, I had to make do with what I had on hand, even tearing open individual sugar packets to toss with the plums (after which, of course, I found the tin of sugar hiding up on the top shelf).  Like I said, this is a very forgiving dessert…

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TIPS:  Most fruit crisp recipes call for wheat flour but I opted to go grain free and use almond flour, although almost any flour would work as a thickening agent and in the topping as well.  I added pecans and almonds to the topping for added crunch as well as dates for extra chewy sweetness but both are optional.  If you don’t use nuts, just add a bit more flour and oats so there is enough topping to cover the fruit.   I usually prefer desserts that are one dedicated fruit but crisps are also good with a mixture of cut up fruits if that is what you have on hand.  This is  great way to make an amazing dessert out of leftover or less than perfect pieces of fruit.  Instead of throwing them out, just cut out the bad spots.  They will still taste delicious!

Santa Rosa Plum Crisp

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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4 cups plums, pits removed and chopped

1 Tbsn coconut, oat or almond flour (white or wheat work too)

2 Tbsn sugar (honey, agave necter, etc.)-more if your fruit is under ripe or sour

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Topping:

1/2 cup flour (made from any grain or legume)

1/2 cup oats (not instant or fast cooking)

1/2 cup pecans or almonds, finely chopped(optional)

1/4 cup dates, pitted and finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

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  • Combine plums, flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  Pour into an ungreased baking dish or pie pan

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  • Mix together all topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly.

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  • Spread topping evenly over the plum mixture
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Plums should be bubbling and the topping a golden brown.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream (optional)

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