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…

 

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse – Party Sized

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I’m not sure why but once kids head back to school, the parties start – Oh wait, I think I just answered that.  Party season has definitely begun!   Invitations are flying in for birthdays, housewarmings, fundraising events, anniversaries, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, even  a Harvest Party – and we aren’t even to Halloween yet.  My friend, Tracy, and I just co-hosted a bridal shower for our beautiful friend, Karin, who is getting married up in Sonoma this weekend.  My job was coming up with a dessert festive enough to honor the special bride.  I didn’t want to try to rival her spectacular wedding cake (and not being a frequent baker anyway, because I end up eating it all myself) my thoughts immediately turned to chocolate, the ultimate crowd pleaser.  I have made a decadent but super simple bittersweet chocolate mousse in the past for special occasions but never for a crowd.  So I revamped my Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Recipe, which only makes four small servings, to serve a dozen and updated the presentation to adapt for any occasion.

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If you can boil water and you have a food processor, you can make this foolproof, no-cook chocolate mousse. You just have to plan ahead by at least three hours because it needs chilling time to set.  I didn’t have a dozen of any appropriate dessert dish so I ran down to my local hardware store and bought a box of half pint wide mouth glass canning jars, also commonly known as ‘jelly jars’, which are inexpensive and re-usable.  Best of all they are easy to decorate. (Thanks Dawn!).

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This was for a bridal shower so I went with White Tie and Bridal Veil Bow, using white satin cording and wired organdy ribbon, but it’s very easy to adapt for any holiday.  The ribbon you choose really sets the theme. Or you can leave the glass jars plain for a rustic look.

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  •  Candy cane ribbon for Christmas.  Blue snowflakes for Hanukah.

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  •  Be creative and tuck small spoons or candycanes into the ribbon or lay a pirouette cookie across the top for fun.

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  • Celebratet Halloween with Trick or Treat ribbon and a dollop of whipped cream.

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What You Need: 12 half pint wide mouth glass jars, 12 strips of ribbon and sharp scissors.  Do a trial run on one jar, then remove it and measure the length of the ribbon necessary and pre-cut the other 11.  Don’t tie them until after the mousse has been poured to prevent staining from drips.  Better yet, tie the ribbons just before serving if time permits.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

8 Tbsn sugar
4 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
8 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3 cups semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 eggs

strawberries, raspberries or whipped cream for garnish (optional)
pirouette cookies (optional)
  •  Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a several cups of water boiling
  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered

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  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits

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  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass dessert cups. or jelly jars  Place on a tray (I used the box the jars came in) Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.

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  • Before serving, tie ribbon around the neck of each jar for decoration.
  • If using strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 12-14 small
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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 8 Tbsn sugar
4 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
8 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3 cups semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 eggs
strawberries or raspberries for garnish (optional)
pirouette cookies (optional)
  •  Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a several cups of water boiling
  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered
  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits
  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass jelly jars.  Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.
  • Before serving, tie a ribbon around the mouth of each jar to decorate
  • If using strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.
  • To serve, garnish with berries or whipped cream and a pirouette cookie, if desired.