Sunday, September 24, 2006

The oven saga continues...

I haven't posted in awhile, because I was hoping to make a celebratory declaration about the new oven's arrival. The good news is, it did finally arrive on Wednesday afternoon. The bad news is, it's been a nightmare ever since it got here! To begin with, it sat in the middle of the kitchen floor for three days until we could figure out how to get it into the old slot. You see, the top and back of it were a wee bit wider than main body of the stove, so it wouldn't slide back until it was raised up a an inch or two. At a swell faculty party Friday evening, my handy friends, Martie and Patti, suggested using some of those easy-glide feet that are for moving heavy furniture without scuffing your wood floors. We got some, but they didn't quite do the trick. So we finally decided just to haul the beast up onto wooden planks, which was easier said than done. Thanks to our super-humanly strong next-door neighbor, we managed it at long last. It looks a little tacky, but as long as it works, I don't care. But that's the bigger issue--it doesn't work. I tried baking a can of biscuits in there this morning for a trial run, and they were charcoal before they reached the minimum baking time. So later on in the afternoon, I tried making some cookies, turning the temperature down by fifty degrees, and the first batch still came out overdone before the minimum time! Near as I can tell, this awful appliance is running maybe 175 degrees too hot! So I'm going to have to give the retailer a call on Monday and see if it can be calibrated, or it might have to be replaced all my personal hell continues. (Do you ever feel like the universe is out to get you? All I want is to bake a pie in my own house! Is that really too much to ask? AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!)

Ok, now that I've had my little psychotic break/meltdown/temper tantrum, let me turn to more pleasant, autumnal tidings. Friends, we are in the full glory of apple season! As you know, I have already used some Ginger Golds and Paula Reds in some baked dishes this season, but on Friday afternoon, we went in search of the most prized apple in all of Christendom, the Honey Crisp. Dear readers, believe me when I say that there is nothing more wonderful than biting into a Honey Crisp apple (preferably, cold from the fridge). It is, as you might guess from the name, incredibly sweet, toothsome and crisp, and as you take each bite, there's a burst of fresh apple juice in your mouth. Just amazing! I don't even have a recipe to go with these apples, because it would be a crime to do anything other than savor the beauties in their perfect, fresh form. However, I did score an unexpected apple bonus at our local Everett Orchards on Friday. As we were paying for our Honey Crisps, I noticed a sign advertising an apple called "Wealthy" by special request only. I inquired about this variety, as I'd never heard of it. The lovely woman told me that it was an old-fashioned baking apple, and that they only had two trees' worth. In fact, she said that her mother usually claims all of the Wealthy apples for her own pies, but that they had a few leftover to sell this year. Hard-to-find, scarce supply, heirloom baking apples? She was singing my song! So I snapped up a half peck in short order, naturally! I will report back on the pies that result, once I get the oven situation under control, that is. :-(

But I would be remiss if I blogged without posting a single recipe. And I do have one to offer. The other wonderful surprise at Everett Orchards was discovering their terrific homemade cookies. We sampled a peanut butter-filled chocolate one and a decadent double-chocolate one that seemed to have a hint of coffee involved. But my favorite was a delicious maple-walnut cookie that I am now obsessed with replicating at home. Other than scorching the first batch in the hateful new oven, my initial effort yielded some tasty results. Here is the recipe:

Maple Walnut Cookies

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco (or swap out part of the shortening, which makes them soft, for butter, which will give them better flavor)
2 tablespoons maple syrup (of course, real!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups walnuts, toasted (do NOT skip this step or you'll be sorry!) and coarsely chopped

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. (that's 200 to me...ha ha)
2. Place brown sugar, maple sugar, shortening, maple syrup, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg and beat well.
3. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in another bowl. Add to shortening mixture; beat at low speed just until blended. Stir in chopped walnuts.
4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. (I used my standard cookie scoop here onto Silpat-lined pans.)
5. Bake one baking sheet at a time at 375 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies (using the cookie scoop).


Randi said...

I agree with you on the honeycrisps. I never liked apples for eating out of hand, but I love those. I guild the lily a bit with a dab of honey on top. Yummy. They're expensive here though. 1.99lb. There are 3 apples in 1lb. I'll have to check on the prices next time I go to MI. Oh and I like my fruit cold too.

Anonymous said...

More praise for the honey crisp: our friends Rene and Joel had the good fortune of being asked by UC Davis if they would mind being a test plot for over 70 varieties of apples about 20 years ago. Needless to say, they've got more apples than you can shake a hateful oven at ;) The organic honey crisps they harvested were far and away the best for eating right off the tree (or out of the basket as it were at the FM). I've always wondered how they would stand up to baking though. I usually think of an apple with both sweet and tart flavors for making the best pies. Perhaps a Jonagold, a Red Gravenstein (my personal fave for pies) or a Spartan?

Monkey Bob said...

I enjoyed reading your descriptions of food. They made me so hungry that I had to go and raid the fridge. You're lucky to live in a area without a lot of cars. I live 35 miles West of NYC. Thanks for the recipes. I am passing them on to my wife. I am looking forward to reading more recipes. Maybe you can get Rachel Ray's old time slot on TV!

Anonymous said...

Ooh! I just found out one of our local orchards grows honey crisp...I'm going up tomorrow!