Apple Brownie Recipe

I had the huge honor of appearing on The Martha Stewart Show last October, and this year, another thrill! My recipe for apple brownies appeared in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. I remember so clearly looking at my mom’s copy of Martha’s first book, Entertaining, back in 1982 and being so transfixed by her style and her notion of making home life important and beautiful. So to be included in her media world is huge.
This recipe is one of the sleeper hits of the book. The brownies cook up moist and richly flavored, with that slightly crunchy top you also find in the chocolate version. Th recipe is an adaptation of one that my Mom’s friend, Claire Reilly, gave her, and I love how easy they are to make—a great standby for those days when you want a sweet treat without a lot of fuss, or when you remember at 9 p.m. that you volunteered to make dessert for tomorrow’s bake sale.

Recipe for Apple Brownies

Apple Notes: I’m not kidding when I say that this recipe is easy. It’s also extremely adaptable. Any firm-sweet apple variety (see page 30) will work beautifully.

Equipment: 11-by 7-inch baking dish

Makes: 12 bars

Active time: 15 minutes • Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup (145 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) salted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup (210 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ cup (60 g) chopped walnuts
2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total; see Apple Notes), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes

 

Method
1• Preheat the oven to 350°F and set a rack to the middle position. Generously grease the
baking dish with butter and set aside.
2• In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer at high speed or using a hand-held mixer, beat
together the butter, sugar, and egg until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts and apples and
stir by hand until evenly combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined, another 30
seconds.
3• Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and lightly firm to
the touch, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then cut into 12 bars and
transfer to a serving platter.

Apple Tea Cake by Caitlin…and the question of standing mixers

My friend Caitlin sent along this photo of the Apple Tea Cake with Lemon Glaze.  “It was a huge hit,” she wrote. “So light a fluffy! But it made me realize that I REALLY need a Kitchenaid mixer. The hand-held one is not cutting it.”

Funny she should mention that. There’s a cookbook writers forum on Facebook and this week they’ve been discussing whether or not it’s fair to write recipes that suggest or recommend a standing mixer. I tend to write  along these lines:  “Combine egg whites and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or, if using a hand-held mixer, in a large mixing bowl).” The stand mixer is preferred but if you don’t have one, here’s an alternative. But I wonder how many readers actually own a Kitchenaid or Bosch or the like. They’re  relatively expensive and they take up counter space. Is it fair to recommend them? On the other hand, the results are so good and they make baking so easy. If anyone has thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them.

Waffle Brownies

What a day! I am so excited about this post. Waffle iron brownies, folks!! It’s an idea from a 1953 issue of Yankee and it’s fantastic. Really, I’m just so excited about my job at Yankee magazine right now.

 

I’m working with Aimee Seavey on a new Yankee cookbook with a “Lost and Vintage Recipes” theme. It’ll be out in October. And in the early stages, I have the pleasure of going back through 75+ years of the magazine’s archives and pulling recipes that seem interesting and relevant and worthy of being updated for today’s cooks. How fun is that? The trick is figuring out which recipes have been forgotten for good reason. There are plenty of those. Tomato casseroles made with ground beef and too much cheese, a blueberry slump with dumplings as dense as rocks. Tastes change over time, as do standards for recipe writing and testing. In the past, recipes were sometimes seen as outlines rather than precise instructions.

So back to 1953. Here’s the bound issue from the archives, and the recipe.

 

I’m sure you can imagine the thrill of finding this little gem. Brownies in a wha-? A dessert that combines my love of chocolate and multitasking appliances? Sign me up!

It was time get out the waffle iron and start cooking. Now, most waffle irons have a single heat setting, which ranges between about 330° and 390°.  I have a combined griddle/panini press/waffle iron, which I love for its space-saving efficiency. I set it for 375°.

The first step is to cream a stick of softened (salted) butter with 3/4 cup sugar.

I added 2 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. The batter began to look creamy.

In a separate bowl, I whisked together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. I added it to the wet ingredients.

And this is where I began to get a little nervous. The batter looked thick. Much thicker than any brownie recipe I’d ever seen.

I sprayed the iron with canola oil and dropped a heaping tablespoon of batter in the center of each of the four grids.

I closed the lid and waited 3 minutes. I opened the lid, and there they were. And they were…

AWFUL.

Leaden, dry, and with not nearly enough chocolate flavor, these brownie waffles were duds. But the idea was too good to give up. So back to the drawing board.

Comparing this formula with other traditional brownie recipes, I saw that I had used much less sugar and much more flour than most recipes. I decided to try it again with half the flour, another ounce of chocolate, and and extra 1/2 cup sugar.

Here’s what I got.

The extra chocolate and sugar were giving the brownies a richer, more fudgy texture, but clearly more flour was necessary to give the brownies enough structure to hold together. So I began adding flour a bit at a time and cooking up small batches until I got the right texture: one firm enough to hold together but still soft and chewy in the center.

And that’s how I got here. I love these brownies. The waffle iron gives them crispy ridges, but the inside remains rich and fudgy. They’re novel and fun and incredibly easy to make.

One important note: You need to let the brownies sit for a minute on the hot, opened iron before trying to remove them. Otherwise they’ll be too soft and likely to crumble.

Here’s the recipe:

Yankee’s Crisp-Chewy Waffle Iron Brownies

Total time: 40 minutes; hands-on time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 squares melted unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • Vegetable oil for waffle iron

Method:

Preheat your waffle iron. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add melted chocolate and vanilla and stir. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture and stir just until evenly combined.

When waffle iron is ready, spray or brush with neutral vegetable oil, such as canola. Drop a heaping tablespoonful of batter into the center of each grid on your iron. Close the lid and cook until the brownies are crisp and dry on the outside, 4 to 6  minutes, depending on the iron (check after 4 minutes). Open the waffle iron and let brownies sit for 1 to 2 minutes, until firm enough to remove (don’t skip this step). Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining batter. Yield: 10 to 12 brownies.

———————————————————————————-

Now… I’d love to get your help, readers! I’ve only tested this recipe on my iron and temperatures and cooking times will vary, depending on the machine. If you try this recipe, will you please report back to let me know how it worked for you and how long the brownies took to cook? I’ll adjust the recipe accordingly. Thank you!

In Praise of Apple Pie

Sam Sifton wrote a nice piece on apple pie in the Times magazine this week. It opens with a great quote from David Mamet:

“We must have a pie,” [Mamet] wrote in “Boston Marriage,” his 1999 play about Victorian women struggling not to talk like Mamet characters. “Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

I also love how he described the pleasure of the all-American dessert:

“Apple pie is a weekend project to slow the baker’s heart rate and restore belief in happiness. The scent of fruit softening, kissed by cinnamon, of buttery crust, of sugar caramelizing — these can combine into a fragrance of redemption for the cook and everyone else. The taste delivers bliss.”

Of course, I would’ve loved it if he was profiling my apple pie instead of one by Kieran Baldwin, a pastry chef at the Dutch, a restaurant in Soho. But I’m sure hers is fantastic. I can’t wait to make it myself sometime soon.

Reader masterpieces

A few weeks ago, I did a demo/signing at Stir, Barbara Lynch’s demonstration kitchen/cookbook store in the South End. It was a terrific time.  Everyone was really enthusiastic about apples, and I enjoyed making the quick bread-and-butter apple pickles and demonstrating how to make a great pie crust.

One of the attendees, a gastronomy student named Erin McLaughlin, just shared this photo of the Wrapples she made from the book. Don’t they look amazing?

She  made the apple tea cake, too, also gorgeous:

Apple Tea Cake by Erin

Me and Martha

I only watched my appearance on The Martha Stewart Show once, on the day it aired. It was such a peak experience to be in that studio cooking with Martha! Stewart! that I’d rather hold tight to my memory of it rather than have it all filtered through the view from the outside.

However, if you didn’t see the show and would like to see the clips, here you go:

The apple dumplings segment:

http://www.marthastewart.com/862130/apple-recipes-and-drac-o-lanterns#ooid=9sa2h3Mjq0uZ4HXWn8CufxTDbULsKNRj,AxdXd3Mjo-4YSBPsNqh3rVeUH80tMQQ2

The apple butter segment:

http://www.marthastewart.com/862130/apple-recipes-and-drac-o-lanterns#ooid=9sa2h3Mjq0uZ4HXWn8CufxTDbULsKNRj,Fnc3d3Mjp441coCurkT5nTXLCexebO5c

 

Cider-Cheddar Fondue

In two weeks, one of my favorite New England festivals is taking place in Western Massachusetts. Cider Days is a celebration of all things apple, with orchard tours, apple tastings, cidermaking, a grand “cider salon” with samples from around the world (that’s hard cider, not juice), workshops, kids’ activities, and more. Events take place all over Franklin County. This is such a wonderful recognition of the important place apples and cider have in our culinary history, and it’s just a very tasty and beautiful way to spend a day.

I’ll be doing a “Cooking with Cider” demonstration on Saturday, the 5th, at 11 a.m. at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. I plan to do one savory dish (maybe the cider-braised beef brisket) and one sweet one (apple dumplings cider-rum sauce). There will be samples, so be sure to come!

Meanwhile, in honor of the great hard cider producers in our region, here’s a recipe for cheddar-cider fondue that I came up with last week, and which I have now added to my “I wish I’d put this inthe book file. It’s a reinterpretation of the classic fondue recipe found in The Joy of Cooking, only made with cheddar, hard cider, and apple brandy instead of the traditional French Gruyère, white wine, and kirsch. Sadly, I failed take a photo, but I can assure you it looks like just about every other cheese fondue you’ve seen. Enjoy!

New England Cheddar-Cider Fondue

Total time: 20 minutes; hands-on time: 20 minutes

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

1 1/4 cups  medium-dry hard cider, (I recommend local ciders from Farnum Hill in NH, West Country Winery in NH or Furnace Brook Winery in MA

1 pound Cheddar cheese, grated (you can also use Gruyère or Gouda)

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons apple brandy or applejack

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Assorted accompaniments, such as crusty French bread; boiled fingerling potatoes; apple or pear slices; steamed cauliflower, broccoli, or green beans; roasted Brussels sprouts; or sausage slices

Rub the inside of a 3- to 4-quart pot with the garlic clove, then discard. Add the cider and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cheese and nutmeg and stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese is melted. Don’t worry if it doesn’t blend with the cider…that will happen later.

In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch with the brandy. Add to the cheese mixture and stir until smooth, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with accompaniments of your choice. Yield: 4 to 6 servings

The Big Apple: Behind the Scenes at The Martha Stewart Show

Exciting times this week! I was in New York yesterday making apple dumplings and apple butter with none other than Martha Stewart for her Martha Show. The episodes will air this Thursday, October 20, at 10 a.m. on the Hallmark Channel.

Officially listed

Anyone who has paid attention to food or home design or crafts or magazines or television can imagine how exciting this was. I’ll never forget the first time I leafed through my mother’s copy of Martha’s first book, Entertaining, in 1982. Pouring over those pages like an 11-year-old Talmudic scholar, I absorbed that impossibly perfect vision of domestic life as a roadmap for what I wanted my grown-up life to look like.  Of course, my grown-up home doesn’t come close to looking like Martha’s. I could never match her precision or drive, let alone her resources. But her products still inspire me. Her team boasts some of the most talented designers, cooks, crafters, producers, and stylists in the field today, so heading to the studios was like being called to the Mother Ship of creativity. And I’m grateful for her message that the domestic sphere can be important and beautiful. Apparently, she also believes that the professional sphere should be beautiful, too, because her studios are stunning. The first view, after snaking our way through several hallways, was of a very swanky dressing room.

The dressing room, with signature Martha colors and MSL-branded furniture, naturally.

Across the hall was the Green Room, with its display of Emmys.  Martha’s office was just around the corner, but the frosted glass gave me only brief glimpses of her perfectly layered blonde tresses.

I was then called into the kitchen, to go over the dishes we were to prepare that day: apple dumplings with cider-rum sauce and overnight apple butter. The kitchen team, like everyone else, was incredibly gracious and welcoming, eager to make sure that what went on set was true to my vision for the recipes. I rehearsed my segment with producer Greta Anthony, had the makeup and hair treatment (including false eyelashes and a wing-y head of curls that were designed to give my flat hair some pizzazz and keep it out of my face), and after some torturous hurry-up-and-waiting and deep breathing, it was showtime. Walking toward set, I felt like a tiny thing, a mouse headed into the lion’s ring. But within seconds,  all fear dissipated. Martha was warm and gracious and TALL. A head and a long model’s neck above me even if she hadn’t been wearing stilettos, which she was.

I heard the staff and audience cheering me on and got swept up in the good feeling.

Discussing the dough. Martha can roll out pastry like a master.

My husband, Scott, was in the Green Room and he took these shots off the monitor.

We got through the dumplings, paused for a break, and then it was time for the apple butter.

“Martha, I just love my slow cooker!”

The final segment was  shorter. I did make the mistake of calling the apple butter a “dump and go recipe,” to which she shot back, “I don’t like the word ‘dump.'”

But where some might have read “scolding” I read, “sassy,” so I came back with “Ok, it’s an ‘artfully arrange and go recipe*,” and she smiled. I think she has a better sense of humor than some people might assume.

In fact, as I left the set, the producers said, “Wow, you could tell that Martha really liked you!” I think that’s a good thing.

Leaving the set with Kyle, the stage manager who keeps everyone calm and happy backstage

My one regret: Because Martha Stewart Omnimedia has its own magazine, they were reluctant to mention my Yankee title in my intro, so my real employer went unmentioned. It would’ve been nice to give a shout-out to my New England family.

*All quotes paraphrased until I can watch the actual tape on Thursday.

Pub Date (and a free recipe)!

In the past week, I traveled to upstate New York, western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, all to promote this book, which officially launches today!

What a thrill it is to spend so much time talking to people about apples, signing books, demonstrating  recipes. For the past 5 years, I have been a  apple nerd in private, working alone in my kitchen. Now I’m finding a whole community of like-minded people. Initially, the thought of getting out there to promote this book felt completely terrifying. What if nobody likes it? What if I screw up? But the trepidation is giving way to real happiness.

Yesterday was a particular thrill, as I was invited to do a demonstration at the Common Ground Fair in Unity.

The Common Ground Country Fair is a celebration of rural life in Maine and if you have any hippy or transcendentalist or DIY or crafty or foodie inclinations, you have a place here. Out of a field in Unity Maine springs a peaceable tent city, an annual meeting of like-minded folk who eat organic food and raise happy animals and have a thing or two to teach you about making jam or herding sheep or spinning wool. I LOVED it, and just wished we had come for the whole weekend instead of just a day.

I demonstrated 4 recipes: Autumn “Coleslaw” with Dates, Apples, and Pecans, Simple Apple Nut Cake, Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles, and pie crust. Overall, I’d say things went swimmingly. But I did make one tactical error: I forgot that many people in the audience would be devoted locavores.  Some eat only what they themselves grow. Which means that the dates in the coleslaw aren’t in their pantries, nor the pecans. And the cilantro season in Maine is long gone before the apples are ripe.  What I had was a recipe for Californians. No one complained, but their polite questions about possible substitutions did not go unnoticed. Next year, I’ll bring strictly local recipes.

One thing I am learning for certain: Apples make people happy. Johnny Appleseed knew this. I’m learning it. It’s a delight to be an apple ambassador.

Here’s the recipe for the apple pickle, which always seem to surprise and please people in equal measure.

Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles

Okay, this relish is actually a bit different from the bread-and-butter pickles you may know from childhood. It’s also much simpler. It does have a similar flavor profile, though: sweet and bright, with warm spices.

It’s a quick pickle in every sense—just a thirty-minute bath in the vinegar before it’s ready to serve, and I simply keep it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, rather than canning it. It never lasts long enough to put up, anyway. Serve as a side salad, or on sandwiches and burgers, or chop up and mix into potato salad.

Apple Notes: Red-skinned apples look prettiest here, so consult the apple portraits on pages 31–60 of the book to find some red firm-sweet apple varieties. I often use Jazz, Baldwin, and Melrose here.

Note: To make this pickle truly pretty (and easy), the mandoline and biscuit cutter are essential. The mandoline because you want paper-thin slices, and the biscuit cutter so you can create apple slices that are the same size as the cukes. You don’t need anything fancy, though.
Equipment: Mandoline; 1½-inch biscuit cutter (see Note)
Makes: About 4 cups • Active time: 25 minutes • Total time: 60 minutes
1 large seedless (English) cucumber (about 14 ounces or 400 g), unpeeled
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), unpeeled and halved lengthwise
2 medium shallots
1 cup (240 ml) rice vinegar
½ cup (120 ml) water
½ cup (120 ml) honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh tarragon, cut into 4 pieces

1• First, prep your cucumbers: Cut off the ends and discard, then slice on a mandoline. Put in a colander and toss with the salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

2• Meanwhile, prep the apples: Trim the seeds and core from each apple half, then set, cut-side down, on a cutting board. Use a biscuit cutter to push down into the flesh, extracting two little cylinders from each apple half. Because the apples are round, the cylinders won’t be perfectly level. That’s fine. Thinly slice each cylinder on the mandoline (again, don’t worry if some slices are not perfect circles). Slice the shallots on the mandoline as well, then put in a medium bowl with the apples.

3• In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, honey, and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon stick and tarragon, and pour the mixture over the apples and shallots.

4• Rinse the cucumbers well and lightly blot dry (still in the colander) with paper towels. Add the cucumber slices to the bowl with the apples and stir well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

How to make perfect pie crust

I have a deep and abiding fondness for pie of all flavors and stripes. It speaks of home and seasons and holidays and all good things. And for many years, I struggled to come up with a crust a truly love. But now I have it.  In my mind, it has just the right proportions of butter, water, flour and salt. And that’s all you need. Some cooks add vinegar to their crust to limit gluten development and thus produce a more tender crust. But with this method, I find that I don’t need it. For sweet fruit and other dessert pies, I usually also add a little bit of sugar.

As for technique, I think hand-mixed crusts are the best. I’ve tried making dough in my food processor, but I really believe that making it by hand is easier, both in terms of being able to know when the crust is done and in not having to clean up the equipment. And the result is wonderful: flaky and tender. They key is to keep your ingredients as cold as possible so that the butter doesn’t melt into the flour. When those little solid pieces of butter go into the oven, they melt, creating steam, which in turn creates thin, flaky layers.

It really does just take a little bit of practice to build your confidence. This dough has plenty of butter, so you’re unlikely to end up with a tough crust, even if you’re just a beginner.  The extra butter also prevents the crust from getting dry when you roll it out on a floured counter.

I photographed each step to try to help you along. When I photographed this process, I happened to be making the crust for a savory pie and therefore didn’t add sugar. However the recipe does list the correct amount of sugar and tells you when to add it.

Also, this is a recipe for a double-crust pie. To make a single-crust pie, simply cut the recipe in half and do not divide the resulting dough—just press it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

 

Pastry for a Double-Crust Pie

Pie crust ingredients (minus the sugar)

 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional, but recommended)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Method:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar (if using), and salt until well combined.

Whisking dry ingredients

Sprinkle butter over flour mixture.

Butter goes in

 

Use a pastry cutter, 2 knives, or a fork to break the butter into smaller pieces. This is an optional step, but I always do it because using utensils instead of your fingers keeps the butter cooler.

Breaking down the butter

Once the butter pieces are small, use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture: Rub your thumb against your fingertips as if you’re making the universal sign for “money,” smearing the butter as you do.

Working the butter in with your fingers

When you first start out, the flour will be white and the butter will be yellow. As you continue to work the butter in, the flour will begin to look moist and slowly turn pale yellow, too.

Early stage mixing

 

Stop when the mixture looks like cornmeal with lumps and bean-sized bits of butter remaining.

 

Done

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water on top and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together. If needed, add more ice water, a tablespoon at a time, but proceed cautiously.

Stirring in the cold water

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times, or just enough to make a cohesive dough—do not overmix!

Briefly kneading the dough

Here’s a close-up look at the crust. See how mottled it is? That’s what you want.

A well-mixed dough
A well-mixed dough

Gather the dough into a ball and divide into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. The larger piece will be the bottom crust.

Crust, divided

Press each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Wrapped and ready to go into the refrigerator
Wrapped and ready to go into the refrigerator

Next week, I’ll talk about rolling the dough out and getting it into the pan, as well as crimping. Until then, happy baking!