Tag Archives: apple

Mini Candy Apples

22 Dec

I think I might have candy on my mind! Actually, I kind of do … I am devising a Yee Sang Cake for O’Gourmet Food Hall, and I have been looking at innocuous and innocent fruits with an evil candy-ing glint in my eye. Heheh. I love the candied caramelised oranges I made yesterday, and today, I decided to try another route – candied apples. But not just any apples, mind you, sweet, succulent, fragile miniature apples from Japan. These little babies are just so beautiful – perfect in miniature – that I could not bear to cut them up and cook them.

I remembered growing up in the US, one of the greatest fall and winter pleasures were  candied apples we would get from farm stalls. These candies are the stuff of memory – and the taste of them conjures up cold, crisp weather, puffs of breath, that clean smoky scent in the air, sky blue (or white with coming snow) and immeasurably beautiful. I adore candy apples – for the memory and the joy they represent.

These candy apples – large or small – would make lovely home-made Christmas presents. They are quick and relatively easy, they transport grownups back to the innocent pleasures of childhood, and they can be decorated in all sorts of ways – double dip these candy apples in ground nuts, bits of chocolate, crushed candy cane … let your imagination go wild! Or, serve them as part of a Christmas buffet or dinner. Such pretty pleasures.

Candy apples are not that difficult to make, but you really need a sugar thermometer to evaluate exactly where your candy is going. And you need to be brave (hot sugar is very dangerous), and have a sure hand. Work quickly, surely and have everything at the ready. I love how the hot candy clings to the apple skin – and lightly softens the apple flesh. When you bite into one of these gorgeous beauties, you get crackling shards of cinnamon candy, and then soft yielding apple. Lovely!

Makes 8 – 10 large or 12 – 16 small candy apples

  • 12 – 16 small apples (or 8 – 10 large) – try and get the small ones if you can, but if not, a strong red skinned apple is fine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • A few drops red food colouring (optional – I used India Tree natural food colour)

Line a baking pan or jelly roll tin with parchment or wax paper.

Wash the apples extremely well. I placed all the apples in a large bowl, squirted in some fruit and vegetable cleaner, and covered with water. I let the apples sit for about five minutes before draining and drying the apples very well.

Place the completely dried apples onto the prepared tin, and piece each apple with a skewer. For the tiny apples, I used double toothpicks.

Set the apples aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir well to ensure that everything is combined.

Place the saucepan over medium high heat, and bring the sugar/water mixture to a boil, swirling the pan a few times to make sure everything is mixed well. Dont stir – sugar crystals will form, and this is not a great final candy look. Use your candy thermometer, and allow the sugar syrup to come to 149C (300F).

Take off the heat, and have everything at the ready. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, and mix well (a silicone spatula is fine). Add the vanilla and red food colouring (stand back as it will bubble up), and stir well again.

Using an oven mit, pick up the saucepan, and tilt it so that the candy forms a deep well in one side. Pick up an apple by the toothpick, or skewer, and submerge the apple as completely as possible in the candy. As you remove the apple from the candy, twirl it, and place it back onto the parchment paper.

If you are adding another topping, dip immediately before placing back on the parchment paper.

Repeat with the rest of the apples, and allow to air dry for at least a few hours.

Remove the skewers or toothpicks, and serve as is or wrap in parchment paper to give as lovely gifts.

Apple Butter

17 Oct

Today, we went to a farm and picked our own pumpkins for Halloween! It was an amazing outing – Z got to see her first live goats, pigs and cow, and we took a hayride. It was really fun, and such a pleasure to be outside on a sunny, but cold autumn day! One of the best parts for me was wandering through the farmstall, checking out all the produce. They have an apple orchard, so you can pick your own apples, or else just take home huge bags of picked apples. All kinds of squash and pumpkins, lovely ripe tomatoes, kale, fresh baked breads… and they had apple butter!

Oh, do I love this stuff. Apple butter is completely vegan – a kind of cooked down version of apple sauce. Its very thick, rich, dark caramelised brown. It tastes, as Julia said, like Christmas – apples and spices and everything nice! Its a wonderful substitute for fats (vegetable oil or butter) in baked goods – and its phenomenal on all kinds of breakfast dishes – from oatmeal to yogurt to waffles to plain old toast. Grilled cheese sandwiches (especially brie) reach heights unimagined with a slather of apple butter. Honestly, try some!

This recipe for apple butter takes a while. Its an afternoon of cooking when you find yourself at home, and its cold outside or rainy, and you have a surfeit of apples. I always try and make this with at least two different kinds of apples, just to give it depth of flavour. And choose your spices yourself – I give you what I use, but feel free to mix it up, add, subtract or whatever tastes good to you! For depth of flavour, I also use different sugars and honey. And remember, this is totally a guide recipe – if your apples are incredibly sweet, you wont need as much sugar. But do note that the sugar is used to create the caramelised effect in the butter, and also to encourage thickening. Dont use too little or it wont set properly.

Cook this apple butter with a view to caning or freezing it. You will have loads, and its wonderful to have in the fridge when you just want something warm, spicy, indulgent and yet relatively healthy. Enjoy!

Makes about 6 cups

  • 10 – 12 large apples, mixed variety (about 4 lbs/ 2 kgs)
  • 1 cup apple cider (or apple juice – purest you can find plus 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of sugar – half light brown sugar, half white sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 – 2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp each nutmeg, allspice and ginger (according to your preference)
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon

Peel, core and chop the apples fine. Put in a large pot (I usually use my oval enamel Le Creuset). Add the apple cider, and over medium high heat bring the apples and liquid to the boil. Once everything is bubbling, bring the heat down to medium low, and simmer until the apples are soft and tender, about half an hour.

Once the apples are very soft, use an immersion blender (or food processor or even a potato masher) to puree the apples. You now have a version of apple sauce!

Taste. Add the sugar, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves, salt and lemon and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, remembering that a long slow cooking will caramelise everything and make all the flavours much more intense.

You have a choice now. You can bake the apple sauce in the oven (set quite low – about 125 C / 250 F) for about 3 – 4 hours, stirring every half an hour or so. Or you can cook it over low heat on the stove top, stirring often for up to 2 hours. I prefer this way because I love the scent and the warmth of the apple butter filling the house, and I believe that constant stirring makes for a smoother butter.

Either way, by the end of the cooking time, you will have a very thick, very caramelised dark brown butter, scented with spice and tasting of the essence of apple. Enjoy the fruits of your labour, and give some to friends so they can taste your love too!

Apple Berry Crumble

18 Aug

Its been a wonderful day of baby bliss and cooking – it was rainy outside today, so we had soup for lunch – a gorgeous mixed vegetable soup – butternut, asparagus, carrot, tomato, and green bean, simmered lightly, and then blitzed in the blender. And with it, four cheese grilled cheese sandwiches, on gorgeous brown bread, with a smear of mayo and mustard. Four cheese might sound overwhelming, but it really isnt if you use only little bits. I used all four because I was trying to use up ends of cheese – so we had brie, with the rinds cut off, which made the sandwiches silky and melty smooth, parmesan for its nuttiness, cheddar for its cheesy-ness, and Laughing Cow, because it was there! A little salt and pepper, and grilled them over a slow fire. Delicious.

For dinner, an angel hair pasta with spinach, zucchini, tomato, mushrooms, sliced garlic, white wine and sour cream. And for dessert, an apple berry crumble made with literally a handful of berries left over from a berry fest, and some gorgeous Braeburn apples. The berries tinged the apples red, and added a sweet berry tartness to the crumble. Perfection.

This crumble will serve six. Adjust as needed. Wonderful warm with cream, and leftovers make a great breakfast, with a bit of milk or yogurt poured over 🙂

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 – 1 cup mixed berries (we had blackberries, raspberries and blueberries)
  • 2 tsp + 1 tbsp granulated light brown sugar
  • 1 + 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 – 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 stick (approx 4 tbsp) cold butter, grated
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 170 C

Peel, core and chop the apples, and place them in a glass or metal baking pan. You can use a pie pan but I like those smallish rectangular pans. Sprinkle lemon juice over.

Mix in the berries, with your hand or a spoon, making sure that the berries are completely mixed up with the apples. Sprinkle over 2 tsp light brown sugar (or more if your apples arent that sweet), 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tbsp flour. Again using your hands or a spoon, mix well. The flour will thicken the juices of the apples and berries as they cook so you have a thick luscious crumble, instead of a juicy wet one! Ensure that the berry apple mixture is arranged in an even layer in the baking pan.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, the oats, grated butter, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the oats. The mixture will resemble sandy gravel. This is what you want. Taste – if it needs more cinnamon, more sugar, more butter, add.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the apple berry mixture, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Serve warm or cold.

Apple Pie with a Pecorino Crust

6 Aug

apple pie with pecorino crustOh apple pie. Its a simple simple dish, but you can screw it up in so many ways. Good apple pie is brilliant – bad apple pie, well the less said, the better. I love apple pie but I know how difficult it is to make well. Because the ingredients are so simple – a flaky pastry crust, and apples, basically, you have to really pay attention to technique and process. I have been dreaming of an apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust for ages, and decided I would make one today.

I went to the market to get a few things I needed, and AngelKitten asked if I was sure I had cheddar cheese. I blithely said yes. Of course, I didnt have any. But I had bumped into Iq at the market and when I told him what I was baking, he said he thought it would be gorgeous with a pecorino crust. Well, I did have pecorino, so I made it with that! Cooking is sometimes about making do with what you have, and forgiving yourself for assuming you have what you dont!

I think this pie came out beautifully. Its sweet without being overwhelmingly so. Its crust is so gorgeously savoury. The apple interior is scented with cinnamon. It reminds me that in South Africa, we eat cheese and jam together. Sweet and salty. A perfect balance. This pie has those elements.

And thank you to Iq for the pecorino suggestion!

Pecorino Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, frozen
  • 2 tbsp vegetable shortening or margarine, very cold
  • 1 1/2 cups pecorino cheese grated (you can use cheddar if you are a traditionalist!)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp ice cold water

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Grate the butter into the flour, and toss gently with your hands to mix.

Cut up the margarine into tiny pieces, and toss into the flour butter mixture. Add the pecorino, and toss again. You should have a lumpy, slightly golden mixture.

Using your hands, mix in the cold water, a tablespoon at a time, to create a firm and pliable dough. You can knead this dough a few times, using the heel of your hand to smear the dough away from you (this lengthens the frozen butter bits and makes it flaky).

Wrap the dough in baking paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Apple Filling

  • 7 – 8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped – about 6 – 7 cups in total (I used Pink Ladies and Gala)
  • 2 tbsp juice (optional)
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 – 3 tbsp light brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

Peel, core and chop your apples and place in large bowl. Add the juice and lemon juice as you chop to ensure the apples dont brown too much.

Add the sugar, flour, all spice, cinnamon, vanilla and balsamic, and toss well to combine. Set aside for about 30 minutes.


  • Dough
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Apple filling
  • 1 – 2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter a 9 – 10″ pie plate, with a removable edge if you like.

Divide the dough in half, and on a floured surface, roll out one half of the dough. Put the remaining half of the dough into the fridge. Fit it into your pie plate, making sure the dough comes up over the edge. Poke holes in the dough with a fork, and bake blind (lined with greaseproof paper or aluminum foil and filled with beans or pie weights). Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the greaseproof paper and beans, and bake for a further 5 minutes until just lightly brown.

Remove the crust from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, and brush with beaten egg.

The apples will have let go of a lot of juice in the bowl. Using a spoon (or as I do, you hands) take the apples out of the bowl, making sure to leave quite a bit of the juices behind. Mound the apples in the pie plate. Take about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the juice and pour over the top. Dot with butter if you want.

Roll out the second half of dough, and place over the pie, crimping the edges to seal. Bake in the oven (on a cookie sheet if you are worried about spillage) for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Take the pie out of the oven, and brush all over with the remainder of the beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar. Return to the oven for 5 – 10 minutes more or until the pie is shiny, and sugar has caramelised a bit.

Take out of oven and allow to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes before serving warm with cream.

By the way, Ezril loves the juices from the apples, mixed with some milk as a drink!

Pear Crumble

2 Jul

When I visited MZ, it was supposed to be warm, but it turned suddenly cold. I remember thinking to myself that we needed something soul satisfying. I realised there were a few almost over ripe pears sitting on the counter, and so I made this very quick, very easy, very healthy (suprisingly) pear crumble. Its good just from the oven, warm and scenting the house with cinnamon. Its also pretty lovely the next morning, cold, from the fridge, with some half and half poured over, as a decadent breakfast.

Because the pears were over ripe, they were bursting with fruity sugars. I actually needed to add a few apples for tartness and to counter balance the pear sweetness. Be very light with the sugar here. You really dont need it.

You can use just about any fruit that is in season. Make sure the fruit is ripe to almost bursting – this will ensure a strongly scented and very sweet crumble. Its a wonderful way to use up fruits that you would otherwise not eat.

Serves 4 -6

  • 4 over ripe pears, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 2 apples (pink lady/blush), peeled, cored and cubed
  • Scant 1 tbsp brown sugar (if needed) – you could use honey instead for flavour
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or another fruit juice if you dont have lemon) or a tiny splash of vanilla essence
  • 1 – 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 – 2 tsp flour

Preheat oven to 175C.

Cube the pears and apples straight into a 7×11 baking pan. Mix together well and taste. If you need to up the sweetness, add sugar. Mix spices with juice and pour over. Sprinkle flour over the pan, and using a spoon mix in well. This will help thicken the juices while the crumble is baking. Mix well and leave to rest while you make the crumble.

  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • Scant 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cubed cold butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • handful of slivered almonds

In a clean bowl, toss together the oatmeal and sugar. Work the butter in with your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. I tend to use the lower amount of sugar and butter, and then taste. If it needs to be sweeter, or the mixture needs to stick together more, I add where necessary. Add salt, cinnamon and almonds, and work together well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Give the fruit mixture one last turn before sprinkling crumble over. Make sure you have an even layer over the entire pan.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You might want to cover the crumble topping with aluminum foil if it becomes too brown.

Serve with cold cream or half and half poured over, and warm up your soul 🙂