An Apple a Day Drives the Witch Right into Your Path…Wait

I kind of got away with that title there, but to be fair, whenever I see apples involved in literature, I immediately think of the tale of Snow White. It’s not even my favorite tale by a mile, but I will admit that some of the retellings I’ve read do bring about the need to bake something with apples inside. Winter, I’m talking about you specifically.

And yes, okay, so most apple covers don’t necessarily mean Snow White. I mean, unless you can give me a really good argument that says Twilight is a metaphor for the story of a crazed queen and her attempts to kill her more beautiful stepdaughter (but wait, wasn’t Kristen Stewart a star on both so maybe there’s the connection…argh, I’m digressing), then yeah, apple covers don’t mean Snow White.

Buuut there’s got to be an appeal to apples, right? Because poor, silly Snow likes apples. Winter happens to love ’em especially when sprinkled and baked in with cinnamon. And honestly, I love baking with apples when I can.

So there you have it. Apples. Are. Awesome.

Now that I’ve completely rambled on about dem apples, onto what I had meant to do, which was post something I had made weeks ago! (Hah, yes to backlog of baking-related posts!)

Apple Bread

Say hello to the most scrumptious bready thing ever! I’ve been saving a ton of apple-related recipes on my Pinterest to get back to later on, and eventually made my way to one I wanted to attempt. So while I procrastinated writing, well, anything (I’m sorry Meg and Tarma and and…yeah…), I baked something I could totally use as an excuse for being unproductive. Only I suppose I was productive, because I made bread.

The recipe was pretty straightforward, and the glaze was standard milk, not cream, because I didn’t really have any cream handy. (And I wouldn’t go so far as to make glaze with cream anyway, not too fond of it being too thickly sweet). I also used three apples instead of two.

And with my sister’s trusty new apple corer, peeling coring, and slicing those apples took mere seconds!

Like the recipe suggested, I split the batter up into two. I lined my bread pan with parchment paper poured half the batter in, half the apple mixture in, and sprinkled that with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then rinse, repeat. I waited 45 minutes before checking up on the bread, and let it brown a bit more before pulling it out of the oven.

Verdict: The bready middle was super moist and soft and so yum. It was a good call to split the batter so there’s plenty of apple to go around. There was a suggestion to add walnuts in, but with a brother who’s allergic to practically every nut in existence, I can safely say this recipe can do without.

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Food and Fandom: Winter King’s Pirozhki

bearnightingaleNot gonna lie, the entire time I read The Bear and the Nightingale I kept thinking about the old-school baking that was happening in the oven at Pyotr’s hearth. Every single time, Dunya was always baking something, and Vasya almost always tried to steal some of the food that came freshly out of the oven.

Vasya, thinking of cakes, went meekly to her stool. There was a heap of them already cooling on the table, brown on the outside and flecked with ash. A corner of one cake crumbled as the child watched. Its insides were midsummer–gold, and a little curl of steam rose up. Vasya swallowed. Her morning porridge seemed a year ago.

So naturally, I turned to Russian inspiration for this Food and Fiction Challenge, and there were several descriptions of food that made me think about what I wanted to do.

They dined outside, on eggs and kasha and summer greens, bread and cheese and honey. The usual cheerful muddle was subdued. The young peasant women stood in knots and whispered.

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Mmm…apples and cheese are the best.

One thing I did note was that there was a lot of bread and honey involved. So from the get-go, I wanted to do something with bread and honey. And honestly, bread with honey just sounded lovely and traditional and simple (well, not too simple, considering bread tends to take more time with the whole rising thing).

The table was laid with two silver cups and a slender ewer. The scent of warm honey floated through the room. A loaf of black bread, smelling of rye and anise, lay beside a platter of fresh herbs. On one side stood a bowl of pears and on the other a bowl of apples…

Cautiously, Vasya picked up an apple and bit down. Icy sweetness dazzled her tongue. She reached for the bread. Before she knew it, her bowl was empty, half the loaf was gone, and she sat replete, feeding bits of bread and fruit to the two horses.

And then it hit me. Why not put apples INSIDE the bread, too? Isn’t there some kind of Russian dessert that does that?

So I found that there was. Say hello to the pirozhki.

Morozko’s Pirozhki

In essence, pirozhki are baked or fried bread buns filled with stuffing inside. Stuffing can be either savory or sweet, and the dough can be formed into various shapes so long as it holds the stuffing properly inside. Typically, people use meat like beef to stuff inside a pirozhki. Personally, I always go for the sweet stuff, because why the heck not.

This brought me into thinking about the book, The Bear and the Nightingale itself. For the most part, I was struck by the scenes in the winter-king’s home. I swear he always tried to feed Vasya, so whenever Vasya woke, she always found an abundance of fruit, bread, and mead at the table. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morozko HAD put in some apple pirozhki for Vasya to eat at some point. They sound super-delicious.

I got the recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen, along with the apples and then-some. I really didn’t do anything differently from the recipe, so I won’t re-hash the steps and ingredients again. I mean, there was some point where I ALMOST forgot to put the second half of my divided sugar, which would have been a BAD idea, but I remembered at the last minute, so it was all good.

Just something to think about, though, as far as playing with yeast: I do not have a thermometer (I really need to get one, considering…) nor do I have a proofing chamber, so I improvised by turning on my oven, letting it heat up for a couple minutes, then turned it off again and let it cool. Once it was relatively warm, but not too warm, I put my dough in the proofing chamber and let it rise. The effects were roughly the same as a proofing chamber, and honestly, the bread baked so well that I have no complaints.

I also didn’t process the apples, choosing instead just to dice them and then lightly cook them with sugar. Nothing fancy. Next time, I may add some cinnamon, though.

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I did run out of apple filling, so for the last two batches of dough, I broke them into pieces, rolled them into round shapes, and then doused them with honey before baking them in, too.

Verdict: The results were MAH-VELOUS, dahling. I could taste the warmth of the hearth and of gold and sunshine, etc. etc. Now all I need is a bit of mead…

Happy New Year! Here’s Some Apple Strudel :D

Somewhere in the other side of the world it’s already the onset of 2016, which is pretty awesome. I’ve still got a few hours left to go, but hell, why not end my blogging for 2015 with something delicious?

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Yum, apple strudel!

So this isn’t really book-related or anything, though the whole thing with apple-related covers did make me think about baking with apples for the new year. I mean, come on, WinterThe Shadow Queen, I’m not even going to deny that Twilight had a cool apple cover decorating its pages.

And apples are delicious with cinnamon and sugar. And puff pastry.

I totally followed this recipe here and braided pre-made puff pastry that I thawed out and stretched a wee bit. The recipe did say to sprinkle some sugar mixture on top, and I thought about using confectionery/powdered sugar icing, but I love cinnamon, so I went with a cinnamon sugar mix. There wasn’t a time put in the recipe, so I baked it for 15 at 400 degrees F, then for another 5 minutes to get a more crunchy, golden color.

Verdict: Well damn, it tasted better than the apple pie I usually make! I love it because the puff pastry actually cooked through from top to bottom. Yum yum strudel! Definitely a good way to end the year.

See you on the other side!

Food and Fandom: Redwall Apples

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Total disclaimer: I have actually not read Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. So why do a Food and Fandom post on this series? Well, good question. I have a friend to blame for that. Lately she and I have met to do a bit of baking (and video gaming…), and she’s a big Redwall fan. So I guess in that respect, I couldn’t pass up doing something from a recipe book she owned, especially when it involved apples. Talk about something completely in-season!

redwallcookbookWhat I love about recipe books for fantasy books is that they’re extensions of the world and are in a way immersive of that particular world. To be honest, I feel I’m vicariously living in Westeros every time I do a recipe in A Feast of Ice and Fire (all I really need now are aurochs… *cough*), and I totally felt like I was sitting on the dwarf king’s throne whenever I think about making miniature Scones of Stone from Discworld. While I do not know the world of Redwall (actually, I’m vaguely familiar with it, because it is quite a popular series), I found it particularly adorable that there are recipes and foods that are transferable to our mortal plane.

The recipe in question?

Honeybaked Apples

apples3Baked apple recipes are super simple, and take practically less than a half hour to prep and bake, depending on how much you’re including in it. In this particular case, the cored apples are stuffed with fruits (we used an assortment of raisins, dried cranberries, and dried cherries), doused in honey, and put in a water bath for 20-25 minutes. Sounds delicious and simple, yeah? Because it really is just that simple.

I will say this, though: it might be a good idea to get a corer, especially if you’re planning on coring a ton of apples and doing so regularly. It might be an especially safe route if you’re accident-prone like me and knives are not your friend. I think the only reason why the prepping took a big longer for this recipe was because my friend had to run around looking for a Band-Aid for me (yeah, like I said, I occasionally am accident-prone). Never fear! I was put on stuffing duty once we realized coring apples with a knife was not my forte.

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Thankfully, there wasn’t really much else to do once coring was completed besides putting the fruits inside and dousing it with honey. The honey had to be warmed a bit to a liquid consistency and then poured into the apples. In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have cut such a deep hole, because the honey didn’t overflow like the instructions said. Ah well. The honey was a bonus!

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Verdict: The flavors were certainly delicious, and having an assortment of dried fruit made it all the better! I did have a little concern with the texture, because for me, the apples were way too soft (like, almost applesauce soft), and I usually prefer my apples a bit less squishy. That said, we probably overbaked it, or put too much water in. That’s something to think about.

The recipe did call for a sprinkling of heavy cream or the recipe book’s Custard Cream, but we figured we didn’t really need that. I will say that these baked apples might have gone great with ice cream. I’m thinking vanilla, butter pecan, or caramel. Nummy.