APPLE PICKING 2014!

It's apple season! We try to go apple picking somewhere new each year in late-September or early-October (you can see a recipe for cider doughnut holes and last year's trip here), and so last weekend we took a mini road trip out to Elkhorn, Wisconsin to a cute little apple farm and picked ourselves a boatload of apples. Well, more like half a bushel of apples. I now have 20-ish pounds of apples to consume. Or to force upon others to consume. Needless to say, over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some apple-related recipes so you can find a way to partake in apple season, too. Apples are a quintessential fall food for me, just like pumpkin and squash. Caramelize them, mix them with spices, turn them into sauce, throw them in a coffee cake or muffins...there are so many things you can do with apples! Stay tuned for apple sauce, apple butter, apple-cinnamon challah, and some other apple-y things. I've also got a recipe for coffee caramel sauce to share with you early next week, and a recipe for streusel-y, spiced butternut squash muffins coming up soon too!  Until then, I'll leave you with a photo montage of our apple picking adventure.

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CHERRY PECAN BARS

 
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Non-humble brag: I am 29 years old and have never had a cavity, and in the last year, my eyeglasses prescription has gotten better (yeah, I'm confused by that last one too.) I went to the dentist and the eye doctor, if you hadn't guessed. All hell is going to break loose at work beginning next week, and so I figured it might be smart to get all those yearly/twice-yearly check up type things out of the way before it becomes impossible to take a day off. In between appointments, I baked lots of goodies to share with you in the coming weeks, did laundry, did chores, and had dinner (falafel!) mostly ready to go by the time Brandon got home from work. I'm feeling pretty accomplished. Isn't it weird how much more productive you can be on the occasional weekday off, compared to the weekends? Weekends are for sleeping in and loafing and wandering around the city, which doesn't generally lead to a whole lot of productivity for me.

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I made these Cherry Pecan Bars a few weeks ago with what was probably the last round of cherries we'll see until next year. I know that means it's a little late to share it (unless you're lucky and still have cherries!) but this recipe is especially adaptable to whatever fruit you have on hand. I would avoid berries and frozen fruit, as I think they'll be too soupy. But stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines), pears, and apples would all work here. You're gonna need something to do with all those apples anyway, now that we're in apple season. You can change up your nuts, too (awkward?) Walnuts and almonds will also work!

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Cherry Pecan Bars

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes 16+ bars, depending how you cut them

for the crust:

1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, cold is fine

for the filling:

¾ cup (110g) raw (unsalted) pecans
1 TB (10g) all purpose flour
¼ tsp kosher salt
3 – 4 TB sugar (if your fruit is particularly sweet, use 3)
5 TB (70g) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 pound fruit (you may not need this much, depending on how you arrange it)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. Don’t skip this, you’ll need that parchment to help you remove the bars from the pan.
  2. Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, add it to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps (30 sec. to 1 minute).
  3. Transfer the dough clumps to your prepared baking pan and press it evenly across the bottom.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, until very lightly golden. To speed things up, transfer to a cooling rack in your freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the filing.
  5. Make the filling: In your food processor bowl (no need to clean between steps), grind your nuts, sugar, flour, and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add extracts and egg, blending until just combined.
  6. Spread filling over mostly cooled (a little warm is okay but it’s hoped that the freezer will have firmed the base enough that you can spread something over it) crust.
  7. Cut fruit as desired and nestle gently into the nut filling (thin slices of peaches/pears/apples fanned out would look nice!)
  8. Bake the bars for 45-60 minutes, or until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the nut filling portion comes out batter-free. This might take longer depending on the juiciness of your fruit and the amount you were able to nestle into the filling. Let cool completely in pan; you can hasten this along in the fridge.
  9. To finish, you can make a shiny glaze for your tart like I did by warming some apricot jam in the microwave until it thins and brush it over the cooled tart, or you could dust it with powdered sugar, or you could just leave it as is.
  10. Cut bars into squares — chilled bars will give you the cleanest cuts. Keep leftover bars chilled. Bars keep up to 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

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