Tag Archives: penuche

Apple and Toasted Oat Cookies with Penuche Frosting

26 Sep

A few years ago, we were lucky enough to be gifted a beautiful Akane apple tree. Akanes are a fantastic type of apple—sharp, only lightly sweet, and boasting a fantastic crunch. Last year we ended up giving a great deal of our tree’s apple harvest to our son’s school, but this year we will be in charge of eating these crisp little fellows on our own. I have no complaints about this. Akane apples are great when plucked from the tree and eaten straight away, but they are also superb for baking. Their less-sweet flavor lends itself well to being folded into baked goods, and their firm flesh is a champ at holding its shape and resisting the urge to melt into mush when exposed to hot temperatures.

Which makes me wonder: When did the pumpkin become the official food of autumn? It seems as though the mere mention of autumn will unleash the squash recipes with full force. Summer is barely over, and yet it is impossible to walk down the street from my house without seeing coffeehouse after coffeehouse after bakery practically screaming the virtues of pumpkin. Pumpkin bread is mighty fine, I admit, but what about the other fruits of the season? Have we forgotten about the apples and pears?

Truthfully, I think I do actually understand the tendency to learn towards pumpkins when autumn makes its first appearance. Due to the fact that one is able to make year-round purchases of apples and pears at the grocery store, the pumpkin harvest is a more notable signifier of the arrival of a new season. Pumpkins signal something, whereas apples, well, apples just mean apples.

Not that they have to. Those apples you’re getting at the market in June are nothing compared to the apples that first start showing up in September and October. June apples have been sitting in storage for months, ever since the previous year’s harvest ended, but September apples have only just barely been freed from their trees. Like warm June strawberries plucked fresh from a backyard patch, fresh September apples are a revelation in apple-eating.

However, if you’re like me and you did not manage to treat your apple tree in time to ward off spring’s deluge of codling moths (note: I treat my apple tree with an organic insecticide called Spinosad, which is unfailingly effective if you treat the tree before the moths arrive to lay their eggs, which I, unfortunately, was not able to do), sometimes you have to do a bit of slicing and dicing in order to enjoy your homegrown apples. A cookie like this, with bursts of apple and the heartiness of oats and whole wheat flour, is the perfect welcome mat for autumn’s new fruit. Drizzled with a slip of caramel-tinged penuche frosting, it tastes like the arrival of autumn, all wrapped up in a tidy cookie package.

Last Year: Balsamic-Glazed Chicken and Zucchini with Grilled Limes

Apple and Toasted Oat Cookies with Penuche Frosting Recipe

1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)

1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup milk

juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ cups finely chopped, peeled apple

Penuche Frosting

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup milk

pinch of sea salt

1 ½ cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread oats in a single layer on a large baking sheet, then toast in the oven until the oats are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove oats from baking sheet and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes on high speed. Add milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, egg, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add toasted oats, all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, spices, and salt, then mix well on low speed. Stir in chopped apple.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoon-fuls, spaced about 2 inches apart, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake cookies in center of oven until lightly golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. To ensure even baking, only bake 1 sheet of cookies at a time. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies are cooling, make penuche frosting by combining butter and dark brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir to combine the two, allowing mixture to come to a light boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

After mixture has cooled for about 10 minutes, add milk and beat until smooth, then add powdered sugar and beat until mixture is smooth and combined.

Using a large spoon, drizzle cooled cookies with penuche frosting.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on how generously the tablespoon-fuls of dough were portioned out.

Cider Pressing and Two Kinds of Cupcakes

20 Oct

A few weeks ago, when summer had let us know it was over by summoning its friend autumn to release the Portland rains, we celebrated the beginning of fall by hosting a cider pressing at our house.  I say that casually, as though we’re used to doing such things, but, for us, having a large group of people over is about as common as having a large group of bears over.  (Okay, so maybe people coming over just marginally wins over bears coming over, being as though we’ve had a bunch of bears over, let’s see, never, and we tend to have people over to our house at a rate of about one instance per year.  So, fine.)

Aversions to entertaining aside, the cider pressing was a huge success.  My husband’s aunt and uncle drove out from the coast with their cider pressing machine, set it up just outside our garage, and, as if by magic, hordes of people began to appear with apples and pears aplenty.  Hordes of people we had invited, but, still, hordes in any case.  One cousin of my husband’s brought several hundred pounds of pears from his own tree.  That’s tree, singular, not plural.  His truck, back bumper slung low to the ground, was filled with bin after bin of pears, and I could hardly believe that one tree had managed to produce so much fruit.  The kicker was, he said the tree had actually produced a fairly low yield that year.  Those hundreds of pounds of pears were a small harvest.

The pears, combined with apples of all sorts, made incredible cider.  Tart and sweet, it was the freshest beverage I think I’d ever had.  The biggest hit of all, however, might have been the cider press itself.  With its efficient design and wonderfully growling motor, it attracted people of all ages.  No matter if you were a child or an adult, there was no better place to be than standing at the helm of the press, feeding it with whole apples and pears, watching the press rapidly shred and pulp the fruit, then slowly and satisfyingly hand cranking the actual pressing plate down upon the pulp, squeezing out the fresh juice.

As the machine was starting to slow its production, we all convened in the kitchen to dish out an enormous potluck meal.  There was a fresh tomato tart, a selection of several incredible salads, grilled sausages, a baked polenta dish, macaroni and cheese made in a crock pot (seriously, did you know you could do that?  ‘Cause I didn’t and now I kind of feel like I’ve been missing out), pesto pasta, smoked salmon, Indian food, a peach cobbler, one gigantic chocolate cake, and, because I like no better excuse to bake than having the promise of many mouths to feed, two types of very fall-themed cupcakes.

Let’s be honest, even before cupcakes became the dessert de rigueur, then quickly became the most maligned and passé dessert on the planet (oh, how quickly food trends come and go), I think everyone could appreciate how wonderfully portable, casual, and delicious cupcakes are.  You don’t need a plate and fork when you eat a cupcake.  You don’t even need a table or chair, since you can eat a cupcake while walking around, kicking a soccer ball, or simply standing in one place and enjoying the company of friends.  But even better than the fact that cupcakes are handy, simple to make, and adored by children every where, is the realization that when you make cupcakes, you can make many types at a time, which means you can then eat many types, which I totally did, with no shame whatsoever.

Applesauce Cupcakes with Penuche Frosting

Applesauce Cupcakes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground powdered ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup unsweetened, unfiltered apple juice

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners, or grease and flour the tin.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt, then set aside.  With an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Alternate adding the juice and the flour mixture, beating well after each addition.  Fold in the applesauce.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  The cups will be very full.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the tin (if they are too hot and delicate to handle at first, you can allow them to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to remove them from the tin) and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Penuche Frosting

Adapted from Pillsbury: Best Cookies Cookbook

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

¼ cup milk

2 to 2 ½ cups powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook at a light boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.  Add milk to cooled mixture and beat until smooth.  Beat in enough powdered sugar to reach desired frosting consistency (start with 2 cups, beat for a few minutes, then add more powdered sugar if you find your frosting is too runny).  Frosting will remain somewhat loose, as it is not meant to be fluffy.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

Gingerbread Cupcakes

¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

½ cup unsulphured molasses

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons ground powdered ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners, or grease and flour the tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light.  Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.  Add the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and flour, and beat until well blended.  In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (the mixture will foam up).  Add the baking soda and water mixture to the batter and mix until smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.  Cool cupcakes for 5 minutes, then remove from tin and set on a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 ounces cream cheese (a generous ¼ cup), at room temperature

2/3 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon finely chopped or grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy.  Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat until smooth.

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