Saturday, October 2, 2010

Crisp Autumn Mornings

October 1st  I woke up  so happy! My windows had been open the night before and my apartment was freezing. I had added a second blanket to my bed the night before, so the whole bed was nice and warm. I had both cats at my feet and only my nose and a few toes were sticking out of the bed and cold.  I loved every moment of the warmth of the bed and the coolness of the apartment. I finally got up to make tea, and oatmeal with apple butter  and then I climbed back into my warm bed to eat it. I wished I could have spent all day curled up like that It was  a perfect morning except that I had to get ready for work. I probably would have stayed in bed other than getting up to make cinnamon toast,  hot tea and to feed the cats. It was perfect and amazing and I hope it will happen again and again. It was amazing and  the only thing that would have been better is if it was snowing! Have a great day and enjoy some apple butter and autumn!

Apple Butter

4 medium apples, I prefer to use Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Braburn or Red Delicious apples
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 cloves
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, optional for a richer flavor
1/4 cup Apple Juice or Apple Cider optional

Preheat the crock pot or heavy bottom enamel pot at low heat. 
Whisk together the nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves and cloves in a medium bowl and set aside. 
Peel and chop up the apples into 1/2 inch pieces,  you can chop up the apples using a food processor if you want a quick cooking apple butter.  Combine the apples with the spices and stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Place the apple mixture, apple juice or apple cider and the water into your preheated crock pot or heavy pot. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on low for 2.5 to 3 hours until the apples are soft and full of spice and most of the liquid has dissipated. Stir the apples and add the butter. Turn the crock pot heat up to medium-high and turn the heat up to medium for the heavy bottom pot. Cover with a tight-fitting-lid and continue cooking for 1 to 1.5 hours until you can smash a piece of apple with a spoon.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.  Using a blender or food processor, divide the apple butter into batches and blend/process until smooth and silky, about 1 minute. Divide the apple butter into glass jars or baggie. You can freeze batches for up to 6 months and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. I enjoy my apple butter with oatmeal, on toast and with peanut butter. Yum!

Now in my excitement and hurry to start making the challah, I made 2 mistakes, one: I didn't get instant yeast and two, I didn't realize my super small kitchen would not allow me to spread out and get the length I needed to make the large dough ropes. So I ended up with edible but tough challah in miniature. I knew something was wrong when the dough wasn't really doubling. But the bread was OK and the apple butter was amazing!

Baking Illustrated
 We prefer to knead this dough in a standing mixer, but a food processor or your hands can do the job. If using a food processor, place the flour mixture in a processor fitted with the dough blade. Mix together the eggs, yolk, butter, and water in a large measuring cup and, with the processor running, add the egg mixture in a steady stream. Process until a ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for an additional minute, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can mix the dough by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together. Then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough forms a smooth ball. If the dough remains tacky, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. This method will take longer than using a standing mixer, but you will get the same results.
Makes 1 large loaf
3-3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15-16 ¼ ounces), plus more for dusting work surface
¼ cup sugar
1 envelope instant yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ stick, melted
½ cup warm water plus 1 tablespoon, about 110 F˚ degrees 
1 large egg white, for egg wash

Whisk together 3 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Mix together 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and ½ cup of water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add flour mixture to wet mixture; knead at low speed until dough ball forms, about 5 minutes, adding remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to prevent dough from sticking. Whisk reserved egg white with remaining 1 tablespoon water in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Transfer dough to very lightly oiled large bowl, turning dough over to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Gently press dough to deflate, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size again, 40 to 60 minutes.
Lightly grease large baking sheet and set aside. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half size of other. (Small piece will weigh about 9 ounces, larger piece about 18 ounces.) Divide large piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 16-inch-long rope, about 1 inch in diameter. Line up ropes of dough side by side and pinch ends together. Take dough rope on bottom and lay it over center rope. Take dough rope on top and lay it over center rope. Repeat until ropes of dough are entirely braided, then pinch ends together. 

Place braid on baking sheet. Divide smaller piece of dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 16-inch-long rope, about ½ inch in diameter. Braid together, pinching ends to seal. Brush some of egg wash on top of large loaf and place small braid on larger braid. Loosely drape loaf with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until loaf becomes puffy and increases in size by a third, 30 to 45 minutes.
 Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush loaf with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if using. Bake until loaf is golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into side of loaf reads 190 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes. Place baking sheet on wire rack. Cool loaf completely before slicing. 

Have a happy fall day!

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