28 September 2008

Kick-Off Sunday

Flash floods, tropical humidity, and air-conditioning -- that's right, Fall has begun. We'd taken the summer off from baking and drinking -- well, just baking -- and so we decided to start off with a few very seasonal selections. But like the weather, we ended up with a little more Summer than Fall. In fact, we didn't even bake.

Instead we went with a Stovetop Apple Cranberry Crumble, from The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge, everyone's favorite Connecticut homemaker. You'll see more from this book in future posts, since it's the one with which we first started off teaching ourselves how to bake. Here's what Abby Dodge promises in the book:

Nice, eh?

Well, we took a few liberties with ours, outlined below.

3 tbs butter
5 apples (aprox. 2 lbs), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced - We used Golden Delicious, but any medium-tart apple will work
3/4 c cranberries (Abby calls for frozen or fresh. We couldn't find any of either in our outer borough, so we improvised with the Craisins in our cupboard)
1/2 c light brown sugar
3 tbsp flour
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (we grated our own from whole nuts)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Melt butter in 10- to 11-inch skillet. In a bowl, combine apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then add to butter. Add vanilla and salt to the skillet mixture and toss until well blended. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is melted and the apples begin to carmelize (about 5 min). Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering for aprox. 12 min, until the apples are tender.

Meanwhile, make the topping:

3 tbs butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 c crunchy granola
3 tbsp maple syrup

Again, melt the butter in a separate skillet over medium heat. Then stir in cinnamon and add granola. Cook, stirring constantly, until granola is hot and evenly coated. You may taste here and see if it needs more cinnamon. Drizzle maple syrup over granola and stir until well blended, about 2 min. Keep warm until the filling is ready.

Uncover the filling pan and check the apples for tenderness. If they've released more than a cup of juice, turn up the heat and boil some of it off. Remove from heat and scatter topping on the filling.

Not that different from the book, really.

Can be served hot, warm, or room temperature. We ate it with vanilla bean ice cream, and we're looking forward to tossing some vanilla soy milk on top tomorrow morning for breakfast. The craisins made this a bit sweeter than it would be otherwise, though not too sweet, and rather sticky, but they turned out to be a surprisingly good alternative to real cranberries.

What are those drinks behind the plates? Funny you should ask...

We had been thinking of a hot drink like a toddy but settled on two that were cold but definitely fit with the Crumble. Bull's Milk and its Variation, both from the fantastic online Cocktail Database (try their Mixilator). Don't worry, Bull's Milk has nothing to do with Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Both of these recipes are pretty simple, but you get some unusual brandy drinks out of them. Usually we use E&J VS brandy for most drinks. It tastes fine on its own and definitely when mixed (though nothing can fix a Stinger). But this time we tried ABK6 VS cognac.

Bull's Milk
2oz brandy
2oz milk
1/4 tsp sugar (superfine -- aka "bar sugar" -- is best, but if you only have regular sugar then dissolve it in some warm water first)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Grate some fresh nutmeg on top. We garnished with a cinnamon stick.

How'd it taste? Well... basically like brandy and milk together. There is such little sugar and the nutmeg comes in so late that it's not all that complex or even sweet. We thought it was okay, but then we tried the variation.

Bull's Milk Variation
1oz light rum
1 1/2 oz brandy
1/2 tsp sugar
6oz milk

Shake with ice and strain into a tall glass. Grate nutmeg and cinnamon on top.

There we go. An alcoholic milkshake that can hold its own again the Brandy Alexander. The added milk and sugar help this drink along, and the rum cuts down on the cognac so that it's not so overwhelming. We could even imagine heating it up and trying it a few weeks from now when the weather catches up and Fall finally comes.

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