Friday, October 23, 2009

Like Buttah

Fall is my favourite season. It's unlikely, especially for someone like me (who is always cold - even in July I wear long sleeves!), but I can't help it - the colours of the changing leaves, the smells of burning leaf piles and the end of the season flowers clinging to the last rays of sunlight are just the final, pretty touches on a season so rich in every sensory experience. In fact, if you enter the kitchen of almost anyone within easy driving distance of an apple orchard these days, you might just walk into a cloud of flour and sugar, or at the very least be enveloped by the enticing aroma of caramelizing juices and warm spices.

Though I know (or my rational brain does, at least) that those smells and flavours are pretty much seasonless these days, given the year-round availability of everything from kiwis to strawberries to pomegranates, there really is nothing quite like arriving home from a pick your own farm with a giant bag or two of right-off-the-tree, hand selected apples in tow. The work ahead of you, if you're an en masse baker of pies like my mom used to be when I was younger, never seemed like much effort - with a couple kids roped in to help with turning the peeler machine, tossing fruit and spices, or even doing the basic pastry prep, an afternoon passes in the blink of an eye. No sign of the toils you undertook spoil the atmosphere either, just the lingering mixture of butter, sweet fruit and cinnamon and a pie (or three) cooling on the countertop. When we were younger we knew we hit the jackpot at the orchard when Northern Spy season came. Spies meant two things to me then, and still do today: one, that my favourite Russet apples were out too, and two that apple square season was upon us!

For the past couple years, at least, my Autumn treats after mornings of apple picking have been relegated to nothing more than fresh out-of-hand snacking. Don't get me wrong - it's still my favourite way to enjoy the bounty of any in-season produce (even the perfect, tiny purple Brussels sprouts discovered last weekend were delicious raw!), but there is something about the oh-so-buttery combination of pastry and fruit that makes home made pie that much better.

Since every year we always wind up with about a trillion more apples than we could ever go through raw, and after a while the freezer threatens to revolt if we add one more pie to it's hold, the task of "dealing with them" is usually left to me. When my mom first gave me that responsibility, I'm not sure if she really realized how potentially dangerous that could make me! I've done apple cake, pancakes, latkes (my personal favourite combination paired sweet potatoes and shredded Spies), mincemeat, muffins, crisps and more applesauce than we could care to assimilate in our minds, but somehow morphing the fruit from a solid ball into each new format somehow makes the same taste completely new again. This season I got an early jump on the apple crop when I discovered that one of my favourite local varieties - the Red Free - was out in the market. Five minutes and $3 later I was the owner of a large bag of apples, and upon arriving home found out that we also had a hefty load of *cough* imported fruit sitting in the crisper as well. Subsequent scavenging for dinner items later that night revealed some sweet potatoes just starting to edge past the peak of awesomeness, and lurking in the back of the fridge was a lone orange too.

With those ingredients at hand and a great basic recipe from Kevin (@ Closet Cooking) for roasted applesauce as a guideline, I set about making my own version of what I can only really call a "Fall butter". It's not apple butter, to be sure, but nor is it a mashed yam dish, and the flavour is one of those savoury-sweet blends that worked wonders on my morning bagels but was also used by my grandparents as a side dish with a Sunday dinner. What I couldn't finish on my own, I baked into "hand pies" and wrapped in a lightly sweetened cookie shell as well for a couple different "carry case" experiment. The crumbled graham crackers added a great crunchy texture and nutty flavour too, which helped break up the richness of the puree.

Roasted Sweets and Apple Butter
Makes 3 cups, 24 2-tbsp servings
1 large apple, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 graham cracker sheets, crumbled

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease a shallow casserole dish.
  2. Toss together apple and sweet potato chunks and pour into the dish.
  3. In a measuring cup or bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, orange juice and pumpkin pie spice until well blended and smooth.
  4. Pour over the apples and sweet potatoes, stirring to coat.
  5. Cover casserole and bake for 50 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  6. Uncover the dish and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture in the pan is caramelized.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  8. In a food processor, finely crush the crackers. Remove to a small bowl.
  9. Add the roasted mixture to the food processor (no need to clean) and puree completely. If you dislike the texture of the skin (albeit pureed) use a food mill for a very fine consistency.
  10. Add the crumbs back to the processor mixture and pulse to combine.
  11. Serve as a pudding or pie filling.
Amount Per Serving

Calories: 51.1
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 24.0 mg
Total Carbs: 12.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 0.5 g

2 comments :

DaviMack said...

Yum! Apple pastry!

Lynn said...

Your apple & sweet potato butter sounds yummy! We stopped off at a local farm this morning and bought a huge box of apples. So now I'm on the hunt for what I want to do with them. Thanks for the inspiration :)