Showing posts with label apples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apples. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

Patriots' Day Blondies

Because it was pouring buckets and spitting snow on our regular marketing day, we stayed inside. There’s always some sort of meal we can throw together from what’s in the fridge and pantry. But! there was nothing for dessert, a crisis of epic proportions. So I had to bake.

But I was kind of low on butter, and I didn’t feel like messing with anything fancy, so I went looking for a bar cookies. Lo and behold, the model for this recipe was the first page in the cookie section of my bursting binder of recipes—something I found online in 2008, but had never made.

One small problem: it called for dried cranberries, and I had none. But I did have dried blueberries and dried cherries, and then I realized that with the white chocolate chips (that I did have), I was making red, white and blue bars. I figured I could call it an homage to Patriots’ Day here in Massachusetts.

Daniel Chester French's
Minuteman Statue, near
the bridge where the battle
took place
In case you are completely ignorant of Patriots’ Day (no surprise, because few states celebrate it), it commemorates the battle of Lexington and Concord, which took place on April 19, 1775 (you could argue it started on the 18th, which is when Paul Revere’s famous ride took place, but the fighting started on the next day). Nowadays it’s held on the third Monday in April. (Yes, I had an ancestor or three there, and there was that other one, celebrated in family lore, who said “sorry, I need to get this field plowed,” and missed the whole thing.)

Patriots’ Day Bars

3/4 cup butter, cubed
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped if needed
(blueberries didn’t, cherries did)

Dried blueberries

Dried cherries

One important note: dried fruit works better in a bar cookie or bread (like Irish soda bread, which is where I learned this trick) if you soak it in boiling water for a couple of minutes first. Make sure to drain the fruit well before adding to the batter.

6 oz white chocolate bits (or chunks, chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan.

Melt the butter in a bowl. Stir in the brown sugar.

Transfer to a larger bowl (if you're using a stand mixer, the bowl for that will do) and let cool. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

Sift together the dry ingredients, and add gradually to the butter mixture.

Stir in the fruit and the chocolate bits. (The batter will be stiff.)

Spread in the greased baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clear (do not overbake!). Cool in the pan on a rack.

And enjoy!

My next book will be A Late Frost, the 11th book in the Orchard Mystery series, coming from Berkley in November (yes, a long time to wait!). 

It takes place in February--you know, that month where everybody in Massachusetts is ready for spring but they know that won't happen for a couple of months yet. So the town of Granford decides to start a new tradition: the WinterFare. 

Which turns out really well--until one of the organizers dies.

I'll be telling you more about it over the next few months.

And be sure to enjoy my newly polished website!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Apple Caramel Cake

Trolling for new recipes (always!) I came upon a lovely one in an Irish cookbook I’ve had for a while. One thing that appealed to me was that you start with a nice thick layer of caramel on the bottom, rather than a crust, and you pour batter over it and top with sliced fruit before baking.

The original recipe called for pears, but I had apples on hand so I used those. Butter, sugar, apples and cinnamon—yum! What could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. What I ended up with was a runny heap of brown goo. Tasted great—as a topping for ice cream, maybe. But it was not a cake! It was a mess.

The Disaster Version

But I am both stubborn and curious. Where had I gone wrong? Several places, as it turned out.

-- I failed to caramelize the butter and sugar sufficiently, so there was no real base and everything leaked all over the oven (always put a pan under whatever you bake!).

-- The recipe just said four pears  but said nothing about their size. I think Irish pears must be smaller than apples, so when the recipe called for grating one apple and adding it to the batter, I put in a lot of very juicy apple. One more strike against the poor cake, lying in a sad puddle.

But I persevered! Self, I said, make sure you get the caramel right, cut back on the amount of apple (and use a kind more appropriate for cooking—not all apples are), and bake it as long as you need to (the original instructions were a little vague about that too). When it comes time to unmold it, pray to the kitchen gods.

It worked!

Adapted from The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson (2003)


1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 apples, peeled and cored

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap a 10-inch round springform pan with two layers of foil, to prevent leaking. (Only time I’ve seen this recommendation, but it’s a good one)

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the butter and sugar caramelize. Pour the caramel into the springform pan and set aside. (It makes a layer about 1/2-inch thick. Yes, you may lick the pan--after it cools!)

Coarsely grate one of the apples (I left the skin on—you’d never know it). Slice the remaining apples.

Grated apple
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil together. Stir in the shredded apple, Then stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. 

Pour the mixture over the caramel base and arrange the sliced apples on top (in circles or rows).

Bake for 1 hour or longer (mine baked for about an hour and a half), until the base bubbles and the apples are soft and lightly browned. (Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to make sure the batter is cooked inside.)

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then (carefully!) remove the sides of the pan.


Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #5), available everywhere!

BTW, I've mentioned before that this book is loosely based on a real crime that took place in 1996. That crime lives on: the primary suspect (never arrested) is now suing the Irish police for framing him and concealing information--it was in the Irish news just this week. The Irish take crime seriously!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Baked Mini Meatloaves with Roasted Apples

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Looking back over my posts in the nearly two years that I’ve been part of the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen crew (thanks, friends!), I see that I don’t post many meat dishes. When I do, you’ll often see Mr. Right’s hands in the photograph. According to Mr. Right, I officially lost my title of Picky Eater about ten or twelve years ago, when we ate street tacos in Mexico for my birthday—we’d miscalculated what would be open on a Wednesday in the small undeveloped oceanfront village where we were staying, and they were the only option. Not long after, we were in France and I ordered langoustines. “You know they come with their heads on,” he said. I knew. They were delicious.

Point is, I still have a few food quirks left—no doubt we all do. One of mine, a remnant from years as a vegetarian, is that I don’t like to physically handle red meat, although I will when necessary. I recognize the contradiction—we’ve all got those, too. So when we eat red meat, it tends to be a steak or a burger Mr. Right makes. 

That’s a long way of explaining why I don’t very often post meat dishes. But this one, in my mother’s Good Housekeeping magazine, caught my eye. It’s a variation of our basic burger, which includes ground sirloin, seasoning, Panko, and Parmesan. This version substitutes zucchini for the cheese, a great way to sneak in vegetables; they keep the burgers moist and hold them together well. 

The original recipe suggests ground beef or dark turkey; we prefer ground sirloin, which is a little more expensive, but is comparatively lean and doesn’t shrink much. It also calls for shaping the meat into 4 oblong meatloaves, but you can certainly make more, smaller burgers—just keep an eye on your baking time. And while it suggested Gala or Empire apples—firm and tart-sweet—I used two of the Red Delicious the bears kindly left on our tree this year and a Gala from a friend’s orchard. I think a mix of apples is always best; use anything firm enough to not turn to mush when baked. I thought the mustard might be too strong, but it mellows beautifully in the baking. 

Baked Mini Meatloaves with Roasted Apples

(Adapted from Good Housekeeping, November 2016)

1-1/4 pounds ground beef or sirloin
1 small zucchini, grated
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 small to medium apples, cored and cut into wedges
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped, or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
dash of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh herbs for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the beef, zucchini, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. 

Shape into four small meatloaves or six small burgers, and place on baking sheet. Brush tops with mustard.

Toss the cut apples with the rosemary, cayenne, salt, and olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet around the loaves or burgers, in a single layer.


Bake 30 minutes, or until done. Garnish the meat with fresh herbs, if you’d like.

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Pupton of Apples

This past Monday was Johnny Appleseed’s birthday. The most recent book in my Orchard Mystery series, Seeds of Deception, is coming out next week. A nice alignment of the stars, especially since Johnny (an exceedingly distant cousin of mine) got his start in Massachusetts!

A part of Jefferson's orchard
In the new book, the 10th of the series, Meg and Seth, now finally married, kind of improvise a honeymoon, with the goal of visiting Jefferson’s Monticello (Jefferson’s orchards for Meg, an amazing house for Seth). Jefferson installed his orchard before he even began building his house, so clearly apples were important to him. 

There are cookbooks from Monticello. In fact, Thomas Jefferson himself left some handwritten recipes, which have been published. I don’t have that cookbook (although I may need to get it!), and I wouldn’t presume to borrow such recipes without attribution. However, I do have a copy of The Williamsburg Art of Cookery that my grandmother purchased in 1951, which draws upon a range of 18th and early 19th century recipes, as originally written, so I present you with one of those recipes, A Pupton of Apples, originally written by Mrs. Martha Bradley. Apparently she was an important figure in 18th-century cookery. I thought I’d try it, in honor of Johnny and Meg and Seth.

A Pupton of Apples


These are Cortlands, if you're curious

18 apples, peeled, cored and quartered
Okay, how big was an apple in 1800? Eighteen apples is a lot. I used nine.

3 Tblsp water
5 oz. sugar (by weight)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Hello? You mind telling me how much? A tablespoon? A pound?

1/4 lb (1 stick) butter, softened
6 egg yolks

Put the apple quarters in a saucepan and add the water and sugar. Set over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally. When they are tender, add the cinnamon. Transfer to a large bowl and cool—the mixture will thicken. Um, are these supposed to be reduced to mush or still lumpy? Do I mash them or just go with the way they are? Please explain! 

Take some grated breadcrumbs. As I said above: HOW MUCH??? I decided that two cups seemed reasonable. I made my own breadcrumbs from some artisanal (white) bread. Nobody mentioned whether they should be fresh or dry.

Beat the six egg yolks and blend with the butter. Add the breadcrumbs.

Combine this mixture with the cooled apples. And you get (tada!) a pile of lumpy mush.

Put the mixture into a baking dish. Will someone please explain what an 1800 baking dish is? China or metal? Deep or shallow? How well filled should it be?

Preheat the oven to “slow”. I would guess 350 degrees. Bake for half an hour.

When it is done, turn it out onto a dish and serve hot. Uh, about that “turn out” part—yes, it came out of my (metal) baking dish. Or at least, most of it did. It sort of held together, so maybe I guessed right on the breadcrumbs. But it’s still lumpy.

Mrs. Bradley suggested serving with fresh parsley. I think I’ll pass on that. 

My first reaction was to whip up a lot of cream and smother the pupton with it, to hide its, uh, irregularities. Of course, dining rooms were rather dark back in those days, so maybe nobody would notice the cake is lopsided and lumpy. Right. Serve your guests plenty of wine before dessert.


But being of a persevering nature, I decided to hunt for an alternate recipe (interesting what comes up when you google “pupton”), and found one from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, which dates from 1774. Guess what? It’s even more vague. It starts out with “pare some apples”. Okay, how many is “some”? And farther on, “stir in a handful of bread.” What’s a handful? (I’m going to guess one cup or so.)

Whatever. I decided to give it one more try. Despite changing the proportions of the dish, it still came out like a lumpy mess. I’m going to guess that 18th-century baking dishes were made of smooth pottery. And whipped cream was good camouflage.

This much I will state with assurance: Serve the pupton with a good cup of coffee, which history tells us was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite beverages. See the Monticello website

Oh, that's right: the book is coming out next Tuesday! 

I've included some small inside jokes. For example, the cover is based on a house I lived in when I was five. And in the book, Meg's home town is based on the one where I grew up in New Jersey (which has changed surprisingly little, except for the home prices). She takes Seth on a tour of the place, and finds . . . a clue to the inevitable murder!

Find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

French Apple Cake #Recipe for #BookClub Week @PegCochran

I love book clubs, don't you?  And I love dessert.  So book club + dessert = the perfect combination!

I found this recipe online at Laylita's blog and I had to try it.  I couldn't believe a cake could be this simple--the most time consuming part is peeling the apples!  The recipe apparently comes from her husband's aunt who lives in the south of France.  As complicated as some French pastries are, they also have a skill for creating simple desserts that showcase fruit in season.


6 ounces of sugar 
6 ounces of flour 
3 large eggs 
3 large apples, peeled and cut in small chunks 

Measure out the sugar and flour. I loved this way of baking--it's much easier to be precise. My scale is old but serviceable--I am sure there are more high-tech versions out there.

Peel the apple and cut into small chunks. I find it's easiest to slice the sides off the apple rather than coring it.

Mix the sugar and eggs in an electric mixer for approximately two minutes.

Add the flour and stir with a flat wooden spoon.  Batter will be thick.

Add the apples.

Pour into a nine inch pie plate. 

Bake at 400 degrees for five minutes, reduce temperature to 360 degrees and bake for approximately another 30 minutes.

To celebrate Book Club Week, I am giving away a copy of No Farm, No Foul--the first book in my brand new Farmer's Daughter series! Just leave a comment to be entered!