Apples

Chicken with Apple Brandy Sauce (Poulet Vallée d’Auge)

It’s apple season, and I’m in heaven. Last weekend I was finally able to get out to the orchards to pick apples, but I spent the next three days on the road. The apples have been taunting me ever since.

But  right now it’s raining, I have nowhere to be, and this recipe was calling to me from my to-do list.

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Poulet Vallée d’Auge is a traditional French recipe from the Normandy region (I say that as if I have any idea what that actually means…) combining apples and Calvados, or apple brandy, with chicken and mushrooms. I *love* apples in savory dishes, and this one did not disappoint.

You can pull it off on a weeknight — plan for about 90 minutes of cooking time — but I’d lean toward a crisp fall weekend. Serve with potatoes or rice (or skip the starch altogether, like I did), and green beans.

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Poulet Vallée d’Auge

(Chicken and Apples in Brandy Cream Sauce)

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 4

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 small to medium firm-tart apples, peeled, cored, quartered
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 chicken (3 1/2-4 lbs), quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ¼” thick
2 small or 1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup Calvados (or other apple brandy)
2/3 cup apple cider
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, trimmed, halved
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 large egg yolk

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add apples and cook, turning occasionally, until golden in spots, 10–12 minutes. Transfer apples to a plate and set aside.

Increase heat to medium-high and add oil to pot. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook chicken until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to another plate; set aside.

Add leek and shallots to pot; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat, add Calvados, and ignite with a long match or lighter. After flames die down, return pot to heat and add cider. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Return reserved chicken to pot and add thyme, bay leaf, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer, adding reserved apples back to pot halfway through, until chicken is cooked through, 20–25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and softened, 6–8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mushrooms to a plate.

Whisk crème fraîche and egg yolk in a small bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and apples to a baking sheet and remove pot from heat. Whisk crème fraîche mixture into cooking liquid in pot. Gently mix in chicken, apples, and mushrooms.

Apple Streusel Cupcakes

I’ve been a bad blogger the last three weeks. I’d like to say it’s been an especially busy month, but that just isn’t true.

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The truth is, I’m no busier than usual, maybe even less busy. And I did continue baking and cooking while on hiatus. But for the last month or so, my focus has been on mind and body restoration.

My life has always been, Go, go, go. I’m a hard-wired, type-A girl. And then a couple months ago, I fell in love.

Or more precisely, I fell back in love. With BODYFLOW, that is.

I should back up a bit. For the better part of the last year, I’ve been in and out of pain in my hip and one side of my lower back. I finally broke down and went to see my ortho, which in turn led to about six weeks with a physical therapist. I discovered that my lower body was out of alignment, and some muscles were out of balance. I spent half the summer trying to realign, rebalance, and most importantly, relearn  — how to sit, how to sleep, how to get in a car…

As part of my journey, I started taking Les Mills BODYFLOW, a mind-body class that draws from the disciplines of Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates, about twice per week. I used to be a regular BODYFLOW participant before becoming a group fitness instructor. As instructors, we’re taught to be member-centric. While I don’t speak for every instructor, I do know that the busier I am, the less time I take for myself.

Anyway, I quickly remembered what the class meant to me as a member — recovery for my body, calm for my mind. We work on strength, but also flexibility, balance, grace, and calm. Aside from strength, none of these comes naturally to me, and that’s exactly why I need it in my life. In other countries, BODYFLOW is called BODYBALANCE, and balance is exactly what it provides.

When I found myself with the opportunity to attend an instructor training for BODYFLOW, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and continue my journey.  I spent the last two weeks preparing for the training, which I attended this weekend, and for the next couple of months I’ll work toward finishing my certification.

This has absolutely nothing to do with apple cupcakes, except to say that I just haven’t had time in the last two weeks to post. I promise — there are more recipes in the queue!

Anyway, you are going to love these cupcakes. It’s almost like coffee cake, and I’d venture to say it would make an awesome breakfast or brunch cupcake, perhaps without the galze. If you’re going for true cupcake, keep the glaze — just know that it’s going to make the cupcakes a lot sweeter.

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Apple Streusel Cupcakes

Adapted from Cooking Light

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons amaretto, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup finely chopped apple

Streusel:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, chilled
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Optional Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons (or more) 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon almond liqueur

Preheat oven to 350°. Place muffin cup liners in 12 muffin cups.

Reserve one tablespoon of flour. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl beat together sugar, cream cheese, and butter with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add liqueur, vanilla, and egg; beat at medium speed until well-blended. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and milk, stirring until well-blended. In a measuring cup or bowl, toss together apple and remaining 1 tablespoon flour.

Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until blended. Fold in apple mixture. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. (Note: you’ll think you have too much batter, but these don’t really rise like regular cupcakes or muffins.)

For streusel: Combine 2 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal; stir in almonds. Sprinkle streusel evenly over cupcakes. Bake at 350° for 27 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, and remove the cupcakes from pan.

For glaze: Combine powdered sugar, milk, and liqueur in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in additional milk if necessary. Drizzle glaze over cupcakes.

Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

Apple Bread Pudding

Do you like bread pudding? It’s a popular dessert, but I was never a fan.

Am I allowed to say that? Is it sacrilegious?

When I think “pudding,” I think… well, PUDDING. A creamy, dairy-based dessert, ideally involving chocolate. Bread has nothing to do with it.

The bread puddings I had tried were either dry, mushy, or both. It was like eating stuffing (which for me, isn’t a compliment), only sweet. The flavors weren’t anything special. With so many great desserts out there, bread pudding never entered my mind as something worth making.

And then a year ago, my best friend made this recipe for one of our Sunday suppers.

All that animosity between me and bread pudding? Gone.

The combination of tangy apples, slightly caramelized pieces of bread from the bottom of the pan, and salted caramel sauce are a nice balance of flavors. The dish stays moist as long as you don’t overbake it.

When I decided to restart my Sunday Suppers, I knew this was a great recipe to kick it off. Assemble it in the morning before you leave for brunch, let the flavors mingle all day, then put it in the oven about 30 minutes before you sit down for supper.

Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

Adapted from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso

Makes 6-8 servings

Butter for greasing pan
1 loaf (1 pound) crusty white bread, such as Pullman style or Italian
1 1/2 cups caramelized apples (1/2 batch)
3 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup salted caramel sauce

Butter an 11″ x 7″ baking pan. Set aside. Trim the crusts off the sides and ends of the bread, leaving top and bottom intact. Cut the loaf into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Arrange the pieces evenly in the prepared pan. Tuck the caramelized apples down among the bread pieces.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over the bread. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 8 hours.

Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes and apples with your hands so that all the pieces are moistened. Bake the pudding until the top is golden brown and the custard is set, about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the salted caramel sauce. Serve the pudding hot in individual bowls, with caramel poured over top.