Autumnal Deliciousness

walnut fig bread

spiced-apple-cider

 I don’t usually get too excited about discovering a new food…wait… yes I do! I’m always very exciting about discovering something new and yummy to eat.  Like those new, flat hamburger and hot dog buns? (I think President’s Choice came out with them first) Not only are they amazing with burgers and dogs, but they also make great sandwiches. (which my old pal Lululemon Boy has been trying to telling me for ages)

And speaking of bread, I still both rue and delight in the day I discovered walnut-fig bread and the place in which I discovered it. There’s what looks like a little kitchen gadget store on Bank Street, near Sunnyside, called Grace in the Kitchen. Normally, a place like that wouldn’t be all that interesting to me, but I needed a gift for a kitchen gadget fanatic once and thought I’d have a look.

And then my life changed forever.

Because once you get through the kitchen gadgets in the front half of the store, the back half is filled to bursting with so much deliciousness it will make your eyes water. Yes, back there they have fresh baked bread (including the aforementioned walnut fig), fresh butter, herbs and pastries imported from France; a dazzling array of oils and vinegars from all the best oil and vinegar places. And cheese! A cheese selection to rival any in the city and a nice cheese man who will not let you buy a cheese until you’ve sampled it and pronounced it wonderful first. And then there are dry goods, pastas, mustards, jams, frozen goods, pates, olives, bins of fragrant coffee beans, colourful sea salts.. and more! There are cooking demonstrations and food samplings! Seriously, if you haven’t been to this place and like to eat food, you must check it out.

But what I really wanted to talk about was apples.

I really like a good apple. I have an apple every day with my lunch. My favourite variety of apple changes over time, but generally, I like a very crisp, juicy apple leaning more toward the sweet side rather than the tart. I was never a fan of Granny Smiths, for instance.  And I used to like the Red Delicious, but I started to find it a bit too sweet. So then I was into Gala apples for a while until someone gave me a Grapple once. They thought it was an apple mixed with a grape because it tasted grapey.

Grapples are really just Fuji apples soaked in grape juice and sold for way too much money. But the Grapple experience did put me on to Fuji apples, which I love. But last week I couldn’t find any organic Fuji apples (and I always buy organic, especially for apples). So then I saw a bag of tasty-looking apples called Honeycrisp.  That sounded pretty good – sweet and crunchy, right?

Honeycrisp

Man, they’re awesome. They’re so good, they’re scary. I’m almost afraid they’re not even real apples, but some sort of food product manufactured to resemble the perfect apple. They’re so good that I’m almost positive that once I finish this bag, I’ll never be able to find them anywhere again.

Honeycrisp (Malus domestica) apples are a bit mysterious. They are hybrids, but no one knows for sure of what. Genetic fingerprinting determined that one of its parents is another hybrid called Keepsake, but the other parent cannot be identified. The Honeycrisp was developed in 1974 in a Minnesota Agricultural lab, but not introduced into the marketplace until the 1990s. It was going to be discarded because I guess they thought nobody would like them. Now they are a thriving crop throughout most of North America. Word in agricultural circles is:

Few new apple cultivars have created as much excitement or challenge as Honeycrisp. Consumer and market enthusiasm, and grower interest has driven the acceptance of this cultivar much more rapidly than most.

One of the very finest of all selections developed over the past 50 years!

The Honeycrisp has it all.

Honeycrisp is an exciting apple variety that has apple lovers around the world talking. Many are saying that it is the best fresh-eating apple variety ever.

Well, hot damn! Why have I just now discovered this jewel of appledom?

Anyway, it’s apple season and everyone is gathering bushels of apples to make apple pie and apple crisp and apple strudel and apple sauce and apple cider and apple pandowdy.applepandowdy

Here’s a pandowdy recipe from the absolute very best magazine in the whole wide world, Food & Wine.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 6 large apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks or thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  • In a food processor, pulse 1 1/4 cups of the flour and the salt. Add 1 stick of the butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Drizzle on the ice water and pulse until evenly moistened crumbs form; turn out onto a surface and form into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°. Set a baking sheet on the bottom rack. In a bowl, toss the apples, lemon juice, sugar, the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and the cinnamon.
  • Spread the apple filling in an 8-by-11-inch baking dish and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cubed butter. On a floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick and cut it into 2-inch squares. Arrange the squares of dough in a patchwork pattern over the apples, pressing them onto the edge of the baking dish and leaving a few openings for steam to escape.
  • Bake the pandowdy in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the crust is golden. Let the pandowdy cool for at least 24 hours before serving.