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.
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26 responses to “Autumnal Deliciousness

  1. Thanks for the recipe! I think I’ll try it out this weekend… I made apple crisp last weekend, so comparisons must be made! I’ve never tried Honeycrisp; will keep an eye out for them.

  2. Apple Pandowdy! I thought that was just something in a Sharon, Lois and Bram song. Looks yummy… I’m going out to pick up the ingredients now.

  3. We get lots of great apples here in Ontario and I love apple picking with my dad every Fall. Plus you can’t beat the apple cider that comes fresh from the farms. 🙂
    One of my favorite new recipes is baked apples with a homemade caramel sauce.

  4. Susan – Don’t thank me, thank the lovely LCBO Food & Wine magazine — do you pick that up regularly? They have the most amazing photos and recipes.

    Skylark – Actually “Shoofly Pie and Apple Pandowdy” was a Dinah Shore song originally. I’m glad you have something fun to bake this weekend. Too bad you have to let it sit 24 hours before you can eat it. The general consensus is also that some sweet whipping cream on top really makes it zing.

    Jazz – Not a big fan of the granny’s myself. Too sour. I think they call them grannys because they make your entire face pucker up like an old lady’s

    Hannah – I know. Apples right off the tree are an entirely different fruit than apples from the grocery store or even from the market. I want to find a Honeycrisp farm and pick me a peck of those. (I hope a peck is something big)

    Paula – Let me know how you like the pandowdy.

  5. I buy apples now and then with the mistaken thought that I might eat them, or possibly cut them into a fruit salad, but they usually end up going bad before I do.

    I find it too time-consuming to prepare them for cooking; I haven’t cooked an apple-based dish in years (tasty as they can be).

    Anyway, I thought you’d be interested in this video about seed banks in which apples save the world.

    – RG>

  6. That sounds like a great recipe… and thanks for the tip about the kitchen gadget store. I always enjoy those types of places. 🙂

  7. Um, XUP, Food and Drink is the name of the LCBO mag, I don’t know what Food and Wine is.

    And just fyi, they only have the fig and walnut bread on Saturdays. I know because I went there on Wed to pick up a loaf for my book club meeting. I did, however, leave with a really yummy garlic-rosemary focaccia that we ate with brie, boursin and chevre and some kalamata olives. Mmmmmm.

  8. Dr. Monkey – I eat them raw, much more often. Usually when they’re cooked they also have lots of sweetener and/or pastry around them.

    LoLa – Why didn’t you tell me about Honeycrisp apples? Why are Honeycrisp lovers keeping this to themselves? The more people know about them and want them, the more they’ll make!!

    Grouchy – Why? Why don’t you eat apples? Those evenings when you’re plowing through your emails, forgetting to eat? An apple is perfect. Dip some slices in your peanut butter and you have a complete meal.

    Chris – It’s an amazing store both in front and in the back. You’ll never need another kitchen supply or gourmet food store.

    Alison – The recipe is from Food & Wine, but yes, you’re right the LCBO one is called Food & Drink. They’re both wonderful. How could anything involving food and alcohol not be? I didn’t know the walnut fig was only available on Saturdays. I guess that’s the only day I ever really go there. Did you tell everyone in your book club about Grace in the Kitchen?

  9. we are heading to the apple orrchard this weekend. edie (the 4 year old) is going through an apple obsession – books, shows, online pictures (and yes, there are innapropriate pictures of people with apples, you have been warned!)
    maybe i will read your blog to her as her bedtiime story tonight 🙂

  10. We’re all about sexy apple varieties in the Annapolis Valley. Did you know you can grow as many varieties of apple as your stock tree has branches, you just graft them all on. It works well for trees at home but in a commercial orchard it is confusing for the pickers.

    Apple hybridization to create the perfect commercial apple is a big deal. Researchers have shown that people want 4 things in an apple – red, large, crisp, and sweet. If they get all 4 in one apple they’ll pay almost anything for that apple. Growers want those things for consumers, for themselves they want bruise and scab disease resistant varieties that can be stored a long time. For cider they want tarter apples than people want for eating. For cooking too, but firm flesh.

    My absolute favourite varieties are the NovaSpy – for cooking, drying, and eating and the NovaMac for eating.

  11. I recently did research on apples to see what held up the best while baking (for a pork/apple thing – I don’t do desserts) and honeycrisp was on my list, but not at my grocery store. I was certainly intrigued by the name. I’ve never heard of pandowdy and that picture looks wonderful, but you lost me at “food processor.”

  12. Schmutzie – Thank you so much!! And thank you to whoever submitted the blog post to FSF. I’m honoured.

    Anonymous (Meanie?) – I think my blog should be required bedtime reading for all small children.

    Mudmama – I know! Annapolis Valley is listed as one of THE places to grow Honeycrisps. I agree with 3 of the 4 things I want in an apple. I don’t like them too big. I don’t want my apple to be a 3-course meal. That’s another reason organic apples are nicer — they’re not freakishly large. Just big enough for a little dessert. (The pandowdy recipe isn’t mine, so I don’t know why they want you to cool it for 24 hours. Probably, like with homemade pie, it’s pretty runny until it’s completely cold. I don’t think they’ll arrest you or anything for eating it sooner)

    Geewits – I wonder if Honeycrisps don’t travel well? Or maybe the time of year you were looking didn’t co-oincide with apple season and maybe they don’t store well? Or maybe the all sell out before winter? Also, I’m sure a clever person like you can manage to mix up some flour and butter without a food processor. It’s not my recipe and I don’t know why they threw the food processor into the mix. (ha ha) I guess it’s easier for some people than cutting pastry with a pastry cutter or two knives.

  13. Who lets their pandowdy sit for 24 hours? That’s crazy talk. Peter has been making it for some months now and we eat it as soon as we can get it out of the pan without burning ourselves. Last month, I bought a basket of peaches and they all started going off at the same time so he made peach pandowdy. Yum! I think he improvised with the ingredients in the peaches because he knew they’d be a little more runny than apples.

  14. PS My friend Carmen introduced me to Grace in the Kitchen and I bought a Berger lamp there. It kills odors in the air and I used it a lot when I was gagging through chemo.

    I discovered the perfect crisp eating apple years ago, called Lobo and I haven’t seen them for some years. We used to get them at the Byward Market. Now I want a Lobo.
    Wow, what a resource!

    Get a friend with a car to drive you out to Kilmarnock (it’s just past Merrickville) to pick apples. We used to live out there. A peck is 8 imperial quarts or a little under 9 litres.

  15. @Julia – I buy lobo apples at the Carp Farmers’ Market.
    They’re from the Harvest Moon orchard which is 5 minutes down Carp road past Carp towards Kinburn. The orchard is on the corner of Carp Rd and Thomas Dolan Parkway.

    Lobos are about the only apple that my daughter Leah likes. They are crisp and sweet-tart like a McIntosh, but unlike Macs, they will keep their shape when baked.

  16. Julia – Ya, that seemed a little crazy to me, too…24 hours…pffft. Like I always say – recipes are just general guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Don’t you love Grace in the Kitchen? Seriously? Don’t you want to just live there?

    Alison – I don’t think I’ve ever had Lobos. I’m willing to give them a try — once my current passion for Honeycrisp wanes a bit. I’m kind of apple-monogamous and can’t even conceive of being with another apple at the moment. I don’t much care for McIntosh. Right off the tree they’re okay, but they lose their crispness really quickly. Unlike Honeycrisp…ahhhhh…Honeycrisp.

  17. I have a basket of honeycrisp apples. I’d never heard of them until a few weeks ago, then found them at the market and am now hooked. My new favourite.
    And I stopped in at your Grace in the Kitchen store when I was visiting, did I tell you? I wish I’d bought some bread to take home… my favourite bakery doesn’t have anything that exotic.

  18. I am drooling on my keyboard; you are responsible.
    We used to have an apple orchard out here; very old and fragile, planted in the mid 1800’s in fact. At one end were two ‘modern’ MacIntosh trees planted around 1900. We brought the old trees back into production. This was a big mistake as the bears came in while we were in town, and the porcupines and the ‘coons. After a few years the old trees were too broken to bear. It was a very sad experience because those old style apples were amazing.
    We still have one MacIntosh. We still have bears and birds and deer and other moochers, all of whom enjoy the tree while we enjoy them. It is so old that the trunk is completely hollow, but it soldiers on, year after year.
    And I buy my apples from a local store.

  19. Violetsky – Hey, we can be Honeycrisp twins!! And I guess you’ll just have to keep coming to Ottawa for your bread from now on.

    Mary – That’s incredible – those old apple trees still producing fruit. That would be amazing to have in the back yard — like the olive trees along the Mediterranean that have been there for hundreds of years.

  20. Whenever people get crabby at the University I work for, I remind them of the Honey Crisp Apple. Where would we be with out it? How could you be upset with the people who took time and money to create such a wonderful fruit? A fruit that saved the asses of MN apple growers. Now there are 2 NEW apples:

    Zestar!® Apple
    This juicy, sweet-tart fruit is one of the first to get the apple season started at the beginning of September.

    SnowSweetTM Apple
    A sweet, rich flavor and snow-white flesh that is slow to brown. This apple ripens in early October.

    Note the branding. The University had 2 apple growers pay mucho bags of apples to have the exclusive rights to grow those apples. But the U is supposed to help the economy of the entire state, not just people with money! Controversy! Disappointment. But what is a huge public land grant University to do in tough economic times?

    There is a lot going on there, and elsewhere, so it is simpler to focus on the Honey Crisp. Ah. Feels better.