Friday, January 23, 2009

Apple of My Eye

It’s a very happy circumstance that there are so many fantastic apple desserts in the world. Some have become great classics and others are being dreamed up every day in professional kitchens around the globe. I think Americans are particularly fond of apples and we tend not to stray too far from the classics because they’re so ubiquitous and delicious. But, hold on! Apple of my Eye is a mouthwatering surprise created by the incomparable Elizabeth Falkner.

In addition to being a celebrated pastry chef, Elizabeth is a fearless entrepreneur. She operates Citizen Cake in San Francisco as well as several other venues, including Citizen Cupcake, a Citizen Cake Kiosk in SOMA and the new Orson. I had the opportunity to intern at Citizen Cake right after finishing pastry school and it was a real treat. First of all, the pastry kitchen was huge and spotless. The worktable was in the center of the room so the staff faced one another instead of standing in a line. For a beginner, it was a good place to start. Elizabeth is a gracious person with a very creative spirit. She enjoys herself tremendously and it shows in everything she does.

I must say I was not prepared for how completely delicious this dessert is. I was very intrigued when I first saw the recipe because of my love of apples, cinnamon, balsamic, cheese. All of the elements sounded good but I was very curious about how they would all work together. So I set out to find out and let me tell you, the results are utterly delectable. Elizabeth takes the best of compatible flavors and combines them seamlessly. The caramelized apples have a bright freshness and a semi-soft texture. The Cheddar Crumble streusel adds not only texture but a slight salty edge. The Cinnamon Ice Cream rounds out the dessert with a creamy richness and perfect level of spice. The apple gastrique takes on the deep and dramatic hue of the balsamic and is a wondrous crowning touch, absolutely amazing. I enjoyed every note of this brilliant composition.

This dessert is definitely off the beaten track. But wow, is it incredibly interesting and satisfying. Elizabeth has said she started out to do a riff on Tarte Tatin. However, except for the caramelized apples, it is absolutely different. If you’re up for a new twist on traditional apple desserts, venture out and try this. You’ll be thinking about it long after that last lovin’ spoonful.

Bench notes:
- I've presented the recipe as published, but I personally would actually change the proportions of the components. I would suggest more apples, probably nearly twice the amount, which would also entail doubling the caramel. The Cheddar Crumbles recipe makes an enormous amount and I would halve that. And I would triple the recipe for the apple balsamic gastrique. It’s too delicious to use sparingly. It would also taste mind-numbingly delicious on caramel ice cream or chocolate. YIKES.
- You can make the ice cream a couple of days ahead. The Cheddar Crumbles will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Prepare the apples just before serving.
- I don’t know if there is any good commercial Cinnamon Ice Cream out there to recommend if you don’t want to make it, but it’s indispensable to this dish. Maybe you have a local purveyor who carries it.
- I used a nice Bravo White Cheddar and it was perfect.

Apple of My Eye
adapted from Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Falkner
Serves 4

1/2 C sugar
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 large (about 1 lb) Granny Smith apples
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t coarse salt

1/2 C apple juice
2 T sugar
2 T balsamic vinegar

Cinnamon Ice Cream (recipe below)
Cheddar Crumbles (recipe below)

Peel, core and cut the apples into 1" cubes.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water and lemon juice in a medium skillet. Make a caramel by cooking on high heat without stirring until sugar has dissolved and begins to take on the color of dark amber, about 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly tilt the skillet back and forth or swirl gently if sugar is darkening unevenly.

Remove from heat as soon as it starts to reach the right color and carefully add the apple cubes in a single layer. Return the skillet to medium heat and let the apples simmer in the caramel until they slowly begin to darken and absorb the caramel, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with vanilla and salt. Let stand, without stirring or moving apples, until all the caramel has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine apple juice, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil and reduce, turning the heat down to medium-low. Continue cooking until it thickens and is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

1 C milk
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 t ground cinnamon
5 egg yolks
1/2 t vanilla extract

Warm the milk, cream and sugar with both kinds of cinnamon. Do not let the mixture boil. Turn off the heat and steep the spices for about 15 minutes or until you have the right flavor, tasting as you go.

Whisk eggs yolks and add some of the warm milk to temper the mixture, stirring constantly. Pour into the remaining milk, whisk and return to low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon and a finger traced through it leaves a clean track. Strain immediately into a clean container. Cool and chill thoroughly. If you want a stronger cinnamon flavor, leave the cinnamon stick in the custard.

Remove cinnamon stick and freeze according to your machine’s directions. Pour into a clean container, press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and place in your freezer to firm up.

Cheddar Crumbles

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 C confectioner's sugar
1 t coarse salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 t paprika
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, chilled
1/2 C coarsely chopped pecans
4 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 C)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix together flour, cornstarch, confectioner's sugar, salt, pepper, and paprika. Add the butter and blend until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the pecans and grated cheese over the mixture and gently toss to combine. Distribute evenly on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Turn crumbles with a spatula and continue baking until crumbles are golden and cheese is crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

To serve, place the apples on each place with a scoop of ice cream. Add a sprinkle of the cheddar cheese streusel to the side. Drizzle the apple-balsamic reduction on the plate or directly over the ice cream. Serve immediately.

Savor the apple joy.


Donna-FFW said...

Wow- the ingredients and flavors just blew me away, this sounds absolutely heavenly. Great job! Love it!

Cakespy said...

This sounds like such a great, contrasting-flavors-resulting-in-deliciousness type of dish. Yum. I've GOT to try this!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

apple of my eye! aahh. this is just gorgeous. i think apples are something no one can do without. no english garden goes without an apple tree :)

grace said...

cinnamon ice cream? swoon! the combination of all three components? complete and total faint. :)
this is amazing (and would be perfect for my little cinnamon celebration event, am i right? send it over!)!

test it comm said...

What an amazing treat!

Bunny said...

You had me with the caramelized apples! WOW this sounds terrific!

Helene said...

Sophisticated and delicious! Love this!

Anonymous said...

I love dessert apples too but that cinnamon ice cream sounds hevenly:-)

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

What a great opportunity to intern there. I bet it was amazing. I have read reviews about this pie and it just sounds so delicious. textures, flavors, aromas...

Eileen said...

This sounds (and looks) amazing. I'm downloading this recipe.

Y said...

I've tried this too, and while the cheese crumble recipe does yield more than you need, it wasn't really a problem for me, because I kept snacking on it! :)

maja said...

Cheese and fruits is a wonderful combination, especially goat cheese.