Cabbage tends to have a bad reputation. The semi-pungent leafy vegetable has many different recipe applications and seems to be gaining popularity despite the negative stereo-types that surround it. Most of this newly found popularity comes from recent trends in fermentation, particularly Korean food such as kimchi. I still find cabbage a bit daunting. Its extra-large leafy head often looks like enough to feed a small army. Some grocery stores manage to sell halves instead of whole heads, which I’ve found helps this issue. But the best way to conquer cabbage is to find a handful of delicious recipes that make the infamous smell less…well…stinky. Sweet balsamic vinegar and fall’s favorite fruit rescue cabbage in this braised dish. It’s sure to top your list of best cabbage recipes, or at least your list of cabbage recipes worth repeating (most of us might not have a “best recipe list” for cabbage yet).
This recipe might be over the top. It didn’t start out that way but before I could realize what was happening, I had created the most delicious and elaborate Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce that I have ever had. The plan was originally a minimalist approach. My grandmother doesn’t have a baked whole apple recipe (though she has many other apple recipes) but her mentor, James Beard has a very simple one in “The James Beard Cookbook.” It offers a few options of varying spices for the cavity of the apples but doesn’t venture as far as stuffing them. It even offers a flamed version which involves pouring heated alcohol over the apple and igniting it (“bring to the table blazing”) but I thought it might be best to avoid burning down my apartment building or at least the complaints of “fire smell” from the neighbors. Perhaps I will wait for a special occasion.
I settled for a simple spiced baked apple. But I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing or that it somehow lacked the excitement I was looking for. That’s when I decided to stuff it with crisp. Apple crisp is a favorite I make at least a few times every fall. It’s hard to go wrong with oats, sugar, butter, flour, and cinnamon so why not stuff a whole apple with this lovely crumbly topping? This simple baked apple was getting more interesting.
I then thought about those lonely parts of the apple that wouldn’t be exposed to the tasty crisp. Perhaps it needed a sauce? Enter my second favorite apple accompaniment: Caramel. And not just any caramel, easy homemade caramel sauce. Drizzled over the finished juicy baked apple stuffed with the cinnamon spiced crisp, it’s a combination to die for. I was already out of control so I topped the finished warm apple with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Melting into the crevices of the crisp and dripping down the sides of the apple while mixing with the caramel sauce, excessiveness never looked or tasted so good.
I like to think of these as cut-out cookies for adults. They can be for kids too (perhaps the cookie shapes seem more childlike) but the buttery flavor is what differentiates these from those regular sugar cookies, often topped with bright colored sprinkles. It’s also the hardboiled egg yolks that bring out the richness in these sweet bites. My grandmother used this technique in many of her recipes for cookies and tarts. It may sound odd at first, to push a hardboiled egg through a sieve, but it adds a depth of flavor to the dough that is unlike anything else.
This recipe was originally brought to my attention by a reader who previously owned my grandmothers book, “The Art of Fine Baking.” Hidden in the cookie section, I had scanned over this recipe a number of times but wasn’t particularly inspired to try it. I’m glad I finally did. It is a versatile recipe that is so simple and basic, it can be used for a number of different occasions. The shapes of the cookies can vary from cutout stars and crescents, to Holiday specific ones such as witch’s hats for Halloween or gingerbread boys for Christmas. I chose these cute little fall shapes because they seemed appropriate for the chilly autumn weather and falling leaves.
The toppings are also up to you. My grandmother recommends cinnamon sugar or poppy seeds. I will eat cinnamon sugar on almost anything so this was a natural choice for me but poppy seeds, chopped nuts, or even those different colored sprinkles (if making them with kids) would be tasty as well. You will be surprised how something as simple as little butter cookie cut-outs will disappear so quickly from the kitchen counter (especially if you accidentally toss half of them on the floor like I did – oops). Good thing it’s a large recipe!
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
5 hardboiled egg yolks, pushed through a sieve
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg mixed with
1 teaspoon milk
finely chopped nuts
Cream butter and sugar. Stir in sieved hardboiled egg yolks, vanilla, and then flour mixed with salt. Chill dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Flour counter top or work surface. Roll out cookie dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookies with cookie cutters into small crescents, stars, or other shapes. Transfer to a cookie sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies. Brush with beaten egg and milk mixture. Sprinkle with toppings of your choice. Bake about 8-10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.
Yield approximately 48 cookies
Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” by Paula Peck
When I found this recipe nestled in the puff pastry and strudel section of “The Art of Fine Baking,” the end result seemed difficult to visualize and definitely wasn’t what I expected from a recipe with the title “Sauteed Apple Cake.” I therefore had to try it. Layers of flaky puff pastry hold buttery sautéed apples and a giant dollop of sweetened whipped cream with a crunch of almond ties it all together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.
As shown in the photos, I chopped the apples in fairly large pieces so that they wouldn’t become too mushy during the saute process. However, I actually think the finished cake benefits from slightly smaller pieces or just slices, because it holds together better. The taste, of course, isn’t affected either way and is reminiscent of apple pie.
I made the flaky puff pastry (or “puff paste” as it is referred to in the book) layers from scratch…yes, from scratch. Homemade Puff Pastry is pretty much unheard of today. It’s very time consuming and it also makes you very aware of how much butter you are consuming when eating something as simple as a turnover or palmier. I actually enjoyed the process of repeatedly rolling the dough to create the butter layers. The resulting pastry tastes richer and a little more pure than those made with frozen puff pastry. However, such a lengthy process isn’t for everyone and this recipe can be made easily using the frozen version for this same unique twist on a cake.
1/2 recipe Homemade Puff Pastry or two sheets frozen puff pastry
2 egg whites mixed with
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Sauteed Apple Filling
3 lbs tart apples – such as granny smith- peeled, cored, and sliced or coursely chopped
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If using homemade puff pastry, roll out pastry slightly less than 1/8 inch thick. Trim edges. Divide into two 8 inch squares and 4 strips 1/2 inch wide. Place squares on baking sheet. Brush one square with egg white mixture and arrange strips along edges to make a border. Chill both squares. Just before baking, brush plain square with egg white mixture. Sprinkle it with granulated sugar and sliced almonds. Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
While pastry bakes, make apple filling: In a large skillet, saute chopped apples with butter over medium heat. Sprinkle apples while they cook with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Turn occasionally with a spatula to lightly brown apples on all sides. Do not stir or apples will become mushy. When they are tender or lightly browned, remove from heat.
Pile apples into baked shell. Fit sugared square on top. Serve warm with whipped cream.
To re-warm: place in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.