The Teacup Chronicles

Month: October, 2011

Caramel Apples


Just when it seemed that the colors simply couldn’t get any brighter, any more breathtakingly stunning, they did. I felt like going out and standing in the yard for hours, turning slowly round and round to take each angle in, to hold the world just like that in my view for as long as I could. It was so beautiful that it was almost painful to see it – a curious mixture of tragedy and joy in realizing that something is as magnificent as it possibly can be, and simultaneously understanding that before you really come around to grasping fully its immensity, it will have already begun to fade.

But such is life. We curiously crave to hold things still, bring them into focus and examine them as they are – pulling the complexity of reality into one striking snapshot in time. But then we miss the dance. Life is always in transition.  Today the rain fell and the breezes blew and already many of the leaves are down. And yet, I am not filled with sorrow as I thought I might. I am filled with wonder that each day the world can look so dramatically different than the day before it. Life dances on and there is the magic.

Yesterday we took a long drive to savor the leaves in their fullest moment of glory. To take them in before they fell. We drove down winding roads and occasionally pulled off just to gaze in wonderment. There were misty clouds moving over the mountains, letting patches of light fall here and there in little islands of luminance. We stopped for a coffee and a croissant at a little French bakery over on the other side of the mountain (a place built in an old laundry mat with high ceilings and big open windows letting light cascade in – good for people watching too) and then slowly meandered our way home down winding back roads. It was a good day, a day I think I will remember.

Somewhere along the way home, I thought of caramel apples. It seemed the perfect conclusion to such a day. I can’t remember the last time I even ate one – but there was something about it that felt so perfectly right. Tart, crisp apples embraced with gooey, sticky caramel – the taste of burnt sugar and salt and sour apple.  It was what the day would taste like, I think, if it had a flavor. A fleeting moment of extravagant sweetness in the ever changing dance of life.

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Caramel Apples

Caramel apples are a treat, not meant to disguise themselves as being anything but. I have, however, endeavored to make them using wholesome ingredients – omitting the corn syrup and other such atrocities often found hiding behind their cloying candy-shop sweetness. Instead, I have used honey and molasses to sweeten, and a good organic cream with a hint of vanilla and kiss of Celtic sea salt.

As a side note,  I was hesitant about the honey at first, as I have always gone by the Ayurvedic belief that cooking honey destroys its medicinal benefits. Yet, in the end I can’t imagine that cooked honey could be any worse for my body than refined sugar – and indeed it is a good deal better for the Earth as it comes from my neighbor, rather than thousands of miles away. So honey it is. 

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 small apples
  • 1 cup organic cream, preferably from pasture raised cows
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon quality sea salt (Celtic, Fluer de sel, etc)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Place wooden skewers through the stems of each of your apples, and place on a tray lined with wax paper.  Fill a bowl with cold water and place in the freezer in preparation for later.

Place the cream, salt and vanilla in a medium-sized saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat on medium until the cream begins to bubble along the edges of the pan. At this point, add the honey and molasses and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 or 15 minutes, until the mixture reaches about 255 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  At this point, remove from heat and very very carefully immerse your hot pan into the bowl of cold water that you prepared earlier. Please use caution here as there is nothing that will spoil your day like getting scalded with magma hot sugar. Keep stirring the caramel until it starts to thicken up a little – you want it to be a little thicker rather than runnier when you start dipping. If it gets too thick simply put it back on the heat for a few seconds.

Hold the pan with one hand and tilt it so the caramel pools on one side. Use your other hand to dip the apples, swirling them round to cover as much surface as you can. Place each onto the wax paper lined tray and leave to set for about 15 or 20 minutes. If you wish, you can also roll them in toasted hazelnuts after they’ve set a little.

Ah, is this not happiness?

Nigel Slater says that it is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. I think this is also true of the person who makes you tea. To come down the stairs, bleary eyed  and shivering in the morning cold, and find a steaming mug of tea waiting there to warm your hands, is a thing that evokes the strongest sensation of love. Both of being loved, and of loving, the person who left it there for you. Ah, is this not happiness?

Moroccan Baked Eggs

There is something I love about discovering familiar things in unexpected places.  The hint of chocolate in the savory depths of a bowl of chili, the roll of thunder and flash of lightning in the midst of winter, a face you know and love in a strange, foreign crowd. I don’t think you fully know a thing until this happens. We need contrast to expose the full spectrum of possibility that any one thing possesses – novelness to appreciate it fully.

Recently, this happened to me with eggs. I was gawking over the ethereal beauty of Brian Ferry’s photography over at The Blue Hour when I came across a vivid and absolutely resplendent photo of someone enjoying Moroccan baked eggs. “Moroccan baked eggs?!?”, I thought. These are eggs as I have never known them. I opened up my favorite (and only)  Moroccan cookbook – Casa Moro – by Sam and Sam Clark (an exceptional book, by the by)  and there, amongst the pages that I thought I knew so very well, was a recipe. How did I miss this?

You might think you know an egg, even though an egg is, quite frankly, a difficult thing to know. They are so multi-dexterous, taking so many forms. Boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, whipped into soft peaks/hard peaks, suspending oil in water, binding together the tender crumbs of a cake or the shreds of vegetable in a fritter, souffled into cloud like lightness.  They are the food of many faces, many disguises. And yet, here was a face I had not known.

To be honest, I’d grown a little bored of eggs of late. My husband could eat an egg every day for breakfast without flinching. I am more fickle in my affections. Some days, their congealed form staring up at me at 6 in the morning while I struggle to gain functioning consciousness just does not do it for me. Other days they are a thing that ignites ravenous hunger in a way no other food exactly can. Somedays there is simply nothing like an egg.

When I awoke on Saturday morning, it was an egg day. It was cold and rainy, and the thought of softly poached eggs immersed within an exotically spiced tomato sauce laced with onions, garlic and chilies and left to bake together in a hot oven was a thing of warmth and comfort.  A familiar thing in an unexpected place. An egg known more completely than before.

Moroccan Baked Eggs

Adapted from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark.  As suitable for breakfast as for dinner, and especially good served with an anise scented flatbread to use as your edible fork.

 Serves 2.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 – 6 garlic cloves, sliced into rounds
  • 1 red or green chili, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • a pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 1 small bunch kale, collards or chard, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
  • 4 organic, free range eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof skillet on medium heat.  Add the cumin seeds and let them fry gently for a minute or two. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let sweat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and golden.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, chili, paprika, cayenne and saffron and continue to cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until you have a thick, fragrant sauce that is not too liquidy. Add the greens and cook for a few minutes more until wilted. Taste the mixture at this point and add more seasonings if necessary until you have it just how you want it.

Make four little divots in the tomato sauce and carefully break an egg into each hollow. Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper and a little more smoked paprika for color – and carefully place into the hot oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is still a little runny.

P.S. Still working on the blog. The hubby is doing all the work for me in his spare time, and I’ve lots of updating to do with categories and such, so it will be a work in progress for a little while longer. Thanks for your patience.