Apple Crisp for Breakfast

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We have one apple tree. The first year we lived in this house it was loaded with apples. Come October we had plenty for pies and jam and whatnot. Last year we had exactly zero apples. Spring frost got all the blossoms. This year we returned to the bounty of that first year.

These are Red Delicious apples. Those are your standard, stereotypical apples. You know the ones. They look like, well, like a storybook apple–red and shiny and tapered a bit at the base. They are terrible. Well, most of them are terrible. I would never buy Red Delicious apples from a supermarket; they are bland and mushy and dry. But these Red Delicious are, indeed, delicious.

These are sweet and juicy and crisp. I took advantage of their current ripeness to make an apple crisp today. I woke early, the only one awake, so I got cracking. I peeled and sliced and stirred and assembled a fine apple crisp. After 45 minutes and a house full of apple odor I pulled a perfect breakfast from the oven.

I know apple crisp is not your typical American breakfast, but if we can eat donuts and danishes they we can eat a fresh apple crisp. And it was, as expected, enjoyable to consume. I only had one bowl, at first, but I did have seconds later in the morning. Hard to resist, that.

I put the rest in the fridge, even though it is tempting to eat the whole dang thing. A guy needs to eat something for breakfast tomorrow, you hear what I’m saying?

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Another Try at a Pie

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Well it looked good. And it tasted¬†good. But it was still too runny. The last time I made a pie it was delish, but just not holding together. The apples were soft. The crust was flaky. But inside, liquid oozed around the apples. Today I tried again with a new recipe (thanks, Mom) but it still didn’t stay together well.

Last time I used cornstarch as a thickener. That makes for a smoother pie, so I’ve heard. This recipe calls for flour as a thickener. It worked just as well as far as I can tell, but did it work well enough? I am just not sure.

My theory at this point is that my lack of patience is the problem. When I took this pie out of the oven I placed it on a cooling rack. I let it sit for about a half hour. I thought that was long enough. But my family was eager to dig in, as was I. So I sliced it open to find it was not all that cohesive. It seemed cool enough–warm but not hot. But I splashed some of the filling onto my hand. That burned.

I may need to approach pie baking differently, give it more time. I had planned to make this one a couple of hours before dinner. But then I took my daughter to the movies with friends. And I made some chili. The pie had plenty of time to bake and some time to cool. Apparently, my cooling time was not adequate.

We only ate half the pie tonight. The rest, at this point, is in the refrigerator. In the morning I will have to see how it is doing. I am sure my children will insist on pie for breakfast. Call it bad parenting if you want but I am going to let them have it. I mean, it’s for science. If it is cohesive enough at breakfast, I will have proved my theory.¬† Thanks, Kids!

Update 10/16: I had some of that pie tonight, about 24 hours after I first pulled it from the oven. It was, granted, pretty cooled in the fridge, but it was also pretty held together. Even after a minute in the microwave it seemed to have no runniness. Inconclusive. But it was still dang tasty!

Home for Dinner

Most of the time my wife mows the lawn. And most of the time I cook dinner. It doesn’t always work that way, of course, but we have settled into some roles after many years of marriage. These two tasks happen to run upstream of the typical gender roles. That is something I can get behind.

I like to make dinner. I like to have a tasty, hot meal ready for all of us to sit down together to enjoy. I like the process of creating something that is worth eating, that makes my family say “This is good!” Yes, occasionally we have a frozen pizza or two and sometimes we revert to pasta with jarred sauce. But mostly I try to be home in time to make dinner so we have time to eat together and to talk about our day and the days to come.

Some days I think about dinner as I get ready for the day, or as I eat breakfast. What to make tonight? What ingredients do we have that we need to use soon? What have we not had in a while? How much time will I have when I get home? When will I get home? My schedule is so varied that I might get home at 3:00 one day and not until 5:30 the next day. I work some evenings. There is no routine so I need to think ahead.

What I like to do is to plan a menu for the week and then to purchase the ingredients by Sunday. That way I can come home and just cook up one of the meals that is already planned. But. honestly, that almost never happens. I just don’t get it together to plan and purchase ahead of time. When I do get it together it makes things way easier. Often, however, I stop on the way home for ingredients, or I just go with what we have.

Typically we have staples on hand to get started. This includes:

  • Base grains like pasta, rice, couscous, quinoa
  • Cheese–we always have sharp cheddar and typically Parmesan and one other variety
  • Milk and butter and cream
  • Frozen vegetables like peas or broccoli
  • Fresh produce–whatever is in season or ripe from the garden or that just looked good at the market

I almost never cook meat in our house. When my wife and I met we did not eat meat at all. We raised our children on a vegetarian diet but my daughter has come to enjoy meat now and again, so once in a while I will cook a chicken dinner, usually when my wife is not home. If it is local and raised well I will eat it as well. That is just a rare event.

For dinner tonight? I’m not sure yet. The sun has just risen on a Saturday. I have time to make a plan. Maybe this is a week I will get ingredients for a week of meals ahead of time. I should make something new, something to mix things up a little, a new recipe. Although, we haven’t had that spinach lasagna in a while; it takes a couple hours to assemble but dang is it worth it. I might just have to do both.

Brew Day

IMG_3146I was thinking maybe I would brew yesterday, but that just didn’t work out. Too many things to do. Today, the rest of the family took a trip to the climbing gym, which would not have been unfun, for sure, but I stayed home to brew. I had the ingredients. I had the equipment. It was a nice day. It seemed the right time.

I have been brewing beer since 1992. A friend and I had discovered that there were a few better beers out there, but not all that many. The craft beer revolution had just begun. He was pretty gung ho about brewing our own beer, and I was game, so off we went to the (now long gone) brew supply store in Orford, New Hampshire. This was just a guy selling stuff out of his garage but we got everything we needed. We were working at an outdoor education center at the time so we used the commercial pots and the huge gas range and had our mess cleaned up before the school kids came around for breakfast. That batch was pretty good. I made a few batches with that friend and with others before taking a hiatus from brewing for a while.

I pulled out my supplies several years ago to find that they were less than optimal after lack of use and several moves. As a Christmas gift, my parents got me a starter kit. I have added a few things over the years and have a fairly smooth system now. The process is pretty simple as I did it today: steep some grains in water, add malt extract and hops, boil it for an hour, cool, add yeast and let it sit for a while. Bottling is a later step that happens after fermentation is complete.

The set-up on the porch

The set-up on the porch. Note the yeast warming in the sun as it gets started.

Today’s batch was a brown ale. I have been craving something a little heartier than my last beer–an India pale ale. Plus, it is fall, so something darker fits the season. I added some maple syrup to the pot as well. One of my enhancements to my starter kit is a burner I can use on the porch. No one else in the house appreciates the sweet aroma of steaming malted barley and hops, so this allows me to keep that aroma mostly outside. I need to use the sink a bunch so I am back and forth, but today was a sunny day in the 50’s so it was not at all what you might call a misfortune to be out on the porch so much.

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Wort bubbling away with hops in a bag to make clean-up easy.

Once it (the wort, that is, rhymes with skirt, which is just the beer as it is cooking) was all boiled up I sat the pot in ice water until it cooled off enough to add the yeast. Then I transferred it to the carboy to sit for a couple of weeks. By tomorrow morning it should be bubbling, the yeast snacking away at all the sugars. With some beers I add another step in the middle, transferring the brew to a second carboy to ferment longer to add other ingredients, like more hops; I am hoping this one will be straight to the bottles, however. I want it to be as simple as possible, at least for this go-round.

I don’t brew as often as I like. I take the shortcut way by using malt extract, basically letting someone else do a bunch of the hard work. Still, it takes three hours at least to get it into the carboy and to clean up, often longer. Bottling will take another couple of hours. All in all that isn’t bad for a couple cases of really good beer. The ingredient cost is about $5.00 per six-pack.

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Brew waiting for the yeast to do its duty

This batch might be ready for Thanksgiving. The timing is not always up to me. The yeast will decide how quickly to work. I can only give them a good environment in which to perform. Once bottled it will need to sit for another two weeks to naturally carbonate. Because of the process of brewing I am repeatedly amazed at how we depend on these microorganisms to do their thing. No yeast means no beer, and no bread, and no donuts for Pete’s sake. A world without those things? Well, that is just too terrible to imagine.

Morning Bagels

When I mentioned to my wife late in the day yesterday that I was thinking about making bagels for the morning, but that we were out of bread flour, she volunteered to go out right that minute to get said flour. Once that happened I couldn’t very well not make bagels. So I made some bagels.

As I have said before here, making bagels is a piece of cake. OK I didn’t say it was a piece of cake but I did say it was easy. It is actually easier than making cake. Last night I churned up some yeasted dough in the mixer, cut it into pieces, and made some rings out of it to rise overnight.

Here is what it looked like pulled from the fridge in the morning:

IMG_3138After it warmed up a bit, and a big pot of water came to a boil, I dropped them into the bath for half a minute or so. Then I let them dry a bit on a rack:

IMG_3139I lined a baking pan with parchment paper and laid them out:

IMG_3140About 15 minutes of baking later, BAM! Bagels ready to eat.

IMG_3141A little cream cheese or, as my wife likes them, hot and naked, and breakfast is on. So easy. A piece of cake you might say. Total time, including clean up: hour and a half. Get someone else to clean up and it is a lot faster. I am thinking we need to make this a regular thing this winter. Fresh bagels when the snow howls? That’s what I’m talking about.