Soooo, where were we, anyway? Oh, right — I went into an end-of-the-summer-I-never-got-to-enjoy funk, and took to tending my vapors on the chaise in diaphanous dresses, as any proper Southern Woman should. OK, not really, but I love the ridiculous picture that paints. (“Gil, do be a dear and bring me a glass of water with just one ice cube — shaved — and a paper-thin slice of lemon. And no blood on the citrus this time, if you don’t mind tooooo terribly?”) As luck would have it, the work schedule that’s been eating me alive is going to get So Much Better soon that I started to come out of my funk last weekend and snapped a few pictures of the goings-on in my kitchen.
And what was going on, my friends, was making a little something called apple crisp. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Seven years ago I hit upon the nearly-perfect recipe for this dessert, made minor modifications, and that was that. It’s something Gil requests almost weekly during fall and winter months, so I’d say it’s one of the few clear winners ever to come from our kitchen.
Given the general righteousness of the recipe, it’s maybe a little surprising that I made more changes to it last week. “Why would you do such a thing?” you ask. I’ll let you in on a little secret here, because it’s just the two of us … I’m a little lazy. Quelle surprise! See, Gil and I were planning to take Rufus up to Warwick last weekend for Apple Fest (Greyhound Friends of NJ had a booth there) and I thought it’d be fun to enter an apple pie in the contest. I counted on nothing short of last place, but started dreaming of recipes anyway.
And then my thoughts quickly turned to meeting my arch-nemesis, Pie Dough, and procrastination set in.
Oh, look! A cute bedgraggled doggie!
See what I mean? All about the procrastination.
So I never did get around to baking that pie, is what I’m saying, though I did manage to make a big pot of dulce de leche for the filling. With no real uses for for the dulce de leche (apart from eating it by the spoonful), I brought half of it to work for the production department. I still had a ton left, so I rejiggered my old favorite apple crisp recipe. (I know you’re thinking you could get through ANY amount of dulce de leche without complaining, and maybe you’re right, but my Beavis impression wore thin after a few hours so clearly something had to be done.)
Because I tampered with the filling, the topping deserved equal attention, so I added 8 ground gingersnap cookies to the oat mixture. The ginger flavor was subtle and I’ll probably add more to the mixture if I make it again, but I was pleased with the outcome, even if it didn’t win any awards in a competition.
recipes after the jump
Technically, this is a confiture de lait because I used vanilla in it, but you could make a real dulce de leche just by leaving it out. The vanilla flavor was minimal because I used much less than the recipes called for, but it was delicious nonetheless. I’d love to try this with fresh organic milk sometime, so I’ll keep my eyes open and report back if I find it.
1/2 gallon whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 vanilla pod
In a large pot, stir together the first four ingredients. Cut vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape the seeds and add to pot. Turn heat to medium high and whisk ingredients together until mixture comes to a full boil. Lower heat immediately and simmer uncovered for about three hours, stirring occasionally. (I had to stir more often at the beginning of the cooking time because the milk foamed up a lot.)
Check the consistency at about 2 1/2 hours. It should still be fairly loose, about the consisency of liquid caramel, as it will thicken quite a bit as it cools. I cooked mine at a barely perceptible simmer to keep it from boiling over, so it took nearly five hours — much too long. I’ll raise the heat next time.
Apple Crisp with Dulce de Leche
8 gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
8 tablespoons dulce de leche (or to taste)
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
6 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Place gingersnap cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, gingersnap crumbs, oats, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Combine remaining sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and apples in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with 8 tablespoons of dulce de leche, evenly spaced. Sprinkle with oat mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.