Apple & Cajeta (Rich Mexican Caramel) Crisp
Last weekend my family finally got out to pick apples. It was the most spectacular day, perfectly blue sky (see picture below), cool, but not cold and all the varieties of apples were in full readiness. I came home with 20 pounds of apples; a variety of Haralson, Honey Crisp, Regent and Cortland. When I bake with apples I like to have a selection of sweet, tart, firm and some that turn to sauce. It makes for a tastier pie or crisp. I wanted to make a dessert that would allow the apple's delicate flavor to shine through, but was just a touch decadent. The classic caramel apple came to mind as the perfect flavor combination, but I wanted something warm and homey. I had just been to the farmer's market the day before and met a man with a goat, yes a goat in down town Minneapolis. We got to talking about the merits of goat's milk and it hit me that the perfect thing for my apples would be cajeta, the rich Mexican caramel made with goat's milk. It is caramel, but better. The taste is rich and complex in a way that doesn't make it cloyingly sweet. Hmmm, I'm not sure exactly how to describe that flavor? Like a great glass of wine, it is just more complex and interesting. The tart juiciness of the apples and the cajeta are made for each other. The recipe: 1/3 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups goat milk 1/2 cup whole milk ( I used 1% this time and it was still luscious!) 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon baking soda pinch salt 1 vanilla bean In a small bowl combine a 1/4 cup of milk, cornstarch and baking soda, stir until dissolved. Set aside. Place the 1/3 cup sugar in a heavy bottomed medium sized saucepan and heat on medium heat. As the sugar begins to melt spread it around the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon so that it will cook evenly. Stir occasionally to make sure it is melting. Watch the pot carefully once the sugar starts to caramelize, it happens very quickly. Turn down the heat and allow it to come to the darkness you prefer. I like mine pretty dark, with almost a bitter flavor. it will smoke at this point, but is not yet burned. Remove from heat and carefully add the milk, sugar, cornstarch mixture, salt and vanilla bean. When you pour the milk onto the hot caramel it will sputter, so be careful! Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat until you have a gentle simmer and cook for about 35-45 minutes. The cajeta will be a deep caramel brown and will have reduced from 2 cups of liquid to 3/4 of a cup. It will be the consistency of thick grade B maple syrup when it is hot, but turn to smooth honey consistency as it cools. Now for the apple crisp: Here is my husband sampling an apple to make sure it is crisp and juicy. We sampled a few to make sure they were what we wanted. They were fabulous! Apple crisp: 6 medium apples with or without the skins, thinly sliced. (I did a combination of some skins on and some off). Others varieties to use are Granny Smith, Macintosh and Braeburn. 1/4 cup of cajeta from above 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon pinch salt 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper Streusel topping by Emily Luchetti in Four-Star Desserts 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon To prepare the streusel: In a food processor, combine the butter, sugars, flour, and cinnamon. Using quick on-off pulses, process the mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. Refrigerate until cold. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a large baking dish or several small ramekins. Set aside. combine the apples, cajeta, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Fill a baking dish with the apples. I used one larger baking dish, but also baked some in individual ramekins. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the apple filling. Bake until the apples are soft when poked with a skewer and the streusel is golden brown. It took 30 minutes for the small ramekins and nearly an hour for the large baking dish. Serve warm. A scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of the cajeta is all this needs. Enjoy! My ice cream machine died and I have yet to replace it, but if I had one I would have made a batch of vanilla icecream and swirled the cajeta right into it. Someday I will. For those of you who have been following the progression of the fondant cake, it will be continued soon. I am just waiting on one special element to that post and then I will celebrate my blog-iversay with all of you. The build up must be killing you! ;) Join me on Twitter!