Apricot, Pecan & Apple Bread from Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2013

Have you ever heard or read a word for the first time, then over the course of the next week or so, find yourself hearing it wherever you go?

Hubby and I are both insatiable readers. We each have two bookcases in our offices, all four lined with books. The overflow is spread between the built-in shelves in the rec room downstairs and those that we’re ‘considering’ giving away are piled in boxes in the storage area.

In addition to all that, the ladies and gentleman behind the counter at our local library branch know us by name. The whispered greetings may not be as joyous and all-encompassing as the cry of ‘Norm!’ on Cheers, but they’re heartfelt and that’s what matters.

All that to say, our love for reading means that we’re constantly adding new words to our vocabularies. As a result, we experience that ‘hear it once, hear it all over’ phenomenon quite a bit. So much so, in fact, that we make a point of telling each other about it when it happens.

Baader-Meinhof. That’s the phenomenon’s name. Bet you didn’t know it was an official ‘thing,’ did you. Don’t worry about trying to remember the name. I’m sure you’ll hear it again (and again).

The reason I bring it up is because not more than a week ago (whenever I made the Chocolate Banana Bread) Hubby was lamenting (whining about) the fact that he’s never seen apple bread. He asked me if such a beast existed. I explained to him that the Apple Oatmeal Muffins I had made a while back were just like a bread, only in single serving form, but I don’t think he was convinced. He was looking for a full sized loaf kind of bread.

Since the day he lamented (whined), we’ve seen apple bread recipes all over the place. Recipes are in multiple magazines, web sites and cookbooks. It’s as though there’s a microphone perched somewhere that we can’t see it. Yeah, it’s a creepy thought, but since Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is a little unsettling too, it fits.

Fine Cooking is one of the publications that did it to us. Their ‘Create Your Own Recipe’ section features quick breads, and one of the examples they show is a Spiced Apple-Pecan Bread.

Apples in bread. What a great idea. I wish I’d thought of that.

The Process

As with all recipes in this glorious, fun segment of Fine Cooking, while the base of the recipe and instructions are laid out, many ingredient choices are left to the home cook.

I was told to whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and to add in whatever spices I wanted to use. I went with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.

Then I was instructed to pour in my add-ins, which for me included chopped dried apricots and pecans and diced apples.

Next came the wet stuff. I stirred together milk, eggs and vanilla, then chose to add applesauce.

The batter was poured into the prepared pan and I had the freedom to top the bread with whatever nut I wanted. I chose coarsely chopped pecans.

Bake. Cool. Eat.

The Verdict

Dudette wouldn’t try the bread because it had nuts in it but Hubby and I thought it was delicious. Of course, I would; I came up with the recipe. Right? Hubby was happy to get his apple bread, but I don’t think he realized that there was dried apricots in there too. The bread makes an awesome breakfast as well as a fantastic dessert.

I’m already thinking about what combination to use next.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Nothing.

Apricot, Pecan & Apple Bread from Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2013
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Reviewed by:
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: American
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup diced apples
  • ¾ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • ⅔ cup chopped toasted pecans
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 4 oz. (1/2) cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Instructions
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and then flour the bottom and sides of a 6-cup (8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch or 9 x 5-inch) loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg. Whisk until well blended.
  3. Stir in the apples, apricots, and toasted pecans.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Add the applesauce. Whisk until blended. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold until blended.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the chopped untoasted pecans evenly over the batter, and gently pat down so it adheres to the batter.
  6. Bake, rotating halfway through, until the top is golden and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.
  7. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Invert the bread and remove the pan, turn the bread right side up, and let cool completely.
  8. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if you like. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

 

I think this bread would be just as amazing with pureed pumpkin instead of the applesauce. That may be my next loaf. Who knows though; haven been giving the opportunity to put together so many combinations, anything could happen.

Classic Tarte Tatin from Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2010

Tarte Tatin, it’s not just for breakfast anymore. Ok, it’s not supposed to be for breakfast at all, but this morning, it’s what I had. Truth be told, it’s what I thought about from the moment I took it out of the oven yesterday. It sat on the counter while we had dinner and we had truly planned on eating it right after the meal was over but we stuffed ourselves.

I think I mentioned that the beef we had was outstanding. It was so good that between the three of us (one being a pint-sized 4 year-old), we polished off a pound and a half of steak. It was a Grilled Flat-Iron Steak. I could do it again tomorrow, given another steak and a bit more time for my stomach to digest.

So, unfortunately, by the time we were ready for dessert, Dudette was fast asleep and just Hubby and I shared a wedge of this tart. We’re awful parents, aren’t we? The fact that she doesn’t like cooked apples had a lot to do with it, trust me.

This is an interesting recipe to prepare. It was provided to Fine Cooking magazine for their Classic / Classic Update section, which I absolutely adore. This is the Classic Tarte Tatin as created by none other than Dorie Greenspan. In what I consider an amazing flip-flop, the crust has more ingredients than the “filling” but is easier to make. It’s true. I dragged my heels all morning yesterday when I knew I had to put the crust together, but when I finally got moving, it took about 5 minutes because it was all done in the food processor. Silly me.

On the other hand, while the apple part only has three ingredients, it’s a touch-and-go type of preparation because you’re basically making caramel without using a thermometer while also cooking apples to perfection without overcooking them and making them mush. There’s no walking away to check facebook or twitter while this stuff’s going on. If the phone rings and it’s right next to you, let it ring.

It’s not quite that bad. Basically, butter is heated in a nice heavy skillet (that isn’t cast iron), then sugar is sprinkled on top of that. Apple quarters are laid on top of the caramel-to-be in a nice pattern and it’s all heated over a medium to medium-low stove. One thing that Dorie emphasizes is to make sure that the temperature isn’t too high, in which case you’ll burn the caramel, or to low, in which case you’ll turn the apples into mush. Nothing like pressure.

The thing that Dorie didn’t mention is that even though you lay your apples in a nice circle at the beginning, the little boogers do the cha-cha all over the skillet while the butter and sugar are turning into caramel and bubbling away. I was constantly trying to move them back into place. Now that it’s all said and done, I can recommend that you don’t bother worrying about that while the caramel is being created. Once it comes off the heat you’ll have a chance to re-arrange things the way you want them before adding the crust to the top (which will eventually become the bottom).

Once the crust is laid on top, the whole thing goes into the oven to bake until the top is a nice golden color. It took mine about 30 minutes. It was removed and left to sit until the caramel had calmed down and everything had settled. The instructions say to then carefully invert the tarte tatin onto a rimmed plate and that “if some apples have stuck to the pan, use the knife to life them off.” IF??? Some apples WILL be stuck. It’s caramel. They’re supposed to. They won’t be glued on; but one will get stuck, especially if it’s gotten even a little overdone and browned to black.

The recipe calls for creme fraiche, but I’m sorry, cooked apples and ice cream were make for each other so that’s what I opted to have. Hubby’s comment was, “It’s good, but there’s just something about cooked apples.” He has ceased to exist to me any longer (just kidding; but I couldn’t believe he said that). He prefers them raw; I prefer them cooked (and I’m always right).

I thought this was very good. The apples with caramel was perfect. It only needed the three ingredients. I’m so glad that there was no inclusion of spices like cinnamon to spoil the perfect flavor of caramel and apple. The short-crust pastry did nothing for me. Even though I handled it very little and treated it as gently as pie crust dough, it wasn’t at all flaky and tender, but was kind of….robust. I don’t know how else to say it. It was almost cracker-like. The flavor was fine; it was just thick. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Anyhow, over all, this is a very good recipe and I enjoyed it a lot. Even Hubby, the neanderthal “something about cooked apples” guy said that it was good. The crust is just a bit odd.

Up before the end of the month is the second part to this Classic / Classic Update challenge, Chef Francois Payard’s Upside-Down Apple-Cheddar Tarts with Frisee and Toasted Walnuts. I can’t wait to try it and compare the two.

Classic Tarte Tatin 
from Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2010

For the dough
5-5/8 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water

For the tart 
5 to 7 firm Granny Smith apples
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Crème fraîche, for serving (optional)

Make the dough
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until coarsely mixed into the flour. Add the egg mixture in three additions, pulsing after each. Continue pulsing until you have a soft, shaggy dough that holds together when pinched.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Between two pieces of waxed paper or parchment, roll the dough into a circle that’s about 1/8 inch thick and 11 inches wide. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then cover and refrigerate.

Prepare the apples
Tip: A heavy-duty ovenproof skillet works best for this recipe; avoid using cast iron, which tends to get too hot and burn the apples.

Peel, core, and quarter 4 of the apples.

Put the butter in a 10-inch heavy-duty ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When melted, use a pastry brush to coat the sides of the skillet with butter. Cover the butter with the sugar and cook just until the sugar is evenly moistened, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Lay the apple wedges in the skillet with their rounded sides down or against the side of the skillet. Build concentric circles, packing the apples in a snug single layer—it’s fine if there are gaps. Peel, core, and quarter as many of the remaining apples as you need to fill in any gaps. If necessary, cut the pieces smaller to make it easier to wedge them in. The gap-filling pieces of apple will form a haphazard s
econd layer, but they’ll shrink as they cook, and you’ll be able to nudge the pieces into the newly widening gaps.

Put the pan over medium to medium-high heat and cook until beginning to bubble, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the apple juices are mostly boiled away and the caramel is a deep golden color, 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust the heat and reposition the skillet as needed for even cooking. The heat shouldn’t be too low (the apples will get mushy) or too high (you’ll burn the caramel). As the apples shrink, gently nudge the top layer of apples into the gaps.

While the apples cook, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

When the apples are done, transfer the skillet to the baking sheet and let it sit for a few minutes before proceeding so the caramel can settle down. Meanwhile, let the dough sit at room temperature until pliable.

Bake the tarte tatin
Place the dough on top of the fruit and tuck in the overhang. Bake until the pastry is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the tart rest on the baking sheet until the bubbling caramel quiets down, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently run a table knife around the edges of the pan to loosen any apples stuck to the sides.

Cover the skillet with a large serving platter—preferably one with a rim—and cover your hands with oven mitts. Carefully invert the tart onto the platter and remove the skillet. If some apples have stuck to the pan, use the table knife to lift them off and gently press them back onto the tart.

Let the tart cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting it into wedges. Serve with crème fraîche on the side (if using). While the tart is best warm, it can also be served at room temperature.