Friday, November 11, 2011

Apple Crisp with Brown Butter and Vanilla

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

Martin Luther King

Here in Washington State it seems like apple trees are everywhere. I even saw one on the bike trail, the only apples still on it were the ones out of reach. I met someone in our town with a 100 year old apple tree. Every fall this prolific tree would just dump apples in her yard. So many she could hardly deal with the bounty. We have apple trees but they are still quite young, only a few apples this year. The abundance of apples I was blessed with this year came from a friend who has one of those bountiful trees.

I've been making applesauce, apple jam, apple jelly and apple desserts of all kinds. Not such a terrible problem to have too many apples.

I love crisps of all kinds and I make them often. Here I wanted to take the humble apple crisp and kick it up a notch. What could be better than vanilla bean and browned butter I ask you?

My chickens enjoying the apple peels

After using the vanilla bean I add it to my vanilla sugar jar

I buy vanilla beans in large quantities on EBay from the seller, Vanilla Products USA.  It's a whole lot cheaper than purchasing them from a grocery store and I feel I am getting a better quality product. Wherever you buy them they need to be fresh, soft and flexible. If they are hard and dry, they are probably old. When I receive them they are vacuum packed. After using one, I again vacuum seal the package to keep the air out. Keeping them well sealed is the secret to keeping them fresh. I buy a large amount and they probably last me about a year. By the time I'm down to my last one, it is still unbelievably fresh.

At the end of baking my crisp was getting a little brown, so I just used another cookie sheet to cover it

When making almost all baked goods, I make a very small second one for tasting, like I did here. Even when I make a cake, I make a second tester, and taste it to make sure I approve before serving it to guests. It's a tough job but someones got to do it.

Apple Crisp With Brown Butter and Vanilla


For Topping:

1 cup (100 g.) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (35 g.) walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup (75 g.) packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick butter, 1/2 cup (113 g.) browned and cooled
1/2 tsp. salt

For Filling:

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup (75 g.) packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour
3 lbs. Apples (6 med. size), peeled and chopped
pinch of salt


Grease a 2 or 3 quart casserole dish, or make individual crisps and use 6 small gratin dishes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 6.

Make topping:

Add all topping ingredients together in a bowl and mix until crumbly.

For Filling

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a small heavy saucepan, then add pod and butter and cook over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until butter is browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
While butter browns, stir together brown sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add chopped apples and toss together. Remove vanilla pod from butter, then toss butter with apple mixture. Spoon filling into casserole dish, or gratin dishes and sprinkle with topping. 

Bake crisp for about 35-45 minutes, until top is browned and apples are cooked.

Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to eat. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree."

-Emily Bronte

Fall is here, a wonderful time of year. A season of some of my favorite flavors. Pumpkin being one of them. The air turns chilly and my mind craves this flavor, it feels like. Or it may be because I grow sugar pumpkins and I see them in the garden so they are on my mind. Either way is o.k. with me.

These muffins are a great use of the vegetable. Full of spice, pumpkin and brown sugar, they are delightfully moist and yummy.

Did you know? Most winter squash tastes about the same and can be used interchangeably. For example, I've used butternut squash for pumpkin pie and no one was the wiser. Acorn squash, same deal. So when I'm buying it I buy what looks the best or what's cheapest.

A deer I caught red handed eating a shrub outside the front door. This time of year the deer get brave and will come right up to the house to get a snack. As much as I don't like them eating our garden, this one looks like he needed it.

For more pumpkin recipes like pumpkin leather, my favorite pumpkin seed recipe, and how to turn your fresh pumpkin into puree, see this post-

Fall Foods: Pumpkins and Apples

Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping


2 cups (200 g.) flour
1 cup (150 g.) brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup (61 g.) sour cream or yogurt
3/.4 cup (210 g.) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/.4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg


1/.2 (50 g.) cup flour
1/2 cup (75 g.) brown sugar
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) soft butter
1 Tsp. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 6. Cream together the brown sugar and butter. In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients, (the flour, baking powder, salt and spices.)

Add the egg to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well again. Add the pumpkin and sour cream and beat again. Scrape down the bowl then mix again. Now add the dry ingredients and mix by hand until just incorporated. Don't over mix.

Make the topping.

Mix all of the streusel ingredients together until it's well mixed and crumbly.

Grease a 12 count muffin pan and scoop muffin batter into pan, filling 3/4 of the way full. Distribute topping amongst all of the muffins.

Bake for about 18-24 minutes, until done in the center and they pass a toothpick test. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan and serve warm.