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With the snowfall, I wasn’t eager to complete the last remaining chores in the garden; a few shrubs to wrap and clay pots to empty and store. However, remaining indoors I baked up an apple crumble, gluten-free of course. It has been far too long since I have made anything sweet to share and a better activity than spending a long afternoon in the cold weather.
What I love about crumbles is their simplicity and how you can use whatever fruit is in season, or a combination of them. For this crumble I added coconut to the topping and threw some almonds in, which gave it a nice crisp texture. Also, one of my favorite herb combinations, thyme and lavender; I added these to the fruit just to flavor the crumble from the usual spices.
If you are not used to putting lavender in your recipes, it is a great flavor, but remember that a little lavender goes a long way.
Sweet crumbles we all know and love, but are there any savory crumbles out there? I have seen savory cobblers that look intriguing and delicious. As a side dish for dinner they would be a nice bit of change to the table.
Apple Coconut Crumble w/ Lavender & Thyme Recipe
1 cup g/f baking mix
1/3 cup sliced almonds, chopped
¼ cup granular sugar
¼ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
¼ teaspoon sea salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
4 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored & chopped
-tossed with 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 Tablespoons granular sugar
1 teaspoon arrow root powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon lavender buds
¼ teaspoon thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
preparing the crumb:
1. Combine the gluten-free mix, almonds, sugar, coconut and sea salt together.
2. Incorporate with chilled butter into the flour mix by grating the butter.
*To keep the butter from sticking, coat the butter with the flour mixture and grate a few times. Repeat until all of the butter is grated.
3. Rub the grated butter into the mixture until a coarse meal forms. Chill until ready to bake.
preparing the fruit filling:
1. Melt butter in a sauté pan and add apples, toss to coat.
2. While the apples a gently warming up, mix together granular sugar and arrowroot powder.
3. Drizzle honey and herbs over apples; fold in.
4. Add arrowroot mixture and incorporate.
baking the crumble:
1. Place apples in an 8×8 baking dish and top with crumble mixture.
2. Bake for approximately 25-45 minutes until filling is bubbling and top has browned.
*For individual dessert serving, use various oven safe baking dishes such as ramekins or single serving bowls. A nice dollop of crème fraîche is perfect for this dessert.
*Gluten-Free Baking Mix Recipe
2 ¼ cups white rice flour
1 ¼ cups brown rice flour [Use superfine brown rice for a finer texture]
1 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1. Whisk together all of the ingredients well and store in sealed container.
Makes 4 ½ cups baking mix.
Of all things glam, French macarons are the divas of the pastry world. Stunning as they are delicious, homemade versions are not at all difficult to master, but practice and a bit of technique will help you create picture perfect specimens ready for a close-up.
Lavender French Macaron Recipe
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons almond meal, sifted
3 large eggs, room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
6 Tablespoons granular sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/16 teaspoon purple food color paste
First off I like to have a template ready as a guide for uniform cookies. Take a piece of cardboard and trace out twenty-four circles about 1 ¾ inches in diameter. This is a good amount for a standard half sheet pan. The cardboard template should fit right inside the pan. The macarons will be piped onto parchment paper which allows the template to show through. [Preheat oven to 375ºF]
Sift the confectioner’s sugar and almond meal together. This helps remove lumps and large pieces of almonds in the meal. I prefer to sift these ingredients separately and then measure out what is needed in the recipe. Set this aside while you prepare the egg whites.
Separate the eggs, setting asides the yolks for another recipe. A good rule of thumb is to leave the eggs at room temperature overnight to cure the egg whites. The meringue behaves better this way.
Beat the egg whites until frothy, add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
Add sugar gradually and continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Just before you reach this point, add the vanilla extract and colorant. You will have a little ‘whipping’ room to adjust the color before the egg white are stiff.
Fold in confectioner’s sugar and almond meal mixture into egg whites in two parts. Once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated continue to fold until the batter flows like magma when you lift the spatula. I feel that this is important, due to the fact that you want the macaron cookies to smooth out once they are piped onto the parchment.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a quarter inch round tip with batter. To pipe a nicely shaped disk, start with the pastry bag vertical to the parchment, tip side down. The tip of the bag should be a half inch from the paper. Squeeze the batter onto the center of the circle drawing and the batter will flow towards the edge. Just as the batter reaches this point stop squeezing the bag and drag the tip in a circular motion towards the edge of the disk. This will help eliminate the peak of batter in the middle of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining circles. A word of caution, since we folded the batter to flow like magma, the batter will start flowing out of the pastry bag as soon as you turn the bag tip side down. So work quickly and with precision. It will take a few tries to be confident in this step.
To help the batter smooth out, just tap the bottom of the template. Now slide to parchment onto the sheet pan. Allow the meringue to rest for fifteen to twenty minutes. This will allow a skin to form on the macaron which will give you that signature French macaron skirt we are going for.
Reduce the temperature of the oven to 325ºF and bake the macarons for 10 minutes. Allow the macarons to cool for a few minutes on the pan before transferring them to a cooling rack. Raise the heat of the oven back to 375ºF. Once the oven is back up to temp, repeat with the reaming cookies. Remember to drop the oven temperature to 325ºF each time you bake more macarons.
Lavender Buttercream Recipe
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
6 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon lavender flowers, ground
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat together butter and shortening until smooth. Beat in confectioner’s sugar.
Add the remaining ingredients and place in a pastry bag with a small round tip.
Pipe a teaspoon of the buttercream on half of the macarons and gently press together with the other halves. This recipe will make two dozen macarons. Hopefully this long recipe won’t stop you from experimenting with meringue. After a few tries the process is rather enjoyable.
One of my goals for this stunning confection is to create 27 flavors, so keep your eyes peeled. Do you have a favorite French macaron flavor? Let me know.