Burnt offerings

According to my husband, the calzone he took to work yesterday was delicious (because it was thicker than the pizza, the extra time in the oven did not turn the dough into a cracker). However, the extra time in the oven was not so kind to the fake imitation Silpat thingee which I'm planning to replace with the real thing. This got me to thinking about gadgets and what was critical and what was dumb.

The last gadget I bought
A corer. I adore apples. No, really. I grew up on the east coast where apples are plentiful and gorgeous. Yeah, they show up here, but usually with a little sticker that says something like Product of Canada. But when I see ‘em, I buy ‘em and make applesauce by the pound. And nothing is more annoying than having to get the core out with one of those paring knives - either you have to do it slowly so as not to cut away too much apple, or, if you have zero patience like me, you do it quickly and waste about a million dollars worth of apples.

So, the verdict on the corer? I adore it. It is too fun to use. Inspired by my husband who used to throw back his head and laugh manically as he juiced carrots (an amusing performance he only indulged in about twice because, while juicing was just too much fun, cleaning the seven thousand juicer parts that got incredibly filthy creating all of maybe an ounce of juice was too much of a bore), I giggle with evil intent as I plunge that corer into apple after apple with unholy abandon.

As for the applesauce, the recipe is so easy that if you actually buy applesauce, you will kick yourself in the head (a feat a lifetime of yoga will never allow me to achieve, assuming I wanted to) when you learn how easy it is.
Peel and core as many apples as you like. I usually do about 10. And I tend to use Macintosh apples because they are sweet. But use any apples or combination of apples you like.

Laugh manically during the coring portion of your program.

Cut the peeled, cored apples into quarters if you are feeling virtuous, half if not. Squirt with some lemon - half a lemon should do - to keep your apples from turning brown. Dump the apples into a pot. Put a splash - maybe an ounce - of juice (apple, orange, whatever you have on hand) into the pot. Turn the heat to medium.

Spice the apples any way you like. I always add a good dash of cinnamon, say, a generous teaspoon or so. If there are cloves around, I put in a sprinkle (cloves can be strong, however, so you might want to limit this to about a 1/4 teaspoon). I may also put in nutmeg; Also, a small amount (1/4 teaspoon). Taste and adjust accordingly.

It doesn’t need sugar - the apples are sweet enough and who wants extra calories? And I have yet to add brandy to the mix, but I mean to try someday. Perhaps half an ounce. I don’t add raisins because I am not a big raisin person, but if you are, g’wan and add some (raisins soaked in brandy sounds pretty good to me, but you might want to keep this an adult-only applesauce). I’d guess a shot glass full would be more than enough.

As the apples cook, they will break down and turn into, miracle of miracles, applesauce. Give it a stir every few minutes and keep an eye on the pot. Getting a bit dry in there (as in, apples sticking); add another splash of juice. Looking a bit too wet in there (as in, apples sloshing around)? Increase the heat a bit.

Eventually - maybe 10 minutes or so - the apples will turn to mush. This mush we call applesauce because, hey, who in their right mind would eat anything called mush?

Once it cools down, I pop whatever I don’t eat right away into a jar which goes into the fridge. In my house, this lasts a few days with no problem. It may be able to last longer, but we usually eat it right up.
The handiest gadget I own
A bench scraper. This is a gadget you use to manipulate dough. But how cool is this:
  • Mine has a ruler on one side so when the recipe says 6 inches, why, I just reach for my handy bench scraper and I know instantly what is 6 inches (I’m out of luck for, say, 9 inches, so I recommend just avoiding those clearly inferior recipes).
  • It can be used to scrape the counter clean (Ever try to clean a floury counter with a sponge? Say hello concrete and buh bye sponge.) in a "I'm in a Roman bath and is this a Roman He man I am really scraping here" way (I do use a sponge afterward to collect any stray bits).
  • It can be used to flip delicate pastry dough without introducing the heat of your hand (which melts the butter which makes the dough less flaky which is half the reason you want the dough in the first place).
  • It can be used to divide the dough (one for Johnny, one for Mary, two for me).
  • And it can be used to transport the dough from counter to proofing basket.
The gadget I bought, sold at a garage sale, regretted, bought again, but now I’m thinking of getting rid of again
A zester. When I first owned a zester, I didn’t bake and didn’t know what to do with all that zest. When I got it the second time, I was deep into baking and baking lemon-based items, so knew exactly what to do with the zest.

Here’s the scoop: I adore lemons as much as I adore apples, and am far more likely to make a lemon loaf than a chocolate cake (sorry honey). But, although the zester is fun to use, I have to chop, chop, chop the zested bits unless I want strings of lemon in my food. Which I don’t.

In other words, what I really want is grated, not zested, peel.

So, now, I have two choices. First, I can get rid of my neat little zester and buy the microplane I should have purchased in the first place. Or, second, I can take up martini’s. I’m 50/50 at the moment.

Perhaps I should drink on it.