Pear Ginger Thyme Crumble

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During late fall and winter, pears are in season. The delicate sweetness and buttery flesh of a ripe pear makes this fruit one of the fruits I look forward to most throughout the year. Since it is a struggle for me to catch pears at their peak ripeness—they are either unripe and too hard or overripe and too soft—I choose to eliminate the unpredictability by poaching the pears on the stove or roasting them in the oven. When cooked through, pears still retain all the qualities I adore in their fresh counterparts. 

While summer calls for cool and refreshing pear sorbets, winter calls for a warmer approach. This crumble unites tender pear with the warm spices of cinnamon and ginger. An aromatic hint of fresh thyme blended into the oatmeal crumble lends an unexpected, but welcome brightness. To complete the dish, a couple spoonfuls of brandy are stirred into the pear filling. The combined juices stew down at the bottom of the pan while the topping browns.

The complex flavor profile of the crumble takes familiar flavors and combines them in such a way that they feel like a new (and delicious) experience. 

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This Pear Ginger Thyme Crumble is a fruit-based dessert that takes advantage of winter fruit and spices. Pears, stewed down in their juices with vanilla and brandy, are topped with a crisp crumble topping. The oatmeal topping is sweetened with brown sugar and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and fresh thyme. Serve the crumble hot or cold with a scoop of ice cream or spoonful of whipped cream.

Two Years Ago: Bruleed Lemon Tart & Chocolate Almond Cake (GF)
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Raspberry Tarts
FourYears Ago: Honey Oat Bread, Banana Cacao Buckwheat Muffins, & Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Five Years Ago:  Bruleed Grapefruit, Bacon & Chive Beer Bread, Pomegranate Panna Cotta, & Toasted Almond Cookies
Six Years Ago: Cheddar Dill Biscuits, S'mores Brownies, Beer Bread, Roasted Pepper Feta Scones, & Chocolate Rum Cake (GF)
Seven Years Ago: Yellow Cake, Vanilla Rum French Toast, Banana Bread Oatmeal, & Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream

Pear Ginger Thyme Crumble

Yields 6-8 servings

Pear Filling 
5-6 large (about 3 pounds/1.4 kilograms) Bosc or Bartlett pears, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon brandy, optional

Ginger Thyme Crumble
1/4 cup (57 grams) coconut oil, liquid state
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (60 grams) old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

For the pear filling, coat the peeled and diced pears with the lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the granulated sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, and brandy, stirring until uniform. Spread evenly into a cast iron pan or a greased 9-inch pie pan. 

For the crumble, stir together the coconut oil and brown sugar, mixing until it forms a uniform paste. Stir in the flour, oats, spices, and salt until uniform. Break the crumble topping into small pieces and sprinkle crumble topping over the top of the pears.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the pears are bubbling and the crumble topping is browned. If the topping browns before the pears have finished cooking, cover the pan with aluminum foil to prevent further browning and continue cooking.

Serve warm or cold, with a side of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Apple Pandowdy

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Out of all the seasons, the autumn kitchen is my personal favorite. With the warm weather a faded memory, the heat of the oven lends a new warmth. Time slows down as the sun falls lower in the sky and the shadows grow long. Weekend mornings are easily lost among the comforting spices and rich smells. The autumn kitchen carries an ease of relaxation. With the cold air settling in around us like a heavy blanket, there is nowhere to be but in our homes, as we watch the last of the leaves change and fall from the trees. 

With several pounds of apples packed away in the garage, the time was right to pull them out and put them to use. Apple desserts are one of my favorites—the sweet, bright flavor reminiscent of my Grandmother's applesauce recipe. Over the years, apples have taken many forms in my baking, including pies, muffins, and crisps. Instead of coming up with a new use this year, I took a page out of an old book and looked towards the past.

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This recipe for Apple Pandowdy dates back to the 19th century, featuring apples, both sweetened and spiced, hidden beneath a flaky pastry crust. The name pandowdy comes from the idea that the pastry is "dowdied up" over the dessert, or, in modern terms, the pastry is cut into pieces instead of being left whole which makes the appearance look "shabby" or "disheveled." 

The pandowdy is a simple, no-fuss dessert. Due to its homespun nature, it is conventionally meant to be shared by loved ones rather than to impress guests. I chose to spend time in my autumn kitchen free-handing leaves with a knife, but the true spirit of the pandowdy leans heavily toward the simple. Cutting the pastry dough into squares and throwing it over top is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged!) here. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—the flavor will be the same no matter how you choose to pattern the pastry.

To me, the Apple Pandowdy combines the best aspects of both crisps and pies, with a heap of bright fruit and a thin layer of flaky pastry to make it feel special. 

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The Apple Pandowdy is an old fashioned autumn dessert that is generous on flavor and texture. Thinly sliced apples are combined with warm spices and brown sugar for sweetness. Pie dough is "dowdied up" over the apples and sprinkled with raw sugar before baking to add additional texture. When golden and bubbly, the pandowdy is ready to come out of the oven. Serve warm with a drizzle of caramel or vanilla ice cream, or serve cold with fork straight from the refrigerator (which is especially delightful during breakfast).

One Year Ago: Maple Glazed Pumpkin Scones
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Espresso Bundt Cake 
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Molasses Bread, Vegan Caramel, & Rustic Apple Tart
Four Years Ago:  Classic Apple Pie, Butternut Squash Biscuits, & Apple Crisp
Five Years Ago: Apple Cinnamon Scones, Pear Crisp, Pumpkin Rolls, Butternut Squash Cake, & Baked Apples
Six Years Ago: Oatmeal Raisin Crisps, Red Wine Chocolate Cake, Pear Spice Cake, Pumpkin Latte Cheesecake, & Apple Cake
Seven Years Ago: Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes, Butternut Squash Custard, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, & Apple Almond Tart

Apple Pandowdy

Yields 8-10 servings

3 lbs (1.4 kg) apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon boiled cider (optional)
Single Pie Crust Recipe, chilled
Egg wash (1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water, whisked)
1 tablespoons raw or demerara sugar

In a medium bowl, coat the apple slices with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add the brown sugar, flour, spices, salt and boiled cider and toss over the apples until they are evenly coated. Place into 9-inch pie pan.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the single pie dough round until 1/8-inch thick. To create a patterned top, use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, use a knife to cut dough into squares, or freehand a unique design out of the dough.  Place the dough pieces over evenly over the top of the apples.

Brush the exposed dough with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with raw sugar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the apples are bubbling. If the edges begin to darken too quickly, cover the pastry with aluminum foil to prevent additional browning.

Cool the pie for at least 3 hours before slicing to allow the juices to set. Drizzle each slice with 1-2 tablespoons of warm caramel sauce before serving or serve with a side of vanilla ice cream.

*To create a vegan version of the pie, use a dairy-free margarine for the butter in the crust (I prefer Earth Balance Vegan Butter), and drizzle each slice with vegan caramel sauce.

Boiled Cider

The leaves crunching beneath my shoes are shades of orange, yellow, and red. The temperature outside is steadily dropping. A bright pumpkin is sitting outside my window, waiting to be carved. It is beginning to feel like autumn should. 

At the start of a season full of cinnamon and nutmeg, I needed a new staple to liven up my baking repertoire. Since I adore apples (I eat one every day with lunch),  it felt natural to play around with the ingredient a bit further. I first heard of boiled cider last spring, when it was used to add an extra touch to an apple pie. Since then, I have been hooked on the idea, anxiously awaiting fall to try it out in my baking. Boiled cider is just as it soundspure apple cider that has been boiled down into a rich, thick syrup.

Boiled Cider has an seemingly endless possibility of uses, which is why am I so excited to have it on hand this fall. The syrup can be added to apple dishes to brighten and intensify the apple flavor, including applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, or apple tarts. Boiled Cider can also be heated and drizzled over pancakes, as an alternative to maple syrup. For savory dishes, a spoonful or two can be used to season pork roasts or enhance meat sauces. The list goes on. 

Boiled Cider has a single ingredient, which makes it virtually impossible to mess up. I would suggest springing for a jug of pure apple cider found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It will boil down into a richer, more flavorful syrup than a juice that has been pasteurized. I did not specify a specific amount of juice in the recipe because it is not necessary. You can boil as much or as little cider as you please. Just keep an eye on the pot and, whenever you need another lungful of the delicious scent, give it a little stir. 

Boiled Cider is a versatile ingredient and autumn kitchen staple. A spoonful can be added to sweet and savory dishes to lend a bold, welcoming apple flavor. As a bonus, while the cider boils down, it makes the whole house fragrant with the scents of the season.

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Two Years Ago: Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, Cucumber Zucchini Cream Cheese Slices, Banana Rum Bread, and Vanilla Bean Cardamom Peach Pie
Three Years Ago: Grilled Apricots with Honey Greek Yogurt, Malted Chocolate Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Coconut Pancakes, and Rocky Road Cookies
Four Years Ago: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes, Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and Maple Roasted Bananas with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Boiled Cider

Pure apple cider (no sugar added)

In a large pot, pour in the apple cider. Take a wooden chopstick or skewer, place it into the liquid, and mark the height of the apple juice onto the wood. Remove the chopstick and mark the wood into thirds. This will help you keep track of the progress of the cider.

Bring the apple juice to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until it is 1/3 of the original volume. Stir and check frequently with the chopstick to judge how far the juice volume has decreased. Depending on the amount of cider, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to boil down into a thick syrup. 

If fresh apple cider was used, run the syrup through a fine mesh strainer to remove any solids. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.