Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen

It’s that time of year again! That time when kids set off fireworks non-stop, that time when every girl is a princess and every boy is a ninja, that time when something cool and awesome better make its way to me wrapped up in a bow. That’s right! It’s my birthday! Oh yeah, and Purim, that too. I guess that’s what everyone else is celebrating. Me? I have my priorities.

The cast of characters.
The cast of characters.

It’s the time of year when we can get most creative with our religious food – hamantashen for the masses y’all! In previous years I have made lemon meringue hamantashen which were a big hit. I have also made your run of the mill jam-filled hamantashen – Rocker Dude will not have Purim without them. And last year I tried a brownie-speculoos version – needed work so when I have it down I will post it here. But this year we are doing something a little different. We are combining two of my favorite foods – apple pie and hamantashen.

The process.
The process.

At first it may seem like an obvious pairing, delicious fillings in dough always are, and yet, it’s not too common. And just to dress it up, caramel shards on top.

Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen
Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen

I am always looking for something different to do with my hamantashen and while I know that tradition has its place, so does deliciousness. So let the baking begin! (Pesach is in a little over a month and here I am bulk buying flour for Purim – #ridiculoustiming – but there you have it. We have to have cinnamon rolls for mishloach manot!)

Nom nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom nom.

For the first time ever, we decided (read: I agreed) to dress up for Purim as a family, with themed costumes and everything. But not for us some Disney Princess with the rest of us as supporting characters, no, we do it properly. Superheroes all the way. The Little Rocker will be defending the city as Batgirl, with Squeaker as her loyal sidekick Robin from Rocker Dude and I as The Joker and Harley Quinn. It took a bit of planning but we got the costumes together and we are all set. I don’t know if we will do this every year, but it is fun to do once in a while. Also as Purim falls out on my birthday this year, we have to do something special. (Pictures to come soon!)

Recipe:

Cookie:
I used a double batch of this recipe from our sugar cookie adventures in December

Filling (based on this recipe from King Arthur):
3 cups peeled, cored, finely chopped apples – I prefer Gala, Pink Crispy or Pink Lady
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate

Caramel Shards (based on this recipe from Epicurious):
1 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Make your filling first. You can make it a few days in advance and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to make your cookies. Mix all of the ingredients and stir until the filling begins to bubble and thickens considerably. You want to make sure that the filling bubbles so that you don’t taste the flour afterwards. Continue cooking until the apples reach your desired tenderness. It’s nice to have a little crunch still in the apples for texture. Set aside and cool. You can refrigerate for up to four days.

Follow the directions to make the sugar cookie dough until the refrigeration stage. You can keep the dough for a week in the fridge and for two months in the freezer.

When you are ready to make your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and roll out the cookie dough to a 1/8 inch thickness. Using a drinking glass or a circle cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Place 1 tsp. of filling in the center of each one. Pinch each side together to make a triangle. (See here for instructions). Place cookies two inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are very lightly browned. Let cool.

To make the caramel shards, lightly oil a 12-inch square of foil. In a heavy saucepan boil sugar, water and salt over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup without stirring, washing down sugar crystals on side of pan with a brush dipped in cold water, until pale golden. Continue cooking syrup without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Immediately pour caramel onto foil and cool completely, about 20 minutes. Break caramel into shards. Place a few small pieces into the center of the cooled hamantashen. Serve immediately or soon after. (Shards keep, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day.)

These are best served slightly warm – like real apple pie, but are also good at room temperature.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

 

Caramel Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Crust – Bring on the Dairy!

Hello everyone.  Here we are two days before Shavuot – the holiday during which we eat tons and tons of dairy to make up for all the other holidays in which we eat meat. Rocker Dude, being of a lactose intolerant nature, does not enjoy this holiday as much as other people, and this year, due to Squeaker’s sensitivities, I will be joining him in the non-dairy consuming club. But don’t worry, to make up for this, when I do stop nursing her, we will have a make-up Shavuot filled with all sorts of dairy delicacies.

In any case, at this time of year, the interwebs are filled with tons of cheesecake recipes of all varieties.  As we were having a cheesecake celebration at work, I wanted to make something different, something new. I spent a morning exploring options for possible flavorings, and settled on two options – something caramely or a brownie cheesecake. I knew that I would only have a few hours to make the cake on Saturday night as I did not want to stay up past midnight, so I decided to go with the caramel cheesecake for work.

Caramel cheesecake with caramel goodness all over.
Caramel cheesecake with caramel goodness all over.

I bounced around possible versions in my head for a few days and finally on Saturday I finalized how I would go about making it. I had bought dulce de leche to mix into the cheese, but then I read on the container that it is not suitable for cooking in high temperatures, so I freaked. What was I supposed to do now??? Do I just make a standard cheesecake and put the dulce de leche on top? Do I scrap the idea completely? Major dilemma.

I wanted to get the caramel flavor into the cake itself, so in the end, as I was measuring the sugar to mix into the batter, I decided to caramelize it first. I threw the whole cup and a half straight into a pot and set it on the fire.  I knew that it would be hard when it cooled, but that I could probably use the cheese to smooth the caramel out.  When the caramel was ready, I put in half of the cheese because I didn’t want the consistency to change too much. After much stirring, the caramel smoothed out and became usable in the cheesecake. I mixed it with the rest of the ingredients and into the oven it went.

The whole cake. (Sorry for the poor photography, I did not have fancy dishes at work to really show this cake off).
The whole cake. (Sorry for the poor photography, I did not have fancy dishes at work to really show this cake off).

My one issue with this whole affair was that I would not be able to taste the cheesecake when it was done – how would I know if it even tasted good?? Well, we put our faith in God.

When the cheesecake cooled, I spread the dulce de leche on top so that this cake would have a double whammy of caramel flavor.

Caramel Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Crust
Caramel Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Crust

I brought the cake to work the next day and let me just say, God delivered.  It was a hit all around, the consistency was perfect, and the caramel flavor was there. I even snuck a bite (hope it doesn’t come back to bite me later when Squeaker wakes up crying at night because her tummy hurts), and it was delicious.

Shavuot cheesecake spectacular
Shavuot cheesecake spectacular

If you need a cheesecake pick-me-up – here you go. Also, just because I am curious, do you say car-a-mel or car-mel?

Recipe:

Crust:
50 g tea biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs
50 g butter or margarine, melted
1 tbsp. brown sugar

Cake:750 g white cheese (gevina levana) 5%, or equivalent amount of cream cheese
5 eggs
3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

400 g dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C/320 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients for the crust and press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan, or a 9×13 rectangular pan (the crust will just be a tad thinner). Bake the crust for ten minutes until it is lightly browned.

Place the sugar in a pot over medium-low heat. Without stirring, let the sugar heat up until it dissolves. You can use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pot from any sugar crystals that might creep up. When the sugar starts browning, take it off the fire to ensure that it doesn’t get too dark.  It should stay a light amber color. The sugar will still cook after it is removed from the fire. Once you have reached the desired caramel color, add half of the cheese to the pot.  The caramel will seize up and bubble, but keep stirring the mixture over the medium-low heat, and it will soften and mix into the cheese. Set aside to cool (or refrigerate for 10 minutes or so.

In a bowl, mix up the rest of the ingredients, being careful to not incorporate too much air.  Add the caramel mixture and mix well.  Bang the bowl firmly on the table or counter to pop any air bubbles that might have gotten in. Gently pour the batter over the crust and place the pan in the oven. Because I usually cook my cheesecakes in my toaster oven I don’t have space for a water bath, so I just undercook the cake slightly – it should still be jiggly in the middle, and usually that is enough to prevent cracking. Also, covering the cake with a topping helps.

When the cake is completely cool, spread the dulce de leche over the top of the cake. Slice and serve!

You can also melt some chocolate with some heavy cream and drizzle it on top of the cake and that would be delicious too.  I just didn’t have time for it.