Some flavors just go so well together they’re practically inseparable in my mind. For these fall recipes, I was inspired by two of my favorite treats that feature such a flavor pairing: caramel apples and Reese’s® peanut butter cup candy. Neither is exactly a dessert on its own, so I came up with a couple of ways to get the same flavors in a more substantial serving.
Rustic Caramel Apple Tart
1 refrigerator pie crust
2 Granny Smith apples
2 Golden Delicious apples
¼ c. + 1 T. granulated sugar
¼ c. brown sugar, packed
1 T. all purpose flour
1 t. + ¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t. nutmeg
Dash of salt
3 T. cold butter (unsalted if you have it)
Milk or heavy cream
¼ c. good quality store bought caramel sauce
¼ c. chopped peanuts
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Let the pie crust come up to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
2. Zest the lemon into a large mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half and keep nearby. Working one at a time, peel, core and slice the apples. (I use a melon baller to core the apples.) As you place each sliced apple into the bowl, squeeze a little lemon juice and combine. This will help slow down the apples turning brown.
3. Combine the 1 T. of sugar and ¼ t. cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Combine the remaining sugars, flour, spices and salt in a small bowl. Add the sugar/flour/spice mixture to the apples and mix gently but thoroughly.
5. Unroll the pie crust out onto the baking sheet. Mound the apples in the center, leaving about 2 inches all around. Cube the cold butter and dot on the apples. Gently fold (but do not stretch) the edges of the crust onto the top of the apples, making a free-form, rustic tart. Make sure there are no holes in the crust, or the butter and juice will run out. (Repair any holes by gently re-closing the pastry onto itself using a little water for glue.) Using a pastry brush, brush the milk or cream onto the crust and sprinkle the reserved cinnamon sugar on the crust.
6. Bake the tart 35 to 40 minutes until the pastry is baked through and the apples are easily pierced with a small paring knife. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack.
6. As soon as it’s out of the oven, drizzle the caramel sauce over the top of the tart and sprinkle with the peanuts. (That’s a traditional caramel apple coating, but you can substitute any nut you like, or leave them out all together.) Cool on the baking sheet 20 minutes, then remove to a serving platter and serve warm. Garnish with extra caramel sauce and nuts, if desired. A little freshly whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream would be nice, too.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
When I found a foolproof recipe for a light, fluffy peanut butter icing, I knew it would be a great match for my chocolate cake recipe.
This recipe uses baking soda as the levener to make it rise, and reminds me of the first time I baked a chocolate cake. In the second grade, I bought a kid’s cookbook at a book fair at school. The recipe called for baking soda; instead of 1 t., however, I put in 1 c. Whoops! The cake rose up like a balloon in the oven, literally touching the top of the oven – it was quite a sight! After it came out of the oven and cooled, it shrank to about 1 inch high. I cut a square out of the center just to try it. It was awful and salty. That is when I learned that measurements matter in baking, and I also learned how to pay more attention to abbreviations.
For best results, use fresh baking soda.
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. milk
2 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. brown sugar, packed
¾ c. cocoa powder
1 T. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. water
1 T. instant espresso
For the frosting:
1 c. peanut butter
5 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 c. heavy cream
½ c. mini chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 30 muffin cups with cupcake liners. In a small saucepan boil the water and stir in the instant espresso (substitute instant coffee if that’s what you have). Keep the mixture simmering while you prepare the batter.
2. Place the oil, milk, egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl and mix with a handheld mixer on low speed, just until combined.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the bowl and stir by hand just to combine (this will prevent the dry ingredients from spraying everywhere). Mix with a handheld mixer on medium speed 2 minutes. Add the simmering coffee mixture and fold gently. (The batter will be thin.) Using a ladle, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until a tooth picked inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for a few minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool completely on the wire rack.
4. To make the frosting, combine the peanut butter, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl on low speed with a handheld mixer until creamy. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the frosting is nice and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle the mini chips on top. (Note: I recommend keeping these in the fridge because of the butter content in the frosting.)