Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Another Nice Fair Surprise

This year was not a great year for my jellies, or so I thought. Each batch, though flavorful, seemed to fail on texture. I almost didn't enter and in fact held back this apple rose variety from two of the season's fairs. Flavored with old fashioned rose petals from our neighbor's garden my pink hued entry went on to win best of division in Sonoma County. Another rosette for the collection.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Pretty Good Day At The Fair

Though I just got home yesterday and was admittedly pretty exhausted, I couldn't resist a new contest at the Sonoma County Fair. The fair is trying to bring back old fashioned baking contests where contestants bring their goods right to the judging and wait to hear the results. Today was all about apple pies and I arrived just in time to place my still warm from the oven apple pie on the table of entries.
Contest rules called for Sonoma county apples and this time of year that means Gravensteins, a green or sometimes green streaked with red apple that is just tart enough to make a pie interesting and sweet enough to feel like dessert. This part of California was once famous for Gravensteins. But with soft skin that bruises easily Sonoma's favorite apple never became popular too far outside of the immediate area. Too bad. Their flavor is sublime and with a few Pink Pearl apples -- a little known sweet-tart apple developed in Northern California some 70 years ago -- sliced into the pie I had a winning combination of flavors.
But I can never leave well enough alone.
I started my pie with a bourbon caramel sauce. I boiled 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water without stirring until it was a nice amber color. Off the heat I quickly stirred in 1/2 cup heavy cream and stirred cooling the caramel for 1 minute. Then I added in 1/4 cup of bourbon and returned the sauce to the heat and boiled for 1 more minute -- stirring constantly. Off the heat I stirred in  a dash of  Vanilla Nouveau's super flavorful bourbon tinged vanilla extract -- my favorite secret ingredient for a double hit of toasty caramel flavor.
With by bottom lard and butter crust rolled out in the pie plate I poured in half of my cooled caramel sauce and topped it with 9 peeled and sliced apples mixed with a pinch of salt, 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (chopped) 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (more bourbon vanilla flavor), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 TB of flour. I piled the apple mixture on top of the crust, and dotted the fruit with 1 1/2 TB of butter cut in small pieces. Instead of another crust I opted for a streusel topping of 6 TB butter cut in pieces, 2/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts, 1/4 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of flour all mixed together with a fork to create big pieces of tasty dough. I piled the streusel on top of the apples and popped the pie in the oven for 50 minutes at 375ยบ. As soon as the pie came out of the oven I poured the remainder for the warmed caramel sauce over the streusel and ran off to the fair.
A nail biting hour or so later I was handed a rosette and tally sheets from two judges scoring my slap dash run out of the house pie a 98. I couldn't be prouder.
I'm never too tired for a blue ribbon.