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Published: Monday, 9/14/2009

Breakfast apples: varieties to cook and bake in brunch dishes

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Apples are so versatile. They're good to eat all year long. You can eat them raw or cook with them. From applesauce to an ingredient in soups and desserts, they're such a versatile food.

This year, think about breakfast apples.

As I've tested recipes this week, I've discovered a variety of ways to use apples in brunch recipes.

Apples and Grits Brunch Casserole will surprise even those who insist they don't like grits, the coarsely ground grain of corn.

I cooked the quick grits (not the old-fashioned), added shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onion, minced garlic, green chilies, and two cups of chopped Johnston Farms Yellow Delicious apples topped off with two beaten eggs. It is a surprising and delicious combination of ingredients that bakes for 50 minutes. I served it with sausage patties, Baked Breakfast Apples and even Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Muffins.

The combination will surely turn up on one of my holiday brunches this year.

The grits casserole, which has a smooth texture, is best served warm. It will keep one day refrigerated and can be heated in the microwave.

I bought a three-pound bag of local Johnston apples at Kazmaiers supermarkete for about $3 per bag (8 or 10 apples in a bag). The apples were not big, but they were perfect for the grits casserole and for Baked Breakfast Apples.

“Those apples were a sub-category of Golden Delicious called Ginger Gold,” said Martha Mora of Johnston Fruit Farms at 2790 Airport Highway, one mile west of Swanton. “They are an early apple. Later in the season, we have just Golden Delicious, which is a good cooking apple. My grandmother used Golden Delicious in many of her recipes.”

“Ginger Gold is spicy and tart, a firm wonderful apple,” she said in a phone interview. It was a perfect little apple for Baked Breakfast Apples, allowing for an apple that was the right size for one-serving. But you could use Jonathan apples or another cooking apple.

In the Baked Breakfast Apple recipe, the apples needed to be cored. It's a recipe from Jim and Karen Herzberg of Waterville, and I've had it in my file for at least five years. I carefully used a corer kitchen tool rather than a paring knife. I didn't want to cut through the bottom of the apples because a filling of granola and golden raisins is placed in each of them.

Use your favorite cereal granola. I think its best to keep the cereal on the top instead of the raisins, which turn darker during the baking. The sauce is made with brown sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, and butter. I like to bake the apples at least 45 to 50 minutes.

I also used the Golden Delicious apples in Cinnamon-Streusel Muffins, although the recipe recommended a tart apple such as Granny Smith or Rome Beauty. The Golden Delicious made such a nice muffin that was sweet and rich enough that it didn't need to be served with any additional butter, as many folks like to spread on a muffin.

In the muffins, the Golden Delicious held its shape. “McIntosh wouldn't hold its shape in a muffin like Ginger Gold does,” said Mrs. Mora. “McIntosh is a great cooking apple, but it would be better in a soup or a sauce.”

Sauces and soups

Those apples can also turn up in a topping for pancakes or waffles. Hotcakes with Warm Maple Apples, calls for a tart apple.

Some cooks add a fall soup to a brunch table. Cauliflower-Apple Soup with Duck Confit (optional) calls for sweet apples such as Honeycrisp, cored, peeled, and diced.

“We have lots of Honeycrisp,” said Marlene MacQueen of MacQueen Orchards in Holland who has a recipe for Honeycrisp Apple Galette. “These are best known as an eating apple. They are crisp.” She expects their supply to last through October. And now the Gala, Jonathan, and Early Gold apples are also on the shelves in their farm market.

The 28th Annual Apple Butter Festival & Craft Show at MacQueen Orchards will be Oct. 3 and 4. The annual All American Apple Pie Contest is at noon Oct. 3. It is limited to 30 pies so contestants must pre-enter. “They use all kinds of apples for pies, but not Red Delicious,” said Mrs. MacQueen. “Red Delicious don't cook down. They stay hard.”

“Jonathan holds its shape,” she said. It's the variety of apple used in the MacQueen bakery.

No matter when you visit a local orchard or market, ask what apples are at their peak that day.

“There's a window when each variety of apple is at its peak of quality and flavor,” said Mrs. Mora. “I don't have a favorite apple. Each one has it's own unique qualities, aromas and flavors. It's fun. I enjoy every apple at its peak.”

“You can travel the season with the apple varieties as you enjoy the apple season.”

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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