Stir Crazy: In this case, the emphasis is all about flavor and taste

News-DemocratDecember 16, 2013 

I have someone in my family who has lost her sense of taste due to chemotherapy. Luckily, it is not completely gone, though it continues to diminish. She can taste apples and chocolate, in particular, as well as lemons. Pizza is a treat, too. Putting on weight is a priority, so over the weekend my to-make list for the trip to Chicago included a recipe for peppermint fudge and another for Apple Pie Bars.

You'll need a candy thermometer to make this fudge. Watch the temperature very carefully: Too hot and you'll have dry, crumbly fudge; too low and it won't set up. The fudge has a nice peppermint flavor and the crushed candies on top make it look very festive.

To save money, I bought a small box of miniature candy canes and crushed a bunch of them.

Peppermint Fantasy Fudge

1 1/2 cups sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

2 tablespoons salted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/4 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving extra for overhang.

In a heavy bottomed two-quart saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

When mixture reaches 234 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from heat and stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips and peppermint extract. Stir until marshmallows and chocolate chips have melted.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle crushed candy over the fudge and allow to cool at room temperature until set, approximately 2 hours.

Remove fudge from pan by grasping the foil or parchment paper overhang and pulling the block of candy out. Peel away foil or paper and cut into 1-inch squares.

Adapted by Melissa Martinez from "The Flying Brownie: 100 Terrific Homemade Food Gifts for Friends and Loved Ones Far Away" by Shirley Fan (Harvard Common Press, $17.95)

You need time and patience to make this recipe. First, make sure you have an easy way to finely chop 7 cups of apples. Second, rolling out the dough to fit in a jelly-roll pan takes some strategic moving of the rolling pin. (A pie circle is easy to configure, but a rectangle is hard!) I set a tape measure out on my counter to make sure I rolled the dough out to the right size. Rolling it between two sheets of wax paper is essential to prevent tearing.

Third, make sure the dough comes up the sides of the pan so it will meet the top dough, which you will need to definitely pinch and seal to prevent leaking.

After the bars cooled, I covered the pan and put it in the freezer. I will add the glaze on Saturday when I thaw it out.

Apple Pie Bars

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup shortening

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 to 10 tablespoons cold water

FILLING:

7 cups finely chopped peeled apples (I used Granny Smith)

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Dash ground nutmeg

GLAZE:

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice and water; gradually add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Divide in half. Chill for 30 minutes. (Mine was cold for at least an hour.)

Roll out one portion of dough between two large sheets of waxed paper into a 17-by-2-inch rectangle. Transfer to an ungreased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Press pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of pan; trim pastry even with top edge.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg; spread over crust.

Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pan; place over filling. Trim edges; brush edges between pastry with water or milk; pinch to seal. Cut slits in top.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Combine glaze ingredients until smooth; drizzle over bars before cutting. Yield: About 2 dozen bars.

Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, sboyle@bnd.com; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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