Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice – 40 Days of Thankfulness

Cinnamon Sticks ... courtesy of Wikimedia

Do you have certain scent triggers that make you feel happy, warm and loved? To me that’s cinnamon, especially when it’s cold out.

Growing up in Florida, fall means it’s not quite so hot and you get the occasional cold spell where one needs to put on a light jacket, while winter is for about 10 days (not necessarily consecutive) where you may need to turn the heat on to get the 50 degree chill out of your bones.

Even in those milder temperatures, cinnamon still has a way of bursting into my brain images of warm fires, brilliant candles and something sweet to eat.

Now thank I am experiencing real winter temperatures, the warmth of this spice has an even great effect on my body and psyche.

Thank you cinnamon for being so warming.

It may seem strange to be thankful for a spice, but like a lot of things it’s not the cinnamon that I am most thankful for, but how I feel when I smell it and taste it and how it makes others feel.

That’s why I made these Apple Tartlets to take to a function at church. I wanted to share the beauty of the season with locally grown apples (from an orchard right outside of town) smothered in a spiced glaze and resting in a pecan shortbread cup. I highly recommend these for one of your holiday soirees or you can make them ahead and freeze for a movie night or anytime you want a little cinnamon treat.

They call them two-bites, but it took me three to savor the levels of flavor.
Spiced Apple Two-Bite Tartlets
From Cooking Light’s November 2013 Issue – A must have in your holiday arsenal

            1/3 cup sugar
            1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
            2 tablespoons canola oil
            1 tablespoon 1% low-fat milk
            1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
            1/4 teaspoon salt
            4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
            1/3 cup very finely chopped toasted pecans
            Baking spray with flour
These little Pecan Shortbread Tarts are perfect for a variety of fillings. I'm going to try pumpkin pie next.
            2 cups finely diced peeled Granny Smith apple
            2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
            2 tablespoons sugar
            1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
            1/4 teaspoon salt
            1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
            1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
            1 tablespoon unsalted butter
            1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
            1 tablespoon water
            1/4 cup crème fraîche

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. To prepare crust, place first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until well combined. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour and nuts to butter mixture; beat until just combined. Divide dough evenly among 24 miniature muffin cups coated with baking spray. Press dough into bottom and up sides of muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
3. To prepare filling, place apple and juice in a bowl; toss to coat. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and the next 4 ingredients (through ginger); toss well.
4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add apple mixture; cover and cook 5 minutes or until apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Combine cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into apple mixture; cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Place apple mixture in a bowl; cool to room temperature. Spoon about 2 teaspoons apple mixture into each tart shell. Top each tart with 1/2 teaspoon crème fraîche.

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