dad, I had many friends reach out to me. I had people I didn't even know share a little bit of stories about their loved ones they lost and how they still think about them. The kindness of everyone's messages touched me and were appreciated immensely. As I continued on with my baking and cooking as I normally do, so many recipes were reminding me of my dad.
I considered how often we are recreating something someone special we lost used to make and we don't realize that they are still inspiring us in the kitchen. Or maybe we do tackle with a purpose that one recipe that belonged to a grandmother, a mother, a father, a special friend. I realized that every time we make these recipes, we are keeping the memory of that special person alive. We have to keep thinking about them, even though sometimes it will be sad. Baking and cooking a recipe that was theirs or that they loved keeps their memory alive in our hearts.
I reached out to some of my friends to share a recipe that reminds them of someone special that is no longer in their lives. My lovely and talented friend Paula from Vintage Kitchen Notes is opening the series. In a few emails back and forth we talked about what the series will entail and what her post could be about. Paula lost her dear brother and wrote several posts about him on her blog. One post in particular is a really beautiful tribute to her brother. He was a cancer fighter and fought it (and survived)twice like my dad did.
For this first Food Memory post, Paula is sharing a recipe that is just calling my name. A delightful apple dessert-oh, Paula...thank you. What would be even better is sharing a crumb bar, a cup of coffee, and some great stories together in Argentina.
BROWN BUTTER APPLE CINNAMON CRUMB BARS
I grew up in an apple and lemon family. There was no particular interest in chocolate, dulce de leche or strawberries and cream, no statuesque layer cakes at birthdays or bowls filled with homemade candy. Give them a good apple or lemon meringue pie. To this day they ask for that above all other desserts. Weird family, but hey, it’s the way they roll. I say they because I was sort of an outsider, preferring dulce de leche above all other flavors, and still my number one choice of sweet.
This post is my contribution to Lora’s food memory series, which she started a few weeks ago in memory of her father. Food makes for strong, palpable family memories. And mine includes apples.
I talked a few times about food that I associate with family memories, and to those that are no longer here with me. My grandmother who taught me my first recipe, an apple crisp, my brother and his unconditional love of my (David Lebovitz' really) ginger cake and spicy cookies, my grandfather whom I didn’t know but who left some interesting stories about pancakes and going to college in the US at a time when it was a superlative effort (1919) to do so from a rural town in Argentina, my other grandfather for whom I once made meatballs in cream sauce and was outra
So for today I went back to old fashioned, traditional, and almost simple looking apple cinnamon bars. But these are not plain Jane's entirely, having brown butter and oats in the crumble and a touch of cardamom in addition to the best Vietnamese cinnamon I could find.
These would’ve made the whole family happy, and the type of sweet you would find at my grandmother’s house if you went over for tea. She was the baker of the family, a trait I obviously acquired, and the only one with whom I could talk for hours about serious stuff like the latest Persian rice made on TV or whether crepes Suzette could ever make a comeback. If you’re a foodie, you need a space where to unleash your most intimate food issues and compare notes. Guess we have blogs now, don’t we? We all understand eachother’s quirks and obsessions in the kitchen.
So I leave you with these brown butter apple cinnamon crumb bars, because sometimes all we need is comfort baking, and remembering loved ones that are no longer here with a smile.
Thank you, Paula. It was a pleasure to read a little about your food memories. Comfort baking-yes, indeed.
Paula is quite the baker. I get lost on her site wanting to bake and taste all that she makes! Like this recent caramel graham cracker almond-raspberry cinnamon rolls and her flourless chocolate bean cake (yes, bean!) and have got to bake this lemon frangipane bundt cake.
This summer Paula shared her gorgeous Coconut Lime Cake on Savoring Italy.
This recipe can be easily doubled. Allow time to brown the butter and chill it. Makes 12 large bars
Brown Butter Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bars
Prep Time: approx 50-60 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients (1 9x13 inch pan)
- 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter
- 10 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 10 cups)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, browned and chilled
- 1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
- 1 cup (120g) oats
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
For the shortbread base:
With a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer on low, cream butter with sugar until smooth.
Add salt and flour in two parts, combining well. Do not over mix. It will be crumbly.
Line a 9x13 inch (23x33cm) pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and pat the dough evenly on the bottom. Lightly flour the tips of your fingers if needed to do this. Be sure all surface is covered as evenly as possible.
Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350ºF / 180ºC and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until it’s dry and starts to color lightly.
For the apples:
You might need to cook the apples in two batches depending on the size of your pan.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and let it foam. Add sliced apples and cook, stirring once or twice, until they begin to soften, about 4 or 5 minutes.
Add the sugar mixed with the cinnamon and cardamom, and cook over medium/high heat, stirring often, until they begin to caramelize but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes.
Scatter apples, without the juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan, evenly over the prebaked shortbread base, careful not to tear the dough.
For the crumble:
To brown the butter, melt it over medium heat on a deep sided pan. It will foam and then start to chirp furiously, with very large bubbles. When this noise and bubbles begin to subside, the butter will start to color. You want a deep amber color but be careful not to burn it.
Transfer to a bowl or shallow plate and chill or freeze until solid but not rock hard.
In a food processor, mix flour and sugar. Add butter and process until it begins to clump. Add oats and pulse a few times to mix, but not to pulverize the oats.
Add the crumble evenly on top of the apples and drizzle the juices from the apples over it if you want to.
Bake at 350ºF / 180ºC for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden.
Let cool on a wire rack.