Sunday, November 1, 2009
I have never had that big of a sweet tooth. If you look in my freezer, I am still slowly making my way through my Easter candy, having just defrosted another limb of my giant chocolate bunny. And so, for me, Halloween has usually been primarily about the costumes versus the candy. I feel like over the years I have had some fairly successful costumes, from a bunch of grapes to a china doll, leprechaun, and Wonder Woman. My "best" costume ever though was when I went as Maleficent, the evil witch queen from Sleeping Beauty, when I was five years old. I won a local costume contest hosted by this toy store, Kiddie City, and my prize was my first-ever Barbie doll. I was awesome, and my mom, who made this amazing costume was pretty pumped too.
This year, a group of girlfriends and I took a trip up to Boston to attend a charity event for GOTO, which sends underprivileged kids to art camp, sports camp, etc. Our costumes were actually food-oriented, if not necessarily gastronomical. Everyone dressed up as "food mascots." We had a Wendy, a Capt'n Crunch, Popeye, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, a "dairy queen" (she wore a cow costume with a tiara, hilarious), the Swiss Miss, and many more. I was Mrs. Field of Mrs. Field's Cookies. Fitting, as I used to eat one of her white chocolate macadamia nut cookies every afternoon before swim practice my junior year of high school. They always sold them at the gas station where I filled up en route to the pool. The next year, the pool location changed, and that was the end of that.
One of my friends, Dawn, who lives in Boston, is quite the chef and foodie herself, and took us to this fabulous whole-sale market, Russo's, on the outskirts of the city. I was in seventh heaven, and it was all I could do not to stock up on all sorts of delicious produce. I restrained myself at first and only picked up some drunken goat cheese and dried fruit. Stuff I could transport back easily on the bus. But I gave in when I saw the baby bok choy, which was perfect. I managed to get it back to NYC unspoiled and plan on sautéing it tomorrow with a bit of garlic. On this trip, it was only natural that we got to talking about childhood Halloween traditions and memories. My friend Stirling told us that her parent's used to take some of her candy as an "offering" for the "Candy Witch," who would then distribute it fairly to all the poor kids in the world who didn't get candy of their own.
A very philanthropic fairy tale creation. Too bad it was actually just a way of making sure that her candy intake was regulated, not too mention the fact that they got a few treats to eat themselves. My father, who has a huge sweet tooth, did not believe in such ceremony. He would simply poke through our buckets when we got home and pick out what he liked, justifying his findings as "tax."
My siblings and I would then go through the motions of swapping candy, but really we would just fight over who got the Twix bars and any precious dark chocolate Milky-Ways. None of us, oddly enough, are peanut butter fans, so we were always foisting the Reeses cups upon each other in the hopes for something better.
My poor little brother, who was the most adorable toddler, was always being dressed up in equally cute costumes, and the year we dressed him as a tiny little cowboy was by far and away the winner. He was getting way more candy than the rest of us based upon the fact that he was just too damn cute. His bucket was so heavy with candy he could hardly carry it, but he simply refused to let either of my sisters, or my father, help him carry it, as he was convinced they would take some of his candy. He was quite the tiny cynic. He was also right.
And so, there was the entire gaggle of them trapaising through the neighborhood along with all the other local kids. By this point, I was old enough to trick-or-treat with my little group of friends, and when I bumped into my siblings, it was the saddest thing you ever saw: tiny Davey, cowboy hat slipping down his head, his little legs pumping as hard as they can and his arms straining to hold up his bucket, lagging a good ten feet behind the rest of them, fiercely determined not to loose control of his precious wares.
Myself, I have never been too possessive of my candy (see note on lack of sweet tooth), but am fiercely possessive of any of sort of fruit-based dessert, notably baked apples. Candied apples, the standard Halloween fare, are nice too, but something about chipping open the candied coating with your teeth to start has always unnerved me a bit. Eager to re-create baked apples so I can then hoard them all to myself, I discovered a fabulous recipe in Saveur magazine, which is written out below.
Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp.
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon (I adore cinnamon, and even put it in my coffee to give it some holiday "spice")
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 firm Fuji apples, stemmed and cored (I find Fuji apple, which are my favorite any way, hold their shape the best)
Vanilla ice cream for serving
For the caramel sauce:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbsp. of dark rum (mm)
Heat your oven to 325 degrees. Combine sugar, syrup, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cut a quarter inch off the bottom of the apples so that they sit flat and transfer the apples to a large baking pan. Fill the hollow cores with that sugar-syrup mixture you have set aside. Cover apples with tinfoil and bake until tender, which usually takes about 50 minutes.
Meanwhile, make your caramel sauce by heating the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a 2 qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce/cook (don't stir) until the liquid is amber colored, which takes about 20 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and let it cool slightly. Add the cream, which will cause the caramel to bubble up slightly. Stir in your raisins and rum and set aside.
Plate your apples and drizzle sauce over them to taste, and add a scoop of ice cream if you are so inclined. A perfect dessert to combat any post-Halloween hangovers, emotional or otherwise.