Québec fudge cheesecakes with apple syrup
So tell me, have you grown weary of the images and tastes of the autumnal season yet? If you are slapped with yet one more recipe or trifle made with apple, pumpkin, and cinnamon will your shoulders hunch up as you grind your teeth from tedium? How many variant pumpkin breads, apple cakes, cinnamon buns, and trips to the pumpkin patch can there be! How many? Well, at least one more. So suck it up! October draws short breaths as he bleeds toward November, a staging platform for the onset of the holidays, a time when collectively our pumpkins and apples give way to gingerbreads and candy canes. So giddy up a couple more pumpkins and farmhouse visits, let me bask in this humor before the next six months of snow arrive. On y va.
I believe the last time i visited a pumpkin patch was with my kindergarten class--age six. So perhaps i am due for an encore sixteen years later (yes that's right i'm twenty two, none of this twenty-something business, i am what i am.) Where to pick a pumpkin in Spokane, well not in the city of course, perhaps those billboards shouting come pick apples at Walters' Fruit Ranch at Greenbluff! could be a hint. A mere thirty five minute drive north east of Spokane lies the Greenbluff farmland in the town of Mead; an association of growers that have been banded since 1902. Greenbluff is made up of over thirty small farms that offset each other throughout the season--cherries and strawberries in the early spring, apricots and rolling wheat fields in the high summer, and of course apple orchards and pumpkin patches in the fall.
Thirty farms? you say, how do you choose? Easy--Walters' got pony rides, tractor drives, and a foot-stomping good hay stage guitar player. Only kidding--Walters' is the first driveway on the right. Is that a reason? Why of course it is.
My housemates--the S.F.A. and I decided it would be a great family outing for the weekend, take in some air, get a couple warty gourds, inhale some tractor fumes, maybe dance around a hay bail...once at the farm you jump on one of the tractors that takes you out to the orchard, where one is greeted by an overall-wearing employee who hands you a bag or box and says with a toothy grin, good luck to all yee shorties, the pickins' are slim on the low beams, gotta catch em' up high! Well, it's a good thing i'm slightly above average height. The S.F.A. though do not break 1.4 meters (5'5 foot) among themselves--so perhaps it was I who left with a few more twigs and leaves in my hair as they pointed, and I picked.
Three bags of apples, and at .89 cents per pound what a steal! Honey Crisp, Fuji, Breaburn, Granny Smith, Golden, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathan, and Gala apples all present and accounted for. Salty Cod employees will attest to never having enough fruit, particularly from cause of the boss' five (six?) piece a day addiction. Well enough agricultural business for today, as I later confide my thoughts on farm life to my friend; perhaps i could do it, pick apples, feed the chickens, bake pies until dusk--perhaps yes, but for all my respect of diligent agriculturalists, i know i couldn't last a week until falling away restless. But that is why there are places like Greenbluff, where we can act a farmer for the day, then back off with our little bundles of apples, drive home to the city, and then stand around the kitchen wondering--what the hell am i going to do with all of these apples?
What the hell indeed. I could eat them all in three days easy peasy. But perhaps we should put them to a use for the greater good. id est the culinary column you see here before your eyes. Besides--the University's Fall Family Weekend has brought my housemates' parents to town (hey, where's my family? Oh that's right parents have jobs, and little sister and little brother have school, and then there are the three dogs, and their hotel phobia, and the fact that i am sadly no longer 12 years old, but still, family you don't support me! To make up for this I will accept starbucks cards in the mail. ) either way there is need for me to show off my monumental skill with decadent pastry confections. But what to make...
Cheesecake of course. Find me a phobic of cheesecake and i will send you a box of Zataran's and a packet of koolaid in the mail as a prize. Individual cheesecakes mind you, (my training in Paris left me with a keen preference for individual deserts) not pumpkin though--too many of those on the scene lately, and to my chagrin apples must appear, for we did all of the picking... but an apple cheesecake? So passe--it's fall family weekend, and my family is absent, so how can i bring them in... you say a family recipe? My family doesn't have many of those. So turn then to cultural heritage...so something French Canadian (mon papa vient du Québec, savez-vous ça?) Perfect! Sucre à la crème--Québec fudge to layer the top, followed then with our apples, though in syrup form, and while keeping with the invitation of maple, finish the dearling with a shard of maple peanut caramel.
Sucre à la crème, or Québec fudge, is not the easiest of fudge recipes; quite the contrary--it's complicated and easy to fudge up as it can one burn, and two result in a pile of crumbs. But that's the way with French Canadians... they like to complicate matters. For those familiar with Scotish confectionary delights, Sucre à la crème should sound reminicsent of tablet, an eighteenth century recipe for a dry crumbly candy with, you guessed it--sugar and cream. Tablet's Québecois cousin is nearly identical, though is more often than not made with maple syrup. How Canadian quaint. Many variant regions around the world have similar recipes--in South America (not sure where in South America) it is known as tableta de leche, and the Dutch refer to it as borstplaat. We at the Salty Cod market it as Québec fudge.
My sincere hope is that a high school student somewhere in this world happens upon this recipe through google while searching for a Québecois recipe for a fun though meaningless high school French class project of bring in a recipe from a French speaking region of the world! Four years of high school French classes and I am an expert at witnessing frozen cream puffs thawed, covered in chocolate sauce, and then presented to the class with the words these took me forever to make! Such headaches have left me with a project idea for a cookbook: high school language class recipes for your skill level that even the quarterback can't fudge up! Should be available for purchase via Random House early July of 2012. If this be the case--welcome student, yes there are in fact French Canadian recipes. How bout' that.
Sucre à la crème (Quebec Fudge):
ingredients: 1 can sweetened condensed milk ~ 1 cup milk ~ 4 cups sugar ~ 1/4 cup butter ~ 1 cup maple syrup ~ vanilla
method: you need a candy thermometer unless you are pro at candy mind-reading. 1) boil all ingredients for 20 minutes (reach 240), remove from heat, add vanilla, pour into a buttered pan. most recipes use walnuts, i did not, and i did not cook it long enough, and mine looks and tastes like caramel. so make sure you reach 240 degrees. lesson learned.
Plain old Cheesecakes:
ingredients: 12 oz (1.5 boxes) cream cheese ~ 8 oz sour cream (half a container) ~ 3 eggs ~ 3/4 cup sugar ~ vanilla ~ almond extract ~ juice of half a lemon ~ i package of graham crackers ~ 1/4 cup of butter ~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
method: you may have noticed the strange measurements, halfs and quarters--yes it's a halved recipe because i made way too bloody much for 8 ramekins. anyways. 1) cream cheese and sugar 2) add eggs one at a time 3) add all of the other stuff and mix very well. set aside. 4) crunch graham crackers to a powder, mix with butter and syrup, and press into bottoms of 7 ramekins (leave one without a crust, for a surprise gluten free guest) 5) pour cheese cake mixture in ramekins 6) place ramekins in a casserole dish or roasting pan, boil a pot of water, and fill pan half way up the sides of the ramekins for a water bath 7) place in 350 F oven for 45 minutes, cool for an hour, then refrigerate for four.
ingredients: two diced apples ~ 3/4 cup apple juice ~ 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey ~ 2 tsp cornstarch
method: boil juice, syrup, and apples--reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes. add cornstarch--just remember to dissolve cornstarch in something before you add it. lesson learned.
Maple caramel with peanuts: make caramel, and add some peanuts. and remember--don't mistake wax paper for parchment. lesson learned.
So Jimmy Carter, Johny Appleseed, and Aunt Jemima walk into a bar, the peanut says can I buy you a drink? The apple says will you buy me a drink? And the syrup says, baby I am the drink. The solution: four rounds of tequila with a karaoke round of Ireland's rugby fight song. The result: mini cheesecakes, Salty Cod style.
this post is dedicated to French Canada, yes the country, and all of the French Canadians of the world. Yes I can dedicate a post to a million people. And as a bonus dedication, i'll throw in all those who have just finished writing a 15 page economic essay on Canada. That brings the dedication up to a million and one. chouette!