Many years ago, we had a cookbook from Maine that had the most extraordinary apple pie recipe. It had a layer of crushed graham crackers and caramel sauce underneath the apples. We lost that cookbook in the move to our new kitchen, but every fall when the apples are being harvested I think back to this recipe. This year, I decided to re-create it in an apple crisp. It sure took less time than making a pie, but the flavor combination was there.
For gluten-free cooking, try substituting gluten-free cookies for the graham crackers and brown rice flour for the flour. I think you might be pleased.
Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
- Lightly grease 8x8” square baking dish
- Filling: Toss apples together with brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and the melted butter.
- Topping: Melt butter in a medium bowl and add all other topping ingredients. Mix until crumbly and evenly mixed.
- Sprinkle over apples and pat down lightly. Bake at 350º for about 30-40 minutes, until apples are soft and the filling bubbles and the crisp is golden.
- Meanwhile make Salted Caramel Sauce: Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. It's okay if the sugar begins to form clumps- keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
- Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, it will be around 350 degrees F. Watch this step very carefully!
- Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
- Slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will bubble up ferociously.
- Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel or kosher salt and whisk to incorporate.
- Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into jars. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
- Serve crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce.
Above the sounds of car doors opening and closing, luggage being loaded, and 30 women exchanging “goodbyes and well wishes,” comments regarding their retreat could be overheard. They were all very positive, especially those regarding their meals. Many of these women love to cook, and are very attentive to—and appreciative of—what they are served.
From what I overheard, their final dessert was the ultimate perfection, and had made quite an impact, sending them off on a high, happy note. As I thought on all of this someone quietly appeared offering me a luscious looking lime creation garnished with a fresh mint leaf and whipped cream on a crystal clear glass dessert plate. Suddenly I was reminded of a favorite verse of scripture in the Old Testament where God in referring to prayer says: “Before they call, I will answer.”
- Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
- Add graham cracker crumbs and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until blended. Transfer to a medium bowl and add coconut flakes and melted butter. Toss to combine completely. Pour the crumbs into an 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Set aside to cool completely.
- In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Stir until thick and well incorporated. Set aside.
- Place the gelatin in a small bowl and cover with water. Let stand two minutes to bloom. Microwave in 10-second bursts until gelatin is dissolved. Cool the gelatin to near room temperature, but do not let it set—very important.
- Add the whipping cream to the bowl of a stand mixer. (If you don't have a stand mixer use a large mixing bowl and a handheld mixer.) Whip the cream for one minute on a medium speed. Slowly add the sugar to the cream. Turn off the mixer and check to see that the gelatin has cooled, but not set. Add the gelatin and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Separately reserve about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of whipped topping for garnish.
- Spoon about 1/2 cup of whipped cream into the key lime filling and lightly stir to combine. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold completely into the mixture, careful not to deflate the cream too much.
- Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and smooth over with a spatula.
- Garnish with whipped cream and thinly sliced lime as desired. Refrigerate for at least two hours for a cloud like dessert. For a frozen tart, freeze at least two hours.
- To serve, remove the tart from the freezer and let it sit out on the counter for 10-15 minutes to soften a little before slicing it.
This past week, we invited artists to step away for a few days of retreat as they enjoyed renewing their vision and sharing together, in an atmosphere of Benedictine hospitality on the shores of beautiful Cape Cod Bay. Each day was punctuated by two lectures given by renowned art historian, Msgr. Timothy Verdon. He shared his passionate love of art, with beautiful images—both familiar and unknown—in a series of seven post-Easter lectures. Art lovers had the opportunity to fellowship together, while Msgr. Verdon discussed what it means to see with artistic understanding. It was a treat for our entire community and a privilege to be behind the scenes creating meals for them to enjoy. (Read more about the retreat here!)
Oscar Wilde said, “The artist is the creator of beautiful things.” Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, I believe that you are. Every one of us wishes to create beautiful things out of nothing. Take this Lemon-Almond Butter Cake for example…
- For the curd, combine zest, juice, sugar, salt and eggs in a heatproof bowl, and beat well.
- Add butter, and place over a saucepan full of simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until mixture thickens into curd, about 5 minutes.
- Strain into a bowl, and press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, at least 1 1/2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon flour, shaking out excess.
- With an electric mixer, cream the remaining butter and 1 cup sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt, and stir in.
- In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until they start to foam. Do not overbeat or the cake will be tough. Add eggs and ground almonds to batter, and mix well.
- Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Drop 8 individual tablespoons lemon curd around perimeter of batter, leaving a 1-inch border, and taking care to space drops evenly.
- Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons curd into center of batter. Refrigerate remaining curd for another use. Sprinkle cake with toasted almonds and 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on taste.
- Bake until cake is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into cake (not curd) comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
- Let cool on rack 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan, and cool completely.
- Whip cream with almond liqueur. Present cake at table, and offer whipped cream on the side.
(Recipe adapted from the New York Times)
“Who wants to take on care of the rhubarb patch?” This question went out a few days ago to the sisterhood from the sister in charge of our vegetable gardens. Before the day was over the question had been answered, the patch had been watered, and the fertilizing process begun.
We love our rhubarb patch. We love to watch it come into fruition producing its rich beautiful leaves and stems. We love to see it harvested and prepared for the many different ways we use it.
For this year’s Easter dinner various sisters volunteered to make a variety of very special desserts. There were several decadent chocolate wonders. There were tortes and trifles piled high with tantalizing toppings. There were brand new gourmet creations anyone of which could have taken a prize, and then there were a number of humble pies. So…which dessert do you think was most requested? You’re absolutely right. It was our old-fashioned, flavorful strawberry rhubarb pie. Unfortunately, some had to go without!
- Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit.
- For the pie crust: Combine the salt and flour together.
Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until it is about pea-size pieces.
- Add the water to the flour a little at a time using a fork to lightly mix it. Continue to add the water until the dough just comes together – don’t over work the dough or it will become tough.
- Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once it is ready divide the dough in half and roll out the bottom crust and place in a pie dish.
- Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, and salt.
Turn into the unbaked pie shell.
- Roll out the top crust and place over the filling. Crimp to seal edges and make a few slits along the top.
Brush with egg white wash and garnish with large granule sugar.
- Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
Decrease temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.
Note: Rhubarb is tart. The strawberries provide sweetness but, depending on your taste, you might want to add more sugar.
In the coming months, you will from time to time be treated to new recipes from “guest bloggers”. These are old and new friends — dedicated chefs and passionate voices who share our love of cooking. After all, we are Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen, and these kitchens extend far and wide, all over the world. Tables that welcome the “Stranger as Christ”, kitchens that “practice the presence of God” as Brother Lawrence taught, and communities that are built by hospitality, love and prayer. Our lives are enlarged as we welcome them and listen to their unique voices, share in their story and try our hand at their creativity.
This week’s guest blog post comes from Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, a Benedictine monk who lives at Our Lady of the Resurrection monastery in Lagrangeville, New York. He is also an internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of several cookbooks. He is also the author of a new book from Paraclete Press, Christ the Merciful.
The son of man came eating and drinking . . .
– Matthew 11:19
The quote above was one of Dorothy Day’s favorites from the Gospels. It reminds us that Christ, in the fullness of His humanity, partook of food and drink and gave us Himself under the auspices of bread and wine.
These thoughts are on our mind as we prepare a simple dessert for the anniversary of the death of Saint Benedict on March 21. Known as the Transitus of Saint Benedict, this is the day that monks and nuns celebrate his birthday in heaven. During evening vespers we hear the story of how he prepared himself for the passage into the next life by receiving communion. Then, with the assistance of some of his monks, he positioned himself in the form of the cross to die like his savior. He insisted on remaining in an upright position with his arms extended in prayer until his final breath.
Saint Benedict is considered the founder of Western monasticism. In this humble dish we celebrate his life while maintaining his Rule of simplicity and moderation in all things.
Oranges for St. Benedict’s Day
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Cut the oranges evenly in half and, using a spoon, carefully remove the pulp from the inside, keeping the shells intact. Remove the seeds and cut the pulp into tiny pieces. Place in a deep bowl.
- Add the candied fruit kirsch, and sugar to the orange pulp. Mix well and fill the orange shells with this mixture.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes. Serve warm.