Red Hot Apples

My husband has a 40 year old memory of eating apples from a jar at his Aunt’s house. They were small and red and sweet and good. That’s the description I have to work with.

Some time ago we were eating lunch at a old-school joint in Los Angeles and they had a cinnamon apple on offer, so we ordered one. It wasn’t red nor was it small; but it apparently tasted similar to Mike’s memory. To me, it tasted like a handful of red hots.

It so happens that I am a bit of a horder of nostalgic candies, which meant I had some red hots to spare, so I gave it a go. These are really cute, and tasty. Delicious? No, but nice. However, if you are a fan of cinnamon sugared apples, these might be something you will love.

I used standard poaching technique as you would do for pears. Instead of wine, spices, and zest, I used a bag of red-hots.
who knew?
After preparing the warm crimson bath, I thought to check the internet and there are quite a few recipes for cinnamon apples {many using red hots} so I figured I was on the right track.
I imagine these would be beautiful canned in their own syrup, warmed over ice cream, or as an oversized “cherry” crowning a soft warm chocolate cake
Or you can enjoy as we do, one by one; the soft sourness of the crab apple paired with the sticky sweet of the red hot is a lovely combination.

red-hot apples

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1-14oz bag red hots
pinch of kosher salt
a dozen or so crab apples, peeled (you can core from the bottom if you like

Place the sugar, water, red hots and salt in a heavy pot. heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure the red hots melt properly (they tend to stick to the bottom of the pan).  Once everything is melted, bring the mixture to a simmer and gently plop in the apples.  Let simmer for about 15 minutes (these soften quickly, so pay attention).  Remove apples and place in a shallow storage pan, cover with hot syrup. Let cool a bit, then store in the refrigerator.  
*note…there is quite a bit of extra syrup when all is said and done.  you can use it to make more apples, or you can put it in a jar and use it for cocktails.

ps. I took a few of these and put them in a pickling brine with mustard seed and star anise and they made a nice condiment for pork.

Bahn Chung Collective

Last Saturday, for me, the food scene in Los Angeles was a group of people, sitting around tables, learning a new skill and living in diversity.

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous. It was a crowd I’m not a part of; people I share an interest with, but aren’t part of my social circle. Not even my social media circle.

Food has a way of opening its arms wide and gathering anyone with interest. The women who put this event together; especially Diep Tran, formerly of Good Girl Dinette, were gracious and welcoming and incredibly hospitable. Every element of the day was cloched in grace.

We gathered in groups of 8 around shaded picnic tables laden with prepared supplies.

I had been watching, on instagram, the daily task of preparing the elements for this event. All the ingredients were grown and raised locally, by friends of Diep; then prepped and soaked and cooked in the overnight hours of a hibernating commercial kitchen.

After a brief tutorial by Diep, we busied ourselves with the task of making 4 each. One of our table-mates discovered a great hack for “the flip”, another made perfect packages with tiny little bows. Everyone was working together, sharing tips, tricks, and supplies.

I was a disaster. My space looked as if a toddler had discovered a spoon for the first time. I learned that the foundation was most important. My tip: don’t try and cobble together leftover pieces of banana leaf for your casing; use the good leaves. People say sports are a metaphor for life; I would make the argument that banh chung can also fit the bill.

In the end, I had two really nice packets, one mezzo-mezzo, and one unmitigated failure. Imagine my relief when we were given a bag for each of us to keep our own separated. I had been concerned that someone, after working hard all morning, would be stuck with my handiwork at the end of the day.

The day was a bit longer than I had anticipated, but time did pass rather quickly. Our little group of 6 (we had been whittled down from 8 (a strip of sun was baking two of our tablemates), took the opportunity to share our stories. We exchanged insta handles, email addresses and best places to….We left with promises of visits and meetups and words of encouragement.

I also left with 2 perfect, 1 mezzo-mezzo and one blown-out and flattened pancake of a parcel. They came out of the pressure cooker, just as they went in; talk about a metaphor for life.

If you would like to learn how to prepare these, there are quite a few videos on youtube. While not the method we used, THIS one will whet your appetite.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that a writer and photographer from the New York Times were in attendance. The story should appear in Wednesday January 30th’s paper.

Happy Heart Cupcakes

I love it when I make things that look familiar but taste delicious
it is not so difficult when making mock store-bought treats for these hostess-like cupcakes. I use my tried and true devil’s food cake recipe for this; which I also used for my {copycat} ding dongs and instead of loopdy loops I made loopdy-hearts from tinted royal icing .

devil’s food cake

3 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
1 1/2 cups hot coffee or hot water or mixture of the two (i use espresso with water)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 extra large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup milk or 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 
1 tsp vanilla

Melt bittersweet chocolate in hot water/coffee.  Sift dry ingredients together (including sugar). Mix together the chocolate/coffee mixture, milk, sour cream, and vanilla. In a mixer beat the eggs with the oil until thickened and doubled in volume (about 3-5 minutes).  Add the dry and wet ingredients, in an alternating pattern, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just incorporated.

Prepare your mini-muffin tins by liberally spraying with baking spray. Bake in a preheated 350F oven. These will bake rather quickly, check after 5 minutes.  They are done when the tester comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly touched

creamy fluffy filling

1 cup milk
5 Tbs flour
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup lard/shortening–room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter–room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
Over low heat, cook milk and flour in a saucepan until it makes a thick paste. Use a whisk to break up lumps. Let cool.  In mixer using whisk attachment, beat shortening, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add in cooled flour paste and whip until light and fluffy.  Add more sugar if you want a sweeter taste.


1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate–
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs corn syrup
2 Tbs butter

Heat cream with sugar and corn syrup over medium heat.  Once cream begins to simmer and sugar is dissolved, pour over chocolate and butter. Let chocolate melt and then whisk together until it is thick and shiny.

For Royal Icing, I use Martha Stewart’s recipe. You can find a link to her recipe HERE