Here we go, confession time again!
I didn't tell you..............well............ I didn't tell you the whole name in the title because I thought it just might turn off some of you fancy-dancy fabulous, purist, totally-from-scratch chefs out there. But you know what? I think no matter how great of a chef you are, it doesn't hurt at all to have a few short cuts and to cheat a bit........... if the results are as spectacular as these Cider Poached Apples with Cinnamon Pastry Stems, Ridiculously Easy Salted Caramel Sauce and Cheater's Creme Fraiche - okay, so now you know the truth!
Actually it's even easier than that! I use frozen packaged puff pastry; just thaw it out, brush with a bit of butter, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar, slice and twist. You can stop there and freeze these fun little pastries till you're ready to use them, or you can bake them right away and resist the temptation to gobble them up as they emerge from the oven all golden, crispy and heavenly smelling! Just remember, though, that I gave you this warning; someone at your table will have a very long face if everyone else has a beautiful pastry apple stem and theirs arrives all lonely and plain looking!
Creme Fraiche (krem fresh) is simply a delicious, velvety, tangy, thickened cream with a slightly nutty flavor. It adds an elegant touch to both sweet and savory dishes. Here in the States, it's often difficult to find and extremely expensive. It's not difficult to make, but generally takes 12-24 hours for the fermentation process to take place. The Cheater's Creme Fraiche recipe I'm including today is unbelievably easy, gives great results and takes less than a minute to stir together (along with a 30 minute "nap" on your countertop). It keeps in the refridg for several weeks and is wonderful to have on hand to smooth out soups and sauces, pool under desserts or to drizzle over fresh fruit. It is a delicious substitute for sour cream, but has the added benefit of not separating when heated as sour cream has the tendency to.
I call the caramel sauce Ridiculously Easy Caramel Sauce because that's exactly what it is - mix butter and brown sugar on the stovetop, add whipping cream and simmer till thickened. Add vanilla and a bit of sea salt and taste (the important part!) - that's it! It's perfect for all kinds of desserts and it even makes a plain Jane dish of vanilla ice cream take on royal qualities!
Cider Poached Apples w/ Cinnamon Pastry Stems, Ridiculously Easy Salted Caramel Sauce & Cheater's Creme Fraiche
4 medium granny Smith apple
2 cups apple cider
¾ cup brown sugar
Ingredients for the pastry stems
1 sheet puff pastry, from a 17 ounce package
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch sea salt
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Directions for the apples:
Directions for the pastry stems:
Heat oven to 400˚F. Combine cinnamon and sugar. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Unfold the puff pastry and brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar. Cut the pastry lengthwise into 6 equal strips. Lightly twist the strips and place on the prepared sheet pan. The finished straws should be about 7-8 inches long. Transfer to the pan and run your fingers along the twists to straighten them. Bake about 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden.
Directions for the caramel sauce:
Melt butter in a medium size sauce pan. Add brown sugar and whisk to combine. Add cream and continue whisking. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add vanilla and a pinch of sea salt and taste (the fun part!) - add a bit more salt if needed.
Directions for the creme fraiche:
Combine cream and lemon juice until well blended. It will begin to thicken right away but let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes then cover and refrigerate if not using right away.
This recipe makes 4 extra "stems" for your nibbling delight! I'd hate to be the blame for a long face at your dessert table! You could also save them to share with a special friend with a cup of coffee or tea, better than any treat you could find at Starbucks!