Apple Kuchen

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It may be a new year but we've still got a Recipe Box full of mystery dishes and there's bound to be some disasters in there... so it should come as no surprise that I already found one, on only the second week of the year. The thing that DID come as a surprise to me is that this disaster is an apple tart recipe. In the history of my baking life (admittedly not an illustrious history, but a history nonetheless) I have neither baked nor tasted an apple dessert I do not like.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an apple fanatic- I'd choose Anything With Frosting or Most Things with Chocolate over an apple dessert most days- but the great thing about apple desserts is how reliable they are. They're always tasty, they're always cosy and they make your house smell amazing when you bake them; you can reliably make one anytime of year without waiting for the fruit to be in season; they often work just as well for a luxurious breakfast as they do for a dinner-party worthy dessert; many taste as delicious warm from the oven as they do at room temperature; most people like them and I've never met anyone allergic to them to date.

All that said, I finally found an apple dessert that is just not worth it. I made this one recent frosty morning when outside was so cold that the ice on the ground still hadn't melted from days before and I just wanted something warming in my kitchen. This kuchen was supposed to do the trick but it lied to us, dear reader.

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First of all, this cake requires that you make a dough (yes, a dough, not a batter) and then line a springform pan with it. This should have been hint #1 that things would quickly go south, but I thought I was experienced enough to handle a freeform tart so I went ahead with it. The dough is then pressed into the bottom of the springform and up the sides of it, but there wasn't nearly enough dough so it was almost impossible to get the dough more than ½-inch or so up the sides without making bald spots on the bottom of the pan. Once that's done, you fill the middle with a cooked-apple mixture you've already made, and which is so full of juice that the pan is basically just a bowl of liquid.

Then you bake it, praying the whole time that it doesn't leak hot caramelised apple liquid onto the bottom of your oven (for once, it didn't!) and when it's done, you try to saw through it with every serrated knife you own. The cake portion of this cooked up thin and crunchy, but, like, not in a good way. The texture was cardboard-y and flavourless, except for the filling. The really unfortunate part about this kuchen is that the filling is actually delicious... so delicious that we may or may not have scooped the apple-cherry filling out and stirred it into a bowl of porridge for breakfast on the morning after I made this ill-fated recipe... and again every day until we ran out of filling.

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As always, despite the fact that it's a disaster, I'm including the full recipe. Don't make this cake, but if you're in the mood for the best porridge of your life, make this filling. It works on pancakes, in porridge, in yoghurt and also probably in ice cream, but I didn't get around to testing that for sure before I ran out of filling.

If you're on the hunt for a better apple recipe, check out the others (all better than this!) over here.

The verdict:

2 spoons out of five. I can't give it any less because of how good that filling was, man.

After making a Load of newspaper recipes from this box, it's a little embarrassing how fast i was able to identify the woman on the bottom right as Betty crocker.

After making a Load of newspaper recipes from this box, it's a little embarrassing how fast i was able to identify the woman on the bottom right as Betty crocker.

One year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: Happy New Year!

the recipe:

Apple Kuchen

the directions:
filling:

Simmer apple slices and raisins or cherries in just enough water to cover them until apples are just tender but still retain their shape (about 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine sugar, cinnamon and orange zest.
Drain fruit, then stir sugar mixture into fruit.
This will immediately make a syrup, but that's ok.

dough:

Preheat oven to 210C/425F and grease an 8-inch springform pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Work in butter by mixing at low speed.
Beat in eggs, then stir in milk JUST until combined.
Spread dough on bottom and up sides of prepared springform pan.
Pour fruit mixture into pan along with any syrup that has formed.
Bake 45-50 minutes, until crust is deep golden and filling is firm-ish and bubbly.

the ingredients:
the filling:

5 c (600g) apples, peeled, cored & sliced thinly
½ c (75g) golden raisins or dried cherries
2/3 c (134g) sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp orange zest


he dough:

1 c (120g) flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 ½ tbsp (35g) butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp milk

Mariner's Shrimp & Mac

Here are some foods I love:

Cheese
Macaroni cheese (this is what macaroni and cheese is called here in the UK and I love it)
Shrimp
Olives

Here are some things I can now say with surety that I do not like in combination:

Cheese
Macaroni Cheese
Shrimp
Olives.

But here we are, and it wouldn’t be The Recipe Box Project if every recipe was a winner. I made this Mariner’s Mac during Lent, because even though we don’t change our diet, I still remember my mom’s stories about eating fish every Friday, so I figured Lent was as good of a time as any to make this dish. But then it was so terrible I’ve just been putting off the inevitable post about it because I just don’t really know what to tell you about this.

To begin with, I should note that, for some reason, macaroni cheese in a box is almost impossible to find in Scotland. Neither of the grocery stores in my neighbourhood carry it, and neither does the one near my office. I couldn’t muster up the energy or desire to ruin a batch of homemade macaroni cheese by turning it into Mariner’s Mac, so I opted for a family-size macaroni cheese from the refrigerator section as my base… but it was from Waitrose—the fanciest grocer in Edinburgh—so it was still a little gourmet.

Also, the recipe doesn’t say what kind of olives should be used, so I went with pitted kalamatas. This was a mistake, though not as big of a mistake as this entire dish turned out to be. The worst part was that it’s impossible to eat around all the nonsense that goes into this dish, because the onions (which are raw for added shudders) are minced so small they’re invisible under the cheese sauce.

I am, however, starting to have a theory that the advent of all the boxed foods that appeared in the 1950s and 1960s are responsible for these weird ‘casseroles’ in a way I didn’t expect. I mean, if you were a housewife in the 1950s, and you had only ever tasted food made from scratch, wouldn't the taste of boxed macaroni just disgust you (not to mention feeling absolutely too easy-- like calling for a takeaway)? So how do you fix the taste of processed foods as a home cook (and how do you convince housewives to buy your product, if you're a brand like Kraft)?

You make up inane recipes to prove how 'versatile' your products are, and if you're a cook, you 'dress up' your easy boxed meals to make them seem more costly, unique, time-consuming, and fancy. At least, that's how I justify the existence of this recipe, and if you have a better idea, than I'm all ears.

The verdict:

1 spoon out of five. I feel I should at least deign to give this recipe a single spoon, since Judson and I managed to eat the shrimp and macaroni cheese and leave behind the majority of the olives and other random ingredients. But I really like both shrimp and macaroni, and it was still an unholy effort to get through an entire bowlful of this recipe. I don't recommend it-- at all.

one year ago: Easter Bread

The recipe:

Mariner's Shrimp & Mac

the directions:

Prepare macaroni as directed on package.
Stir in shrimp, sour cream, olives, pimento, and onion.
Stir well and reheat throughout before serving. 

the ingredients:

1 box (or prepared refrigerated version) macaroni cheese
1 c shrimp, cooked
¾ c sour cream
¼ c olives, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp sweet red pepper or pimento, chopped
1 tbsp onion, chopped finely

Marshmallow Lime Chiffon Pie

If you live Stateside, then today is Pi Day (3/14). But over here in the UK, the date is written 14/3, so it's not really a holiday that anyone here celebrates.

Never to be foiled by being in a country that doesn't celebrate the same holidays as I want to (and never one to miss an opportunity for pie!) here's a double-whammy holiday recipe for you: it's a pie for Pi Day but it's also green for St. Patrick's Day later this week!* And it's also terrible.

Oh, sorry-- did that come as a surprise to you? Maybe you didn't read the title, which includes both marshmallow and lime. Or perhaps you ignored that photo up there. Or maybe you didn't scroll straight through to the ingredients like I always do to see that this recipe includes lime jello, egg yolks, and marshmallows, and also that it is a nearly-glowing shade of green.

Anyway, I tried to keep an open mind about this recipe, I really did. It's been at least a decade since I had Jello, and even longer since I've had lime Jello, so I was hoping maybe it wasn't as bad as I was thinking it would be. From the second I opened the packet of Jello powder, the entire kitchen smelled like Pine-Sol, and it was hard to stay optimistic after that. But still I persevered. I dissolved the Jello in water, set it aside, and then scrambled some egg yolks. The instructions say to heat the egg yolks slowly with sugar and lemon juice, but, not wanting to scramble the egg yolks by heating them too quickly, I turned the heat as low as it would go so I'd keep a nice smooth custard.

But I didn't count on what happened when I added the lemon juice: it curdled the egg yolks instantly. No matter how much I heated them (or didn't heat them), the egg yolks were curdled, lumpy, and not going to come back together. So I strained out the curdled bits and tried to proceed. But then trying to stir the custard mixture into the still-warm Jello also didn't work (the egg mix floated on top), and then adding whipped egg whites just made the entire thing frothy. Plus, I live in a country with no mini marshmallows, so I had to snip up full-sized ones, which didn't dissolve and took up way too much space in my pie tin. What I'm saying here is this: this is a terrible recipe and you shouldn't make it. Unless you really like lime Jello (or marshmallows), in which case you should just pour some Jello into a pie crust, let it set, and then top it with marshmallows, because this is just not worth it.

*Technically, Scots don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day either... but since the holiday has its origins in the British Isles, I'm counting it. Though I promise a better St. Patrick's Day recipe later this week, so stay tuned! 

The verdict:

0 spoons out of five. I reserve the zero spoons ratings for things that legitimately didn't work, and, based on the picture that accompanies this recipe, which shows a tall, fluffy, pale green concoction with the marshmallows sunken into a single layer at the bottom... well, in comparison, this didn't work.

one year ago: French pudding (another disaster!)

The recipe:

Marshmallow Lime Chiffon Pie

the directions:

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water and set aside.
Combine egg yolks, 1/3 c sugar, lemon juice, and salt.
Stir over very low heat until slightly thickened (this will take awhile).
Remove from heat and blend in gelatin, stirring well.
Chill until slightly thick, meanwhile, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Beat remaining 1/3 c sugar into whites, then fold into gelatin mixture.
Add marshmallows and stir well, then pour into pre-baked pie crust.
Top with shredded coconut and chill until firm, then serve... or don't.

the ingredients:

3 oz lime gelatin (this is one standard-sized US box)
1 c boiling water
2 eggs, separated
2/3 c sugar, divided
¼ c lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
2 c mini marshmallows or regular marshmallows, snipped into small pieces
1 prepared pie crust
½ c shredded coconut