Over the long weekend, we drove out to Rowley to visit Todd’s Farm, a giant outdoor flea market. The market starts at dawn, and I’ve heard you have to be there early to get the best deals. We tried. We really did. Dawn was a little over-ambitious for Sunday morning, and it was more like noon by the time we rolled into Rowley. Todd’s farm, by that time, was packing up, though we did find an old tool chest that now lives in what John calls “the study.” (This cracks me up because it’s more a cluttered 2nd bedroom with a desk, nothing like the book-shelf lined, velvet draped, cigar smelling “study” I imagine.)
So, after driving an hour for an under-whelming flea market, we were left with no choice but to share a plate of Clam Box fried clams for lunch and then wash them down with a couple of cider donuts and from Russel Orchards. (I suspect that if you told us fried clams and/or cider donuts were only available at dawn on Sunday mornings we would have no trouble getting out of bed.)
To balance out all that deep fried goodness, I grabbed a bag of Cortland apples from the farm, most of which got sautéed in butter and spooned over challah french toast for Labor Day brunch. (It was a no holds barred, cholesterol-packed weekend incase you were wondering.) Those apples that didn’t make it onto the toast, I baked into these charming apple chips from Kate Zuckerman’s book The Sweet Life, Desserts from Chanterelle. My original plan for the chips was to use them as an edible garnish for apple cakes, and since then, I’ve been making them at work and doing just that – a little powdered sugar and some chopped hazelnuts, and apple cake never looked so pretty. But in the process, I got hungry, started snacking, and never looked back. Sweet and chewy, these chips taste exactly like ones I buy from Trader Joes, minus the grocery store and the sulfur. Equally amazing, you don’t need a food dehydrator, just a pot and regular old oven. When they first come out of the oven, they’re a little more crisp than commercial dried apples, but after a few hours (or days) on the counter, they soften into the familiar chewy rings.
To use as garnish, I left the apples whole – peel, stem, core, and all – which makes a pretty presentation, but for snacking, I would stem and core the apples first, but leave on their skins. Eat them as a lunch box snack, or chop them up for apple-cinnamon granola. Makes about 20 chips and can easily be doubled or tripled.
For the Chips
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 smallish crisp apples
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees (200 degrees for a convection oven.) Set a wire rack over a sheet pan. Line another sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper.
Make the Syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat while you slice the apples.
Slice the Apples: Using a sharp chef’s knife or a mandolin, carefully slice the apples very thinly – about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch thick. I suggest small apples in the ingredients because they will more easily fit in most mandolins. If you have one, it makes the job much easier. Whether using a mandolin or a knife, you’ll want to start by slicing about ½ inch off of the end of the apple first to begin slicing with a flat surface. The apples can be sliced either vertically or horizontally depending on how you want the chips to look. For cored chips, I recommend using an apple corer to remove the core first and then slicing the apples horizontally to yield rings.
Poach the Apples: Once sliced, immediately submerge the apples into the sugar syrup. Return to a boil and then remove with a slotted spoon drain on the prepared wire rack.
Bake the Apples: Once cool to the touch, arrange the apples on the prepared sheet pan, being careful to lay them completely flat and not to overlap the slices. Bake for 40-50 minutes in a regular oven or 20-30 minutes in a convection oven, rotating the apples half way through baking. To test for doneness, remove one apple slice and allow it to cool – if it is crisp once cooled, the apples are done. I find the cooking time varies greatly depending on how thin you are able to get your slices – if using a chef’s knife, your slices will likely be a bit thicker an require more baking time. Once cooked, cool the slices and serve immediately or store in a sealed container for a few weeks.