Ryan Thomas is a university graduate who enjoys cooking recipes from a wide variety of culinary traditions.
When you harvest dozens upon dozens of apples, you both have a wonderful bounty on your hands and the rather pressing question of what to do with them all!
Of course, you could eat them, but if these are non-commercial apples, chances are that biting into one of them might reveal an unfortunate surprise with a worm or a rotten section, so they're really best cut up so you can examine and see what you are, well . . . biting into!
Apple pies and various desserts are obvious answers—and there are plenty of savory dishes that call for apples, too. But even when you chuck half a dozen apples into a pie, you still have tons left! So I decided to come up with a way to use up as many as I could.
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My answer? Apple butter.
What a wonderfully pleasantly spiced and seasoned result! Apple butter has the apple taste concentrated in it for sure, but it has been caramelized and intensified. There is also a host of additional flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar—the very taste of autumn in all of its glory. Deep, rich, dark, a real joy to eat. But it still leaves the little problem of what exactly you do with the apple butter once it is made: in a certain sense, you have merely transferred the problem to a later stage.
My decision was to go for a crème brûlée recipe that also incorporates red bean paste: one of my favorite seasonings, and sadly underused. The apple butter gives the wonderful notes of spice, almost like pumpkin, while the red bean paste adds its fruity, but also earthy, chocolate-like flavor. It is so smooth, overflowing with seasonings, with a glorious crunchy caramelized sugar crust to break through on top.
This recipe is entirely my own.
- 2 cups apple butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 pound sweetened red bean paste
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup + 6 tablespoons sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the apple butter, heavy cream, milk, and red bean paste. Mix until it is fully combined and smooth. Allow it to rest a bit afterward.
- Using a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the vanilla extract, 1 cup sugar, and egg yolks. Beat until the resultant mixture is pale yellow and thick.
- Add about one-quarter of the apple butter-red bean paste mixture into the pale yellow sugar. Mix to combine. Then return all of it back to the saucepan. Mix again until smooth.
- Spoon the batter out into ramekins, preferably of homogenous size (I used 6 of them), and place them into a casserole dish and surround with boiling water to fill the ramekins up to around half their height. Place into an oven preheated to 325ºF for 1 hour.
- Remove the ramekins, allow to cool, and place into a refrigerator to chill. Just prior to serving, cover the top with the 6 tablespoons of sugar, and then either use a kitchen torch or a broiler to caramelize the sugar on top. Serve immediately.