Do you know how hard it was to find a place in my own state that I have not been to? I knew my rule of "It has to be a place I've never been to before" would be hardest here in Washington. I managed it, though! Once I decided to focus on produce instead of salmon, it narrowed it down to the eastern half of the state, which definitely opened up a few more options for me. I've been to the bigger cities east of the mountains, so it was still challenging to find a small town with enough to talk about that I had never been to. And so, I present to you, Quincy!
Quincy was established in 1892 as a railroad camp during the construction of the Great Northern Railroad. It was incorporated on March 27, 1907. It wouldn't be until the early 1950's however, when the Grand Coulee Dam brought water to the area in great quantities, that agriculture would become the city's main claim to fame.
Quincy is also near several tourist areas and benefits from being the closest full-service city with amenities for visitors. It is located close to the Gorge Amphitheatre near the city of George, and also near Crescent Bar, a town by the river that gets a lot of tourists during the summer because of their water-based attractions. For those of you who may never have traveled east of the Cascade mountains, the eastern half of the state is very hot and dry. Some parts are nearly desert-level, so having water is a very good thing for tourism.
The Food: A trio of apple desserts
When I picked apples, it didn't take long for me to decide on desserts over savory. I thought it would be a fun change of pace. My first pick was a classic Apple Brown Betty, which I had heard of but never tried before. And I usually make two items, but when I saw the one puff pastry recipe, and saw another one in my recipe collection, I decided to try them both. Why? Because when you buy puff pastry at the store, it comes in a two pack, so why not use it all up at once? The recipes were similar but also very different, as the picture shows. I found all these recipes in my own personal recipe card collection, and I no longer know the sources. And as always with desserts, I changed it to cut out a lot of the sugar. I will write them out as I made them because I don't think the recipes suffered at all, really. In fact, there was less waste. Some of the steps in a couple of the recipes asked for you to drain off the syrup created by the sugar and liquid given off by the apples, and just throw it away! By using less sugar, it didn't create excess liquid to be thrown out. This kept all the flavor, in a more concentrated form, in the dish, which means I didn't need to sweeten it more. My parents actually drove up last night at 9pm to get some of it. They said it was delish, so, it must be good and not just me being biased! But it was all pretty darn good, I think! Also, I didn't take pictures of the assembly of the food because it really wasn't note-worthy, so the picture of the final products, is the best of the best I took last night. I like that even though the puff pastry desserts are largely the same ingredients, they look very different, visually. I think it all turned out to be very pretty food. And also, the leftover pastries make a lovely breakfast the next day...Just eat them at room temperature and the pastry is still good the next day! I know this because I am writing in between bites...
Apple Brown Betty: I made a half batch, but this can easily be doubled.
4 slices firm white bread, torn into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
1 1/4lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce, minus 1 Tbsp.
1 Tbsp. brown sugar (I put the sugar in the bottom of the 1/3 cup and topped it with the applesauce. The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup brown sugar for the amount I made, but there was no way I was going to use that much sugar. This was a good compromise. The applesauce added moisture and sweetness but without as much sugar. The small amount of brown sugar added enough of the flavor but didn't add too much excess sugar, either.)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, bake the bread pieces until very lightly toasted, about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Grease a shallow 2-quart ceramic or glass baking dish.(I used my 9"x9" Pyrex dish.)
2.) In medium bowl, combine melted butter, and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Add toasted bread; toss gently until evenly moistened.
3.) In large bowl, toss sliced apples, brown sugar and applesauce, lemon juice, vanilla, nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 tsp. cinnamon.
4.) Place 1/2 cup bread pieces in the baking dish. Top with half the apple mixture, then 1 cup bread pieces. Place remaining apple mixture on top; sprinkle with remaining bread pieces, leaving a 1" border of apples all around the edge.
5.) Cover dish with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer or until apples are tender and crumbs on top are brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
Makes 4 servings
Most Apple Brown Betty recipes call for breadcrumbs, so if you wanted to take the bread after it's been toasted and crush it into crumbs, feel free to do so. This was quite tasty. I mean, it's basically cinnamon bread and apples, but it's a good, simple, easy dessert that's also a good way to use up bread that might be getting too old and tough for sandwiches. This would be good with whipped cream or ice cream, if you eat that sort of thing.
Sauteed Apples in Puff Pastry:
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. brown sugar(original recipe calls for 1/3 cup)
1 Tbsp. bourbon
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped(I feel this actually made too much filling and when I tried to cram more into the pastry to not feel like I was wasting it, it made it difficult to fold and properly close. I still managed it, though. I think 2 apples is more than enough. I used Pink Lady apples for this and they were perfect.)
1/2 of (17 1/4oz.)pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed(1 sheet) (I used Aussie Bakery brand instead of Pepperidge Farms. If you can find this, I highly recommend it. It's more expensive, but the flavor and texture are well worth the cost. The other brand is ok and will do in a pinch, but the flavor and texture is inferior, in my opinion.)
In a large skillet, melt butter. Stir in sugar, bourbon, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add apples; cook and stir over medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry to a 12" square. Cut into nine (4") squares. Place about 2 Tbsp. apple in center of each square. Brush edges lightly with water. Bring one corner of pastry over apples to opposite corner. Seal around edges with a fork.(You are making a turnover, basically.) Prick tops to release steam. Repeat with remaining squares. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar(I didn't do this, but you can if you want!)
If you cut the amount of apples down to two instead of three, you might need to alter the amount of butter you saute it in. You might not need as much. Same goes for the seasonings and sweetener, just do it all to taste. This was sooo good!
Brown Sugar Apple Pastries:
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 Tbsp. butter, divided(you want the butter to be very soft, but not melted, for this recipe)
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar, divided(original recipe calls for 3/4 cup!)
3 Tbsp. unsweetened apple sauce
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored. Cut each quarter into three slices(The original recipe calls for 3 apples, but this would be way too much to fit on the pastry, as you can see in the picture.)
1 Tbsp. lemon zest (I actually forgot to get this so I just put some lemon juice in the mixture instead and it was fine.)
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Unfold pastry sheet on work surface. Cut into three strips along fold lines. Cut in half crosswise. Transfer rectangles to one ungreased baking sheet.
Blend 2 Tbsp. butter, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl; spread over rectangles. Bake ten minutes. Pierce crusts with a fork to deflate.(The recipe says to keep baking after this for six more minutes or until the bottoms are golden. Mine were perfect after the ten minutes and didn't need more taking time. Check yours at this time to see if you need to bake it more or not. The sugar topping is definitely not something you want to overbake...)
Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples. Saute until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. sugar(for those who might not know, 1/2 Tbsp. is the same as 1 and 1/2tsps.), the applesauce, cinnamon, and lemon zest or juice. Toss until the apples are softened but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes.
Transfer crusts to platter. Top each with apples; drizzle with any syrup from skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I was really impressed with the visual presentation of this one. It's so simple, but so cool too. Also very delicious. All three of these turned out just perfect with the alterations I made, which just goes to show you, that you can cut out a lot of sugar from most desserts, without suffering from changing the taste or texture. Test it out for yourself sometime and you'll see what I mean. Baking in particular, is a science and best done with precise measurements, but I am learning more and more as I try this out, that you do have some room to change things around before you change the taste/texture beyond what it's supposed to be. If you try it out sometime, you'll have to let me know how it worked for you!
All these recipes made me really proud, and happy, that I live in Washington state and have access to so many different varieties of apples. They really are quite a tasty fruit!
Official Quincy City Website