Colored Sugar Shapes

This isn't my first post about sugar shapes, in 2008 I also wrote about these wonderful sugar creations that are SO easy and quick to make. I actually have to give the credit for this batch to my 8 year old daughter who was so excited about playing in the color stained water and filling the candy molds. I was happy to have her help.. because at this point I was more interested in clicking away with my camera and getting some pretty photo's.

I wasn't just shooting for Dalla Mia Cucina this time around, Simone from Jungle Frog Cooking is a professional Food Photographer who periodically has food photo challenges on her blog. I thought it would be fun to join in THIS particular one, themed on the use of "white". My experience with shooting all white has usually left me with burned and over exposed images. Even this time around, the light in my studio wasn't "all that", and I had the wrong bulbs in my lamp stands (which cast a yellow light) so I went "tout naturel" and upped my exposure trying to eliminate the shadows. Oh how I HATE shadows! :)

I usually use my 24 -70 mm lens f2.8, but I knew I was going to need as much light as possible filtering in, so I used my 50mm f1.4 lens. Other than having a smaller cropping area to play with, it was a pretty good choice. Hope you enjoy the photo's.. and the Sugar Shapes!! 

Colored Sugar Shapes

This is an easy and elegant way to serve sugar at your holiday or everyday table. My children and I started making these a few years ago and now regularly enjoy these shaped and colorful cubes for our coffee and tea.
With holiday dinners and family gatherings just around the corner definitely make time for this easy preparation.

Food Coloring *
Candy or Chocolate Molds

Color your water to desired shades.
Add 2 teaspoons of water to 1 cup of sugar, combine until it's the consistency of wet sand.
Pack moistened sugar into plastic mold trays (with shapes 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide available at Joanns Fabrics & Crafts or kitchen-supply stores).
Scrape level with a spatula.
Let harden.
Turn plastic molds over gently on cookie sheet, they should release easily.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

* My son came up with an alternative to colored water. He places colored sugar crystals (sold in craft stores) on the bottom of the plastic molds before he adds un-colored sugar. This also lends to a very beautiful display!

Enjoy and Buon Appetito!

Apple Dumplings in a
Warm Crème Anglaise Sauce

We love comfort food in all shapes and sizes.. but for me a true comfort food has to be warm and include something creamy. It wasn't till I first met my husband that I had ever had the pleasure of enjoying an apple dumpling. We used to go to this wonderful little bakery in Belmont Shore, Long Beach and indulge in the most wonderful sweet treats. This is where I first had my dumpling. But to be honest with you, it still didn't give me that warm comfortable feeling that I got when I had hot peach or apple pie ala mode. So this is where the Crème Anglaise comes in. If you have never had apple dumplings with a warm crème anglaise sauce you have never really enjoyed apple dumplings the way you should! :)

This is a perfect fall dessert and dressed up in this custard sauce it makes quite an elegant holiday presentation!

Apple Dumpling Ingredients
2 cups water 
1-1/4 cups sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup shortening 
1/3 to 1/2 cup half-and-half, light cream, or whole milk 
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
6 small cooking apples (about 1-1/2 pounds) 
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1. For sauce, in a medium saucepan combine the water, the 1-1/4 cups sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup butter or margarine. Set aside. 

2. Meanwhile, for pastry, combine the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the half-and-half, light cream, or milk over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon of the cream or milk at a time, until all of the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to an 18x12-inch rectangle.* Using a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut into six 6-inch squares.

3. In a small mixing bowl combine the walnuts, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.

4. Peel and core the apples. Place an apple on each pastry square. Fill centers of apples with walnut mixture. Drizzle sauce over apples. Moisten edges of each pastry square with water; fold corners to center over apple. Pinch to seal. Place dumplings in a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Bake in a 365 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown. 

Crème Anglaise Ingredients
2 cups light cream or half and half 
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (can be found specialty food stores) or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
5 large egg yolks

*Have a fine medium-sized strainer and bowl ready near the stove.

In a stainless steel bowl stir together, using a wooden spoon, the sugar and yolks until well blended. (Do not let this mixture sit too long or a film will develop on the yolks.)

In a small saucepan heat the cream and vanilla bean (if using) just to the boiling point. Remove from heat and whisk a few tablespoons of the cream into the yolk mixture. Then, gradually add the remaining cream, whisking constantly.

Pour this mixture into a medium sized saucepan and, over medium heat, gently heat the mixture to just below the boiling point (170 - 175 degrees F). You will notice that steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle! Check to see if it is the right consistency by holding a wooden spoon sideways that is covered with the custard and run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the streak remains without the cream running down through the streak, it is ready.

Immediately remove from the heat and pour through the strainer, scraping up any thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until seeds separate. For maximum flavor, return the pod to the sauce until serving time. (If you are using pure vanilla extract, instead of the vanilla bean, add it to the cream now.)

The crème anglaise can be refrigerated covered with plastic wrap for a couple of days. 

Note: If sauce was overheated and curdling occurs, pour instantly into a blender and process until smooth before straining. If necessary, add a little heavy cream to the mixture before blending.

Makes about 2 cups .

To serve, spoon Creme Anglaise in bowls. Place a dumpling in each. Use reserved sauce for drizzling over dumplings. Makes 6 servings.