Jen and I have been meaning to go to the Headhouse Farmers’ Market for awhile now. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I haven’t actually been to the market before (it’s Philadelphia’s largest), but we finally made an afternoon of it this weekend and, scouring the various stands of produce and local product, I fell in love with food all over again.
While her day job as a social entrepreneur means running a website devoted to hyperlocal fashion on Hylo Boutiques, Jen has a similarly local approach to food and, having frequented the market all summer, knows everyone. And so we met Gil, whose perfection of the canelé, a ridiculously intricate French pastry, got him a nod in the October issue of Food & Wine. Then there was Michael Alan, who bakes up various sourdoughs and challah rolls for Wild Flour Bakery. And then the woman whose name I can’t remember that distributes cheese from the vendor I can’t remember but wants to try her hand at making her own (join the club!) And so on and so forth. The food community in Philadelphia is nothing if not….communal.
Completely reinspired to get back to baking, we headed back to Fairmount to work on spiced pumpkin pots de crème. However, while Hurricane Irene might have let us off (fairly) easy, this year’s pumpkin crop took a hard hit. I checked into three grocery stores on my way home, all of which had been out of canned pumpkin since the beginning of September. (This will be far more of a travesty once my craving for pumpkin scones kicks in.) So we settled instead for spiced apple, another fall harvest favorite, and made a few of these French babies. To be consumed with the aforementioned canelé, of course.
Though they look quite difficult, pots de crème are really simple. After a series of boiling/steaming individual ingredients, all come together and are distributed among glass jars, nestled in a warm bath of water (this distributes the heat evenly once in the oven.) After they’ve cooked, a sprinkling of spiced apples and chopped pistachios gives the slightly sweet custard an extra kick of flavor and there you have it! Consider it unbroiled crème brûlée with seasonal toppings and cute packaging.
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and deseeded
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups milk
For the topping:
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees. In a small pan, steam applesauce with vanilla bean seeds for about five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with the sugar. In another pot, heat the milk with the spices until just warm. Stir into the egg mixture, followed by the applesauce mixture.
Fill a large baking dish with two-three inches of water and place six small jars inside (water should not crest the jars.) Divide batter evenly among jars. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes, or until center is set.
For the topping, saute diced apples with honey and cinnamon until soft, about five minutes. When pots are set, remove from oven and let cool. Sprinkle each pot with spiced apples and chopped pistachios. Serve!