Piles and piles of peels. Red, green, brown. Heaped together after a finger raking of the counter and cutting board. Every fall there is a massive kitchen “leaf” pile. I always feel a bit sad for those peels. Leaves get to have such a showy fulfilling existence. They are the first breath of life in spring; bright, green, and un-ignorable. Summer shade is built of deep canopies appreciated and loved. Fall comes they are the showy starlets once again. Even after they fade and fall we neither discard or disregard them. We play. Piles are not just raked they are built. Constructed for pure joy. We leap and laugh and later gather in the warmth of their bright last hurrah.
The pile on my counter lives and is discarded with much less glamour. But their color and that wonderful scent of apple kept calling me like a girl who has lived her life quietly and unassuming then wakes up one day thinking well why not me? I’ve never felt so suddenly connected to the inanimate before. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit my thoughts found voice with a hushed “I got you apple peels, I got you” and the focus of this years “more interesting than apple pie dessert search began. I am proud to bring you the best and last hurrah of my pile of peels: apple peel pannacotta.
Fall Tablescape Using Apples
My favorite part of this apple peel adventure ended up being the tablescape. Hands down. The dinner plates we use are black and most of my textiles are a bit too wide for this picnic table. And I really really wanted to have that old worn wood be a prominent part of the color scheme here. Here are a few ways you can recreate the look without buying all the things.
- Don’t be afraid to take the indoors out. A simple table and a cozy fire may be all the atmosphere you need.
- Don’t be afraid to take the outdoors in. A scattering of acorns and leaves does the trick when you feel like something is missing.
- Don’t forget about apples! Try using them in place of the usual pumpkins and gourds this year.
- Use textiles as chargers! Especially with smaller dishes.
- Put that wooden sign (we all have) to use. Try swapping out your usual table runner for a sign or other solid piece.
x’s & o’s Mandy
Apple peel panna cotta with crunchy pecan topping
Each fall I proudly serve Patrick a decadent, glorious, all be it traditional, apple pie. Then promptly go on a search for something a bit weird and wild. You need not worry that this recipe is to weird or will go unappreciated. It has the taste of a traditional apple pie and a texture akin to that of cheesecake.
Apple Peel Panna Cotta
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 3 cups apple peels and scraps
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup pecan pieces
- 1/8 cup honey
- dash ground cinnamon
For the panna cotta
Add the apple scraps into a medium-sized saucepan and pour the cream over the top. Heat on med-low heat just until the cream starts to simmer. Do not boil. Simmer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and steep for 30 minutes.
Strain the cream through a cheesecloth into a bowl squeezing out all the liquid.
Add one cup heavy cream back into the saucepan; sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let it sit for 5 minutes. Heat on low, stirring, until the gelatin is dissolved.
Add in the rest of the cream, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Heat on medium, stirring, until the honey is completely dissolved and the mixture is just short of boiling with a few bubbles appearing on the edges of the pan.
Ladle the mixture into whatever cups, pots, or ramekins you choose and chill in the fridge for at least three hours. Once set they can be served or stored, covered, for up to 24 hours.
For the pecan topping
In a cast iron pan toss the oats, pecan pieces, and cinnamon. Stir in the honey. Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes until the oats are a nice golden brown. Serve immediately over the pannacotta or store in an airtight container for up to a week.
It may seem like a good idea to skip step 3 and throw the gelatin into all the cream at once. But like adding cornstarch into hot water is just won't work. You'll end up picking pockets of gelatin out of your teeth making it hard to enjoy the smooth, creamy dessert that pannacotta is.