Baked Apples with Rosemary and Pecans (V)

img_7852.pngWith this being a show week, I decided to unveil my third “Ballet Bake.” This recipe is inspired by Giselle, which happens to be my all-time favorite classical ballet. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s a rather morbid one (though most classical ballets outside of Nutcracker are). Essentially, a village girl with a heart condition named Giselle meets and falls in love with Albrecht, an engaged royal who has disguised himself as a peasant. When Albrecht’s secret is revealed by a respected villager in front of the entire community–and his fiance, and the duke, and visiting nobles–Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart. The second act takes place in the land of the wilis–spirits of girls who’ve been fatally betrayed by their former lovers. They are led by their queen, Myrta, and they seek vengeance on essentially all living men by making them dance until they die. Giselle enters their realm as the new recruit, but she tests Myrta’s leadership when she chooses to protect Albrecht from death by dancing with him until the dawn, when wilis lose power. The ballet ends with exhausted Albrecht departing from Giselle, who has saved his life despite what he did to her.

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It’s very dramatic, very tragic. Though clearly fantastical, something about this ballet has always produced an emotional response in me. Maybe it’s the music; maybe it’s the choreography; maybe it’s the story–perhaps they all work in combination to spur my reaction. All I know is that I haven’t danced or watched this ballet a single time without tearing up or actually crying. It was the first show I ever performed with PBT as a student three years ago, so I thought perhaps my fondness for it back then stemmed from the excitement of being in my first major ballet here. It’ll be much easier for me to control myself this time, I thought; I was just young and overwhelmed by the new experience back then, I thought. I entered rehearsals this time fully expecting to dance the story without losing my composure every five minutes, as any emotionally mature 21 year-old would.

Oh, no. Nothing changed. At all. Our pianist could as much as inhale in preparation to start playing for the second act pas de deux (dance between Giselle and Albrecht), and I’d be blinking rapidly, eyes burning in expectation of the tears to come. I’d quite mastered the casual adjustment of pointe shoe ribbons or skirt clasp to hide my sniffles. At least in the first act it was a bit more acceptable, as we were naturally supposed to be upset about our friend losing her mind and dying in front of us. But still, when the music stopped and everyone abruptly broke from character into chuckles and smiles, it took me a second to secretly wipe the ACTUAL water welling in my eyes. This ballet just has a uniquely strong hold on me.

Which is why, when I found out that I wasn’t going to be able to dance in it next weekend, my stomach felt just a little bit like I’d been punched. I had my meltdown, a nice music video-style, bawling on the drive home from work type meltdown (everyone should have one some time, they’re GREAT). It’s been a few days since then, though, which means it’s time for me to accept the frustrating situation and move on. Channeling my antsy energy into this dessert was certainly helpful in that way. But I can’t hibernate grumpily in my kitchen until this show is over, of course, even though that idea sounds wildly comforting. The reality of this week for me will be sitting in at the front of the studio or in the audience and watching my all-time favorite ballet danced every day. IMG_7722

My strongest and initial response to that fact is dread: what’s more torturous than being forced to see other people do your favorite thing right in front of you? However, as I write this, I can’t help but also think that this, in a way, is such a privilege. I mean, I’ve “watched” this story unfold countless times; but never have I been without the distraction of my next entrance, of being exactly in line, or of the stabbing pain in my calf because I’ve been standing still on stage for ten minutes. I suppose I’m pretty blessed to really SEE the beauty of this ballet. Don’t get me wrong, this week is going to be so so so SO hard. It’s going to be painful. But, it’ll be the first time I get to truly take in a piece of art that has forever been dear to my heart, and that’s pretty darn cool. Encouraging you again this week to join me in finding the hidden joys in unforeseen hardship, to sit back and enjoy the view out the window when you’re forced to take a backseat (or should I say front seat, for me). I may not be going anywhere this week, but Giselle goes to the theatre in 3 days–I better stock up on the tissues.

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Jeremiah 18:3-4

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Baked Apples with Rosemary and Pecans (V)

Ingredients

  • 8 apples (I used Snapdragon, which are crisp with a mild flavor)
  • rosemary sprigs (I had probably 6 medium sprigs, but whatever you have works)
  • 1 cup pecan halves (not roasted, unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup very hot or boiling water

SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter (earth balance is great)
  • 3 medium sprigs of rosemary (about 6″ each)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

MARZIPAN

  • 2 cups pecan halves (not roasted, unsalted)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, plus 1/2 cup (separated)
  • 2 TBSP plus 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

MARZIPAN

  1. Combine pecans, 2 cups powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or cup of a Nutribullet. Pulse until pecans are finely ground.
  2. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Mix in water and corn syrup.
  3. Using gloves, a plastic bag, or cling film, use your hands to work the mixture until even throughout.
  4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar to the bowl, and knead it into the mixture until incorporated.
  5. Form the marzipan into a log, and wrap tightly in cling film. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

SAUCE

  1. Place butter in a small saucepan over low heat. When melted, add in rosemary sprigs. Allow to cook on low heat, stirring frequently, for five minutes. Strain butter into a bowl using a fine mesh sieve. **Leave the saucepan out for later
  2. Add brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and water to the melted butter in the bowl. Mix until combined. Set aside.

APPLES

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Using a paring knife/spoon, remove the core from each apple, leaving enough on the bottom to hold sauce inside (If you accidentally pierce all the way through, patch the hole with other pieces of apple).
  3. Place the apples on the bottom of a pie dish or casserole pan (will depend on apple size). It’s okay if they touch each other.
  4. Place the saucepan you used to cook the butter over medium heat. Toast the cup of pecans with one spring of rosemary, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes or until they smell nutty and are beginning to brown. Remove from heat.
  5. Divide pecans evenly into the hollowed apples.
  6. Spoon the sauce into each apple over the pecans. If you choose, save a little to drizzle on top when they come out of the oven.
  7. Arrange any remaining rosemary around the apples in the bottom of the pan.
  8. Pour the hot water into the bottom of the pan, and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until apples are tender. Use foil to cover tops of apples if pecans begin to burn (I like the taste of burnt pecans, but some don’t).
  9. While they bake, split the marzipan log into 8 even sections. Ball each section, and roll it very thin between sheets of parchment paper. Cut a hole in the center of each section.
  10. Remove apples from the oven. To serve, place apple in bowl, and spoon some of the remaining sauce and liquid from the pan on top. Drape a sheet of marzipan over the apple, with the hole exposing the pecans in the center.
  11. Enjoy immediately!

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