Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Malfunction Junction

It rained like crazy here recently.  Naturally, it was on a day when there were a gazillion construction vehicles crammed into our driveway, so I had no choice but to park my car on the street.  I figured it was a fair exchange for all that hammering, painting and nailing going on in my kitchen.  Even if it was on Rosh Hashana.

Around 4pm, they all disappeared, so I decided to pull my car back into the garage.  After a quick sprint through the pouring rain, I jumped into the car, revved up the engine and hit the switch for the windshield wipers.  Nothing happened.

WTF?  I tried multiple times, all with the same result.  I managed to get the car back into the garage and yelled for Henry.  He showed up immediately, no doubt thinking a roach was somewhere in the vicinity.  (Hey, isn’t that what husbands are for?)

Except that he couldn’t make the wipers work either.  “Clearly, it’s some kind of electrical problem,” he pronounced.  Crap.  Since rain was in the forecast for the next two days, I knew I had to do something, since I couldn’t be without a car (the Chicken Bitch had to get to work) but I also knew I couldn’t get it to the car dealer until the rain stopped.

I immediately jumped into damage control mode.  Called the dealership to get an appointment for three days down the road and found a cheap rental car.  Since it was now 4:30 and the rental folks closed at 5, we had no time to waste.  We jumped into Henry’s car and headed out.  We got caught at the traffic light at the bottom of our street.

It’s crucial to mention here that Henry and I drive the same brand of vehicle.  Mine is smaller than his, but the interiors and dashboard configurations are basically the same.  As we sat at that traffic light, my eyes fell on his steering column, where the control for the windshield wiper was right there … on the right.

A light bulb exploded in my head.  In the frenzy of everything, we had been trying to activate the wipers using the (wrong) controls on the left side of my steering wheel.  Oh, Liz.  Oh, Henry.  What were we thinking?

Suffice it to say, we turned the car around, skulked back into the garage, canceled the rental car, canceled the repair appointment and looked at each other.  “I can’t wait to tell your kids about this,” said Henry.  “I can’t wait to tell them that you were just as stupid as me,” I retorted.  Stalemate.

Just goes to show you what stress and chaos can do to you.  We are about three weeks away from having a real kitchen (and the rest of our house) again and it won’t be a moment too soon!

In the meantime, I took solace in my temporary kitchen and baked up a batch of Caramel Apple Bars.  It seemed like the only way to make sense of our ridiculous afternoon.  And hey, it's autumn, right?


For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan with heavy duty foil to overhang sides and grease well with cooking spray.

Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the melted butter and mix until well-blended.  Place ½ of this mixture into the prepared pan and press well into the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

For the filling:
3 apples, peeled, cored, halved and cut into thin slices
1 cup chopped pecans
1 ½ cups salted caramel sauce (see below)
½ cup all-purpose, unbleached flour

Arrange the apple slices evenly over the cooled crust.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the apples.

In a nonstick pan, heat the caramel sauce over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir well.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  The mixture will pull away from the sides of the pan.

Dollop the cooked caramel over the apples/nuts in the prepared pan and use a small spatula to spread it evenly.  Then sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the top.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the top is just golden.  Cool on a baking rack, then remove from pan and cut into squares.

Yield:  24 bars

This is not an original recipe.  It's been around for years and most versions call for caramel sauce that you buy in a jar.  You know I would never stoop to that, so instead I subbed the Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce from  Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, those genius boys at Baked in Brooklyn.  I highly recommend that you do the same.  So worth it!

SWEET AND SALTY CARAMEL SAUCE  (from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
¼ cup sour cream

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan.  Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350-degrees or mixture is dark amber in color.  Keep a close eye as it can burn in an instant.  Remove from heat and slowly add the cream.  Be careful as it will bubble up then add fleur de sel.  Whisk in the sour cream and set aside to cool.

I'm going to make up a batch of this caramel sauce and bury my face in it right now.  Maybe when I surface, the kitchen will be finished and I can get back to baking and blogging as normal.  Cheers!