It’s a sunny morning, but there’s a slight chill in the air. I’ll need a jacket to start out, but will finish my errands with it tied around my waist. I grab my collapsible cart, wallet, some produce bags and toss them into a huge tote bag. Phone goes in one back pocket, iPod in the other. Headphones in ears; keys in hand and I’m out the door. Thus begins what has become a typical Sunday for me this fall and winter.
As I walk down to the ATM for some cash, I notice that the normally busy thoroughfare is nearly empty and blissfully calm. I may have been up for hours, but it is still a sleepy Sunday morning for the rest of the city. As I march along, my steps in time with the waltzy tempo in my ears, I look up often, enjoying the play of clouds across the sky and the intermittent glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge between the buildings. An irrepressible smile spreads across my face and happy tingles spread throughout my body. I am filled with gratitude and joy that I live here. These moments are the reason I like to walk instead of taking the bus or driving. I have an ongoing love affair with this city and all it has to offer and when I walk I have the time to truly appreciate all that is around me.
It doesn’t take long before I am in the park above Fort Mason and have the Golden Gate spread out before me. It’s going to be a gorgeous day and soon this park and all of Marina Green and Crissy Field will be filled with families, athletes, dogs; people and animals enjoying the beautiful parks that are so much a part of this city.
I love coming to the farmers market when it opens. This is the quiet time before the booths are crowded with locals and tourists. This is the time when I can have the pick of the crop and enjoy leisurely conversations with the farmers and sellers. I can slowly make my way through the uncrowded aisles, waiting for inspiration to strike. I often make a second round, just to make sure I’ve seen everything. The most important destination today is Billy Bob Orchards. This is where I find the best apples I have ever tasted. They grow organic heirloom varieties like Pippin, Black Twig, Cameo, Gold Rush, and Hauer; plus the standards like McIntosh, Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and many more. I pull out my collapsible cart and set it up so I can buy several pounds of every variety they have to offer. After a chat with the farmer on our favorite varieties and what we like to do with them, I head back home with my cart full of apples and other market goodies.
A little effort and a little patience can produce addictive results. That’s how I discovered the best snack food around: Apple Crack. A few years ago, when apples were in season I decided to try my hand at applesauce. The results were okay, but they weren’t “damn that’s good” level and I wasn’t in the mood to try again. I still had quite a few pounds of apples left and I began looking for other apple recipes. Since weight and food addiction have been lifelong issues, I didn’t want to make a bunch of desserts. In my searches I came across the idea of making apple chips. I don’t own a dehydrator, so I had to make them in the oven. Baking low & slow, my first batch was a success!
Now I was inspired to experiment, so after several tries with different thicknesses, temperatures, and cook times, I found the fail-safe best way to make what I call “Apple Crack.” And let me tell you, it is aptly named. The other day I brought some into work and people kept popping into my office to get their “fix.” The best part: they are guilt-free indulgences. You can eat a handful or several handfuls and you feel like you are gorging yourself, but in actuality you are eating the equivalent of 1 or 1 ½ apples. I add nothing to them. Yet, these apples are so sweet people don’t believe me when I tell them I haven’t added any sugar.
The secret to Apple Crack is patience, effort and love. I’ve always believed that anything good needs to come from effort; that if you get something great without having to work for it, you can’t really appreciate it. And if you get something great and have it all the time, you no longer appreciate the specialness of it. So, I only make Apple Crack when apples are in season. I seek out the best apples and only buy directly from reputable farmers that I have come to know and respect. The actual process of making Apple Crack takes minimal effort in the kitchen; the true effort is in gathering the apples. With every crunch, with every sweet or sweet-tart bite, we (my friends & family) taste the love and care that the farmer put into growing those apples and the love and care I put into gathering them. And what is more addicting than love?
Place oven racks farthest away from the heat source. For my oven, that means on the top two rows. Preheat oven to 200° Fahrenheit.
Core apples and slice 3.0mm thickness on mandolin. Place apple slices as close together as possible, without overlapping, on two silicon lined baking sheets. You can use parchment paper if you don’t have any silicon mats. However, the apples will curl on parchment. So, if you like flat, smooth chips you will need silicon.
Bake for 75 minutes and then switch the baking sheets. Bake for another 75 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully peel apple chips off silicon mats and try not to eat them all within 10 minutes. The most difficult thing about Apple Crack is that it takes 2 ½ hours to make a batch and only 5-10 minutes to eat it. Hope you enjoy it as much as my friends and I do!