Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Apple Pie Chips

Nothing extravagant this week, just something really simple! 

What we call:
Apple Pie Chips!

First thing you need to know is how to dehydrate. Sounds scary if your a dehydrating newbie or you don't own one but, here are at least two things I can tell you about dehydrating. 
One, it's really not in the least bit complicated.
Two, you don't need an actual electric dehydrator to dehydrate. 

Here are a bunch of links that give you info on how to build a solar dehydrator: 
Here is a TON of instructions on how to build solar dehydrators of all shapes and sizes!
If you're sketchy about some of these people, here's a few from some people that you can trust: 
And's video on the big ones. 

Don't have the resources for big ones like this, no problem! 
I've researched a bit and ended up using this method for a little while. You can use a corrugated piece of metal as a bottom piece. Followed by a screen, framed out of wood. Make sure your screen is set toward the bottom of the frame though to prevent any food from sticking to the material above. Cover the screen with a black or dark fabric. Cover the fabric with an old window. (Why do these instructions remind me of the,There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A -insert noun here- books?!) Making sure that your window is completely covered! My only word of advice for this method is this, choose your "screen" material carefully! Not all material is really food safe. Second word of advice, WASH THE SCREEN!! I have seen people do this and not wash it.....I may have done the 50s housewife thing and actually gasped! Third bit of advice, BE PATIENT! Your food may not always dry as fast as it would in an electric dehydrator but, it will dry! Just remember what takes 8 hours or so in a dehydrator, may take a little longer in the solar dehydrators. Also keep in mind that you're a slave to the weather as well. 

If that idea leaves you a little on the fence, you can also dehydrate certain foods in your car! I know it may sound odd to some but, there are thousands of links all over the internet where people have been doing it for years. I myself have even done it BBB (Before Big Bertha - yes my dehydrator has a name!). My word of advice here is this, please keep food safety in mind here. Make sure that it is a food that will dehydrate faster than it will mold! Yes, if you're not careful with what food you put out there and the temps for day, it can mold! I know because.....well, I may have learned the hard way! Yeah, I'm one of those you may have to beat with a baseball bat to get through this thick head! Another tip that no one told me but, I found a bit useful, was to cover the food with a cheesecloth. Several times I found a few uninvited flying or crawling friends on my food. So, I used a cheesecloth over the top and it still worked well! That was something else I learned, if they smell it, they will find a way in! 

The biggest thing with dehydrating....make sure your food is actually dry! I picked up this tip from a lady who knows her way around a dehydrator like nothing. You set aside the pieces of fruit or whatever you're dehydrating and let them cool. After a while, cooling on your counter or table, you can go back and check to make sure they're dry. For a safety check, you can place them in a plastic bag and sit on the counter for at least an hour if you're a newbie. If at that point, there is condensation in the bag, they're not done and need to go back in! It would be a shame if you went to all that hard work and sealed product that was not dry and you lost the whole batch. So, make sure that it's dry before storing. 

Alright, enough about dehydrators already and get one with Apple Pie Chips, right?! :) For this post, I'm going electric though.

They're pretty easy, I mean SUPER easy and all the experienced dehydrator peeps know this already. First let me say that I kind of go against the fundamental nature of a dehydrator with my Apple Pie Chips. Meaning I do not fully dehydrate them! I know, for shame!
Here's what you need: An apple corer, a peeler (or in my case my handy knife), apples of your choice, cinnamon and sugar mix and a bowl to hold your peels. A fruit tray will also be helpful but, you don't need one. Sorry for the um, not "proffesional" looking picture but, I'd already started and got a little bit of help from my youngest too - hence the lid in the apple peel/core bowl!)
  • I pick a sweeter apple but, not too sweet. Like a Gala, Fuji or Braeburn for this usually. Though I am partial to Red Delicious apples myself and have used them on occasion as well. You core and you can peel them if you want to. Keep in mind a lot of the nutrition is in the skin. If you peel them, save the skins to dehydrate later to use in teas, pies, breads, etc. 
  • After cored and peeled (if you choose to do that), you need to slice them. anything over 1/4" is going to take ages to dry really and their drying process is already an all day affair. So, try to keep them a little thinly sliced. 
  • It's pretty simple, combine cinnamon and sugar to your liking. Kind of like you would to make cinnamon toast or cinnamon and sugar doughnuts/donuts (you say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe). 
  • Combine it into a medium sized container. Something with a bit of a high wall on it. You will need quite a bit of it. I didn't measure really but, if I had to guess, I'd say all in total I may have had about 2cps of finished cinnamon sugar combo but, I also had about 6 or 7 apples to coat too.
  • Next, you simply put your slices in the container and give it a few swirls. If using a plastic container or enlisting the kiddos, you could use a plastic container, so you can put a lid on it, while they give it a shake! (I know, I admonish the use of plastic but, sometimes I can close my eyes!)
  • Once thoroughly coated, spread out on your trays and dehydrate. If you have one with a temp gauge they're even better! Simply set dehydrator at 150 degrees (65 C) for 1 - 3hrs then down to 130 degrees (55 C). 

  • How long they will take depends usually on the thickness of the slice and if your dehydrator is temp controlled. I recommend checking them at the 2 or 3 hour mark and then again about every hour or so. 

Yes, I forgot my trays! I paid for this dearly when it came time to remove them! 

Here's why checking them is so important. You've not only coated them in sugar which kind of caramelizes on the apples but, their moisture is being drawn downward as well, so the bottom of those apples are going to be nice and gooey! I try to help it "goo" evenly by flipping them but, you don't have to do that. I'm just a bit obsessive! :) What makes these extra yummy, is that in a days time or so, you will remove them, not fully dehydrated from your dehydrator! I know what you're thinking but, I did warn you, it goes against the principle of a dehydrator.

*A little side not here, because I can just see the old pros noticing that I'd forgotten my tray covers here. You will need a cover for your trays or all that gooey goodness is going to end up in the bottom of your dehydrator! If you don't have a tray liner, you can always use parchment paper! Lay over your tray and cut to size. *

When you remove them you don't want them, feeling necessarily like an apple. You'll feel that they begin to loose some of their water but, with the sugar coating them, they're still a bit soft. The sweet apple flavor has intensified in them....when you bite down into one that is ready, you won't have something that fully crunches in your mouth but, it will not wilt or be too soft either. If done properly, they will be a bit crispy, from the sugar but, the apple itself will have shrunk in size and be soft and pliable. I encourage you to check on them though because if dehydrating is new to you, you'll begin to know how they feel as they slowly loose their water. You could try and get them to a normal crispy apple chip state. I've never had a lot of luck with that myself though, which means that though everyone loved them, these almost dehydrated ones are the most popular. I have people that even offer to pay me for them when made like this! The point of that long ramble was to make sure you check them regularly. Which trust me, once you take a bite, at some point, even I, the one who really doesn't care for sweet things or too many candies, had NO trouble trying a few out. I mean, what chef doesn't sample their product?! So what if you have to test it a couple....ok, three....alright, alright more than 3 or 4 times but, in my defense it was like eating mini apple pies and sugar is addicting and.....yes I'm in my mid 30s going on 13! :)

I hope you try them, and you like them. I know all of the neighborhood kiddos, including their parents cannot get enough of them! My family fights over them too. They are definitely a nice treat to have after a dinner or as a snack and other than a little time in the beginning, you can walk off and forget them! Which is huge if you're doing dinner, homeschool/homework, laundry, etc.! Not to mention that you get the deliciousness of an apple pie without turning on the oven during those hot summer days!

Trust me when I say any working family, any picky eater and any sudden guest popping by is going to love them! Heck, they're a nice treat just for yourself at the end of a day too!

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