Sizzle Simmer Sauté — Keep your cool with summer desserts from Apple of M.I.

–by Jennifer Ruple

Jennifer Ruple

Emily Berry is a small town girl with big city style. Her business, Apple of M.I., is based in Blissfield, Mich. However, she has sold her sweet treats over 9,000 miles away in Sydney, Australia. Berry creates made-from-scratch confectionaries for all occasions including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, showers and graduations. Her specialties are cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pies and cake pops, but it was her handcrafted caramel apples that put her in business and took her across the world.

It all started in 2015 when Berry was showing her Australian boyfriend, Vince Bagnato, around her family’s apple orchard in Ottawa Lake, Mich. The two met while working at a summer camp in Maine. At the orchard, Berry gave Bagnato a caramel apple that she had just made. He had never tasted one. “Caramel apples are just not a thing in Australia. They don’t have the type of caramel you need to stick to an apple,” explained Berry.

Bagnato suggested that they learn how to make caramel from scratch and take the caramel apples to Australia. The couple worked on their recipe for several months and then hit the streets of Sydney. For three years, they sold their caramel apples all around the city at food fairs and festivals. They were an instant hit. The couple decided on the name Apple of M.I. because it reminded Berry of her home state. “Apple of M.I. – that’s Michigan, and that’s me even if I was thousands of miles from there,” she reminisced.

Berry’s passion for cooking began when she was a young girl, but it wasn’t until she returned from Australia that she was inspired to learn how to bake. “Caramel apples are seasonal, and I wanted to create things throughout the year,” she said. Berry began offering to bake birthday cakes for family members, and before long, she was receiving custom orders. Berry brings her creations to the Blissfield Farmers Market on the first Sunday of each month and the Sylvania Farmers Market on Tuesdays where she shares a booth with her mom, Jane Berry, who offers homegrown floral arrangements through her business, Posey Jane. “When we were doing farmers markets in Australia, I fell in love with the whole lifestyle,” she said. “I love setting up my booth, I take pride in my products, and I love talking about them.”

For her baking needs, Berry rents commercial kitchen space from Cakes n’ Shakes in Blissfield. “I’m just starting to sell my products there too,” she mentioned.

In mid-August, Berry will offer her caramel apples at the farmers markets. She offers a few versions – traditional caramel apples, caramel apples dipped in peanuts, and caramel apples dipped in white chocolate and rolled in cinnamon sugar. “What makes my product unique is that I always use the freshest apples. I pick them from my family’s orchard and dip them within 24 hours,” she said.

What’s next for Berry? More baking, of course, as well as her and Bagnato’s upcoming wedding in June of 2019. The couple plans to live in the area. “Australia was wonderful, but it was a little too far away from my family.”

Emily Berry

Check out a few of Berry’s favorite summer dessert recipes below:

No Bake Cheesecakes
6-8 servings

8 graham crackers
3 handfuls of pretzels
½ cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup cold heavy whipping cream
Fresh fruit for garnish

In a food processor, crush graham crackers and pretzels, adding sugar and melted butter while processing. Divide crumbs into small mason jars and press down to smooth. Set aside.

In a mixer, mix together cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth and light, about 2 -3 minutes. Add sour cream and heavy cream and continue mixing until thick and creamy about 4-5 minutes.

Pour mixture over graham cracker crust and cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh fruit.

Raspberry Pretzel Bars
12 servings

2 cups crushed pretzels
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup butter, melted

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces Cool Whip

8 ounces raspberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water
1 pint raspberries

Heat oven to 400 F. Combine pretzels, sugar and butter and mix well. Spread mixture on the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until crust starts to bubble. Remove from oven and cool completely.

For the filling, cream together cheese and sugar. Add Cool Whip and vanilla and mix until well combined, about 2 minutes.

Spread the filling over the crust. Mash up the raspberries and spread over the filling.

For the topping, prepare Jell-O from directions on the box. Gently pour Jell-O over the top. Allow to chill in refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes
24 servings

2 ¼ cups flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

1 cup buttermilk or whole milk, room temperature

Strawberry Jam Filling
10 strawberries (15 if small)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch

Buttercream Frosting
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla
Handful of shortbread cookie crumbs

Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In another bowl, cream together wet ingredients. Combine contents of both bowls. Bake cupcakes for 17-19 minutes.

For the filling, dice strawberries. In a small saucepan, combine strawberries and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently until sugar dissolves. Add corn starch and stir for about 5 minutes, until fruit is bubbly but not rapidly boiling. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

For the frosting, in a mixer, cream the butter for about 5 minutes on high. Decrease speed to lowest setting and slowly add in powdered sugar. Once all sugar has been incorporated, mix in vanilla, salt and cookie crumbs.

To assemble, remove the center of each cupcake with the wife end of a piping tip or a cupcake corer. With a spoon or piping bag, fill the holes with jam. Top the cupcakes with buttercream frosting.

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