Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Pickin'

I finally had a Monday off a couple weeks ago and Pete and I drove into the wilds of Virginia to go apple picking.

Our plans were grand, but in the end, we were overwhelmed by the sheer mass of apples before us as well as the gnats hovering over our heads (hopefully because of the warmth rather than the smell). I was somewhat disappointed when we left with only half a bushel but we simply could go no further.

For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
((Thank you Mr. Frost))

During the past two weeks, however, as I stared at the massive bag of apples in my refrigerator, I began to think that maybe we had outdone ourselves. By this weekend, the (relatively large) batch of apple sauce I'd cooked earlier had barely made a dent. So, I took it to the mattresses... well, the oven at least.

About 25 apples met their demise last night in a massive batch of cranberry applesauce, and another six or so were baked into a cake this morning. Both recipes turned out wonderful and warmed our tiny apartment with the smell of cinnamon, fighting back the autumn chill that is quickly overtaking the city.

Cranberry Applesauce
I used a recipe for applesauce once, about 2 years ago, but the process was so simple that I never bothered with one again.
  • Just peel your apples and cut them into small chunks (or larger ones if that's your thing... just don't halve the apples, that's probably going a bit too far),
  • throw them in a large pot (Pete has an enameled cast-iron one that I'm a big fan of),
  • squeeze half a lemon's worth of juice over them,
  • pour in about a cup of water (you may have to add more if you like your sauce on the liquid-y side),
  • add some cranberries (I added half a bag for my batch),
  • toss in 1-2 handfuls of sugar (just depends on how sweet you like your sauce - if you use raw sugar, you'll probably want to add a bit more since it's less sweet),
  • and sprinkle on the cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves to taste (personally, I go real heavy on the cinnamon - at least a tablespoon - and usually use no more than a quarter teaspoon for the nutmeg and cloves if the spices are fresh; if they're not, just add a bit more).
All you have to do after that is set the pot over a low flame, cover it, and stir your concoction every ten minutes so nothing sticks to the bottom. In no time, you'll be blissfully floating on waves of cinnamon-y goodness and after 45-60 minutes you'll hit your desired consistency... try to wait for it to cool a bit before digging in.

Apple Cake
Alright, I'll admit I got really lucky with this one. I've been looking for a good apple cake recipe
for a couple years now, and this one definitely fits the bill. I based it on Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Apple Nut Muffin Cake, but made a few changes since I was (a) missing a few ingredients, (b) felt like it, and (c) because Pete hates dried fruit and nuts.

1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c milk (you should use whole, but I only had skim)
1/4 c orange juice (trust me)
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 stick melted butter, cooled
1/2 c safflower oil, or other vegetable oil (olive oil works!)
1 3/4 c (or 7.1 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c oats (if using steel-cut or oat bran, make sure to soak them until soft; if using rolled/breakfast oats, you're good - just pour them in)
1 T baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/4 t salt
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
6 small apples, peeled and diced

Heat the oven to 400F and grease a 9 in. cake pan (I used a springform). Mix together dry ingredients (not including the apples). Mix together wet ingredients (also not including the apples). Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix as little as possible, while still thoroughly combining them. Fold in apple chunks and pour into the prepared pan. Now, this is where I'm not going to be too helpful (sorry!) - Dorrie's recipe says her cake should be ready in 30-35 minutes and I was expecting much the same for my own, but it took more like 45-50 minutes. I'm not sure if the was a result of (a) not properly pre-heating my oven, (b) building a different recipe, or (c) a combination of the two. So... if you bake this, let me know what works for you. basically, i would just keep testing until your toothpick/knife/whatever/comes out clean.

Good luck!