Posts tagged #apples

Roasted applesauce

The first time my friend Julie came over and opened our refrigerator, she almost started to cry.

“A baked potato!” she yelled.

“Huh?” What was that about? Her face, illuminated by the fluorescent shimmer of the interior of the fridge, was filled with an expression of longing that I could not fathom.

The potato was a shriveled specimen, wrapped in foil, a few days old. My mother was an uninspired cook. Leftover meatloaf, stringy pot-roast, gray-green overcooked peas were standard icebox occupants. Yet a plain potato moved Julie to the edge of tears.

Julie’s family was what we now euphemistically label as dysfunctional. Back then, when we were in high school, we understood implicitly that the whole lot of them was not just eccentric, but crazy. Lord knows what that poor girl had in her fridge.

Oh, the normalcy of a leftover baked potato.

As I sat eating a baked apple the other morning the memory of Julie popped into my head. The apple, warmed in the microwave and then topped with cold, plain yogurt, smushed and swirled together in the bowl, made the most pleasant of breakfasts. Hot and cold, sweet and tart, nothing fancy. Yet I seem to be the only one in my family who appreciates that particular pleasure. Leftover baked apples are the wallflowers of our fridge, sadly rejected and abandoned by foragers. They’re just so

ordinary

. So very plain and brown.

It dawned on me at breakfast that applesauce might be looked upon with a little more respect by the men in the family than baked apples because of childhood associations. When apples are baked with cinnamon and cider, the sauce takes on deep roasted flavors and makes standard applesauce seem pallid and anemic. I was sure it would entice them, and it did.

With all the feasting and special foods of the season, I know that when the hoopla dies down we will be craving something to soothe our palates and our souls. Today, I think of Julie and the baked potato, and I am grateful for simple, everyday pleasures.

I confess that I don’t normally like cinnamon in applesauce, but here I concede that it adds a welcome, warming undertone if you don’t overdo it (plus it’s good for you!) The cider cooks down and sweetens the sauce, so you needn’t add sugar. Use any apples you happen to have on hand. Some apples will take longer to cook than others. Consider this “recipe” as a guideline.

Roasted applesauce

Makes 4 cups

12 apples, cored

3/4 to 1 cup apple cider

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a 9- by 12-inch baking dish, arrange the apples. Fill the centers with cider, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for one hour, or until the apples are very soft, almost bursting. Leave to cool briefly.

3. While the apples are warm, pass them through a food mill. Discard the skins and seeds.

Posted on November 26, 2013 and filed under Sweets, Breakfast.

Gingerbread upside down cake with apples and bourbon cream

I don’t like letting go of summer. The light closes in too early, and I’m pre-mourning the cold, raw days ahead. Somebody please slap me.

There are way too many things we can do nothing about, and the longer I live, the longer the list. The weather is one of them. I’m a spring and summer girl—maybe because I was born in June, just as the promise of light and warm days ahead peaks. Or maybe it’s because I’m a morning person. I love the feeling of the day stretching out ahead, not yet squandered. That’s what early summer feels like to me. So I grumble a little more than I should when the air turns chilly, and I leave you fall and winter people to revel in the change of season.

Letting go is hard, and it’s a daily process that doesn’t quit. You’ve got to take out the trash every single day, and I’m not talking about the kitchen garbage. But there are consolations: taking what today brings and leaving yesterday behind has its rewards. And if you struggle to appreciate them, there are consolations to help you get over the hump. 

 

Like cake.

Any cake would do, but this one sweetens the deal with its dark, warm spices and sugary brown apples on top. It should be served warm, preferably with bourbon whipped cream, an idea I borrowed from Molly O’Neill. Molly made her cake with grated fresh ginger, apple butter, and warm apples on top. The recipe here is an old favorite of mine. I’ll be serving it with Molly’s bourbon cream, while I wait for her to share her recipe. And no, I am not going to sit around and wait for spring. That would be a particularly futile kind of torture. I’m vowing to inhale each day as it comes. Wish me luck.

You can turn the oven on now.

Upside-down gingerbread with apples

Make 1 9-inch square cake

APPLES

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

4 tablespoons brown sugar

2 Granny Smith apples or other firm cooking apples, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1. Heat the oven to 350° degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sprinkle 2 tablespoons brown sugar over the bottom.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat,. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and stir until the mixture bubbles. Add the apples to the pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes, or until the apples are lightly caramelized but still hold their shape. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

3. Arrange the apple slices in one layer in the bottom of the pan, with the darkest side down.

CAKE

1 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup molasses

1/4 cup coffee, at room temperature

1. Whisk the flour, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl until blended.

2. Beat the butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer on medium speed,  until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the molasses and coffee and mix to blend.

Add the flour mixture, and continue to beat on low speed, until the batter is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often with a rubber spatula.

4. Distribute large spoonfuls of batter over the apples. Use the back of the spoon to spread the batter evenly in the pan, taking care not to disturb the apples. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let rest for 2 minutes.

5. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Invert a plate on top of the cake. Use oven mitts to grasp both the plate and the pan with two hands. Flip the cake over and allow it to drop onto the plate. Peel off the parchment paper.

6. When cooled slightly, cut the cake into squares and serve with Bourbon whipped cream if you like.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

Be careful not to overwhip the cream. The best way to do this is to beat it just until soft, floppy peaks form, then finish beating by hand with a wire whisk. The cream should be soft, not too thick or stiff.

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

1 tablespoon Bourbon, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Beat the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form (do not whip all the way.) Add the bourbon and vanilla, and whisk briefly by hand with a wire whisk until blended.

Posted on October 6, 2012 and filed under Cakes, Fall recipes, Sweets, Winter food.

One is silver and the other is gold: apples baked in cider

Baked+Apples+1.jpg

A couple of weeks ago an old friend sent me an e-mail to say she was coming to Boston with her family. We had lost touch. Her letters, sent to me at an old address, never came back to her, so she had to dig a little to find me. She had faithfully sent Christmas cards with pictures of her growing family year after year. I wish I had seen them.

There was a point a few years back when I came to grips with the hopelessness of my ever completing the Christmas card routine. After I reconciled myself to not writing a newsy letter—they either seem too braggy or too depressing or too boring—I decided I would just send one of those drugstore photo cards. What could be complicated about that? Well, taking the picture, for one. And for two, addressing the envelopes. And three, getting them to the post office before the end of December.  So my friends fell by the wayside, and I don’t blame them. I am sorry, dear ones. I love you still. I hope you will e-mail me, because I can do that.

Liz persisted. Bless her.  They were cramming a lot into their trip to Boston, so I invited them over for breakfast, to fortify them for a day of visiting and sightseeing. Their eldest, a boy of about the same age as my College Boy, was away at school. Seeing the other two beautiful and, don’t read this kids, enchanting children gave me a giant lump in my throat. How precious these moments are, every little one of them. And from moment to moment to moment they just keep on coming until we wake up and realize we are here. Already. With children. Who have grown or will soon be grown. Out. Of. The. House.

On this bright Saturday we laughed about our nosey landlady in Washington, D.C. back when we lived upstairs, before children, before our lives really got off the ground, before so many things.

We feasted on warm baked apples and granola and scrambled eggs and scones and jam and laughed about Loretta in her furs, the snoopy landlady who had criticized Liz’s housekeeping after sneaking into her apartment and then left a note commanding us to stop leaving boots outside in the hallway. The other moments, making gorditas with Noe’s mom, there on an extended visit from Mexico, or hanging out the laundry in the back yard, a particular pleasure for me even though it meant schlepping tubs of heavy, wet clothes, all came rushing back.

The children were not quite as mesmerized by our trip down memory lane, so they went for a walk and returned with handfuls of beautiful gingko leaves.  I remembered how the sidewalks in Glover Park in D.C. were paved with the gold of gingko leaves in the fall. And now, fast forward, these two beauties shined in the door with handfuls of the little fans I had so admired on my walks home.

We had come full circle, only to begin again.

Apples baked in cider somehow taste more of themselves. It goes without saying that this is comfort food, easy to put together and pop in the oven just as soon as dinner is underway. If possible, use cider from a farm stand or farmer’s market—it has a deeper, more concentrated flavor than the grocery store brands, which wash out in comparison. The comfort extends to those times when you are not eating dessert for self-improvement purposes, but want something just a little sweet. These won’t do much damage. You can even omit the sugar if you want to feel pure.

Apples Baked in Cider (Makes 4 servings)

2 cups apple cider

4 firm cooking apples such as Empire or Cortland

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Pinch salt

1. Heat the oven to 375°F.

2. Pour the cider into a small skillet and bring it to a boil. Continue to boil over medium heat until the liquid reduces by slightly less than half. It should be vaguely syrupy, but it will not be too thick. It will take less time in a skillet than in a saucepan because there is more surface evaporation. Either way, don’t just walk off to another room and leave it—you might set off your smoke alarm if you forget it. I speak from experience.

3. While the cider is reducing, peel the skin from the top third of each apple. Use a melon baller to dig out the apple core, leaving about 1/3-inch of the apple intact at the bottom. Place the apples in a pie pan or baking dish.

4. Stir the cinnamon, butter and brown sugar into the cider syrup. Pour it into the apple cavities, allowing it to overflow into the baking dish. Bake the apples for 40 to 50 minutes, until they are pleasantly soft but not collapsing.  Baste the apples occasionally in the cider syrup if you happen to think of it, and add more cider if the liquid starts to dry out completely. The exact cooking time depends on the variety and size of the apples—some take longer than others.

5. Serve the apples warm in dessert bowls with the extra syrup spooned over them. If you want to dress them up, drizzle them with some heavy cream, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Custard sauce would be even better if you’re feeling ambitious. If any apples are leftover, warm them up for breakfast and eat with yogurt.

Posted on November 11, 2010 and filed under Breakfast, Fruit desserts.

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) In The New Year: Homemade Applesauce

I decided ahead of time not to make any new year’s resolutions this year, and I’m sticking to my plan. It’s so much easier than sticking to resolutions. Still, not only is it a new year, it is also a new decade, so I have been thinking about the future and how I want it to be different from the past. Not that the past has been bad, mind you. This last decade has been the best ever. I’ve watched my son grow from a 10-year-old sweetie pie, to a man (though still a sweetie pie, he’s now a manly sweetie pie.) In fact, for me, motherhood has been the best job ever. Yet it is a job with a clear-cut expiration date, and I’ve hit it.

So many thoughts have been swirling in my head over the first few days of January that I’m feeling dizzy. It’s like a treadmill of ideas. As soon as you cross out one idea, another one pops up and the list stays the same size. Actually, it keeps growing. I resolved to keep my eye on the list for a while without doing too much editing. As it grew, I saw a pattern. I continue to sit with it, adding and sometimes subtracting. In an effort to simplify, I've identified one over-arching objective for the year that encompasses all the little goals. I was getting hung up on the minutiae.

I am once again pulling out Laura Day’s book The Circle and working through her new one How to Rule the World from Your Couch. Laura’s books are full of really good tools to stay focused and use all your senses to navigate the steps to lead you where you want to go. (Take a look on Amazon; there's a world of help in them!) So I’m hopeful.  That’s about as close as I can come to a new year’s resolution.  Only the simple and basic will work for me right now—as simple and basic as the applesauce I am making by the potful for the manly sweetie pie while he’s still at home on winter break.

Right now, most local New England apples are past their prime, not as crunchy and sweet as they were a few months ago. The Rome apples I used were a tad mushy, but they made superb applesauce with a gorgeous rosy color. This is not so much a recipe as a method. The amounts are simply supplied as guidelines. You need some liquid in the bottom of the pot to keep the apples from scorching. If you happen to have a little cider around, pour about 1/8-inch of it in the bottom of the pot. If not, water will do. Also, a little sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, sucanat or agave syrup) in moderation will brighten the sauce and bring out the apple flavor. By moderation I mean a few tablespoons. Taste and sweeten accordingly.

While I am not a fan of single-purpose gadgets, I have hung on to my food mill through several moves. I acquired it at a yard sale for fifty cents. I could use it for potatoes or other purees, but I don’t. You bet I am glad to have it through most of the winter, though. Without it I would have to peel and core the apples, and I would miss the beauteous pink that cooking them with the skin provides. If you want to invest in one, you can buy this food mill. Or keep your eyes out for one in a second-hand store or garage sale.

Really simple applesauce (Makes about 10 cups) 

6 pounds apples

About 3/4 cup apple cider or water

1/4 cup Sucanat, agave syrup, brown sugar, or white sugar, more or less

1. Pour about 1/8-inch cider or water into the bottom of a large pot. Quarter the apples and add them to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and start cooking the apples over medium heat until you hear the sputtering, bubbling sound of the cider coming to a boil at the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and move the lid an inch or two so that it partially covers the pot. After about 10 minutes, check the apples. Fold the firm apples on top under the softened pulp on the bottom of the pot.  Check every once and a while, and push the uncooked apples down into the bubbling pulp.  Cook until all the apples are soft and falling apart, 25 to 35 minutes in all.

2. Place a food mill over a pot or bowl. The job is easiest if the food mill fits snugly over the container it is resting on. If you use a pot, you can grasp the two handles together, and if you do the whole operation at a lower level (in an empty sink, for example) it is even easier. Pass the cooked apples through the food mill in batches and discard the peels and seeds. Taste.  If you think the applesauce needs sweetening, stir in the Sucanat. Pour into clean jars and store in the refrigerator.

Posted on January 9, 2010 and filed under Breakfast.