It’s been a slow, warm slide into fall this year, with no hard frost yet. It feels almost strange, but I’ll take it. The honeymoon can’t last forever though. On what I knew portended to the last balmy day of Indian summer, I drove out to a nearby apple orchard. The bubble over my head pictured pies, cakes, and applesauce, and sure enough with a newly acquired mother lode of apples, I’ve been hard at it making those apple dreams come true.
One of the benefits of picking your own apples is that you can taste a lot of varieties. Wow. I had forgotten how fresh and crisp an apple right off the tree tastes. As you amble through the orchard you have the opportunity to taste and compare a bunch of varieties, though after three of four samples, I confess I began to confuse them. The most common Massachusetts grown apple varieties are Cortland, McIntosh, Macoun, Empire, and Honeycrisp, though there are many more. You can’t beat the Honeycrisp for eating—it is exactly as it sounds: sweet, refreshing, and with a satisfying crunch—and it’s good for baking, too. Check out this
for descriptions of apple varieties and their uses.
, also has a helpful
to show you a very efficient way to peel apples.
I guess great minds think alike because I’ve been peeling apples this way for decades. The method is nothing fancy, but if you’ve made more than 500 apple pies in your lifetime (and I’m sure I have as a pastry chef) you will definitely come up with a method that works.
If we hadn’t eaten all the cake right after I made it, it would be the perfect snack to litter my keyboard with crumbs right now. Alas, I will have to make it again soon, as I hope you will. For after school, for breakfast, for a coffee break, for afternoon tea, for when you feel good, for when you feel bad, this apple cake hits the mark. On the surface it looks as plain as can be, but cut into it and discover deep apple goodness.
Apple snack cake
Makes one 9- by 13-inch cake
2 tablespoons butter
3 cooking apples (I used Honeycrisp), peeled and cut into 1-inch dice, to make about 4 cups
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A pinch of salt
1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples, and cook until they start to take on a some color. Add the brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring, for a couple of more minutes, or until apples are slightly softened but still hold their shape. Cool apples in the pan.
Butter and flour for the cake pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into slices
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 9 by 13-inch baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
5. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour. Mix until incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix for 15 seconds, or until smooth.
6. In the baking pan, spread half the batter, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Spread the apples on top, and sprinkle them with the cinnamon. Dollop the remaining batter in large spoonfuls over the apples, and carefully spread batter over the apples with the back of a spoon.
7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the pan. Cut into squares.
More apple recipes to try