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Tag Archives: apple

Cinnamon Apple Cake

9 Jan

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Sometimes the simplest things can be the best things. It’s not that a cherpumple or a three-layer chocolate cake are bad things (although, truth be told, my personal jury is still out on that cherpumple), but, amongst all the fanciness and multiple layers of many things, it is often times quite nice to just roll with something straightforward, humble, and nearly perfect in its simplicity.

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It may seem far-fetched, but a similar line of thinking could also be applied to friendships. My best friend’s husband once asked her why she and I rarely go out together, and her response was hilarious in its point-blank frankness, “It’s not what we do,” she told him. And it’s true. When she and I hang out, we are almost always on her couch (because we never, ever hang out at my house, only hers, because, again, hanging out at my house is “not what we do”), there is almost always something horrible on the television, and there is always a running commentary going on that concerns how bad everything is on that television. Someone once told us that there should be a television show about the two of us watching television, and, after thinking about it for a bit, we sort of agreed. Of course we agreed. We are best friends. We can center an entire evening around one couch, and we don’t even need to involve any alcohol. With respect to our spouses, we’ve had a comfortable, married-type relationship for well over 15 years, and I don’t care how boring that sounds to other people, because my super-mellow relationship with my best friend is one of my most favorite things about life.

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And here is where my cake comparison comes into play. While a super fancy cake can be a nice thing, more often than not, the most satisfying cake you can have is a simple, beautiful, everyday type of cake. This apple cake is my take on the classic and somewhat legendary New York Times recipe for Teddie’s Apple Cake, circa 1973. The cake was meant to be a proven example of how not all cakes needed to be laborious, time-consuming affairs. This apple cake was about as straightforward as you could make a cake: you chopped, you mixed, you baked, you were done. Though nearly perfect in its original form, I’ve made this cake a number of times, and each time I do, I change a little something here and there. Predictably, I have reduced the sugar, and swapped out a bit of the regular sugar for brown sugar. I’ve added more spices, used an apple with a bit more bite to it, and, inspired by my son’s desire to have more cinnamon in everything at all times, I’ve added a crunchy cinnamon sugar lid that, while subtle, adds a lovely dimension to each bite. I may have made the cake evolve a bit, but, at its core, it’s still the same, simple, endlessly pleasing cake.

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Fittingly, for no reason at all, except because everyone needs some cake once in a while, I gave this cake to my best friend. When I told her I wanted to make her a cake, she was delighted. When I asked her what she wanted, she requested something not too big, and rather simple. Of course she did. She knows.

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This cake is part of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people. You can read more about it here.

Cinnamon Apple Cake

Adapted from Teddie’s Apple Cake, in the New York Times

Butter for greasing pan

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided

½ teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups peeled, cored and thickly sliced tart apples, such as Granny Smith

For sprinkling on top of cake:

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugars together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or beat in a large bowl using an electric mixer. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.

In a large bowl, toss the apple chunks with 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, then set aside.

Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla. Fold in the cinnamon apples.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tube pan pan. Combine the ½ teaspoon of cinnamon with 1 teaspoon of sugar, and sprinkle evenly over top of cake. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cinnamon-sugar-side-up, at room temperature.

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Apple Maple Ricotta Muffins

15 Nov

These muffins make me want to cozy up in front of a crackling fire, coffee cup in hand, with no immediate plans in my future. This is notable, because most muffins make me want to brush my teeth and drink a gallon of water to offset all of the sugary cake I just ate for breakfast. Sugary cake that, disguised as a passable breakfast food, is going to make me feel nothing but remorse as the day unfolds before me.

To anyone who has been reading this site for even a short amount of time, it should be obvious that I am no stranger to the joys of sugar. However, longtime readers will also know that I am a stickler when it comes to how much sugar I like in my treats, and when I like those treats to enter my day. Whereas there was once a time (age 25) when I could spend the morning grazing on sweet, sticky muffins and never encounter a hint of unpleasantness, I am now fully enmeshed in a different time of life (age 35), when eating traditional muffins for breakfast causes me to suffer a double-punch of migraine plus malaise. The process of aging is so cruel.

These muffins are a perfect example of how my tastes have changed over the years, and how I have gently altered my cooking habits to suit those tastes. Chunks of apple are folded into a lightly maple-sweetened batter that has been plumped up with creamy ricotta cheese and a scoop of whole wheat flour. A sprinkling of cinnamon sugar dusts the top of each muffin, and a crunchy pecan half completes the package. Perfectly toothsome, delicately sweetened, and studded with little surprises of apple in every bite, it’s the perfect muffin to start your day off right, with no lingering regrets.

Last Year: Salsa Roja

Apple Maple Ricotta Muffins Recipe

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)

2/3 cup milk

1 large egg

½ cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large tart or semi-tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch chunks (you should end up with about 1 ½ cups chopped apple pieces)

Topping:

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

heaping ½ teaspoon cinnamon

12 pecan halves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, milk, egg, ricotta, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir the apple chunks into the liquid mixture.

Gently stir and fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only until the two are just combined (the batter should still appear slightly lumpy). Over-mixing the batter will result in a tough and chewy muffin.

Evenly divide the matter amongst the 12 muffin cups. Mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle the top of each muffin with a dusting of cinnamon sugar (you don’t need to use all of the cinnamon sugar; you may have some left over). Place a pecan half on top of each muffin. Bake in the center of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are rounded and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Remove from oven, and allow muffins to cool in tin for at least 10 minutes. Remove muffins to a wire rack to further cool. Best when eaten only slightly warm, or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins.

Cheddar Apple Cornmeal Bread

24 Sep

Sometimes I just want to bake something. It doesn’t matter what, really. There are days when, faced with an open stretch of an hour or so, I just want to root around in the pantry, see what jumps out at me, then bust out the flour and create something that I can put in the oven. Maybe it’s the comfort that baking suggests, what with the emanating warmth of a heated oven and the lingering scent of something slowly baking and waiting to greet you. Or maybe it’s just that I have so little free time these days, when I have an open moment, my brain automatically commands: MAKE SOMETHING.

Unromantic as that last notion may be, I am glad to have whatever urge it may be that compels me to create new foods. It keeps my creativity sharp, sure, but it also brings me so much joy to be measuring, mixing, and anticipating what new thing I have just thrown together. Because sometimes that is exactly what happens: I find things, I put them together, and I wait to see what emerges. My efforts are not always successful (remind me to not tell you about the time I put dried pears in a batch of cookies and ended up with cookies that tasted as though they were studded with chunks of fibrous cardboard), but, as with this bread, when they are successful, it certainly makes my day feel that much more complete.

So: the bread. I had an apple, I had some cheese, and I wanted to bake something. A tour of the pantry lead me to some cornmeal, and, with the knowledge that I had only a single egg left in the refrigerator, I decided that some sort of batter bread was in order. Heavy on textural variation, this bread is not a cornbread, per se, but neither is it a standard batter bread. Chunks of apple and streaks of sharp cheddar cheese lend the bread a comforting flavor, and, along with the cornmeal, they add a sunny brightness to the appearance that I did not anticipate. Added along with the fine crumb, wonderful toothsome bite, and delicately savory/sweet flavor, it was the final element of a pleasingly successful afternoon experiment, and one I certainly plan on revisiting in the months to come.

Last Year: Lime Coconut Tart and Everything Flatbread

Cheddar Apple Cornmeal Bread Recipe

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced into ¼-inch chunks (about 1 cup apple chunks total)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal (finely-ground, not polenta)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk or sour milk

1 large egg

4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease an 8 ½” by 4 ½” loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then whisk to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk or sour milk, egg, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, stir just to combine.

Fold the shredded cheese and diced apples into the batter until they are fully incorporated, being careful not to overmix the batter as you fold.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, then smooth the top as much as possible.  Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating halfway through. The bread will be done when the top is tall and golden brown and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the bread emerges with just a small amount of moist crumbs attached.

Cool the bread in its pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Bread is best when served ever-so-slightly warm, or at room temperature.

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