Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I've taken up running again now that my schedule allows, but today is dreary and it feels like the rain has been falling for days instead of hours. Days like this call for comfort food. Something warm, savory ... New England's Autumn never fails to dish out cold and clammy days that remind us of the snow just beyond the horizon. Our seasonal foods are shifting with the temperatures. Squash, root vegetables, kole crops, are all taking center stage as the last vestiges of heirloom tomatoes and crunchy greens bow and exit stage left. In my mind the whole thing is bitter sweet. Summer foods are satisfying and plentiful. Though I make an attempt to eat seasonal foods to the point where I'm sick of them until the next season rolls around, I can never shake the craving for a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad. It's a weakness of mine.
What we do have in spades at home right now is apples and squash.
My husband Mark and I made a trip to Poverty Lane Orchards a week or so ago. These are the folks who produce Farnum Hill Cider in Lebanon, NH. What a beautiful property! Rolling hills of orchards with a less restricted feel than more commercial orchards. Leafy and inviting, picking apples there was a treat. We did pounce a bit early this year .. their heirloom apple orchard is ready for picking around the middle of October. Their website sports a spreadsheet 6 pages long listing each kind of apple tree they have available. It's mind blowing, to say the least ... check it out here.
We left with a hefty bag of Cortlands, Macs and Empires .. all the early apples. For this weeks Clean Plate Cook Book Club I made a yeasted apple cake. It came from an old recipe in the King Arthur Flour cook book. If I ever need a new and creative baked good, I turn to that book first. Their recipes range from modern to ancient and this one was definitely in the "old school" category.
I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was lovely. And devoured.
Here's the recipe ... simple, pretty, perfect for a Sunday brunch.
EASY ONE BOWL NO-KNEAD APPLE CAKE
(Side note: According to the King Arthur folks, yeast doesn't usually show up in cakes, or hasn't since the development of baking powder in the middle of the 1800s. So, the original version of this cake presumably has its roots deep in the last century.)
2 cups tart, firm apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 to 3 Tbs water
2 heaping Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbs butter
** Mix all of these ingredients together in a sauce pan (except for the butter) and cook until the apples are just tender. Take them off the burner, then add your butter. Let this sit while you mix the batter. **
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar, white or brown
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk (I've found it helpful to buy this along with my flour lately. It goes a long way.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbs active dry yeast
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup water, hot from the tap
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
** Mix together your wheat flour, sugar, dry milk, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and yeast. To that, add your butter right on top of the mixture. Pour your hot water over the butter to melt it, then mix this for a few minutes. It helps to give it a rest before you move on to the next step ... Next, add your egg and half of the all-purpose flour. You should add the remainder of the flour only to create a stiff batter ... not a dough. If you've ever baked before you know that weather, barometric pressure, all kinds of things effect baking. It's science for hungry people. You might not need all of your flour. **
To assemble your cake ... grease a 9" square baking dish or a 10" pie plate (that's what I used ... I greased it with butter) and pour your batter into the pan. Next, arrange the apple slices you cooked as best you can. This is where you get to pretend that your a food stylist for Bon Appetite ... get fancy- show off your skills. Once finished, cover with plastic wrap and let the whole thing rise for an hour to an hour and a half. This is where the yeast does the work that a more modern leavening agent would do in the oven.
Once the batter looks like it's growing around the apples, it's ready to bake. 25 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven aught to do the trick. My oven is off a bit, so it took longer than that. Once the cake springs back when you touch it, it's ready.
This got rave reviews from the cook book club and the room full of poker players down the hall. Better served as a breakfast treat than a dessert, this would be decadent served with a hot cup of coffee.
I've been long winded enough for one day. This rain has me contemplating soup making ... We do have a whole butternut squash I have to deal with. It was on sale at Hannaford. Love that place for fitting in as much local produce as makes sense for their dynamic. They're no farm stand, but they're good in a pinch.
Now if we could just get Whole Foods up here. Dammit.