Category: apple

Food find of the month: Irish apple cake from Kleinworth & Co.

OH WOW. WOW.

This is some good cake.

Irish apple cake!

I found it on Pinterest; I’m not ashamed to say. Irish apple cake is what it’s called. And it’s from a blog called Kleinworth & Co. I had to squeeze it in this month, so let’s extend the “Irish” stuff a while longer. ‘K?

The apple has a lot of history in Ireland:

Did you know that St. Patrick is said to have planted apple trees in Ireland? Apples have been grown in Ireland for at least 3000 years and legend has it that he planted an apple tree in Ulster County at the ancient settlement of Ceanoga near, what is today called, Armagh. While it is a lovely tale, it’s more likely that the Druids, who used apple trees in their rituals, were the ones who first tended apple orchards in Ireland. Prior to English rule, Ireland was governed by a system of law that was codified and administered by the Brehons, who were the successors to the Celtic druids. The Brehons were charged with the preservation and interpretation of laws that had been established by centuries of oral tradition.The Irish took their apple trees seriously. Brehon law stipulated that anyone cutting down an apple tree would be subject to a financial penalty that included the surrender of five cows. I’m not sure what happened to those who had no cows to surrender, but we can be sure they were fined or punished for their transgression. Desserts and beverages made from apples are very popular in Ireland.

-source

Granny Smith apples for Irish apple cake.

So there you have it.

I’ve made Dutch & German apple cakes before, and a hazelnut apple cake that’s much beloved, and the principle is basically the same with this one. But yet altogether different- because the creation is more like a pie crust than a cake.

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Maple apple walnut crisp, celebrating fall.

Autumn in NY: fall leaves

The word “crisp” always reminds me of fall. In all of it’s meanings, it applies to autumn: the weather is (usually) crisp, apples are crisp when you bite into them, the leaves are crisp- they crunch under your feet, and of course, you can bake things like crisps without your face melting off.

It’s nice to be able to put the oven on & have the windows open… instead of cranking the A/C higher to compensate.

Beautiful, shiny fall apples... just waiting to be baked!

Well, here in New York, anyway.

And it’s about time. I shouldn’t really complain: we didn’t have ONE day over 90° in August this year, and September was relatively pleasant. A bit humid & muggy at times, but all in all it was mostly very cool, sunny days & nice breezes (and some positively cold evenings). October started off HORRIBLE with 86° weather & humidity like crazy, but it evened out into nicer “fall like” temperatures. And lately it’s been really nice… not too cold, sunny, and… wait for it… crisp. I have to say it always dismays me when the weather skips past fall & goes right from sweltering to freezing. Ya gotta give me a little crisp fall weather, Mama Nature!

I say that knowing tonight it’s supposed to dip down to 37 degrees.

A delicious maple apple walnut crisp recipe!

Anyway, can we talk about “crisps”? No, not the U.K. version of a crisp. The baked, dessert-y, fruity, sugary cobbler-like version.

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Gettin’ pumpkin apple sauce-y.

Happy October! My favorite month. It’s finally cool enough to bake more. It’s time for super fresh apples & tons of pumpkins. And all the best spices are fall-appropriate: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, etc. And let’s not forget that it’s the month of my favorite holiday- Halloween!

it's October!(Ironically, the dates are the same this year! Except Columbus Day)

 

So we’re going to celebrate my favorite month/upcoming holiday & get sauced! Or not. Or actually… yeah we are, but not in the way you think. A different kinda sauced.

Like I said, it’s both apple season & pumpkin season. Everyone is going apple picking, pumpkin picking, & shoving apple cider donuts & pumpkin lattes in their pie hole. You can’t go anywhere without tripping over pumpkins for sale & bushels of apples. So of course I had this big old batch of bright, shiny, fresh apples, right? Apples don’t last forever. So they had to be used up, right? And naturally I’ve already stocked up on organic canned pumpkin. Well…

*siiiiiiiiigh*

I made applesauce. I know what you’re thinking:

 “Three posts in a row about apples!? BO-RING!”

But wait.

Yes, I made applesauce. But… it’s not what you think. I had to add pumpkin.

I know. SAY WHAT?  APPLESAUCE WITH PUMPKIN?!

Uh huh. Yup.

I'm ready for applesauce. And you know what? Let's add a little pumpkin, shall we?

Gorgeous apples & organic canned pumpkin… together. With cinnamon streusel muffins to go with it.

Blame it on the Food Network magazine.

Blame it on the rain. I don’t know. Blame it on the fact that I can’t keep myself out of the kitchen once the fall comes!

Pumpkin applesauce! Because why make the same ol boring applesauce?

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Apple cake, sadness, sickness & Spode.

Apple cake made with hazelnuts. The hazelnuts toast in the oven & the middle layer of apples just melts into the coffee-cake style cake, leaving you with a moist, delicious dessert.

Alliteration at it’s finest, ladies & gentlemen. My 7th & 8th grade English teacher Mrs. Clarey would be proud. Shamefully ‘apple cake’ doesn’t start with an ‘s.’ Anyway, even though I’ve shown you the cake… first let’s tackle the easiest of the four: Spode.

A while back, I told you all about my adventures in thrifting- or, as Xenia says: Tales from the Thrift. I’ve bought some pretty little things since that post & you’ll see some of them today.

Like, right now.

Vintage Spode Cowslip pattern bread & butter plates (+ a recipe for apple cake with hazelnuts).

See? Those plates. They’re Spode “Cowslip” pattern bread & butter dishes, or appetizer dishes. I got them for less than $2.00 a piece (actually closer to a buck a piece) in a thrift store, and according to Replacements.com that’s quite a good deal. I should’ve bought the whole dinnerware set, but they were asking a bit much considering there was quite a lot of it missing. Regardless, I’m happy with my four little plates- dating from December 1950, according to the marks on the bottom (D50). Since the pattern was only started in the 1940′s and discontinued by 1972 that’s pretty cool.

Spode Cowslip plates (& a recipe for apple cake).

I just love me some cute little plates for serving desserts or snacks. Or cake.

Cake! Apple cake!

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Spiced bourbon. Need I say more?

Last fall around this time, I posted a recipe for spiced honey; honey infused with spices & lemon. It was a great thing to have around last winter when I thought I’d die. No seriously. I was in the midst of two TERRIBLE bouts of severe cold/bronchitis & it really helped immensely. I added it to tea & I had spoonfuls of it straight from the jar. I’m still making a few jars of it for this winter. However this year… I’m also going with spiced alcohol.

Spiced Buffalo Trace Bourbon; with cardamom, vanilla & cinnamon.

Truth be told, I am not  was never a bourbon girl. Not really. I’d drink it in an old fashioned, even drink it on the rocks. But it’s never been my favorite thing to drink alone. But lately, when it comes to infusions & whipped creams & baked goods & even pickles… bourbon has become my “boo thang.”

Jay loves him some bourbon. He’s my go-to bourbon guy. If I need it for a recipe, I ask him. Which one is best in this, which one would be good for that, which is too expensive to bake with (notice: don’t touch the Pappy Van Winkle, whatever you do), which one would go well in cake, you get the idea.

‘Tis the season for warming drinks. Bourbon, brandy, whiskey, etc. Fall & winter just screams for that kind of thing. Hot toddy’s, hot milk punch, hot buttered whiskey, all that. And like I said, while I’m not a fan of straight up bourbon, I do enjoy some infused varieties. I added that cherry bourbon to Cokes all winter, not to mention I made chocolate sauce with it. And listen: who wouldn’t love some vanilla-infused spiced bourbon?

Loony people, that’s who.

A recipe for spiced Buffalo Trace bourbon.

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This little pie is the apple of my eye.

This pie is something I made after seeing a beautiful French apple tart David Lebovitz posted on his Instagram page. The apples had been cut into roses, and placed on top of a tart dough. It looked as if there was something else underneath the apples, but I couldn’t quite tell. It was stunning. The presentation alone was enough to make someone who didn’t even like pie want to dive right in.

Or at the very least it made me want to take a closer look!

As soon as I saw it, I thought it’d make a fantastic Valentine’s Day dish. Simple, easy, fairly healthy (all things considered) with very few basic ingredients… yet insanely impressive looking. It ends up looking like one of those things you learn in culinary school. And of course, I had these little tart pans I bought & never used, so I thought I’d make little individual rosey apple pies. Or tarts.

Apples contain a lot of symbolism, especially when it comes to love, sex & seduction, which make it perfect for the upcoming holiday of love. We all know what the apple really was in the Bible, don’t we?

Its association with knowledge is an allusion to the revelatory states described by some shamans and users of psychedelic mushrooms.[3][4][5] At times artists would co-opt the apple, as well as other religious symbology, whether for ironic effect or as a stock element of symbolic vocabulary. Thus, secular art as well made use of the apple as symbol of love and sexuality. It is often an attribute associated with Venus who is shown holding it.

-Wikipedia

Rosy cheeks is commonly a complimentary term. Plus, the old saying, “the apple of my eye” clearly means that you’re looking upon someone favorably. So the apple has long been attached to the sweeter side of life… however because of that, it’s also been tied to the lure of the not-so-sweet; i.e. in fairy tales such as Snow White.

But for our purposes, let’s just keep it happy… & rosy.

“COMING UP ROSES” MINI APPLE TARTS (OR PIES…)

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch pie crust dough (enough for one 9″ circle or whatever tart or pie pan(s) you’re using)
  • 5-6 apples (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Macintosh or a combo) cored and sliced paper thin but NOT peeled (again, amount of apples depends on pan size/amount of pans)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Press your prepared pie crust into the pan or pie plate you’re using. You can use individual pie or tart tins as I did, a full-size pie plate, a full-size round tart pan or a rectangular tart pan.
  2. In a bowl, combine the super-thinly sliced apples with the lemon juice, butter, sugar & cinnamon, tossing to coat. Put them in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften them enough so they bend without snapping. Using them in order of size, make roses using the slices. I found it easier with the small tart pans to start from the outside and work my way inside to the center, but with larger pans or a pie plate you’d have to start from the center coil & work outwards. For small tarts, make one rose per pan, for larger pans make as many as you can fit/as many apples as you have. If you have extra slices, roll them in little coils & stick them in between the large roses (only if you’re making one large pie or tart). Alternately, if you want to, or need to, you can make leaves out of extra dough to fill in empty spots. Just use a cookie cutter or knife to cut the shape, brush with some egg and stick around the roses.
  3. Once you’re done, bake the pie or tart for 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven, allow to cool until room temperature, and serve with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. A side of whipped cream works too.

I’m telling you, this is not as hard as it looks or sounds. Yes, it takes time. Of course it does- you’re rolling thin apple slices into rose petals! But it’s not hard. It takes some patience, though, for sure. And you might have to re-zap them in the microwave to soften them again as you go along. You want them very soft & pliable, not crisp. Basically you want them the opposite of how you’d typically prefer your apples.

You can also make these into individual apple-rose garnishes by rolling the slices in a long strip of pie crust dough, then baking it until they’re golden. Just lay the strip down, brush it with egg white, and lay the slices next to one another, facing the same way (skin side up, cut side down). Make sure that they’re slightly overlapping. Then gently start to roll it from the edge, and when it’s all rolled just use some more egg white to “seal” the pastry to itself. Then bake. I’d say on a cookie sheet, at 325° or 350° until browned. You can then use them on top of cupcakes, or on top of an apple pie, etc.

And don’t worry- imperfection isn’t a bad thing. Nothing is perfect in nature, anyway, so as long as it even vaguely resembles a rose… you’re good! Mine aren’t that perfect.

Also, I’m aware this is not apple season. But you can still get some beautiful apples at the supermarket or local fruit markets for a decent price. Or, maybe you’ve got some in cold storage that you can use. Either way, it’d be a shame to miss out on making these gorgeous little pies… tarts… whatever. A combination of different colored apples would make for beautiful roses. You could even toss some Granny Smith’s in there if you like, maybe on the inner coils. For me, one Gala apple made roughly FOUR roses that perfectly fit in my mini-tart pans, which are almost 3″ in diameter. This will vary based on the variety & size of your apples, obviously, so I’d err on the side of buying more apples than you think you’ll need.

‘Cause really, you can never have too many pommes.

 

A homemade life.

“That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.”

-Aimee Bender

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A couple of years ago I read a book by Molly Wizenberg (the blogger behind Orangette), called ‘A Homemade Life.’ It was part of a book club selection- and no, this wasn’t just your average, boring, every day book club- do I look or sound remotely boring to you? It was an awesome one I had with three high school friends (that I’m hoping we can start up again soon- HELLO LADIES ARE YOU LISTENING) where we chose books involving food/recipes and cooked from them, then blogged about it. But anyway, I loved the book. Why? Well, it was just a good book for one thing. Secondly, it turned me on to Molly’s blog, which I had been previously unaware of (I know, I know) and it turns out Molly is cool in tons of different ways. She named her new baby girl after June Carter Cash! Automatic points. But besides all that, I liked the title of the book.

A homemade life. That sounds good to me. I have a homemade life. Homemade pumpkin spice lattes, homemade sodas, homemade jams, homemade breads, homemade pickles…. basically, whether it’s made with a needle & thread or a pot & wooden spoon, I’m down.

;

And see, here’s the deal: I also like homemade Christmas gifts. I like homemade gifts in general, actually; one of my absolute favorite gifts of all time is a Victorian dollhouse cabinet my uncle Pat made for me. He made it 100% from scratch; four floors, five rooms, doors between rooms that open & close, five fireplaces, staircases complete with newel posts & bannisters, clear plexi-glass door on the front with a glass knob, all the furniture included. It’s beautiful and it remains a treasured piece to this day. I miss my uncle dearly, but when I look at that dollhouse I think of how amazing he was & I feel like he’s still here. And the same goes for a lot of objects around here. The holidays can be a bittersweet time- I miss so many people who aren’t here with us anymore, and I’m reminded of them so strongly this time of year. Which is both good & bad, happy & sad.

;

Anyway I am definitely not one of those people that turns her nose up at a hand-knit scarf or a pair of crocheted slippers. I love when Yoyo sends me a package of homemade aprons, table runners, etc. I really do adore handmade gifts. I love when people give me things they made for me, and I think most people whom I’ve given homemade items to are thankful in return (perhaps some more than others). That isn’t to say I don’t like store bought gifts. I do. I love them. My KitchenAid mixer (“Lola”), laptop, iPhone & handmixer count among the best gifts I ever received. But a beautiful homemade gift can speak volumes. Time is money, and talent isn’t to be overlooked. If someone thinks highly enough of you to spend their time creating something just for you… then you’re a very lucky person indeed. Last year I gave a variety of homemade jams, jellies & pickles as additional Christmas gifts: candy apple jelly, Amaretto cranberry sauce/Chinese apple-cranberry sauce, vanilla-brandy chestnut jam & gingerbread spice jelly, and some regular ol’ pickles just to name a few. I also gave some individually-sized homemade chocolate chip panettone. To be honest; I did in fact throw in store-bought presents as well, however, so it wasn’t a completely handmade/homemade Christmas.

Why am I writing all this? I’m not really sure. All I know is, I was making some apple-cranberry-ginger preserves (for gift giving!) and it all occurred to me. What with Christmas rapidly coming, and the gift-giving time of year upon us. So I felt the need to get it out, “onto paper” as they say. Or in this case… my blog.

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A LITTLE GINGERY APPLE-CRANBERRY PRESERVES

Makes about 3-4 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups peeled & diced apples (I used McIntosh, but any apple on the softer side will do)
  • 2 cups fresh whole cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (depending on your taste)

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jars and place your lids in hot water. Set aside, keeping your jars hot.
  2. Add apples, cranberries & water in a large saucepan. Heat them over medium heat, stirring occasionally,  until they’re just warm, then add sugar. Stir until sugar is completely mixed in, then bring to a boil. Cook this way (still stirring every now & then) until cranberries begin to pop.
  3. Add lemon juice, ginger, and allspice. Lower the heat to a simmer, and continue to peek at it and give it a good stir every so often, until the cranberries have softened & broken down & the mixture is a pinkish red.
  4. Continue cooking until mixture is on the thick side. Do not let it get too thick- as it cools, it thickens more. Ladle into hot jars & wipe rims clean. Place lids & bands, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Let cool, check seal, and proceed to give as gifts!

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This is a really easy recipe that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of hubbub. No extra pectin, no special materials. It gels easily and you’re done before you know it. That’s why it’s so great for giving as gifts! It’s a terrific entry way into canning, too (just read this post before you start).

However- regardless of how “easy” a gift may be: I hope people who receive homemade gifts appreciate the effort and thought that go into them. It’s not like going into Williams-Sonoma & buying a jar of expensive preserves or a box of peppermint bark & wrapping ‘em up; these people are spending valuable time over a stove, stirring a pot. Chopping fruit or vegetables. Lovingly seasoning it to perfection and cooking it (or baking it) into a personalized gift just for you. If you don’t appreciate it, then I hate to say it, but you’re probably really shallow.

And shallow people don’t get jars of delightfully gingery apple-cranberry preserves. At least not from me.

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Here are some great places to get ideas on buying or creating homemade gifts:

And if you create homemade jams or pickles to give as gifts, Well Preserved‘s Pimp That Preserve contest entries from the last two years can give you some excellent ideas on how to decorate those jars to really make an impression, as well as the Facebook album with all the 2011 entries (you don’t need Facebook to view it). It just so happens that I’m a 2011 Pimp That Preserve winner *cough*these are the winning jars*cough* so I might know a thing or two about this.

What do you think? Do you like homemade gifts? Do you prefer to give them or receive them or both?