Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple Upside-Down Cake or My Cliched Love of All Things Apples

In the words of Pepe LePew, or was it the lady skunk he was always chasing after:

*le sigh*

The object of my adoration? The reason for my swoony mooning? The current "apple" of my foodie eye?

Its apple season, y'all.

I know its not terribly creative to be in love with apples at this time of year.  Everyone and their brother is apple baking, apple caking, apple picking, and apple... licking. (Whatever. Shut up.) But with the discovery of heirloom variety apples, and the knowledge that you can store apples for months and months and months, I look forward to apple season almost as much as I look forward to my birthday.  And as a self-obsessed ego-maniac, that's saying something.

So, 2 things today about apples: recipes and an event you can't miss. First off is Vintage Virginia Apples Annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, November 5th.  I know, you all are all harvest-festivaled out, but that's just because you haven't been to this place down  on 29 South yet. This is the One Festival to Rule Them All.

These folks know apples, and they are central Virginia's stewards for heirloom apple varieties.  These folks grow dozens and dozens of rare varieties of apples, literally preserving botanical history. Because did you know that an apple seed doesn't contain the genetic material of its parents? Nope. If you have a Stayman tree in your yard, if you plant a seed from that tree, do you know what will grow? I don't either. Because each seed bears its own unique DNA, so to preserve and grow specimens branches are grafted onto rootstocks, and the genetic line continues. A. Mazing.

In addition to apple tasting and selling, there's the requisite cider donuts and hot cider, vendors (forest-fed pork sausages!!), apple-butter making, apple-pie contests, and music. Like Jim Waive. Oh, and The Don't Tell Darlings.  Oh, and have I mentioned there's a cidery? Hard apple cider? Like, the finest, most refined, champagne-like hard apple cider that used to be tradition in this country?! Don't miss it.

Now, on to the recipes.  In the midst of my apple-mania (which won't start in earnest until I come home with a 50lb. box of them next weekend), I can never resist Apple Upside-Down Cake.  The cake is a toothsome, sturdy cake, topped with apples and sugar that carmelizes and soaks right down into it for something sublime.  So sublime in fact, that in my good-doobie blogging attepts, that I took some great photos of the prep for this cake. 

Beware: swirling butter.

Unfortunately, I may or may not have forgotten to photograph the finished product. Because I was busy eating it.  So, just take my word for it. It was gorgeous. And tasty.

The other invention of the week: Apple Cider Bread (recipe linked). Part of the glory of working for Horse & Buggy Produce is that I often end up with extra shares.  So, there was a serious excess of apple cider in my house, and as one jug remains unopened, the other half-used is beginning to ferment.  Which I am NOT AGAINST, in any way, but this girl is watching her waistline and prefers to chew her calories, so I needed someplace for this cider to go.  This recipe is basically a lean bread, french-country loaf style, with the water replaced with cider. Oh, and then I roasted some squash, carmelized some onions and arugula, and did this to it:

Yep.  I may need to stop writing to have a little lunch. Right. Now.

So, enjoy the glory of apple season! Frolick in the orchards, or just in your kitchen! And buy yourself a good 50 pounds for winter.  Though, as we've discovered, you may need a second fridge.

What are you doing with apples this fall? Oh, and if someone makes this cake below, post a picture, since I was too hungry to take one!

Apple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter
4 apples, about 2 lbs. (Think a mix of firm and sweet varieties. I used Stayman & Cameo.)
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (4 2/3 oz.)
2 teaspoons of lemon juice

1 cup (5oz.) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal (CI says this is optional, but PLEASE use it.  The toothsomeness of this addition is pretty magical, and makes a sturdy, rustic cake.)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt.
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz.) sugar
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 oz.) brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup sour cream, plain yogurt, or creme fraiche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of almond extract (optional, but oh so wonderful)

1. Butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch round, 2 inch deep nonstick cake pan.  You can also use a 10 inch oven-proof skillet (though not cast iron here) for a one-pan cake, but you'll be using that pan in a bit. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack on the lowest position.

2. Halve apples pole to pole. Cut half of them into 1/4 inch slices. Cut the other half in 1/2 inch slices.  Heat the "topping" butter in your skillet over medium high.  When foaming stops, add the  1/2 inch slices and cook, stir 2-3 times, until they start to brown and carmelize, 4-6 minutes.  Don't fully cook these puppies. You want some structure in the topping.  Add 1/4 inch slices, brown sugar, and lemon juice and continue cooking until sugar dissolves and apples are coated, about 1 minute longer.  Pour the mixture into your cake pan, or if you're making a the cake in the skillet, just take it off heat and set it aside.

3. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk sugar, brown sugar, and eggs until thick, about 45 seconds.  Slowly whisk in butter until just combined.  Add sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract, and whisk until combined.  Add flour mix and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into your cake pan or skillet and spread evenly.  Put in the oven, and bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes for a cake pan, 40-50 minutes for a skillet cake.

4. Cool pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen, and place plate on top of pan/skillet, flip, and let cool another 20 minutes. (If any fruit is sticking to the pan, put it on the cake!)
You can dust the top with ground almonds, or just have at it. Incredibly hearty and lovely.

1 comment:

  1. Whew! We just went through our two bushels of apples recently. We will have to try this next time around!