Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

I guess I’m on an apple tear. I made this dessert for a dinner party recently, where chicken with Moroccan spices was the main course. I wanted something to complement the warm notes of that dish, and be also appropriately seasonal. I found Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for a not-too-sweet Fuji Apple Spice cake, and adapted it for this occasion.  The original made two very high layers.  I prefer thinner layers, and didn’t need that much cake. So I divided the batter into three layers, and baked them all, but set aside one and froze it for later. The two layer apple cake, pictured here, fed eight for dessert, with leftovers. The cake is moist and dense, studded with chunks of apples and chopped pecans, and the frosting is rich and creamy.  A small slice is plenty for most people. Luckily, the cake improves with a little age, as the flavors meld and the cakes get even more moist. This is a good cake to make a day ahead.

Two-layer Apple Spice Cake, with one for later:



3 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (at high altitude, reduce to 1 tsp.)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. bourbon, apple brandy, or rum (optional)

1 1/2 cups applesauce, unsweetened

2 medium apples (Fuji or Gala, about 13 or 14 ounces total), peeled, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (about 6 oz.)


1 8-ounce package cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese), room temperature

1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Coarsely chopped toasted pecans or dried apple slices (for garnish)



Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper round. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then bourbon, if desired (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture to egg mixture in 3 additions alternately with applesauce in 2 additions, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in apples and pecans. Divide batter between cake pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 40- 45 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; peel off parchment paper. Place another rack atop 1 cake and invert again so that cake is rounded side up. Repeat with other cake layers. Cool completely. At this point, you can wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature, or freeze for later use.


Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and creamy.

Transfer first layer to platter. Drop half of frosting (about 11/2 cups) by spoonfuls atop cake. Spread frosting evenly to edges of cake. Top with second layer. Drop remaining frosting by spoonfuls onto top of cake, leaving sides of cake plain. Spread frosting to top edges of cake, swirling and creating peaks, if desired. Sprinkle with pecans or decorate with dried apple slices (pictured above). Let cake stand at room temperature 1 hour to allow frosting to set slightly.


Read Full Post »

Now is the time for apples — crisp, juicy, glorious in their familiar, yet still sublime combination of sweet and tart. And what better way to celebrate them than baking a beautiful apple pie?

For this occasion, I chose a traditional double-crusted, deep dish apple pie. For this to work, the apples need to be flavorful and hold their shape while still being juicy, and the crust needs to be crisp and flaky.

Folks are often intimidated by making pie crust, these days. We’ve lost so much of our accumulated culinary knowledge in the home. We’ve forgotten what it means to be a good cook, and instead revere the celebrity chefs on our televisions. We have huge kitchens with cherry cabinets, stainless steel appliances and 6 burner stoves which too often are used just for heating up take-out food.

Pie crusts don’t require a degree from culinary school.  Generations of women (and it was mostly women) have rolled out pie crusts many times a week, without a recipe and in kitchens the size of my closet. Flaky pie crust is the result of adhering to a few guidelines, and then practicing enough so you get comfortable with the technique.

Keep your cool. Flaky crusts come from fats (butter, in this case) staying cold, and not coating the proteins in the flour. To keep that from happening, recipes often advise cooks to refrigerate their ingredients, even chill their bowls and utensils.  It’s best to make pie on a cool day, rather than in the heat of the summer.

Work quickly. This prevents the dough from warming up (see above) and prevents overworking the dough (see below).

Don’t overwork the dough. Gluten is a protein in wheat flour that creates long strands when stirred or kneaded.  This is wonderful when you are making pizza dough or baking bread, but it is anathema to tender pastry.

There’s not much more to it, honestly.  Details follow below. Don’t be intimidated, give it a try.

Double-crusted Apple Pie



8 apples,* peeled and sliced

Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup flour

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. melted butter

* I suggest a mixture of apples, some tart and some sweet.  Choose varieties that hold their shape during baking. For this pie, I used Granny Smiths, Jonathans, and Golden Delicious. If you have access to an apple orchard or farmer’s market, you may find varieties not sold in normal supermarkets.  Ask the farmer about these — some heirloom varieties make the very best pies!


14 Tbsp. (7 ounces) unsalted butter, cold

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

6 Tbsp. ice water

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar


Cut the butter into little cubes (about 1/2″ ). Set aside approximately two-thirds of the butter, wrap loosely in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Wrap the remaining butter, and put it in the freezer. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer for about half an hour, as well.

Place the flour mixture in the food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter from the fridge (the larger portion) and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10-20 seconds. Add the remaining frozen butter cubes and pulse until the cubes are about the size of pease.

Add the ice water and vinegar and pulse five or six times. The dough will not “come together,” but you will be able to pinch it and have it hold together. Dump the crumbly mixture into a large Ziploc bag (you can use the same one from before). Close the bag, forcing any extra air out. Quickly knead the dough into a flat ball. Divide into two discs, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or longer.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling.

Peel and slice the apples, tossing them with the lemon juice to discourage browning. Combine the remaining ingredients, except the butter.  Gently mix with the apples, tossing gently to coat.

Roll out one disc at a time, keeping the other cool in the refrigerator while you work.

On a lightly floured surface, or between two sheets of plastic wrap, if you prefer, roll out the first disc of dough to approximately 12″ in diameter.  Place the dough in the 9″ pie pan, and put it in the refrigerator while you roll out the upper crust to the same size.

Fill the bottom crust with the apples. Since the apples will shrink some in cooking, I find it best to take the time to layer the apples in the crust, leaving the least amount of space possible. The filling will be mounded over the height of the pan to some extent.  Do not worry about this, it is normal.

Drizzle the melted butter over the filling, and place the top crust over the whole thing. Fold the top crust edge over the bottom crust edge, and press together to make a ridge all the way around the pie. Crimp in any design you like. I usually make a zigzag by pushing the dough between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand, and the thumb of my right hand. But you can use a fork, or make any sort of design that encourages the two crusts to bond together and hold in the juices. Be creative.

Cut slits in the top to let steam escape. In the pie pictured above, I used a fancy device my Aunt Dusty gave me, that made a cute apple design. But you don’t need one to make a perfectly good-looking pie.

Brush the top with an egg white and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

Put the pie on a baking sheet, lined with foil to catch the inevitable drips and spills. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately one hour, or until the top is golden and the juices are bubbling.

Read Full Post »

Jewish Apple Cake

I am fortunate to live near a great bakery. Breadworks is such a gem. They bake terrific artisianal breads that have crackly crusts and tangy sourdough flavor. Their display cases tempt me with a dizzying array of tarts and pastries, a dozen flavors of homemade gelato, in addition to flavorful, unusual soups and salads and hot entrees.

A while back, I fell in love with a coffeecake they bake, called Jewish Apple Cake.  It’s a sturdy, moist pound cake with a golden brown crust, studded with slices of apple.  And they give you an unbelievably large hunk of it for less than $3.  Still, as much as I loved it, I wished it had more apples.  And I wondered if I could find a recipe.  Since I’m not Jewish, I asssumed it was something that was passed down from your beloved Bubbe.  I went on a search.

And I learned some interesting things.  First, it’s not some sacred recipe, handed down from generation to generation. It seems to have originated in the 1950’s in the Baltimore/Philadelphia area. And it’s unclear why it’s called “Jewish.” Maybe it’s because it contains no dairy, so it’s pareve for meat or dairy meals. In any case, everyone who’s had it seems to rave about it.

It’s super easy to make, and not expensive (with oil instead of butter).  It is moist, chock full of apples, and keeps incredibly well, or so I hear.  It doesn’t last too long around our house, so we’ve not really pushed it to the limit.  But it sure is versatile! It works as an afternoon treat with coffee or tea, a homey dessert, or a great addition to breakfast or brunch.

Not sure what variety of apple to use? Check out this chart.

Jewish Apple Cake


4 large or 6 small apples

1 tablespoon cinnamon

5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup orange juice

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

4 eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely in the tube pan before inverting it onto a plate and then flipping it onto a cooling rack.

Read Full Post »

In my experience, kids love to be in the kitchen when you’re cooking.  When you can, it’s great to involve them, even when the “help” is not really so helpful.  At 8, Morgan actually contributes some real assistance from time to time, but mostly she tastes and comments and inspects things as I go along.  I credit her interest in cooking in part to her great preschool teachers at the Boulder Journey School.  There, the kids in her class made two cookbooks, one for bread and one for soup.  The bread cookbook was alphabetical, A is for Apple Bread, B is for Banana Bread, etc.  Not only did the kids participate in reading, measuring, mixing and baking, they also wrote out the recipes and illustrated the cookbook!  Needless to say, it was charming, and made a lovely gift for the parents.  But no doubt the greatest gift of all is a child who has an appreciation for and interest in real cooking. I believe that knowing how to cook brings lifelong happiness.  And that’s a lesson worth learning.

This yeasted bread is lightly sweetened, and studded with chunks of apple.  It makes a great breakfast bread, snack, or even a somewhat virtuous dessert.  I haven’t tried making sandwiches with it, but I bet they’d be awesome.

Makes two 9″ round loaves.


3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3 packets active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (between 85 and 110 degrees F)

2 apples, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all purpose unbleached flour, plus some extra


Put milk, butter, brown sugar and salt into a small saucepan.  Heat until almost boiling (this is called scalding) and the butter has melted.  Set this mixture aside and let it cool down to room temperature.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water.  Add 1 teaspoon sugar.  After it foams up, add the yeast mixture to the (cooled) milk mixture in a mixing bowl on a stand mixer.  Add chopped apples, eggs, flour and cinnamon.

Knead with a dough hook in a KitchenAid mixer (speed 2) or by hand for 5-8 minutes, adding just enough extra white flour for the dough to come together in a ball and clean the sides of the bowl.

Put dough into another large greased bowl.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and put in a warm (but not hot) place.  Let it rise for one hour, or until it is doubled in size.

Punch down the dough.  Shape it into 2 round domes and put each on a greased pie pan or a cookie sheet. Let it rise 20 minutes more.  (This is a good time to turn on your oven and let it preheat.)

Bake the bread at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  You can check to make sure it’s done by thumping the top.  It should sound hollow, and be golden brown on the top.

Now the hard part: let it cool enough to cut off a slice.  Yum!

Read Full Post »

Apple Pear Crisp

These days, every cook needs to have a few versatile, adaptable recipes in their repertoire for guests who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions.  I want everyone who eats at my table to feel welcome and relaxed, and enjoy a terrific meal.  No one should have to worry about whether this or that will make them sick or later regret accepting my invitation.

This old-fashioned, comforting dessert will satisfy everyone.  It’s easily made vegan and/or gluten-free, and can be made even more virtuous with whole grains and organic fruit.  Best of all, it’s easy to assemble before dinner, and have it baking away while you and your guests eat.   Served warm, with a scoop of ice cream (or whatever non-dairy frozen confection of your choosing), no one will feel deprived.


5 apples, peeled and diced

5 pears, peeled and diced

¼ cup sugar

Juice of one lemon

1 cup oats

1 cup flour (can use gluten-free)

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

grated nutmeg to taste

12 Tbsp. butter (or Earth Balance vegan spread), cut into chunks


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 13×9 pan

Toss fruit with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup sugar and toss gently to mix.  Spread fruit evenly in pan.

Combine remaining ingredients in bowl, mixing gently until crumbly, but not uniform.

Spread topping over fruit.  Bake until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown, about one hour.

Read Full Post »

Rustic Apple Tart

This is an delicious, easy, elegant dessert.  The buttery crust and the sparkling sugar crystals on top showcase the fruit perfectly.    I love how making it in the tart pan, rather than just a free-form galette, gives it just a tad more structure and sophistication.  This tart is not too sweet, so you could add a scoop of ice cream, if you like.  For variety, you can fill this crust with any number of fruits.  I particularly loved a pear variation with a ginger syrup glaze.

adapted from Alice Waters, via SmittenKitchen.com



1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup chilled water
1 tsp. cider vinegar


2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save
peels and cores), and sliced
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons turbinado sugar


1/2 cup granulated sugar


In a food processor, mix flour, sugar, and salt; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Pulse until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; pulse just until biggest pieces look like large peas.

Dribble in vinegar and water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just starts to hold together. Put crumbly dough into zip-loc bag and, working quickly, form it into a thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about thick.

Place dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice apples thinly, but keep in tight formation, like little domes. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning. Place sliced apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. I like to keep the apple halves mostly intact, just pushing them down slightly at an angle, to fan them a bit. Fill in any gaps with extra slices, but be sure to pack the apples tightly. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself.

Brush melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar over dough edge and up to 3 tablespoons over apples.

Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes to an hour), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

While tart is baking, make glaze. Put reserved peels and cores in a small saucepan, along with granulated sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 30 minutes or until reduced to appley syrup. Strain glaze into heatproof cup or bowl.

Remove tart from oven, and slide onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

Brush glaze over apples, slice, and serve.

Read Full Post »