Sunday, October 31, 2010

Apple Cake

Apple picking is one of my favorite fall activities. I am aware that this is not an earth-shattering announcement. Apple picking is a universally appreciated activity, especially in the Northeastern US, but it really does hold a special place in my heart. I have never returned from picking apples with anything less than an absurd amount of fruit, more than I could ever hope to use, and I haven’t been very good about storing it property. There are always days of making apple butter, apple sauce, a crisp, a pie, just some good old fashioned eating and of course my Cornish hens with apples, but still, too damned many apples. Until this year. I went apple picking with my parents and Ned and I didn’t bring home enough apples. We are almost out. We were out of pears in less than a week.

How could this happen? This is how:

This kid is nothing short of the best distraction I have ever known. We took his Christmas card picture at the orchard last year, and I just can’t get over how much I love this little red-headed kid surrounded by pumpkins, so I anticipate we will keep doing it every year.

In addition to apples, we picked up a big bag of winter squash, which I now need to use in creative ways. Still working on that one. This part of our trip was great, because Ned can't get into too much trouble trying with all his might to move an object that is completely stationary and really heavy.

Ned and my Dad did most of the picking while I took pictures of the whole affair.

All was well until Ned decided to steal another family's wagon. He didn't get far, since he couldn't budge this wagon either.

When it was time to wheel our wagon full of fall bounty to the car, Ned had a very willing grandfather there to help.

I am sharing a recipe for an apple cake with you, made from the last few apples from our picking adventure. This is a variation of a plum cake that my friend Emily made on our recent visit to Philadelphia. This is not in any way whole grain or low-fat, but it is so freakin’ good it is worth Every. Single. Calorie. Seriously.

Because the texture of apples is so much more dense than plums, I cooked them until tender and cooled them when making this into an apple cake. If you want to revert to the plum cake recipe, simply chop raw plums and toss them in, no pre-cooking necessary.

Apple Cake (adapted from a Plum Cake recipe given to me by my friend Emily)

1 Tablespoon butter
2 cups chopped apple (about 2 medium apples)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt butter in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add apples and cook until tender but not mushy.* Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture and eggs to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well to combine. Spoon into greased and floured 8 inch springform pan and smooth the top. This makes a very stiff batter, almost like a cookie dough.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon to make the topping.

Toss fruit with 1 teaspoon flour. Add fruit to springform pan over the batter and sprinkle with topping. Bake for 1 hour. Cool to room temperature and enjoy.

*Remember you are trying to mimic the texture of a plum, so make sure you are not making apple sauce in this first step.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Garlic Roasted Tomato Pizza

garlic from Singer Farm Naturals

For the past couple years, I have occasionally been writing articles for Edible Buffalo Magazine. You can see the latest one on garlic here. As much as I enjoy writing for Edible, I really do prefer writing in this space right here. And I miss it. My photos are brighter and more vibrant here, I can write about what I want to write about, with my own tone here. I like hearing the feedback when I write here. I miss all of that when I write in print publications.

There is also the issue of space in a print publication. Today I want to share with you a recipe that didn't make the cut for the latest issue of Edible, a shame because I think it was the best recipe of the bunch. This pizza recipe has a really nice crust, infused with some garlic flavor (remember, the article was on garlic...), covered with garlic roasted tomatoes, bacon, and basil. Even if you have to resort to grocery store tomatoes, the roasting process will make them sweeter and richer than your standard (or sub-standard) off-season tomato.

No photo of this one today, but there is more to come soon, I promise.

Garlic Roasted Tomato Pizza

1 package (or 2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/4 – 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon garlic olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
5 cloves garlic confit or roasted garlic

TOPPINGS (increase the quantity of toppings if you choose to do two thinner pizzas)
6 plum tomatoes
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 pound bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
12-15 fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
Garlic olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, honey, 2 Tablespoons of the All Purpose flour, and 1/3 cup water. Whisk together and allow to sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the whole wheat flour, one cup of the all purpose flour, and the salt in a large bowl. Stir well to completely combine and evenly distribute the salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast mixture and remaining water. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. It should form a ball but be quite sticky. Turn out onto a floured counter and knead well several times. It should be quite soft, but if it is very sticky, continue gradually adding flour while kneading. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Slice the tomatoes in half across the hemisphere. Squeeze out the seeds and discard. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and lay out, skin side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle the garlic into the tomato quarters, drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for about an hour or until the tomatoes have dried out a bit and are caramelized around the edges.

Increase the oven temperature to 500 °F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven to heat. Punch down the dough and gently stretch it with your hands to about the size of a large baking sheet. For an even thinner pizza, divide the dough in half, stretch thin and put on two baking sheets. Either slide the dough onto your pizza stone or put it in the oven on the baking sheets. Bake about five minutes, or until it puffs up a little bit and begins to harden. If you are making a thinner pizza, watch very carefully; it may only need a couple minutes. Remove the dough from the oven, brush generously with garlic olive oil and quickly add the toppings. Begin with the bacon and tomatoes, then basil leaves, mozzarella, and finally the parmesan. Sprinkle with salt. Return to the oven and bake another 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the crust are browned.