Apple Picking

We were very tired, we were very merry-
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Is there anything better than an apple? Fall is my favorite season and apples play a large role. When  October arrives and the leaves turn scarlet and orange, and the air turns cool and crisp, it’s time for apple picking. I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania where apple picking was mixed with a ride in the wagon through the pumpkin patch. A generation later, my daughters had the same experience growing up in Connecticut. We returned home with bushels of apples, gallons of apple cider, pumpkins from the pumpkin patch, and of course, you had to try some of the warm apple cider and fresh baked cinnamon donuts. I can smell them now.

There is so much you can do with an apple. Eat it plain; slice it, and serve it as a snack with peanut butter; sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon; bob for it; make delicious tangy candied apples that are so good you can’t even wait for the candy to set. And did I mention caramel apples? My mother made them for her ten children all the time. Sometimes, she dipped the caramel and candied apples in coconut or chocolate and candy bits.

Then there’s Apple Crisp. This is my youngest brother’s favorite because it’s so quick and easy to make. Just slice the apples and dust them with cinnamon sugar and put them in a buttered pie plate. Then you take a handful of oats and some more butter and cinnamon  and crumble it on top of the apples and bake them for a half hour or so. Instant heaven. And you don’t even have to make a crust. But of course, there is nothing like a great homemade apple pie.

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.

Jane Austen

I don’t like desserts, or even eat many desserts. But I make an exception for apple pie. I barely think of it as a dessert. As far as I’m concerned, it’s real food.  And you can dial the sweetness up or down. I personally like my hot, two crust, homemade apple pie (the only kind I will eat) with a piece of melted sharp cheddar cheese. But there are those who like some vanilla or ginger ice cream on the side. Who can blame them?

People say it’s as American as apple pie. That has always surprised me. First of all, only the crab apple was native to America although now there are more than 7,000 varieties grown here. Let’s remember Johnny Appleseed and the debt we owe him for planting so many orchards.  Plus you can find great apple tarts in France, in Spain, and in England. They vary in process but each one is a taste delight.  There are many delicious apple pie recipes on my DishandDine website.

But I thought it would be a special treat to share a new apple recipe with all of you. Our dear friend, Francine Segan is a true Renaissance woman.  We’ve read her themed cookbooks, listened to her talks on food history, and watched her cook. (See her videos on DishandDine.com)  As fall begins, Francine has a beautiful new cookbook, Dolci: Italy’s Sweets. Here is a recipe for a fantastic Rustic Tuscan Apple Cake. I felt that we could all use a scrumptious new apple cake recipe. Try it, and the book, too!

Rustic Tuscan Apple Cake

Dolci: Italy’s Sweets

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Description:

Pareva la torta di Nonna Papera!
Looks like Grandma Duck’s cake!
Said of a particularly pretty cake or pie

A classic! At first glance it may seem like a huge ratio of apple to dough and you’re going to be tempted to cut down on the apples. Don’t! It looks like a lot of apples, but they magically meld into the batter. You’ll love the result. The top half of the cake is chock full of tender apples that float over sweet moist cake.
Deceptively simple, exceptional results.
Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, plus more for the pan
  • 7 ounces, about 1 1/3 cups, whole wheat or all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs or egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 large or 5 medium apples, about 2 pounds total

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan. Beat 2/3 cup of sugar and the eggs in a large bowl, using a whisk or electric handheld beater, until creamy and light yellow. Beat in the flour, milk, baking powder, baking soda and zest. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Peel and core each of the apples. Dice one of the apples and stir the dices into the batter. Cut the remaining apples into thin slices. Spread the slices over the diced apples in the pan in a neat pattern. Press into the batter. Scatter thin pats of butter or drizzle olive oil over the apples and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for about 75 minutes, until dark golden and cooked through.

This recipe and many other family favorites are available on DishandDine.com.  Stop by and become part of this grass roots global food community!

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