I can remember, but just barely, my dad scraping the flesh of an apple with a spoon and feeding it to me when I was a capital-T Tiny little kid. Was I spoiled? Oh, I’m sure I was. I was the fourth kid and born 10 years after the third. Did I learn to love apples? You betcha. And, because God was good (and yes, “God did make little green apples”), I grew up in the same house my entire childhood with apple, plum, and pear trees right outside one door or the other. To say nothing of a midwestern summer garden I’ve never since seen the like of. Of course that all meant work, too, even for the kids. There was planting, fertilizing, weeding, hoeing, picking, cleaning, and the final coup de grâce (crushing blow), canning. Lord, the heat. Apples, plums, and pears, but especially apples, however, didn’t necessitate those long three months of labor followed by a week of boiling jars in a steaming, no-AC kitchen. You simply watched as the trees blossomed in the spring, knowing somehow in the sweet fragrance on the breeze that when fall arrived, you could just munch away to your heart’s content by doing nothing more than reaching up to the low-hanging branches or getting your taller sister to do it for you. There was one thing, though. My mom liked to make jam and jelly, so there were still a few hot Mason jars for that, more’s the pity. She’d make it out of just about anything she could find, but because she had tons of apples in her own yard, we had apple jelly out the kazoo. If I ate a PBJ come wintertime, there’d be apple jelly on it nine times out of ten. Well. That was a lot of the same jelly, so….
I got over apple jelly. I may not have had a bite since I was a teenager. Once I tasted store-bought strawberry jam, that was it for me. Not that mom didn’t make strawberry, she did—if someone gave her strawberries, that is. And there was precious little of it in my memory. These days, when autumn blows into the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, I’m going to do appley things, for sure, but they’re baking or even sautéing sorts of things and not jellyish in any way ever, ever.
By the way, we do have irrigated apple orchards not far down the road in Penrose, Colorado. Some years, when the hail doesn’t get them — like it did again this year — we can go pick a bushel for sauce and pies. Occasionally we’ll just make the drive, snatch up a basket at an apple stand and then stop for lunch in Cañyon City.
A few More Time ideas for appley, start of fall things:
This September, when apple time began, I had to rely on the grocery store for my stash. No worries, while we don’t get a huge variety of apples (and there are so very many), we get plenty. So we picked up a big bag of Granny Smiths — tart and great for both snacking and baking — and brought it home last week. I eyed them a few times dreaming of what I’d make, and we even cut up a couple to eat with peanut butter for old time’s sake. The made-a-million times sour cream coffee cake — you know, the one with the cinnamon streusel topping — slid around in my head until I figured out a way to make it my way with apples and extra spice but without sour cream or streusel! This one’s easier, moister, more tender and flavorful, and maybe faster, as well, unless you’re making the Bisquick version, that is. While I thought to keep testing it, changing spices or amounts of sugar and fat, my neighbor Christa, who had a piece, cautioned me not to change “a thing.” And so I’m not. Christa’s been eating my food a long time and I trust her. It does make a 9″x13″ panful, so if that’s too much, you can freeze half or give it away, which might make a few folks pretty happy. Skip the trip to the donut shop and try this:
Easy Apple-Walnut Coffee Cake
- 4 small unpeeled Granny Smith or other tart apples, cored, and diced finely
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup EACH: canola oil and milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar, divided (half in the cake batter and half in the filling)
- 1 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided (half in the cake batter and half in the filling)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: ground cardamom and ground allspice
- 1 cup chopped walnuts for topping
- PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set rack at center. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
- MIX DICED APPLES AND LEMON JUICE in a medium bowl and set aside.
- WHISK TOGETHER THE WET INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.
- STIR TOGETHER THE DRY INGREDIENTS/ADD WET INGREDIENTS: In a large bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, ½ cup of the brown sugar, the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and allspice. Pour the wet ingredients (milk mixture) into the bowl and mix until just combined.
- POUR HALF OF THE BATTER INTO PAN/TOP WITH APPLES, BROWN SUGAR, AND CINNAMON/ADD OTHER HALF OF BATTER: Pour half of the batter (about 2 ¼ cups) into the greased pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the reserved apples and lemon juice over the batter. Mix the reserved ½ cup of brown sugar and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon in a small cup and sprinkle over the apples. Pour or spoon the other half of the batter on top of the apple mixture and spread evenly with a small offset or skinny rubber spatula. Sprinkle walnuts over the top layer of batter.
- BAKE 25-30 MINUTES or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a just a few moist crumbs. Begin checking for doneness at 20 minutes. Remove pan to rack and cool at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving from the pan. Cool completely, wrap well, and store a day or two at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator. Double wrap and store in freezer up to 3 months.
Why do I leave my apples unpeeled? Here’s why:
If you liked this, you might also like my Cranberry-Apple-Pear Coffeecake, which looks similar, but is actually quite different and perfect for upcoming holiday breakfasts or gifts:
More Info than You Wanted:
- Apple Varieties (and their sweetness levels)/WASHINGTON APPLE COMMISSION
- How to Choose the Best Apples for Baking and Cooking/ALLRECIPES
- Health benefits of cardamom/HEALTHLINE.COM
- 10 Healthiest and Least Healthy Oils to Cook With/TIME
- Finding a Good Oven Thermometer
LIFE GOES ON:
Like many parts of the country, and not as bad as further west, of course (DO YOUR RAIN DANCE), we are inundated with smoke and forced to stay indoors once more. It makes for headaches, sore throats, runny noses, and depression, I’d guess. I’m glad I have a blog to write. Thanks!
Above: In happier news, I tried Melissa Clark’s Sheet Pan Roast Chicken with Plums and Onions this week. The recipe was in the September 9, 2020 edition of the NEW YORK TIMES. This was easy, a true winner, and will be in my fall rotation ongoing now. The plums can be subbed with peaches or nectarines or pluots, but I’ll stick with plums when they’re in season. I didn’t do it, but it occurred afterward to me you could slide in another sheet pan full of halved new potatoes and roast them at the same time for a larger meal or for a group. Season them with only olive oil, salt, and pepper so the flavors of the plums and chicken can shine. We drank a beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir from Sineann with this as we had a half-bottle, which is perfect for a weeknight dinner for two. While we have a standing order with them through their wine club, you can access their wines in many good wineshops or just order online.
Below: Our front walkway boasts milkweed all summer and fall, beginning with spiny stalks and leaves, changing into gorgeous florals, and moving into the end of the fall with the silky seeds floating off into the sunset. We keep them as they’re the only place monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. They also have an interesting life cycle and provide a height interest in the garden.
I may have mentioned I’m back to teaching piano — this time via FaceTime — and to my best and smartest granddaughter, 6-year-old Piper…
It’s somewhat like teaching piano in person, but not totally. Could be that this would go more smoothly if we had already had a couple of years of lessons under our belts, but we’re just starting and Piper doesn’t read much yet. I would guess we are accomplishing about 50% of what we’d accomplish were we together in my living room, but that’s fine as there’s little need to rush. This gives me pause when I think what teachers all over our country are trying to accomplish daily with 30 or 130 students, not just one. I cannot imagine. That we are losing a year of education isn’t true, I don’t think, though — not for quite a few maybe. While science and history might not come out at the top come next May, my guess is other sorts of skills will have bloomed and blossomed — reading with parents or siblings, gardening, singing, cooking together (which does, in fact, help teach math and history), playing cards or boardgames (math again!), drawing and painting, shooting hoops, dancing, and so on. Relationships, too, are being made that could be made in no other way. I’m praying that’s the case for most kids, though I know some are in really difficult situations and parents are forced to choose between work and children. We’re in a spot we’ve never seen, but certainly humans educated their young without schools for millennia and we can do it again. I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re on the road less taken, aren’t we? Our culture and economy have been totally dependent on the idea that parents work and kids go to school. The ground is soft and with myriad trip hazards, but there’s little choice but to go on with the “great spiritual practice of putting one foot in front of another.” I think that’s what we’re all trying to do.
My husband, a lifelong musician and composer, got a gig writing trombone choir Christmas arrangements for what’s known around the country as “Trombone Christmas.” It’s where all the local trombone players get together in a park or mall and play carols for whoever wants to listen. It gives me great hope that the guy who organizes the whole shebang thinks there’ll be a Trombone Christmas. And while Dave has me listen and critique arrangements, he also has been editing my recipes — or at least reading through and giving me an objective view. These things aren’t totally new in our life, but they’re much more prominent and common than in other years. What’s different in your life during Covid-Time?
Thank God for apples in the bin, dear granddaughters, music in the air, sweet breakfasts, and readers of blogs. Hope you’ll give my fast cake a whirl as long as we’re all learning new things at home. Bake on.