Friday, December 2, 2011

Accidental Apple Cake and the Holiday Season

I haven't been blogging much lately. Obviously. Food and I have a funny relationship right now. At times, I know exactly what I want and will stop at nothing to create or obtain it. This apple cake falls into that first scenario. Other times, nothing sounds good and I try to piece together a relatively healthy meal. And still, at other times, what sounds good when I start preparing has no appeal once it is ready to eat, so I have a couple of bites and call it a day.

Combine the strange food relationship with (seemingly) never-ending fatigue and there is not much blog material, sorry to say.

There are reasons for this food madness. I am pregnant: we are expecting our first child in May. 
(That sentence deserves a million ! after it - we are so very excited - but one by itself did not fit, maybe because this is not an AIM conversation or, in this age, a teenage text message.)

This time last year, I was excitedly preparing for the holidays. This year, not so much, at least not yet. Presents are almost all purchased, plans are made, and so on, but I'm having a hard time fully embracing the season. Is it the exhaustion? Maybe. The overwhelming desire to empty my house of almost everything we don't use on a daily basis? Something like that. It might be the stresses of the past month, with travel (the husband to a conference and the both of us to a wedding - congrats guys!) and holidays to host and massive career-affecting exams to pass (American Institute of Certified Planners, and I passed!). But we got through all of that, we are starting to relax and let the holiday season wash over us. The autumn-themed dishes that came out for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving certainly helped.

One of the first things that has sounded good and remained good throughout its life over the past few months has been this apple cake. The cake started as simmered apples and cinnamon to enjoy over ice cream after the Thanksgiving meal and perfect turkey, and finished the next morning as a moist, spiced apple cake with crumb/streusel topping. Because it was an accident, or at least an experiment, there are no photographs of the process.

Johnagold apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes
Pink Lady apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water

Heat all ingredients except for water over medium-low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Some of the apples will start to break down. Reduce heat and cover, let cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add water as needed if the mixture gets too thick or dry. Remove from heat. Can chill overnight.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour (all-purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream*

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or similar (the batter came within 1/2 inch of the top of my 3-inch tall springform pan, for reference). Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat each until incorporated. Add vanilla, beat until incorporated. Remove from mixer. Add one cup flour and baking soda, stir until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon sour cream, stir until incorporated. Add another one cup flour and baking powder, stir until incorporated. Add second 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon sour cream, stir until incorporated. Add third one cup flour and nutmeg, stir until incorporated. Fold in apples mixture. Pour into your prepared pan.

4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons oats
5 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into chunks

Combine all dry ingredients (no butter) in a bowl or small food processor. The food processor will grind the oats a bit, or if you prefer them whole then skip the processor. Add the butter and rub into clumps with your fingers, or process in pulses until combined and crumbly. Sprinkle topping over batter in pan. Bake for 55 minutes or longer, until cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean (might not be completely clean if it pierces an apple). Immediately remove the springform shell and let the cake cool. Serve warm or cool with whipped cream for dessert or coffee for breakfast.

*If you have 8 ounces of sour cream and no more, you can use yogurt or something similar in its place.

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