fall

Apple Cake Update!!

I stand corrected. The apple cake recipe I published a few weeks ago is similar to, but not the same as my late Aunt Doris’ recipe. It is a dense cake with a sweet apple topping, but this cake is much bigger and will definitely feed a crowd. There’s less oooey-gooey, cinnamony goodness in the topping; although you could make that topping and put it on this cake…

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Without further ado, here’s Aunt Doris’ cake, recipe via my Aunt Helen, Doris’ daughter.

Aunt Doris’ Legendary Apple Cake (the real one)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 3 pounds (about 4) apples, peeled & cut into wedges (I used Fujis since they were on sale.)
  • 1C shortening
  • 1C granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 C milk
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • a few sprinkles of cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Peel & cut apples into wedges.
  3. Cream shortening & sugar until well combined.
  4. Add milk, egg, & vanilla.
  5. Folk in flour, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Spread in an 11″X17″ pan.
  7. Put apples in the dough, overlapping slightly, and pressing down gently.
  8. Make the topping. Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tbsp of granulated sugar, put pats of butter across the top of the cake, then sprinkle with 1 tbsp of sugar & a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  9. Bake at 350F for 30-40 mins or until edges turn golden brown.
  10. Best when served hot!

Cinnamon & Honey Roasted Pepitas

Got a great deal on my Halloween pumpkins this year at Aldi- $2.99 each. Don’t even get me started on Aldi. We have a special love.

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Once we got them hollowed out & carved, it’s time for some roasted pumpkin seeds. Inspired by the chestnuts I recently roasted, I decided to give my pepitas a little twist. Here’s how:

Cinnamon & Honey Roasted Pepitas

Ingredients:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Put all your pumpkin seeds in a colander and rinse with cool water, making sure any pumpkin guts are removed. Let them dry as you prepare the butter mixture.
  4. In the microwave, heat about 4 tbsp of unsalted butter until melted.
  5. Add the cinnamon & 1 tbsp of the honey. Stir to create a syrupy consistency.
  6. Spread the seeds on the baking sheet in a single layer.
  7. Drizzle the butter mixture over the seeds as evenly as possible.
  8. Sprinkle with Kosher salt to taste.
  9. Bake 30-40 mins or until golden, moving the seeds around 2-3 times during baking for even cooking.
  10. Enjoy while warm, and put any cooled leftovers into airtight containers for later noshing.

What the heck am I going to do with all these CHESTNUTS?!

I recently acquired a large quantity of chestnuts. Don’t ask, I know people.

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Like anyone in my position would do, I immediately took to Pinterest to figure out what the heck to do with them. When I want to know how to properly do prettymuch anything, I always ask Aunt Martha. Not kidding. There’s a homemade plaque in my dining room that reads “WWMD” (What Would Martha Do). Just yesterday I asked Martha how to properly launder a cashmere sweater. Martha knows everything.

So it turns out doing anything with chestnuts is a bit of a process…

Getting your chestnuts ready for roasting…

  1. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut an “X” in the shell of the chestnut, anywhere but on the flat part. This will make it easier for you to peel the chestnuts after they’re roasted, and keep them from exploding during the roasting process. So this is a pretty important step. Put all the cut chestnuts into a large bowl.
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PLEASE be super-careful! It is a soft shell, you don’t have to press very hard.

2. Heat enough water to cover the chestnuts in the bowl. I like to use my electric kettle for this step. When the water has boiled, pour it over the nuts & let them stand in the hot water for about 2 minutes. This will make the nuts more tender when they are roasted.

3. After 2 minutes, drain the chestnuts using a colander over the sink.

Roasting the chestnuts…

1. Preheat oven to 425F

2. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Spread the drained chestnuts evenly across the baking sheet, in a single layer.

3. In a small bowl, combine:

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

4. Pour spiced-butter mixture evenly over the chestnuts.

5. Sprinkle with:

  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

6. Roast chestnuts for about 30 minutes, shaking the pan about halfway through to ensure even cooking. When the nuts are cooked, the shells will curve back exposing the meaty flesh. Your house will smell AMAZING!

*HINT* For easiest peeling, peel the chestnuts while they are still warm. Nosh on a few. They are super-filling! Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer.

My Favorite Apple Cake

This recipe is apparently quite old, appearing in both my 1943 & 2006 editions of The Joy of Cooking. My late Aunt Doris used to make this cake for family gatherings, and to date, I don’t believe that anyone in the family has been able to make it taste quite the same as she did.

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Note: this is a dense cake, not a fluffy one, and when you make the batter you will wonder if you have enough to spread across the pan. Trust me, you will. Also, trust that you will want to make two of these cakes, because they will disappear quickly!

Aunt Doris’ Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 tbsp cold, for the batter, 3 tbsp melted, for the topping)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 C sliced peeled apples (I prefer to use a slightly sweeter Jonathan rather than a Granny Smith.)
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Grease 8″ or 9″ round pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a medium bowl. (You will want some room in the bowl for when you work in the butter.)
  3. Using a pastry blender, 2 forks, or best of all your hands, add 1 1/2 tbsp of the butter to the dry ingredients a little at a time. When combined, the mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal.
  4. In a glass measuring cup, combine egg and vanilla. Add milk until mixture is measures 1/2 C.
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the flour/butter mixture to form a stiff dough.
  6. Spread dough into prepared pan evenly using a rubber spatula or your hands. (This is a very hands-on recipe. See what I did there?)
  7. Arrange apples atop the dough in a decorative manner, overlapping them slightly.
  8. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and remaining 3 tbsp butter (melted). Sprinkle over fruit and the top of the cake.
  9. Bake for about 25 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Finnish Pulla Bread with Cinnamon & Cardamom

This recipe is the Scandinavian version of a cinnamon roll. But better. Not as sickeningly sweet as their Amercian counterparts, the dough is yeasty & just slightly sweet, the filling is flavorful and not excessive, and they are delicious without any type of gooey white icing on top. If you would like, you can top with crushed cardamom seeds or almonds after the egg wash. Completely by accident, I made these the same night I made chili for my kids for dinner. Chili & cinnamon rolls are some sort of weird Midwestern combo that I have never understood. Possibly a native Midwesterner can explain it to me?

A side note: cardamom is awesome & a cornerstone of the Nordic flavor profile. It is expensive, but a little goes a long way. I would recommend *not* buying the pods if possible. Use seeds or ground seeds. I had the pods leftover from when I made spiced rum & it was extremely time-consuming & labor-intensive to open a pile of pods & remove the seeds from within.

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As I was taking the seeds out of the cardamom pods, I was reminded of this passage from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. #nerdalert

Pulla Bread with Cinnamon & Cardamom

makes 16 large rolls

Ingredients:

for the dough:

  • 4 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2C warmed milk (2% or whole is best)
  • 7C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2C granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

for the filling:

  • 18 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1C granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 large egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • slivered almonds, or crushed cardamom seeds, for garnish (if desired)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Warm the milk in the microwave. As with any liquid you are adding yeast to, you will need it to be warm, not hot. In my microwave, it took about 1 min.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together warm milk and yeast. Set aside for at least 5 mins, or until frothy.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir until combined.
  5. Add the butter, a tbsp at a time, waiting for each addition to combine before adding the next.
  6. Knead for 6-8 mins, until dough is elastic & slightly sticky.
  7. Put the dough in a larger bowl that is oiled or buttered (here I recommend either butter or cooking spray), cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
  8. Meanwhile, prep the filling: combine the butter, granulated sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a small bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until combined.
  9. Lightly dust your work surface with about 2 tbsp of flour. Turn the risen dough out and divide in 2 (I found that this was alot of dough to work with at once).
  10. With a rolling pin, roll it out to about 1/2″ thick. Ideally, the shape of the dough should be as close to rectangular as possible, but don’t worry if your dough is slightly rounded at the edges.
  11. Spread half the filling evenly over the dough, reaching all the way to the edges, then, beginning with a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 8 rolls.
  12. Repeat the above process with the other half of the dough.
  13. On two baking sheets with parchment paper arrange eight Pulla on each sheet, making sure they are about 2 inches apart. Cover Pulla with plastic wrap and allow them to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. They will double in size. (Hence the spacing.)
  14. Brush the pulla with the beaten egg and sprinkle with cardamom seeds or slivered almonds, if desired.
  15. Bake for 10 mins or until golden brown. Serve warm with a cup of strong coffee.

    adapted from a recipe from kinfolk.com

Pumpkin Spice Kombucha

I know, I know… it’s pumpkin-spice-everything time! But there’s a reason everyone goes loco for all things pumpkin & spice at this time of year… BECAUSE IT’S DELICIOUS! And not to toot my own horn or anything, but this is the tastiest flavored kombucha I’ve made to date. Real talk. Usually, what I do when I’m flavoring kombucha is do all the brewing & fermenting, then after the booch is filtered I will add some frozen fruit & let it sit on my counter in the jar with the lid loosened for another 24 hours. Usually I will end up with some secondary fermentation & a little fizziness. Some of my favorite flavors are peach & basil, black cherry, and mixed berry (cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries).

This kombucha contains actual pumpkin, which is great for your eyesight, reducing “bad” cholesterol, and keeping your skin wrinkle-free! And it’s tasty too!

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I totally agree Charlie!

Pumpkin Spice Kombucha

makes 2 qts

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp pureed pumpkin (use canned or make your own)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmug
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 qts kombucha

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl combine pumpkin, brown sugar, and spices.
  2. Pour kombucha into a large pitcher.
  3. Add pumpkin mixture to kombucha & stir well to combine.

    I used this type of whisk.

    I used this type of whisk.

  4. Pour mixture into two 1-quart jars. Screw lids on loosely. Let jars sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours.
  5. Before drinking you will need to shake your kombucha, as the pumpkin mixture will sink to the bottom.
  6. An alternative method is to place half the pumpkin mixture directly into two 1-quart jars of kombucha, put on the lids tightly & shake well. Then, loosen the lids and allow kombucha to sit at room temp for at least 8 hours before drinking.

Gratuitous Fall Cooking Blog

It’s that magical time of year, so here’s pumpkins, apples, and all things fall!

Originally posted October 2014.

Yesterday I went apple picking and picked out some pumpkins. Yes, I was THAT GIRL, walking around the orchard in a scarf and a chambray shirt, picking apples. Today I have more apples than you can shake a stick at. Hence, today’s Gratuitous Fall Cooking Blog: apples, pumpkins, and warm spices. Put on your riding boots and let’s embrace autumn!

Slow-Roasted Pork Loin with Apples, Carrots, and Onions

Ingredients:
4-5 apples, skins on, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Pork Loin, about 3 lbs
Salt & pepper, to taste
Wine, enough to cover

1) In a crockpot or slow-cooker spread a layer of apples, onions, and carrots.

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The apples we picked were golden delicious and another one that was “like a Jonathan”. I used a little of both, and threw in a couple of carrots since I had them laying around.

2) Lay the pork loin over the apples, onions, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper.

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My 3-pound pork loin actually ended up being 2 smaller ones packed together. I’m cool with that, leftover pork loin makes awesome sandwiches and can even be chopped and used as an omlette filling!

3) Pour wine over everything until mostly covered. I used Briolette Apple wine (shout out to my new gig) but you could use a Riesling or even beer in it’s place.

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The wine pictured is Briolette Cut, a seasonal Apple wine from my new gig at Weston Wine Company!

4) Slow cook at 200F 8-10 hours or until tender, serve over noodles, or with roasted potatoes.

Roasted Pumpkin Purée
Make your own puréed pumpkin and never buy canned again! The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients:
2 pumpkins, I used one regular pie pumpkin and one Amish pie pumpkin

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On the left is the regular pie pumpkin, on the right is the Amish. Pie pumpkins are in general better for making pies because there is way more flesh inside. I decided to try both to see what the difference was.1) Preheat oven to 350F

2) Cut the pumpkins into quarters and remove the stems. The stem on the Amish pumpkin popped off much more easily than the stem on the regular pumpkin.

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Here’s the inside of the Amish pumpkin. The seeds are quite a bit smaller than a traditional pie pumpkin. No extra charge for dramatic lighting. 🙂

The inside of the traditional pie pumpkin. See how thick the flesh is? Imagine trying to make a jack o' lantern out of this baby.

The inside of the traditional pie pumpkin. See how thick the flesh is? Imagine trying to make a jack o’ lantern out of this baby.

3) Scoop out the seeds and gooey stuff and set aside. Toasted pumpkin seeds are yummy!

4) Place skin-side-down on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 45 mins.
5) Remove from oven and allow pumpkins to cool at least 10 mins until able to handle easily.

Freshly-roasted pumpkin!

Freshly-roasted pumpkin!

6) When cooled, remove flesh from skins and place in blender. Blend flesh until smooth. I added about 1/4 C of water to help it blend more smoothly.

Pumpkin in my blender getting puréed.

Pumpkin in my blender getting puréed.

7) Allow to cool at least 30 mins. Maybe be frozen or used immediately in place of canned pumpkin, such as in pumpkin pie. This recipe made enough pumpkin purée for 2 9-inch deep-dish pies. The equivalent of about 2 cans.