07 October 2013

6 easy ways to make the best of too many apples...

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, we shouldn't need an appointment for years.  

This autumn, we maintained an annual tradition - harvesting well over 100 (yes, one hundred) pounds of apples from a local orchard, hauling them home, and then standing over them in the kitchen wondering why on earth we needed so many.

And, as in years past, we've found plenty of tasty ways of answering the question.  There are jars (lots) of canned apple sauce and apple butter in the pantry.  If you make nothing else, MAKE THE APPLE BUTTER!  A few sacks of dehydrated apple slices await winter hiking outings, and just this afternoon we bottled up the first hard cider we've made since we left Montana.  We used the oh-so-helpful The New Cider Maker's Handbook by Quebec City local Claude Jolicoeur, who I had the sincere pleasure of interviewing a few weeks ago.

Among all the preservation projects, we've eaten apples nearly every way we can think of.  Below are two more of this season's favorites.  They will have you wishing it was still apple season, so you, too, could pick a few fresh ones under the waning sun.  These recipes are simple, incorporate ingredients that are generally available in temperate climates during late autumn, and will have you wondering if you've made enough for seconds and left-overs. 

Venison roast with apple-cranberry compote

I made this up, while trying to think of what else we could do with apples.  Having spied the cranberries in the fridge, here's where inspiration led: 

Preheat your oven to 325F, then place a venison roast* in a large enamel-lined dutch oven or similar roasting pan.  Cover the roast with thinly sliced apples (1-3, depending on size) and onions (1-2, depending on size).  Layer in approximately 1.5 cups of fresh cranberries.  Sprinkle a liberal dash of sugar (to compensate for the tartness of the cranberries) and a tablespoon or two of rosemary.  Set a couple of pats of butter on the top of the roast.  Slowly cook the roast until it reaches medium-rare on a meat thermometer (130F-140F, though the USDA recommends 145F).  Remove the roast, and allow to cool slightly before slicing.  Taste the compote, and add a pinch more sugar if it is too tart.  Serve slices of the roast topped with the compote, and partner with seasonal vegetables such as potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, etc.

Apple cake with walnut-caramel sauce
Adapted from a pear cake written up in the Williams-Sonoma Desserts cookbook

I first made this cake years ago, during another phase of "there are too many apples in this kitchen!" mania.  At the time, I was looking for dense dessert recipes which could withstand freezing and thawing and not give it away they'd spent considerable time frozen.  This cake passed the test tremendously well ensconced in a layer of plastic wrap and then sealed up in a Ziploc bag.  A double-batch makes an impressive potluck contribution - twice the height, extra apple chunks to make you feel like eating cake is good for your health, and all those walnuts glistening under a sheen of freshly-made caramel sauce.

Ingredients for a single-layer cake (bakes to ~2+ inches tall)
Simply double the whole recipe for a much taller cake.  Trust me, you'll be happy with more cake.

NOTE re measurements: T= tablespoon, not tasse (Fr.); c = cup/tasse; tsp = teaspoon.
  • 1 c walnuts 
  • 1 c unbleached flour and a bit more for dusting the pan
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I usually double this.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c firmly-packed brown sugar
  • another 1/4 c firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 6 T unsalted butter, melted
  • another 1/4 c butter at room temp.
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 fruit syrup or nectar (like syrup from canned peaches)
  • 3-5 apples, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (I don't bother peeling; # of apples depends on size, and how many apples you want in the cake.)
  • 1 T milk
Cake Preparation
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Butter and flour a springform pan. 
  • Mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl.
  • Separately, beat together 3/4 c brown sugar, melted butter, eggs and the nectar, then add the flour mixture and beat just until blended (use electric mixer).
  • Stir in the apple chunks.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan...a rubber spatula will be necessary.
  • Bake the cake for approx. 20-25 min., until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.
Walnut-Caramel Sauce Preparation
  • While the cake is baking, coarsely chop the walnuts.  Spread them on a baking sheet and toast them (alongside the cake) at 350F for 5-10 min.  Remove nuts from oven when they begin to darken/change color.
  • When the cake is done, set the pan on a wire rack to cool.  While it is cooling, prepare the sauce.
  • Combine the walnuts, 1/4 c brown sugar, 1/4 c butter and milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Heat until the mixture boils, and be sure to stir frequently.  Keep stirring until the mixture thickens into a sauce (approx. 3 min.).  
  • Pour the whole mixture over the cake, making sure the liquid and nuts are equally spread across the top. 
  • Let the cake sit for at least 3 minutes, while the sauce cools and hardens.  If you don't wait, all the sauce will run down the sides onto the plate underneath (or the counter!).
  • Once the sauce is stable, remove the sides of the springform pan, and set the cake on a plate for serving.  
  • At this point, I like to set several apple slices with a red peel into the center of the cake, to form a bit of a star or rosette.  The red peel contrasting against the golden nuts and caramel looks lovely.
  • You can cut the cake before bringing it to the table, but the visual impact is best if you bring the cake in whole.
Do you have a recipe to add to the "no such thing as too many apples" list?  Share it below!

P.S. This post includes links to two books I really like.  If you actually buy one of them from Amazon, we'll make a couple of pennies.  Mostly, I linked to them to make it easy for you to find them, since we actually think they're great.


Bertille said...

Nice article and pictures :) Mathieu is planning to make an apple pie this weekend ... our first one since months! Well, Bethann, keep us some apples for our arrival pls ;)

Ivy said...

Yum! Love those recipes!

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