Monday, September 26, 2011

Caramel Apple Cake

 As the air turns crisp with the snap of autumn, I begin to think about the flavors of this time of year. I have seen some recipes for apple cakes, and I decided to put my own spin on that idea and make a Caramel Apple Cake. The cake base is a tweak of my Apple Zucchini (Courgette) Bread, with a spicy candy topping. The incognito zucchini adds moisture, and the chai spice blend comes out really nicely. Moist and sweet, this cake goes great with a cup of coffee.

Sweet & spicy

Tip: The spices & amounts are the same for both the cake and the caramel topping, so when measuring the spices for the caramel topping, measure the same amount of each into a separate cup for the cake.

Candy topping:
·      4 Tbsp of butter
·      ¾ cup of raw sugar
·      ½ cup + 1 Tbsp maple syrup
·      2 Tbsp white wine
·      ¼ tsp allspice
·      1/8 tsp cardamom
·      ¼ tsp cinnamon
·      1/8 tsp cloves
·      ¼ tsp coriander seed powder
·      1/8 tsp ginger
·      1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
·      1/8 white pepper

Add all ingredients to a pot and cook until the sugar melts (but don’t allow sugar to scorch). See below in pan preparation.

·      ½ cup butter
·     1 cup sugar
·     2 eggs
·      ¼ tsp allspice
·      1/8 tsp cardamom
·      ¼ tsp cinnamon
·      1/8 tsp cloves
·      ¼ tsp coriander seed powder
·      1/8 tsp ginger
·      1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
·      1/8 white pepper
·      2 cups flour (optional: replace 4tsp of flour with 4 tsp of organic corn starch)
·      ½ tsp salt
·      ½ tsp baking soda
·      1 tsp baking powder
·      1 zucchini (courgette) finely grated including liquid
·      2 apples (cored, peeled & diced- I poured a small amount of wine over the cut apples)
·      1 Tbsp wine (can substitute apple juice)
·      1 additional apple (cored, peeled & thinly sliced, also dipped in wine)

Preheat oven to 350°F (app. 175°C*)- if using stoneware, check the recommendations of your manufacturer regarding oven temperature.
Prepare a pan (I suggest buttering and completely lining a 9” round/2½- 3” deep pan with parchment). Place apple slices in a simple pattern in the bottom of the pan- keep in mind that the batter is very thick and will probably shift these a little bit when it is added. Place cake pan on a cookie sheet (in case batter spills over during baking) and pour approx. ½ cup of sugar mixture over the apples in the bottom of the pan. Be sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan, and reserve remaining candy for later.
Cream butter, sugar & spices add eggs one at a time.
Whisk remaining dry ingredients together
Alternate adding dry ingredients, grated zucchini & 1 Tbsp of wine, mixing only until all ingredients are incorporated and moist.
Fold in diced apples and carefully spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35-50 minutes (until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan before inverting the cake onto a plate. Reheat sugar mixture and spoon over the cake slowly to allow the cake to soak it up. Can be served warm, but tastes even better cool.

The caramel soaked in and really made this
already moist cake a sweet treat.


This is similar to a substitute for cake flour that calls for 2 Tbsp of cornstarch to replace 2 Tbsp of flour per cup.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Showing on this day 2010: Autumn Pumpkin Bread

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My first blogging anniversary.

One year ago today I took a deep breath and jumped into blogging, inviting you the reader to share my journey in the kitchen. It has been amazing to see that individuals from all over the world have stopped in to read my posts  and occasionally comment, and to see my little blog grow far beyond what I ever hoped. To all of you that read my entries, share them with others, revisit, and follow my pages, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In debating on what to post on my first anniversary, I recalled that I had seen several bloggers post a 7 link challenge. That seemed like a great way to look back over this first year, so here we go:

1. My most popular post: Blueberry & Yellow Squash Bread- For a long time Acorn squash cookies were at the top, but after I posted this recipe in June, it took off like a rocket and zoomed past every other post to date.

Blueberry & Yellow Squash Bread.
This  was an alternate photo that I
didn't include in the original post.

2. The post that was surprisingly successful: "Acorn Squash cookies"- I challenged myself to create something new with acorn squash, and the result was a mildly sweet, soft and cake-like, buttery cookie. I loved them, but I was still amazed at how often a search for acorn squash cookies brought people to my blog. I'd like to revisit this to experiment further.

Acorn Squash Cookies

3. Most Controversial: I haven't really had any posts that have created any arguments (at least not that have come to my attention via comments), but I would say that "Is pink slime what's for dinner?", where I discussed the topic of ammoniated meat filler, caused the biggest stir. I know that some of my friends told me that they would not read it, and others stated that they were glad that I had brought this to their attention. I tried to handle this topic with as much respect as possible, and I tried to be pro-active by offering suggestions. note: no pictures for this post

4. My most beautiful post: I feel a little bit strange calling something that I wrote ‘beautiful', but if I had to choose, I guess I would say that "Applesauce for a great teacher (and other grownups)" came from a special place in my heart. This post was inspired by one of my favorite grade school teachers, and it felt really good to get a chance to put my appreciation out into the world, even if she will probably never see the post herself.

Applesauce for a great teacher (and other grownups)
I cropped the image for the post, but here is the original.

5. My most helpful post: This was another tough question. I have written about the challenges that I have faced with my food additive allergies, and I share recipes that I create, but I am not sure how helpful these posts are to my readers. I think that my post on making Pepperoni has gotten the strongest appreciation, so that is the link I am posting. note: photos yet to be added.

6. The post that you wish more people had read: I have posted several quick bread recipes, but "Apple Zucchini (Courgette) Spice Bread" never got much of a following. I have a special place in my heart for this recipe, so it is my choice for this category.

Apple Zucchini (Courgette) Spice Bread
One of my favorite quick breads with a cup of tea.

7. The post that makes me the most proud: When I talk about my food blog, my "Sweet Potato Pizza Crust" recipe almost always gets a reaction. I had been blogging for less than a month when I wrote this entry, and this recipe was one of the first times that I found a unique point of view to bring to cooking.

Sweet Potato Pizza Crust
Mildly earthy sweet and full of herbs, this
crust makes a perfect mate to salty bacon.

I am working on new recipes,  looking forward to sharing them, and hoping that time and budget will allow for more experimentation so that I can post more often. I have thoroughly enjoyed this first year of blogging, and invite you along for another year of my journey in the kitchen.

As I like to say, cook from the heart, and better health will surely follow.

Showing on this day 2010: Beginning

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Simple wish on a complex day.

On September 11, 2001, like many Americans, I watched the events on television. I had seen many horror stories unfold on the nightly news over the years, always safely buffered by the lens of time and distance. That morning the distance didn't seem so far, and the events unfolded with the immediacy of live TV. Today, ten years later, I am reminded of how I felt that morning as I watched the attacks, the utter helplessness of seeing lives end before my eyes, knowing that I couldn't do a damn thing to help. Since that day I have seen the country that I love rise to the occasion, and also flounder in fiscal turmoil. It seems an age away, but in an instant it still seems fresh and raw. We'll fly our flag today, we'll bow our heads for a moment of silence, and I will head to the kitchen.

They say there is nothing more American than apple pie, warm from the oven, spicy and sweet.  It seems appropriate to bake a rustic tart (the least pretentious of all pies), so that is my plan for today. In the same way that we continued from that day, with simple and small steps, I will commemorate this day in a simple way. I can't offer anything profound to a day addressed by so many higher and more artistic minds, but I give you a simple wish, that today brings you peace.