I was leafing through Sunset magazine a week or so ago when a recipe for an Apple Oven Cake jumped out at me. Given my fixation on apple cider and butter, it’s a no-brainer that something involving apples and cake would be at the top of my fall baking list. However, my plans for it were a little off base.
Somehow I missed that this cake is more of a puffed pancake (a la Dutch baby) than a cake-cake. Good thing I read the reviews before I started baking because this isn’t the sort of cake that gets better as it sits! Oh no, it’s best eaten right out of the oven, spoonful after spoonful, while it deflates like a fallen souffle.
So while I had planned to ply my co-workers with apple-filled goodness, I baked this warm, caramel-y treat for my husband instead. It was a lazy Sunday morning and we had a long hard day of wine tasting ahead of us. I thought this apple cake would make the perfect (and filling!) fall brunch.
If I added up the amount of times I have used the word “Applejack” in recent posts, I’m sure it would be ridiculous. But it’s the season for deliciously boozy apple-flavored things. It’s called being festive!
So given my deep love for chicken, it only seemed natural to use both together in one fabulous dinner. I saw this recipe for chicken braised with apples, onions and Calvados in a recent issue of Food & Wine and it sounded perfect. I made it for the entree course of my harvest dinner party a few weeks ago, but I tried it out prior to the party to make sure it was sufficiently tasty.
I made it almost entirely as written though, as you might have guessed from my first paragraph, I used Applejack instead of Calvados. While I’m sure Calvados would have been amazing in there, Applejack was certainly just as delicious. I also omitted the caraway because I think it is disgusting. It’s the spice that ruins “everything” bagels — the smallest amount in my food makes me angry. Since I had some fresh thyme and sage, I used them instead — they are two herbs that get along famously with apples so it seemed like a good addition.
I love having a signature cocktail when I throw a party. Last year at my honey-themed birthday party I had a station set up where guests could make a Honey Badger (St. Germain, honey syrup and sparkling wine). So when I hosted my harvest-themed dinner party, I decided to come up with something fun to drink besides wine.
Since I had just made my own home-pressed apple cider, I used that as a base. I heated it up with some mulling spices to give it more flavor, letting it simmer for about 10 minutes with a cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice and dried orange peel. Once the spices were strained out, I contemplated my liquor cabinet.
Did you catch a hint of John Irving in that title? If you did, we must be kindred spirits. The Cider House Rules is one of my favorite books, and every time I started typing anything about cider, it kept popping into my head. I couldn’t shake it.
Anyways, if it were required of me to make rules for a cider press party, it would be a simple task.
Buy apples (basically so many apples that it’s overwhelming)
Invite friends (think like Tom Sawyer, more people=less work for you!)
Make good food (this way your friends can’t blame you when they feel used)
Spend the afternoon drinking beer and making delicious fresh-pressed cider
It’s that easy! And, when you see all of the glorious fresh cider come pouring out, it’s also pretty damn exciting.
Here’s some scenes from my first cider press party, which took place the weekend before Halloween.
If a bowl of crispy, cheesy French onion soup doesn’t say “autumn is here” I don’t know what does. And when you add a lovely, perfectly in season Pink Lady apple and a hefty splash of apple cider, it becomes downright magical.
My husband and I hit up the Montavilla Farmer’s Market (in SE Portland) a few weeks ago and came home with a beautiful selection of apples. There were so many varieties to choose from it was a little overwhelming. My new favorite is the Pink Pearl — which has bright rose-colored flesh and a tart flavor reminiscent of a Granny Smith.
I picked up a dozen or so apples and upon arriving at home, I set a Pink Lady aside because I had a plan in mind. This plan, to be specific: French Onion and Apple Soup.
It was a Cooking Light recipe that I had been staring at for quite a while and finally it was cold enough in Portland to justify making it. I admit, I was a little over excited. I’ve mentioned before that fall makes me nervous because it’s so close to winter, but here’s a secret — as soon as autumn is in full swing, I love it. The smell of cinnamon, the desire to bake cookies and toast pumpkin seeds. It’s like that feeling of being a kid when you realize you can finally start the counting down the days until Christmas.
And this soup definitely helped usher me into autumn! The cheesy topping and crunchy croutons were as comforting as always. And with its slight sweetness and rich beef broth, it brought about an immediate and serious craving for hot apple cider with Applejack.