Saturday, October 22, 2011

I dream of Apples in October...

With the holidays coming up, I'm already thinking about all the recipes I'd love to bake this winter.  Some traditional family recipes, and some new ones that I want to try.  I'm all about tradition, and yet I feel torn because there's so many other wonderful dishes to make that I would love to experiment with.  Pie, of course, is always the star throughout the holidays.  For Thanksgiving, my mom used to make two apple pies, one for dessert after dinner and one that she would let us cut and eat for breakfast that morning.  And don't judge, because really, how is eating a piece of apple pie for breakfast any different than a cinnamon roll or pancakes covered in butter and syrup?  :)

Apples really get their chance to shine in the fall.  Between apple pies and tarts full of butter and spices on a flaky crust, apple butter on warm, fresh bread, apple crisp with ice cream...  it's hard to pick just a few things to bake.  The temptation to smell the delicious scent of apples baking and simmering with nutmeg and cloves could make me want to spend a whole day in the kitchen just baking.  Even something as simple as a sliced apple with a dash of cinnamon simmering on the stove for a sweet (and guiltless, I might add) treat after dinner is homey and comforting.

Last week we visited an apple orchard and farm, and although we weren't able to pick any apples (reservations were full), we did come home with a couple of bulging bags of Jonathans and Jonagolds.  We also sampled their freshly pressed apple cider and a few apple cider cake doughnuts.  It was a beautiful fall day, warm and breezy, with a clear view of the Rocky Mountains.  The horses at the farm loved the apples, too.

I made Apple Spice Oatmeal for breakfast one morning during our vacation, and Jamie especially liked the tartness of a few dried cherries in the oatmeal.  Cranberries would be a yummy addition, too.  Then I made a Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake for dessert.  The cake was beautiful, elegant and somewhat rustic, with the addition of the cornmeal in the batter which gave it a heartier texture.  The pretty apple pattern on top and the sweet, syrupy caramel soaking down into the cake makes it hard to resist.  Especially with vanilla bean ice cream dripping down.

And then with our bounty of apples from the farm, I made Apple Butter.  Slow cooked in the crock pot, full of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, flavored with a hint of molasses and cardamom, it was thick and sweet, and tasted delicious on the pumpkin bread I baked this morning.  The house smelled amazing yesterday with the apple butter simmering away.

After having eyed a food mill for the past few months, I finally bought one, and I'm glad I did.  Since you want to cook the apples for the apple butter without peeling or coring them (the peel and core contains natural pectin, as well as lots of flavor), then you need a way to remove the peels, core and seeds after the apples have cooked.  A food mill does the trick.  The tart Jonathans gave the apple butter a wonderful tang so that it wasn't too sweet, and the molasses added nice caramelly richness.

Since I posted all those pumpkin recipes last week (see my previous post Pumpkins in the Fall for recipes for Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes, Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, Pumpkin Cake Truffles with Sea Salt, and Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal), one reader asked if I had a good pumpkin bread recipe.  Well, what would a lovely fall weekend be without Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread?  :)

I've made this bread a dozen times and it's always so moist and full of fall flavors and spices.  This time, I added some sour cream to the batter - because that always makes baked goods better - and it was just as yummy as I was hoping for.

So now I think I'll read my book that I need to finish for my next book club, enjoy the cool fall breeze coming in the window, and savor a piece of warm pumpkin bread fresh from the oven with homemade apple butter.  Anyone who wants to stop by to join me is welcome! :)  Although you may catch me still in my PJs...

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

caramel apple layer:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 apples, peeled and cored, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, no sugar added
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Set a 9-inch round silicone baking pan on a cookie sheet.  If you don't have a silicone baking pan, thoroughly spray a standard pan with non-stick baking spray.

To make the caramel sauce:  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and lemon juice, and warm slowly until the butter is melted.  Pour the mixture into the silicone pan and swirl around so that it spreads out to cover the bottom of the pan.

Starting in the middle, lay the apple slices on top of the caramel mixture, in a circular, overlapping pattern, until the apple slices reach the edges of the pan.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the apples.  Set aside.

To make the cake:  In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and apple pie spice.  Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Scrape down the bowl, and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix for about 30 seconds on medium speed.  Fold in the diced apples.

Carefully, so as not to disturb the sliced apple pattern, pour the cake batter over the sliced apples and smooth out the top of the batter.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, until top of cake is golden brown, the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen the cake.  Carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate and slowly lift the pan off the cake.  Cool for about an hour before serving.  Serve warm, or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream.

Yields 8 servings.

Apple Spice Oatmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, no sugar added
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  Add all of the ingredients, return to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid the oatmeal sticking to the bottom.

Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 3 minutes.  Serve immediately, topped with skim milk if desired.

Yields 2-3 servings.

Apple Butter
printable recipe
  • 10-14 apples (use a variety of sweet and tart apples or just your favorite)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider, no sugar added
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Cut the apples into quarters but don't peel or core them.  Place into a crock pot.  If they don't all fit, you can always add more as they cook down - I was only able to fit 11 apples in mine.

In a bowl, whisk together the apple cider, brown sugar, molasses, lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom.  Pour mixture over the apples.  Nestle the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick in the apples.  There's no need to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean since you're putting the whole bean into the pot to infuse the apple butter.

Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours until apples are very soft.  Scoop the apples and vanilla bean out of the pot (leave the cinnamon stick in the liquid), and run the apples through a food mill to separate the apple puree from the peel, core and seeds.  Once you've squeezed out as much puree as possible, discard the peel, core and seeds and return the apple puree to the crock pot.  Stir into the cooking liquid until smooth.  Cover and cook on low for 2-3 more hours, stirring occasionally, until thick.

If you will not be eating the apple butter within a few months, can the apple butter following standard canning procedures.  Otherwise, pour into glass jars and store in the refrigerator to eat within a few months.

Yields about 6 cups.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
printable recipe
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and spray 2 standard-sized loaf pans with non-stick baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, oil, water, sour cream, eggs and vanilla, and whisk for 1-2 minutes until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking just until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Divide the batter between the two loaf pans.

Bake for 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is nicely browned and cracked.  Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.  Cover bread with a clean kitchen towel so that they don't dry out as they cool.  Cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.

This bread is wonderful on its own, or spread with apple butter, cream cheese, Nutella or lemon curd.

Yields 2 loaves.


  1. All of these look so good! I love to make apple butter and I'm glad to see someone else who cooks it dark and thick. I keep seeing apple butter recipes that are very thin and light looking and to me, that's more like applesauce. Yum to yours!

  2. Holy cow - you are SO talented! I'm absolutely, positively buzzing this and drooling at the same time!

  3. Janet, I know what you mean, I thought there was supposed to be a difference between applesauce and apple butter, too! :)

  4. Holy Cow! ALL of these look so good! I don't know where to start! I love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate chips. And I would so eat that apple cake for breakfast! But that's okay...because I also like oatmeal for dinner! What a fabulous post!

  5. Wonderful post with a great collection of images and food

  6. You definitely loaded up on the apple goodness didn't you?! That apple butter caught my eye for sure =)

  7. 1st pumpkins, now apples. Wow! Loads of great recipes - thanks for sharing :)

  8. This looks awesome--always happy to see upside-down cake recipes!

  9. Wow, everything looks amazing! All your pictures are fabulous, and that cake looks to die for! I also love your apple oatmeal recipe, a perfect breakfast for fall, or actually any meal! Lovely post :)

  10. Amazing cake! It all looks so good...


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