Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Sunday: Apple Cake - via Dorie Greenspan and Her Friend Marie-Hélène

As I dive into the sweet and yeasty side of cooking where I once believed, "hic sunt monstra" (here, be monsters), I have become more relaxed and a little more confident, but when I saw what the cake batter looked like after the apples were added, I kinda freaked out, thinking I'd made some egregious and fatal error because it looked like there were too many apples and not enough batter.

The good news is that I had absolutely no reason to freak out. This is one fine and delicious cake.  The liquid that comes out of the baking apples mixes with the batter to make an apple-y, custard-y delight.

This is the first recipe I chose to make from Ms. Greenspan's book, "Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours", but it is definitely not the last. I'm not the first to make and blog about this cake - or a host of other of Ms. Greenspan's recipes.
This is a recipe that Ms. Greenspan developed based on her friend, Marie-Hélène's cake and Ms. Greenspan encourages anybody who makes this not to futz with the recipe the first time around and I concur. There are so few ingredients that come together to make something so wonderful. Also, I think using several different types of apples is important in this recipe. I learned that same lesson about apple pie. When it comes to apple sauce (or apple butter) sticking to a single type is generally better.

Oh - and I think the addition of the dark rum is a key ingredient, if you have some. If not, brandy would do the trick.

The only quibble I had was (as I have had with other recipes) the old, "How big is big?" question when it comes to apple size. The recipe calls for four large apples of different types. I suspect that it's not a cooking crime with this recipe if your apples vary a little in size but I really had a wide range of apple sizes. I actually did some research on what is considered a large apple (*cough*NERD*cough*) and came up with a weight one-half pound (8 oz) per apple. Plus or minus a few ounces isn't going to hurt.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Three Side Dishes from Two Sisters

It's not that I haven't cooked, or taken pictures while cooking, and I have a backlog of half-started un-posted articles (virtually) stacked higher than a cord of wood.

In the words of someone from long ago, "There are reasons, but no excuses." so no long winded explanation of why it has been so long between posts.

My goal is to post as many of these as possible before the end of the year - or by Monday the 2nd. 

I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - and not just for the food.

It is the time for family (your bio family or the family you've chosen) to get together without the ugly and crazed season - now starting in September - that has taken over Christmas, like a face-hugging alien (see the video below). My family has dialed-down the gift madness in that, within the siblings, we give each other small or hand-made gifts.

So, because this post was the closest to completion, I'm going to feature two of my sisters' side dishes from our bio-family Thanksgiving. For the past decade (longer?) I have spent Thanksgiving Thursday in San Francisco and then flown north to spend Thanksgiving Saturday with my bio-family. It was very kind of them to make the change and it allows me to spend time with both my bio- and non-bio families as well as double my turkey deconstruction pleasure. I LOVE turkey deconstruction! I could give lessons or compete professionally -- if there was such a contest.
From my sister Chris: (first picture left) Sally's Dressing and (first picture right) Chris' Curried Onions and from Cathy, who blogs over at Lo-Carb World (Second Picture): Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes with Herbs and Pancetta.

Sally's Dressing and Chris' Curried Onions (recipes after the jump, below)

Cathy's Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes with Herbs and Pancetta over at her blog, "Lo-Carb World" is linked, below.

 - Sally's Dressing;
 - Chris' Curried Onions; and
- Cathy's Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes with Herbs and Pancetta (Over at her Lo-Carb World blog)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Staples: Drying Herbs

Periodically and especially during the holiday season, I end up with half-used bunches of herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano. Often, they have ended up making a kind of (disgusting) herb soup in the bottom of my crisper. Periodically, I also gather a bunch of California Bay leaves from the tree/bush (it's hard to tell at this point) in Lynn's back yard. I dry these sturdier herbs in the microwave. The method is the same, it's the length of time that they're in the microwave that differs. I lay down a single layer of paper towel and sprinkle the herbs on top - not crowding them and run the microwave at 30% power for a couple of minutes. If the herbs aren't dry, I'll repeat this, except that the time is between 30 seconds and 1 minute. The bay leaves take several minutes and I would love to know how to keep them from curling up - thereby making it more difficult to get them in a jar. Once I take them out of the microwave, I let them sit on the paper towel for a minute or two before I put them in a jar.

I've got blog posts backed up like planes over O'Hare on Christmas Eve. Work and travel backed me up a little but I should be posting them very soon - including a dee-licious apple cake.