Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homemade Apple Cider

According to the calendar, Friday, September 23rd marks the date in which it is officially fall and I couldn't be happier. It's currently apple, squash and pumpkin season. Hee-haw! I just happened to go to my grandmother's house in North Dakota this past weekend, and her apple tree was ready to be picked. My 92 year old grandmother has officially grown the largest apples I've ever seen come out of someones backyard. Exhibit A:

That apple she is holding tasted delicious and apparently the bees thought so as well. Granny has two amazing apple trees in her backyard and one of them was swarmed with bees. I guess I was surprised because I had no idea they attacked apple trees, silly me.  Needless to say, I took my apples from the bee-less tree. It's funny that she has two trees filled with perfect apples because for as long as I can remember my mother has been trying to grow an apple tree that will produce more than four apples. I bet you that woman has been praying on apples in her yard for at least 15 years and every time she gets one that sort of looks edible a deer eats it or it falls to the ground for the birds. Poor, Ma. Looks like she'll just have to keep picking up apples off the ground at Grandma's like the rest of us.

This recipe is surprisingly easy to put together and almost worth it just for the smell. Your entire house/apartment will smell amazing and your living space will most likely become quite toasty because your stove top will be on for 3 hours. This hot cider is delicious and actually not too bad cold either. It's just a little thicker than I thought it would be but it didn't bother me at all. I hope you get a chance to check it out. Here's the recipe, enjoy!

Old Fashioned Apple Cider

12-15 small-medium apples, any type
1 small orange
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
3-4 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon whole cloves
water to cover

  1. Wash and roughly chop apples and orange-do not worry about removing peels, seeds, or stems. Toss into a large stock pot.
  2. Add both sugars
  3. Wrap your cinnamon, cloves and allspice in a doubled up cheese cloth and tie, and add this to the apples and cover with water.
  4. Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for at least an hour.
  5. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Allow juice to simmer for at least two hours.
  6. Uncover and use a potato masher to roughly mash content of pot. To further reduce: continue simmering until cider is dark and tastes sweet and spicy.
  7. When cider is ready allow to cool then remove your spices/cheesecloth and strain apple pieces  into a clean pitcher or pot. If you feel like it you can strain everything through a cheesecloth and twist and squeeze to get every last drop.
  8. Serve hot. Store in the fridge and reheat as desired. Produces about a 1/2 gallon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

I have started to really enjoy making bundt cakes. One of the main reasons is because when it turns out right you look like a master baker. The cake looks just like the picture and the pan does all the decorating for you. But when things go wrong with the bundt pan, it looks like some kid came by and took bites out of the top of your cake. What in the world do I mean  you ask? Well, if you don't properly grease a bundt pan, big giant chunks of  the cake can stick to it while your cake plops out. It is one giant pain in the ass. There is one particular spray that can rid you of that worry, but I just happened to be out of it while I started making this cake. I did it the old-fashioned way, butter and flour. I figured my granny didn't use spray, I don't need too either! WRONG. Yes, yes I do need Pam baking spray with flour. Big huge chunks stuck to the bottom of the pan when I turned it onto the plate.  You know that feeling you get in the back of your throat where you want to scream and grit your teeth at the same time? I had that, and I had it bad. You think you get every single little divot in that pan filled with butter and you tap flour all throughout, but no. Giant fail.
I'm being pretty dramatic. The cake was able to be somewhat covered with the glaze so you could hardly see the random holes throughout the cake, but I knew they were there.  The cake still looked delicious, layers of sliced apples covered with struesel.  The spice glaze is amazing as well and I plan on using it on apple muffins and other cakes I make too. I like glazes because you can make them any consistency you like and I needed one heck of a thick one because of the divots in my cake.

Bundt cakes tend to be easy to prepare, just throw everything together into the bowl at once and mix. Just grease up that pan, man.  I was told to use granny smith apples in this cake, but you can use any apple you would like. I didn't use a granny smith, I used the 'Ginger Gold' apple. I didn't even know this apple existed and it's quite good. Its taste resembles a granny smith but it just happened to be the shinier of the two at the store so we went with it. I highly recommend ginger gold and it's grown right here in Minnesota, isn't that swell?! But seriously, it's good. I hope you get a chance to make this cake and I hope I didn't scare you off from baking it because it really is tasty. Happy baking.


3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons orange zest
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
4 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced*

Spice Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
2-4 tablespoons milk


Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan
Combine streusel ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all cake ingredients except apples. Pour 1/3 of batter (about 1 2/3 C) into Bundt pan. Layer 2 cups of apples over batter; sprinkle with half the streusel. Repeat layers with another 1/3 of batter, remaining apples and remaining streusel. End with remaining 1/3 of cake batter. 

Bake for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when tested. Cool in pan for 3 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate to cool completely. 

When cake is cool, prepare glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter and spice. Add milk one tbsp at a time until smooth and of drizzling consistency. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake. 

*I ended up using four medium sized apples. It equaled to about four cups.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Raspberry-Swirl Angel Cake with Creme Fraiche


I woke up this morning to the temperature outside being 54 degrees and I couldn't have been happier. Fall has finally arrived and it just happens to be my favorite season in Minnesota. I can wear layers! I can bake without turning my house into a hot box! I wear pants! Ok, Summer isn't all that bad, but it probably ranks as my third favorite season, as spring is my second.  Even though my allergies kick in during the fall, it's still fantastic. The leaves change into beautiful colors, mums are out in full force, and it's dark and rainy. Fall in Minnesota reminds me of Portland's winter, which is just as incredible. A few years ago, with the help of a friend, I discovered fleece jackets. That might be yet another reason I love fall, because it gives me an excuse to wear my 'heavenly fleece'. I will never give up my quest in becoming a yuppie. I'm almost there, I can feel it. Just like I can feel fall, finally.

I'm saying goodbye to Summer on Labor Day, it seemed an appropriate time. In Minnesota, school usually starts the day after Labor Day which is also the last day after the state fair. Some sort of Minnesota tradition I guess because growing up in North Dakota, we would have started school a couple of weeks ago. School/football starting is usually a good indication that Summer is no longer wanted around. So, to say goodbye to Summer I decided to bake an angel food cake.  A fancy angel cake at that. It has a pretty pink-red raspberry swirl throughout and smells like candy coming out of the oven. I think the reason I enjoy making angel food cakes so much now is because it still amazes me how those egg whites turn into that giant white pillow. This was also my first time making and eating creme friache. It takes more work to pronounce it correctly then it does to actually make it.  It's just cream and sugar and a hint of buttermilk. Don't be scared of it.  This cake is actually quite simple, please don't let the long list of instructions fool you. Happy baking. I hope you had a wonderful Summer, I know I did.

Raspberry-Swirl Angel Cake with Creme Friache

Raspberry Puree
1 1/4 cups fresh raspberries
(one 6-ounce package)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
12 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup creme friache, homemade (see note)
or purchased
2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups fresh raspberries
(one 6-ounce package)

To make the raspberry puree: Puree the raspberries and granulated sugar in a blender or a food processor until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the fruit with a rubber spatula. Discard the seeds and reserve the raspberry puree (about 1/2 cup).

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk the flour and powdered sugar together in medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed for 30-60 seconds or until the whites become slightly foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat for 30-60 seconds or until soft peaks form.  With the mixer running, slowly add the granulated sugar in a steady stream. Add the vanilla and continue beating for 1 minute or until the egg whites are glossy and hold a firm peak.

Sift the flour mixture over the egg whites and gently fold in with a rubber spatula, being careful to keep the air in the egg whites as you fold in the flour.  Pour in the raspberry puree and fold a couple of times just to swirl.  Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch angel food tube pan.  Run a thin knife through the batter to remove any large air pockets.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top springs back when gently touched and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry.  Cool the cake completely upside down on the legs attached to the pan, or if it has none, suspend it over the neck of a bottle.  Carefully slide a thin metal cake spatula or knife around the sides of the pan and tube to loosen the cake, pressing against the pan to avoid cutting the cake.  Invert the cake onto a serving platter and remove pan.

To make the topping: Beat the creme fraiche and granulated sugar together until soft peaks form, adding additional sugar if necessary, depending on the tartness of the creme fraiche.  Beat until firm peaks form.

Swirl the topping of the top of the cake, and sprinkle the raspberries over the top, or spoon a dollop of the topping over each slice as it is served.

*Note: To make creme fraiche, combine 1 cup of heavy (whipping) cream and 1 teaspoon of buttermilk in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until warm (100 to 110 degrees).  Remove from the heat and pour into a nonreactive bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours or until slightly thickened. (Creme fraiche can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks; it will continue to thicken and become slightly more sour as it sits.)