For the past few weeks, my kitchen has been full of apples. Just before Halloween, I borrowed a car and drove out to Fairfax to Wegman’s, just so I could by Cortlands — a variety from New York State that is my very favorite baking apple. A few days later, my sister-in-law and nephews came to visit and dropped off a big sack they had hand-picked while visiting my mom in Binghamton. And shortly after that, I came in to work to find a huge bag of apples on my chair, left by my former officemate (and fellow apple lover) who had hit the motherlode at her local farmers’ market. I’ve been working diligently ever since to turn them into as many tasty things as I could manage.
After the jump is a long, recipe-laden post. It might make you hungry. Enter at your own risk.
I started easy — with homemade applesauce, which is about the easiest, healthiest, and most delicious thing that can be made with apples. All you do is simmer the apples with cinnamon (and sugar, if the apples are very tart) until they get mushy. The only variation, really, is whether or not to peel the apples first; peeled allows for chunkier sauce — and immediate eating — because no further processing is needed. Unpeeled requires running the cooked apples through an old-timey device called a Foley Food Mill, which separates the applesauce from the skins. This makes nice, smooth sauce, but takes some time, so I went with the quick version and peeled my apples before I threw them in.
I used the applesauce to make a childhood favorite I was able to re-find using the Internet — Lucy’s Applesauce Pie, which was from the Peanuts cookbook we had as kids. I found the complete recipe on cooks.com, but I needed only the topping and baking instructions, as I already had my sauce in hand.
Lucy’s Applesauce Pie Topping:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
6 tbsp. soft butter
Dash of cinnamon
Mix together with fingers; sprinkle over applesauce. Bake in 375 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 6.
I adapted this by making it in mini tart pans instead of as one pie, so that I could freeze several to eat later. (Just because I can eat an entire pie myself doesn’t mean that I should.)
I never think of apples as being a side dish for dinner, so I was intrigued when I came across this recipe for sweet potatoes with apples. I made it for dinner the other night and it was both super-easy and extremely tasty, which makes it a winner in my book. I did this one without any variation from the recipe, other than guesstimating the amount of sweet potatoes I had, since I don’t have a kitchen scale.
And then there’s the breakfast treats. I started with the muffins below, which I initially found on a blog, but as it had several changes noted in it, I decided to go to the original recipe in my Joy of Cooking, since — unlike the other blog writer — I consider it more of a culinary Bible than a “maligned book.” I also made a coffee cake I found online, but did tweak it slightly by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter, which sounded a little bland.
Apple Walnut Muffins
The Joy of Cooking, with slight adaptations
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together in a large bowl:
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
Stir in and let stand for 10 minutes:
1 1/2 cups packed coarsely grated or finely chopped apple
I used closer to two cups, and went with a fairly coarse chop so there would be noticeable chunks of apple; I also added splash of apple cider because the apples I used were not very juicy.
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Add flour mixture and fold until combined; batter should not be smooth. Divide into 12 prepared muffin cups and bake 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan. (Mine took closer to 20 minutes, but I think my oven temp isn’t quite right, since everything seems to take a bit too long.)
And, after all of this, I still have apples left, so I’ll still be bringing apple pie to Thanksgiving on Thursday. I’m a serious minimalist when it comes to making apple pie — crust, apples, cinnamon, and nothing else. (Well, maybe a teeny bit of flour if the apples seem really juicy so that it doesn’t come out soupy.) I use the “Flaky Pastry Dough” recipe from the Joy of Cooking — it’s on page 859 of the 1997 edition — and it comes out beautifully every time. The key is the ice water. I use it cold from the fridge, measure it out first, and then set it in the freezer until I need it. Seriously.