It’s fall at last, and apples are everywhere all of a sudden. Farmers markets (and Apple Hill) are the best place to find the earlier varieties of unusual apples, such as Rhode Island Greening, as well as heirloom varieties of grocery store staples, such as Gala and Golden Delicious, which might lack the size and colors of their commercial counterparts, but are wonderfully sweet with a real depth of flavor.
Apples vary dramatically when it comes to characteristics and flavors, and different varieties are suited to different preparations, be it a classic pie, sauce or cake, or added to savory dishes such as roasted duck or pork. Look for apples that hold together well for baking, as well as apples on the tarter side, especially if you’re adding sugar. Farmers often offer samples, and check with them for flavor characteristics and suggestions for using.
Huckleberry’s whole-wheat apple butter cake
Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Serves 16 to 20
Note: Adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe.
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds apples (about 3 large), peeled and cut into large chunks (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 lightly packed cups (7 ounces) almond meal
1 cup (4.5 ounces) whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (2.5 ounces) cornmeal
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound butter
2 1/4 cups (1 pound) sugar, plus 3 tablespoons, divided
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
For cooked apples: In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the apples, then the sugar and salt, tossing to coat. Cook, stirring often, until the apples are just softened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and spread out the apples on a rimmed baking sheet to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.
For cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-by-3-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the almond meal, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter until softened. With the mixer going, beat in 1 pound sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, then beat in the vanilla.
Beat in the dry ingredients, a spoonful at a time, just until incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix.
Fold in the cooked apples by hand. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle over the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven until the cake is risen and a rich golden brown on top, springs back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Check the cake after 1 hour; if it browns too quickly, loosely tent the top with a piece of foil.
Remove the pan to a rack. Cool for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pan.
Each of 20 servings: 434 calories; 7 grams protein; 45 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 27 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 136 mg cholesterol; 31 grams sugar; 406 mg sodium.
Dorie Greenspan’s custardy apple squares
This delicious and almost foolproof recipe for novice bakers is easily customized with spices, a little rum or dried cranberries. See Dorie Greenspan’s variations below.
Most often, Greenspan serves these squares plain. But whipped cream, creme fraîche or ice cream would make a great partner.
Make ahead: The squares, which are good a few minutes out of the oven or at room temperature the day they are made, can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days and served chilled.
Adapted from Greenspan’s “Baking Chez Moi” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
3 medium juicy, sweet apples, such as Gala or Fuji, peeled
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with a little butter.
Slice the apples from top to bottom using a mandoline, Benriner or sharp knife, turning the fruit 90 degrees each time you reach the core. The slices should be about 1/16 inch thick: elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile. (If they’re a little thicker, that’ll be fine, too.) Discard the cores.
Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
Use a whisk to combine the eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl for about 2 minutes, until the sugar has just about dissolved and, more important, until the eggs are pale. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then the milk and the melted, cooled butter. Add the flour mixture into the bowl; use the whisk to form a smooth batter.
Add the apples to the bowl; switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold in the apples, turning the mixture until each thin slice is coated in batter. Scrape the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top as evenly as you can. It will be bumpy; that’s its nature.
Bake (middle rack) for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and puffed - make sure the middle of the cake has risen - and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Carefully cut into 9 equal squares in the pan (being careful not to damage the pan); or unmold the slab onto a rack, flip it onto a plate so it is right side up and then cut it into 9 squares. Either way, give the squares a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving, if you’d like.
Variations: You can add a couple of tablespoons of dark rum, Calvados, applejack or Armagnac or a drop (really just a drop) of pure almond extract to the batter. If you have an orange or a lemon handy, you can grate the zest over the sugar and rub the ingredients together until they’re fragrant. You can also change the fruit. Pears are perfect, and a combination of apples and pears even better. Or make the cake with 2 firm mangoes – the texture will be different, but still good – or very thinly sliced quinces. Finally, if you want to make this look a little dressier, you can warm some apple jelly in a microwave and use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of it over the top.
Per serving: 130 calories, 3 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar
Greens with apples, pecans and cheddar
Recipe from “Battersby: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Kitchen” by Joseph Ogrodnek, Walter Stern and Andrew Friedman .
12 ounces assorted chicories, such as radicchio, Belgian endive, watercress and spinach
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped herbs or fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces aged cheddar, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup fried or toasted pecans
1 green apple, cored, quartered and shaved on a mandoline
1 red apple, cored, quartered and shaved on a mandoline
Wash greens and spin dry. Refrigerate in an airtight container, with a damp paper tower over them to absorb any lingering moisture, until ready to use or up to overnight.
Put greens in a large bowl and scatter the shallot and herb mix over them. Drizzle oil and vinegar over salad, and season with salt and pepper. Add cheddar and pecans, and toss.
Divide salad among 4 plates and arrange apples over the salad, covering it. Drizzle a little oil and vinegar over the apples, and season with salt and pepper.
Root vegetable and apple hash baked with eggs
Serves 2 to 4
Pantry staples potatoes, onions and apples are a classic combination of sweet and savory flavors for just about any meal of the day. Baking the eggs right on the baking sheet makes for a no-fuss meal in minutes, plus a quick cleanup.
Feel free to mix and match the ingredients according to whatever you have on hand – different types of potatoes, onions and apples will work equally well here, from Yukon Gold potatoes to Vidalia onions to Honeycrisp apples.
2 russet potatoes, peeled, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Cripps Pink apple, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, or more as needed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the potatoes, onion and apples with the oil and salt on a rimmed baking sheet until evenly coated, spreading them in an even layer. Roast for 30 minutes or until the vegetables and apple begin to brown and soften.
Push aside some of the hash to create four spaces for the eggs, then carefully crack each egg into one of the cleared spaces. Roast for 5 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are just set but the yolks are still runny.
Season with the pepper and more salt, if you like. Serve warm.