Showing posts with label Brass Sisters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brass Sisters. Show all posts

Friday, September 8, 2017

Harvest Time Again

My apples are almost all ripe. I planted the first tree--a Northern Spy that I call Nathan, after Nathan Hale--in 2007, and seven trees after that. Two, sadly, have passed away, but the others have gone crazy this year, including Nathan. 

Last year I had a crop of two apples. Not two bushels or two baskets or even two bowls, but two. Period. There was a late frost last year (oh, look, a book plug!) which took out all the blossoms at once. This year has been a polar opposite, with enough sun and warmth and rain to produce a great crop. Even Nathan has cooperated, which is worth noting since the Northern Spy variety is usually late to bloom and late to ripen.

Hudson's Golden Gem -- small, crisp and sweet
(and a squirrel favorite!)

In past years I have featured a wide range of apple recipes on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, and my creative colleagues here have added more. Sweet and savory. Slaws and slumps, buckles and grunts, crumbles and crisps--they've found their way here. So it's always a challenge to come up with a new one, but I keep collecting cookbooks. Apples have been around in this country from the beginning, so there are plenty of choices for recipes, both old and new.

This harvest offering comes from a recipe in the delightful Brass Sisters' Heirloom Cooking cookbook. Of course, the first problem I encountered with it was the choice of apples: the sisters recommended Granny Smiths. Now, there's nothing wrong with a Granny Smith apple. They're hardy, dependable, keep well, and are good in cakes and pies and such because they hold their shape in cooking. But they're boring. I don't have any in my mini-orchard, because I'm having fun trying old New England varieties, that you'll never see in a store, only at the rare farm stand on a country road in the fall. Many of them don't hold well, don't travel well, and the trees produce for a short time only. So to taste them you have to be in the right place at the right time.

Well, my mini-orchard is the right place, but I didn't have enough of any single variety that were ripe enough to use in this dish, so I used whatever looked good. It won't hurt your pie or cake. In fact, you kind of cover your bases by using multiple varieties, with different textures and flavors and varying amounts of sweetness. I have a couple of Northern Spies in this, and some Hudson's Golden Gems, and a few Cortlands, and what I think is a Newtown Pippin or two. They taste fine together.

Dorset Apple Cake (with a nod to the Brass Sisters)


3-1/2 cups peeled, cored and 
Chopped apples

   diced apples (half-inch dice)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
grated zest of one lemon

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (or more!)

1/2 cup ( 1 stick) cold butter, cut into dice

1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 eggs, beaten

2 Tblsp Demerara (coarse) sugar


Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. 
Butter (or grease) a 9" square baking pan.

Toss the apples, sugar, raisins and lemon zest in a bowl.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Work in the butter by hand.



Mix the vanilla and the cream, then add it to the batter and mix (do not overmix!) Add the beaten eggs, half at a time. The mixture will be stiff.

Fold in the apple mixture with a large spatula.

Place the dough in the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the top.

Ready for the oven

Bake about 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Leaving the cake in the pan, place on a rack to cool.


Best served warm or at room temperature, maybe with a dab of whipped cream.

By the way, I don't mind sharing my apple crop.

A Late Frost, coming in November from Berkley.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Square Cake with a Round Hole

by Sheila Connolly

I told you I went to Vermont recently. While I was there I went antiquing. I came back with (you guessed it!) more vintage cookware. It’s an addiction.

But who could resist a square pan with a tube in the middle? I didn’t have one (who on earth does?), and I paid three dollars for it. So I brought it home, and then I had to take it for a test drive.

I went searching through the cookbook collection and pulled out Heirloom Baking, by the delightful Brass Sisters, and found a wonderful recipe called Reverend Brown’s Cake, which the sisters found on an old index card. They thought it was a late nineteenth century recipe, so it’s just the right period for my new old pan. I hope they don’t mind my borrowing it, but since they too collect vintage cookware, I’m sure they’ll understand.

Reverend Brown’s Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9” pan. Fit a parchment paper liner to the bottom, then grease and flour that too. Tap the pan (over the sink!) to remove extra flour.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each one thoroughly.

Add the sifted ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and beat to combine after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester comes out clean. After a few minutes, remove the cake from the pan (don’t forget to remove the paper too!) and let cool on a rack.

Topping (or you could call this butterscotch sauce):

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tblsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt

Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Dip a brush in water and wash down the sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium high. Do Not Stir! Continue boiling until the mixture turns golden brown (not too dark), which should take about 6-8 minutes.

When it's ready
When you start

Remove the pan from the heat and swirl gently, twice. Add the butter and stir slowly until it melts. Add the cream (the liquid may foam up for a moment) and stir again. (If you end up with a glob of goo in the middle, set the pan over medium heat and keep stirring until it all smooths out.) Add the salt.

While still warm, pour the sauce over the cooled cake and smooth the top and sides.

You can store the sauce in glass containers in the refrigerator if you happen to have any left over (stop laughing! Yes, there is some, but I have a spoon.). 

By the way, while I was antiquing I found a small friend for one of my favorite pans, a vintage melon mold. I don’t know what the tiny version was supposed to be used for, but it was too cute to pass up.

Coming in October. With recipes! (Think there will be one with apples?)

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble