Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts

Friday, October 18, 2013

Apple Cider Cake -- A New Old Recipe

by Sheila Connolly

Yes, it's another apple recipe. I promise this will be the last.  Maybe.  The harvest season in ending, after an incredible year (even for my baby trees).  And I feel positively giddy, because my latest Orchard Mystery, Golden Malicious, was a New York Times Mass Market Bestseller when it came out.  So forgive me if I revel in it, just a bit.

I also visited Old Sturbridge Village for their annual Apple Days, which is a lot of fun.  I tasted heirloom apple varieties (pleased that I had a few of them already in my tiny orchard, and I was so impressed with one I’d never tried  that I came home and ordered one immediately.  My “Mother” tree will arrive in the spring, in time for planting.).  I watched men use an ox to grind apples to make cider (and watched the same ox eat apples straight off a tree).

Ox in the apple tree
And I visited the old farmhouse, where the re-enactors were baking apples goodies.  Of course I came away with a new recipe.  Or rather, an old one, because this one dates from 1827.  The last cider cake recipe I gave you was from the 1880s—this one is half a century older.

The problem with the really old recipes is that whoever recorded them assumed you know the basic stuff, like when to mix and in what order, and what size pan to use, and how long to cook it at what temperature.  To be fair, back in 1827 there probably weren’t a lot of pans to choose from on a farm, and you guessed the (brick) oven temperature by sticking your hand in and waiting until you couldn’t keep it in there any longer. 

So I made some educated guesses to fill in the blanks in this very simple recipe.  And (drumroll) I mixed it all by hand, in the time-honored tradition.  Since the ingredients weight nearly seven pounds, that was no mean feat.  Do not take on a nineteenth-century farm woman in wrestling, for they were strong!

“To make a good Cider Cake” from the December 28, 1827 issue of the New England Farmer

Two pounds of flour, one of sugar, half of butter, one of fruit [raisins or currants], one pint of cider, two teaspoons of pearlash, cloves and spice to your taste.

Uh, that was the whole recipe.  Might be there are just a few gaps?  Here’s my modern version—although I did use a scale to weigh the ingredients (a very modern one!).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2 pounds flour (about 6 cups)
1 pound sugar (about 2 cups)
1 Tblsp baking powder
1-2 tsp of cinnamon
½ tsp of cloves (or more if you like)
½ pound of butter, softened
2 cups cider
One pound of raisins or currants (I usually soak these for a few minutes in
     boiling water to soften them up)

In a LARGE bowl, place the dry ingredients and whisk them together.  Add the soft butter and work it in until it’s evenly distributed (mixture will be crumbly).

Add the cider (I used the last of my home-made batch) and mix until you have a stiff batter.  Add the raisins last and mix again.

Butter and flour a pan (I used a 9” x 13” baking pan).  Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth out the top.  Place in the preheated oven and bake until the top is lightly browned and the edges begin to pull away from the pan—probably around an hour.  Cool in the pan.

This is a hearty, tasty cake with a nice apple flavor.  It should keep well.  If you want to dress it up, you can drizzle it with some of that caramel sauce I write about recently, or add a dollop of whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream.  I picture the farm workers in 1827 slipping a sturdy slice in their pockets for a quick snack after haying or milking or whatever.



Friday, October 4, 2013

Cider Cake

by Sheila Connolly

I know, I just gave you an apple cake recipe (and Cleo Coyle provided another intriguing apple recipe this week), but this is the week Golden Malicious was released (the seventh of the Orchard Mysteries), so it just seems wrong to talk about fish or vegetables.  Plus this is a different cake.

I’m also celebrating my first successful cider-making effort. In pursuit of all things apple, last year I acquired a small antique cider press.  Before you start imagining a room full of equipment, this one is table-top size (and also doubles as a sausage maker and lard press, but I don’t think I’m trying those functions) and has a container that holds maybe two quarts of material to be pressed.

I confess I tried this last year, but I made a fatal mistake:  I thought it would be all right if I just put the whole apples in the press and started cranking.  After a lot of apples, I ended up with one-half cup of cider. That was the end of the experiment for the year.

But this year I talked to a couple of people who know what they’re doing, and they said, grind or chop up the apples before pressing.  Duh.  So I used my antique hand-cranked grinder and made a huge pile of apple mush (scattering bits of apple all over the room along the way).  Then I put batches of that mush into the press and voila!  Cider!  I pressed a half-bushel of apples (a mix of four newly-harvested and very fresh varieties) and ended up with two quarts of cider—which is delicious, I must say.
This is a half bushel of apples
Therefore I am using a portion of my harvest to this recipe for cider cake topped with some lovely cider buttercream frosting.  Enjoy!

Cider Spice Cake

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp salt

2/3 cup apple cider (note: for both the cake and the frosting you should use unpasteurized cider)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two round cake pans.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, then add the brown sugar and beat until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each (this will look curdled, but don’t worry).

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture and the cider alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Divide the batter between two pans (rap on the counter once to release any big bubbles). The layers will be thin.

Bake in the preheated oven until the layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.

Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert onto the racks and cool completely (at least 1 hour—you can’t frost a hot cake!).

Cider Buttercream Frosting

¾ cup white sugar

3 Tblsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

¾ cup apple cider

1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, softened

Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan.  Whisk in the cider, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and let boil, still whisking constantly, for 1 minutes.  This will be very thick!  Cool quickly by putting the mixture in a metal bowl, and then setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water.  Stir occasionally until cool, about 30 minutes.

Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy.  Mix in a third of the cider/sugar mixture and beat until well blended.  Add the rest and continue beating until smooth.

Then frost your cake!  Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to set the frosting, about 2 hours. But let it warm up again so the frosting softens when you’re ready to serve. One more note:  this is a very flavorful buttercream frosting, so you can use it for any spice cake or cupcake recipe.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

Apples are a nostalgic food for me.  When I was young, we lived on a farm with apple trees.  I had a penchant for climbing those trees (sometimes getting myself stuck), and whenever possible I snagged an apple right off the tree and ate it amid the branches.

When I was older, we didn't have trees of our own, but we lived close to a fantastic orchard called Robinette's (you West Michiganders know what I'm talking about).  We made the 20 minute trek to Robinette's at least twice every fall, enjoying fresh apple cider and warm pumpkin doughnuts dusted in cinnamon and sugar, and then toting home bushels of fresh, crisp apples.

Bottom line, I love apples.

I grew up eating apples on their own and eating them in sweets.  With the exception of the occasional bit of warm applesauce (with pork chops, of course), we rarely at apples at dinner.  Then one year (2001, to be exact), I was looking for a salad to complement our usual Thanksgiving shepherd's pie, and I stumbled across a recipe for apple/pecan/romaine salad in Bon Appetit.  I was intrigued, and then delighted by how yummy it was.  Over the years, I've tweaked the vinaigrette a bit and switched from romaine to more peppery baby greens (this time a 50/50 blend of spring mix and baby spinach).


Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

Cider Vinaigrette

3/4 c. canola oil
3 Tbs.  apple cider vinegar
1 c. apple cider
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


2 gala apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4 inch dice
5.5 oz. of baby greens
3/4 c. pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped

Place the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook until reduced to about 1/3 of a cup.  Allow to cool.

Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  Dressing can be (and really should be) made 1 day ahead . . . refrigerate until using.  Bring back to room temp before using and whisk to combine the vinaigrette one more time.

Toss apples with 1/3 c. dressing.

Place baby greens in a large salad bowl.  Drizzle with dressing and toss.  Top with apples and pecans.  Serve with any remaining dressing on the side.