By Janeen Ellsworth
There's an old family legend--I dunno if it's true--but I hear that, back in the day, when it was frigid outside, my mother-in-law would turn the empty oven on just to heat up her chilly kitchen.
I'm both shocked and inspired by Gigi's bold problem-solving skills. She's always soooo savvy. I can't imagine her doing that now; this was 30 years ago. Besides, she's *woke* when it comes to nat-gas usage and enviro issues.
Sill, I got to thinking, nothing's wrong with turning the oven on to heat up the house as long as something's in it!
There was ice forming around the edges of my kitchen's windows this morning, like I'd awakened inside some wintry Charles Dickens novel. Thanks to the Polar Vortex of 2019, it was minus-4 degrees at eight a.m. here in Pittsburgh.
All I could think about was baking. Something. Anything.
My son, Leo, the future bakery owner, insisted on blueberry muffins. Who could blame him? They're delicious and festive anytime of year. I knew he'd be the leader of this endeavor. I wanted him to take charge, and I love that he loves baking. He's really good at at. And it was, after all, his fourth day off school in a row. The kid was bored. He needed to put his passion and skills to work for something.
But practical me couldn't ignore the six, lonely Granny Smiths sitting on the counter that weren't getting eaten. So I whipped out a stash of recipe cards from the front page of my 'Sweets' recipe binder. I'd swiped these cards from a basket near the cash register of a beautiful apple orchard's storefront last fall while we were on an afternoon outing during our annual family reunion getaway there.
Gigi brings 14 of our family members together to chillax at a sheep farm in Bedford every November. (Told you she was savvy.) On the day we'd gone galavanting around town, we'd stumbled upon the Ridgetop Orchards, acres and acres of delightful fruit trees among rolling hills and valleys of Pennsylvania farmland. There we gathered up crates and crates of Honey Crisps and Empires and Jona Golds, and mixed and matched them all for so many pies and fresh snacks.
I'd shoved the recipes into my purse without really reviewing them all. But once home in Pittsburgh, Leo and I placed them, in alphabetical order, into my recipe binder, mouth watering at their titles and ingredients. Rustic Apple Cake. Apple Butter Pie. Yum!
Every so often, Leo pulls them out and admires their enticing images. "We gotta make these someday, Mom!"
So today was that day. We decided on following the Rustic Apple Cake recipe, which calls for Honey Crisps, but I always prefer keeping those in their heavenly fresh state and eating them raw. Instead, I bake with Grannies pretty exclusively.
I kept reading, and a couple of lines down the recipe I realized this one called for Bourbon. Maybe that's what makes it rustic?
It also included an entire cup of sugar. I consider it a personal obligation to halve any recipe's sugar. This one could've been limited further, depending on how used to sweetness you are.
A quick adaptation to axe the booze and minimize the sugar made this kid-friendly and *almost* healthy. It kept us warm as it baked for a a whole hour, smelled glorious in the oven and tasted every bit as wonderful. It's great for dessert, an afternoon snack, and can even fly as a breakfast coffee cake.
And don't those apple chunks look like little glaciers? That's why I'm calling this Polar Vortex Apple Cake!
Big thanks to the folks at Ridgetop Orchards for these wonderful recipes, memories, and of course, their delicious apples!
POLAR VORTEX APPLE CAKE
4 C apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp milk
2 C flour
1/2 C (or less!) white granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 butter, melted & cooled
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9" round pan.
Peel, core and chop apples. Set aside.
Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, beaten eggs, white sugar, and milk.
Add wet mixture to dry mixture. Once blended, fold in chopped apples (and nuts/raisins, if using).
Spread batter into pan.
Bake 1 hour, or til a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan. Flip onto cooling rack.
Resist urge to sprinkle with powdered sugar;)
I'm Janeen; writer, mother, wife, and full-time, radical Reductionist. I share stupid-easy tips on how to save money while reducing your impact on the environment, & I'm committed to helping others live a life of simple sustainability.
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