Comfort Me with Cake

Apple Bundt
If hours in the kitchen are an ebb and flow, it's ebb time around here. Burritos, rice, tuna melts, an apple distractedly cut and distributed, groceries ordered online at midnight. Thankfully, miraculously, I'm busy with work. When I'm not doing it, I'm thinking or dreaming about it.

Or taking a cake-baking break . Baked this for a fundraiser last weekend, and it was sold in minutes. (Horn-tooting! My own horn!) Then I came home and regretted not having any for myself. So I made this version, kid-friendly, without nuts or chai or those meddlesome dried fruits. Now I'm working in the library, dropping crumbs all over my keyboard, scheming about getting back to the kitchen. It comforts me just to think about it.

Apple Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Glaze
Fall in a slice. Gone in a flash.

For cake:
3 c. flour
1 ts. baking soda
1/2 ts. salt
1 ts. cinnamon
1 ts. ground ginger

1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
4 Tb. brandy or dark rum
3 large or 4 medium apples, cut into 1/4″ dice

For glaze:
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. milk or cream (+ a little more if needed)

Preheat oven to 350.  If you have a convection oven (I do.  How I adore it.), bundt cakes are good things to use them on so the outside doesn’t get a lot more done than the inside.  If you don’t have convection, just watch it carefully.

Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Mix flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, mix sugars, vegetable oil, eggs, and brandy.  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Add apples and stir until just combined.

Spoon into bundt pan and bake for about 60 minutes (maybe longer, depending on your oven), or until an inserted skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.  Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a plate.

For glaze, whisk powdered sugar and milk together, adding a little more if needed. You want it so it's just barely pourable. Spoon over cake after cake has cooled.

Apple Vanilla Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie

My parents came down to watch the kids last weekend because Yancey and I both had to be gone overnight for work. It's pretty hard to overstate how much it means to me that they will drop what they're doing (neither of them are retired), drive down here, and save me repeatedly. The very least I can do is have something delicious they can snack on.

I hit the ball out of the park with this addictive number.  A flaky rectangular crust, folded onto itself around Golden Delicious apples, drizzled with icing after it's cooled. The crust-to-fruit ratio was much more to my liking than the traditional shape, and you can eat it with your hands--i.e. if you've got your bag and flip charts in one hand, the other is being pulled by your preschooler to exclaim over her tower of blocks, you can still manage to shove this in your grateful mouth. I ate it for breakfast, of course.

The apples came from Sarah and Dan's tree--small, imperfect Golden Delicious that had an absolutely fabulous flavor. I've also made apple crisp and applesauce this week. My kids have started begging for something other than an apple for snack. Let autumn come.

Golden Delicious

Apple Vanilla Slab Pie
Adapted from a recipe for brandied apricot slab pie in Fine Cooking. I know I've eschewed Crisco before on this blog. Please take almost everything I say about food as a TEMPORARY opinion, always subject to change. All-butter crusts are still my default, but, oh my.  Flakiness Central here. You definitely need to refrigerate it for at least 90 minutes before rolling it out. I found getting a rectangular shape was much less forgiving than a round one, and had to patch things up a bit. In the end, the patching didn't affect the final product at all (especially with your friend Icing to cover imperfections). And this crust recipe makes a bit more than you'll need, but that's good--to make a rectangle, you'll need to trim the edges anyway. You could definitely use Granny Smith apples here, but I really love the vanilla-like sweetness of good Golden Delicious. And that there's no cinnamon in this pie. Gives it a whole different flavor. And one more thing--the photo is only HALF of what this recipe makes--it fits just barely on a standard baking sheet.

For dough:
3 1/2 c. flour
3 Tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 cubes) + 2 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3 Tb. cold vegetable shortening, cut into 3 pieces
1/3 c. ice-cold water

For filling:
4-5 c. thinly sliced Golden Delicious apples (about 8 small or 6 medium-large)
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tb. flour

For assembly:
1 egg
1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tb. heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the dough:
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and vegetable shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 12 pulses. Sprinkle 1/3 c. cold water over the mixture and pulse until the dough just starts to come together, 8 to 10 pulses more. If the mixture seems dry, add more water 1 tsp. at a time. Do not overprocess.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and gather it into a rectangle that's about 8 by 12 inches. Flatten slightly, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

To make the filling:
Combine thinly sliced apples with sugar, flour, and vanilla. Gently mix.

To assemble and bake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 tsp. water.

On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dought into a 1/8" thick, 12x18 inch rectangle. Be sure to loosen the dough several times and reflour underneath so it doesn't stick. Trim the dough into an 11x16" rectangle and transfer it back to the baking sheet. Turn the baking sheet so that a long side faces you, and brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Spread the apple filling evenly over the bottom half of the dough, leaving a 1/2" border. Fold the top half of the dough over the filling, pressing along the edges to secure the sides. Press lightly along the edges with the back of a fork to seal. Brush egg wash all over the top of the dough. Using a paring knife, cut 5 small steam vents in the dough at about 3-inch intervals.

Bake until the pie is golden brown, 45-55 minutes. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla to form a smooth glaze that's just fluid enough to drizzle. With a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the top of the pie. Allow to set at least 2 hours before serving.