Apple Cake

Apple Cake

For this recipe, it is important that the wet ingredients are mixed really well before adding the dry. Once the dry are in, you don’t want to over beat it, but it needs to be fully incorporated and lump free. Take your time. It’s worth it! For added decadence, you can make the glaze, though note that it is dairy, and therefore would make the whole cake dairy once poured on top.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups apples – peeled, cored and diced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9″ x 13″ cake pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil and eggs with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour salt, baking soda, and ground cinnamon. Slowly add this dry mixture to the egg mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the apples by hand using a wooden spoon or spatula. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Once cake is cool serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or with the Caramel Glaze below.

Caramel Glaze

Ingredients:

½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

In a medium sized sauce pan, add the butter, sugar and cream. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and then let bubble for about 3 minutes. Stir gently, but frequently to avoid the mixture from scalding. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Let the glaze cool just slightly before pouring over the warm cake.

The Great Apple Cake Debate

Boxing ApplesFor those of you who were not aware, there is a great Apple Cake debate happening out there in the world. I know, you’re thinking that you were so caught up on the going-ons of the world around you, and little did you know that there has been an argument brewing for decades on what is the best apple cake. The main contenders seem to be the Germans and the Dutch against the good ol’ American apple pie. To me, it’s all good, but what are the differences? Well…

Dutch Apple Cake

Traditionally, there are two varieties, a crumb (appelkruimeltaart) and a lattice (appeltaart) style pie, both recipes are distinct in that they typically call for flavourings such as cinnamon and lemon juice to be added and differ in texture, not taste. Dutch apple pies may include ingredients such as raisins and icing, in addition to ingredients such as apples and sugar, which they have in common with other recipes. The basis of Dutch apple pie is a crust on the bottom and around the edges. This is then filled with pieces or slices of apple, usually a crisp and mildly tart variety. Cinnamon and sugar are generally mixed in with the apple filling. Atop the filling, strands of dough cover the pie in a lattice holding the filling in place but keeping it visible or cover the pie with crumbs. It can be eaten warm or cold, sometimes with a dash of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. In the US, “Dutch apple pie” refers specifically to the apple pie style with a crumb, streusel, topping.

German Apple Cake

German Apple Cake or apfelkuchen tends to be a less sweet, dense cake with chunks of apples throughout. It can be topped with streusel or without. Either way, it is still delicious!

American Apple Pie

Apple pie was brought to the English colonies by the British, Dutch, and Swedes during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, modern American recipes for apple pie usually indicate a confection that is 9 inches in diameter in a fluted pie plate with an apple filling spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg. and lemon juice, and may or may not have a lattice or shapes cut out of the top for decoration.

Swedish Apple Pie

The Swedish style apple pie is predominantly a variety of apple crumble, rather than a traditional pastry pie. Often breadcrumbs are used (wholly or partially) instead of flour, and sometimes rolled oats. It is usually flavoured with cinnamon and served with vanilla custard or ice cream. There is also a very popular version called äppelkaka (apple cake), which differs from the pie in that it is a sponge cake baked with fresh apple pieces in it.

French Tarte Tatin

The Tarte Tatin is more closely related to the upside down cake, rather than a traditional pie. It has a layer of apples usually (or other fruit or vegetables), which are first caramelized in butter and sugar, before the dough, either a puff pastry or shortcrust pastry, is added on top, and then baked in the oven. Once done, the tarte is then turned over out of the pan, and served with the bottom layer of apples showing.

So there you go, everything you could have ever wanted to know about Apple Pies and Cakes… now which is best? I suggest trying them all and then deciding!

Please note the image credit to Carolina Nadel Illustrations. For more of her work please check out www.carolinanadel.com.

Creamy Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

3 ¾ cups milk
½ cup Arborio rice
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

In a medium size pot, add all of the ingredients, save the vanilla, and bring to a boil. Once the mixture has reached temperature, reduce to low and cover the pot. Stir the mixture every few minutes, so that the rice does not burn. Once the rice is tender and the mixture is thick, about 15-20 minutes, remove from the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or cool, as is or with a sprinkling of cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Stress Relief Needed?

Stressed

So did you know that stressed spelled backwards is desserts? Ergo, to solve stress, one must eat dessert! I’m sure my logic is faulty somewhere in there, but right now, I’m thinking of the warm, creamy rice pudding that I have as today’s recipe. It is filled with great fall flavours, like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and cardamom. These warm flavours actually do physically warm you up! Here are some of the health benefits that the spices in today’s recipe promote:

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is a member of the Lauraceae (Laurel) Family. It helps dry dampness in the body and warms people that are always cold and suffering from poor circulation. Cinnamon is antiseptic and an excellent digestive tonic. Chewing cinnamon flavoured gum or just smelling the sweet spice has been found to improve brain activity. Cinnamon enhances cognitive processing and was found to improve test subjects scores related to attention, memory and visual-motor speed when working at a computer.

Nutmeg (Myristica Fragrans) is a member of the Myristicaceae Family. During ancient times, Roman and Greek civilizations used nutmeg as a type of brain tonic. This is because nutmeg can effectively stimulate your brain. As a result, it can help eliminate fatigue and stress. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, nutmeg may also be a good remedy. Nutmeg can also improve your concentration so you can become more efficient and focused at work or at school.

Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) is a member of the  Orchidaceae (Orchid) Family. Vanilla is rich in antioxidants which prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals. It helps to slow down signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. Certain neurological studies have proved that vanilla extract can have a positive effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), a member of the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) Family, is an expectorant, thus helping to open the respiratory passages. Cardamom oils can be added to baths as a form of aromatherapy that fights depression and reduces stress. Ground Cardamom seeds can be made into a tea for similar benefits.

So there you have it, straight from the doctors, you NEED to eat rice pudding! It’s for your health!

Cranberry Pecan Cookie

Cranberry Walnut Cookie

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (washed, stemmed and dried)
¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions:

In a medium size bowl, using an electric mixer cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in flour by hand, or on a low speed, until blended and then add cranberries and nuts. Stir by hand, as to not break up the cranberries, until blended. Spread evenly in lightly greased 8” pie plate. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees (325 if using glass) until golden. Cool in pie plate. Cut into wedges and serve warm or cold. This is great plain or topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Let the Good Times Roll!

Let the Good Times Roll

So this week, as you might have started to guess, is Fall Dessert Week. All the sweet yummy things that you can indulge on this time of year. Yesterday we had a pumpkin recipe, and today is a cranberry one. We’re going to have a great rice pudding tomorrow seasoned with lots of warm fall flavours, and Friday we will end off with an apple cake. Something about the colder weather just makes you want to have a nice comforting sweet treat at the end of your meal, or with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Today’s recipe is for a Cranberry Pecan Cookie, comes from Ann Walpert, a woman that my mother knew from New Orleans. While being called a cookie, it is one large one that you slice like a pie, rather than individual little biscuits. If you are having company though, you might want to make two “cookie pies” or double the recipe and bake it in a 9″ x 13″ pan instead, ’cause trust me, it’s that good! So, as they say in NOLA, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” or for your non-french speakers “Let the good times roll!”

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

This recipe calls for dairy ingredients, however they can be substituted for non-dairy (parve) items of the same type: i.e.: margarine or shortening instead of butter, soy cream cheese instead of regular. Regarding the use of the crystallized ginger, it is a really wonderful and unique ingredient. It starts off slightly citrusy when you first bite into it, and then you get the heat of the ginger. If you’re finding it difficult to find crystallized ginger, just know that it is the same as candied ginger, sugared ginger, or ginger chips – they are all just different names/sizes. If you choose not to use it, just up the total amount of powdered ginger to 1 ¼ teaspoons instead.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅓ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. Whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves, and crystallized ginger in a bowl; set aside. Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in colour. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree with the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 -25 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon allspice

Directions:

In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese, butter, and allspice. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until the mixture is spreadable. Spread or pipe onto the cupcakes.

A Treat With No Trick

Pumpkin Spice

So we are coming to the end of October, and around here, that pretty much means only thing: Halloween. Now Halloween is not a Jewish holiday, and in fact has it’s roots in the Christian All Hallows’ Eve, but it has become, like many holidays throughout the year, completely secularized and commercialized. Now Halloween is all about the costumes and the candy, and not about remembering the dead. Even though it is not a holiday that I celebrate, I can’t help but look around and be inspired by all of the pumpkins! So with that in mind I thought a Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with rich Allspice Cream Cheese frosting would be a hit! I mean, everywhere you look these days, something, ANYTHING, is flavoured with pumpkin spice! The rich, warm flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove just fill you up with toasty goodness. So I say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Psarosoupa Avgolemono (Egg-Lemon Fish Soup)

Lemon-Egg Fish Soup

Ingredients:

10 cups water
3 lbs. firm fish, cut into big chunks
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
8 New potatoes or 2 regular, coarsely chopped
½ cup white rice or orzo
3 large eggs
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and Pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve

Directions:

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Carefully, add the fish, bay leaf, thyme, oregano and olive oil. Simmer over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the fish is tender. Remove the fish from the broth and set aside. Raise the heat slightly to medium-high, and add the vegetables to the stock. Simmer for 15-20, or until tender. Discard the bay leaf, and then remove about a third of the vegetables from the broth, and puree the vegetables, along with a little broth, in a blender or food processor. This pureeing step is optional, as you can just leave all of the vegetables whole. If you pureed the vegetables, add them back into the pot, and then bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice/pasta, and cook, partly covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and lemon juice until foamy and slowly add about 1 cup of the warm broth, a bit at a time, to heat the eggs. Pour the egg-lemon mixture into the pot, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly and turns yellow. Return the fish pieces to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges. This soup will serve about 8 people and is great with crusty bread and butter.

It’s All Greek To Me

It's All Greek to MeWell, I thought I’d round off soup week with a trip to Greece. I figured with all the different regions and cultures I covered, I couldn’t leave the Greeks out! My family used to have a tradition, back before we became Orthodox, of spending New Year’s Eve having Greek food and going to see whatever new Disney movie had come out that year. We would go with another family who all had children the same ages as my family, and we would sit in the theatre, the kids separate from the adults, acting like we were there on our own. One of my favourite parts of the evening though would be the fish soup that I would always have. It’s tart lemon flavour always appealed to me, and I loved the big chunks of vegetables and firm fish. Times have changed, and we no longer have this New Year’s tradition, but my mother still makes this soup, usually during the summer or on Shavous, along with a big salad and lots of crusty bread. It really is a meal in itself and fills both my stomach and my memories. Opa!