Cake

Apple Cake

Baking cakes is tough work. Bake them for too long, and they turn out dry. Too little time in the oven? The center is dense and mushy, two words you never want associated with your baked creation. That’s what makes this cake stand out from the rest of the pack – with all of the moisture from the apples, it’s practically impossible to overbake. The finished product has a reliably perfect crumb, one that is light, moist, and flavorful with every bite.

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To get started, pick your apples. I like to use a couple of varieties to create a unique flavor and texture – pick apples like Empire, which have a soft, pudding-like effect in the cake. Add a few apples that keep their structure – Braeburns, for example, to create tender apple chunks throughout the batter. Mix the chopped apples with something sweet and flavorful, like sugar and cinnamon, and you have a delicious filling.

For the cake batter itself, feel free to play around with the proportion of white to whole wheat flour. The whole wheat makes the overall flavor more complex, and your apples mean that there is no need to worry about a dry or dense cake. Assemble the cake by alternating batter and apples, and you can pretty much guarantee that the fruit will settle evenly into every slice.

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Can’t finish the cake in one night? Rest assured. Unlike most cakes, it only gets better the next day.

Apple Cake Recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.25 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups + 5 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into chunks (I used a mixture of Empire, Braeburn, and Macoun)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 cup bundt pan (or a tube pan is preferable, if you have one).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Prepare the apples. In a medium bowl, combined the apple chunks with the cinnamon and  5 tbsp of sugar. Stir to coat the all apples in the sugary mixture.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil and 2 cups of the sugar. Once the mixture is smooth, add the orange juice, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk for a minute or so, until the wet ingredients are one uniform color.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to over stir.
  6. Assemble the cake. Start by pouring 1/3 of the cake batter into the bottom of the bundt pan – this will ensure that your cake lifts out easily and does not stick. Then, add half the apple mixture. Top with another 1/3 of the batter, smoothing out as much as possible, and the remaining apples. Add the final layer of batter and place the cake in the oven. Let bake for 90 minutes or so – this is a very moist batter, so slight overbaking will rarely result in too dry a cake. Stick a toothpick into the center of the cake to check for doneness.
  7. Cool completely; invert the bundt pan to unmold the cake, and serve.

 

 

Bread

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile my commitment to healthy eating with my ever-persistent sweet tooth. That’s why I love this recipe – it’s low on sugar (but still plenty sweet) and full of fiber thanks to the whole wheat flour and pureed pumpkin. The recipe even cuts out butter by substituting in olive oil, making it a great contender for post- Thanksgiving breakfast or brunch.

Pumpkin Bread

I’ve used both low and high quality oil for this recipe in the past. While I recommend something on the higher end, the Trader Joe’s variety has served me well in a pinch.

To prep the pan for baking, lightly coat all sides with butter. Add a bit of flour and shake the pan lightly, tapping on the sides to make sure that the flour makes its way around. This is the best way to ensure that your bread won’t get stuck in the pan – even if you’re using a non-stick variety, the extra step never hurts.

Much like all other quick bread recipes, this one starts by combining all of the dry ingredients. Sifting isn’t necessary, but prepare to spend a bit longer on this step due to the number of spices included. I’m sure that some of the spices can be swapped out for others (ginger always shouts out to me as missing here), but the end result tastes so delicious that I rarely experiment.

The highlight of this recipe is that the entire thing can be, and should be, done by hand. To combine the wet ingredients, take out your handy whisk, grab a large mixing bowl, and add the ingredients one at a time in the order instructed. The batter will have a strange texture for much of the mixing process, so don’t worry if everything isn’t coming together as nicely as you’d like it to.

Pumpkin Bread Ingredients

To fold in the dry ingredients, use a large spatula and take big, sweeping strokes. Try to stir the batter as little as possible, repeating the folding motion until the white streaks of flour just disappear.  While this method takes some practice, it’s a helpful skill to add to your baking repertoire.

Once the bread is in the oven, leave it undisturbed for around 50 minutes. Then test for doneness, inserting either a knife or toothpick into the center of the bread. If the knife doesn’t come out clean, give it a few more minutes. Pumpkin bread is reliably moist, so it’s a good idea to leave the bread in the oven until you’re sure it’s done.

The best part about this bread is that it can be eaten at almost every time of day – in the morning for breakfast, around mid-afternoon for a snack, or after dinner as a delicious dessert.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread Recipe (Adapted from recipegirl.com)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup pumpkin (from a 15 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and dust lightly with flour.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and pumpkin puree until combined.  Add the sugar and stir until smooth.  Whisk in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1/4 cup water at room temperature.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix the batter.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

This bread tastes even better the next day, so do not hesitate to make it in advance!

Dinner · Vegetarian

Root Vegetable Couscous

While this dish might be rather dull in color, it’s shining with flavor. With a long list of spices (star anise, cinnamon sticks, ginger, turmeric, and paprika), every bite tastes sweet, spicy, and delicious.

Winter Couscous

The toughest part of this recipe is the preparation. While root vegetables might be plentiful at this time of year, their texture makes them a struggle to peel and chop. Once this step is done, however, the recipe is largely hands off and requires little attention.

If you’re looking for a new way to use up that squash, or want a warm dish to offset the cold of winter, this one won’t let you down.

Winter Couscous 2

Winter Couscous Recipe (adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi)

Ingredients:

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • harissa, to serve
  • parsley, to serve

Instructions:

  1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together parsnips, carrots, onions, cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, ginger, turmeric, paprika, chile flakes, olive oil, and 3/4 tsp salt. Place in a large baking dish and roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the dish from the oven and add butternut squash. Cook for another 35 minutes.
  3. Boil vegetable stock in a small pot.  Once ready, add couscous and remove from heat.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, add in 1 tbsp of butter and fluff with a fork.
  4. Remove vegetables from the oven and add 1 1/2 cups water and dried apricots.  Continue roasting for 10 minutes more.
  5. Serve vegetables on top of couscous with harissa and parsley on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.