Saturday, November 11, 2017

I'm Baaaaaaack... with Apples

Dearest Readers,

Yes, for those of you still reading, I am back.  The past few months have been full of big changes, big challenges, and even bigger steps towards fulfilling one of my many dreams.  That said - I feel it's time to get back to one of my other passions: writing.

So... as a re-introduction to my life Under the Red Fedora, for my next few posts I am going to be taking on writing prompts from Natalie Goldberg's book: Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir (an excellent book for writers, even if you have no desire to write a memoir).

Today's prompt: Apples

The last time I made apple pie was over a year ago and it should have been a success - well, it could have been, had I been a bit more careful with my timing and pre-baked the crust. I over baked the inside in order to bake the crust thoroughly, leaving the pounds of carefully cut apples, 4 different types all freshly picked and organic, something of a saucy mess.  The crust wasn't all that great either unfortunately, so the pie looked magnificent from the outside, but once cut into was... underwhelming.   

I keep meaning to try my hand at apple pie again, but every time I have a bounty of apples some other baked, cooked, or fried creation comes out of the kitchen.

Today I plan on trying my hand apple coffee cake made with white beans as a partial substitute for flour.  I've heard good things about using beans in cakes, and I tried a black bean brownie once that was absolutely delicious and fudgey.  Since I don't particularly want a coffee cake with a fudgey consistency, I'm adjusting a few things in an attempt to bring a more airy texture to the final product. I guess I'll see how successful I am at the end of the day. 

There is another apple recipe I've always wanted to try: apple fritter.

I love apple fritters. From cheap Starbucks apple fritters - a staple of mine at San Diego Comic Con - to those battered and fried apples from high end bakeries that I so rarely buy from but love to visit.  There's something magical about the smell of a good bakery, and I know I'm not the first to say that, or to feel that way.  The smell of sugars caramelizing, yeast causing dough to rise, the warmth of the ovens, flour smudged on cheeks, and batter sticking to the inside of fingers...  It's no wonder some of my favorite potboiler novels have baker protagonists.

I've never been the biggest fan of eating raw apples. Well, uncut raw apples and Red Delicious apples (I'm still not a fan of red apples - they have such a sandy and soft texture to them).  Eating raw apples used to give me headache.  That and I think I was probably a bit lazy (you have to throw away apple cores), and I didn't like the feeling of apple juices around my mouth. Even when I was younger I was not a fan of feeling food around my mouth - messy eating just isn't my thing.  It also tends to be a side effect of loud eating, which I can't stand (yes, I am one of those people).

I grew in to liking raw apples. Not in the way that I grew into liking avocados - which I predicted when I was 5 and happened overnight when I was 12 - but slowly, in such a way that I didn't even realize it until one day I saved a big pile of apples from my seasonal apple sauce canning session, so that I could have fresh fruit for my lunches.  And of course, now that I'm older, I've figured out how to eat an apple without spilling apple juices all down my chin. 

When I was little we had two apple trees in the back yard, one large tree that produced an abundance of small tart apples with a hint of beautiful sweetness every other year and a small tree that produced one or two of what my brother and I called "blood apples" (I think they were actually Pink Pearl apples) once every few years.  Every year my step-mother, my father, my brother, and I would do canning in the fall. We would can everything - from apricots to apples, jams and jellies, and even vegetables.  I restarted that tradition a few years ago. 

I wanted something different to do for the holidays than spending a bunch of money on gifts that may or may not be enjoyed even if they were appreciated and barely getting any holiday baking done because I was spending so much time stressing over finances and scouring stores for "the perfect gift." So I decided to bake my family's traditional holiday goodies, do a few batches of homemade jam and lemon curd, and put together gift baskets for everyone who would have otherwise gotten a store bought gift.  It turned out fantastically... well, until I shipped a few of them, and a few people got gift boxes that looked as if they had been dragged behind the mail truck.  But overall the experiment was a success, and not only have I kept to it ever since, but I've expanded on it.

Every year I bake the basic holiday cookies my family has made since I was little, plus at least one new biscuit (or fudge or both). For friends and family that I can hand deliver my gift baskets to I also make a batch of lemon curd (and sometimes a spiced orange curd). And then for every gift basket I do one or two jams, vegetarian mincemeat, perhaps a jelly, and of course, at least one type of apple sauce.  In the past couple of years, my father and I get together to make the apple sauce and we've expanded the gift list so that it covers those my dad would also like to include in the winter giving (I would say holiday giving but last year I didn't even send out the baskets until January, so... there is that).

This year, to curb the amount of money I spend all at once on ingredients, I started my canning in the summer. While the fruit were in season, I would go to the farmers markets and buy a few pounds here and there, go home to wash and cut (if necessary) everything, then pop the prepared fruit into the freezer until I had enough to make a full batch of jam.  The apricots I batch canned.  And I've done a summer berry jam, and will be doing a cherry compote made with 4 or 5 types of cherries - all organic and fresh from the local farmers market.  I have yet to do the apple sauce, and I'll admit that I'm a bit worried I won't be able to get that done this year (it's possible my father already has... I hope).  After all, I did just start a new internship and besides being away from my own kitchen for weeks on end, I work almost 14 hours days during the week leaving my weekends for housework and chores and not a whole lot of time for baking or canning.

But today I did make apple coffee cake.  While that isn't going to be a part of the winter gift baskets, it was nice to be able to spend a bit of time in the kitchen.  Very calming.

And so ends my day's thoughts on apples.  That was a bit rambling... and I'll have to come back and let you know if the white bean and apple coffee cake turned out well. Until next time! 💚

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