Yogurt Apple Cake
I found myself with just over an hour to kill on Friday evening. I had already dropped A. off at church, where she was meeting the youth group to go and see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And just before I'd done that, I'd taken L. her dinner at her ballet rehearsal. She is going to be a toy soldier in The Nutcracker this year, and she had a class from 4:45 to 5:45, followed by a rehearsal from 6:45 to 7:45. In the intervening hour, the girls sit in the dressing room and eat dinner and, I suppose, giggle, though probably not too loudly, as the ballet teacher (does one call such a person "the ballet mistress"?) is quite the disciplinarian.
Anyway, after dropping off the girls, I reckoned that I had enough time to run up to Costco (about six miles away; nothing is convenient in the suburbs) and pick up a few things, maybe including the first of items for Thanksgiving. And I found a big refrigerated bin full of fresh (never frozen), minimally processed turkeys. Hooray. I exercised an inordinate amount of self-restraint and got a twelve pounder (they had even smaller ones, but there are limits), and then I headed off to the produce section.
This time of year, as you must know, is the best season to get fresh apples, the crop having only recently been harvested. In addition to the usual varieties, there were twelve packs of Cameo and Jonagold apples, so I got one (dozen) of each. I had never used either kind before, but some quick research indicated that I probably wanted to eat the Jonagold out of hand and cook with the Cameo (though before I did that research, I had already eaten a Cameo, and it was yummy).
V., unsurprisingly, thought that I'd taken leave of my senses when he saw me come home with two dozen apples. I may, it's true, have something of a history of buying produce and not using it before it's no longer usable, but I assured him (hopefully truthfully) that I'd find uses for them.
So tonight I made an apple cake with two of the Cameos, which turned out to be as good for cooking as my research had indicated. Hooray. This is really a very simple cake to make, and the real preparation time, including chopping the apples, is not much more than five minutes, though, of course, you have to preheat the oven and then you have to wait for the cake to bake. It is somewhat casual in appearance, and I think that it is ideally suited to lunchboxes or afternoon noshing, but you could certainly pair it with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and it would make an entirely satisfying dessert for your dinner.
Yogurt Apple Cake
1 stick butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt (if you're using unsalted butter)
1 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt or other ring pan.
Let butter come to room temperature, or microwave on defrost until it is soft.
Cut the apples in quarters, remove the cores, and dice. Leave the skins on.
Remove the zest from the lemon with a grater and add it to the apples. Add the juice of half the lemon to the apples.
Put the whisk attachment on your mixer. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl and whisk for two minutes. With the whisk running, add the softened butter by tablespoons. With the whisk running, add the yogurt.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla together. With the whisk running, add the egg mixture to the other ingredients.
Fold in the chopped apples, lemon juice, and lemon peel by hand. Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool all the way.
The texture of this cake is something like a cross between a cake and a pudding. It is very dense and moist, sort of like the texture you'd expect if you'd weighted it the way you do with a paté after you've cooked it. If you want a more cakelike texture, then increase the dry ingredients by 50% without increasing the other ingredients. I like the texture and moistness just the way it is. My only problem with the cake was that there really wasn't enough batter for a standard bundt pan, so while the cake is delicious, it seems a bit deficient in the height category (also, a shorter cake has farther to fall when you invert it onto the rack and is more likely to crack, both from the fall and from the relative lack of mass). So the next time I make it, I'll probably increase all the ingredients by 50% (but I might stay with two eggs: decisions, decisions), and then it will be more the size I want. Alternatively, I may find a smaller ring pan to bake it in, but that might be difficult. I was down in the basement over the weekend on yet another fruitless search for the missing springform pans, and I came across the box with my collection of (mostly) copper molds. I found the giant crab mold (I use it for salmon mousse, just because), but the smaller ring mold is either in another box or has been lost to the cosmos.
I still have a pound or two of Whey Low on hand, so I used that for my sugar. If you're going to use ordinary sugar, then brown sugar might be a good choice. I think that the cake is improved by chopping most of the apple into relatively large chunks but chopping a quarter or so of it into smaller bits. I could be wrong about that, though. You could easily substitute pears for the apples in this recipe. You could even do that without changing the name, if you're the sort who likes to stir up trouble.
I did more Thanksgiving shopping at Giant over the weekend. I don't feel like it's truly Thanksgiving unless I've shopped for groceries at least four times before the meal. I purchased both canned pumpkin and a fresh butternut squash so that I can have a battle-of-the-gourds pie contest. This will likely leave me with two pies that are only good (I regret to inform those of you who don't already know that I believe Ann Hodgman was right when she said "the very best pumpkin pie you've ever eaten is not that much better than the very worst," or words to that effect. I know plenty of people who prefer pumpkin pie to all others, and I suppose that they're entitled to their own opinions. Of course, I also know people who prefer Barbara Cartland to Jane Austen, so you do the math. [And, no, no one has really ever said to me that he or she likes Barbara Cartland, but you know those people are out there somewhere, and they like pumpkin pie.])
I also got some chestnuts, with the intention of trying some marons glacés, and two packages of cranberries. Some person who evidently found himself highly amusing had slit open a package of cranberries and replaced it, slit side down, on top of the pile of cranberries, so that when I picked it up, cranberries scattered all over the floor. No doubt this prankster expected me to be nonplussed, but I only found it festive (oooh, pretty! and red!). It was all I could do to keep from bursting into a rousing rendition of "We Gather Together."
Speaking of which, and finally (yes, he does shut up eventually), I was in church Sunday morning enjoying a multigenerational (i.e., kids present, so keep it light) Thanksgiving service, and when the minister told us to open our hymnbooks and sing "We Gather Together," I completely ignored the bogus Unitarian words ("we gather together in joyful communion ..." or something like that) and sang the traditional words. For both verses. I'm a rebel. (But not a loner. The reference is to The Crystals, not to PeeWee's Big Adventure. I didn't want you losing sleep, wondering.)