Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Holiday Update (with recipe for apple cake!)

Happy New Year!  I think there's going to be a lot of good cooking this year, but first, some reflections on holiday baking.

My childhood friend Jessica's grandmother makes the absolute best Christmas Cookies in the whole-wide world, and following her recipe, I went a little crazy churning out dozens of Christmas trees, reindeer and little bells.  I used all the tricks, using only really cold dough, rolling out with powdered sugar, refrigerating again before going into the oven.  They came out beautifully!  They were so good with just a really simple milk and sugar glaze.

Perfect for a little snacking while opening presents, watching Harry Potter in pajamas, you know, the usual holiday activities.

I also went upscale with a champagne cocktail made with the elderberry cordial I made this summer.  So delicious (and classy!) with light, airy gougères!

Gougères are savory puffs, usually made with a hard cheese added to the dough.  I made them twice according to Dorie Greenspan's directions.  I followed the recipe exactly, except without the cheese.  On the second attempt, I forgot to turn down the oven, and baked them at 425 degrees for 24 minutes (turning the baking sheets half way through).  They turned out airier and crisper than the first attempt.

There was so much eating and cooking with friends and family!  I'll post just one more dish and include the recipe.  I made a vegan apple cake modeled on a delicious Italian apple tart that we had recently.  I looked into several recipes, but ultimately threw together my own.  It was so good!  And made the lactose-intolerant quite happy while the rest of us enjoyed a ridiculously indulgent trifle (or both!).

Apple Cake
Makes 10 servings
Takes 2 hours

3 medium apples
1 lemon, juiced
1 stick vegan shortening (or nut oil)
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grand marnier (I think bourbon would also be pretty good, or juice works too)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coarsely crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Peel, core and slice the apples, toss with lemon juice.

Melt 6 tablespoons of shortening in a large pyrex measuring cup.  Use the remaining two tablespooons to butter a 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.  What's left of that, put into a skillet to fry the apples.

On medium heat, saute the apples until they are golden and cooked, about ten minutes.  Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

To the melted shortening, add alcohol, honey, and vanilla.  Stir until honey is melted and everything is well combined.

Pour the wet and the walnuts into the dry and mix until combined.  Pour into the greased pan.  Arrange the apples in a pretty pattern on top.

Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours.  Cake will be done when cake tester comes out mostly clean.  It will be dense and a little chewy!

This cake tasted even better the next day and was great with a cup of tea.  I hope you enjoy it this winter.

Stay tuned!  Vegetarian Pho, homemade pasta, pepper stew with dumplings, orange bitters, ginger cake and more to come!

Happy New Year!


  1. R, you have outdone yourself! I am craving every one of these recipes now!

  2. Thanks Meredith! I hope you had a festive holiday too!

  3. I'm excited for pepper stew! And that cocktail is too pretty!

  4. The pepper stew is so easy, we eat is once a week sometimes! It's a sorta Hungarian recipe.

    And glad you liked the cookies, Maeve!