Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creativity in the Kitchen

My last day before returning to work. Feeling a little blue. My mom, my role-model, was a stay-at-home-mom, and that is what I aspired to be (secretly). Yes, I went to college right out of high school, and intended to become a graphic designer. I dropped out of college after 1 year and 1 month (a very expensive month for my poor parents). The story of why I dropped out of college is for another post. I returned 3 years later to the same school, took a class in each of 2 other schools and transfered to and graduated from one of them. I really loved the college I graduated from and did very well in school for the first time in my life. It really built my confidence.

From my very first job in life, I knew I was not cut out to work for someone else. The politics, bosses that are not nice (not my current boss, but many in the past), the personalities at work that do not jive with mine--it all gets me down and in complain mode. Although I have worked outside of the home my entire adult life, my favorite place to be is home--always, even on the weekends. Everything and everyone I love is in my house--TOMA, cats, art/knitting/quilting supplies--everything.

The other thing that has gotten me down is that I didn't really use my time off productively. Of course even though I say "no pressure," I am so disappointed that I did not do more creative activities. The "be gentle with myself" thinking hasn't sunk in yet.

If you are paying attention to the weather in the Philadelphia area, you know we were hit with a lot of snow overnight. Poor TOMA had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to shovel and then leave for work at 7:45 a.m. We take the bus to the train on days like these as there is no parking near the train station with 2 foot plowed piles of snow at the curb. I dread tomorrow with the 2 walking cast boots. I am really afraid of falling and causing damage to my recently operated-on feet or some other part of my body.

Anyway, because TOMA has been working so hard to compensate for my need to stay off my feet and cleaning up from the 3rd or 4th snow storm of the season, I decided to bake him an apple cake. This is his most favorite dessert that I make. When we were dating I made this promise (new love makes you do crazy stuff) to bake 1 cake per week for life. I kept it for over 2 years and then I broke it. Men take these things very seriously--homemade cake every week--and this man doesn't go for supermarket sweets--no Tastykakes, Entenmann's, Hostess--none of that! He will eat from the local bakery, but it's not the same. So I baked a cake on December 26, before my last surgery, and today. He will come home to the sweet smell of cinnamon sugar throughout the house and instantly smile. Surprise!

This is the best apple cake--everyone says so. The two secrets are orange juice (to make it moist), and layering with lots of cinnamon sugar. I have found a few great recipes on other creative blogs so I thought I would give you this one. (On Alisa Burke's blog there are two recipes that I made weekly before my surgery--chili and cornbread. I made the chili vegetarian and substituted pasteurized egg whites for the eggs in the cornbread and enjoyed it a few times a week while I was loosing weight. See the recipe here: My Husband's Favorite Chili, Alisa Burke.)

Apple Cake recipe:

Ingredients:
Bundt Pan
4 cups of Apples (peeled, cored and sliced) (I use Gala and/or Fuji)
4 Eggs (for the last 2 cakes I have substituted Trader Joe's pasteurized egg whites-3 tablespoons = 1 egg. We noticed no difference in taste or texture, just less calories, fat, and cholesterol.)
1 cup of Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup of Orange Juice
2 1/2 teaspoons of Vanilla
2 cups of Sugar
Separately: 1/2 cup of Sugar and 2 heaping teaspoons of Cinnamon mixed together
3 cups of Flour (love King Arthur Flour--the absolute best for baking everything)
3 teaspoons of Baking Powder


Instructions;

  • Prepare the apples and set them aside.
  • Measure the oil, then orange juice. Then add the eggs and vanilla to the measuring cup (measure all wet ingredients in a wet measuring cup, all dry ingredients in dry measuring cups--it makes a difference).
  • Put the sugar in the mixing bowl, then add the wet ingredients and mix together.
  • Add the flour (measure the flour by putting the flour into the measuring cup with a scoop or spoon and level it with the back of a knife--never scoop the flour into the measuring cup) and baking powder, one cup at a time (can add each teaspoon of baking powder with each cup of flour) and mix well. Scrape the side of the bowl once or twice.
  • Prepare the Bundt pan with either grease and flour or PAM cooking spray for baking. Make sure the baking rack is in the middle of the oven and place a cookie sheet on the rack. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pour 1/3 of the batter into the pan. With a spoon generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on the top of the batter and lay in a layer of apples. Sprinkle more of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat this twice more for a total of 3 layers.



Pour the batter into the pan and generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top

Next, place the apples on top

Add more cinnamon sugar on top of the apples. This is what the cake looks like before placing it in the oven. This will be the bottom of the cake.
  • Place the cake on the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Depending on the thickness of your bundt pan, you may have to add a few minutes as I did when I purchased my new pan. I added 3 minutes. I bake so many of these cakes I don't test anymore, but please test with a toothpick for doneness. Remember nothing should stick to the toothpick if the cake is done.)
  • When the cake is done baking, place the cake-still in the pan-on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto the cooling rack. Allow it to cool completely before storing it. (I leave it out overnight with a picnic net over it. Then I put it in a cake tin. It can be stored in the refrigerator for optimal freshness.) *TOMA eats it cold in a bowl of cold milk.


Cake right out of the oven on cooling rack
Cake under the picnic tent-some of it stuck to the pan this time

This cake is really a crowd pleaser. If you make it, please let me know what you think.