Last weekend we joined a few other families and went apple picking. Apparently luring city folk out to the countryside to take part in rural pastimes is big money. We knew we were in trouble when we encountered not one but four parking attendants telling us exactly where to park our car so as to get as many cars into the football field sized parking lots as possible. Once we cleared the gate and handed over our $20 in admission price we experienced what can only be described as pandemonium. It quite honestly was every parent's nightmare; with candy shacks and pony rides and petting zoos and hay mazes it was impossible to keep a child from running to and fro. And with so many hyped up little ones, it only took a second for you to lose track of your own child. Vigilante parenting was the only way to survive this idyllic country adventure.
I have to admit once we boarded the wagons and headed out to the orchards the experience got better. We picked primarily silken and royal gala apples, the former which I had never heard of before. Both are crunchy, sweet apples with a bit of tartness to them that makes them perfect for eating. Of course, once you start picking apples it is hard to stop and before long we were loaded down with bags and bags of apples.
The most obvious thing to do with apples is bake pie but I'm one of those people that actually doesn't like pie, particularly apple. (I'll maybe eat a peach pie or a strawberry rhubarb but the others I'll happily pass on.) What I do like is a nice rustic, loaf-like cake that you wouldn't feel guilty eating in the morning for breakfast. I found the perfect recipe in Anna del Conte's Torta di Mele which is an apple cake made with olive oil. Nigella Lawson has a version of it in her book, How To Be a Domestic Goddess:Baking and the Art of Comfort Food called Apple and Walnut cake but I stuck to the original recipe.
Torta di Mele - adapted from Anna del Conte100g sultanas 75mL of water 150 mL of pure olive oil 200g caster sugar (that's granulated sugar) 2 large eggs 350g plain flour 1 tsp cinnamon (I used cardamom instead) 1 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp cream of tartar 1/2 tsp salt 450g peeled, cored eating apples cut into small cubes zest of 1 lemon
20 cm springform pan - buttered and floured - (I lined mine with parchment paper.)
Put the sultanas and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, letting the sultanas plump up. Now preheat the oven to 350F.
Beat the oil and sugar together in a bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, beating until it looks like a light mayonnaise. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, folding with a spoon. Then stir in the apples, lemon zest, and drained sultanas. Smooth the fairly stiff batter into the springform pan and bake for 1 hour, poking it was a cake tester to see if it is done. You do not want to overbake this cake.
Let the cake stand for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Anna advises leaving the cake a day before eating (once cold, wrap it very well in foil) but that can be hard to do! I found a little smear of salted butter added to the cake almost like you would do a piece of banana bread was the final finishing touch.
The lesson to be learned from our apple picking experience is to choose your venue wisely. By the time, we got back to our cars a few hours later we were all mentally and physically exhausted. Our lazy Sunday in the country picking apples was far from what we imagined it would be! However, you can't beat the taste of those first, fresh apples off of the tree.
Since I still have loads of apples, I'd love to hear other ways they could be used up. Just stay away from the pie recipes - unless you think you can convince me!