Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brown Butter Apple Cake

Every year, come autumn, my obsession with apples hits me like a ton of bricks.  Last fall, my friends knew that if they came over, they would be greeted with apples in some form of baked good - apple chai cake, apple pie cookies, apple pear crisps, apple oat muffins...my experimentations were endless.  More often than not, though, I fell back on apple chai cake and made it for every potluck, party, and holiday celebration I went to.  While I will always love apple chai cake and I have very fond memories of our time together, I felt suffocated in our monogomous relationship and decided that I wanted to play the field a little bit.    Don't worry - apple chai cake let me know that it will always be around if I need something reliable I can depend on.

But enough about apple chai cake.  This cake involves a cake batter made with brown butter and infused with maple syrup, layered in a loaf pan with chunks of cinnamon-coated apples.  It has the most amazingly tender crumb, and a deep, toasty flavor, thanks to the brown butter (and for all my talk about my apple obsession, probably 25% of my posts involve brown butter.  How's that for an obsession?). 

I made the cake in a loaf pan because I wanted something small that David and I could keep all to ourselves.  However, if you want to share, I suspect that the recipe could be doubled and baked in a 9x13 pan.   The recipe does not make a lot of batter - in fact, when you slide your pan in the oven, you'll probably think that it will bake into the flattest cake in the history of ever.  But have no fear - even though the batter is sticky and dense, it rises beautifully up around the apples and results in the aforementioned tender crumb. 

Brown Butter Apple Cake

3 apples
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 cups flour, sifted (sift before measuring!)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan.

Brown the butter in a small saucepan - click here for a tutorial.  Set aside to cool.

Peel, core, and chop apples into 1-inch chunks.  Toss with cinnamon and sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

Whisk together the brown butter, sugar, maple syrup, milk, and vanilla.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Stir in eggs one at a time.

Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan.  Scatter half of the apples over the batter.  Pour the rest of the batter over the apples, and top with the rest of the apples - drizzle the juices from the apples over the top.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

These are pretty much brownies in the form of a cookie.  I love making these because the dough is extremely simple to make and one recipe makes a huge batch of cookies.  While these cookies are fantastic as-is, I think next time I'll try stirring in some mini chocolate chips for extra chocolate-y gooey goodness.

I don't remember where I got this recipe from - I found it in a pile of index cards tucked away in an envelope in a cabinet above our sink.  I tend to write down recipes on scrap pieces of paper and leave them lying around the house for David to find and and eventually put away, until I want to make the recipe again and tear the house apart looking for it.  I think I need a better recipe filing system.  Chocolate Crinkle Cookies seems like one of those universal cookies that everyone makes, like sugar cookies or shortbread cookies, where there's a basic recipe that everyone uses, so I might not need to give anyone credit for this, but just in case: if this recipe looks identical to one in a cookbook, website, or blog, let me know so I can give the creator credit.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa powder, white sugar, and vegetable oil together. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla extract. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Scoop the dough with a tablespoon, and roll into balls with your palms. It helps to lightly oil your palms with vegetable oil, so that the dough doesn't stick to your hands so much.  Word to the wise - do not spray your hands with Pam, because you'll definitely be able to taste it in the finished product.  Roll each ball of dough in powdered sugar before placing them onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.