Saturday, January 30, 2016


For our Fall meeting we decided to do apples, although busy schedules pushed "Fall" into January.  Clearly we enjoyed the pretending we were still enjoying golden leaves and crisp days rather than the dull cold of mid-winter because we ended up with six very different apple dishes.

Heidi, the hostess for this event, turned out a stunning lattice-weave apple pie that was exactly as delicious as it looks.  The buttery crust was almost more like pastry than pie crust, and the bourbon apple filling perfectly complemented the richness of the crust.  She was crowned queen of the event.

Trena made two recipes.  The first was an apple dumpling recipe from her husband's great grandmother.  His aunt had discovered the recipe after he proposed to Trena using Great Grandma Parker's engagement ring and Aunt Jeanette started going through family history to see what she could gather (she remembered spending summers with her Grandma Parker as a child).  The second was a very modern Rustic Apple Cake that was almost like a giant baked apple fritter; it is a very thin batter poured over a ton of sliced apples.  

It was interesting to compare and contrast the recipes.  The dumpling recipe is a frugal, basic recipe that a modest rural Canadian housewife could have mixed up with what was on hand:  flour and baking powder with a little bit of butter (or lard) and milk, baked in a sugar syrup with again just a little butter (1 1/2 tsp).  No eggs, and no seasoning at all (Trena added some lemon juice to the syrup to try to add some flavor).  The Rustic Apple Cake is very rich with eggs and coconut oil, in addition to milk, and calls for whole wheat pastry flour rather than the refined white flour that was the gold standard in Great Grandma's day.

All agreed that while it was interesting to taste a genuine vintage dessert, the dumplings were frankly not very good.  Way too much pastry to fruit ratio, the pastry was rather gummy from being poached in the syrup, and the taste was very basic without any seasoning.

Opinions were mixed on the cake.  It is definitely Trena's style, with a ratio of about 65% apples to 35% batter.  Others would have preferred something more cake-like.

 Katie's cake was incredibly delicious, but the true star was the sticky toffee sauce to drizzle over it.  All the members agreed that we could eat the sauce with a spoon, and conjectured about other desserts we could use it on.  Ice cream definitely came to mind, and consummate hostess Heidi saved the day with some vanilla gelato in her freezer so we could test our hypothesis.  We were right.  It was delicious.

 Kristi made a classic apple crisp, the perfect spur-of-the-moment weeknight Fall dessert.  The buttery oat crumble was hearty and the topping ratio was perfect with plenty of apple to go with it.

Annie made an apple bundt cake, with a ribbon of apples through the center.  The group agreed that this sounded like a good idea, but in practice it would have been more tasty and had a more consistent texture if the apples had been incorporated throughout the batter.

Discussion Topics

-Apple Varieties.  We agreed that in general using two or more varieties of apple enhances a dish.  Particularly for pies, some apples are tart, some sweet, some stay firm, and some practically melt.  Together, they are perfect while using only one might not yield the tart-sweet-crisp-gooey mouthfeel you want.

-Ratio of Fruit to Pastry.  The question is always, is this more of a dessert or more of a fruit?  The members had varying opinions, with some preferring the fruit to be more of a seasoning to the real dish, and others preferring just enough dough or batter to hold the dish together. 

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