Chilly, blustery fall has replaced warm, sweet fall around here, at least for the time being. And it's so funny how tastes can change with the weather, isn't it? A month ago, the idea of a spicy curry or hot tea, or ooh, warm macaroni and cheese, would have sounded completely unappetizing, but now, now these things are all I think about--all I want.
I want warm, spicy, creamy and savory. I want cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Apples, winter squash, pumpkin, cranberries. Oatmeal. Chili. It's like as soon as the temperature drops, the things I've been eating for the last six months just don't cut it anymore. Smoothie? No. Cucumbers? Meh. Salad? Nope. It's comfort season.
We hear the word comfort used in many different contexts, regarding any number of different things. And they are different for everyone, think about it. Two of my favorites are food and family--and if you know me at all, you're not a bit surprised that I'm writing this. I am fortunate enough to live pretty close to my family at this point in my life--and when I'm able to go back home and spend time, and we're all together, I'm always reminded that the deep love that I find there is one of the best things there is. Home is something that will always be the same. And no matter how our lives change, or where our paths lead us on this earth, we know we'll always come back, to be with one another, to share, to remember...for good hugs and good laughs, and good food. Comfort at its absolute best, as far as I can tell.
When I was back last time, I got to spend a lazy afternoon with my sisters, baking, and making our whole house smell like brown sugar and cinnamon...mmmm. The day was perfect for it, cool and windy, the kind of day you want to spend being cozy and coming to terms with the fact that winter really is on the way again. And really, there was no place in the world I would rather have been than that kitchen.
Our apple trees gave us a great crop this year, and they were spilling out of every fridge space in our house, so they were the obvious choice for baking inspiration. So we made cake. My favorite apple cake in the world. The kind of cake that is so good by itself that it doesn't need anything else--no ice cream, no frosting, no nothing. Just maybe a glass of milk.
It's fall and love and comfort in your face. It's really just that fabulous--big chunks of apple, lots of warming spices, soft and sweet...ooh, everything that makes an apple cake worth eating. And just what we need to make the cold okay again.
My Favorite Apple Cake
adapted from the lovely Smitten Kitchen
6 apples (we used Haralsons)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks--made sure to keep the chunks pretty big. Toss with spices and sugar and set aside.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a bit, and then remove it to cool completely. Oh, and guess what? It's even better the next day!
"Swinging on delicate hinges
the autumn leaf
almost off the stem"
And I want you to come over for tea.