Southernism of the Week:
Like putting a g-string on an alligator: An activity that’s very difficult, but perhaps not impossible for the fleet of foot and strong of heart … when wearing iron gloves.
STACKS OF APPLES
Autumn is moving along. The days are shorter, the nights are crispy cold, and the leaves are exploding from the orange-gold color wheel. Changing weather and Fall-back time have triggered The Old Bride’s annual craving for seasonal dishes containing or featuring apples, pumpkin, various squashes, and tree nuts. And then there’s the whole persimmon genre. But more on that later.
Thanksgiving and the Christmas and Chanukah holidays will be upon us in only a few weeks. So I thought we ought to explore two make-ahead apple dessert recipes that can extend our holiday hospitality with minimal effort. One recipe is a pastry-like stack cake with apple filling, and the other is a fritter-like apple muffin. Your guests and family will think you are brilliant when you pull them out of the freezer and serve them on a moment’s notice.
Our apple muffinettes recipe will serve easily as either a breakfast accompaniment for strong coffee or as a light dessert. Be sure to save the recipe for apple glaze because we will use and transform it next week in a delicious Sunday Supper recipe.
The heirloom Appalachian Apple Stack Cake featured this week has become one of my favorite family recipes. Inherited from my dear late mother-in-law, our family recipe is flexible (like all good Southern and Appalachian dishes), depending on whether the cook prefers to use dried apples with applesauce or apple butter…. all homemade. The cake layers are more of a pastry than crumbly cake.
Appalachian Apple Stack Cake was a traditional come-together dessert for my husband’s ancestors. Dating back to Colonial times when supplies were scarce, the recipe called for neighboring families to bake and bring a single teacake layer to a community gathering such as a wedding. The celebrants would assemble the individual cake layers with fillings of berry jams or cooked apples. The resulting cakes could feed a crowd.
LOUISE’S APPALACHIAN APPLE STACK CAKE
This cake may not look beautiful in its uncut glory, but oh wow, once sliced, it takes on rock-star status. We always cut around the cake in slivers, rather than cutting wedge slices. Reason? It’s very rich. NOTHING is better with hot tea or coffee on a cold winter morning. NOTE: Click here for my homemade apple butter recipe:
2-1/2 c white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 sticks (12 T) melted butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 c self-rising flour (generous, not packed)
2/3 c whole milk
2 (28-oz) jars of apple butter
Mix eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add the butter, milk and vanilla, and then the flour gradually, beating until well blended. Use bowl scraper spatula to work dough down from sides and away from bottom of bowl. Dough will be very sticky. Continue working dough with spatula until it has been condensed in bottom of bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. May keep in fridge for up to three days.
When ready to make the cake, prepare 8 (8-inch) pie or roll tins by spraying with nonstick cooking spray and lining with parchment paper. (Leftover Sister Schubert dinner roll tins are the perfect size for baking the pastry-thin cake layers.) Spray the parchment liners with nonstick cooking spray and dust with self-rising flour. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Measure out dough in 8 balls each weighing 6-1/2 to 6-3/4 ounces (be consistent), which will equal the size of two extra-large eggs combined. Line a flat work surface with large sheet of parchment or freezer paper and generously flour the paper. Roll and knead each dough ball in the flour to make it supple. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper and roll out each ball into a circle just large enough to fit into one of the pans.
Work the circle of dough to fit snugly into the pan. Repeat until all eight pans contain rolled dough. Prick each circle of dough at regular intervals with a fork to prevent puffing during baking.
Bake the layers, two at a time on center shelf of oven, for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove to racks to cool for 10 minutes before turning each baked layer out onto waxed paper.
Place first baked pastry, top-down, onto a cake plate, then spread thin layer of the apple butter across top. Top with another layer, top-down, and repeat until last layer. Position last layer, top-up. Generously dust top and sides with confectioner’s sugar.
Cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve. Shave off thin slices around the sides of the cake for each serving.
VARIATION 1: Instead of apple butter, layer with applesauce sweetened with vanilla extract and sugar. and combined with reconstituted dried apples cooked in apple cider.
VARIATION 2: Layer with seedless fruit jam such as raspberry or blackberry.
APPLE CARAMEL GLAZE
Make it up ahead of time and refrigerate in a covered jar. The recipe is easily converted for assorted uses such as glazing our apple muffinettes and pork chops. It’s also microwaveable for serving hot over vanilla ice cream of buttermilk pound cake.
2 c light brown sugar
1 c apple cider
1 c (2 sticks) butter
2 T light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
Boil first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium high heat, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to medium once it reaches a rolling boil, and continue to cook, whisking, for 4 minutes (set timer). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Refrigerate if not using immediately. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring, until butter and syrup have re-blended. Yields almost 3 cups.
GLAZED APPLE MUFFINETTES
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour + 2 T
1/2 c white granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 T cold butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
6 oz plain Greek yogurt
1-3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 T honey
1 generous c hopped apple
3/4 c grated apple (such as a Winesap)
2 c confectioner’s sugar, divided
3 T apple cider
4 T apple caramel glaze
4 T apple cider
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large cookie sheet and a smaller cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray nonstick cooking spray in two mini muffin tins (of 12 each) and plan to repeat prep for re-using one of the tins to bake 6-7 additional muffins.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or with two forks or knives until the mixture is crumbled.
Whisk the yogurt, vanilla and honey together in a small bowl. Once blended, whisk in the egg until well blended. Fold into the flour mixture and mix on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the grated apples. Fold in the chopped apples.
Place about 1 heaping or two regular teaspoons of batter into each muffin cup until mounded in center. Clean batter around edges of each cup as needed. Bake side-by-side for 15-18 minutes, until firm and starting to brown.
While muffins are baking, combine 1 c of the confectioner’s sugar with the apple caramel glaze and first apple cider (3 T). The mixture should be thin. In another small bowl, combine remaining confectioner’s sugar with 3 T apple cider. This glaze should be thick.
Remove muffins from oven and cool just long enough to flip onto cookie sheet. Turn oven thermostat to broil.
Flip muffins right side up, almost touching. Drizzle generous amount of apple cider caramel glaze over each muffin. Place under broiler for 4 minutes, turning the tray at 2 minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from oven. The glaze will be bubbling around the bottoms of the muffins. Lift and place each muffin onto second cookie sheet. Drizzle with the thick apple cider glaze. Allow to cool until glaze hardens.
Scrape up apple cider caramel glaze and apple cider glaze from the cookie sheets to recycle with last batch of muffins. Repeat process with remaining batter to complete 6 to 7 additional muffins.
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).