Fall baking is a piece of cake

ACcoffeecake

As lower temperatures enter the weather forecast, my thoughts have turned to fall baking — apples, pumpkin, soups and comfort foods.

I joined Pinterest a couple months ago and have built up quite the board of recipes I want to try. Last week I saw a pin for this apple coffee cake. I added it to my “Recipes to try” board and actually got around to it. The recipe calls for two layers of apples, one in the middle and one on top. The apples in the middle stayed moist and provided a nice fresh layer to break up what would otherwise just be a piece of moist cake. The apples on top got a bit dry in the baking process so, if you want them to stay moist, you could save some of the batter for a third layer on top of the second layer of apples.

Though it smelled delicious while it was baking, I wasn’t crazy about this coffee cake at first; but it grew on me the next day after reheating a piece for breakfast. The flavors had time to come together. The cake had a nice crumb, the apples had just the right balance of sweetness and tartness and the cinnamon added a welcome dose of spice. It wasn’t overpowering; it was light enough without being devoid of flavor.

I took the coffee cake to work the next day and my coworkers devoured it. I don’t know if anything I’ve bought to work has received such rave reviews. It must have hit the spot for them.

Ingredients
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven at 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, toss sliced apples, 1/3 cup of sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. If you’re at high altitude, cook the apples, cinnamon and sugar in a pan over medium heat until the apples are soft. I’ve found that fruit doesn’t bake the same and often comes out too crisp in the final product, so cooking them beforehand ensures that they’ll be the consistency you prefer. Remember to use half the amount of baking powder, too.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, salt, orange juice, apple sauce and vegetable oil. Mix well. Pour half the batter into baking dish and arrange apple slices on top. Pour and spread the rest of the batter on top of the apples. Bake for 60 minutes or until done. Cut coffee cake into squares and serve warm.

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Plum-and-cinnamon crumble

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Curtis Stone is my favorite celebrity chef. He’s easy on the eyes and he makes cooking accessible for the average person. I started watching him on “Take Home Chef” a few years ago and have been paying attention ever since. I have both of his cookbooks, but I favor his second one, “Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone,” because the recipes are simpler and have always turned out well for me. If it wasn’t for this book, I never would have attempted to make a pork roast with brandied apple compote.

One of the recipes I frequently turn to is his plum and cinnamon crumble. It’s similar to a crisp, but the topping uses regular sugar instead of brown sugar, so the flavor is lighter.

When choosing plums for this recipe, choose ripe plums that are tender to the touch. Plums that aren’t quite ripe make the finished product too tart and too firm. I made the mistake of choosing firmer black plums the first time I made this, and the end result was not what I’d hoped for. The second time I made it, the plums were slightly firmer than I wanted, so I macerated them with vanilla sugar for about a half hour. That process got them to where I wanted them to be, and the end result was perfect.

Filling:
2 pounds plums, halved, pitted and cut into six wedges
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks

Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped

Preheat the over to 350ºF. To make the filling, toss the plums, sugar and cinnamon sticks in an 8-inch-square bake dish. Arrange the mixture evenly in the dish, tucking the cinnamon sticks beneath the plums.

To make the topping, mix the flour, sugar and oats in a medium bowl to blend. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until moist clumps form. Mix in the almonds. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the plum mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the juices are bubbling, the fruit is tender and the topping is golden brown. Allow the crumble to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Spoon the crumble into bowls, discarding the cinnamon sticks, and serve with vanilla ice cream.