Amy Traverso is co-host of the public television show, Weekends with Yankee, and senior food editor at Yankee magazine. Previously, she was food editor at Boston magazine and an associate food editor at Sunset magazine. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, Salon, Saveur, and Travel & Leisure, and she has appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton: September 2011) is her first book. You can reach her at amytraverso @ gmail.com
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook has been out for two years now and I know that the apple season has begun because I’m getting some apple-related interview or speaking request here and there. That gives me a chance to re-immerse myself in apple love, which never gets old.
To start our seasonal conversation, I wanted to share an interview I did with Slate’s Table to Farm Podcast last spring. We discussed apple genetics, favorite varieties, and the finer points of apple crisp. Enjoy!
Very simple: Put them in a paper bag and store in your produce drawer*. Or, if you don’t have a paper bag on hand, just poke some holes in a plastic bag and put them in there. I’ve had apples last all the way until March with those methods.
*…assuming that you don’t have a root cellar. If you do, that’s a great place to keep apples, also in paper bags.
I had the huge honor of appearing on The Martha Stewart Show last October, and this year, another thrill! My recipe for apple brownies appeared in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. I remember so clearly looking at my mom’s copy of Martha’s first book, Entertaining, back in 1982 and being so transfixed by her style and her notion of making home life important and beautiful. So to be included in her media world is huge.
This recipe is one of the sleeper hits of the book. The brownies cook up moist and richly flavored, with that slightly crunchy top you also find in the chocolate version. Th recipe is an adaptation of one that my Mom’s friend, Claire Reilly, gave her, and I love how easy they are to make—a great standby for those days when you want a sweet treat without a lot of fuss, or when you remember at 9 p.m. that you volunteered to make dessert for tomorrow’s bake sale.
Recipe for Apple Brownies
Apple Notes: I’m not kidding when I say that this recipe is easy. It’s also extremely adaptable. Any firm-sweet apple variety (see page 30) will work beautifully.
Equipment: 11-by 7-inch baking dish
Makes: 12 bars
Active time: 15 minutes • Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
1 cup (145 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) salted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup (210 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ cup (60 g) chopped walnuts
2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total; see Apple Notes), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes
1• Preheat the oven to 350°F and set a rack to the middle position. Generously grease the
baking dish with butter and set aside.
2• In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer at high speed or using a hand-held mixer, beat
together the butter, sugar, and egg until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts and apples and
stir by hand until evenly combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined, another 30
3• Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and lightly firm to
the touch, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then cut into 12 bars and
transfer to a serving platter.
I recently received a copy of Nikki McClure’s book, APPLE, which is being re-released by Abrahms Appleseed press this year. McClure is a cut-paper artist and she first self-published this book back in 1997, making 200 copies by hand and selling them around Washington State, where she lives. She went on to publish books like Collect Raindrops and Mama, Is It Summer Yet?
The book is beautiful, telling the story of an apple’s life cycle using just pictures and minimal words.
Reading it to my own four-year-old son, I loved how the book’s simplicity forced both of us to pause over each page and talk, rather than doing our (my) usual plowing through.
Apple season is here! In fact, according to this story, the season has arrived a bit ahead of schedule. So in honor of my favorite food, here’s a recipe for my apple cupcakes.
It took me several attempts to figure these cupcakes out—to come up with a recipe that was full of apple flavor without being mistaken for a breakfast muffin. Among the experiments: a liquid apple butter center, a scattering of finely diced apples. Finally, I considered adding boiled cider, which is just very concentrated apple juice. It did the trick, adding rich flavor to the batter while also producing a very tender, identifiably cakelike product. Spiced cream cheese frosting was the perfect finish. Honestly, I can’t think of any cake that wouldn’t be improved by cream cheese frosting. And it’s so much easier to make than buttercream.
Recipe for Spiced Apple Cupcakes
Note: This recipe has a large yield, 24 cakes. I think this is a sensible amount for most birthday parties—plenty of people will eat two cakes each. However, you can cut the recipe in half fairly easily—most everything divides into two, except for the eggs and the boiled cider. In that case, use 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk and 3½ tablespoons boiled cider. (You can order boiled cider from the King Arthur Flour catalog or from Wood’s Cider Mill at woodscidermill.com.). The frosting divides neatly in half.
Make-ahead tip: You can bake the cupcakes up to a week in advance. When cool, arrange them on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. When frozen, transfer them to zip-top bags. You can make the frosting up to four days in advance. Bring everything to room temperature before frosting.
Equipment: 2 standard (2½-inch) muffin pans; paper liners
Makes: 2 dozen cupcakes
Active time: 1 hour • Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Ingredients for Spiced Apple Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (420 g) granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups (510 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup (80 ml) boiled cider (see Note)
1 cup (240 ml) whole or 2% milk, at room temperature
For the frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages (455 g total) cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (240 g) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method for Spiced Apple Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 325ºF and set a rack to the middle position.
Using a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer, combine the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale, very fluffy, and mousselike, 7 to 10 minutes (I usually average about 8 minutes). Stop every few minutes to scrape down the sides of your bowl with a spatula—you want everything evenly mixed, with no clumps of butter.
While you’re waiting for the butter and sugar to whip, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
When the butter-sugar mixture is fully whipped, add 1 egg and continue mixing at medium-high speed until fully combined. Repeat with the remaining 4 eggs. Add the vanilla.
In a small bowl, stir the boiled cider into the milk. It may look a bit curdled—that’s fine. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter-egg-sugar mixture and mix on low speed just until combined. Do not overmix. Add about a half of the milk mixture and mix just until combined. Repeat with the flour, then the milk, then the flour.
Using a ⅓ cup measuring cup or large spoon, fill each muffin cup two-thirds of the way. Bake until the tops of the cakes are firm but still pale and a cake tester comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting: Using your standing mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer, combine the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping down the sides once or twice, until evenly combined. Set aside.
When the cakes are done, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for
10 minutes before removing, then let cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting. Frost generously.