Friday, December 3, 2010

I went with 'one of everything'

The nice thing about getting around to my second Thanksgiving-related post a bit later than planned is that we can pretend I'm just very early in reporting some good ideas for Christmas desserts. All were met with eager forks, so any will do. And my conundrum over which dessert to bake for Thanksgiving was solved by being invited to three meals in one day. Of course, I didn't think twice about accepting every invitation — what's not to love about more friends and food on a holiday?

The sugar jar at the end of a morning of baking.

I was freed from work on Wednesday generously early, which gave me time to go to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients. In these days of sunset before 6 p.m., making a pie dough at home on a weekday with sun streaming in the kitchen windows was a delight. Holiday good feeling No. 1!

I also made cookie dough to inaugurate my brand-new KitchenAid mixer yowza! because it was a gift from Miguel and he requested that it produce chocolate chip cookies. It's pistachio!

For some reason, making two doughs — one of them not even Thanksgiving-y — seemed like adequate prep for the evening, so we met up with buddies for pizza and drinks until the wee hours. Then a few wee hours later, I was up and baking.

Meal No. 1

My parents' house

I made this chocolate pecan pie with this, another deal I grabbed during my Williams-Sonoma tenure. I'd considered adding bourbon but after tasting it, I thought it needed nothing more than my chocolate addition. Miguel made a pumpkin pie that was a huge hit — my parents, neither of them big pumpkin pie eaters, said they'd conferred about having a taste to be polite but then gobbled it down in a way that wasn't polite so much as complimentary.

This get-together was notable for being the only one of the day with turkey and children.

Meal No. 2

Lucy's house

Later in the afternoon, we went to a potluck with friends plus some of Lucy's family from New York. We ate her amazing ginger-jalapeno-orange-cranberry sauce and admired Caitlin's table decoration of sprigs of green leaves and berries collected on her walk over, and Lucy introduced me to her dad by saying that if I were an action figure, my prop would be a baked good. I reinforced the stereotype with a cranberry upside down cake.

Meal No. 3

The Treviños' house

I was stuffed at this point. There was no reason to continue eating. Except that this dinner was cooked by two culinary students, my buddy Javi and his classmate. (Bradley? I should remember. He was cool.) I stood in the kitchen doorway to watch them cook in a way that's very different from my own: they unflinchingly use very high heat and toss about professional kitchen warning lingo like "Sharp across" when moving a blade stacked with chopped bits from one counter to another. Javi cooked an elaborate shrimp bisque from notes taken during class, and Bradley later explained the historical usage of the word "bisque." This made me thankful to be in the midst of the type of friends who would have such a conversation. I love it when people unabashedly nerd it up, whatever their interest.

I made a French apple cake that is so easy but turns out looking so fancy and comes out of the oven with a super-concentrated apple flavor. Considering that and the fact that it's so much fruit and so little batter, a better name for it would be Apples in Cake Configuration.

What did you eat for Thanksgiving?

French Apple Cake

Adapted by David Lebovitz from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (a mix of varieties)
2 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. dark rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 stick of butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch chunks or slices of the same width.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy, then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter

Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.

Fold in the apple pieces until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days covered. Since the top is very moist, it’s best to store it under a cake dome or overturned bowl.