An apple a day
Bakers, growers share recipes and advice for apple aficionados
As one season ends and another one begins, there’s one fruit along for the ride to make the transition easier.
Apples are as versatile as they are diverse. And according to Albert Lea Seed House employee Darnell Reindl, they’re also hard work. For apple tree owners, late fall is the pruning season, which allows tree branches to maintain access to the sunlight when they green out again come spring. Reindl recommends sterilizing your pruning equipment from tree to tree to avoid spreading diseases from tree to tree. Reindl recommended having at least three trees.
“They need to be cross-pollinated, so you need at least two different kinds,” she said. At the Seed House, she tries to recommend a trio: one early season tree, a mid-season tree and a late-season tree. This means the grower could have fruit all season long, and it also provides backup in case one tree doesn’t make it.
You also have your choice between tree size: dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. Reindl said semi-dwarf does the best for Minnesota growers, because it makes it easier to get to the top of the tree than the standard size and tends to be hardier than full dwarf.
Fall is also the season growers should wrap their trees to protect them from deer and rabbits.
Although Reindl said most people plant in either the fall or the spring, she recommended spring planting — but, if you plant in a pot, anytime is a good time for an apple tree.
Grandma D’s Apple Cake
— Recipe by Doug Krueger
8 cups peeled and sliced apples
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
Add sugar to apples. Let stand for 1 hour.
Add rest of ingredients and mix together (will look dry).
Bake at 350 degrees in a 9-by-13 greased pan for 1 hour. Test with toothpick.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
— Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, submitted by Mollie Mickelson
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners — this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
Whisk the melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth, then whisk in the vanilla extract and milk. Set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until combined. The batter will have a few lumps. Fold in the apples.
Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full with batter. Bake for 21–23 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Salted Caramel Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
5 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
Optional garnish: salted caramel sauce
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved. Add salt. Allow to bubble for about 2 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds or so. Remove from heat, pour into a heat-proof mixing bowl, and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.
With a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat in 2 cups confectioners sugar and 3 more tablespoons of heavy cream. Slowly add 1/2 cup more confectioners sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Add 1 more tablespoon heavy cream if you find the frosting too thick.
Frost cake or cupcakes and garnish with salted caramel sauce, if desired.
Salted Caramel Sauce
(to drizzle and fill cupcakes)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature, cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.
Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.
Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar.
Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added.
Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
Make ahead tip: You can make this caramel in advance. Make sure it is covered tightly and store it for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe. This caramel is OK at room temperature for a day if you’re traveling or gifting it.
— Recipe by Beth Isaacson
6 cups sliced apples
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus a little
6 tablespoons butter (softened)
3/4 cup flour
Mix together water, 3/4 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.
Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, butter and flour with fork.
Place apples, water, sugar and cinnamon in 8-by-8-inch or 9 -by-9-inch dish. Place crumbled mixture over apples.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.
Apple varieties for all tastes
For those who want to have their apples and eat them, too, fall is the season for apple experimentation. Reindl recommends:
Zestar: A newer apple breed from the University of Minnesota, Zestar is an early apple that distinguishes itself by being hard and sweet, Reindl said. Most early apples are softer.
“It’s an all-around good apple,” she said.
Wealthy: It’s a mid- to early-season apple with a nice color and which lends itself well to applesauce.
McIntosh: This apple is a trifecta, recommended for baking, eating and, first and foremost, apple cider.
Fireside: This is a popular Minnesota apple, Reindl said, with a good flavor for eating. Because it is a late-season apple, it also stores well.
“The later the apple, the better they store,” she said.
SnowSweet: These later apples don’t turn brown quickly, which makes them ideal for an apple pie. (For those who like tart pies, like Reindl, can also make a good one out of Regent apples, she said.)
For those looking to start growing apples themselves, Reindl recommended coming in during the winter to sort out availability with the Seed House.