Tonight I am drinking the Hardywood rum-barrel aged pumpkin ale. It tastes like a glass of rum, which is something I am surprised by for the not particularly good reason that I was blinded by the word “pumpkin”. I’ve been on a kick lately of trying out pumpkin beers. I tried the Devil’s Backbone Pumpkin Hunter and really enjoyed it out of the bottle. The Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin was also a joy to drink. Both tasted of pumpkin and yet retained that yeasty funk of good craft beer.
‘The Hardywood isn’t bad, but it doesn’t taste like it has any pumpkin. Also: I don’t like sweet beers – I prefer more malt or more bitter beer, and barrel-aged beers are among the sweetest in my experience. If you like your beer in a stem glass, this may be more up your alley. As for why I picked-up this beer: not all that pumpkins is gold.
Last night I baked an apple cake. It was a good experience: I took the recipe from this post on Food52 and made some practical adjustments to the recipe. For starters: I didn’t have raisins. It’s been a personal goal lately to make-do if possible when I come across an ingredient I haven’t kept stocked. Instead of the raisins, I swapped in dried cranberries.
Second: I don’t know if I believe in using dried fruit in baked goods without first plumping it. I’ve picked up the practice from baking the soda bread recipes of David Leibovitz and Rose Levy Bernbaum: Irish-whiskey plumped raisins or currants are among the smartest additions I could ever suggest someone make to a baked good.
Third: to the nuts! The recipe probably assumes that the 1 cup of walnuts will already be toasted. We all know the rules on assumptions, so I’m going to go ahead and correct the record by adding that Step 1 is TOAST YOUR WALNUTS. Also: I’m not sure if this is a rule for other people, but I toss the toasted nuts in a reserved portion of the recipe’s flour. My belief is that the flour prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the batter and (with walnuts specifically) prevents a discoloration of the cake around the nut.
It is possible there is a layer of science there I’m failing to explain. It is also possible that I am superstitious and doing things that no one else would deem necessary. Science or no: my cake tasted pretty damn good, and the distribution of nuts and fruit was notably even. Notably.
Last: this cake is the inaugural cake of our newest member of the family: an Analon tube pan. I call attention to the pan specifically because I already owned 2 bundt pans and I’m not entirely sure they would work in the place of the tube pan. The tube pan is a a good 2.5″-3″ shallower than either of my bundts, as well as being a thinner and darker material. So beware: the pan you choose may have an impact on the way the cake bakes.
Adapted from Teddie’s Apple Cake
- Butter for the pan
- 3 cups unbleached flour, divided
- 1 1/2 cups good olive oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced tart apples (I went with Honeycrisp
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss the walnuts in their olive oil, and toast for 15-20 minutes, or until the walnuts have just turned color and begin to smell toasty. Let cool, then toss the nuts with 1 tbsp of the flour and set aside.
- While you’re toasting the nuts: warm the bourbon and pour over the cranberries. Cover with plastic or another plate, and let set for 15-20 minutes. Once plumped, drain, and set-aside.
- Butter and flour the tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer at #6 (with the paddle attachment). After about 5 minutes, once the sugar and oil have some body, add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until the mixture looks like custard.
- Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar-oil-egg batter. Add one at a time: the vanilla, apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until combined.
- Transfer the mixture to the tube pan. Bake for 75 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack before lifting out.
Serve at room temperature. Cover with powdered sugar, or serve with whipped cream.
For the future, a couple more changes I can see making:
- Weigh the apples for consistency.
- Mix some zest (pref.: orange) into the sugar before mixing with the oil.
- Make sure the cranberries are unsweetened
- Or make it with either raisins or currants.
- Use something besides bourbon for plumping.