Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's Good to Be Home

I may have been sipping passion fruit and acai juices last week in Brazil, but I had fall on my mind. It was the middle of September and I couldn't wait to get home to go apple picking. I'd already made plans to drive up to an orchard near Warwick, NY, the day after I got back, and thankfully, when the day came, it was gorgeous.

My sister and I headed to Jessup Road Orchard and spent a beautiful morning picking half a bushel of apples. Though the woman working at the shop gave us a map explaining which varieties were ready for picking, we got a little lost once we were out in the orchard, so we aren't exactly sure what kind of apples we wound up with. Our m.o. went something like this: pull an apple off a tree, polish it on our shirt, take a bite. If it was crisp and sweet and maybe a little tart, too, we'd go to town and pick a dozen or more. If it didn't have quite as sharp a bite, we tossed it and moved on. It was a flawless system.

I've been eating about four apples a day since Sunday, and tonight I wanted to do something different. After a long day at work and an hour of tennis, I didn't have the energy for a pie. What I did have, though, was butter, buttermilk and kitchen staples like flour, sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. And plenty of apples! Just the things for Apple Upside-Down Biscuit Cake.

This tarte tatin-like dessert is super-simple. You melt butter in a skillet, stir in brown sugar, and lay apple slices on top. Then you drop a basic biscuit dough on top, spreading it all over the apples, and bake it for 20 minutes or so. The only tricky part comes when the cake's out of the oven, since you have to invert it onto a plate. I advise waiting longer than the recipe's suggested three minutes, and I actually let Fork do the heavy lifting (and he did singe a few arm hairs in the process). But the end result is a delicious cake, light and rustic. This is the perfect weeknight dessert, or the ideal sweet for people who say they don't bake. And it's making me so glad to be back home.--S

Apple Upside-Down Biscuit Cake

For topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 lb Granny Smith apples [or other tart apples], peeled, cored, and cut into thin wedges

For cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Accompaniment: crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter in an ovenproof 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast-iron) over moderate heat until foam subsides. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat. Spread mixture evenly in skillet and arrange apples, overlapping, in 1 layer.
2. Blend flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and add buttermilk, stirring just until mixture is moistened.
3. Drop batter on top of apples and gently spread, leaving a 1-inch border around edge of skillet. (Cake needs room to expand.)
4. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in skillet on a rack 3 minutes [I suggest 10 minutes], then invert onto a platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet on cake. Serve warm.

Recipe courtesy of Gourmet

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