The Last (Caramel) Apple

Caramel Apple Cake

I meant to take a photo on Sunday while I was capturing the above cake. A photo of my yard. It was the first time I really looked at it since autumn had begun. I thought I had missed the foliage this year, complaining of under-tinted trees and lots of yellow but little blush. But then I looked into my yard, on October 28th, and I saw trees afire. I hadn’t sat down, I hadn’t taken a break to notice until October 28th. My attention stolen by the cake, though, I didn’t snap that shot. It was just my backyard. It didn’t really matter.

One day later and those leaves were dead. Gone. Washed away by Sandy, the East Coast storm that came and went. Ordered to stay home from work, I sat, trying to be productive, as I heard those leaves flapping one by one from the branches damp and brown and ripped at the veins. I was hypersensitive. I felt fall’s end, taken not, coincidentally, by a cold winter breeze or a Halloween snow storm (like last year) but by a tropical front: muggy air, bands of flooding rain, branch-stripping winds.

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My History with Apple Pie

apple pie with salty browned butter crumble

My mother, surprisingly, is not much of a baker. It’s the one thing that bothers me about my love of pastry: I feel like I stole something from her. I feel like I sucked the passion out of something that she took so lightheartedly and which I take so seriously—as a means to survive, really. When I was very young, she had her signatures: strawberry jam thumbprints for my father’s tea; banana bread, a long time favorite of hers; almond danish ring, her most challenging recipe; haystacks, made with peanut butter and those same butterscotch chips I railed against in the last post. Simple things but signatures nonetheless.

Sadly, the last thing I remember her baking was a cake from a mix one year when I was in college and couldn’t make it back in advance of Christmas to construct a meal-ending dessert, save for a humble apple crisp. Mom’s cake was a carrot cake—a cake that everyone loves for its moisture but which can be oily and just too moist when it comes from a box. The carrots came compressed in a tin, the raisins in a pouch, and the whole thing was slathered in canned cream cheese frosting that was more sugar than cream cheese. I cringe. I certainly acted like a brat that holiday, defiling the cake in front of my grandparents and making every effort to dissuade family members from eating an artificial confection. It may have looked fancier than my homey little dessert, I thought, but at least the crisp was made with real, wholesome ingredients and fresh fruit. Why couldn’t I have just kept my mouth shut?

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Baby Steps

bourbon butterscotch sauce

Why hello there, strangers (stranger? anyone?).
Yeah, I’m not sure how else to start this. My last post –a post that meant a lot to me because I was so happy with its recipe and with baking and blogging and life — is dated August 23rd. So this is just kind of…awkward.

The past month was certainly not the most difficult I’ve experienced, but it did feel very empty. To make a long story short, I took a break from cooking and blogging to move into a new apartment, get that kitchen settled. Four weeks later, I broke my lease due to apartment troubles and I am now, once again, looking furiously for a new place.

Missing late-summer days at the farmers’ markets, the change in the air, the turning of the leaves, the peak apple-picking (and not to mention apple cider donut–eating) season, my daily blog-reading and cookbook perusing ritual was unfortunate but not crippling. There will be another late summer and another early fall.

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