TND – Belated Birthday Dinner

October 28, 2011

My thoughts about this week’s Dinner can be summarized as follows:

Yay! Heat.

The heat thing is only related to Dinner in that our excuse for caving and finally turning on the heat was that it was okay for us to be cold, but it seemed ungracious to inflict that on our friends. In the end I was very grateful we’d caved because it snowed last night (enough that there was a solid layer of snow on cars this morning when I left for work) and dropped well below freezing in the early hours of the morning (it had warmed up to a balmy 35 by 7:30am). I was very excited about not going to bed cold, and even more excited about not waking up cold. We made it past the benchmark of the horse fair in Zuidlaren, but not quite to the arbitrary date I’d picked of November 1st.

OMG, so much chopping.

We moved Dinner this week so that a friend who has class every Tuesday this semester could (a) prove that she hadn’t become a figment of our imaginations; and (b) could have a Birthday Dinner before the New Year. It also conveniently meant that I could spread out the julienning of a small mountain of vegetables over three nights this week for which my wrists and I are devoutly grateful. The meal is totally worth all the effort, but nonetheless it’s a daunting amount of chopping.

ngggghhhh . . . . such good cake.

This is a New England Fall in cake form. The fresh apples melt into the batter as it bakes leaving it moist and apple-y. The brandy soaked dried apples and raisins give it a boost of gooey chewiness (+ alcohol, never a bad thing). The top crust bakes up crisp and crackling, while underneath you have a solid sticky cake that smells like everything good in the world. Then you pour brandy caramel sauce all over the top and down the sides (and go back for more halfway through your piece, and lick the spoon as you’re cleaning up afterwards) and it becomes the kind of cake that elicits indecent noises from your guests.

Turkey Meatball Banh-Mi
Mango Slaw
Massaged Kale Salad

Sticky Spiked Double Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Brandy Sauce

Turkey Meatball Banh-Mi
Last time I said that I thought 2.5 lb of meat would feed eight people, and it will, but it’s a little scant. Next time for eight people I’ll go for the full 3lb of ground chicken – in the unlikely event that there are leftovers my roommate will be ecstatic.

Recipe previously given: The Perfect Food?

Mango Slaw

Recipe previously given: The Perfect Food?

Subsequently amended: Oh woe is me (and other non-dilemma dilemmas)

Massaged Kale Salad
I substituted some dried cherries for the fresh fruit this time only because I didn’t want it to compete with the mango in the slaw. It’s better with fresh fruit, but was more balanced with this particular meal with dried fruit.

Recipe previously given: Introducing Fancy Molasses (and her cousin Black Strap)

Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Brandy Sauce

I was a little afraid that this would be cloying with all the sugar in the cake and the sauce, plus all the dried fruit, but somehow it all works together and it isn’t too sweet at all. This is, however, a solid cake. I cut mine into 12 pieces, but I could probably have cut each piece slightly smaller (maybe 15 pieces). Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret a single bite of the cake I ate last night, and if I hadn’t been sending leftovers home with the birthday girl and saving a piece for someone who couldn’t make it to Dinner this week I would have had a hard time restraining myself from tucking into a second piece (and this despite knowing exactly how much butter and sugar I went through on Tuesday night when I was baking it).

Sticky Spiked Double Apple Cake
(Serves 10 to 12)
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup brandy (or, you know, Calvados)
1 cup dried apple slices, cut into quarters
½ cup white sugar
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 ½ cups tightly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
2 medium sized tart cooking apples, one peeled, one unpeeled, both cored and cut into ½ inch pieces

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the brandy for 45 minutes. Add the dried apple slices and macerate for a further 15 minutes. Do not drain!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Butter a 9×13 inch pan and line the bottom and up the two long sides with a sheet of parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the edges by an inch or so. Lightly butter the paper.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and set aside.

In a large bowl with a hand held electric mixer or whisk, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend both sugars. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until thickened and pale, about 2 minutes with a machine, 4 to 5 minutes by hand. Add the cooled melted butter and mix to blend.

Fold in the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just enough to moisten most but not all of the flour. Add the dried fruit and brandy mixture, chopped pecans, and diced fresh apple, then fold them into the batter with long, deep strokes. Don’t fret about the ratio of fruit to batter — there is a remarkable amount of fruit but it bakes into a wonderfully chewy cake.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and set in the center of the oven. Bake for 60-80 minutes (depending on the vagaries of your oven – mine took about 65 minutes, but my oven also bakes notoriously high), or until the center springs back when lightly touched, a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Using the parchment paper sling, carefully lift the cake out of the pan, transfer to a wire rack and cool.

This cake keeps beautifully, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 5 days, although it is best within 2 or 3. Serve warm or at room temperature with a healthy pour of the warm Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce.

Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce
(makes about 2 cups)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 ½ Tbsp brandy (or Calvados)

Combine the butter, sugars and cream in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir this mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a very gentle boil, stirring all the while. Cook 5 more minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the brandy or other liqueur.

Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. To rewarm, either microwave the uncovered sauce on low power or transfer the cold caramel to a saucepan and stir over low heat until warm.


One comment

  1. […] Recipe previously given: Belated Birthday Dinner […]

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