Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Recipe for Naturally Sweetened Apple Butter

So get out the butter and put away the sugar, we're going to make apple butter, real apple butter, the "slow food" approach to homemade apple butter. In this recipe, the apple butter is naturally sweetened with apple cider, dotted with a little butter for richness and spends a long (loooong!) time in the oven or in a slow cooker.

So yes, this apple cider is "sugar free" – or better put, has "no added sugar" and "no sugar substitutes" like Splenda and the like. It's just gorgeous, very apple-y, what apple butter is "supposed to taste like" – I hope you love it!

Naturally Sweetened Apple Butter, just apples, a touch of butter, no added sugar, no Splenda. Oven or slow cooker.

My two burning questions about apple butter.

First, why doesn’t apple butter call for – um, well, you know – butter? My recipe does, just a touch, which gives this lovely butterscotch-colored apple sauce, an unctuous mouth feel. After several hours in the oven at low temperature, it’s so smooth, so creamy, it’s on the verge of something akin to custard, albeit it egg-free, cream-free and sugar-free.

Second, why do apple butter recipes include, without fail, cups and cups and cups of sugar, which turns already-sweet apples into, well, just a sugar-sweet apple mess?

So get out the butter and put away the sugar. We’re making apple butter, real old-fashioned apple butter, apple butter so delicious you’ll sit up straight to ask, "Why is it that there’s no butter in apple butter? And why does apple butter need sugar?"

Spread the word. This is apple butter the way it’s meant to be.

UPDATE: APPLE BUTTER in the SLOW COOKER When I first posted this recipe, readers asked whether it could be made in a Crockpot. It can, with some caveats. Start by cooking the apples in the apple cider on high in the slow cooker for four hours, then blend til very smooth with an immersion blender or in a blender. After that, cook on high for nine to twelve hours, stirring every hour or so. Yes, even the Crockpot will require hourly attention to make sure that the mixture doesn't darken too much along the edges and not enough in the center. Unfortunately, the 'low' setting just isn't hot enough to create the dark caramelization that makes this Naturally Sweetened Apple Butter special.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. In 2009, Kitchen Parade celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special collection of my mother's recipes. Do you have a favorite apple recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

RECIPE for
NATURALLY SWEETENED APPLE BUTTER

Hands-on time: 30 minutes plus occasional attention for 6 – 9 hours
Time to table: 7 - 10 hours
Makes 3-1/2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 pounds Jonathan apples (or another baking apple), peeled and cored, cut into quarters
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • Zest and juice of a small lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter on medium. Add the apples as they’re prepped, stirring occasionally to coat with fat. Add cider, cover and let gently simmer for 30 minutes or until soft but still intact. Process until smooth with an immersion blender or a food processor. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Set oven to 250F and place the pot, uncovered, inside. Stirring every 30 minutes, let cook for 5 - 6 hours for a butterscotch-smooth apple custard and another 2 - 3 hours for a cinnamon-dark apple butter.

Refrigerate and use within two weeks.

ALANNA's TIPS Be careful to keep stirring the apple butter (try setting a timer as a reminder), especially toward the end of the slow-slow-slow oven time. If it's left unstirred, it will turn, fast, from golden apple butter into a gooey apple gunk, just like that. If that sounds like the voice of experience? It is.
SERVING IDEAS Drizzle with cream or kefir, top with toasted walnuts (pictured). Stir into Greek yogurt or spoon over vanilla ice cream. Make an apple butter smoothie, just a few spoonfuls mixed in the blender with milk and an ice cube or two. Spread on muffins, toast or bagels. Stir into your morning oatmeal. Substitute for Crème Anglaise in the lovely Estonian Apple Cake. Just see if you can keep your spoon out of this apple butter! What would you do with it?
NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Tablespoon/Half Cup: 25/204 Calories; 0/3g Tot Fat; 0/2g Sat Fat; 1/8mg Cholesterol; 0/3mg Sodium; 6/46g Carb; 0/4g Fiber; 5/38g Sugar; 0/1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points .5/3.5 & WW PointsPlus 1/6
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

An Apple a Day ...

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Chicken Cider Stew Healthy Waldorf Salad
Apple Pudding Cake with Cinnamon Butter Sauce Extra-Crispy Apple Crisp Baked Apples

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Banana Nut Cake with Caramel Frosting

The Recipe: My mom's famous recipe for Banana Nut Cake, a great special-occasion cake yet simple and rustic enough to make often.

The Conversation: Plus, bakers, you've just got to try this new banana technique: no more waiting days and days for bananas to ripen!

Banana Nut Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, my mom's famous recipe, a great special-occasion cake yet simple and rustic enough to make often. New technique for ripening unripe bananas!

The Boy, He Wanted Banana Cake for His Birthday

Panic! How in the world would I fulfill the birthday cake request from my favorite eight-year-old? He wanted banana cake, more particularly “banana cake with vanilla ice cream” thank you very much, exhibiting much promise as a child-prodigy foodie.

Trouble was, I had no ripe bananas and it takes a good week or ten days for bananas to ripen properly, that's until the bananas are almost black. Even the usual “ripen bananas in a paper bag on the counter” trick wasn’t going to produce ripe bananas in 18 hours.

That famous mother of invention, Necessity, stepped up to the cake plate and sure enough, I figured out a great way to make banana cake (and likely, banana bread and banana cookies too, say) with unripe and still yellow-skinned bananas.

Banana Nut Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, my mom's famous recipe, a great special-occasion cake yet simple and rustic enough to make often. New technique for ripening unripe bananas!

"Ripening" Bananas in a Skillet

I started with my mother’s famous banana cake recipe, the one she made for my dad’s newspaper staff when it was her turn to provide treats for the Wednesday afternoon coffeebreak after the weekly paper was put to bed.

Then I sautéed the bananas in a skillet with the cake's allotment of butter until the bananas turned soft, hoping-hoping that the cooking process would heighten their natural sweetness.

Sure enough, sautéeing the bananas to "ripen" them worked like a charm!

That cake was one of the best I’ve ever made. The eight-year-old and his birthday buddy, the cake baker (me!) and the rest of the family were all happy cake eaters.

Banana Nut Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, my mom's famous recipe, a great special-occasion cake yet simple and rustic enough to make often. New technique for ripening unripe bananas!

Round Cakes for Celebrations, Squares for Every Day

My mom's banana cake is a favorite around here, a staple (but still special) treat to whip up on a moment's notice.

That day, I baked the birthday cake in a round pan, it's somehow more festive that way, yes, more appropriate for a celebration? Mostly, though, I just throw the cake batter into an 8x8 or a 9x9 square pan and call it a day. You can also double the recipe for a 9x13 pan. Isn't it a baker's dream to have so much flexibility?


You'll Like My Mom's Famous Banana Nut Cake If ...

... you've gotten just a teensy-weensy bit tired of banana bread
... you want something a step up from banana bread, more "dessert" and "cake" than "snack"
... you love a simple, straight forward cake that's a real crowd pleaser
... you're not into nuts in cake, just leave them out


KITCHEN PARADE by SHIRLEY:
BANANA NUT CAKE with CARAMEL FROSTING

Hands-on time: 40 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Makes a 9- or 10-inch round cake or 8x8 or 9x9 cake (double for a 9x13)

    START HERE IF YOUR BANANAS AREN'T RIPE
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons/114g) salted butter
  • 3 large unripe bananas, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise in small pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 250g
  • 1 cup (200g) brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon banana extract (see TIPS) or vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped black walnuts, optional (see TIPS)

Heat oven to 350F/175C. Prepare baking pan(s) with baking spray.

BROWN THE BUTTER AND UNRIPE BANANAS Melt the butter in a medium skillet on medium heat until shimmery. Add the bananas and cook, stirring often, until bananas are soft and the butter is just beginning to brown.

MIX IN DRY INGREDIENTS Transfer butter-banana mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; with an electric mixer, mix until just combined.

MIX FOR 2 MINUTES Add the milk and banana extract or vanilla; beat on low for 2 minutes.

MIX FOR ANOTHER 2 MINUTES Add the eggs; beat on low for 2 minutes.

STIR IN NUTS Use a spatula to gently stir in the nuts.

BAKE Transfer to a well-greased pan. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife slipped into the center comes out clean.

DECIDE ON ICING See Caramel Frosting.


    OTHERWISE START HERE IF YOUR BANANAS ARE RIPE
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons/114g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 250g
  • 1 cup (200g) brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon banana extract (see TIPS) or vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped black walnuts, optional (see TIPS)

Heat oven to 350F/175C. Prepare baking pan(s) with baking spray.

CREAM BUTTER & DRY INGREDIENTS Cream butter with a mixer until light and fluffy, you may need to scrape the mixer bowl.

MIX IN DRY INGREDIENTS Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; with an electric mixer, mix until just combined.

MIX FOR 2 MINUTES Add the mashed bananas, milk and vanilla; beat on low for 2 minutes.

MIX FOR ANOTHER 2 MINUTES Add the eggs; beat on low for 2 minutes.

STIR IN NUTS Gently stir in the nuts.

BAKE Transfer to a well-greased pan. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife slipped into the center comes out clean.

DECIDE ON ICING See Caramel Frosting, below.

CARAMEL FROSTING

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon banana extract or vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the milk (it will sizzle!), stir to incorporate and cook another minute. Remove from heat, stir in the banana extract or vanilla. A tablespoon or two at a time, stir in the powdered sugar until the frosting reaches the desired consistency, either quite thin or slightly thicker, depending on what you're trying to achieve.

FOR A THIN LAYER OF CARAMEL FROSTING, START WITH A CAKE HOT FROM THE OVEN For this use, you'll want a quite-thin frosting so will use less powdered sugar. To apply it, poke holes in the still-hot cake and gently spoon the icing over the top, letting it soak into the poke holes, an offset spatula or flat knife makes it easy to spread the frosting across the entire surface. If you like, sprinkle with a few more chopped walnuts.

FOR A DISTINCT & DRAMATIC DRIZZLE OF CARAMEL FROSTING, START WITH A COOLED CAKE For this use, you'll want a thicker frosting, so will use more powdered sugar. While the frosting's still warm, spoon it into a small freezer bag. Press the frosting toward one corner, press out the excess air, then seal the bag. Snip the corner with a scissors, start small for a thin drizzle, snip a little more for a thicker drizzle. If you like, sprinkle the frosting with a few more chopped walnuts.

ALANNA’s TIPS Yes, aside from the butter-banana sautée step for unripe bananas, this cake really does indeed have an unusual mixing process. But don’t worry, it all comes together just fine. It really does work! For an extra boost in banana flavor, I like to use a banana extract from Vanilla Saffron Imports. Unfortunately, it looks as if it's no longer available and I haven't found another good source. This banana extract from Olive Nation has good reviews on Amazon but I haven't yet tried it. In Mom’s day, we slathered the cake with a thick caramel icing, so sweet that the mere memory makes my teeth hurt. Nowadays, a drizzle seems plenty, saving a few calories too. This means the Caramel Frosting above is "half" the amount we once used so for a thicker frosting, if you want more frosting, just double the ingredients. Substitute English walnuts for black walnuts but I do recommend toasting them to bring out the flavor. Or if you're not into nuts, or are out of nuts, this cake definitely stands on its own, no nuts required.

NUTRITION INFORMATION With 9 servings, per serving, cake only/cake and frosting: 289/364 Calories; 15/17g Tot Fat; 7/9g Sat Fat; 74/81mg Cholesterol; 523/543mg Sodium; 36/49g Carb; 2g Fiber; 29/42g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 7/8 & WW PointsPlus 8/10 & WW SmartPoints 14/18
Adapted from my mother’s long-time recipe for banana cake which she herself adapted from a 1961 issue of Better Homes & Gardens

More Banana Treats

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Cheery Cherry Banana Bread Banana Oatmeal Cookies Strawberry Chocolate Banana Crumble

More Special-Occasion Cakes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Estonian Apple Cake Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake Homemade Poppy Seed Cake

More Sweet Treats from My Mom
(who had a rrrreal sweet tooth)

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Lemon Pudding Cake Butter Tart Bars Mom's Blueberry Coffeecake

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