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Comfort Me with Apples

September 24, 2009

Oregon jonathan apples are coming in.

Oregon Jonathan apples are coming in.

I first read the phrase “Comfort me with apples” on the book of the same name by food writer and executive editor of Gourmet Magazine Ruth Reichl.  Only later did I learn that it is borrowed from the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament of the Bible. “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.”  [The Song Of Solomon 2:5] Obviously apples and other fruits have played an important and influential role in society throughout written history.

“From the very beginning the ancients were truly enamoured with fruit. Apart from milk and honey, fruit is nature’s only pleasure laden natural food. From the beginning apples have been associated with love, beauty, luck, health, comfort, pleasure, wisdom, temptation, sensuality, sexuality, virility and fertility. Stories and traditions about man’s origins connect him to a garden of paradise filled with fruit trees. The stories are essentially the same whether it be the Semitic Adam, the Teutonic Iduna, the Greek Hesperides, or the Celtic Avalon, man’s idea of paradise centers on an abundance of cultivated fruit, its sensual irresistibility and the consequential calamity of its seduction.” — Mitch Lynd ~ Great Moments in Apple History

Everything I cook or write about here in Oregon is not only shaped by those who cooked for me as a child, but my family and friends who shared cooking with me as I grew up. I count as friends the cookbooks I have collected through the years and am forever grateful to their authors. Among my favorites and most worn is my Martha Rose Shulman collection. I don’t believe there’s a recipe of hers I have made that isn’t a keeper and a repeater.

The Vegetarian Feast was the first find during my “macrochaotic” days of eating mostly vegetarian. I still make her Soy Paté from that book. Not long after I had to have Supper Club: Chez Martha Rose, a smart collection of recipes and menus from Martha Rose’s Paris sojourn. There she hosted monthly dinners for guests in her Paris apartment. The food consisted of a mix of Mexican and French with some fusion. Having come to Paris from Austin, Texas, the style was a natural for her. It was right up my alley too, as I am a native Texan Francophile.

Shulman went on to write Mediterranean Light, a collection of regional recipes lightened up with her touch. Other books followed, including Provençal Light, Mexican Light, Entertaining Light and Light Basics. Her cookbook- writing abilities are inexhaustible; every time you look, there seems to be a new one. This has proven to be a wonderful niche for her. She also provides  the recipes for the New York Times Health Section, a well deserved and prominent acknowledgment of her culinary gifts. You can view the complete collection of her books on her Web site and her New York Times recipes here.

One of my favorite and most frequently made creations is her Alsatian Apple Cake from Supper Club: Chez Martha Rose. It is apple heaven reincarnate; a liberal amount of peeled, sliced apples fused together with a pancake-like batter flavored appropriately with vanilla and rum. I make this several times a year and it never fails to evoke praise. I often share the recipe with gratitude and acknowledgment for my source. Enjoy:

Alsatian Apple Cake
Printed with permission from Martha Rose Shulman

A Slice of Apple Heaven

A Slice of Apple Heaven

For the cake:

  1. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  2. 4 pounds baking apples or Golden Delicious apples
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 1/3 cup mild-flavored honey of your choice
  5. 1/4 cup safflower or peanut oil
  6. 2 tablespoons milk
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 2 tablespoons rum (I suggest Myer’s Dark Rum)
  9. 1/2 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons sifted unbleached white flour
  10. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  11. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  12. Pinch of salt

For the topping:

  1. 1 large egg
  2. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  3. 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 12-inch cake pan or 10-inch springform pan.
  • Peel, core and cut the apples into eighths. Place in a large bowl.
  • Mix together the eggs, honey, oil, milk, vanilla and rum. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend together and pour the batter over the apples. Toss everything together and turn into the buttered baking pan.
  • Bake 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, mix together the topping ingredients. After 30 minutes, pour this topping over the cake and spread evenly. Return to the heat and bake another 10 minutes, until caramelized on the top. Cool in the pan on a rack, Serve warm or cool. The cake reheats well.

Note: Because this cake is baked at a rather high temperature, I always linger close by to check on the top. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the rest of the cake is done, drape a piece of aluminum foil over it and continue baking.

Serves 8 generously

Because the majority of this cake is apples, I consider it a rather guiltless dessert. However I usually serve it with a generous dollop of guilt on the side in the form of sweetened heavy cream whipped up with a liberal pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a small splash of Calvados (apple brandy.) Clear Creek Distillery makes an outstanding apple brandy and is my choice. If you wish to serve a wine with this, I recommend Tualatin Estate Vineyards’s Semi Sparkling Muscat.

I hope to include some of Martha Rose’s savory recipes in the future such her heady Marseilles Sauce for seafood and her devilishly delicious Green Garlic Shrimp to showcase our wonderful Oregon seafood.

In her most recent endeavor, she has partnered with award-winning cookbook author and international cooking instructor Clifford A. Wright to teach a series of cooking classes at her new Venice Cooking School. You can bet the next time I’m in the Los Angeles area I’ll make a bee line for one of her classes.

— Charles Price

5 Comments leave one →
  1. steve m permalink
    September 25, 2009 4:00 pm

    Apple Pie, Apple Tart, Appletini …. great things come in 3’s

  2. charlesprice permalink*
    September 28, 2009 6:36 pm

    Vic and I first tasted the Semi Sparkling Muscat at a charity event when we first moved here. Until then, I had not been a sweet wine aficionado. This changed that – we enjoy it often as an aperitif too.

  3. October 11, 2009 11:47 pm

    I liked the post and your writing style. I’m adding you to my RSS reader.

    Greetings from Tim. 🙂

    • charlesprice permalink*
      October 12, 2009 9:48 am

      Thank you Tim and welcome.

  4. October 27, 2009 5:47 pm

    This “apple heaven reincarnate” you describe sounds delicious, Charles.

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