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My friend Allison, who lives up the hill, has a few apple trees in her front yard that produce an astonishing number of apples. There are a few varieties – some larger eating apples, some medium – not quite crabapples, but not full-size either – and some tiny red crabapples that are perfect for jellies. She always lets me pick some, and they’re so great for baking with. I love a good apple cake, and thought I had made them all until I started noticing people make Ruthie’s apple cake, from the cookbook Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern, during Rosh Hashanah. It’s a spectacular cake, loaded with chunks of apples and walnuts. I instantly adored it – not only the taste of it, but its rugged good looks.

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I make a lot of galettes – which sound fancy, but are really free form pies you assemble and bake on a sheet without needing to trim or crimp – and in the fall and winter, they’re often apple ones. Sometimes, I spread some jam onto the bottom of the crust before I pile on the apples, but a couple weeks ago I had a jar of mincemeat on the counter and inspiration struck. It turned out to be a very good idea. I adore mincemeat – a thick sort of preserve of fresh and dried fruits, citrus, brown sugar, booze (if you want it) and spices you can simmer on the stovetop until your house smells fantastic (it only takes 20 minutes, really) or buy in the jar without shame. (The smell of a jar of Robertson’s all-fruit mincemeat reminds me so much of my grandma, I nearly tear up when I take off the lid.) You don’t need suet (which is beef fat)Continue reading

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No, you don’t *have* to use crabapples for these – it’s officially apple season, and the markets abound with bins of crisp, flavourful apples – and just about any would do well here. But they do make good use of tart crabapples, which don’t need to be peeled – just slice off their cheeks, chop them a bit more if they’re big, and let the soft, sweet dough offset their tartness. It’s a delicious use for those apples that might otherwise compost themselves on your lawn.

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So I got it into my head that I wanted to make pies. Not regular, full-sized pies you eat by the slice, but the kind you eat out of hand. The seed was planted back in (on?) PEI, when a friend and I went on a 3 day road trip and stopped at the Handpie Company as soon as we pulled onto the island (I oddly love that they made handpie all one word) and ate two ridiculously delicious pies, stuffed half-moons you could eat straight from the paper bag, the buttery pastry loaded with meat and potatoes and other things. I know hand pies are not new, but somehow it was like a reawakening regarding the possibilities of pie. Also, it’s apple time. I haven’t managed to make a pie yet. Somehow, these pockets seemed like less of a production. So this afternoon I turned on the oven to make pies. (My new-ish oven takes forever to heat up.) I did some things, andContinue reading

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As you may have noticed, I’m a fan of the scone. I’m also a fan of apples, and pie, and sweet-but-not-too-sweet carby things to nibble with coffee, and warming up the house from the kitchen out. Enter the apple pie scone – an amalgamation of all of the above. A slab scone is simply biscuit or scone dough – you could use whatever formula you like – for this recipe I’ve used this dough and this dough and both work just fine – and rather than roll or pat it an inch thick to cut, you roll it into a 10-inch square. In the past I’ve filled slab scones with jam and other preserves – there is potential to get creative here – but this time I tossed some apples with sugar and cinnamon, as you would if you were making pie, and loaded those in a strip down the middle instead.

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I love homemade doughnuts, but don’t often make them. And when I think about it, when I do make them it’s the small pieces I end up picking at and nibbling – the holes and the scraps, with interesting shapes and lots of craggy edges and crispy bits. Which is why I’ve decided that for the aforementioned reasons, and the fact that the vast majority of the population does not own a doughnut cutter, fritters are the way to go. In fact, fritters are a quick alternative to muffins, quickbreads and all manner of breakfast baking; the batter takes a few minutes to mix up, and there’s no need to preheat the oven – the fritters themselves cook in just a few minutes, not 20 or 30. I can justify most morning baked (and fried) goods. Making them saves time! When most of us think of fritters, we default to those sticky, bigger-than-doughnuts apple ones you see at coffee shops, or the corn fritters thatContinue reading

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Is it weird that I get more excited about winter salads than the summer ones? I love hardy salads that give my jaw a workout. (At least part of me is working out, right?) Every winter I vow to keep a grainy, beany salad in my fridge to prevent myself from living on bagels and raisin toast (a hazard/benefit of having my office in the spare bedroom), and in fact, these kinds of salads actually improve after a few days in the fridge. Also- feeling virtuous over lunch is enough to keep me feeling more or less on the ball during the afternoon, sometimes propelling me out to do a power walk. Eating healthy things begets eating healthy things (and doing healthy things). I even organized my office this weekend, which was a monumental task. I blame the salads. I love adding chopped apples to salads – not only are they always around, they add sweetness, tartness and crunch to just about any salad, fromContinue reading

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It’s said that there are cooks and there are bakers. I consider myself both, but do tend to dive into dough when I’m happy/sad/stressed or otherwise in need of comfort – or when others are. The thing about baking is that you don’t do it out of necessity (as getting dinner on the table) and for the most part you don’t do it for yourself – baking is always about sharing. Pies seem to dig even deeper into our collective histories – pies of all sorts are associated with the comforts of home, of casual celebrations and being together. You only make pies for people you really love. I mean to make pies more often than I do, and I say this as someone comfortable with the thought of making pastry from scratch – the prospect of making something like an apple pie from just butter-sugar-flour-apples can be daunting – but you can do this. I always have apples on my countertop, and make aContinue reading

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It’s nice when things that don’t take much time accidentally turn out awesome, isn’t it? When apples are in season, they make me want to bake – pies are nice in theory, but I’m not always in the mood to make one. An apple cake is a lovely thing, especially when it’s more apple than cake, and when you have a buttery dough you can stir together in a few minutes and know by heart, so that in spring it can be berry or rhubarb cake, in summer it can be a peach or plum cake. This is the sort of cake I like best – I think most days I’d choose this over a fancy chocolate tower held together with ganache.

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