5 Minute Memories and Apple Cake
The exercise started with “I Remember.” Five minutes of quick writing — either a flow of consciousness or pained precision as each touch of the pen releases thoughts to words. How freely could you write in a ballroom of peers, knowing that reading your work aloud might expose your very personal story, your vulnerability. Would you sign up for that? I did. The session titled: Snap Out of It! Facilitated by Kim O’Donnel at the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference held in Seattle, Washington.
Writing and creativity has everything to do with being a Food Blogger. A storyteller at heart whose creative muse is spice, fresh, sweet and savory, creamy or rich concoctions that connect both the senses and memory. Where were we when we were inspired, when was it we tasted this or made that? Forever holding on to an experience. Who was with us? Coded in the menagerie of content management systems, html formats and photo images. “I remember.”
After a weekend of sensory overload; learning, tasting, meeting and greeting, did this roomful have any juice left? Indeed, they seemed ready for quiet reflection, and truth be told bursting to tell their tales. It was quite amazing to sit in a room of talented raconteurs, each with a style and personality all their own hidden beneath the earthly facade that is their physical presence. Still waters run deep. The stories told, some singular and others nearly fully fleshed out, snippets that were but the beginning, hinting and enticing us to hear more. Touching, heartfelt and tender. A camp outing gone awry, flames and cold beans; Grandmotherly hands helping to shape sweet tender dough; an apple. Such was coaxed from us by Jill on the final session Sunday morning, giving us time and space to nourish and feed the craft of writing.
Five minutes. Set your own clock and write as many or few sentences that begin with I remember. What would you jot down?
I remember the cold ocean waves lapping at my feet; Keds getting soaked as I pushed the huge fork into the sand and the empty bucket nearly washing away.
I remember the heat of late August and the red speckled stripes on yellow-green apples. Gravensteins. My Grandmother’s tree and juice running down my arm as I sat high in its rough, gnarled branches.
I remember soggy, chewy flat bow-tied cookies. Khrustyky fried in oil not hot enough for making the blistered, light textured bite that is the cookies’ hallmark. Lessons about temperature.
I remember my first taste of gin at age 57 at a 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars Awards and Gala. The drink was called Blood Waters and the concoction of mixologist Miles Macquarrie. Surprised and appreciative of a expertly crafted cocktail on a humid summer’s day. Then it rained.
I remember my first IFBC 2012, overwhelmed at the gift suite and the abundance of goods and choosing a small cookbook with a Florentine cover. Warm artfully swirled cover paper whose texture when touched reminded me of the city I love so.
This apple cake recipe is from the Canal House Cooking series, volume 7, La Dolce Vita — my prize from last year’s conference. Of all the wonderful samples and treats we receive at this conference, for me, the lasting treasures are the friendships and cookbooks.
I made some modest changes to the original recipe — added candied mixed citrus zest and drizzled apples in lemon juice prior to adding sugar to coat before placing on batter. I also mixed apricot preserves a bit water for a glaze on the baked cake, returning it to oven to caramelize.
- 6 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon for pan unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped candied citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange)
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 Granny Smith Apples (or your favorite baking apple)
- 1 tablespoon apricot preserves or jelly plus 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 350°F while you butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
- Peel and core apples and place in a large bowl then sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning.
- In a large bowl or mixer beat butter until creamy then gradually add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
- Add egg while continue beating, then add the vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder and salt to distributed the items thoroughly before adding to the large bowl a bit at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat well after each addition to the batter.
- Stir in the lemon zest and chopped candied peel.
- Pour into the prepared spring form pan, level and smooth the top of the batter.
- Sprinkle your apples with 2 tablespoons sugar then
- Arrange the apple slices beginning at the outside, standing them on end with the narrow part in the batter forming a circle. Fill the inside of your circle with the remaining apple pieces.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes until the toothpick test comes out clean.
- If your apples are juicy, soft and nicely caramelized during this process you can be done!
- If your apples were firmer and less juicy you might want to glaze with the apricot preserve/water mixture and broil for a minute or so to caramelize. Be sure to keep an eye on it to not burn the top of the cake!
- International Food Bloggers Conference 2013 produced by Foodista and Zepher Adventures
- 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars
- Canal House Cooking, Vol. 7 (click on the cover and you can preview the contents and scroll down to the Apple Cake Recipe)
About Kim O’Donnel
For more than a decade, journalist and chef Kim O’Donnel has dispensed cooking advice at numerous publications, includingThe Washington Post, Culinate and USA Today. Kim is the author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook (2010) and most recently, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations (2012). She’s a regular contributor to Real Food Right Now, a weekly seasonal produce series on Ecocentric and writes a monthly Eating Down the Fridge column for iVillage. She is the founder of Canning Across America, a collective dedicated to the revival of preserving food. Kim’s work is part of the forthcoming anthology Best Food Writing 2013.