Thursday, November 17, 2011

Not-Too-Sweet Chunky Apple Cake

Earlier this month, I was looking on a blog for work (yes, I sometimes get to read blogs for work, kinda awesome when i do) when I saw a post for a "kid-friendly" apple cake. The blogger was playing it up as super-healthy because it had DHA in it from flax. Okay, yes, technically you can get DHA from the ALA actually present in flax, but the human body isn't very good at making that conversion happen. And the original recipe contained 1 cup of sugar, plus 1/2 cup of butter. And that's before the topping, which also had a fair amount of butter and sugar.

Kid-friendly because it's super sweet? Fine. But maybe not the best option. The original recipe also used white whole wheat flour, which is fantastic (whole grains, whoo!), unless you're trying for a gluten-free diet.

I intentionally did not use guar gum or xantham gum in this recipe--quick breads don't always need it. That may be part of the reason that this cake is a little crumbly. It could also be that I used closer to 3 cups of chunked apples, or whole oats (which can be a problem for some people with gluten-sensitivity or intolerance, please ask if you don't know for sure). Or maybe I just didn't let it cool enough after initially coming out of the oven. It did get more solid as I let it cool.

The original recipe didn't contain any extra salt (maybe the blogger used salted butter, but the post didn't indicate one way or the other), so I added some because salt is a flavor enhancer. I also added cardamom and cloves because I enjoy the flavors. Also, it's just the time of year when I want the house to smell of sweet spices. As E put it when she came down in the morning, "It's that time of year, isn't it, when there's lots of baking?" I look forward to baking with her during these next few months, when the days are shorter and cooler.

I'd been wanting to make this recipe for a while, because it seemed like a fun thing to do with some of the extra going-soft apples I had around. I've already made applesauce this season (and will again) and still have some in my freezer. I wanted a different option. But I didn't really want a lot of bread. When my friend Rachael came for a visit, I decided it would be the perfect time to make this cake. I wanted to make it a lot less sweet and serve it with breakfast. I could send her on the road with some. And, because we planned to do a lot of hiking, it would be something fortifying we could eat in the morning and feel fuller with for a while.

The morning I made this, I also heated up some black beans Rachael brought with her, in a chipotle-peanut butter sauce and let them cook until the sauce thickened around them, which added extra protein to the meal--protein + whole grains = staying power. We spread a little extra butter on the bread, but a lot less than the recipe originally called for. Sometimes, I find spreading fresh butter on a bread lets me actually taste the butter, which I appreciate if I'm going to be eating those calories anyway. Then, we went hiking and walking through town and hiking again. And in between, we baked other things. Magical.

To make this vegan: substitute the egg for a flax seed egg, commercial egg replacer, or a banana, and use a vegan margarine or olive oil in place of butter. I used water in my recipe, but a milk alternative would work as well--and the original recipe used regular, low-fat milk.

Not-Too-Sweet Chunky Apple Cake (Gluten-Free)
Dry Ingredients
1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (GF)
1 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Mix together in a large bowl and set aside while you mix the wet ingredients.

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon ground flax
1 1/2 cups water or low-fat milk
1 egg, beaten

Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often. Add the vanilla, flax, and water or milk and remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes. Stir in the egg. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Other
2 cups (or 3) chopped apples

Brown sugar
Cinnamon, optional

Stir the chopped apples and pour batter into a 9" greased pie pan or round cake pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with brown sugar and cinnamon, if using. Bake in an oven preheat to 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

With butter


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