article and recipe by Chef Kelly Unger
I always try to give you healthy if not balanced nutritional recipes to make the most of our delicious market ingredients. But this week, I’m throwing balance to the wind and sharing a decadent apple dessert, my Maple Apple Bourbon Gooey Butter Cake. That’s right, gooey butter cake. We are not counting calories today. It is just as it sounds; gooey, full of rich butter, maple and apple flavor, accented with the depth of Bourbon and decadently sweet. It’s not a fancy looking cake but after one bite, you won’t notice. Warning: you should sit down when you take a bite because you may fall over from the deliciousness.
But first, let’s give apples their nutritional spotlight. Yes, it’s true, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Concentrated nutrition and antioxidants in the skin as well as being deeply hydrating, apples contain electrolytes, trace minerals and critical mineral salts. “Never underestimate the power of an apple. This fruit’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a top pick when you’re faced with practically any illness… Red-skinned apples with the most color are best.” says Anthony William in his book Life-Changing Foods.
Apples work well in savory dishes as well as sweet ones. Normandy, France, famous for its apple production and products like Calvados (apple brandy) and hard cider, uses apples in myriad desserts as well as in pork stews and other roasted meats. Normandy’s apples, while numerous and delicious, are not pretty eating apples. Normandy apples are for cooking. A strong flavored, firm apple is what is called a cooking apple. A sweet, crisp and juicy apple is what is called an eating apple.
And what about the term heirloom? What does that even mean? Well, generally speaking, heirloom refers to varieties that were grown before large scale commercial farming, before WW2, about 50 to 100 years ago.
If you’re a fan of heirloom varieties of apples, or any fruit or vegetable, you must read the story of Lee Calhoun from North Carolina. He has single handedly saved the South’s heirloom apple varieties. Read about Lee here: The Local Palate – Meet Lee Calhoun. Beyond the flavor of an heirloom apple, I love the names, like: Orleans Reinnette (a very old French variety with a slight orange flavor), King David (a crisp and spicy cross between Johnathan and Arkansas Black), Ribston Pippin (from Normandy, France to Yorkshire England to America, firm crisp yellow flesh with a pear taste), Pink Pearl (pink fleshed with a hint of grapefruit flavor), Roxbury Russet (from Massacheussets, the first American apple), Ashmead’s Kernel (a very old European variety for the connoisseur), Spitzenburg (from Upstate NY, a favorite of Thomas Jefferson), Arkansas Black, and Calville Blanc, just to name a few. Heirlooms like Cortland, Winesap, Mutsu and Northern Spy are some of the heirloom varieties we can find at our farmers market. I find these flavor distinctions and history fascinating! Heaven surely contains an apple orchard.
I’m also sharing my crumble topping recipe. When you’d like a dessert but don’t want to shoot your blood sugar into space, my crumble topping is an easy go-to. Just cook some apples in a little butter and a little brown sugar in a saute pan for a few minutes – and you wouldn’t be wrong to add a few tablespoons of rum, Bourbon or Calvados – then put them in a pie plate and top with my crumble. Pop it in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crumble is browned. You’ve got a well balanced dessert to make the most of the season. Enjoy!