Every autumn, mom has buckets brimming full of golden delicious or fujis harvested from her San Jose suburban backyard. There's always something magical growing in unsuspecting branches or vines...baseball sized pomegranates, darling dates, long green squashes, fire peppers, honey nectarines. For me, the hallmark of autumn is a hand picked apple from mom's house. When the boy and I moved up to San Francisco, we made less trips to San Jose, so instead, my brother, Vince would be coaxed to deliver the treasured cargo. But there would always be a bucket or a generous bag for me...as far back as the first years when I lived on my own.
I never told my mom, but over the years, I'd be sharing my apple stash with coworkers, neighbors and friends. Friendships forged through apples. There was a time, when even a ceo at work declared that nothing tasted better than one of mai's mom's apples!
|apples from my mama's tree (autumn 2011)|
I bought 6 pippins from the woman dressed in red mayan weaves. I paid 8 quetzals (about a dollar). Rubbing the apple on my jeans, the boy and I shared one on the boat ride back, the wind and lake mist brushing against fearless cheeks. They're not as sweet as back home but very good nonetheless.
With my apples, I later made several wonderful cakes, by caramelizing them first as if you were making a tart tatin, then adding them to the yogurt cake batter. I shared one cake with Miguel and Mateo (the house crew on the lake house) who'd been hauling large rocks on foreheads to rebuild the dock...the result of water raising daily from rains. They smiled when I gave them each a piece wrapped in customary cloth.
Last night, we ran out of gas and I left the kitchen door open...the boy and I later argued...an act of war. This morning, when the gas tank was refilled, I sliced the last of the apples. The smell as the cake baked, filled every space of the oven, the kitchen and beyond...mixing with the lake air and clouds, bringing a sweet tide of calm and gratitude. The boy and I finally made peace over a piece...licking the caramel from our fingers.
Can apples make a better world?
Caramel Apple Yogurt Cake (use the yogurt cake batter)
1 and a half medium apple or 1 large apple (a firm apple, granny smith, golden, fuji, pippin, sliced)
4 tablespoons of butter (for the caramel)
3 tablespoons of sugar (for the caramel)
yogurt cake 3-2-1 batter (3 eggs, 2 c flour, 1 c yogurt, 1 c sugar, 1/3 oil, baking powder, salt)
Pre-heat oven to 200 C or 400 F while you make the batter. Set batter aside. Liberally grease a 10 inch cake pan.
For the caramel apples or apples tatin, in a pan, add butter and sugar on a medium heat. Allow the butter and sugar to form a very light, bubbly caramel. Arrange the sliced apples into a circle or free form. Cover with a lid and allow the apples to cook through...but not entirely. Keep to low heat. When the apples are ready (firm yet, you can pierce a knife easily through them), pour the apples and caramel into the greased cake pan. Spread the caramel out to the edges of the pan and arrange apples. (Also, if the pan is large enough and oven proof, pour the batter directly in the pan and bake it).
Pour the batter in the cake pan. Lower heat to 180 C or 350 F. Place pan in the center rack. Back for 30-35 minutes until the top is brown and you can slip a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean. Allow the cake to sit in the pan for another 5 minutes inside the oven. Run the knife on the sides and flip the cake over. Allow it to cool for another 5. Best to slice and eat right away when the caramel is still warm.