After many months of feeling uninspired in the kitchen, the desire to spend hours tending to recipes and experiments has come back strong. I am making kimchi, and nourishing broths, and soups, and trying my hand at a gluten-free sourdough starter again. I am roasting vegetables, and letting little failures be okay, and indulging in recipe-less improvisation, and loving it. Perhaps cooking, like weather, is seasonal; it’s in the colder months that being in the kitchen makes the most sense. It feels good and right to spend my hours in the warmest part of the house, with the stove blazing, and I am enjoying it more than I have for most of this year.
This recipe is from my cookbook, and I’ve been itching to make it since apple season peaked. But between travel and work projects, it’s been put off until now. I bought some Pink Pearl apples before they disappeared from the market; they’ve been tucked into the coldest part of my fridge since then. They were past their prime, certainly, but isn’t that a function of quick breads? To save the over-ripe apples, pears, or bananas from going to waste.
Stacy, who was my right-hand lady while making my cookbook, also made this bread recently. It’s amazing to have a record of your own experience from another perspective; kind of like having a snapshot from a moment in time, one that calls to mind details that may have been forgotten, or were never noticed to begin with.
As for this simple cake, it’s an excellent representation of what I recall from the cookbook process. First and foremost, it’s delicious. Also, we tested it about a dozen times, past the point when I had the recipe memorized. I ate a lot of apple cake in late summer last year, and I never tired of it. This started as a loaf cake with a ribbon of apple and sage through the middle, took on varying amounts of sage, migrated into a square pan, always had a crumble atop. We were determined to bring to life Kimberley’s vision of Pink Pearl apple and grassy-green sage poking through the cake, to perfect the texture for both the gluten-free and gluten-eaters among us, to make both savory and sweet notes clear but not overpowering. And here you have the result.
I had forgotten that we went through so many iterations (perhaps a little shy of a dozen), but it’s true. I have proclaimed that I give up on recipes long before they make it to twelve tries — clearly there are exceptions. This was worth those many attempts to arrive where we are: a version of a coffee cake with a comforting crumb, an intriguing savory note by way of the sage that is really the star, and all of the glorious, cozy notes of cold-weather treats: brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg.
A couple weekends ago I took a quick trip up to Portland; I’m seriously thinking about moving there but having a hard time making that decision. The photos interspersed throughout are from that weekend.
Apple Sage Walnut Bread
from Vibrant Food
makes 8-10 servings
1 cup brown rice flour (or use all-purpose flour)
1 cup oat flour (or use all-purpose)
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup applesauce
2 small red apples, cored and diced
1/3cup rolled oats
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons oat flour (or use all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown rice and oat flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk with a fork until blended.
In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, olive oil, yogurt, and applesauce. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Gently mix in the diced apples. The batter will be quite thick, especially if you are using all-purpose flour.
To prepare the topping, in a bowl, mix together the oats, walnuts, flour, brown sugar, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Using your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture is well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the batter.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes before serving.