If there is a consolation for summer's end and that consolation came in the form of food, it would be apples, no? They are the very essence of goodness. And, yes, evil too, for the classicists among you. And in our home they're both. Ben has an allergy to raw apples and we act as if our kids have it, too. It used to stress me out because of course apples are such a common snack that everyone gives them to kids. It's not like nuts where people double check before serving them at play dates. It amazed me how early both of our kids starting looking after this themselves. Even our toddler hands me an apple and says, "Cook" when he wants one. Even though I could, I never eat a raw apple at home — I feel bad about it somehow. But cooked? Oh, yeah baby. We almost always have apple sauce on the go. Or I'll keep a container of cooked, diced apple to toss onto oatmeal in the mornings. But baking with apples is the best. Nothing can beat the smell of something apple-y, cinnamon-y, cake-y in the oven.
I came across this recipe in a recent special edition of the sadly-one Gourmet magazine. They're freakishly simple to make yet quite impressive looking. And they're not too sweet which is how I like desserts. The cornmeal gives a really nice crumb to the cake. You could serve these with a dollop of whipped cream for a casual fall dinner party or just eat them plain when you start craving something at 3:30 pm.… We had them both ways and they were delicious. No evil in these cakes at all, just goodness.
photos by Maya Visnyei
Apple Upside Down Cornmeal Cakes
Makes 6 cakes
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (plus butter for muffin tins)
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/3 inch dice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly butter the muffin tins.
In a large sautee pan, melt 2 Tbsp of butter then toss in your apples, lemon juice and brown sugar. Stir well with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and the apples are coated. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. The butter and sugar will reduce into a glaze and the apples will become just tender. Stir in the chopped nuts. Evenly distribute the apple mixture into the bottom of the muffin tins. I had too much and saved about a cup of the mixture and used it in porridge the next day. You don't want it to fill each cup more than one third full.
Toss your flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt until it's all well mixed. Add the last 4 Tbsps of cold butter and use your fingers to pinch the pieces of butter. Keep tossing into the flour mixture until you have a coarse meal.
Whisk together the egg and milk. Pour the egg and milk into flour and cornmeal mixture and stir until it is well combined. Pour your batter over the apples. Leave a tiny bit of space between the batter and the top of the tin or it will puff over as it cooks. Pop in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it, the cornmeal will make the batter turn dark very quickly.
Allow the cakes to cool a bit in the muffin tin. Then use a butter knife to run around the edges of each cake. Place a plate on top of the cakes in the muffin tin then invert the whole thing. Gently pull the muffin tin off. If a bit of apple is stuck in the tin just spoon it out and press it back onto each cake. Serve plain or with a bit of whipped cream.