Thursday, September 16, 2010

Apple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cakes

Although Gourmet is sadly no longer a monthly periodical, Gourmet did recently release a special issue, Gourmet Quick Kitchen, which is a compilation of recipes from over the years that almost all take 30 minutes or less to prepare. In a show of support and solidarity of Gourmet (and a deep hope that it will return to its former glory), I picked up a copy, though I balked slightly at the price. With my current obsession with apples, I immediately bookmarked this recipe. This past weekend I visited the most adorable and authentic-feeling apple orchard I've been to, Appleberry Farm. Although it doesn't look as authentic as other orchards I've been to, such as Eplegaarden, which had many rustic old farm buildings and equipment, this orchard just felt genuine.
These cakes are delightful, individually-sized desserts that are a snap to make and a combination of classic flavors, sure to be a crowd-pleaser. If you like apple cake, you'll probably like these adorable little cakes too. If you're not a fan of nuts, leave them out; almonds and pecans would also work well in this recipe and pears would make a nice substitute for part or all of the apples. Although the recipe suggests serving with slightly sweetened whipped cream, I think vanilla bean ice cream would be another excellent accompaniment.

Apple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cakes
from Gourmet
serves 6

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces, plus additional for greasing
3 Gala apples
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (1 3/4 oz)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk

Special equipment: a muffin pan with 6 (1-cup) muffin cups
Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream

1. Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Butter muffin cups. Peel and core apples, then cut into 1/3-inch dice.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook apples, brown sugar, and lemon juice, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a glaze and apples are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Stir in walnuts and divide apple mixture among muffin cups.

4. Pulse together flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

5. Whisk together egg and milk in a large bowl. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

6. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of a cake comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.

7. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake to loosen. Invert rack over muffin cups, then invert cakes onto rack. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.

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