Overnight, the brisk Fall weather descended on the Northeastern seaboard. On an early morning drive to the Mid-Hudson Valley under sunny skies, the leaves of a few trees had already changed color. As usual, our first stop was in Red Hook at our favorite diner, a chrome classic from the 20s, aptly named ,“Village Historic Diner.” Our always cheerful waitress Anne brought hearty omelets—and a couple of local gossip tidbits. Next we headed over to Montgomery Orchard farm stand, a regular stop for fresh produce. The stand doesn’t try to carry everything, but all produce and prepared foods it does carry from its own fields and other nearby farms is top quality. They also have the best Raspberry Jam I have ever tasted.
The last time we visited Montgomery a few weeks earlier, there were tables of heirloom tomatoes, lettuces and late summer vegetables. As we approached the stand on this particular morning, the color palette has changed dramatically into a seas of red with highlights of autumnal tones. Fall is definitely here to stay. The choices of apples are endless. There are familiar names such as Macoun, Crispin, Gala, Ginger Gold and Jonagold. There are also extensive varieties of heirloom apples, names that are unfamiliar to me, but Montgomery provides interesting histories for all varieties.
After chatting with the lady behind the counter, she recommended the Arlet as her and others favorite baking apple. I tried a sample. It had a nice balance of sweet and tart; a structure that when baked softens to a velvety texture but still hold its shape. I immediately bought a few pounds and eager to see if it worked as well in the kitchen. They also host an annual Apple Pie baking contest which will be held on Oct 16 this year. That day, the executive chef from the Rhinecliff Hotel was debating whether or not to enter this year.
Even though my first inclination was to bake an Apple Pie, I ended up with a much more decadent idea in mind. With Halloween around the corner, I want my take on a Toffee Apple that will bring out the kid in every adult. Toffee Apple Cake spiked with Calvados and drizzled with Brandy Butterscotch Sauce. The kids can have all the candies during Halloween but it’ll be the adults who will have a big smile on their faces.
Toffee Apple Cake
adapted from Lara Atkins
3 cups all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cups plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 large Arlet or Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch dice, about 5 cups
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons calvados or brandy
BRANDY BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup water
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoon brandy
1. Preheat the oven to 325° and position rack on lower middle position. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk oil and granulated sugar until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until combined. Add almond extract if use. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Batter will be very thick. Fold in the diced apples with a rubber spatula.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool slightly.
5. While cake is baking, combine butter, cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stir constantly until thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in brandy and vanilla. Set glaze aside and cool slightly.
6. Place the warm cake (still in its pan) on a rimmed baking sheet if you are using a springform tube pan. Poke the cake lightly with a long toothpick and pour the warm glaze over the cake and let it seep into the cake. It will look like you are drowning the cake, but rest assure it will all get soaked into the cake. Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours. Invert the cake onto a plate, and invert again onto another plate, right side up.
7. To make the butterscotch sauce: combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Using a moistened pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Cook without stirring until it turned a medium-amber color, about 5 minutes.
8. Remove from the heat and quickly but carefully stir in the cream and butter. Return pan to heat source and simmer the sauce over low heat until butter is fully incorporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the brandy. Pour the butterscotch sauce into a pitcher and let cool slightly.
1. Slice cake to desire portion. Place a slice of Apple Toffee Cake on a dessert plate and drizzled Brandy Butterscotch Sauce.