Why not upset the apple cart? If you don't, the apples will rot anyway.
- Frank A. Clark
The New Year is swiftly approaching, but before we pop the cork on that bottle of bubbly we still have the time to savor the last few days of this year, playing with the toys we have received from loved ones, putting up our feet and watching one more Christmas movie, the last slice of pie nabbed, plated and on our lap. We watch as the leftovers disappear from the fridge, never fast enough, although we know that all those plastic containers of turkey and relish, stuffing, salads and bûche de noël will save us from having to cook another meal quite yet. We sit in our favorite comfy chair and sigh contentedly, smiling at those who gather round us as we tiptoe towards January first and a new year. So just take a breath and, before we commit ourselves to those big, impossible resolutions, let’s have a little more cake and think it all through.
New Year’s Resolutions.
The time is once more upon us when we sit down and, pen and paper in hand, draw up that impossible list of resolutions, that endless list of promises to ourselves, promises rarely kept. This cold, cold month comes to a rousing, bubbly conclusion and as the end draws nigh something odd and inexplicable takes over us. All power of sensible thinking comes screeching to a halt and irrational thoughts flood our poor over-holidayed brain. All of those heavy meals and sweets must have made us delirious, intoxicated by one too many candy cane or marshmallow Santa. Maybe it was the days and days of stirring cookie dough, pushing heaping spoonful after heaping spoonful of the stuff onto innumerable cookie sheets and putting a tray in, pulling a tray out and replacing it with yet another tray of even more little mounds of cookie dough. Maybe it was all that sentimental “Good will towards men” stuff, all the presents that softened our hearts, all those Christmas specials and maudlin, wistful black and white holiday films that did the job. Spending time with beaming grandparents or too many giddy little kids, thoughts of jolly Old Saint Nick sliding down yet another chimney or all the dazzling, glittery candles and fairy lights that blinded us, the frivolity of the season and the festive preparations for New Year’s Eve made us go all wobbly and weak-kneed and completely lose all sense of reason. And in a moment of nostalgia and sanctimoniousness, of feel-good pluck, believing that anything is within our reach, we do it.
We pull out pen and paper and begin the list.
Glancing over past lists, we shake our head in disbelief and wonder how we can, year after year, set the bar so high, pledging to ourselves and anyone within listening range that we will do this or that as if the simple act of turning over a page on the calendar will make us better, more determined, more resolute. And it usually comes to nothing. As the January days turn gray and dreary, as the lights are taken down and boxed back up, the feel-good holiday joy and frivolity slowly turns back into winter slump.
Comfort me with apples.
- Song of Solomon 2:5
Starting a new year is both exciting and scary, a time of reflection, thanks and wishes. We hope for great things yet are unsure of what it will bring. This year, I have decided not to try putting together a list of resolutions, no matter how reasonable, promises to myself, for I know that I am lazy and that, no matter the good intentions, I would much rather be baking.
I also know that very little will change my writer’s heart, my writer’s self-doubt, my writer’s emotions. I would love to tell myself that I will be more steadfast and focused, that I will work more quickly, that I will neither take myself nor the world around me so seriously nor allow myself the luxury of feeling low, hesitant, questioning my place in the world, measuring my own success and failure against others and always coming out behind.
I know that this will never change; I am who I am. And so I have decided to remind myself what I have earned in 2013, of the good things that have come to me. I will celebrate what I have received, the friends I have made, the people who have touched me with their love and encouragement and allow that to inspire my 2014. Instead of making claims to a future that does not yet exist in an attempt to change the way that I fundamentally am, I will look back as a way to influence my future actions, motivate my creativity, reassure myself of my road. And remind myself of all that I truly appreciate.
Fulfilling my passions, achieving my goals, inspiring others and allowing others to inspire and motivate me, creating new friendships, new partnerships, reinforcing the old. Wallowing in the love and laughter that fills our home while putting the troubles into perspective, taking them one day at a time. These are the building blocks of a new year.
Don't get fancy. Have you cooked an apple pie? You don't know what you did wrong? Do this: Take two or three apples. Put them on a table. Study them.
- Paul Prudhomme
I end 2013 and lead into 2014 with apples. Homey, comforting apples baked warm, meltingly smooth and oh so sweet. The mysterious, forbidden apple, the symbol of both love and sexuality to some, sweetness and new beginnings to others. To yet others, the apple embodies home. Whether baking an all-American apple pie or a very French apple galette, whether dipping apples in honey at the Jewish New Year or baking them into puff pastry at Epiphany, puddings, coffee cakes and yeasty apple-filled wreaths, the apple is the one single fruit that is at home in both everyday comfort food and elegant treats, eaten all the year round at every occasion. And there is no better way to welcome in a new year than with something homey, comforting, warm and sweet.
For more apple recipes, visit my Favorite Recipes page.
Makes 6 or 7 individual crumbles For the Apples :
4 – 5 cups apple cubes, about 5 small to medium-sized apples *
2 Tbs brown sugar (granulated brown sugar or light brown packed sugar)
2 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
* I used Cox Orange – very sweet with a slight tartness, an apple that becomes meltingly smooth when baked.
For the Apple Crumble Topping:
1 cup (130 g) flour 2 pinches salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup (50 g) granulated white sugar
¼ cup (55 g) packed or granulated light brown sugar
½ cup (115 g) cold butter, cubed
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place 6 individual ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.
Prepare the fruit filling:
Peel and core the apples; chop into small cubes. Toss with the sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Spoon the prepared fruit into the waiting ramekins, evenly dividing it between the cups and piling it up a bit – remember that cooked fruit will shrink. Push little cubes of apples in any gap or space.
Prepare the crumble topping:
Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter in a large mixing bowl. Toss until well combined. Add the cubes of cold butter and, using your fingertips, rub or work the butter into the dry ingredients until there are no more chunks of butter and the mixture resembles rough damp sand or crumbs.
Divide the crumble mixture evenly between the ramekins, spooning it generously on top of the fruit. Gently press the crumble topping down onto the fruit just to keep it from falling off of the fruit and onto the baking sheet.
Bake the ramekins on the baking sheet for 35 – 40 minutes until the crumble puffs up and turns a light golden color; the fruit should be bubbling in the ramekins and up around the edges of the crumble. It may even begin to dribble down the sides of the ramekins .