Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apple Pie and Beyond

Autumn's our favorite season for many reasons: perfect weather, football games, holidays, and—at the top of the list—an abundance of newly harvested apples. In many rural areas, orchard owners invite visitors to pick their own fruit; at city markets, local and "heirloom" apples such as Cortland, Gravenstein, and Baldwin join popular varieties like Delicious and Granny Smith.

We love biting into a fresh, crunchy apple as much as the next person, but the apple bounty is also an irresistible call to the stovetop and oven. Join us as we explore the many ways to enjoy apples, from breakfast to late-night snacks, from Halloween through New Year's Eve.

As American as…

Agave Sangria

Apples originated in Central Asia, spread throughout Europe, and came to the New World with the first Europeans, who carried sapling trees as well as fruit for eating en route. The trees didn't fare well in the harsh New England climate, but the seeds from the apples grew into hardy trees whose fruit was perfect for making hard cider, the favored beverage of early settlers. Cider—alcoholic or non—is still one of our favorite ways to enjoy apples. Serve our Spiced Cider Punch well chilled at a football party or open house (add applejack or rum for an alcoholic version). For a warm greeting at a winter gathering, offer Hot Mulled Cider or Hot Spiced Cider, two variations on a traditional theme.

And you don't need to wait for Christmas to make a batch of Santa's Little Helper cocktails. Our ingredient list includes rye whiskey, but you may also omit it and substitute additional unfiltered apple juice.

Halloween treats

Candy Apples

Bobbing for apples, a popular harvest-time game, goes back to the Roman conquest of Britain. But candy apples are an American tradition: They were invented in 1908 by a candymaker in Newark, New Jersey, who put them in his shop window as a display. Customers clamored to buy them, and they've been popular ever since. With a candy thermometer and some wooden skewers, you can make them at home. Our bright-red Candy Apples are similar to the 1908 originals, while our Caramel Apples, coated in rich caramel and chopped nuts, add extra flavor and texture to the classic recipe.

Oatmeal Apple Cookies

Pumpkin-carving and costume prep burn a lot of energy! Be sure to have some apple goodies on hand for your trick-or-treaters (and yourself). Our Oatmeal Apple Cookies are tender and moist; the recipe makes six dozen, so everyone can have seconds. Cranberry Apple Cookies are full of fruit and extra-delicious when dunked (milk for kids, hot tea for grownups).

Chunky Applesauce

And while you have the kids in the kitchen, why not invite them to help make one of the easiest and most satisfying of apple recipes: Chunky Applesauce! Older children can handle chopping, coring, and cooking; little ones will love smashing the cooked apples with a fork or potato masher.

Give thanks for apples

Apple Crumb Pie

Apples fit into every course of the Thanksgiving feast! Start with a crunchy and colorful Winter Green Salad with Pears and Apple Cider Vinaigrette (feel free to substitute sliced apples for pears). Or present our beautiful Cranberry Apple Waldorf Mold: bright, flavorful, and delicious. Alongside the turkey, serve our Raw Cranberry Relish, made with apples, oranges, and orange zest for a tangy, refreshing counterpoint. (No cooking required, so you'll have more stovetop room for other dishes!) We also like to include some sliced or chopped raw apple in the stuffing: it adds moisture as well as subtle texture and sweetness.

Rustic Apple Pie

Of course, it's at dessert when apples really take center stage. We return every season to our Delicious American Apple Pie, a classic double-crust recipe that never fails to please. For a quicker alternative that's equally yummy, try our Apple Crumb Pie with an oats-flour-butter-and-sugar topping. Also easy: Rustic Apple Pie, whose freeform shape makes it similar to a galette; and Apple Crisp (can substitute bread crumbs for the cake meal), which is especially good reheated the next morning at breakfast (if you have leftovers!).

Apple Crisp

For more apple-dessert ideas, just enter "apple" in the search field of our website!

Apple-icious holidays

Agave Holiday Spice Cake

Apples fit into every holiday celebration, whether you're staying home or traveling to visit friends or relatives. For a winter open house, make an impressive-looking (and delicious) centerpiece with the help of a Bundt or fluted tube pan. Our very popular Cocoa Apple Cake—"best apple cake ever!" raves one customer—is rich, chocolatey, and just sweet enough. We also love Honey Cake with Apple Glaze —a rich spice cake with a hint of apple in the topping—and Homey Apple Cake, easy to make in a single bowl. And don't be misled by "coffee cake" in the name: Our Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake, baked in a large Bundt pan, is both elegant looking and scrumptious, with a surprise in every bite.

Shortbread Apple Bars

Planning a more casual gathering? Make a tempting tray for tree-trimmers or carolers with Cranberry Apple Cookies, Oatmeal Apple Cookies, Shortbread Apple Bars, and sliced Fresh Apple Nut Bread with Streusel Topping. Or use our delicious Organic Amber Agave Nectar sweetener to create the season-perfect Agave Holiday Spice Cake. Don't forget the hot apple cider!

Cozy mornings

Fresh Apple Nut Bread

Rain, sleet, snow: three good reasons to stay in your pajamas and make pancakes, waffles, or toast ... all of which become extra special with the addition of apple toppings. We love Agave Apple Butter (made in a Crock-Pot) and Apple Maple Preserves (great for gift-giving, too!). Our chunky Happy Apple Topping is delicious spooned over Apple Raisin Bread Pudding at any time of day.

Apple Streusel Muffins

For a healthy snack—or the perfect addition to a breakfast or brunch tray—whip up a batch of Apple Streusel Muffins, made with a moist sour-cream batter and a crunchy topping. Or use our versatile Muffin Mix to make Cinnamon Apple Muffins, just one of the variations possible with this baking shortcut. And if you thought Baked Apples were only for dessert, think again! Topped with our easy Microwave Caramel Sauce and a little yogurt or cream, they make a delectably healthy brunch dish.

Apple New Year!

Apple Streusel Choux

Elevate apples from everyday to elegant with festive appetizers and desserts that spotlight the fruit's natural qualities. Brie with Brown Sugar and Nuts is surprisingly easy to make and guaranteed to elicit admiring "oohs" from guests. Or try a different twist on apples and cheese for an appetizer party: our Rustic Apple and Cheese Pie, made with your own piecrust or with packaged pastry.

Spicy Apple Chiffon Cake with Apple Frosting and Apple Chips

For the pièce de résistance, we turned to two of our favorite celebrity chefs, who shared their recipes for desserts worthy of a grand New Year's Eve party. From San Francisco's Elizabeth Falkner comes Apple Streusel Choux, which starts with a rich cream-cheese pastry (the choux) and adds a walnut streusel topping and sweetened sautéed apples. It's stunning to behold and scrumptious to eat. Elizabeth also developed our Festive Loaf Cake with Winter Compote, a modern twist on the traditional fruitcake that skips the alcohol and uses fresh and dried seasonal fruits: pears, pomegranates, and—of course—apples. Flo Braker, another San Francisco baking celebrity, created a Spicy Apple Chiffon Cake with Apple Frosting and Apple Chips for us. The cake and frosting are flavored with apple juice; the "chips" are made by dipping thin-sliced apples in sugar syrup and baking them at a low temperature. The recipe requires a little extra work, but we're certain you and your guests will find the results well worth it!

Have we overlooked one of your own favorite apple recipes? Drop us a line and share it with us! And from our kitchen to yours, best wishes for a sweet season.

Quick Tip: According to the California Apple Commission, the best way to preserve apples without sacrificing texture, flavor, and color is to pack them in sugar or sugar syrup. Here are some suggestions from the commission for freezing and canning apples.

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