Wednesday, December 8, 2010

two holiday party-worthy apple desserts

Holiday parties often mean bringing a dish to share, and if you're sick of bringing dip, or nut mix, or the usual cookie platter, I've got two fantastic dessert options for you, both using apples. (Uh, I hope you like apples.)

Last month, I made a spiced applesauce cake for a cozy Sunday night dinner with some friends. As far as desserts go, applesauce cake sounds really boring, but this one was a keeper--moist, rich with spices, and topped with the most delicious cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It was kind of like a carrot cake, but with apples. Dan and I ate every last crumb and I've been thinking about it ever since. Applesauce cake, who knew? And if you're headed to a potluck or dinner party, it's sturdy enough to travel and can be cut into nice little squares upon arrival. Everyone will love you and your cake.

My other current apple obsession is of a warmer variety: ginger-apple crisp. My recipe is a fairly classic version that's jazzed up with little bits of crystallized ginger in the crumbly topping. It's the kind of dessert that begs to be served piping hot with a melty scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. For parties, simply prep your apples and place them in a baking dish, then prep the topping and put it in a plastic bag. When you arrive, put everything in the refrigerator, then during dinner, assemble the crisp and bake it in the oven. Easy!

Spiced applesauce cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting

From Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen
(Serves 6 to 8 people)

For cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped (I reserved the nuts and sprinkled them on top of the frosting)

For frosting:
5 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using). Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Remove the cake from its pan onto a rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake. Top with nuts, if desired.

Ginger-apple crisp

Adapted (heavily) from Ina Garten via the Food Network.
(serves 5 people)

For the filling:
2 1/2 lbs. apples (I used Braeburn)
1 1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. apple or pumpkin pie spice

For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup oatmeal
¼ cup crystallized ginger, plus extra full pieces for garnish
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 14 by 2-inch oval baking dish. Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the lemon juice, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, ginger, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and top each serving with a piece of crystallized ginger.


Unknown said...

Any apple dishes, any I haven't tried, are alright with me. These look like great stuff.

Daniel said...

We just watched a Jamie Oliver show in which he said he doesn't bother coring the apples when cutting them up for desserts. What do people think of this?

Judy said...

Core! Or a tree will grow in your Brooklyn stomach.

Lisa said...

Tender Branson: Thank you! Hope you try (and like) them.

Daniel & Judy: Agreed--you must core. That is weird.


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