Last Monday was Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, according to a publicity campaign from a travel company. This pseudoscience was based on a formula including factors such as weather conditions, debt level (i.e. debt from the holidays, I assume vs ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action. Needless to say this is rubbish. Any day could be really bad for anyone, just as it could go stupendously well for another.
How is it that we’re more than halfway through January? The three-week stretch before the holidays felt like the longest and slowest marathon of parties, get-togethers, preparation, shopping and errands and then Boom! time moves in lightning speeds.
It was lovely to spend some relaxing time with our loved ones once the flurry of pre-Christmas stuff settled down. The beau’s brother and his girlfriend flew in for the holidays, so it was quite a treat to have the entire family around the table on Christmas Eve. I remember when we were kids, my cousins and I were too eager and impatient for everybody to show up so we could eat then open our gifts. As an adult, one thinks about how to keep the kids preoccupied so we can enjoy each other’s company in peace. On the beau’s side, the girls are old enough that they engage in our conversations–they have very interesting things to say! We don’t have to give them toys and talk over the noise of their toys! Ha. On my side, my nephews are four and five, living and breathing dinosaurs, Transformers and Angry Birds. They can be really blunt and honest, which make gift-opening around the tree hilarious. You never really know how they’d react or what they would say. Oh, I don’t like that! [My gifting success average has been great so far when it comes to them. I pick items based on what I would like if I was a kid. Now what does that say about me?] Christmas reminds me of how fun it was to be very young and carefree, but then I’m glad I can sit back and appreciate the comfort of, and being with, family.
Living in a beautiful city–a prime winter destination at that–means getting a chance to repeatedly explore it like tourists whenever friends and family visit. The beau and his brother love skiing so a day trip to Whistler during their short stay was a no-brainer. Vancouver being Vancouver, it did take a bit of wrestling with weather scheduling, but in the end one should just go and prepare for the worst. It wasn’t a great snow day for our skiing companions, but the rest of us who roamed the village and took the leisurely gondola ride between Whistler and Blackcomb didn’t have much to complain about the view and the powder.
I must admit that dating a German who loves to cook and bake–his mom and his mom’s partner are no strangers to the kitchen, too–has opened up a whole new delectable world for me, far beyond the usual Black Forest Cake and Strudel. It has been a process, though. It takes years for him to share recipes with me. My favorite beer-based chocolate cupcake that he makes? A year. And the scones? A few months more.
This Versunkener Apfelkuchen? Three years. Let that information slowly sink in like the apples on this beautiful cake. To be fair, he didn’t make this for us until now. Sometimes these revelations feels akin to a rite of passage, like winning an achievement badge in Foursquare: Relationship Edition. After he baked this the second time I just had to learn how to make it AND share it with you.
I love how simple it is, requiring readily-available ingredients. It’s not too sweet, letting the apples be the star of the cake. It also keeps well in the freezer and can be transported without much fuss—sprinkle the powdered sugar when you get to your party and enjoy.
This has been a favorite this season. We’ve made it many times since Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s a wonderful fruity dessert alternative to heavy and creamy staples on the table, like the beloved pumpkin pie in all its variations. I love it, just absolutely love it. And so do family and friends who have repeatedly requested this cake for many different occasions.
The most time-intensive part of making this cake is preparing the apples—coring, peeling and slicing ever so carefully to look like an accordion (or Hasselback potatoes). It’s pretty much a breeze afterwards.
I feel like it’s okay to talk about Pumpkin Pie now. It’s the first of October and Our Canadian Thanksgiving is two weeks away. Pretty soon my inbox would receive a trickle of requests for a “foolproof” pumpkin pie recipe.
Well, this is it. This is what I’ve been making the past 5 years whenever the occasion calls for it. It has received nothing but praises and and an occasional whine when the last wedge has been taken. It has an enormous amount of spices, but you’ll appreciate them once you taste the finished pie. I promise it’s not overwhelming once it’s baked. This Fall favorite goes extra smooth and creamy, and is light. The understated crust is up to the task of keeping its hefty boss intact and allowing it to shine. It’s flaky without being too buttery.
Make it once and you’ll make it all the time from thereon. I’ve baked one a week ago and I’m craving for more. Oh, dear.
I wish I could say I concocted this recipe, but all the credit goes to America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated. If you have yet to subscribe to that fine publication, I’m telling you now to do it. It has saved my kitchen dilemmas numerous times. I highly recommend the digital subscription because you’ll have access to their magazines and database of recipes.
Please enjoy the pie!
I have this thing about bananas: I like to buy them. I anticipate that someone else would eat them if it’s available at home, but it’s really just me. I’ve been conservative with my banana purchases lately, but even so, I end up with 4 out of 5 bananas getting too ripe to fast before I can consume them. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m getting pretty tired of banana bread. Last week I looked for something else that’s fairly quick to make on a busy weeknight, because let’s face it–bananas won’t wait for you before they’re ready for the compost bin. And I really feel guilty throwing away food due to bad planning.
I turned to one of my go-to baking books, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, for inspiration. Sure enough, it saved the day (or evening) with an easy recipe for banana Bundt cake. It’s moist and light, almost like a teacake. The only ingredient change I made is with the sugar, decreasing it by a quarter of a cup. It was just the right sweetness for us.
All the ingredients for the recipe are readily available and you should be able to whip this up last minute. I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream (my preference of the two), which we almost always have except for that one evening. Oh, Murphy.
If you are fast, you can get this in the oven in 15 minutes. I did it in 20, photography included.
Once it’s done, the top will be shiny and moist, but a knife inserted in the middle of the cake would come out clean. Really try to control yourself from eating it right out of the oven.
We enjoyed this for breakfast, packed it for school and office snacks, nibbled on it while playing a board game and even gave a couple of slices to the out-laws. If you’re unsure of making this because of the size, I assure you, this will be gone in no time. Bring it to a party or to work and you will come home with an empty plate.
If you’re in Vancouver, baking this would be a great way to warm up the house and it’s a simple, yet delicious snack on this rainy weekend. I’d recommend it with a cup of tea and a good book.