Monday, November 16, 2009
On my last visit home, I got to spend an afternoon with my sister Christina at her school's Health and Wellness Fair. As the school nurse, she had to give out free blood pressure readings, while I cruised around entering raffles, making fun of the hoola hoop teacher (although at 55, she had a slammin' bod, and all the moms in the room were eyeing her with hatred), and getting free massages. I didn't win anything (I don't know what I'd have done with a basket of jump ropes anyway), but I did get a recipe from the people manning the apple table from Oak Haven Farms. The recipe is supposed to be for apple brownies, and I couldn't wait to try them. I have also been trying to figure out a way to get rid of the rest of the caramel candy corn I bought for Halloween. The bag has been taunting me from a high shelf for weeks, and my strength to resist was fading. This seemed like the perfect marriage of flavors, so I started messing with the recipe.
It wasn't until the batter was in the oven that I realized that I have made these before. Way back in high school I worked at a little coffee shop called Java. It was the first and only job that actually paid me to bake. I loved it! It was there that I first learned to make chocolate meringues, scones, and what I thought were crazy muffin flavors. The owners let me make anything I wanted from a huge shelf of cook books, even if no one ever bought them (who knew Raspberry Cream Soda muffins were a bad idea?). The owner also had a family recipe for apple brownies, which I made all the time and had completely forgotten about. Once that smell filled my kitchen, though, it was like I was transported back in time. I wish I still had that recipe, but sadly I have lost touch with them and the shop closed years and years ago!
You can see why I'd be excited about this new recipe, hoping it would turn out like the first. After about 40 minutes of baking, I checked the pan and... mush. The center was wiggle jiggle central, while the edges had just begun to crisp. Blast! I looked back at the teensy print and realized I wasn't supposed to use a 9x9 pan, but a 9x13 pan. WTF? I was soo mad at myself, but I just let it bake and bake and bake. An hour and 15 minutes later, the brownies were cooked through, and I left them to cool.
Once cooled, I ran a knife around the edges to loosen the brownie and tipped it out onto my cutting board to slice. Lo and behold, the bottom of the brownie was amass with glistening caramel, which oozed down the sides into little pools. The candy corn had sunk to the bottom (although oddly the apples had not) and melted completely to form a sticky caramel sauce. It looked just like an upside-down cake. I was irritated for a minute, but then I figured, "Whatever, it'll probably taste ok!" Oh my God, you guys, it was so good! Much better than I remembered with the addition of the caramel! The "brownie" turned out to be nothing like a brownie at all, but was more like a dense, moist cake. It was delicious served warm with a little vanilla bean ice cream, and might be a good Christmas morning treat. That's a list that's steadily growing in my head, and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. Sheesh.
Caramel Apple Accidental Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from a recipe from Oak Haven Farms, Scotland, CT
1 cup softened butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups crisp apples (like Cortland, Red Delicious, or Fuji), peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup carmael candy corn
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9x9 inch glass dish with cooking spray. Don't be stingy!
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs. Add remaining ingredients except for apples and caramels, stir until just combined. Fold in apples and caramels. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 - 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and crusty and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely in the pan before running a knife around the edges and tipping out. Slice into squares and serve upside down, so caramel drips over the sides.
Print the Recipe!