Apple Cider

So, normally this time of year the days get colder and I have an excuse to pull out a big blanket, a book, and make some apple cider. But, this week it's been in the low 70's... Regardless of our still sunny temperatures, I've been in full Autumn mode. The other day I decided to decorate, so as we were putting up our spider web and making the house look spooooooky, I simmered some Apple Cider on the stove :)

Quick Apple Cider

750 mL organic unsweetened apple juice*
1/2 cup mulling spices**
1/2 cup brown sugar
10 ounces water

*Use a brand you know the sweetness of. If it is pretty sweet, cut back on the sugar, adjust the water, etc.
**You can buy them, but it's easy to make. Also, throwing some in an antique jar, printing this recipe, and tying it on with some ribbon makes a pretty little Autumn gift:)

If you prefer, put the milling spices into a muslin or a tea ball, but if you don't mind straining them out later, don't bother.

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan, simmer until desired temperature is reached, being careful not to boil. You could also make a larger batch and let it simmer in your slow cooker if you're having a get-together, or you have an enormous family who will drink it all evening long...

Bottle any extra, and store in your refrigerator. Just reheat to enjoy :)

(Yummy served with a little caramel)

Lemon Cake

Last Zombie Jesus Day, errr, I mean...Easter, we were going over to our friend Tracey and Lauren's house, and I was going to bring a dish to share. I obviously decided to bake, because that's what I love doing. I wanted to make something a little lighter and reminiscent of Spring, even though, surprisingly, we ended up with a sunny day. I also wanted to try a new recipe. I ended up not having enough lemons for this recipe, and substituted oranges. The result was amazing. Everyone loved it--and had seconds. I had to give the recipe to plenty of people after the first try. Since then, it's my go-to for shared meals and dinner parties (by the way, serving a loaf for dessert, then wrapping the second one up with some ribbon as a gift to your guests is pretty well received!) It isn't exactly a throw-together recipe, so I save it for those times I really have been missing the kitchen. The results, though, are worth it...

Lemon Cake

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided (plu
s extra for pan)
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup zest, lemon and orange (I used 2 valencia oranges & 4 lemon
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed juice, divided (1/2 c lemon and 1/4 c orange)
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

glaze:2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

but required if you're smart at all.
1 pint of blueberries (or whatever is in seas

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

You may use either a bundt pan or 2 loaf pans (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 in).
Whenever I am baking (banana bread, zucchini loaf, any cakes) I prefer to butter and sugar the pan instead of butter and flour. I think it gives it an outer sweet crust, and a prettier
presentation. So, butter and sugar your pan(s).
I think it's easiest to use the wrappings from the room temperature butter, as they hold on to a lot of extra butter, and you don't get your hands too messy. Make sure to get all the way up the edge, then pour in some sugar, shake, spin, and roll it around to get in all the corners and up the sides thoroughly.

Cream the butter and 2 cups of the sugar until light and fluffy. I prefer to use my whisk attachment in my stand up mixer, as it tends to leave less on the sides. B
e sure to scrape down your bowl frequently. While the butter and sugar are creaming, I zest the fruit. Because it takes for-ev-ER. I usually pass this job off onto my husband, who quite enjoys it. Use a good micro plane, and be sure to get all you can. While you're at it, juice them. You can roll them for a few seconds before juicing to get those juices flowing, or you can even pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. It really helps.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and all of the zest. Mix on medium speed until incorporated and a sunny yellow:)

Stir together the dry ingredients. (Flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt)

In another small bowl, combine the wet ingredients. (Buttermilk, 1/4 cup of the juice, buttermilk, vanilla)

Add dry and wet alternately to the mixing bowl, starting and ending with the dry. It's a pain, but it's worth it.

Pour into prepared pan(s), dividing evenly if in loaf pans...duh. If I'm using loaf pans, I like sprinkling the top with a little coarse sugar for presentation at this point.

Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, until a tester comes out clean. The bundt pan will take longer than the loaf pans.

Make the syrup. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup juice in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until dissolved. When the cakes come out of the oven, I like to poke some holes in it using a skewer, then pour the syrup over the top.

Allow to cool until syrup is absorbed then let cool completely on a wire rack. Move your cake to it's serving platter.

Make the glaze by whisking together the confectioner's sugar and the lemon juice then spoon the glaze over the top (it's a LARGE quantity of glaze, so I usually pour about 3/4 over the cakes, and reserve the rest so that anyone who wants extra can spoon it over their individual piece). Top with the blueberries, and serve.

OH, oh, oh, then use your leftover buttermilk to make Buttermilk Pancakes! :)