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Apples On Trees Are Like Free Money

I never pass up the chance to pick fruit. It’s almost free. And in these weird economic times, food that grows on trees is like money in the bank. At least that’s the way I see it.

I got the chance to pick apples when I visited my sister in St. Helena, a place renowned for its vineyards, great restaurants, and most of all, Michael Chiarello, Food Network star chef, whom we didn’t see. Not that weekend.

The day Shelly and I headed home Bethany showed us her little apple tree in the front yard. It was tiny, but it was loaded with apples. I wasn’t able to identify the apple varieties, but I decided to bake with them, which proved a tasty decision.

Here’s an apple cake recipe you can make just in time for fall. Double the recipe and put one cake in the freezer for later.  Money in the bank.

St. Helena Apple Cake

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3 cups apples, peeled and diced

1/2 cup apple juice (I buy the kind in little cans)

1 cube butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients (up to cloves) into a large bowl. Stir to mix.  Toss in the apples and mix to form a nice dusting. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir until just blended.

Spoon batter into a Bundt cake pan or two loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test, and comes out clean.

Cool in pan for about 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

Editor’s note: This a best-of column that was originally published October 14, 2008.