As promised, I spent last weekend in New Hampshire at the Redhook Brewery’s Oktoberfest in Durham.
If you want to understand New Hampshire, know this: country is country, whether it’s up here in the Arctic or down in Texas. I expected the drive to be nothing but fall foliage, occasional ocean views, and pastoral scenery. It was actually mostly retail all the way up (I should have surmised that, I guess–it is a highway).
But when we got to the Brewfest, it was awesome. First off, New Hampshire gives me no allergies on a crisp October morning. And, there are people with pretzel necklaces. I tried to think of a nickname, like pretzklaces, but nothing felt right. As one woman said, the pretzels put a little something in your stomach between beers, while also working to cleanse the palate.
The Oktoberfest at Redhook was the complete opposite of the trip to Harpoon. Instead of vomiting twenty-somethings, there was this guy handing out pretzels,
…this band pumping out indie hits (that steadily decreased in tempo as the afternoon went on)…
…and as much beer as you could drink in four hours!
The setup was pretty simple: one little plastic cup, one koozie, three walls of over 150 beers on tap, one wall of portable restrooms, and four hours of sunshine. I planned on telling you about everything I tasted, but I lost track of the names, and there were so many pumpkin ones that I got mixed up.
Portsmouth is pretty charming, too. It’s really close to Durham, and it has all the sleety, gray charm of a harbor town, including cozy coffee shops, quaint lanes, and an occasional, unidentifiable ocean smell.
Back in Boston, the Roomz and I were feeling thoroughly cozy, so I decided to make a real fall dessert — apple cake! I got this recipe from the blog smitten kitchen
, and I’ve made it a bazillion times. It’s great because it’s not too sweet. I only change a couple things. Namely, I don’t purée the applesauce, I reduce the cinnamon in the cake, and I sprinkle the cinnamon on top of the cake at the end instead of mixing it into the icing. In future, I’m thinking of adding orange or lemon zest to the cake batter for more of a zing.
The cake calls for applesauce, and like Deb from smitten kitchen, I think it’s SO worth it to make it homemade. It’s super easy, you can freeze it, and there is no comparison to the mass-produced stuff. Once you make the applesauce, you can save most of it for general eating pleasure.
4-5 lbs. cooking apples (I used local McIntosh), peeled, cored, and chopped in 1-inch cubes
5 strips lemon peel
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups water
1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy pot.
2. Bring to a simmer and keep lid tilted.
3. Cook for 20-40 minutes, depending on general wateriness/mushiness of your apples. These cooked very quickly. Once the apples start to break down, you’re looking good. I take it off the heat when most of the chunks are “squishable.” Once the sauce cools, remove the lemon peels. At this stage, you can purée, or leave as is.
Oven 350°F, middle rack
Butter and flour an 8- or 9-inch cake pan (I used a 9-inch round pan and it was quite fluffy). I put parchment paper on the bottom, just to be safe.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
½ cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped (yum! but optional)Icing
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) butter, softened
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powder sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.
2. Use a stand or hand mixer to fluff butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on high for about 3 minutes, until it turns lighter and gets very fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and make sure to crack them in a different bowl first to avoid gross stuff getting in your batter
4. Mix in applesauce and walnuts on low, just until mixed.Cook for 35 minutes, let cool completely, then turn out onto a plate or stand.
1. Whip cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until mixed.
2. Add powder sugar a little at a time until a gooey icing forms.
After cake is cooled, ice the top with an extremely yummy and thick layer of icing. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and enjoy!