Saturday, December 10, 2011

Apple (a) Day

On Wednesday, third grade garden day, my third grader wakes up with a stomach ache.  He complains of this particular complaint with enough frequency that I usually make him go to school for main lesson and if he still remembers that he has a stomach ache at recess time, he can come home.  Usually by recess, it’s gone.  But there were enough nocturnal rumblings from that corner last night justify a day off.  For him.

Unfortunately, it’s the busy holiday season and no one can sub for me in the garden, so the boy home from school has to go to school with me.  He brings his drawing pad and a blanket and we make him a little nest near my workstation.  The garden can’t spare an adult today: it’s apple day. We have multiple sharp objects for peeling and slicing, plus, as a bonus, boiling hot applesauce to put into boiling hot jars.  All hands on deck.  (This year we did apple day at the school with apples brought from a parent’s trees, but to get a sense of it, see last year’s apple day.)

My station is applesauce cake, the position of least danger.  No knives or peelers, mostly just measuring cups and spoons, to intersect cleanly with the measuring segment the kids are doing in math. 

We get the cake mixed, and Wild Child points at me, “Um, YOU are BLEEDING.”  Somehow, in my little station of round objects, I have gashed my knuckle, as if just knowing that there are people peeling apples within 100 feet is enough to take off some skin.    WC then starts a chorus of “Ooooh, gross!” and immediately takes advantage of the fact that I have turned my back to wash off the blood and grab a band-aid; WC leads the group over to the little pond where they immediately all break off chunks of ice so they can then yell about how cold their hands are.

 I make them wash their hands so they can get the batter into the pan and then the oven.  “Why do we have to wash our hands AGAIN?” they whine, clutching the chunks of pond ice.  “Um…” I roll my eyes.  “Why don’t you think about that as you walk to the sink?”

Once the cake is in the oven, my little sick guy lurks near the baking warmth and good smells.  Poor thing, he won’t be able to have any of the cake that will go back to class as celebration for the teacher’s birthday.

Fortunately, by midday we determine that we have peeled and chopped enough apples to shut down the sharp objects workstation, freeing up an adult to relieve me in the kitchen, and they send us home. 

We pick up my kindergartener and head home to make our own applecake from the same recipe.  And by the time it gets out of the oven, steaming warm spice, we all feel better.

Applesauce Cake
(makes 2 9-inch pans or 1 Bundt pan with extra for a couple of little cake-lets)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease & flour pans.

Cream (forks in the garden, mixer at home):
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups  or less brown sugar (use less if your applesauce is sweetened)

Beat in:
2 large eggs

3 cups flour
(in the garden we use 100% whole wheat, at home we did 2 cups white and 1 whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated in the garden—may well explain the gashed finger)
Ginger to taste (optional)
1 tsp salt (reduce if your butter is salted)

Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with

2 cups homemade chunky (or just any) applesauce

In the garden, we added some crushed walnuts to the top.  At home, we stirred in three cut up apples that were getting old in the fridge.  In other words, add whatever you want.

Bake anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on your pan and oven.

If you feel fancy (we did), sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Share and enjoy.

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