A cow and bull moose traipse through my yard on a smoky morning last month. Photo taken by my houseguest Melinda Wheeler from her bedroom window!
It would be impossible to choose my favorite part of fall in the Tetons: Elk bugling outside my bedroom window, leaves the color of apples and pumpkins, brilliant, cold days of walking in the woods, daily moose encounters, the slowing pace of our bustling mountain town.
This bugling elk has become the autumn mascot of the sleepy town of Wilson. Sweater by artists Suzanne Morlock and Lisa Ridgway.
Or the taste of a crisp, sweet, tart apple with its intoxicating fragrance of fall. It is no small feat to find the perfect apple in our neck of the woods. Which is why I buy my apples from Sloane's farmers market (the weekend market by Twigs). Sloan's apples remind me of the apples of my youth, picked from the orchards just down the road in the hills of upstate New York.
If you go to Sloane's market, be prepared: She may talk you out of what you came for. I was intent on stocking up on my current "it" apple, the Honeycrisp--those rosy, jumbo-sized apples which are as good for baking as they are for snacking.
"Sure, I can sell you those, but have you tried the Elliots?" I have learned that when you shop at Sloane's market, it is good to listen to her advice. I had passed by the blond, smallish Elliots--not being a fan of the Golden Delicious variety--with not even a thought. "You should taste these", she said as she cut off a slice and handed it over.
With one taste, I finally understood what an apple is all about. It's sweet, but not too sweet. It's tart, but not overwhelmingly so. It's incredbily crisp, so that you can hear yourself take a bite. It's not too big, making it the ideal snack. The perfect apple is the homely yellow Elliot.
This is the guy who has been waking me up at 4 am as he bugles out to all female elk in earshot. Photo by Melinda.
Now that the Elliot apple had completely won me over, I couldn't wait to make my favorite apple cake, the Browned Butter Apple Cake, which I have been making for decades, tweaking it now and then. I swapped out some of the white flour for spelt flour, and now I like it even more. Once that had been inhaled by family and friends, I make another Browned Butter Apple Cake with hazelnut flour. Let's just say hazelnuts and apples were meant to be together baked into a cake, perfect for fall in the Tetons.
Sloane's market will be open for one more weekend only: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10-6. Go, and you will be in apple heaven. And don't get me started on the eggplants and tomatoes, the green beans and the peppers...
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Browned Butter Apple Cake
Feel free to mix and match apple varieties. You could make this cake with all purpose flour, or substitute in half spelt or hazelnut flour
like I did.
If you've never made browned butter before, here are a few tips. You will actually be cooking the butter in a saucepan until it turns golden brown. Use a silver bottomed pan so you can assess the browning of the butter. First the butter will melt, then it will crackle and pop; swirl the pan gently when this happens. Once the crackling subsides, keep a close eye on the butter so that it doesn't burn. The butter is done when the liquid portion turns a rich chestnut color, and the dark brown flecks of the butter solids sink to the bottom of the pan. Pour the browned butter into a bowl, and let cool before using.
Browned butter makes everything taste better. If you don't believe me, I'll have to share my recipe for Browned Butter Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 3 large tart apples (Elliot, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Jazz, and Jonagold all work well), peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/4" thick
- freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup spelt flour or hazelnut flour (meal)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch of Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw), for sprinkling on top, or plain white sugar
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Butter and flour a 9-10 inch deep-dish glass or ceramic pie plate.
- In a medium silver-bottomedskillet, melt the butter, and cook over low/medium heat for about 10 minutes,or until it turns chestnut brown. Watch carefully to avoid burning. (See hints above for browning butter.)
- Pour the butter into a large mixing bowl. Let cool slightly.
- In another bowl, toss the apples slices with the cinnamon and lemon juice. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the sugar and set aside.
- Mix the flours and the salt in a small bowl with a whisk.
- Stir the rest of the sugar into the browned butter. Gently stir in the eggs, making sure the mixture is not hot enough to cook the eggs. (I've done that.) Add the flour mixture just until blended.
- Spread the apples evenly over the bottom of the pie plate. Pour the batter over the apples, and spread evenly with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the top with Turbinado sugar. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes, or until the surface is golden and crusty. Cool on a wire rack and cut into wedges.
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Another of Melinda's beautiful shots of the bull who loves our backyard.