Some of my earliest memories involve food. Waking up to the smell of bacon, eggs and spam frying at my Grandparents’ house. I always steered clear of the fried Spam, but it was a comforting smell nonetheless. Gently folding blueberries into muffin batter while I stood perched on a stool on tiptoes in my Great Aunt’s kitchen. Standing behind my Great Grandmother, my tiny hands full of carrots, ready to hand one to her as soon as the previous one had been shredded into the coleslaw. My Grandmother baking the perfect chocolate cake without ever looking at a recipe. To this day, my grandmother can walk you through baking almost anything without opening a cookbook.
More than the smells, more than the flavors, I remember these people that shaped me as a cook. Each and every one of them moved through their kitchens with confidence and purpose. Knowing exactly where the next ingredient was housed. Grabbing the desired utensil, without giving it a second thought. They brought people together with their cooking. When they cooked, the aromas emanating from the ovens drew my family to the table.
I think it is because of their ease in the kitchen that I have always been self-conscious of my own kitchen. Nothing is organized. I know roughly where I can find a whisk, but chances are I will buy a new springform pan before I ever find my own. My recipe catalog is a joke. I have stacks and stacks of empty recipe cards, complete with spaces for the recipe name, cooking time, servings and ingredients. Instead of using these adorable cards, I use scraps of paper to write down my recipes. I never title them and often find myself cursing my past self when I want to make banana bread and have to paw through a stack of scrap paper keeping my eyes peeled for the word banana. I have always thought that this disjointed method kept me from attaining the culinary greatness that I saw in so many of my predecessors. I was wrong.
Last week, I pulled open my mother’s recipe drawer and among the recipes torn from Better Homes and Gardens and Woman’s Day were scraps of paper with lists of ingredients. No titles. No instructions. Not just in my mother’s hand writing, but my Grandmother’s and Great Grandmother’s as well. I had learned more from them than I had ever known. This recipe is one that I found in the drawer. It was my great grandmother’s. I assumed from the ingredient list that it was a bread recipe, but it could easy be a cake. I changed a few things, including using bread flour rather than all purpose, adding ginger and substituting applesauce for oil.
- 2 medium Granny Smith apples
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup plain unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray.
- Peel, core and dice apples. Set diced apples aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar at medium speed until mixture is pale in color, about 2 minutes. Beat in applesauce, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
- Slowly add flour mixture, mixing until dry ingredients are just moistened. Gently fold in diced apples.
- Spread batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar.
- Bake for 60-70 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.