Bearing Fruit

An orchard is a gift to the future that nourishes us right now.

Photographed by Mark Fleming.
By Annemarie Ahearn
From our October 2016 issue

In Italy, they say that the greatest gift you can bestow on your grandchildren is to plant a vineyard. In Maine, the same might be said of a lovingly pruned and watered apple orchard. At Salt Water Farm, a small stand of young apple trees protects our vegetable gardens from strong winds. Come October, each tree yields enough fruit for a multitude of sweet and savory dishes. We roast apples alongside pork chops with turnips, braise them with lemony chicken, and press them gently into rich vanilla dough for apple cake. And I imagine the day that my children’s children will play in the shade of these trees and pick their low-hanging fruit for a snack.

 Apple Cake

Serves 8–10

1 pound tart, crisp apples, such as Cortland, Braeburn, or Honey Crisp

juice of 1 lemon

1⅓ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 heaping cup sugar

9 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided

3 extra-large eggs

2 tablepoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon calvados or rum

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar in the raw

For the whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut apples into thin slices, leaving skins on. Place them directly into a bowl of lemon water to prevent browning.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; mix well. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter with sugar for 2 minutes on medium-low speed. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter, vanilla extract, and calvados. Add dry ingredients alternately with the cream, one-third at a time. Mix until well combined.

Butter and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan and cover bottom with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Fill pan with batter.

Beginning at edge of pan and working towards the center, arrange apples in a fanned pattern, gently pressing them into batter. Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Shield the cake from direct heat if necessary to prevent excessive browning. Remove from oven and let cool.

Whip cream with vanilla extract and maple syrup. Slice cake and serve with a spoonful of cream.