Where the Apple Trees Are

There are those things in our lives that we take for granted. Things that surround us and we barely notice as we walk by. We go on with our lives and as we grow older and move away, we feel this void. We cannot pinpoint what it is, but we feel anxious as though something is missing. A void and a longing.

For me that feeling comes back every late summer and into autumn when I dream of the apple trees of my childhood.

I grew up surrounded by natural beauty. Raw, tangled, mossy, glistening natural beauty. River streams lined with beech and hazelnut trees, fig trees on the side of the road, blackberry bushes poking through the schoolyard fence, wild apple trees that belong to no one and to everyone — treasures everywhere.

I never really appreciated this until I moved away and realized that not many have experienced such wilderness around them. Today, living in Florida, I feel all these elements are a luxury in life and so hard to come by.

“You cannot imagine how much I miss seeing these trees” I mentioned to my dad as we were driving around the countryside. I sat on the passenger seat while Miren napped in the back. “I know exactly where to take you” my dad replied. Five minutes later we pulled into Uxarte Sagardotegia right outside of town. It is an old farmhouse turned cider-house and restaurant. The owner’s wife was actually my kindergarten teacher so we know the family well. Their property is filled with different varieties of apple, pears, and hazelnut trees. All the cider is pressed right on their property from the apples in their backyard. It is remarkable.

Late August is the month of pink apples. Row after row of trees with red apples glistening in the afternoon sun — such a beautiful sight. The Reinetas, which are actually my favorite baking variety, come a bit later in September, but they were already ripening.

We walked around amongst the trees. Miren who had just woken up jumped out of the car and ran towards the field. She knew exactly what to do and didn’t waste any time. She sat on the grass surrounded by apples — she smiled like a kid in a candy store.

That same evening we visited my uncle Javi. The sun was setting and his sheep were out in the pasture for one last feeding. All the little cousins had gathered that afternoon. While they played, I took a walk alone to the apple orchard — almost storybook scenery. Pink apple trees in the middle of a sea of dandelions, wild mint, and other wildflowers. “I could live right here — in this same spot” I thought to myself.

I picked some apples for us. I had ideas of what to make with them, of course. I wait for this moment all year long. Back at my parents, I baked a roasted apple and prune cake with yogurt and olive oil — a slight variation of this one. My brother Jokin was craving our childhood cake and how could I say no, right? the cake was gone that same night.

Since we returned back to Florida, I have been obsessed with apples. Impossible to find the heirloom varieties that we had back home, but still very excited about them as they are the first fruit of autumn.

I cooked a carrot and apple soup flavored with cumin, coriander, and piment d’Espelette I brought back from our trip.

Also a shaved fennel, apple, watercress, and hazelnut salad with scallops and a simple vinaigrette flavored with hazelnut oil.

But of course, what I was excited about was what I was going to make for dessert. I baked an apple cake from my upcoming book, which is great every time. Also from the book a clafoutis, and my latest obsession, roasted apple and brown butter madeleines.

I roasted the apples in a little bit of butter, sugar, and vanilla beans until tender and then pureed it into thick applesauce. This goes into the madeleine batter along with brown butter and hazelnut flour.

I baked them in batches so we could enjoy them warm out of the oven with a little dusting of powdered sugar. I cannot wait until I make my next batch.

Carrot and Apple Soup with Cumin and Coriander

Serves 4 to 6

2 tbs olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 lb (450 g) carrots, peeled and diced
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 sprigs thyme leaves
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 to 1/4 tsp piment d’Espelette
2 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

In a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the apple, thyme, salt, cumin, coriander and piment d’Espelette. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock, bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes ot until the vegetables are tender. Puree with a blender. Add coconut milk and adjust seasoning if needed.

Brown Butter and Roasted Apple Madeleines

Makes 20 large madeleines

Roasted Apples

3 small Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 tbs natural cane sugar
1 tab unsalted butter

Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Bake at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes until the apples are soft and slightly caramelized. Puree them in the food processor.

Brown Butter and Roasted Apple Madeleines

7 tbs (100 g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (70 g) superfine brown rice flour
1/4 cup (35 g) quinoa flour
1/4 cup (25 g) hazelnut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp xanthan gum (optional. makes the madeleines keep more of their volume when baked)
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs (125 g) natural cane sugar
1/2 cup (140 g) roasted apple puree

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat until milk solids start to brown. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the superfine brown rice flour, quinoa flour, hazelnut flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the eggs and sugar on high speed for 5 minutes until light and thick. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Add the brown butter and roasted apple puree and mix until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap making sure the plastic touches the batter. This will ensure no skim forms on top.

Chill the batter for 2 hours. Spoon the batter into greased madeleine pan. Chill this pan again while we preheat the oven.

Preheat oven to 425F. Bake madeleines for 12 to 15 minutes. Do not open the oven during the first 10 minutes.

Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.


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98 Responses to “Where the Apple Trees Are”

  1. Maia says:

    That soup sounds delicious. I have already been dreaming of driving into central California’s wine country and picking up bags and bags of early fall apples! I enjoyed the nostalgia you wrote into this post very much.

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post! I keep scrolling back to take another look at your stunning photos. I too grew up surrounded by natural beauty and miss the autumn months most of all. This past weekend I bought a bag of Gravenstein apples at a farm stand and am excited to cook with them!

  3. Gemma Alonso says:

    Las reinetas eran las favoritas de mi abuela cántabra. Aquí en Escocia mi suegra acaba de plantar un árbol de la variedad Stirling Castle, que también son buenas para tartas.
    Llevo días pensando en ir a recoger manzanas y acabas de darme el último empujón. ¡Gracias!

  4. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful post. it was like – walking in a beautiful garden, full of childhood memories…

  5. I just visited a u-pick this weekend and believe me when I say I would DIE without apples. Not only are they one of nature’s best tasting fruits, they symbolize so much more. Your beautiful pictures capture the meaning of autumn and apples perfectly, thank you.

  6. Simi says:

    so beautiful! I love your photography.

  7. meesch says:

    oh my gosh that cake sounds amazing! I just love your photos!

    -meesch
    http://www.aperfectkindofday.com

  8. Betsy says:

    Yum.
    Lovely.
    As always.
    :)

  9. Amy says:

    Absolutely lovely! Beautiful post.

  10. Priscilla and Gemma- I have never hear tried the Gravenstein or the Stirling Castle varieties. Now I am intrigued. Must research them. Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks everyone!

  11. Dzoli says:

    I never take anything for granted.Great post..again:)

  12. pigeon pie says:

    Such a beautiful post with incredible pictures! There is something so calm in about being in the country…

  13. Joy says:

    I feel so peaceful when looking at your photos and reading your wonderful narrative. *zen*

  14. betty says:

    beautiful pictures so bright and lovely! and the food looks really delicious

    http://bitstreats.blogspot.com/

  15. Amanda G. says:

    Your posts are absolutely magical.

  16. I’m with Joy on this one … very *zen*. I want to lay in the dappled sunshine under an apple tree and bite into crispy pink apples. And I always adore your pictures of your daughter … they remind me so much of my own little darling.

    you can tell, she’s the apple of your eye :)

  17. Aran, you simply must come visit the Hood River Valley one fall. You’ll feel right at home in our apple and pear orchards!

  18. Sukaina says:

    You are so right. We never appreciate elements of our childhood until we have grown up! I baked an apple cake with applssuace simmilar to the apllesuace here and it was wonderful. I can imagine these madeleines tasting just as good!

  19. tinajo says:

    Beautiful pics, makes me wanna be there. :-)

  20. poucinette says:

    vive la nature !!!!!!!!!!

  21. Trish says:

    I didn’t realize you were in FL. Orlando here. Love the blog.

  22. Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing them with us.

    I love apples, especially when they are extremely fresh, juicy and crunchy.

    The Madeleines and soup are fantastic! I particularly love the flavors you used in the soup.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  23. Juliana says:

    Written with such feeling. I know what you mean about having that missing feeling. I have it too, as I grow older. I now try to savor and experience every moment I have in nature.

    I have 3 kilos of Gravenstein apples waiting for me to be made into jam. But I think I’ll save some to try these recipes.

  24. Beautiful – this took my right back to my childhood home as we had an apple orchard in our garden. So lovely.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Even on holidays in Spain at my hometown in Galicia, I read your post. We too in Galicia are in Apple season. Same variety. Is funny, as yesterday was reading another blog about a trip to the Basque Country. http://www.frombatoparis.com/ and the astonishing food over there. Congratulations!!
    Alex

  26. Sharon says:

    Those madeleines sound like the very essence of autumn – wonderful!

  27. Expat Kochen says:

    Ok, now I know what I am fixing for dinner tonight. THANKS. I am an American expat living in Switzerland, about to head over to France to shop. I have my list – although I must admit that I am spoiled to get my apples and eggs in the barn from our village, about 2 blocks from our home. Thanks for this inspiration!

  28. :: a l e :: says:

    what a delicious pictures and fabrics . . not to mention nature . . all these things make me feel so good !!

  29. Nisrine says:

    Apples are an essential fruit for fall as far as i’m concerned. soo many possibilities for baking are crossing my mind right now thanks to these beautiful madeleines.

  30. Madalen- bai, parte hartuko dozu? eta bai, guk EHko arbolak eta baztarrak ez doguz askotan aprezietan baina ah zelako tokiek!!!

    Lucy- I would love love love to visit!! Do you live close by?

    Thank you!

  31. Bev Weidner says:

    That. Looks. Insanely. Perfect.

  32. These pictures remind me of apple picking with my family as a kid. The madeleines look delicious. The scenery in these photos is unbelievable.

  33. Irene says:

    i just adore the taste of summer apples. thank you for this beautiful post!

  34. Mari says:

    Wonderful fotos and recipes. I miss going apple picking.

    Have a wonderful week.

  35. Love all the gorgeous apples. My mouth is watering!

  36. I discovered your blog recently and it’s like I’ve stepped in a whole new world — I can’t get over the loveliness of your photography! I will be making the carrot/apple soup THIS WEEK! I’d love it if you came to visit me over at my site http://www.juliasbookbag.com/ — I write about Children’s Books! My daughter is 5 so my focus right now is for K/Preschoolers and Tiny Toddlers. You might find some book inspiration for your kiddos! Aloha and again, your blog is a vision and a delight. ~Melissa

  37. rebecca says:

    I especially enjoyed looking at all of your photos. You really are a great photographer!

  38. aux chocolat says:

    Hello, I love your blog, and still very very often, though my English is very little. I have great admiration for your photos and those places so beautiful that we teach, and especially the huge number of dishes, bowls … and I especially love your spoons have flowers and squares where you bought?
    Lourdes greetings

  39. Ana Sofia says:

    I think I have to try these madeleines with the apples that are just coming in. Thank you!

  40. shelby says:

    This post has made me so excited and inspired for fall recipes!! Lovely photos and recollections, as always….thank you!

  41. Livia Luzete says:

    Aran, your pots and pics are pure magic! I love that! Have a nice week!

  42. Nohemí says:

    Creo que es el post más bonito que he visto en mi vida!! Enhorabuena!!

  43. ingamak says:

    Beautiful incorporation of photography, nostalgia and all things apples. Thank you for a lovely read and some great flavor pairings.

    Inga

  44. aux chocolat- the spoons are from france and i bought some of them in madrid and others in france this summer.

    thanks everyone!

  45. Barbara says:

    I want to live amongst those apple trees.

  46. beautiful post Aran, I really feel you on the appreciating the country thing. It took living in the city for 5 years to become so sensitive to nature, that I nearly tear up anytime I am around it now. It really is the simple things that are taken for granted. I step onto a farm, or onto a pasture and I feel at such ease. I am obsessed with forests. I miss the country and struggle living in this huge city regularly. We become de sensitized here thats for sure. I cant wait to head upstate to go apple picking soon, and I will surely try one of your recipes. I have become fairly obsessed with apple chips. Have you had them? So easy and so tasty. Beso x N

  47. zer0gluten says:

    Qué maravilla venir a verte y ver siempre paisajes tan maravillosos y tu cocina tan delicada y deliciosa.
    Aran, eres una crack!
    Besos.

  48. Nicole- you explained very well how i feel. every time i am around forests and nature, i tear up. i feel joy like no other and to share that with my kids is one of the things that i am most proud of. it was the way i grew up, everyday life. Things are different now. Thank you for that.

    Thanks everyone. I wish you could all visit my hometown. It’s full of beautiful corners.

  49. Anonymous says:

    These pictures are so cute! So good!

  50. so excited for apple season! I wish I had apple trees that those to go and pick myself some fresh ones!!

  51. Karen says:

    Beautiful pictures. I love the one of the sheep, especially, and the apples on the table. Wish I lived near enough to take your workshop(s)!

  52. Karen says:

    Okay, now I feel silly; it is right by my house! Who knows, I might end up there!

  53. Started to read your blog recently… Absolutely love your little stories… and this one – let me read it again!!

  54. V says:

    It’s always so strange to read your writing about Florida. You must be in a very different part of the state from where I grew up.

    I lived in Florida for about 17 years, and, while I enjoy the semi-nomadic lifestyle I now live, I constantly ache to go back there. I miss it for precisely the reasons you miss your home – the nature. I long for the old oaks, the pine forests thick with ferny undergrowth, the natural springs, and the scruffy little beaches that no one knows about. I also miss the tiny, sweet tomatoes that my csa always had and the long fruit growing season.

    I recommend a trip to other parts of the state sometime. If you’re missing nature in Florida, you’re missing some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

  55. a. maren says:

    just beautiful. i love fall. your food does it justice.

  56. V- I live in south Florida, in palm beach county. Can you recommend some areas? I just haven’t found forests here and the heat gets to me. I miss seasons most definitely. Perhaps I’m not a tropics person. But I’d love to visit other parts of the state that you could recommend. Most definitely. Thanks!

  57. fooddrunk says:

    Most beautiful, pure post I have ever read. You are my inspiration.

  58. We live in the Portland, Oregon area, and the Hood River Valley is about an hour’s drive east of here. The orchards there are glorious and a constant source of joy and inspiration for me. Depending on the time year, the hubby and I go for cherries or apples and pears. If you ever visit these parts, I’d love to take you!

  59. Asrid says:

    I, too, have special place in my mind about apples and apple trees. Do you think it goes back before time, or even the Biblical connection. Just love the blog, and want to add the Madelines. I’ve just written about our ‘Surfeit of Apples’. Love you to have a look. Your site is an inspiration to such as myself – just love it and its ethereal look.
    Regards, Astrid

  60. Marta says:

    ¡Qué bonito post! Delicado, nostálgico, con olor a manzanas recién salidas del horno.
    Me gusta mucho tu blog, tus fotos y recetas y te doy las gracias por compartirlo con nosotros.

  61. I totally understand what you mean! I grew up in the french country side and I now live in this huge metropolis. I miss cherry trees and just the smell of green… Love your apple trees! thanks for the recipes, I will definitely try the madeleine…

  62. Roberta says:

    this is magic, the light, the colours…just like storybook illustrations. I grew up in the city, then moved to the country where my mother used to live when she was young and where I spent my holidays during the summer. At least for 2 months a year I was lucky. The longing you describe brought me back here. Unfortunately blind people are destroying it all, taking no care in the nature that nurtures us. Sorry for this long comment, but you really stroke a cord in me…
    thanks for the recipes, I love apple salads so much!

  63. Lucy- I love Oregon. In my teenage years, I sent two summers as an exchange students living with the same family in southern Oregon. I loved the natural beauty, the rough coast… I can’t wait to visit again. When I do I’ll let you know.

    Thank you!

  64. What a delightful post… a pleasure for my senses. I’ve lived in Florida for 10 years and I still have trouble in the fall missing the chill in the air, apples of course, pumpkins, etc. Longings from childhood don’t fade. But on the bright side… we will have the last laugh on a sunny warm February day, huh?

  65. farn says:

    Beautiful pictures…I just feel so refreshed looking at them, makes me feel like I’m on holiday instead of being stuck here behind my computer doing work :(
    I really love love love those cute spoons especially the ones with the red and pink checks.. where did you get them from? :)

  66. oh, sigh. so beautifully evoked – you’ve brought us right into the orchards with you! it makes me miss all the more the wildness and pick-your-own orchards of my home in Maine. The smell of the apples and the saturation of the late summer light…

    I think this is a post I’ll be revisiting for weeks :)

  67. What a lovely post…… for dream!

  68. nicole says:

    Oh how I love this … I grew up in an apple town in Northern California, and took all those beautiful trees for granted. Now, as they are being cut down to make room for vineyards, my heart aches. But the last time I was visiting, just a few weeks ago, we drove along a road outside of town I hadn’t been on in a long time … and there were still many, many apples trees … and so I was soothed a bit. Honestly — there’s nothing like them. Thank you for this potent reminder.

  69. Winnie says:

    I want to be inside every single photo Aran. You captured your time in your homeland so beautifully.

  70. ChichaJo says:

    You are lucky to have grown up around such nature! The apples sound amazing and so do those madeleines!

  71. You know what? I really enjoyed reading your blog. You’re not the typical blogger who will just post an article just to say they blog about something. But yours are full of effort. From the image of apple trees to the recipes you’re making, really.. I salute you for this. Thanks for sharing this!

  72. Absolutly gorgeous photography, as a girl who also grew up on an orchard these photos are pure heaven to me. Thank you for sharing :)

  73. Barbara Bell says:

    Your post moved me, as I know what it’s like to reach this time of year and miss apple-picking in New England.

  74. classiq says:

    Wonderful post! The photos are incredibly beautiful and your lovely words reminded me of my childhood and about the simple pleasures of life. :)
    Ada

  75. Kristyne says:

    You are just so good at what you do. Thank you for having a blog! ;)

  76. Gorgeous photography and beautiful post, as always. Takes me back to my childhood in upstate NY, where our small community was surrounded by farms and apple orchards. My aunt used to bring us bushels of Empire apples (which I believe are a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious) and gallons of freshly-pressed apple cider from her husband’s family farm. I can’t bite into an apple today without thinking of crisp, fall days in rural New York.

  77. Sugaronmytongue- thats exactly how it was for me growing up. Sharing apples or anything else for that matter, was a community thing. Everyone did it (and still does it). We always thought about family and neighbors.

    Thanks everyone. Your comments are really sweet.

  78. thais says:

    Biting a fresh apple :) such a nice thing ! I love all the recipes with apples it’s just so great to cook. Your salad looks very nice :)

  79. Kris Pare says:

    Your photos are beautiful. I have to say I got a little homesick as I live in the South now and grew up in NY state, miss those wonderful orchards and autumnal beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  80. Sini says:

    I know what you mean when you say that often you take things for granted and don’t realize how lucky you are until you are away from home. I spend one year travelling around the world and during that time I got to appreciate my home and country even more. How lucky I am to be surrorounded by nature and it’s goodies… To be able to go into the forest to pick wild blueberries or ligonberries, chanterelles and porcinos… Not many are so fortunated.

  81. Eye candy – your blog is a delight to peruse! Thank you so much for sharing this beautifully depicted adventure :) Mille grazie… claudine

  82. MEGGY says:

    I love the photos! I have a bushel of apples coming and can’t wait to try out some of your recipes! Also, your bebe is adorable! Thanks for sharing :)

  83. your blog sound delicious and ı need to spend more time to discover yummy recipes and nice photos…..thanx…..

  84. For me, it is peach trees that conjure up these childhood memories ~ lovely post ~

  85. V says:

    Yeah, there are some pretty parts of the Southern part of the state, but, for the most part, it’s just one giant expanse of city.

    You need to head north. It will still be a completely different climate from where you grew up, but there are some beautiful things in the northern half of the state.

    Check out the northeast state parks region: http://floridastateparks.org/findapark/district-northeast.cfm

    Tubing down the Ichetucknee is amazing. The water is freezing, so you’ll want to go in warmer months. Bring sun protection because the float is long (I think 2-3 hrs?). The more beautiful part of the springs are only accessible if you go early. They limit the number of people traveling through to prevent damage, so you’ll only get the full float if you make the morning cut off.

    I have fond memories of O’leno. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house is interesting for a peek into how Florida has changed. It’s not enough for a whole day, but you could definitely make a day of it if you planned to explore the area. The Micanopy and High Springs areas going are both a combination of gorgeous nature and attempts at creating a tourist destination through antique shops. The antique shops are never worth it, but the spanish moss hanging from the oak trees is.

    Ocala national forest is intense. If you drive the area around Ocala and Gainesville (not the cities themselves, but the stretches in between) you’ll see all sorts of horse farms and cows out at pasture.

    The drive between Gainesville and St. Augustine is always fun for the tiny, laid back spots you bump into along the way. Just be aware that there’s a paper mill about halfway between – the only bad part of the trip. St. Augustine is gorgeous, but it may trend too beachy for you.

  86. Ola says:

    yes, it’s apple season, the best time to make cakes and tartas. I am reapeating myself but again – a set of absolutely amazing pictures!

  87. Rebecca says:

    I live in Fort Lauderdale and moved from Washington DC. I CRAVE my old farmers market and wonderful local farmers produce. Where do you find all of your yummy fresh products?

  88. V- thanks for the recommendations!

    Rebecca- I shop at the palm beach farmers market between October and may. I go to the Kai Kai farms stand for produce, Farriss farm for eggs and some other vendors.

    Thanks!

  89. Olga says:

    Me encantan las fotos que publicas de Euskadi!! Sólo he estado allí una vez y en Bilbo, así que imaginate las ganas que tengo de ir otra vez!! Besotes desde Barcelona.

  90. Jessica Lin says:

    These look absolutely gorgeous! I was wondering if it’s possible to just sub the total sum of the gluten-free flours with AP or cake flour? Thank you!

  91. Jessica- you can use all purpose flour! :)

  92. tarapatices says:

    Hi, I’ve made your recipe for Butter and Roasted Apple Madeleines. The kid’s loved it and us too! ;)

    (I’ve made a post with them if you like to see it: http://tarapatices.blogspot.com/2011/10/entretanto.html)

    Thanks for the amazing blog, fotografs and recipes!!

    ***
    Sandra

  93. jessica says:

    Simply beautiful!! I love your little spoons!! Thank you for the recipes!!

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