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
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)
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.