American Baking Down the Decades, 2010-2015: farm to table brings us home

225-logoThe King Arthur Flour Company marks its 225th anniversary this year. And we’re celebrating by exploring some of America’s favorite recipes, decade by decade. Join us on this fascinating stroll through American food history.

December signals the end of King Arthur Flour’s year-long 225th anniversary celebration, as well as the final post in our American Baking Down the Decades blog series.

Beginning back in January with the first decade of the 20th century (the birth of brownies), we’ve noted the advent of such treats as chocolate chip cookies, pizza, and pineapple upside down cake; and examined the rise of movements: fast food, grab & go breakfast, artisan bread.

Now, as 2015 comes to a close, we’re taking a step back: back to the land, led by locavores and the farm to table initiative.

If the 1950s personified the wild popularity of canned foods, the 21st century has us moving in a completely different direction: towards fresh food, locally sourced and simply prepared: “farm to table.”

How does this translate to baking? Very nicely, thank you. Let me tell you a story.

For over 20 years I lived in New Hampshire, just about 10 minutes from my job at King Arthur Flour in Vermont. Four years ago I headed south, and now live in Massachusetts, where I grew up. I happily bake and write for King Arthur from my home in Sandwich, on Cape Cod. (Yes, Sandwich – I mean, where else would a baker live?)

Serendipitously, my house is a stone’s throw from Crow Farm, a local landmark that’ll celebrate its 100th anniversary this coming year. Howard, Paul, and Jason Crowell (grandfather, father, and son) work the farm, with assistance from Paul’s wife, Ellen; his sister, Jean; and a crew of loyal long-time employees.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

The Crowells’ farmstand opened in 1960, and has been providing locals and summer visitors alike with farm to table products ever since: vegetables and fruits, plus pie, bread, honey, jam, butter, cider, cheese, and other goodies.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

This past summer, I enjoyed just-picked sweet corn every day. It was grown about 100 yards from my backdoor, thanks to Crow Farm.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

And now, as the growing season comes to an end, I’m enjoying the farm’s autumn harvest: from heirloom Russet apples (one of 15 varieties they grow in their hillside orchards), to beautiful lavender cauliflower, to flowers and pumpkins to decorate my doorstep.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

The farm to table/locavore movement encourages us to eat food produced within a certain distance of our own home: say, 100 miles. Farmers’ markets and farmstands like Crow Farm make this not only possible, but easy, delicious… and gratifying.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

How can you resist food grown right in your own backyard – almost literally?

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

In the end, we all want to support our local farmers. They’re carrying on the great American tradition of manageably small family farms – farms that, these days, are in constant danger of falling prey to developers, especially as younger generations decide to take an easier life path. Farming is a tough row to hoe – literally.

After becoming a dedicated locavore this summer, I wanted to create a fall recipe taking full advantage of the products grown here in my neighborhood.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Right in my own backyard…

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

…or down the street. There’s a cranberry bog about a mile from my house. The annual harvest is a family affair – same as with all small farms.

So: apples, cranberries…

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Harvest Applesauce Cranberry Cake!

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

My apple tree bore so profusely this fall that I couldn’t possibly use all its fruit. Some went into applesauce; but most, especially the windfall, ended up as cider.

Luckily, we have a friend who lugs his grandfather’s old wooden cider press around in the bed of his pickup, just looking for cider-making opportunities. Thanks, Roger!

I did save a few apples out for late-season baking; so I decided to use some of the bruised ones to make sauce for this cake.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

I don’t bother to peel apples when making sauce; why lose all that fiber and color in the skin? Instead, I simply core the apples…

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

…drizzle them with a tablespoon or so of boiled cider, and microwave for about 5 minutes.

For chunky applesauce, I mash with a potato masher. For smooth (which I’ll use in this recipe), I turn to my immersion blender.

Let’s go ahead and take this homemade applesauce and local cranberries, and make a simple cake.

First, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ square or 9″ round pan.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon melted butter into the bottom of the pan. For more apple flavor, combine the butter with a tablespoon of boiled cider.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Pour 2 1/2 cups cranberries – fresh or frozen – into the pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar; I love cranberries’ acidic tang, so I go with the smaller amount of sugar.

Next, the cake batter. Combine the following:

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup applesauce, unsweetened preferred
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix everything together, stirring until smooth.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Pour the batter atop the fruit, spreading it evenly over the surface of the pan.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the center feels firm when pressed, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Remove the cake from the oven, and invert it over a heatproof serving plate. Wait a few seconds, then carefully lift off the pan. Scrape any stuck-on fruit in the pan back onto the cake.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Serve warm or at room temperature – either way, it’s tangy/sweet, moist, and irresistible.

Once I’d finished this first version, I had one of those palm-to-forehead moments: why hadn’t I included diced apples in the topping, along with the cranberries?

Back to the drawing board. Um, cutting board.

I run a medium-large Russet apple through my apple peeler/corer/slicer, and chop the resulting slices in thirds to yield about 1 cup of fruit. I combine the apples with 1 1/2 cups cranberries. The goal is 2 1/2 cups fruit, total; feel free to use your own balance of apple/cranberry.

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

I decide to use a 9″ round pan instead of the 8″ square – they’re the same volume, so why not? Since the apples add sweetness, I sprinkle the fruit with the smaller amount of sugar: 1/4 cup.

Beyond that, there’s no difference in prep steps or baking time.

And the resulting cake?

Farm to Table Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake via @kingarthurflour

Totally delicious.

It’s not realistic to eat a 100% farm to table diet, especially in colder climes; many of us would be eating root vegetables and dried fruit for months at a time. And it’s true, when it comes to baking, it’s nigh on impossible to source all-purpose flour and sugar locally.

Still, I feel good about this cake, with its backyard apples and down-the-road cranberries, its Cape Cod butter and Vermont boiled cider. The simple act of baking itself is all about using heart, hands, and mind to create something delicious to share with family, friends, and neighbors.

And at the end of the day, farming comes from the exact same place. Our American family farms are a national treasure; let’s support them.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Harvest Apple Cranberry Cake.

Print just the recipe.

See all of our American Baking Down the Decades posts, covering 1900-2015.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Rosa

    Sigh….would love to live next to that farm! Not much within 100 miles around here except corn and soy. That Apple Cranberry Cake looks awesome! I plan on making that tonight!!!

    Reply
  2. Barbara

    Oh my, those photos are gorgeous! You live in a lovely area. (But I have to admit, as a Southerner, I’d find it awfully cold most of the time.) I’m looking forward to trying the cake recipe.

    Reply
  3. Pam Baker

    Looks yummy. I live outside of Brattleboro and the organic locavore and slow food movement is strong here. Within a 15 mile radius we have four large organic market farms-Wild Carrot, Walker Farm, Lilac Ridge and Dwight Miller. There are more smaller ones too. We have the annual Strolling of the Heifers parade in June which celebrates our local family farms. And around that event has grown the Slow Food Summit.
    I am a huge fan and follower of Joel Salatin. We raise meat chickens and turkeys, sustainably and egg layers as well. We have a large garden and was able to put up 58 quarts of green beans, 100 pounds of potatoes this season and froze 70 stuffed green peppers.
    Our apples were prolific this year as well. I put up 52 quarts of applesauce and have 12 more bushels with which we’ll make cider over the coming weeks.
    I also had a large number of uncooked and some cooked, chicken carcasses in my freezer so I cooked them, made stock and then with the meat made 12 individual chicken pot pies and froze them. They turned out great. So wonderful at this time of year and much better tasting then commercial ones.
    How interesting that you live down on the Cape. I guess I sort of expected you to always be there at the KAF facility…not that I get up there as often as I’d like.
    I love reading your tutorials. It’s like chatting with a friend in her kitchen while she cooks and I sip wine and watch.
    Thanks PJ.
    Respectfully,
    Pam Baker
    PS my husband says I’m a good cook but a better Baker ;0)

    Reply
  4. Carmen

    I don’t have any cranberries in my fridge at the moment, but it should still work if I use cranberry applesauce in the cake and some of my leftover apples for the topping, don’t you think?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What a great way to use what you have in the kitchen pantry, Carmen. In Vermont, we call that “run what you brung”! Happy baking – Irene@KAF

  5. June G.

    Love Crow Farm!! While living on the Cape, I may have gone there just a few times and our family had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a cranberry harvest. I miss the Cape!! Definitely trying this cake.

    Reply
  6. waneta

    Was anyone wondering what Minto shapples are? It is on one of the signs on the farmstand. I did figure it out, but “macoun” still has me stumped.

    Reply
    1. Sandra Rubino

      I learned about Macoun apples from a lovely farmstand in Middletown, R.I. the year we spent in school there. Wonderful apples for pies. We don’t get them in Florida where we now live, but I am grateful for more variety than Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.

  7. janet walton

    I’m from northern Ontario, Canada. We have apples and lots of cranberries up here too. I’m going to make this cake today.

    Reply
  8. HMB

    I subscribe to a community-supported agriculture program, so eating with the seasons can get a little tedious in the winter, but it sure makes you appreciate the fresh bounty of summer!
    I have lots of cranberries in my freezer and apples came in my farm box this week, so I’ll have to make this cake.

    Reply
  9. Jacqueline

    Exactly what I was thinking of doing with my little bit of leftover cranberry sauce. Going to switch out some AP flour for Spelt, shred apples (couple to use up) rather than applesauce. Will post with results. May need some additional liquid in the batter? Will squeeze some fresh OJ if the batter seems too dry. I know it’s baking, precision matters, but I think this is a simple enough recipe I can tweak a bit and be okay?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jacqueline, it sounds like you have a good handle on making adjustments to the recipe, so this should work fine! Let us know how it turns out. Barb@KAF

    2. Jacqueline

      Substitutions:

      For Topping
      for butter: Earthbalance baking bars
      for whole cranberries – combo of leftover cran relish, coarsely shredded apple to make 1.5 C
      supremes of two satsuma
      1/4 C sugar

      For Cake:
      3/4 C spelt flour
      3/4 C Irish Whole Meal flour (love!)
      for applesauce, remaining apples coarsely shredded (in total 2 medium)
      added juice from satsumas and ~1 TSP boiled cider

      For Me:
      whole grains, antioxidants, vitamins for breakfast.

      This was super easy to make and pretty good. I’m sure it’d be great with whole cranberries but I was out so I made it an “EDF” project. (eating down the fridge)

      Thanks!

  10. Alison Tee

    I wonder if it would be good with a combination of cranberries and pomegranate arils? Thanks for a delicious-sounding recipe!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Alison, I think that would be a tasty twist! Let us know how it turns out if you decide to experiment! Bryanna@KAF

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