I think I'm gonna write a manifesto. Mein Cake, maybe.
Hear me out. I feel like there are constantly people who are trying to tell you that you can muck around with recipes when you're cooking on the stove, but when you're baking, God help you if stray a hair from the recipe: your cake will explode, your friends will turn on you, and you'll have bad sex for seven years.
Enough of this dogma. There's a better way, people. I don't think I've ever followed a recipe verbatim, and I have a lot of reasons for this. For one, I feel like the pursuit of perfect recipe replication is flawed: your apples might be bigger, your salt might be saltier, and if your'e cooking in my kitchen, your oven will definitely be hotter than the recipe developer's.
The writer of the recipe likely doesn't know that I don't have scallions right now, but that a frizzy mess of chives is growing on my balcony. She doesn't know about the leftover brown rice wearing out its welcome in my fridge, and she'll never know when I replace her spinach with the gorgeous chard I found at the farmers market on Saturday.
She also didn't have my tastes in mind when she developed the recipe. I sneak in extra vegetables. I like more vanilla. I'll pull back heat. And when it comes to desserts, I like them knobby, dark with ingredients like brown sugar and whole wheat flour, and ugly: I'm not one for fussy pastry perfectionism (thought I'll gladly consume it if you make it for me). I like my baked goods less sweet and more substantial. Wholesome and haimish.
But most importantly, if I'm just going to clone something that already existed, I really don't see the point. Tinkering in the kitchen is what makes cooking a creative process for me. The point is to express a bit of myself in a dish.
So, when I ended up with some apples, some yogurt, and a couple hours free a few Saturdays ago, I decided I needed to make an apple cake, recipe or no. I wanted as much of the good stuff -- big chunks of apple and walnuts -- as possible, barely held together by a whole wheat batter sweetened with maple syrup and some coconut sugar I'd purchased for Corinne's recipe.
The end result totally hit the spot. Moist, substantially apple-y, and just as good for breakfast as it was for a snack. Baking tyrants, get out of the way. The revolution is coming, and it smells a lot like cake.
First, an apology: This post was originally written as I was baking, straight from impulse, totally unforced, seemingly perfect, nearly ready to publish. Then, an unfortunate keystroke in the blogger interface led to that perfect post being deleted forever in an instant, taking a little of my heart with it. I was paralyzed with indignance, and the blog suffered for it. I'm back.
Maple Apple Yogurt Cake
Loosely adapted from Bakeaholic Mama
Makes 8 servings
1 Tbs ground flax seeds
3 Tbs water
1/2 - 2/3 C walnut pieces
1/2 C applesauce OR 1/2 medium apple + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C yogurt
1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C coconut sugar, or other sugar of your choice
1/4 C maple syrup
1 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 C diced apple (I prefer Granny Smith or other tart, crisp variety)
butter or oil to grease pan
Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix flax meal with water in a small bowl, set aside for at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast walnuts in a pan over medium heat, shaking or tossing frequently, until just fragrant.
If you are making applesauce, peel 1/2 apple and process in food processor with cinnamon to applesauce texture.
In a large bowl, mix applesauce, flax mixture, yogurt, sugar, maple syrup, olive oil, and egg to combine. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to just combine. Add walnuts and diced apples and incorporate evenly through batter.
Grease a standard loaf pan and pour batter into it. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.