The Free Press WV

Applesauce cakes don’t have a singular definition; they run the gamut from dense, chunky fruitcakes to gummy “health” cakes without much flavor. We wanted a moist and tender cake that actually tasted like apples.

To achieve the loose, rustic crumb that’s best suited to a snack cake, we used the simple quick-bread mixing method, mixing the wet ingredients separately and then gently adding the dry ingredients by hand.

The challenge lay in adding more apple flavor. Simply increasing the applesauce made for a gummy cake, and fresh apples added too much moisture. But two other sources worked well: apple cider and dried apples.

When reduced to a syrup, the apple cider contributed a pleasing sweetness and a slight tang without excess moisture. And dried apples_plumped in the cider while it was reducing_gave our cake even more apple flavor.

We liked the textural contrast provided by a simple sprinkling of spiced granulated sugar over the cake before baking. This cake is very moist, so it’s best to err on the side of overbaked when testing its doneness. We prefer the rich flavor of cider, but you can substitute apple juice.


Servings: 9

Start to finish: 1 hour (plus up to 2 hours to cool)

1 cup apple cider

3/4 cup dried apples, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup unsweetened applesauce, room temperature

2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 F. Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan.

Combine cider and dried apples in small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until liquid evaporates and mixture appears dry, about 15 minutes. Let mixture cool completely, then process with applesauce in food processor until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds.

Whisk sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together in bowl; set aside 2 tablespoons mixture for topping. Whisk flour and baking soda together in second bowl.

Whisk egg and salt together in large bowl. Whisk in sugar mixture until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Whisk in melted butter in 3 additions, whisking after each addition until incorporated. Whisk in applesauce mixture and vanilla. Using rubber spatula, fold in flour mixture until just combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Gently tap pan on counter to settle batter. Sprinkle reserved sugar mixture evenly over top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool completely in pan on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift cake from pan. Serve. (Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)


Nutrition information per serving: 278 calories; 97 calories from fat; 11 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 51 mg cholesterol; 304 mg sodium; 42 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 24 g sugar; 3 g protein.

Hard cider, with a shot of sugar

The Free Press WV

Autumn is the season for falling leaves, pumpkin-spice-flavored everything and apple cider.

Yet new research indicates that, in addition to alcohol, some hard ciders may contain a hefty dose of added sugar, which may not be disclosed on the label.

The researchers report their results in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Hard cider, made by fermenting apples or apple juice concentrate, is growing in popularity in the U.S. Apples contain plenty of natural sugars, so adding sweeteners to cider is usually unnecessary.

However, cider makers could add sugar to further sweeten the beverage or speed fermentation.

Although manufacturers are required to list the amount of sugars per serving on the nutrition facts panel, they don’t have to discriminate between those that naturally occur in the product in those that are put in later.

Consuming excessive amounts of added sugars can increase the risk of developing conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

In light of the World Health Organization’s 2015 recommendation to limit added sugars to 25 grams per day, Sheryl Singerling and colleagues wanted to find out if several popular brands of hard ciders contain added sugar not disclosed in the ingredients list.

Sugars from apples have different ratios of carbon-12 and carbon-13 isotopes than sugars from cane or corn syrup because the plants use different photosynthetic pathways.

So Singerling (then at the University of New Mexico) and coworkers used mass spectrometry to analyze the carbon isotope compositions of 23 ciders sold in the U.S. Six of the ciders were imported from Europe, while the rest were made domestically.

They found that 60 percent of domestic ciders contained added sugars from cane or corn syrup, compared with 20 percent of imported ciders.

However, beet sugar is the most common sweetener in Europe, and the method couldn’t distinguish between apple and beet sugars or honey.

Because of widespread discrepancies between isotope ratios expected from ingredients lists and the observed values, the researchers concluded that labels are not a reliable way to determine whether a cider has added sugar.


The Free Press WV

Beautifully braided, rich, and lightly sweet, freshly baked challah is delicious on its own or smeared with softened butter. After a few days, it’s great dunked in custard and made into French toast for a decadent breakfast.

The best challah is rich with eggs, and it has a dark, shiny crust and a firm but light and tender texture. For our recipe, we tried using bread flour, but it made no significant improvement to loaves we made with the typical all-purpose, so we stuck with that.

We tested many different egg combinations (challah is known as egg bread, after all); for a tender texture and a rich but not overwhelmingly eggy flavor, we found two whole eggs and an additional yolk to be optimal.

We kept with tradition and made the bread dairy-free, using water and oil to hydrate and enrich the crumb instead of the milk and butter found in less authentic versions. (Happily, we found that the challah made with water had a lighter and more appealing texture.) Just 1/4 cup of sugar sweetened the loaf and also contributed to its browned exterior.

The recommended shape for challah in most recipes is a simple three-rope braid. Shaped this way, however, our eggy dough rose out instead of up. Some recipes call for braiding six strands for a higher loaf, but this can get complicated_unless you have skills in origami.

Our solution was to make two three-strand braids, one large and one small, and place the smaller braid on top of the larger one. We brushed the loaf with an egg-water mixture before putting it in the oven to produce an evenly brown, shiny crust_the finishing touch to our handsome challah.


Servings: 16

Start to finish: 3 3/4 to 4 3/4 hours, plus 3 hours cooling time (Rising time: 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours)

Key Equipment: 2 rimmed baking sheets, pastry brush, instant-read thermometer

3 1/4 cups (16 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) water, room temperature

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil

2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk, room temperature

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt

1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk water, oil, eggs and yolk, and sugar in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved.

Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and begins to pull away from sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until increased in size by about half, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Stack two rimmed baking sheets, line with aluminum foil, and spray with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to clean counter and divide into 2 pieces, one twice as large as the other (small piece will weigh about 9 ounces, larger piece about 18 ounces). Divide each piece into thirds and cover loosely with greased plastic.

Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), stretch and roll into 16-inch rope (three ropes will be much thicker).

Arrange three thicker ropes side by side, perpendicular to counter edge, and pinch far ends together. Braid ropes into 10-inch loaf and pinch remaining ends together. Repeat braiding remaining ropes into second 10-inch loaf.

Transfer larger loaf to prepared sheet, brush top with egg mixture, and place smaller loaf on top. Tuck ends underneath. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaf increases in size by about half and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Brush loaf with remaining egg mixture and sprinkle with poppy seeds, if using. Bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 190 F to 195 F, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer loaf to wire rack and let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.


Nutrition information per serving: 153 calories; 43 calories from fat; 5 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 52 mg cholesterol; 195 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 4 g protein.


The Free Press WV

When the food processor was introduced in the 1970s, it suddenly made difficult or time-consuming recipes so much easier. The fast blades combine ingredients in just seconds.

Hummus is a perfect example— this creamy spread is made with pureed chickpeas, tahini (which is like peanut butter but is made from sesame seeds), lemon juice, and spices. Before the food processor, you had to beat these ingredients by hand. It was tough work turning chickpeas (a member of the bean family) into a smooth puree. The food processor makes hummus, and many other recipes, much easier and faster to prepare. Talk about a tasty invention.

Use baby carrots, slices of cucumber, whole cherry tomatoes, crackers or pita chips. Follow this recipe with your kids.


Servings 6 (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Prepare Ingredients:

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice, squeezed from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons tahini (stirred well before measuring)

2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

1 garlic clove, peeled

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Gather Cooking Equipment:

Liquid measuring cup



Can opener

Food processor

Rubber spatula

Small bowl

Start Cooking:

In liquid measuring cup, stir together water, lemon juice, tahini, and oil.

Set colander in sink. Open can of chickpeas and pour into colander. Rinse chickpeas with cold water and shake colander to drain well.

Transfer chickpeas to food processor. Add garlic, salt, and cumin to food processor and lock lid into place. Process mixture for 10 seconds.

Stop food processor, remove lid, and scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Lock lid back into place and process until mixture is coarsely ground, about 5 seconds.

With processor running, slowly pour water mixture through feed tube until mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Stop food processor. Carefully remove food processor blade (ask an adult for help). Transfer hummus to small bowl. Serve. (Leftover hummus can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Before serving, stir in 1 tablespoon warm water to loosen hummus.)

The Dipping Life

Don’t have a can of chickpeas in the pantry? You can turn plain yogurt, preferably thicker Greek- style yogurt, into a super-fast dip. (Whatever you do, no raspberry yogurt, please!) Here are some ideas to get you started, but feel free to add flavors as you like.

— Greek Yogurt Dip: In small bowl, stir together 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, and pinch salt.

— Tahni-Lemon Yogurt Dip: In small bowl, stir together 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon honey, and pinch salt.


Nutrition information per serving: 132 calories; 77 calories from fat; 9 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 300 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 4 g protein.

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