Wednesday, October 16, 2013

College Days Apple Bread

It's these crisp overcast days that take me back to the joy of an unexpected college care-package.  It's these fall days with yellow brown leaves fluttering to the ground.  They cause me to remember trips to the post office hoping to turn the dial on my old-fashioned glass and metal mailbox door to discover a ticket to exchange at the window for a cardboard box packed full of love from home.  It's these days when I'm longing for the perfect apple bread because I recall peeling back tinfoil and cutting into the crispy sweet edges and lightly spiced moist apples cooked soft in the center of Mrs. Cantrell's bread.  Rhonda was my roommate all four years at Radford University, on campus and off, and all four years we were blessed with her mother's apple bread a couple of times each fall.

Over the years I've tried this recipe and that recipe but none tasted similar or even came close.  No sugary crisp edges, no moist chunky apple center.  Several years ago I reconnected with Rhonda on facebook. The fall soon after, (when I remembered that delicious apple bread), I sent her a hopeful message asking for her mom's recipe.  Instead of a long remembered recipe, I learned that Mom Cantrell had passed away and no recipe was around.  I was devastated for Rhonda's loss and I was determined to bring that apple bread back to life one day.  For myself and for her and future college students in my life.

This fall, it happened.  The leaves are orange, red and yellow and they're busy fluttering down in the breeze, the air is crisp, the sky is overcast, my coffee is steaming next to me on the counter and I was yearning for a bite of that apple bread.  I stumbled across several recipes on Pinterest.  One recipe's photos looked  just about right but soon another recipe followed and the ingredients read like it could've also been just right.  This morning I pulled out everything I needed to begin.  I was SO excited about trying a combination of these recipes, that I forgot to take a few photos as I carefully peeled three apples and diced thick uneven chunks and stirred ingredients.  (My Ugandan friends, Violet, Mariah and Titus would've been proud of my paper thin apple peels with a paring knife!)  

This chunky batter looked like no batter I'd tried before so I knew I was onto something a little special.  I hemmed and hawed over self-rising vs. regular flour, over the scent of cinnamon versus allspice or both. I eyeballed the cups of sugar: too much or not enough? And in the end this treasure bread is sliced gold.  It's not exact, but it's the closest I've come.  And may I just say, Yummmm?  Emphasis on mmmmm.  If you find an hour to try this recipe, maybe, just maybe you'll want to send it to a college student somewhere whom you know and love.

College Days Apple Bread

3 medium apples, peeled and diced (I had Honeycrisp on hand.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

Peel and dice apples, place in large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, oil, milk, vanilla, and sugar.  Stir with a spatula till well-blended.  Add flour, seasonings and stir again till well combined.  (No self-rising flour on hand? Make your own by adding 3 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of salt to your 2 cups of flour.) Use shortening and dust the pan with flour before pouring batter in.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or till a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes, run a knife around the edges, then turn out onto a baking rack.  Makes one loaf.

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