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amaretto and apples and almonds, oh my!


If one subscribes to Kevin's theory that the first meal you eat in the new year sets a sort of precedent  — and it seems like a great belief as it excuses many an indulgent meal on the first day of the year  — then my year is off to an excellent start. Some good friends called and invited us up for impromptu "pizza and whatever else was handy" dinner.

Armed with a few hours lead time, I turned to The Breadbaker's Apprentice for a quick pizza dough (my usual one takes a starter, thus more than a couple of hours). The dough wasn't my favorite, it was a pain to shape and tore far too easily for me to adopt it as a standard recipe. Then again, it was the first time I've used that recipe so I really should give it another chance. My ever-trusty freezer yielded some marinara sauce (which I make a vat of every few months and freeze) which went on two of the pizzas (the other had a pesto sauce) along with a collection of lightly sauteed veggies and some excellent pork sausage that the other guests brought.

Staring at a bowl of Granny Smith apples while I kneaded the pizza dough led me to pondering some sort of dessert. But what? There weren't enough apples for something that was primarily fruit, so pie/crisp/cobbler type things were out. Then I remembered that I'd also seen some pieces of an almond amaretto cake that wasn't a total success in the freezer. (note to self: baking a cake in a big jello mold like tower instead of a bundt pan is a bad idea, no matter what that silly web site said...the middle will never bake and you can't butter the pan well enough to extract it anyway)

A plan formed...well, no that's not true..."plan" makes it sound like I knew where I was going when I started. Not so much.

A notion formed. Peel the apples, cut them into 1/2-3/4 inch chunks, saute in a little butter, cinnamon, and vanilla, along with a splash of amaretto for a few minutes, until softened on the outside but not cooked through. Tear the cake into similar sized pieces. Hmmm. Now what?

The obvious answer seemed to be something like the milk and eggs mixture you'd put in a bread pudding. This also provided me with a use for the lamest "whipping cream" ever. (May I rant? I bought this "whipping cream" garbage at a Fred Meyer, their house brand. Yes, I know better. No, they didn't have anything else. No, I don't have a dairy up the street. Yes, the creamery in my tiny town used to win national awards. No, I don't know why all I could find was this crap that looked like whole milk. Hell, it had an ingredients list. Skim milk was the second thing on it. Excuse me? What is this doing in my "cream"? How dare you!?!) Ummm, errr...but I digress.

Anyway, I mixed this so-called cream and a couple of eggs with a little vanilla, poured it over the cake and apples and baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes. (The little ramekin in the picture took about 15-20 min)

It was really yummy, especially with the Tillamook vanilla bean ice cream that some others contributed. I think I'll be making variations on this again. It does need a name though, "That Apple Cake Pudding Stuff" somehow lacks in poetry.

All in all, it was a great dinner to start the year with. An impromptu gathering with friends, enriched with shared food, a bottle or two of wine, and some lovely music from my favorite guitarist. What could be better?

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