A crisp taste of fall: baked apples, apple cake

For as long as anybody can remember, New York State's Hudson Valley has been known for the size and diversity of its apple crop. When fall approaches, McIntosh, Cortland, Delicious, Northern Spy, and Rome Beauty apples are harvested, along with new varieties such as Empires and Paula Reds.

In the kitchens of the apple-growing families, recipes handed down through generations are put to use. Hudson Valley housewives bake, fry, stew, roast, broil, and candy apples and use them in pies, puddings, cakes and cookies, salads, and fritters.

There's scarcely an apple grower's wife who doesn't have a file of family recipes for baked apples which have a long history in the area.

In colonial days, baking apples was a natural process for brick-lined Dutch ovens beside the fireplaces of the gabled houses built by settlers from the Netherlands.

Tart apples baked with maple syrup and currants were a customary starter for copious breakfasts common in the Hudson Valley in the 1600s and 1700s.

Ellen Abbruzzese, a native of Ulster County, the valley's prime apple-growing area, who now lives on a 412-acre fruit farm near Albany with her husband, Joseph, and six children, has a recipe with an unusual twist.

The baked apples are served chilled with a cream cheese topping, an idea popular around Mrs. Abbruzzese's hometown, Milton, in the midst of the Hudson Valley's largest orchards.

Baked Stuffed Apples 6 large cooking apples (Spys, Cortlands, or Romes) 3/4 cup light corn syrup 6 whole cloves Cinnamon 2 packages cream cheese, 3 ounces each 2 tablespoons light cream 2 tablespoons honey 1/3 cup raisins 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Core apples, being careful not to break through the bottom. Do not peel. Put apples in a shallow baking pan. Pour two tablespoons of corn syrup along with a whole clove and a dash of cinnamon into the cavity of each apple.

Cover the bottom of pan with hot water and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until apples are tender, basting occasionally.

Chill apples and place in individual serving dishes. Surround apples with syrup in which they were cooked. Whip cream cheese and light cream and honey until soft and fluffy.

Add raisins and walnuts and mix well. Fill apple cavities with cream cheese mixture, heaping mixture generously on top. Serves 6.

Cortlands are Mrs. Abbruzzese's favorite cooking apples because ''they don't turn brown in salads and don't require much sugar or water in cooking, since they are sweet and make their own juice.''

She uses Cortlands for the applesauce used in another favorite recipe of the Hudson Valley, applesauce cake.

Her method for applesauce is simple. ''Core, peel, and cube the apples,'' she instructs. ''Then put them in a pot with very little water, cover and cook until the apples are soft. Mash them with a potato masher and then add sugar . . . I use very little . . . and a dash of cinnamon.''

Applesauce Cake 1/2 cup butter 11/2 cups sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup thick, unsweetened applesauce 2 cups flour 1/4 teaspoon flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup seeded raisins, chopped.

Thoroughly cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add applesauce and then sifted dry ingredients. Beat until smooth and then fold in raisins. Bake in an 8-inch square pan lined with waxed paper at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tests done.

Some families add chopped nuts to this applesauce cake, along with the raisins, and sometimes the cake is frosted with a thin white icing. The Abbruzzeses prefer it unfrosted.

Sesame Apple Rings 3 large red apples 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine 1/2 cup packaged fine dry bread crumbs 1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Core apples, but do not peel. Cut two slices, half an inch thick, from each apple (use the remainder for applesauce). Brush slices on both sides with melted butter and coat with crumbs.

Arrange in greased shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with sugar and sesame seeds. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes until golden brown and tender. Serve hot as an accompaniment to pork or ham.

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