At Long Last

20131106_BlogAppleCake-107Happy November, friends. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted a new recipe. There’s been a lot of newness around here lately and I’ve been so looking forward to telling you about it, but then I sit down to write a post and the words haven’t felt quite right. I’ve gotten good at realizing this means it’s time to step away until I can’t wait to sit down and pick it up again — and that’s exactly how I felt this morning. So at long last, a new recipe for a truly delightful boozy apple cake using apples we picked in the Eastern part of the state a few weeks ago (I have a fall crush on this cake, and know that it will be a ‘do again’ in our kitchen very soon). And also at long last: some news I’ve been excited to share with you.

The past few months have found me negotiating a lease (with help from my savvy Dad and uncle Richard) and securing a new kitchen of our own for Marge Granola. In addition, we launched new packaging (have you seen the sweet, squatty boxes that Sam designed?) I’ve known about the kitchen space for awhile, but I have a funny suspicious nature that it’s never good to talk about things until they’re actually written in stone, and I can tell you after many days of priming, painting and sealing concrete floors that this thing. is. on.

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The new kitchen space was not at all on my radar or in the grand plan. Marge has always worked out of shared commercial kitchens, both in California and here in Seattle, and they have wonderful benefits — and definite drawbacks, too. On the plus side of things, it’s much more affordable and in the beginning, it’s nice to work around other food companies who you can share information with or piggyback on an ingredient delivery. When something breaks, it’s not your responsibility to fix it. And the equipment is often much nicer than what you may be able to afford on your own. The drawbacks?  You generally rent a certain number of hours and your schedule is restricted to those hours alone. There’s often not much storage for packaging and it’s generally ill advised to leave more expensive equipment or computers / printers there, so there’s inevitable schlepping. So Much Schlepping. If there are messy food companies working alongside you, it becomes your problem. If you have a busy week and need extra hours for production, it becomes your problem. You get the picture.

So a few months ago I heard word that a caramel corn company was going out of business and they’d built out a new kitchen with a giant hood (what you need to place above a commercial oven, typically costing thousands of dollars), sinks, floor drains, plumbing — all the expensive infrastructure. They were looking for another food company to come in and relieve them of the lease. While it’s more space than we need for Marge Granola and not really the perfect time as my book comes out late next month and I’ll be busy promoting it — it was too good to pass up. It quickly became the right time. It quickly became the next new project.

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In the past few weeks, I’ve learned things I never knew there were to learn: the best way to remove caramel corn gunk from walls, how to seal a concrete floor, how to assess if a used oven is a good buy or not, and how to negotiate at the restaurant stores (much of the time unsuccessfully, but I’m persistent!). I bought a used refrigerator, a few big prep tables, and two large ovens — one a used dinosaur that I’ve named Bertha for now. I hope she’s in it for the long haul, too.

But the hardest part of the whole experience wasn’t cleaning the walls or sealing the floors. The hardest part was in walking into the leasing office to sign my name on the dotted line. I’ve never, ever had to say to to myself definitively that Marge is what I do, what I’m doing. As many of you know, I went to graduate school to be a teacher and when I was laid off I started working in the food industry and eventually began Marge from there but quite passively, to be honest. Initially I just thought it would be fun to do farmers markets while I planned to open a larger bakery. And then I got some unexpected national press. And then customers and stores started ordering the granola. So I put one foot in front of the other and kept at it, slowly picking up the nitty-gritty business knowledge (bookkeeping, accounting, costing spreadsheets) along the way. But I never had to say to myself: I’m in 100%.

For a long time Marge was a side project, a very part-time job. But she’s growing up quickly now, and in signing the three year lease I had to truly commit to her, commit to this. It took a lot of late night pacing and early morning phone calls to family and friends to circle around the decision. But here we are: keys in hand, ovens purchased, and I have contractors (!) coming on Thursday to finish things up. We hope to be up and running in the new space December 1. The best part? I’ll have a little office there (or at the very least, a desk), so I will no longer take phone calls and orders at our kitchen table. And we can come in any old time and bake and package granola with zero regard for anyone else’s schedule. While I’m lucky to have Sam and friends who have helped out this week, I’ve been in the space a lot alone and I have had many moments where I just sit there and look around and smile. I can’t quite envision what it will be like, but I don’t doubt for a second that it was the right decision. And that always calls for boozy cake, does it not?

20131106_BlogAppleCake-103This cake is an example of one of my favorite kinds of fall or winter baking recipes: the humble loaf. It’s from a new book called Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman. While a lot of cookbooks come across my desk in the fall season, this one caught my attention because it really celebrates winter fruits and flavors like pears, apples, citrus, nuts and chocolate. I tend to do a lot of off-the-cuff cooking and baking in the summer, but I can feel a bit more restricted in the late fall and winter months as most of the colorful, ripe produce has dropped off. Truthfully, on the sweet side of things, I think this book is going to help change that this year.

This loaf cake in particular is named after the author’s great grandmother who lived in the Appalachian hills of Virginia and was known for making applesauce cakes. The recipe uses warm spices in a most perfect, subtle way and the dried fruits soak up a little of the bourbon making it almost a cheater’s fruitcake — but more delicious, I’d say. In fact, as written, the recipe says that you can wrap the loaf cake in cheesecloth saturated in bourbon, store it in a plastic bag, and keep in the refrigerator or a cool pantry for around a week. I didn’t try this, but if you end up doing so I’d love hear how it tastes. For my version, I changed things up by using whole grain flours, cutting the sugar in half, and experimenting with my favorite blend of dried fruits and nuts.

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Some of the photos in this post were taken when Sam and I went apple picking with our friends Olaiya and Beau. We drove four hours to a wonderful orchard and rode on tractors to different parts of the orchard — picking six different varieties and somehow taking home 70 pounds of apples (oops!). I had a mild panic attack when we walked up to the scales and learned how carried away we’d gotten, but I’ve been really glad to have them around. For eating, for applesauce, for pie, and for humble loafs like this one. I hope you enjoy it.


Appalachian Whiskey Applesauce Cake
As written the recipe recommends pouring the bourbon over the cake in little bits over the course of an hour, but I found the cake to be thirsty enough that this wasn’t necessary; I poured the entire bit of  bourbon over the cake in two rounds, with just a few minutes inbetween both.  If you’d like to make the cake without the bourbon, I think it’d be just as delicious — it’s quite moist and flavorful on its own, too. While I used my favorite blend of wintery dried fruits and nuts, you can certainly mix it up instead: toasty pecans, crystallized ginger or dried cranberries would all be really nice.  So use what you have on hand and what makes you happy. 

Adapted from: Wintersweet 

Makes: 1 Loaf Cake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup natural cane sugar (I used turbinado)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 1/4 cups chopped hazelnuts or walnuts
1/3 cup bourbon

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease a standard 9 x 5 – inch loaf pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, and add in the vanilla.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, clovers, allspice and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, and mix on low until incorporated. Add half of the applesauce, and mix. Repeat with the rest of the dry ingredients and applesauce, mixing until just combined. With a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the raisins, currants, cherries and nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 55 -60 minutes or until the top of the cake is dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool slightly, then pour the bourbon over the cake a few spoonfuls at a time — pausing for a few minutes in between pours to allow the cake to soak in the liquid.

 

Comments

  1. Deepa@onesmallpot

    Congratulations on this big step. I loved reading about your journey. All the best for what's to come....

  2. Gemma

    Congratulations on the new space - it sounds so exciting! I often think about what I would be doing if I wasn't working 9-5 but I suspect it would take being put in a position where I had to do something about it to actually do something about it (if that makes sense!).

  3. Abby

    Congratulations on this big step! Having followed along as you started Marge, it's great to see how far you've come. Best of luck!

  4. olga

    Huge, huge congrats on your news -- and these are, as frenetic as they may seem, all good, lovely things happening. I spent 10 years on Wall Street :) and look at me now! You followed your heart and it led you somewhere great. So happy for you! xx

  5. Alisa

    I've been reading your blog for a couple years. You have been very inspiring to me along the way! So excited for your new step forward!!

  6. Shanna Mallon

    Oh, Meg. Huge congratulations to you! These are big steps but exciting ones. I feel my heart beating a little faster for you as I think about it. Cheering you on from over here!

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Shanna! You'll have to come visit once we get you out this way!

  7. Sara L.

    I have much respect for you taking the leap! Over the last year I've thought about my day job vs. the things I love to do that I could probably make money at if I just committed to them. I think for a lot of people, these types of passions remain pastimes or dreams, so I have a huge amount of respect for people like you who make them happen.
    This cake reminds me of a rum raisin banana bread recipe I have kicking around somewhere. You soak raisins in booze before adding them to the batter, with walnuts and shaved coconut. It's like a tropical vacation banana bread! You can't go wrong when baking with booze!

  8. Jacqui

    Congrats to you and Marge! It's been amazing following along as Marge continues to grow and kick ass. Hip hip, high fives, hugs etc. :)

  9. Erin

    SO excited for you! There's always a leap over a gap when deciding to really pursue something that had originally been part time (I know that feeling well and it usually creates such a nervous energy!) I bet it's so exciting to have a space that you can call your own!

    (PS- just saw the recipe for sorghum on the kitchn and before I even read it, I thought, "has to be Megan!" Sorghum is one of my favorite grains as of late!)

    1. megang

      Thanks, Erin! Yes there is A LOT of nervous energy. And pacing. And lists. But I think after this next week we should be pretty squared away, and I'm looking forward to settling in and ... settling in. And yes: that sorghum recipe is great. I feel sorghum is like the unknown cousin in the whole grain world, right? Let's fix that!! Happy weekend, m

  10. Anne Zimmerman

    This is so exciting! I saw all the FB posts but there's a much bigger story here. Yahoo! And the cake looks amazing too (as all baked goods do these days...)

  11. lori

    Fantastic news, Megan! Congratulations and best wishes on your continued success with Marge!

  12. Kendra Bruno

    WOW! That IS big news, Megan and I am so happy for you! Congratulations, the best of success to you always, and I cannot wait to see the new space.

  13. Aunt V

    Congratulations on your new space Megan.
    What to use for the apple sauce - homemade or what?

  14. eric G

    YEA!!! I laughed with happiness all the way through, CONGRATS!!!
    Marge is on the map!

    1. megang

      THANKS, ERIC! Large Marge (that's what we call her these days) :)

  15. Jacqui

    That is super exciting! More space to grow a business can be such a good thing, I'm so happy for you!

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Jacqui! You'll have to come visit sometime!

  16. Mary

    HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. ashley

    Congratulations!! And i love the name Bertha for the oven. My printing press's name is Vera so can get a good idea how your Bertha looks: large, tough, can take a beating, and won't give up on you.
    Best of luck to you in the new space!

    1. megang

      Thanks, Ashley! Yes I had to buy Bertha a sister -- a new shiny sister as I couldn't find another used oven, so if Bertha gives up, at least we'll have a back up. Thanks for your well wishes + happy weekend!

  18. momgordon

    Could. Not. Be. Prouder!

  19. Julie

    Congrats on the new space -- I have a feeling great things are in store for you!

  20. Courtney

    You're such an inspiration for the potential small business owners out there! So glad you got your own kitchen and can't wait for the release of your book :)

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Courtney!

  21. Row

    Exciting news! Congratulations on the new space... what an adventure! :)

  22. Angie

    Congratulations on your new kitchen, and on being "in" 100%! Best wishes!

  23. Denise

    Oh Megan, I am beyond happy for you. I cannot wait to check out Marge HQ!

  24. molly

    oh megan! i love love LOVE the new packages! compliments to sam, and his dashing lovely, for this fresh new face. marge is going places, my friend :)

    funnily, i have this book on order as i type, and am expecting it tomorrow. i'll look it up as soon as it lands. a thumbs-up from you is high praise indeed.

    xo,
    molly

  25. Jess

    I love everything about this post. You express the process of arriving at your current reality so beautifully. You're really doing it, lady. All of it. Congratulations. Hope you're feeling proud.

  26. Amber

    This is a solid recipe! Thanks so much for sharing. I substituted one cup Gluten Free AP and 1/2 cup GF oats. I used apple cider in place of sauce and kept the flour-dried fruit ratio 1:1. I used walnuts, and no bourbon, but instead used 1/3 cup molasses, 1/3 cup honey, and 1/3 cup coconut oil, and finished with a drizzle of maple syrup on top during the cool down.

    1. megang

      Sounds killer, Amber! So glad you enjoyed it (and made it your own!) ~Megan

  27. ginger & honey

    Evan Williams for the win, baby! Would you hate it if we said it sounds like fruit cake that got an extra delicious make-over? Either way, it is being made, possibly with caramel involved

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