This is not a sponsored post. Boastful Food did not receive compensation to promote Coronado cajeta or Krusteaz honey corn bread mix. I just love both of these products and thought they’d be perfect for this recipe. Also a big thanks to the sweet team at The Farm At Swan’s Trail in Snohomish who made me feel like a big kid for the day and who did not pay me in apples or otherwise to write a positive review about their farm. They are the real deal.
Caramel and apples are good for you! That’s what the old guy selling the biggest caramel apples I’ve ever seen at the Seven Mile Fair in Milwaukee would have you believe. Every Sunday my parents would take us to this outdoor flea market that sold random chachkies and was host to local farmers and food vendors. This guy, a dead-ringer for Burl Ives, wore a floppy, brown fishing cap and sat behind a tiny, white wooden booth and would call out, “An Apple A Day….”. Funny thing was, that’s all he’d ever say. His apples did the rest. It was all I could do as a little excited kid to contain myself when we came to the aisle where I might have the chance to pick out one of those fat, round, caramel apples. Thanks to this character, I’ve forever become a bit of a caramel apple snob. For me, a great caramel apple starts with the right kind of apple- crisp, a little sweet and not mealy or tart. It has a thick, generous layer of caramel, enough so that when you’ve made your way around the apple, there’s that wonderful stump left on the bottom where the hot caramel draped the apple and then oozed outwards until it hit the bottom. It should drip sweetness when you take every bite and make it impossible to keep your face clean until you’ve finished the entire thing. If only everything in life were this sweet.
I had forgotten how much I love Fall and the allure of all things apple and decided to get in the car for this next recipe. When you live in Washington where 70% of the entire country’s apples are grown, you get in the car and go pick them right off the tree. It isn’t hard to find u-pick apple farms near Seattle and I have to admit, I’ve never been so in love with photographing a subject until I met the Honeycrisp and Jonagold apples out on The Farm At Swan’s Trail in Snohomish. I swear, I was that little wide-eyed kid again, getting my fill of everything apple during their recent kick-off celebration. I lost track of the number of times I said, “I don’t ever want to go home. This place is great!” U-pick apples that snap and run like syrup down your hands when you bite into them, apple cider donuts that taste just like pressed cider and have the most delicate crisp on the outside, gorgeous fields of every color, shape and sized pumpkins, and some of the best darn caramel apples I’ve ever eaten. The farm crew were all so friendly, like those nice neighbors who bring you pie. It was refreshing to find a place that just wanted to see you smile. And this was with a gazillion kids running around. I don’t remember hearing any of them crying. I’m always fearful that great first time experiences are hard to replicate, but I’m putting my money on these guys and will definitely be making this an annual trek. Judging from the packed parking lot and people arriving even before the place opened, I’m certain they have plenty of fans in their camp.
With the dew still clinging to the branches and the sun warming out behind the mist of a cool, September morning, I walked down rows of apple trees, appreciative for the bounty and humbled by the stillness and beauty of something as simple as an apple hanging jewel-like on the tree. It was as if each one were styled and primped just for this occasion. I love it when Mother Nature just knocks it out of the park. Well, her and the farm crew that has worked hard to tend for these beautiful apples so people like me can share in that picked-from-tree experience. When you can bite into an apple just minutes after twisting it from a tree branch and have it remind you of childhood and laying in piles of maple leaves and drinking warm mugs of spiced cider, that’s what I call a total sensory overload experience. I’m afraid I may just be spoiled on u-pick apples for life.
The wonderful thing about apples is that you can do everything under the sun with them. I opted to go the sweet route and did a version of a cornbread and caramel apple cake recipe I whipped up a few winter’s ago when a friend left me a box of cornbread mix. Since I had so many apples and wanted to enjoy them as much as I could, I came up with this rustic cornbread cobbler with a Mexican style goat milk caramel. You can use any type of caramel, but this one just pushed my “I loved eating this when I was a kid” memory over the top and since I was already regressing to my early years, I figured why not keep going. I never knew I could become so enamored by fruit. Eve never stood a chance in the Garden of Eden if that apple she ate was as good as the ones I picked up on The Farm At Swan’s Trail.
10 cups peeled and sliced apples ( I used both Honeycrisp and Jonagold)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup Coronado cajeta goat milk caramel
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 box Krusteaz honey cornbread mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
This recipe was created and baked in a cast iron dutch oven. If you do not have one, don’t worry, you can easily divide the recipe into two baking dishes. Just make sure your pans are deep enough to allow for the cornbread to rise.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Peel and slice apples. I like to use a quick technique of cutting the apples in half, then into quarters and removing the core with my knife before cutting into thick slices.
Place apples in a large bowl with lemon juice. Toss to coat.
Next, melt butter in the dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add in apples, cornstarch, apple cider, vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Let cook for about 10 minutes and then turn heat down to medium low.
Add in cajeta, walnuts, raisins, brown sugar and salt. Stir well and remove from heat.
In a mixing bowl, combine Krusteaz cornbread mix with remaining teaspoon of cinnamon and cloves. Add in remaining ingredients following the package instructions. (This dry mix is about 3 cups and requires 1 egg, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 2/3 cup milk).
Scoop large spoonfuls of the cornbread batter on top of the apples. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts.
Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean and dry. Serve individual portions with a drizzle of cajeta and dollop of your favorite ice cream.