I’ve always been a bit of a nomad, loving my roots but also craving to know as many places as possible. Between my Dad’s military travel stories and all the adventures books I read as a kid, it’s little wonder I hit the road when I was 18. I’ve done most of my travel on chance, though. An opportunity would arise to move to a new place for free or at a greatly reduced price, and my minimal belongings were packed and set at the door. Scholarship money for college in New York? Where’s the airport? Airline ticket reimbursement if I teach in China? Don’t mind if I do.
Frugality by necessity might seem pathetic to those with a padded bank account, but I grew up in a family who liked to make fun of people who wasted money just because they could. I’ll save you the rich people slurs we practiced, but suffice to say, we took “a penny saved is a penny earned” to heart in the Middleton family.
So it’s been strange planning a big summer trip across the Atlantic to Ireland, Wales, and England. I’ve long wanted to visit these countries. Most of my Dad’s ancestors hail from that part of the world, and I was (and still am) more than a little obsessed with 19th-century British poetry and fiction and 20th-century colonial and postcolonial writing, not to mention with a few contemporary British writers (ahem, David Mitchell and Joanna Kavenna).
I’ve never been an international traveler for travel’s sake, though. Recreation without the scent of work lingering off-stage seems suspect (Dare I say “wasteful?”). To compensate for this recreational traveler’s guilt, I’ve been creating lists of all the places I want to visit to flesh out my Irish, Welsh, and British history and literature background. If I make it about education, then I’m still kinda working, right?
Cameron and I are spending the first week in Ireland, meeting up with a graduate school friend who lives in Dublin and teaches at Trinity College and traveling around the west and southern counties of Ireland with one of my dearest friends on the planet and her boyfriend. Then, onward to Wales and England with Cameron for a week of hiking, train travel, and culture clambering.
In the meantime, I’ve been checking out sweet and savory recipes originating across the Atlantic to get a taste of the areas we’ll be visiting. Today’s recipe focuses on the sweet. I’ve never thought much about Ireland’s history with apples, but apparently it’s been quite a long one (by American standards, anyway). According to One Perfect Bite, the Brehon druids, ancestors to the Celtic druids, likely elevated the apple by incorporating them into their spiritual rituals. In an ancient culture where spiritual ritual infiltrated most parts of life, laws protecting apple trees were strict by the community’s standards.
Below you’ll find a recipe for Irish Apple Cake, a shortcake-like dessert packed with tart apples and finished with a brown sugar crust. It’s best eaten within a day of baking since it’s not as moist as some cakes. I enjoyed a slice with a big cup of black tea.
Irish Apple Cake (adapted from a Kenilworth & Co. recipe)
Serves 8 to 10
– 3 cups cake flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 1/8 tsp ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
– 2 large eggs
– 1/3 cup milk
-2 TBS light brown sugar for topping
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 8-inch or 9-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. (I greased a springform pan with butter.)
2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon in large bowl. Add the butter chunks, and blend with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add sugar and mix thoroughly.
3. Peel and slice apples into thin wedges; toss in flour mixture – coating apples.
4. In a separate small bowl, beat eggs and milk. Then, add to apple mixture. Toss and stir well to fully moisten flour. (You’ll have a very goopy dough.)
5. Transfer to prepared pan. Flatten top of surface, and sprinkle with brown sugar.
6. Bake 45-55 minutes or until toothpick test is clean. Cool on wire rack for 5-10 minutes, and then carefully remove from pan. Best served warmed with tea or coffee.