Let’s be all cliche tonight and talk about how awesome fall is, shall we? Just when you feel like you can’t take another steamy, sweaty, late-summer day, in swoops fall, all shiny and new and brisk. The mornings are cool and bright and require blazers! and scarves!! and boots!!! All which can be shed under the warm afternoon sun…well, except maybe the boots, you should keep those on.
The air conditioners are suddenly gone from the windows, which are wide WIIIIIIDE open to catch as much as possible of the clean, cool air. Let’s just ignore the allergies for now; they are ruiners of everything and I’m mad at them. The leaves are changing and the light is muted and everything everywhere is pumpkin, or apple, or spice….and no one is sick of it yet.
The ovens are back on and risottos replace the salads, braises replace the sushi, and quickbreads replace the ice cream. Suddenly, it’s ok to stay in on a weekend night under a blanket with a bowl of something comforting and a bottle of red, not white, wine.
Fall is simply the best. Dahlias! Mums! Cider! Pumpkins! Halloween! Sweaters! Crunchy leaves! Scarves! Jackets! THANKSGIVING! Unfortunately, fall is also too short and will be gone before you believe it, giving way to frozen toes and icy walkways. So we have to enjoy it while it’s here. We have to embrace it and tell it we love it before it’s gone. We have to remember not to take it for granted. May I suggest this caramel apple bread for a start? And maybe a finish as well? It is fall embodied in a loaf pan. It is autumn on your plate.
Caramel Apple Bread
Adapted from A Domestic Rebel.
The original recipe calls for store-bought caramel sauce. Instead, I used home-made dulce de leche. You should do whatever feels right to you. If you want to make your own dulce de leche, the instructions are here, or you can make it in a crockpot! Just place a 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk (label removed) in a crockpot and cover with water. Turn the crockpot to low for 8 hours, then turn it off and let the can cool a bit with the water. Done!! I felt like the bread could use more apple AND more caramel when all was said and done…I’ve adjusted it below.
1 c butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1 T lemon juice
2 t vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt
2 large apples, coarsely chopped (I used Granny Smith…I would stick with something tart)
1 can dulce de leche
1 t cinnamon
4 T flour
4 T brown sugar
4 T cold butter, cut into small bits
- Heat oven to 375°F. Liberally spray a loaf pan with cooking spray
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy
- In a separate tiny bowl, dissolve the baking soda into the lemon juice (it will foam)
- Add the baking soda mixture, eggs and vanilla to the butter and beat to combine
- Add the flour and salt and mix until a thick batter has formed
- Stir in the chopped apples by hand
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the crumb ingredients and rub with your fingers until it forms coarse crumbs/pea-sized bits. Set aside
- Spread 1/2 batter in the bottom of the loaf pan. Sprinkle heavily with the crumb mixture and dollop 1/2 a can worth of dulce de leche over the crumb mixture (I know it seems like a lot, don’t worry!). Repeat with another layer of each batter, crumb and caramel
- Bake ~1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean
- Allow to cool slightly, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack