I make a lot of applesauce. (You should, too.) I like being able to control the quality and variety of the apples used and I rarely need to add sugar. I use a mix of organic Pink Lady, Honeycrisp or Zestars, whatever looks best and is available, often with some Granny Smith thrown in because I like my sauce on the tart side. Almost any kind of apple will do; there are some varieties, such as Red Delicious, that I find too mealy, but making it homemade means that you can adjust very easily for personal preferences. If you like a milder, sweeter sauce, you might choose Jonagold, Braeburn or Gala apples; anything goes, as long as the end product tastes good to you.
Quarter and core as many apples as you like: I generally use about a dozen medium apples and end up with 8 or so cups of sauce. If you have access to a food mill or ricer, don’t peel them! (The peels, especially if you are lucky to have access to McIntosh apples, my favorite kind for applesauce when I can find them, give a beautiful color to your sauce.) If you only have a blender or food processor, you will want to peel the apples when you core them.
Place apples in a large pot or stockpot and add water until the level is just below the apples in the pot. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 30-40 mins. (cook time varies depending on the firmness of the apples you use) until apples can be mashed with the back of a wooden spoon. There should be some liquid in the pot; don’t drain it away. Ideally, you will run the apples and cooking liquid through a food mill or ricer. If you don’t have that option, puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Add cinnamon if you like and sugar if you must.
Like every fruit, apples have a peak season: I feverishly make sauce in autumn, when they are at their finest. Because of all the available varieties and because apples store so well, we are lucky to have access to them throughout the year, even in farmers’ markets. Occasionally, I will buy 5 lbs. or so and make sauce only to discover that the apples I bought were duds– flavorless, bad consistency or otherwise flawed. What to do then? Well, cinnamon can help, as can cardamom, and rarely I put in some brown sugar and try to mask the flavor. Sometimes there is just no disguising or fixing, and then I make applesauce cake. I love this cake so much– it is moist and chocolaty with a hint of the taste of apple and cinnamon from the sauce. You can amplify the cinnamon taste by adding another 1 tsp. to the cake batter, but my husband and I agree that it doesn’t need it, so more often I make the recipe with no changes. It does not even need frosting! The only thing separating this recipe from perfection is the amount of white sugar it includes; if I make more dud batches of applesauce anytime soon, I plan to experiment with using honey as the sweetener, perhaps agave syrup. I promise to report back.
Chocolate Applesauce Cake
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour (sometimes called white wheat flour)
- 1/4 c. baking cocoa (I use Valrhona)
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 8 T. butter, softened
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 c. unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, at least 5 mins. Add eggs one at a time and mix well; add vanilla. Slow beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, alternating with 1/3 of the applesauce, until everything is combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips across the top. Bake for 35 mins., until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Freezing: Applesauce can be frozen in a tightly-covered, freezer-safe container; I aim to use it up within 3 months. The cake also freezes very well. If I am making this just for us to eat, half goes immediately into the freezer in a gallon-size freezer bag; I have never had one in there for longer than a month.