The term “mother guilt” is usually associated with a mother, like the character Mom on A Prairie Home Companion, who intentionally puts a few twists on the screw of her child’s heart for the gratification of receiving, albeit grudgingly, affirmation of his love or confirmation of a visit. I think I am talking about the reverse of that, though. I am talking about the almost unbearable sweetness of a child who recognizes a dream of a parent and makes an effort to connect with her about it. Whether because it has become a shared passion or just because the child knows it is significant, the connection is dear.
Ten years ago, our family bought a small farm on Lummi Island. Our West Shore homestead came with a simple farmer’s house, 5 acres of hay, some outbuildings, and several old fruit trees. The one pictured below is part of our family. At least 50 years old and perhaps another half that much, this tree nearly kills itself each summer producing loads of tart, green, softball-sized fruit.
When we renovated the farm house, I considered this tree in all seasons, and created a baking counter with casement windows that could swing wide open and practically bring the tree indoors. In summer, deer come by in the afternoons to eat the groundfall apples and nap in the shade, I think listening to classical music from the CBC, while I am cooking.
We have only been able to live the life we envision on this farm in snippets because we work overseas and can only be there for six weeks in the summer and possibly a couple more in the winter. Our oldest son, though, went to university in the nearby city and has been able to live on the island or commute there on weekends for several years, now. Even though this place can be a challenge to maintain sometimes, he loves what we love about it and has begun living the life we would live which includes growing our own food and preserving it. I bought a heavy-duty dehydrator a few years ago and in the fall, Gabel painstakingly cuts the apples into slivers and sees them through the drying process. Then what does he do with the bags and bags of dried apples? Like a cat who has proudly pounced upon a mouse, he brings them to me, all of them.
When the boys came to Tunis for Christmas, their backpacks were a hit and miss of items we had put on our wish list for them to bring, but Gabe did put in eight small packets of his freshly dried apple crop. I have been saving them here in the freezer, but now Gabe is heading back this week. He has finished what he has been pursuing here in Tunis and is ready to get a jump on a summer job, register for summer school, and get our farm back in shape. We’re having some of the friends he has made through his Arabic school over for a dinner of his favorite foods, tomorrow. We will have pinto beans, Mexican rice, dried chile salsa, goat cheese tamales, and a cake, featuring his hand-dried apples. Imagine, feeding his friends, from several different countries, cake, made with the fruit from the heart of our home? These are heavy apples, indeed.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil (If you possibly can, use extra-virgin olive oil instead.)
4 large eggs
3 cups reconstituted dried apples
1 cups coarsely chopped nuts (I used toasted hazelnuts, also a NW specialty)
1/2 cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with baking paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in apples, nuts and raisins.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 40 minutes each, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off baking paper; cool cakes completely.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.
To assemble, frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.