Oak Glen: Apples Bring a little East to the West
Traveling east into the San Bernadino Mountains, the palm trees and roaring waves of the Los Angeles coast fade out of memory. In their place, tall voluminous mountains appear. The red leaves and crisp air transport visitors to this Californian New England country side. Oak Glen Road, spotted with apple orchards and village stores, invites families from all over to pick and buy apples, press fresh apple cider, and purchase an array of homespun wares.
After an unfortunate dry season, u-pick apple picking at Oak Glen’s many orchards is scarce this season. Busy with families everywhere, the many orchards swim with visitors. In every direction, people grab at the trees with tall pokers, trying to reach the highest, just out of reach apples. The village stores consolle apple appitites with heavy barrels and bags of Spartan, Gala, and Rome Beauties. Hay rides bound through the orchards, carrying laughing children, while mothers by apple butter and cider from the orchard store.
At Riley’s Apple Farm(12261 S. Oak Glen Road), families pick through large wooden crates stacked with apples, choosing those perfect for cider. Children wash the apples and turn the large wooden crank that pushes the apples through an old fashioned cider press. The cider is strained and poured into jugs and cups, a refreshing drink and souvenir of the day.
When the sun begins to set, visitors travel further down the winding mountainside to Oak Tree Village(38480 Oak Glen Road.) Here shops offer homemade fudge and treats, traditional Native American and Southwestern leather and turquoise ware, and apple collectibles. Children snack on apple doughnuts as they run around the animal park and go on train rides. At the Parish Pioneer Apple Ranch(38651 Oak Glen Road), hungry families, tired from a trek through the orchards, enjoy smoked barbecue, apple pie and live music at the village eateries. Although the cold winds of winter bring an end to the apple picking season, the picturesque mountains of the area are enough to bring visitors back for a visit, with some Christmas shopping to be done in the country stores. And fall will come again next year, when apple picking at Oak Glen can bring a little East Coast autumn to sunny California once more.
Apples are abundant as the chilly weather takes over and this Apple Cake is a great way to turn fresh fruit into a warm treat. Served warm, with a scoop of cream cheese ice cream, this moist cake is certain to please.
3 apples, pink ladies, or any preferred variety
3 oz butter, room temperature
8 oz brown sugar
2 oz granulated sugar
9 oz All Purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 C sour cream
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and sugar the sides and bottom of a 9″ pie pan(a spring form pan with help for easy removal)
2. Peel two apples. Cut the apples into small dice and place them in a heavy bottomed small saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and place over medium low heat. Cook until apples are soft( you may have to add a little more water if the water boils off, in order to avoid burning the bottom of the apples.) In a food processor, or with a hand held blender, puree apples into a smooth paste.
3. Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer until well combined and slightly fluffy, around 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated and scraping down the bowl as needed.
4. Sift the dry ingredients together. Add one third of the dries to the mixing bowl, mix togther, and scrape the bowl to incorporate. Add the apple puree, mix in completely, and add another third of the dry ingredients. Add the sour cream, scrape the bowl down, and add the rest of the dry ingredients, just mixing until the batter is completely combined.
5. Peel the last apple. Cut the apple into quarters, and using a mandolin, carefully slice the quarters. In the center of the pie pan, fan out the apples in a decorative circle pattern. Carefully pour the batter on top of the apples. Using an offset spatula, spread the cake batter evenly.
6. Bake the cake until the cake does not jiggle when moved and a toothpick comes out cleanly from the center, around 45-50 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack and carefully un-mold the cake. Re-warm to serve.