Apple pull-apart bread

Savory Apple Pull-Apart Bread and Horseradish Butter (Inspired by Fiona Apple)

Apple pull-apart bread

THE DISH
Apple, Camembert and chive pull-apart bread with horseradish butter

THE INSPIRATION
When I started brainstorming recipes for this site two years ago, one of the first half-ideas I had was a Fiona Apple-inspired dish involving with tart apples — naturally, because of her reputation for having a sometimes-bitter personality that’s come across as much in her public appearances as in her music. I’m glad I held off on that, though, because her latest record changed my perception a bit. The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do (whew!) still has songs about loneliness, heartbreak and defeat, with lines like “I ran out of white doves’ feathers/ to soak up the hot piss that comes from your mouth every time you address me.” But overall it’s not quite as intense as her first two releases, and there are a few more moments of sweetness than I’d expected, and when I saw her at a small show in Brooklyn months before the album came out, she was funny and chatty and just not as angry as she’s been the other times I’ve seen her. Idler Wheel is Apple’s first album since Extraordinary Machine in 2005; it was worth waiting for and every bit as great as I’d hoped it would be.

I’ve only made yeasted bread a few times — partially because if it was a regular thing I’d eat way too much of it, and also because of the time commitment. But it’s becoming tradition when my best friend Jenni comes to visit from Michigan, and the couple times we’ve done it it’s been worth the effort and, like Apple’s records, more than worth the wait for the end result. Last year we made Smitten Kitchen’s apple and honey challah (part of an entire apple-themed dinner) and it was incredible, quickly devoured by my friends at an apple-themed dinner party. This year’s project — a pull-apart bread filled with apples (becoming another part of the tradition, I guess), Camembert cheese, and chives — also took a while; something like three hours if you count the time waiting for it to rise. We had the BF and his mom over for dinner, and this baby was nearly gone by the end of the evening, with just enough for Jenni and me to share for breakfast the next morning.

The bread is baked in stacks of square pieces of dough covered in the apple filling, so when it’s done you don’t need a knife because you can just break it off into big, flaky pieces. The childlike, eating-with-your-hands element makes me think of the Idler Wheel song “Anything We Want,” where Apple sings about pretending to be 8 years old, and also “Jonathan,” a song about her ex, author Jonathan Ames, who supposedly has taken many a date to Coney Island. As for the filling itself, we did use tart apples like my original idea, as well as chives, balanced out by sweet, creamy Camembert cheese.

The album ends with the jazzy vocal acrobatics of “Hot Knife,” driven by the line, “If I’m butter, if I’m butter/ If I’m butter then he’s a hot knife.” Some have written the track off as silly, but it’s actually one of my favorites here. Like other parts of Idler Wheel, it’s uncharacteristically sweet, about a guy who makes her melt (and vice versa later in the song, when it changes to “I’m a hot knife, I’m a hot knife/ I’m a hot knife, he’s a pat of butter”). I also love the story behind the recording: Apple sung it with her sister, an experience that was one of their most intimate. So to complement the bread, we made a horseradish-infused butter; the kick from the horseradish represents the song’s bold claim that she’s going to win the guy over for good: “If I get a chance I’m gonna show him that he’s never gonna need another, never need another,” and the butter is self-explanatory. (In case you were wondering, we didn’t spread it with a hot knife — whoops!) The album’s most quoted line comes from the first track, “Every Single Night”: “I just want to feel everything,” and with the different flavors in this, I think it works here, too.

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Sesame-Honey Granola Bowl (Inspired by Julie Doiron)

THE DISH
Sesame granola with Greek yogurt, apples and Morello cherries (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
At the end of the summer, I found myself in a long-distance relationship with my “one who got away” (because I’m the kind of totally-sappy hopeless romantic who would refer to a past could’ve-been-love as “the one who got away”). We were on opposite sides of the country and hadn’t even seen each other in going on three years, but it wasn’t long before I’d happily devoted much of my time and most of my energy into Making It Work through Skype, letters, phone calls, etc. — until this week when it ended and left me feeling like I’d been socked in the stomach a bunch of times. Canadian singer/songwriter Julie Doiron is great at writing songs that feel like that, especially on her 1999 album Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars. In “In This Dark” she sings, “Every time things go so well/ I think of all the things that have gone this wrong/ Timing’s never been worse” and in “The Second Time,” “Reckless restless feeling I’m unsure/ Trusting anybody anymore/ And sometimes when I am so unsure/ What difference, anyway.” I love that she doesn’t hold back in putting her entire heart and life into her relationships, however tumultuous they might be, which comes through even in her songs that aren’t quite so dark. Her 2009 album I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, has some of the same — in “Heavy Snow” she sings, “Oh, heavy heart, forgive me/ Make me feel like it’s all okay/ Living through the night and living through the day” — but it’s also home to plenty of happier moments in songs that are so simple, but they can put my best moods over the top. The playful opener “The Life of Dreams” starts, “I’m living the life of dreams/ I’m living the life of dreams/ With good people all around me/ I’m living the life of dreams” and the closing track goes, “Every day, every night I tell myself in this beautiful light/ That I’m glad to be alive.” So, here I am, somewhere on the low-ish side of Doiron’s spectrum, but looking up. As my boss so eloquently said to me over IM yesterday: “New years, new beginnings, etc. Fish, sea.” (Really, guys, I’ll be fine.)

As for the food, it’s a recreation of a breakfast I had a couple of times on my last visit (at this Chicago coffee shop). Overall, it’s a filling, comforting breakfast that doesn’t feel too heavy; the sour cherries, tart granny smith apples and tartness of Greek yogurt are pretty much how I feel right now, but the sweetness from the granola is a reminder that things certainly will get better, and hopefully soon.

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Apple Spice Upside-Down Cake (Inspired by Thousands)

THE DISH
Apple spice upside-down cake (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Thousands are the Seattle-based duo of Kristian Garrard and Luke Bergman who write gorgeous, barebones folk songs, mostly comprised of delicate dueling guitars over hushed vocals, occasionally with a harmonium or pedal steel. Their album The Sound of Everything was recorded in abandoned barns and other unconventional spots (like silos and state parks). One of my favorite tracks, “Everything Turned Upside Down,” starts with what sounds like waves in the background, and has a line that goes, “You should’ve seen the fall leaves blow up/ They never fell at all.” Of course I had to make some kind of upside-down cake, but I went with apple instead of the traditional pineapple, and added fall spices to make it even more appropriate for the season. Aesthetically, it’s also very rustic-looking and kind of reminds me of a tart with the way the caramel-soaked apples sink into the cake.

https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F12366501 Thousands – Everything Turned Upside Down by Republic of Music

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Golden Beet Salad (Inspired by the Wilderness of Manitoba)

THE DISH
Salad with golden beets (and a bunch of other things)

THE INSPIRATION
Toronto band the Wilderness of Manitoba make lovely folk music based on hushed harmonies and lush, organic arrangements. Their album When You Left The Fire was made for this time of year: They mention breezy nights (“Orono Park”), devils dancing in the trees (“November”), and crashing waves (“White Water”). There’s also a song called “Golden Beets,” so I wanted to make a dish centered around those lovely beets that do not make a big, fuchsia-colored mess. It needed to be hearty and have a lot of components (kale! pomegranate seeds! apples!), because their songs have many textures and layers; but it had to be made from simple, natural ingredients, because the instrumentation is mostly acoustic. And we added sunflower seeds because Manitoba is Canada’s largest sunflower seed producer (and they taste good). Check out the video below; obviously quite perfect for ringing in November.

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Apple and Broccoli Soup (Inspired by Fleet Foxes)

THE DISH
Apple and broccoli soup (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I’ve said it before, but what I miss most about the Midwest in the fall is apple orchards and cider mills. I remember school apple-picking field trips as far back as preschool (the photo to the right is of my sister circa 1991-92): taking a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the orchard, getting dropped off near sectioned-off area for different varieties of apples, then eating them right off the tree as we filled our bags.

There are a couple songs on Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues with references to apple orchards: In the title track, Robin Pecknold sings, “If I had an orchard I’d work till I’m raw/ If I had an orchard I’d work till I’m sore,” and in “The Shrine/An Argument,” it’s “Apples in the summer are cold and sweet” and later in the song “Green apples hang from my tree/ They belong only to me.” But quite a few parts of the album make me think about my childhood besides just the references to apples. The album opens with, “So now I am older/ Than my mother and father, when they had their daughter/ Now what does that say about me?” And then in the title track, Pecknold sings, “I was raised up believing I was somehow unique/ Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see/ And now after some thinking I’d say I’d rather be/ A functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me,” and then he goes on to say he doesn’t know yet what exactly that will be or where he’ll end up. Something like this was mentioned in the recent New York Magazine cover story about today’s 20-somethings — like Pecknold and myself — and I know a ton of us can relate in that we’re all trying to figure out where we’re supposed to be in the world and what our bigger purpose is. We’re remembering that we were always told we’re special and can do big things with our lives, and sometimes realizing that that might mean contributing to a bigger project or cause rather than simply working toward what we want on our own.

So, the food: My best friend Jenni came to visit a couple weeks ago, and even though our plans to actually go apple-picking fell through, we decided to go forward with the apple-themed dinner we’d planned. I wouldn’t say we worked till we were sore, like in the song, but we certainly worked hard: apple-honey challah, salad, apple-pear crisp, and this soup as the main dish. Fleet Foxes are the ultimate fall band, and my falls are typically all soup all the time, so that part was easy. You’re probably thinking broccoli and apple sounds like a strange combination, or assuming that this is a sweet dish — but it’s actually mostly savory and the apples add just a touch of sweetness (and I’d consider most of Fleet Foxes’ music savory, but with sweetness in the harmonies). The apples are roasted in olive oil, thyme, sage, salt and pepper — definitely not your typical cinnamon and nutmeg. And, the soup is vegan since Pecknold is, too.

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Apple Sandwiches with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

Every month or so, I’ll be partnering with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I’ll create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is Lady Lamb the Beekeeper performing Cher’s Phil Spector-produced cover of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do” (get the free mp3, watch the video, and read my feature on her here), and here are the apple sandwiches I made with Aly Spaltro, aka Lady Lamb. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Baked apple and coleslaw sandwiches (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
When I first approached Aly Spaltro, aka Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, about cooking with me for ETB/BB Songs, she said, “How do you feel about apple sandwiches? I’ll tell you all about ’em.” When she came to my apartment last month, I learned that her mom had started a blog of random childhood memories, and a recent post had been about sandwiches Aly’s grandfather used to make for her mom: toasted bread with butter, baked apples, honey and cinnamon-sugar. Not only was this perfect for October (because of National Apple Month), but it’s also fitting for Aly’s music, which is perfect for fall and, coincidentally, she happens to mention apples quite a bit. In a lovely song on her record Mammoth Swoon (called “Apple,” of course), she sings, “So suffice to say, if you walked away, I would be a lonely apple,” and she says there’s a song called “You Are The Apple” on her forthcoming LP (read more about that here. “I don’t know what my deal is,” she says. “I just love them. I love the word … I don’t even realize it when I’m writing, I’m just like, ‘Yeah, this makes sense; apple, apple.'”

So, here’s a delicious twist on Aly’s grandpa’s apple sandwiches. These are all veggie, but for meat eaters she recommends adding some turkey to it, too.

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Apple Pear Crisp + a playlist for National Apple Month

THE DISH
An easier-than-pie apple pear crisp (recipe here)

THE PLAYLIST
October is National Apple Month! So, just a warning that most of October’s recipes on here will involve apples. To kick it off, here’s a playlist of some apple songs! You can listen on Spotify here, and the songs are below:

Mirah, “Apples in the Trees”
Beach House, “Apple Orchard”
Erykah Badu, “Apple Tree”
My Brightest Diamond, “Apples”
Slow Club, “Apples and Pairs”
The White Stripes, “Apple Blossom”
Blitzen Trapper, “Apple Trees”
Arcade Fire, “My Heart is an Apple”

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