“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits,” said Henry David Thoreau, and I can’t say I disagree with him. Apples are fruits that lend well to both sweet and savory dishes, enjoyed raw or cooked, and come in a multitude of varieties that provide an assortment of flavor and texture. They’re truly one of my favorite fruits, both because of their flavor and versatility. And as if all those aren’t reason enough to love apples, here’s one more: they pair perfectly with naturally fermented sauerkraut! In fact, many traditional German baking recipes employ the use of apples and sauerkraut to make all manner of delicious sweets. Since Thanksgiving is now right around the corner I decided to experiment with a dessert idea that I could serve on the big day.
I chose to use Pink Lady Apples for this recipe, for several reasons. They have a wonderful sweet yet tart flavor that really goes well with the other ingredients and a nice firm texture that holds up to baking rather than breaking down.
I’ll be honest, these CranAppleKraut cakes aren’t truly cakes; they’re a little softer and remind me of something closer to a cross between a fritter and a cobbler. They hold together well for presentation, but they do tend to fall apart a bit when you’re eating them. You may want to try baking them in ramekins or directly in a cupcake pan; this may help them hold together a bit more, as I feel like part of the issue with mine was that they needed more direct heat on the sides. I baked mine in cupcake liners in a cupcake pan, something I think I’d avoid doing next time. If you do decide to make them in something else, make sure to grease your pan/ramekin prior to spooning in the mixture.
What you’ll need:
For the cakes:
- 2 eggs
- 1 Pink Lady Apple
- 1 cup well-drained Bubbies naturally fermented sauerkraut
- ½ cup chopped dried cranberries
- ½ cup applesauce
- 1 cup oats, 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
For the bottom/topping:
- ½ stick softened butter
- ¾ cup oats
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
For the Port Caramel Sauce:
- 1/4 cup Tawny Port
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 cup water
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
The caramel port sauce isn’t really needed- these are tasty enough on their own- but if you really enjoy caramel apples, you’ll probably love the way this light sauce adds a delicious, lightly spiced caramel flavor that really enhances the tartness of the apples. If you want the sauce thicker (this is a fairly thin syrup) I would omit the water.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the center. Measure out and start draining your sauerkraut. Combine the bottom/topping ingredients in a bowl and mix well- make sure you start out with very soft butter to make sure everything blends easily and consistently. You should have a mixture that looks like coarse crumbles. Press 2 tsp of the mixture into the bottom of cupcake molds, making sure the entire bottom is covered. Set aside the remaining mixture for the topping.
In another bowl, whisk your eggs until they’re lightly frothy. Peel your apple, and shred half of it; I found it really easy to use a cheese grater. Cube the other half into approximately ¼ inch cubes. Add the apple, sauerkraut, oats and applesauce, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Chop the cranberries into small chunks and add to mixture. Mix well; divide mixture among the cupcake molds, filling to the top. Take the remaining sugar mixture and divide it evenly among the tops of the “cakes”. Place them on the middle rack of the oven, and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the brown sugar has started to caramelize.
If you’ve decided you don’t need the caramel sauce, then you’re done! Take them out of the oven, let them cool a bit and enjoy!
If you DO want caramel sauce (and you know you do) then I found it’s easy enough to make the sauce while the cakes are in the oven. Mix the sugars and wine together in a skillet, and turn your heat up to medium, making sure to stir constantly. As the sugar dissolves, you should notice your port getting thicker and more syrupy. After the sugar was fairly dissolved, turn your temperature up to med-high heat, bringing it to a simmer. Add your cranberries and water, letting it get close to boiling. Once it’s bubbling pretty good, turn your heat down to med-low, and let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and set aside for when you’re ready to drizzle it over the cakes.
I found these cakes (and sauce) tasted great both hot and fresh out of the oven and refrigerated the next day! Enjoy!