Five years, three countries, and two kids later we are home for the very first time in a place from where we won’t be moving and upheaving our life every few years. It feels rather surreal and yet familiar at the same time because we’ve moved to my home town (though I haven’t lived here in over twenty years). I think it will take a long time to understand that this is where we live now permanently. I was a renter for many years and then with all of our moving around the globe through our life in the Foreign Service it was impossible to truly feel settled anywhere. We are homebodies and while the idea of living in various countries is exciting and novel, it can start to wear on your heart. It is painful to leave friends and community over and over again and seeing your young children miss the connections they’ve made is excruciating and makes you question why you’re uprooting them yet again. So we’re taking a break from that kind of life and easing back into the way we used to live: in California, near the coast, with apple trees.
My view now is of redwood and sycamore trees rather than palm or eucalyptus, roses and green grass rather than a dusty, tan wall (or apartment building). We’ve acquired about half an acre of land and of course we have big plans for some garden beds, a playhouse under the backyard trees, and some general sprucing-up. But even if we did nothing it would be enough. We have some unidentified fruit trees and two healthy apple trees, one a well-established Gravenstein and the other a prolific golden delicious that is still producing gorgeous fruit. We’ve made applesauce, pie is next up, and last week Sierra and I made cakey apple loaves to give to our new neighbors.
I’m still dealing with the effects of my running fall and so we haven’t been out and about too much; fortunately baking at home and playing around the yard has been satisfying for my little ones (with the occasional weekend beach trip tucked in). We’ve not yet slept in our house for two weeks so we’re all still adjusting to the quiet and the dark nights, so appreciated after years of living in cities or busy suburbs. We can hear owls calling in the trees, see the stars, at least one daily visit to the goats who reside in the field behind us is essential, and a neighbor pointed out some fox scat on our lawn when he was over last week. In short, we didn’t know we were longing for a bit of the country life but clearly we were. It’s been years since either my husband or I has lived “out” of a town but we both grew up with space (he more than me, with six acres of West Marin woods as a playground) and it feels right, easeful, to be surrounded by fields and trees again. I hope the novelty won’t wear off for a long, long time, if ever (though I do miss the cackling kookaburras) .
My girls have quickly taken to apple picking and while the best way to eat apples is, of course, sun warmed — or fog-dewed — straight from the tree, this apple bread is a fine way to use the many apples we have inherited here along with one of the prettiest kitchens I’ve ever had the fortune to cook in. The rest of the house may be a tad older and more rustic but the kitchen was updated not too long ago and we are so lucky for it. It looks out onto the backyard grass and trees and there is loads of counter space and beautiful windows to let in lots of light. We have taken to making morning chamomile tea and the girls perch on the kitchen island to stir their cups; flowers and herbs from the plants growing outside the french doors will also live there for as long as they grow during this typically warm Northern California fall.
You could use any apples in this simple bread though we’ll keep on with our golden delicious. I doubt we’ll ever be able to eat them all but I’ve plans to cook more down into apple sauce for the freezer and will give away as many as possible before winter strips the trees of fruit and we turn our thoughts toward the new year. But not to rush things; there are still plenty days of sunny October yet to enjoy.
The original recipe bakes as muffins; if you’d like to do that, turn the oven to 400 F, use a lightly greased or lined muffin tin for the batter, and bake for about 15 minutes.
Makes 1 regular-sized loaf or three mini loaves.
1 1/2 cups diced apples
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease one loaf pan or three mini loaf pans.
Place apple and granulated sugar in a medium bowl; toss to coat and let stand 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Stir milk, melted butter, vanilla, and eggs into apple mixture then add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared pan/s.
Place in the oven and bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean, 25-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.