Another fun activity in the fall is to visit the apple orchards. There are several orchards close to where we live but one of our favorites is Deardoff Orchards in Waconia, Minnesota. This is a fairly large orchard with 13 different varieties of apples on 5,000 trees including some Minnesota favorites like the Honeycrisp, Zestar, Haralson, Fireside, and Regent.
To keep the kids entertained, they have the kids haystack and farm animals. For the adults, there is wine tasting from their own Parley Lakes Winery. They also offer tractor rides to pick apples during the weekends. The Rustic Apple Barn is their “store” where you will find jam, honey, cider, pumpkins, squashes, crafts, and of course apples.
Last weekend, the Haralson apples were ripe for the picking. Haralson apples are medium sized, bright red in color with small conspicuous tan colored spots all over the outer skin. These apples are crisp and tart and are excellent for pies and for baking. We picked about 5 to 6 pounds of Haralson, enough for 2 pies. Since I already have a post on Apple Pie, I decided to make a cake this time. Sweet Medjool dates were added to complement the tart flavor of the Haralson apples. Instead of cinnamon, I used vanilla essence, giving this Apple and Dates Cake a sweet fragrance. The use of cake flour and half and half gave the cake a very moist and tender crumb.
This recipe was inspired by the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook on Cakes & Slices, a cookbook that I refer to often for my cakes. Another recipe adapted from this cookbook is Orange Coconut Cake with Orange Frosting. This cookbook is part of a series that I have collected through the years. Their recipes are well photographed and triple tested.
- 2 cups (225g) chopped apples
- ¾ cup (120g) chopped dates
- 2 cups (300g) cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 stick (½ cup/113g) butter
- ½ cup (110g) sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120ml) half and half or milk
- Grease and lightly flour an 8x8 inch pan. Preheat oven at 350°F (180°C).
- In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla essence. Add flour mixture and half and half and beat on low speed until just combined. Fold in apples and dates.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for one hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely.
We all enjoyed our ride to the orchard. It was a gorgeous day with clear, blue skies 🙂
More Haralson apples…..
Our next stop was the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Apple House. The Apple House has a changing inventory of 50 varieties of apples throughout the season. Besides apples, they also sell squashes, jams, cider, apple pies, and local honey. Proceeds benefit the University of Minnesota’s apple research program.
The Honeycrisp apple is Minnesota’s favorite apple and is now the official state fruit of Minnesota. This apple is a cultivar developed at the University of Minnesota. It is a cross pollination of the Macoun and Honeygold apples. These apples are exceptionally crisp, juicy, and aromatic, making them popular eating apples. If you have not tried them, I encourage you to do so as they are really delicious. The Honeycrisp is protected under the U.S. Plant Patent Act and may only be propagated by licensed parties. Today they are grown in several surrounding states including Michigan and Wisconsin, by licensed producers with the permission of the university. Source: Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Minnesota.
These are the huge Connell Red apples. These apples are deep red in color without any stripes. Always choose the big ones. They are sweet and crunchy.
We also bought some fudge from Walnut Grove Mercantile out of Marshall, Minnesota. They had a stand at the Apple House. Their fudge comes in 4 flavors – chocolate walnut, pumpkin pie, chewy praline, and apple pie. My favorite was the chewy praline.
I hope you have enjoyed this virtual tour of the orchard. Have a wonderful day! 😎