I vaguely recalled reading a Lazy Lightning post about Wisconsin's Great River Road. One of the comments mentioned Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery located in Stockholm, WI. For some reason, the idea of taking a long drive to an apple orchard resonated with my wanderlust. For some time now, when I close my eyes in search of a deep breath and peace of mind, I often find myself wandering an apple orchard.
I drove away, in search of the apple orchard in the back of my mind.
Saying goodbye to the Twin Cities is bittersweet and I choose to say goodbye to my home by eating it.
Although I have lived in the Twin Cities my whole life, my family usually remained close to home except for special occasions when we ventured "north of the river." When I moved back home after college, I found myself north of the river, as familiar as a tourist. This summer, I finally caught sight of the Walker's cherry and spoon statue and, this afternoon, I embarked down the Wisconsin Great River Road for the first time.
Having no expectations, I was completely stunned when I found myself amidst the bluffs. I am well traveled within the United States, but can remember few occasions where my heart truly grew in response to the beauty of my surroundings. The Great River Road bluffs reminded me of being a wide-eyed child, standing on the banks of Spearfish Creek in South Dakota.
As I turned off from the River Road towards Maiden Rock's orchard, I found myself by a clear creek, surrounded by bluffs.
This road leads to Maiden Rock Cidery.
Unfortunately, I found the following in-depth, Heavy Table features on Stockholm and the cidery after my trip.
When I arrived at the orchard, I was warmly welcomed as I stocked-up on apples for cooking and eating. I was also invited to taste Maiden Rock's variety of unique ciders and wines. At the tasting bar, I was invited to sample everything and so I tried a couple varieties of hard ciders and wines. Unfortunately, they were out of bottles of their honeycrisp sparkling cider (although it is available on tap, by the glass), so I bought still cider and crabapple wine.
This variety of still cider is unlike anything I have tasted. The flavor is light and tastes like a slightly-off juice. I was not in love with this cider during my first sips, but the cider has since grown on me.
I decided to incorporate my Zestar apples into a cake as delicious as my drive was heartachingy beautiful.
Balzano Apple Cake
My words can not contain Maiden Rock Orchard's Zestar apples' taste and texture. The quality of your apples will completely influence the flavor of your final product. Use an apple that has a bright flavor and that will retain a toothful texture during baking.
It is not realistic for everyone to make the hour+ drive from the Twin Cities to Stockholm, WI. However, Maiden Rock's apples are literally jaw-droppingly delicious. If you make this cake, find the very best apples, within reason.
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, plus an extra chunk to grease your pan.
- 1/2 cup of flour, plus an extra handful to dust your greased pan.
- 2 eggs, room temperature
-1 cup of sugar, divided in half
- 1 splash of vanilla extract
- 5 Zestar apples, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 cup of half and half, room temperature
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Grease an 8 X 8 inch square pan with butter and dust with flour (original instructions suggested lining the pan with foil before greasing).
Melt butter in a pan and set aside to cook.
Beat the eggs with half of the sugar until thick and frothy. Slowly incorporate the rest of the sugar while beating.
Incorporate a splash of vanilla extract and melted butter.
In a separate bowl, mix the butter and baking powder.
Stir in some of the dry flour-baking powder mix into the wet batter. Incorporating the flour-baking mix into the wet batter, alternating with the half and half.
Then, stir in the apple slices, pour into the greased and floured square pan, and even out the top.
Place the pan in the middle of the oven, and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate, and bake for an additional 25 minutes (I found that my cake needed at least 15-20 extra minutes). The apples should be tender, the edges should brown and pull away from the sides of the pan, and you should be able to insert a knife into the center of the cake and cleanly remove.
Cool and slice.
Because of the Zestar apples, our cake had the most round, intense, apple flavor, striking the perfect balance between sweet and tart. The browned edges of the cake, apples, and the batter tasted of caramel.