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Recipe: Cynthia Wong’s Brown-Butter Hiking Cake With Apples and Pecans

Serves 10-12

You could leave off the glaze and still have a very handsome and delicious sweet. Pears may be substituted for the apples.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

12 ounces butter, cubed

1 vanilla bean

2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples

1 cup chopped toasted pecans, divided

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

Generously spray a tube pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, kosher salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Place the butter in a cast iron skillet or shallow, heavy-bottomed pot. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out. Place the seeds and bean in the skillet with the butter. Melt over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Pick the vanilla bean out of the butter. Whisk in the sugar, followed by the eggs. Using a stiff wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture. The batter will be thick and stiff. Fold in the apples and ½ cup of the toasted pecans.

Scrape the batter into the tube pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted close to the tube opening of the pan comes out clean.

Let the cake rest in the pan for 30 minutes. Then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Whisk the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract together until smooth. When the cake is cool, drizzle the cake with the glaze and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup pecans.

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Butter has to be one of the hardest-working ingredients in the Western larder. It makes cakes tender and sauces silken. It’s a splendid spread all by itself. It’s a reliable fat for pan-frying foods that cook quickly. But heat it too long, and its milk proteins and salts will start to burn. Some call that brown butter. I call it … 0

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