apple bread

Last week, on the day I got this apple bread to just the place I wanted it, I tumbled into the house with the girls post-school and prepared myself to clear off the counters and do the dishes so that I could photograph a few neat slices of the bread on a clean, well-placed plate, maybe even with a cup of tea that I may or may not drink (as it was already 4:30, and the day had been a little rough, and I thought it might be a good idea just to skip to a glass of wine). The girls started to fight about something or other, an email came in requesting that I rewrite a piece I had submitted to be due RIGHT NOW, and then the phone rang (most likely with a concerned citizen disagreeing with me), and after I thanked them for expressing their opinion, I realized that somehow I was missing about half the ingredients for the dinner I was supposed to make for not only for my family (all 7 of us), but another family who had just had a baby.

There a couple of different ways this scene can go.  But what happened in that particular moment was that I stopped in the middle of the kitchen and I planted my feet on the floor. I looked at the sink full of dishes (sadly omitted from the photo, but I had to get the apple bread in there!) I took a breath, I turned off the ringer on the phone, and even though I had to search into some deep recesses of my being to make this true, I said to myself, “I love this kitchen.” And because I do, I took a picture of it right then and there, because if I were you reading this, I’d rather see the bread in its natural habitat.

In my book, I have sections in some of the recipes called “tense moments”. What I’m trying to do with those tense moments is to give readers the tools in that moment to be flexible, and to figure out how to shift and adjust if an element is not going exactly as you hope. Because the truth is that I can share a recipe that has worked for me over and over. I can add input from recipe testers who all created the recipe in different kitchens. But every recipe is a guideline, and it’s part of the process of cooking (or preserving, or making cheese) that slight changes in temperature, ingredients, and even, yes, mood, will shift the experience and the product. It’s all just a little bit like every single other thing in life.

There is a list of questions I get in emails, comments, and when I get to meet people face to face at book events:  How do you actually make things from scratch? What does your meal preparation and planning look like? Is there some magical way to organize my pantry/ freezer/ fridge to make it all come out quickly, easily, and with no stress? 

I do have answers, although they might not all be entirely satisfying, and they continue to shift from week to week. But the answer that stays constant for me is that the best way to love the process is to embrace your tense moments. The tense moments will always come, but it’s totally in our power to figure out how to work through them with grace, patience, humor, and appropriate music. The way we cook and relate to our kitchen reflects who we are–one person might take deep joy in their alphabetized pantry and month-long meal plan, whereas another might be all about the daily shop and the decision of what to make for dinner based on a 6:00 pm glance around the fridge. When we embrace how we are in the kitchen, we also embrace how we are. And as a good friend of mine says in new-age energetic speak, “it’s a journey”. Well said, I think. Luckily, we need food to fuel us through, and there’s plenty of time to practice. And if we can get it together to finish the recipe, then we we have snacks.




  1. Laura says

    I was just looking at your post photo and thinking how nice your kitchen looks – warm and inviting. I was glad to see that it’s not all in perfect order. Then I read the text and find that you had originally intended to “pose” your bread. But I think the bread looks absolutely fabulous in its natural habitat, as you so rightly say it! Thanks for sharing!

    • alana says

      Oh, I’m so glad you appreciate the natural habitat! I think I like taking those photos more too–the kitchen seems happier to be caught in candid moments.

  2. says

    I love this.
    I love the book — have I mentioned how I love the book? how I found a copy at a friend’s, in Seattle, last month, and how I sat on her backporch until it was pitch black, reading story after story after story? how i guess i could have made that a sort of love story, right there? how i’m so glad rachel won, because’s she’s awesome and deserving? i love the book, love your wit, your enthusiasm, your honesty, the bit about the “selective” eaters, the couch in the kitchen, the whole kit ‘n caboodle. i’ve been meaning, i guess, to say all this for some time. so there. i said it. i’m so glad you’re here.
    and i love this apple bread, the idea of it, anyway (will keep you posted on the reality, just as soon as we bake it). but mostly, i love the imperfection of it all, because what else can we do but bake bread in big messes, and hope that it comes out well, more often than not?
    cheers to you, and yours, and fall,

    • alana says

      Oh, Molly.
      It’s so funny sometimes, this internet. That I too, have been meaning to actually speak up on your site and tell you (for so long now!) how much I love to breathe in and taste and read your posts. Funny, that I can be in your kitchen and you can be in mine! But thank you for saying hello, and for sharing that image of you sitting on a dark back porch in Seattle. (You got me grinning at my computer first thing in the morning, which always bodes well for the day!) And thank you, also for the beautiful work you do over there at remedial eating, and especially that cold beet buttermilk soup that got me through a solid chunk of the summer. xo, a

    • alana says

      It’s true- I have to say in the times where I’ve lived in places with less distinct seasons than New England- apples still always taste like fall. I hope you enjoy it…

  3. Jennifer in BC says

    Oh Alana my dear. If that’s what you call chaos in your kitchen, you’re going to have to do better than that!! I aspire to that! You are TRULY my hero.

    I’ve been engaged in my own process of redoing my kitchen. Not a renovation in the conventional sense… let’s just say that I’ve become one with my canning jar for storage and such (much to the dismay of the ants who find their way to my sugar bowl!).

    I did JUST as you suggested. I made the bread, placed it on the counter, or in my case, on top of the butcher block that sits on top of my dishwasher, placed a knife lovingly next to one of the loaves (froze the other for Thanksgiving coffee, which is this weekend up here don’tcha know) and continued on my day. I must sadly report on the demise of said apple loaf but you were right! It saw me through the vacuuming, the dishes, an unexpected drop in from my neighbour, a phone call to my mother, bill paying and finally a cup of tea all to myself JUST before the kids burst through the door after school.

    This can’t be good for my waistline, but it was good for my soul.

  4. jennifer says

    Hi Alana-
    I’ve really been enjoying your site. I’m a transplanted New England girl ( Amherst/Leverett, MA.) now living in the great NorthWest. I read your posts and it makes me remember all the wonderful things about what will always be my heart’s home- and makes me a little home sick at the same time in a good way!
    I would love to try this bread but have been going gluten free- any thoughts on flour substitutions? I like brown rice and sorghum a lot but don’t have any ideas about proportions/ mixture etc….
    Thanks, Jenn

    • alana says

      Hi Jenn,
      Thank you! (And I’ve got to say, it’s amazing how many people I know who are from Leverett! Small town, but I’ve met people from Leverett everywhere.) Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear direction as to how to make this gluten free, but I do think it would lend itself well to flour substitutions because it’s so dense and moist. I wouldn’t go with straight brown rice flour- I think it would make it too grainy. But a mix of flours might be a better idea. Are you familiar with gluten free girl’s flour mix? She gives a pretty straight up substitution on her site. It’s right here: Let me know how it goes! I’d love to have a gf version of this if you find it.

  5. Cindy Rosenbaum says

    Hi Alana,
    You are so wise to embrace the tense moments! Last night I decided to try the Very Full Tart recipe from Plenty. Pie crust, caramelized onions, roasted eggplant, yam & zucchini and the last of my homemade ricotta (thanks to you!) and more. All in all, about a 2 1/2 hr. process. I followed it exactly, except I changed the heavy cream to 1% milk. Big mistake. After much more baking than called for, still no custard! Finally, at 9:15, Michael said “who cares about custard?” So, we ate it and enjoyed it anyway. Next time, I’ll use at least half and half! But if we don’t try, we won’t learn, and trying means to embrace the tense moments, in the kitchen and all through life.

    • alana says

      Yes! I love this window into your tense moment- and I’ve been eyeing that tart from Plenty, too. I’ll use heavy cream, I promise.

  6. jennifer says

    I made these this morning and am looking forward to eating a slice with pear vanilla jam and a cup of tea in a little bit. If the gnats are not too bad I think I’ll enjoy it out on the patio…thank you for another great recipe!

    • alana says

      Mmm. I made that pear vanilla jam last year- did you use Marisa’s recipe? With apple bread–that sounds so good.

      • Jennifer in BC says

        Marisa’s pear vanilla jam is so yummy! Mascerating the fruit with the vanilla beans for a couple of days makes such a difference!

  7. says

    SO glad I found a way to use up some of the apples we just got from our West Harlem CSA. The lemon also seems like a great touch for the last of our warm weather here. Thanks so much. I’ll definitely be coming back to your blog!

  8. says

    It is so nice to be able to share in your “tense moment”. All too often I have night all planned out with what to make for dinner, working out, cleaning up, etc. Then the reality hits of coming home 4 hours late from work and we end up getting pizza and go to bed with the house a mess. Thanks for allowing us to peek inside your home. I have been thinking about just such a bread but didn’t know how to put it together. I will definitely be trying this.

  9. Betty G says

    I love that your kitchen looks like mine…a constant work in progress.
    I just checked out your book from the library and then told my husband, “I like how this woman thinks! I must have this book for Christmas!” I then proceeded to make homemade butter, and pancakes from the buttermilk…I think he is convinced (he is a chef), and my request is sure to be fulfilled.

    Keep writing and I will be sure to keep reading!

  10. Laura says

    Your photo hooked me! I thought – at last – a real, cozy appealing kitchen – and just perfect- lovely bread, olive oil, flowers! Thank you for sharing the realness! Inspiring to let go of “perfect”!

  11. Susan Morelli says

    Alana, In preparation for the coming storm, Sandy, one of the baked goods today that I made was this delicious Apple Bread. I added a few gratings of nutmeg, used 2 cups all purpose flour, and added some currants that I had in the cabinet instead of nuts. I love this bread….hint of lemon with apple and nutmeg really comes together in flavor and it is not too sweet which makes it a wonderful breakfast bread with my cup of coffee or tea. Thank you for this recipe! :-)

  12. Susan Morelli says

    Just correcting the above post. The Apple Bread that I made was the one from 2008. I guess I will have to try this one too…..:-)


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