AFTER THUMBING THROUGH Linda Beaulieu’s excellent The New England Orchard Cookbook (Globe Pequot, 2016), a beautiful homage to the apple in recipes, stories, and photographs, I felt a craving for the moist, chewy texture and rich flavor of an apple brownie.
The New England Orchard Cookbook has chapters for each New England state, with outstanding orchard and apple photography by Karen Peltier Riggert accompanying profiles of many of the region’s best growers, with some of their favorite recipes. I opened the book to McDougal Orchards in Springvale, Maine, and was inspired by their simple, straightforward recipe for Apple Brownies.
Beneath the book, a headline stared at me from a newspaper, “How to Make the Perfect Brownie.” It was beginning to look like destiny.
Then I remembered that a year ago I posted a recipe similar to McDougal’s titled Versatile Cortland a great choice for Apple Brownies. Combining the two recipes and adding a few new wrinkles — substituting applesauce for half of the sugar, for instance, adding whole-wheat flour, and sprinkling in a second fruit — resulted in three new variations of these luscious treats.
The brownies are soft, moist, and crumbly, and lighter than a chocolate or blonde brownie. They are bursting with apple flavor, and plenty sweet. The cranberries and raspberries complement the apple without overpowering it, and their texture adds a pleasing contrast to the soft apple chunks, especially the raspberries.
But they are equally good plain, where the nuts provide the contrasting flavor and texture.
New England Apple Brownies
½ c butter, softened
½ c sugar
½ c unsweetened applesauce
1 c sweet-tart New England apple, cored and diced, peels on (about 1 medium apple)
½ c chopped pecans
½ c flour
½ c whole-wheat flour
1½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
½ c fruit such as fresh raspberries or dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter.
Cream butter and sugar together in large bowl.
Beat in egg and applesauce with a whisk.
Stir in apples, nuts, and other fruit
Add dry ingredients to batter and mix well.
Pour into baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares.