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Literary Recipes: Louisa May Alcott’s Apple Slump


I’ve mentioned recently how much I love the idea of literary recipes – whether it be a recipe from a novel, or a recipe made popular by an author, or anything similar, I love the notion of cooking and literature overlapping.

This blog, Paper and Salt, which is still on wobbly Bambi-legs at just one month old, seems to be written by a person after my own heart, with a love of food and reading. From the first entry, describing the rhyme and reason for the blog:

A love of good books often comes with a love of good food. It’s in the many mouth-watering descriptions we encounter in novels, the wealth of new food memoirs, and the explosion of incredible food writing and blogging online. But it isn’t just today’s writers that have a personal obsession with food. We hear about it in Ted Hughes’ letters, see it in Emily Dickinson’s recipes, and imagine it in Hemingway’s cafés. And when I hear about the food that inspired them, I want to eat it too.

This blog will attempt to recreate the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction. In doing so, it will be part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fangirling. Above all, I hope it will be delicious.

I am happy to have found it, and will likely try my hand at some of the recipes posted. I especially liked Louisa May Alcott’s recipe for Apple Slump (below, after the video) that was included, for the following reason:

-It’s called ‘Apple Slump’, which, while it may be named to bring to mind autumnal depression, actually sounds delicious;

-I absolutely loved Little Women – it must have been my favourite book when I was about 13; and

-I learned that Apple Slump is also called Apple Pan Dowdy. I have wondered what Apple Pan Dowdy is (and strangely, never thought to google it) since first hearing this song when I was about 12. It’s a heck of a song. And if this dessert claims to make my eyes light up and my tummy say howdy, clearly, I have to make it.

I hope the Paper and Salt blog keeps going – I know I will be checking back.

Here is the Apple Slump Recipe or Apple Pan Dowdy Recipe:

(Adapted very slightly from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House)

Apple Base:
5 to 6 tart apples; pared, cored and sliced (Granny Smiths work well)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or bourbon)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the inside of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

2. Make apple base: In a large bowl, gently mix apple slices, lemon juice, and vanilla (or bourbon). In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Add the sugar mixture to the apple mixture and toss until coated.

3. Spread apple base evenly in prepared pan and bake until soft, about 20 minutes.

4. Make topping: While the apples are baking, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg, milk, and melted butter. Stir gently.

5. Pour flour mixture over baked apples and sprinkle walnuts evenly over the top. Continue baking 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and crusty. Cool 5 minutes and serve with your favorite ice cream (or bourbon).

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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