Wednesday December 12, 2012 | 01:00 AM

If you coined the phrase “The family that bakes together stays together” it would certainly refer to Lauren Pignatello’s family  at their Swallotail Farm and Creamery  in Whitefield, Maine.  With her husband, Sean, and their six children, they all have their baking stations at their home kitchen.

“We’re  always baking,” Lauren said,  “from my three year old  boy to  my 16 year old daughter. "  

Out of the kitchen, the farm tends to its dairy operation making all kinds of raw-milk yogurt, butter, cream-top milk and cheeses from their small herd of Jersey cows; their products are available  at the Portland and Brunswick farmer’s markets and food co-ops in the mid-coast like the Good Tern in Rockland and Rising Tide in Damariscotta.  

But baking keeps the family very busy.  From pies, cakes and cookies, these are old-fashioned desserts with that real farmhouse goodness.

“Isabella is the pie expert, and the rest is a family effort,” Pignatello explained.

This past week at the Portland indoor market I saw Lauren  take out  a huge black cast-iron skillet to display on her vendpor table.  It was a phenomenal looking skillet apple cake. 

Lauren cut me a slice , and it was so good I had to have the recipe, which she recited  then and there.   Of course it’s made from all local ingredients, including their own milk, butter,  eggs, apples and flour.  The recipe is adapted to fit a smaller 91/2-  to 10-inchd skillet.

I made it at home and it came out perfectly. 

Lauren’s Apple Cake
Servings: 8

1.2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter plus about 2 tablespoons, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar.
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups peeled, diced apples
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9 1/2-  to 10-inch black cast-iron skillet  and place in the preheated oven while you prepare the cake batter, being careful not to let the butter burn. 

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon
(Note, if you use buttermilk, decrease the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon).  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. 

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. 

Add the apples to the creamed mixture, mixing thoroughly.  In thirds, add the flour mixture alternating with the milk or buttermilk, stirring gently or with the mixer on the lowest speed until all is combined.

Spoon into the preheated skillet, smoothing the top and place in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 1 hour or until the top is crusty, dark and when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  Serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream, scoop of ice cream or simply sprinkle powdered sugar over the cooled cake.

This will last for several days kept in the skillet on the kitchen counter, covered with a kitchen towel or aluminum foil.


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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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