apple cinnamon buckle

I was in the marching band in high school. Jamm. Har har. Tee hee. Yes, cool to some, uncool to many, but just know that those years were some of the most rewarding years of my life. I still apply the lessons I learned to random mid-twenty-something life events now.

It’s funny, too. Though I still cherish the oh-so-important things I learned, I also remember the most random, weird things from those years. We used to compete in towns scattered around the Southeast every weekend and were like circus folk, building our tiny weekend lives in a bus, creating changing tents from uniform bags and making bunk beds out of dirty floors and spilled Powerade drenched seats. We’d always stop at state lines for stretches, pep talks, and, most importantly, snacks. Oh, don’t worry, we ate the entire ride. Gummy worms. Cheesy puffs. Ten pound bags of pure sugar. But when we stopped, that meant we were getting something made by the band moms. PB&Js. Turkey and cheese. Blueberry Buckle.

Blueberry Buckle, you ask? Our band director loved to tell us that we were going to have that as a snack after we sang our entire show and hyped us all up enough to the point that we could have sung our fight song for two and a half hours on end. We all loved him, but we’d all look at each other and say, “…What did he say? Blueberry what? Did he just tell me my shoe was untied?”  Buckle is really just a variety of cobbler, except the fruit filling is mixed in to a cake-like batter. There’s a crumble on top, so it’s kind of like a big, giant streusel muffin. Win. I’m changing the traditional blueberry buckle to an apple cinnamon buckle, using some apples my husband’s mom got us from the mountains. Another win!

apple cinnamon buckle
crumble topping
1/2 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup natural cane sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups peeled apples, cut into small chunks (about 4 apples)

To make the crumble topping, add all ingredients to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 2 minutes, until the butter is completely incorporated with the dry ingredients. Put in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350º and position the rack to the lower third of the oven. Butter and flour an 8″ cake pan. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon until fully combined. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt for several minutes, until fluffy like a cloud, scraping the sides as needed. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, fully mixing the batter between each one. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just incorporated. The batter is thick. Add the apple chunks and fold in by hand. You will probably say, “Geez, ya want some dough with your apples?” All of those apples will keep the batter moist.

Spread the mixture in the cake pan in an even layer. Get a handful of the crumble topping and squeeze it. Then, sprinkle it over the batter. Continue until you’ve used all of the crumble topping and it’s sprinkled evenly over the batter. Bake for 1 hour, until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick returns clean from the center. Let cool for 15 minutes and invert onto a cake plate.

“And just why is it called buckle?” Ha! You think I know all. I’ve heard it’s because the crumble topping cracks in the baking process, giving it a buckled appearance. Mine didn’t really look buckled, so I’ll take a whack at the definition. An apple cinnamon buckle is the edible apple pie-like seatbelt on a giant candy airplane with licorice pilots and gumdrop flight attendants. Ittttt’s…definitely the first one.


white chocolate cranberry cookies

When I was at Carolina, we spent a lot of our time in the GMP. GMP, short for Grand Market Place, pronounced gimp. I feel like I could dedicate a whole week to USC/Russell House inspired posts. Chicken Finger Wednesdays. Fried chicken and mac + cheese Fridays. Grits and biscuit early kick-off Saturday mornings. The GMP had horrible/amazing music (you know, the old Britney Spears you hate, but secretly love singing), hit or miss food, and a little bit of every type of person. The collegiate watering hole.

One thing I remember loving was their cookies. They had the norms, you know, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin. But then they had this special cookie, a white chocolate cranberry cookie. All year round. I loved it. We were like cookie monsters up in there. They had a slight crunch on the outside and a chewy, soft center. The perfect cookie, really. Now, I have no idea what was in those. I have no idea whether or not they actually made the batter. They were probably filled with shortening and diesel fuel. So, this is what we’re gonna do. We are going to make that cookie with yummy, natural ingredients. And every bite will be filled with Gamecock goodness.

white chocolate cranberry cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup natural cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir the flour and baking soda together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set and the edges are golden. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack, a platter, or your mouth. This recipe will make around three dozen cookies, depending on how large or small you make them.

These cookies are neat because every once in a while, you’ll get a pretty tart cranberry and your mind says, “Okay. Halt. Sour.”, but then your thought is interrupted with the buttery sweetness of the white chocolate. It’s a wonderful combination.

Russell House, this cookie post is dedicated to you. Thank you for hosting me for so many doggone tired, hungry hours and for dealing with my friends and me laughing at ridiculous things while we ate turkey wraps, vegetarian chili (cheaper, eh?), and, of course, cookies.

dried cranberries

Autumn in South Carolina is a little bit of a tease. And also a bit humorous. As soon as the temperature drops below 70 degrees, people find it necessary to pull out the coats and big socks. Hey, I’m not doggin’ ya. I’m just as guilty. Last night, the husband and I slept with five blankets and a puppy. With the radiator on. And fleece pants. And wool socks. And I love it. Even if SC is teasing us with little spurts of cold, I’m okay with that. I can be patient. And I’ll continue wearing my scarves and boots in 65 degree weather.

So! Since it’s getting cooler (eh, here and there), I like to think of foods that remind me of this glorious time of year. Heck, I think of those foods all year long. My friends make fun of me because I have Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on my running playlist. It’s a good song, people.

Off topic.

I really like cranberries. No, not the kind shaped like a can. I like their tartness, the tiny bit of sweetness you have to search for, and their beautiful color. And they fall perfectly into this time of cooler weather and holiday menu planning! Dried cranberries are great because you can throw them into lots of recipes for a little pucker and raisin-like chewiness. Now, please don’t hate me. The process of drying cranberries (without a dehydrator) is a little time consuming. It requires very little hands-on work, but drying fruits takes time. It’s worth it. You know your result is fresh and you know what ingredients are in it. No guessing!

dried cranberries
12 oz fresh cranberries
2 quarts boiling water
1 tbsp natural cane sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 170º. Gently rinse the cranberries and place in a heat-proof bowl or saucepan (this bowl is not over heat). Pour the boiling water over the cranberries. Let the cranberries sit until their skins pop. Some of my cranberry skins popped instantly, but some took a little longer. It should altogether only take a few minutes. You can see that the skins almost look split down the middle.

Drain the water and toss with the sugar. You can certainly leave the sugar out if you’d like. Lay the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and leave them there for at least 8 hours.

I’m going to be honest. I dried my cranberries in shifts. If you’re brave enough to leave your oven on all night, an overnight drying should do the trick. I tried to dry mine on my day off so I could be awake and available (not that you have to do anything to them while they’re in the oven, but, you know, safety and junk). Of course, I realized there were things I had to do, so I ended up drying mine at random times of the day and and at different intervals each time. Not the best method, but it worked. You can store them frozen to last longer and they don’t need to be thawed before baking or cooking with them.


I love you, Autumn.

And I love you, SC. Thank you for busting your pride a little bit and bending over to the cool nights and having to see your natives carve pumpkins and wear sweatshirts with palmetto trees on them. I’m sure you’ll get us back next summer.