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It’s been a quite busy couple of weeks, and although I’ve been baking for two birthdays and the usual Monday scene, I’ve been too scatter-brained to take pictures, so we’re going to have to make do here.  I’ll do a bit of a round-up of the baking, then offer what you’ll have to take on faith is quite a photogenic, in addition to easy and well-received, sangria.

So first things first: His Lordship’s birthday came ’round again, and as usual there is no cake for you! because he turns up his nose at cake and demands pie instead.  Since it’s prime apple and pear season, he usually gets some variation on one or the other, and this year, I found this perfect recipe by Tartelette at exactly the right time.  Since I don’t currently have tart molds, I made it as one big tart instead, with locally-grown Cameo and Pink Lady apples baked with maple syrup instead of honey.  It was quite fabulous, especially the frangipane custard layer.  The one change I’d make next time is to slice the apples just a smidgen thicker for a more toothsome texture, even if they won’t layer as prettily as they did in the (sadly mediocre) picture above.

For the other birthday person, who thankfully does not ‘meh’ cake and asked for anything chocolate, I made dark chocolate cupcakes from the same Scharffenberger base recipe behind my uber-coconutty German Chocolate Cupcakes.

As part of the birthday celebrations, there was quite a raucous get-together for which I improvised some sangria, since I don’t do beer and the amusing set of liquor laws here makes wine readily accessible at the supermarket, but hard alcohol means an extra trip to a separate store.  By popular demand (by which I mean two people asked for it), here is the recipe:

Ice-Breaker Sangria
Serves 6-8

2 bottles inexpensive, non-oaky white wine
1/3 cup sherry
3 oranges, 1 sliced thinly and 2 juiced (preferably blood oranges, but navel or valencia are fine)
1 lemon, sliced thinly
1 lime, sliced thinly
1 eating apple, sliced thinly
1/4 cup sugar, dissolved in an equal amount of boiling water

Combine everything in a large pitcher and refrigerate for at least an hour to let flavors combine.

Serve over ice.

Notes:

I used California pinot grigio here, but it’s a really flexible recipe and you could use whatever strikes your fancy, including swapping red or rose for white. I’d just add two cautions: don’t use chardonnay unless it’s aged in neutral barrels, because the oak will overwhelm the fruit, and don’t waste your best wine here.  You actually want  to use the cheap, unobtrusive stuff in sangria.

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