We're beginning to see the debilitating effect of a mild winter and April freeze on the apple crops in the northeast, so best to get out there and pick thee a peck of the limited supply. We visited Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington to grab some of their earliest apples, Paula Reds. They're sweet and tart and just right for baking apple compote-filled cupcakes and a caramelized, crumb-topped apple pie spiked with spiced "moonshine". The cupcakes were a runaway hit, making appearances at breakfast as well as dessert for the following days. Just a dollop of the tangy sweet mixture in a standard vanilla cupcake recipe--I did minis and regular size, both worked with a slightly longer bake time.
Last apple season, an Alice Waters recipe featured in the charming children's book Tiny Pie by Mark Bailey and Michael Oatman was the inspiration for my son's first pie-making endeavor. We mixed in some blueberries (sometimes I think Mac will turn into one himself) and used coconut sugar but otherwise kept to Alice's tried-and-true recipe. As a first go at baking with kids it doesn't get better than this. They get their hands into dough and the crust edges can be as "rustic" as their little fingers make them.