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Apple of temptation

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There is some truth to the theory that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. A few misfires notwithstanding, I have long believed that if you dig somebody, you should pull out all the stops ... I mean the pots and pans.

Nothing stimulates the libido quite like a specially prepared meal, one-on-one style. In An Alphabet for Gourmets, the late, great M.F.K. Fisher -- culinary doyenne and quite the minx herself -- writes of "a few direct results of the play of the five senses, properly stimulated by food upon human passion ... of two people who know enough, subconsciously or not, to woo with food as well as flattery."

In other words, food, when fed to us, makes us feel jiggy.

And in this case, Fisher wasn't talking about culinary froufrou; it was a candy bar that won her heart.

So, on your next potentially hot date, discard those romantic notions of lobster Thermidor, chocolate dacquoise and pommes dauphine. The art of seduction is all about simplicity of approach, not three courses of culinary foreplay.

In fact, skip dinner altogether and cut right to the lovin' -- there's too much pressure, anyway -- and redirect your culinary seduction energy for the morning after instead.

I once read that if you're planning a seduction, bake a pie. Well, if you're planning for luv that keeps on giving, I say bake an apple coffee cake, baby.

This bundt-style number is a simple beauty. The orange-scented batter is not too sweet -- just right for breakfast in bed -- and allows in-season apples to take center stage.

And this recipe is friendly and forgiving. On one occasion, I had forgotten the sugar and incorporated it at the end, which, with other cakes, would have proven disastrous. Beginning bakers, please apply.

I've also had luck baking this cake in advance and freezing it for later snacking. But there's nothing quite like the intoxicating whiff of a bundt in the oven, knowing it's for you and your sweetie to share under a tent of sheets.

Morning-After Coffee Cake

Adapted from The Best Quick Breads by Beth Hensperger

3 cups peeled, cored and coarsely chopped apples (3-4 hard, tart apples)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Zest or grated rind of 1 orange

4 large eggs

1 cup canola oil

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan or 10-inch plain tube pan and set aside. In a small bowl, combine apples with brown sugar and cinnamon. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest.

• In a third bowl, beat eggs and oil until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes at high speed on electric mixer or with a balloon whisk. Incorporate egg and oil mixture into dry ingredients, then add orange juice and vanilla extract, if using, and beat just until moistened but blended. Do not overmix.

• Pour one third of the batter over bottom of prepared pan. Cover evenly with half of apple mixture and then pour another one-third of the batter over apples. Use a spatula to smooth batter over the apples. Repeat if you have enough batter, but always end with a smooth layer of batter.

• Bake for about 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 1 hour. Invert onto a serving plate.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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