Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Sunday: Apple Cake - via Dorie Greenspan and Her Friend Marie-Hélène

As I dive into the sweet and yeasty side of cooking where I once believed, "hic sunt monstra" (here, be monsters), I have become more relaxed and a little more confident, but when I saw what the cake batter looked like after the apples were added, I kinda freaked out, thinking I'd made some egregious and fatal error because it looked like there were too many apples and not enough batter.

The good news is that I had absolutely no reason to freak out. This is one fine and delicious cake.  The liquid that comes out of the baking apples mixes with the batter to make an apple-y, custard-y delight.

This is the first recipe I chose to make from Ms. Greenspan's book, "Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours", but it is definitely not the last. I'm not the first to make and blog about this cake - or a host of other of Ms. Greenspan's recipes.
This is a recipe that Ms. Greenspan developed based on her friend, Marie-Hélène's cake and Ms. Greenspan encourages anybody who makes this not to futz with the recipe the first time around and I concur. There are so few ingredients that come together to make something so wonderful. Also, I think using several different types of apples is important in this recipe. I learned that same lesson about apple pie. When it comes to apple sauce (or apple butter) sticking to a single type is generally better.

Oh - and I think the addition of the dark rum is a key ingredient, if you have some. If not, brandy would do the trick.

The only quibble I had was (as I have had with other recipes) the old, "How big is big?" question when it comes to apple size. The recipe calls for four large apples of different types. I suspect that it's not a cooking crime with this recipe if your apples vary a little in size but I really had a wide range of apple sizes. I actually did some research on what is considered a large apple (*cough*NERD*cough*) and came up with a weight one-half pound (8 oz) per apple. Plus or minus a few ounces isn't going to hurt.

From Dorie Greenspan's book,  "Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours"
Makes 1 8" cake.
Equipment: baking sheet, 8" springform pan, parchment paper or silicone baking mat (Silpat)

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples, (2 lbs) of apples - choose different types if possible
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, melted and cooled + more to grease the pan
Preheat the oven to 350F, rack in the middle.

Prepare for baking by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Thoroughly butter an 8" round springform pan and place it on the lined baking sheet. I also covered the bottom of the buttered springform pan with parchment and then buttered the parchment. This makes separating the springform pan bottom from the cake a no-brainer.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Peel, core and cut the apples into 1-2" pieces. Uniformity of shape isn't important here.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for about a minute, or until the sugar and eggs are blended then whisk in the rum and vanilla.

Whisk in one-half of the flour/baking powder/salt mixture, thoroughly incorporating it. Add half the melted, cooled butter and whisk. Add the remaining flour and butter mixing after each addition. The batter should be smooth and thick. It reminded me of waffle batter. Using a large spatula, fold in the apples, making sure that all of the pieces are thoroughly coated. Pour the batter/apple mixture into the prepared pan, scraping the bowl. Use the spatula to make sure the mixture is more or less even.

Place the pan (on the baking sheet) into the oven and bake for 50 - 60 minutes.  When you test it, use a knife and insert it deep into the center. It should be clean - or really, really close. The top will be golden brown and darker brown on the top edges. The edges will probably pull away a little from the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake pan to a cooling rack and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Use a blunt knife - or the non-cutting edge of a dinner knife - to run around the edge of the cake and loosen the sides of the springform pan. Open the pan slowly and make sure there aren't any apples stuck to the side. Continue cooling the cake until it is just warm or at room temperature.

Ms. Greenspan advises using a long spatula to remove the bottom of the springform pan (running it between the cake and the pan) and then inverting the cake onto the rack to remove the bottom. I found that if I line the generously buttered springform and then line the bottom with parchment and butter that, then the bottom lifts right off and the parchment paper liner does too.

This cake stores very well but store it on the counter and don't cover it - it's too moist to wrap up.

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