Posts Tagged ‘cake’

French apple cake with rum

12 October 2016

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When fall sidles in with armloads of plums and bright warm days, it is easy to overlook that October has arrived and apples are at their crispest.

Of course, apples will stay with us for a while, resignedly softening in cool cellars, faithfully, to accompany us through the bleakest winter months. We’ll be grateful — if perhaps a little weary — for those last wrinkly fruits as we await spring.

A small part of me always wonders whether it wouldn’t be best to hold out just a little while longer before biting in, to prolong the novelty a few weeks more. But the truth is that I long for apples already in the summer, I miss them in August; something about the comfort of a familiar companion amid attention-grabbing summer harvests.

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Apples are remarkable fruit, and I love all the gnarly varieties (though I can never remember which is which). Smaller ones, tart and sweet, barely bigger than a large apricot are ideal to bite into — the perfect, well-packaged snack on the go. Bigger apples are less fussy when baking, and so versatile! Is any other fruit equally ideal in cakes, tartes, crumbles, and pies, but also able to stand deliciously independently, simply baked in the oven stuffed with raisins, nuts, and cream, or stewed into spicy compotes?

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This weekend I jumped into apple season with this perfectly lovely, easy cake that I discovered a few years ago and make regularly. The recipe, which I found on David Lebovitz’s blog, is originally by Dorie Greenspan. I love this cake because it feels very ‘French,’ in that it is un-fussy. While exported French cuisine is elaborate, French home cooking is usually quite straightforward, and, as Dorie Greenspan writes in her introduction to the cake, skilled French home cooks often don’t use recipes, even when baking. Also, the generous addition of rum is completely essential for this cake — we French do like a good dash of booze in our desserts.

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Apple cake by Dorie Greenspan via David Lebovitz
Here is the recipe, doubled, because I always seem to be feeding a crowd! I’ve reduced the sugar ever so slightly, and added a squeeze of lemon so the apple pieces don’t turn brown.

1 cup (225g) butter plus a little extra for the mold
1 1/2 cups (220g) flour (I usually use white spelt flour, which seems perfectly interchangeable with all-purpose white flour)
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
7-8 large apples (mix of varieties — once the apples are incorporated in the batter, there should be practically more apple than batter)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
4 large organic eggs
1 1/4 cup (250g) soft brown sugar
5 or 6 Tbsps dark rum (but no less, this is what makes the cake!)
1 tsp real vanilla extract

I’ve made this cake in round springform pans, as the recipe suggests, but also in long rectangular loaf tin, and, here, in a fancy bundt mold that I found this summer while scrounging through my grandmother’s old kitchenwares.

So … choose the desired mold (or two) line it (them) with parchment paper and butter the paper generously. [Parchment paper was impossible with my crinkled mold so I buttered it excessively and added a dusting of flour.] If using a springform pan, place it on a baking sheet, as it may ooze while baking.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Melt the butter and let it cool to room temperature.

Peel and core the apples, then cut each wedge into roughly 1/2 inch (1cm) chunks. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the pieces of apple so they don’t turn brown.

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

In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy, add the sugar gradually, still whisking, then the rum and the vanilla.

Whisk in half of the flour, then half of the melted butter. Add the other half of the flour and finally the rest of the butter.

Use a spatula to stir in the apples, mixing until they are well coated. There will seem to be more apple than batter.

Scrape the batter into the cake pan. Tap the pan gently on the table to even out the batter, and smooth the surface with the spatula. Slide into the oven for a good 50 minutes to an hour. Test (as usual) with the tip of a knife or skewer that should come out clean. [The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is overcooked, first check with a knife!]

Let cool to room temperature before turning onto a serving plate.

I prefer to serve fruity cakes with crème fraîche or clotted cream, but by all means ice cream would be fine too.

Bon appétit!

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Life-saving birthday aka any-day yogurt cake

23 June 2015

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The no-hassle, mindlessly easy, infinitely versatile, all-season, all-occasion cake that will also save a thousand birthdays.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have the heart of a baker. I rarely follow recipes precisely, I am exasperated when a cake I’ve made a few times doesn’t work because the butter or the continent or the ambient humidity has changed. I like the idea of baking, however. I like cakes. And I like to think I can make a cake for my children’s birthdays, at the very least.

So I gravitate towards simple recipes such as this one or this one. And yogurt cake.

Yogurt cake is a classic in France; it is the cake most French children first learn to make. While French home cooks use scales, not volume measures such as cups, this cake is an exception: the unit of measurement is a pot of yogurt, the one whose contents are emptied precisely for the cake.

Because my family is not classically French, I discovered yogurt cake a bit later, in my twenties. It is brilliantly easy, and very clever, and can be easily spruced up for a special occasion.

Here first is the simple original recipe, though I hardly make it as is. The variations are just as easy.

Yogurt Cake, original French recipe
The measurement used is one empty pot of yogurt (empty once the yogurt has been used for the cake!). In Anglo-Saxon countries where yogurts are not as ubiquitously sold in the same standard-size pots I use a measure of 100ml.
1 ‘pot’ = 100ml see explanation above

1 pot of plain unsweetened yogurt

1 pot of oil or melted butter

2 pots sugar

3 pots flour

2 eggs

Baking powder

Lemon zest

Mix all the ingredients together and bake in a medium oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

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Yogurt Cake, adapted recipe
I have doubled the quantities, reduced the amount of sugar, substituted part of the flour with ground almonds, and added raspberries which are conveniently in season for my boys’ birthdays.

2 pots (200 ml) of plain unsweetened yogurt

1 pot (100ml) melted butter

1 pot (100ml) olive oil

3 pots brown sugar

3 pots flour

3 pots almond flour

4 eggs

2 tsps baking powder

Zest from 2 lemons

Fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Line a 10-inch (26cm) baking tin with parchment paper and butter generously.

Mix all the ingredients together except the raspberries to obtain a smooth batter. Add the raspberries and incorporate gently in order not to squash the berries. Pour the batter into the baking tin, slide into the oven, and bake for 50 min to an hour, until the cake is set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Sprinkle with icing sugar and a handful of raspberries for decoration.

Additional variation (pictured above)

For a festive cake without nuts, use 6 pots of flour (and no almond flour).

Once the cake is baked and cooled, cut it in half carefully crosswise. Smear raspberry jam on the bottom half of the cake and place the top half back on top. NOTE: I don’t do the jam filling with the almond flour version as it renders the cake incredibly moist and crumbly, which would make it difficult to cut through.

Make a lemony mascarpone icing and decorate with fresh raspberries and a generous sprinkling of popping candy.

Orange almond cake

27 January 2012

It’s a tantalizing cake. It has taunted me since Malou posted the recipe in a comment last April; the season of oranges had passed.

As winter came again the cake was on my mind. I meant to bake it for a skiing weekend; then didn’t. This week, finally, I did.

It is a cake for snowy days. When the light is low, the trees are bare, and the cold air breathtaking. The cake, by contrast, is light, spongy, melting. The sunny flavor of oranges with more than a hint of bitter from the pith.

It’s surprising, addictive, and leaves you wondering how the score might be played a dozen other, slightly different ways.

I love it. With tea.

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With many thanks to Malou for the recipe

2 large untreated oranges

6 large eggs

1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar

2 generous cups (250 g) ground almonds

2 tsps baking powder

Candied orange slices for decoration (optional):

1 untreated orange

1 cup (200 g) sugar

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Place 2 oranges in a small saucepan, cover with water, and simmer slowly for 2 hours, adding water if necessary.

Remove the oranges from the water and let cool. Cut the oranges in half, then each half again in two. Remove pips if necessary. Purée the oranges in a food processor. (The orange purée can be made a day in advance.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a 9 inch (24 cm) baking tin with parchment paper that should be buttered generously.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange purée, the ground almonds, and the baking powder, and mix well until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the tin, slide into to oven, and bake for 1 hour, until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

For the candied orange slices:

In a small saucepan, make a sugar syrup with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Slice the orange as thinly as possible. Add the slices to the syrup, and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the slices carefully one by one, and place them on a rack or parchment paper to dry for about half an hour. Return the orange slices to the syrup, and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Let the slices dry for at least 1/2 hour. Reduce the syrup until it thickens and reserve.

When ready to serve, place a few orange slices on top and drizzle with a little syrup. **The cake gets even better after a day or two, so it should ideally be made in advance.**

Note: The candied orange was not in the original recipe, but I thought they looked nice and added a little something. However, the cake being very soft it is difficult to cut through the candied orange on top of the cake, so it is best cut on the side as the cake is served.

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Poppy seed and almond cake

Cake with pear and toasted hazelnuts

Plum cake

10 October 2011

Geese are heading South over Manhattan this morning.

So briefly, before it’s too late, before the plums are all gone, here is Nigel Slater‘s “Wonderfully moist, fresh plum cake.” It is exactly that, at the very least.

It is autumnal and luscious. With a crunch from the chopped walnuts and a hint of spice, which I couldn’t resist adding to the recipe.

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Recipe very slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

I have doubled the recipe and I doubt anyone would mind. However if it is just for one or two, the recipe can easily be halved. The cooking time would then be 40 – 45 minutes at an oven temperature of 350°F (180°C).

32 plums

1 1/2 cups (300 g) butter

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

6 eggs

1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour

3 tsps baking powder

2 cups (200 g) ground almonds (1 1/2 cups whole almonds yields 2 cups once ground)

1 cup (100 g) walnuts

Zest from 1 lemon

2 Tbsps muscovado (dark brown) sugar

2 tsps powdered ginger

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Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C).

Line the base of a cake tin 10 1/2 inch (27 cm) in diameter with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the tin.

Wash the plums, halve them, remove the stones, and cut each half again in two. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar thoroughly until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, break the eggs and beat them slightly with a fork. Then add them little by little to the butter/sugar mixture.

Sift the flour together with the baking powder and fold in gently with a spatula or wooden spoon. Gently add the lemon zest and ground almonds.

Roughly chop the walnuts and add them too.

Sprinkle the muscovado sugar and ginger onto the plums and toss carefully, preferably with bare hands in order not to squash the plums.

Scrape the batter into the cake tin and place the plums on top, pushing them into the batter ever so slightly (they will sink in more as the cake cooks).

Bake the cake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife or skewer into the cake, which should come out clean. But also gently move the cake tin. If the center jiggles it needs a little more time.

Let the cake cool a little before removing from the tin.

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Related posts

Cake with pear and toasted hazelnuts

Orange almond cake

Plum jam with candied ginger

In Brittany | Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine bakery in Morlaix

15 September 2011

It looks fairly harmless; it’s hiding it’s game. After a few summers in Brittany we’ve discovered what has to be the best Kouign Amann. Period.

Kouign Amann is a traditional Breton… cake? bread? voluptuous addiction? The most common version is a bread batter folded many times over with butter and sugar to create a dense, caramelized, buttery puff pastry of sorts. According to renowned Breton chef Jacques Thorel, original Kouign Amann was made with leftover bread dough simply mixed with butter and sugar. The technique of folding the dough repeatedly came later, invented by a baker who knew about puff pastry.

I haven’t attempted to make Kouign Amann – yet. Currently our summers in Brittany are occupied more by heavy construction work than creative cooking. But we look for every excuse to drive the 25-odd minutes to Morlaix, to a small boulangerie hidden on a steep side street, framed by the towering viaduct that contributes to the town’s unique character.

The Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine doesn’t look as good as it tastes. It’s no shining, copper disk oozing with butter and sugar. It looks somewhat staid. But, once heated (for about 10 minutes, in a medium oven), it caramelizes on the surface while loosening up inside and becomes a seriously dangerous temptation.

You’ll see. If ever you are in Morlaix.

UPDATE SUMMER 2012: Au Four St Melaine has closed. Tragic. We have not yet found an adequate replacement.

Au Four St Melaine

1 Venelle Four Saint Melaine
29600 Morlaix
France

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