Saturday, November 01, 2014
Apple Cake Chez Moi
When Dorie Greenspan's wonderful cookbook Baking; from my home to yours came on the scene it soon generated rave reviews and its own blog event, Tuesdays with Dorie. I've baked quite a few of the recipes and bookmarked a bunch more. Every one I made was well received and the recipes are beautifully written, often with ideas for changing things to make interesting variations.
Yesterday Sweetie and I were at a Petaluma bookstore and I saw a new Dorie Greenspan baking book called Baking Chez Moi. I was going to ask for it for Christmas, but I started browsing and was less than 50 pages into the recipes and had found four I wanted to bake as soon as possible. It's that kind of book for people who love to bake. Knowing that I needed a dessert for dinner that evening, I bought myself and early present and in the late afternoon baked the Custardy Apple Squares. They were a hit served at room temperature with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and the leftovers were excellent this morning served cold with a hot cup of coffee.
As usual I did make a few alterations, adding Meyer lemon zest and freshly grated nutmeg to the flour mixture. I know that Dorie recommends adding zest to the sugar and rubbing it in, but it was late afternoon and I had just finished making a big pot of beef stew and then talking to my Mom since the stew is her recipe and my kitchen smelled like home, so I wanted to share that with her, along with the fond laughter we always share.
In truth, I messed up a little with a number of pieces of the recipe. I forgot to melt the butter until it was needed, I didn't take the eggs out early enough to warm up, so had to place them in tepid water to warm faster to room temperature, I forgot to bring the milk out of the fridge, too, so warmed that up in the microwave to room temperature. Then I forgot to add the flour mixture to the egg mixture until after I had dumped in all the apple slices. Using my clean hands I removed the soaked apples, letting the batter run off, put them into another bowl, then whisked in the flour in the batter bowl. Back in went the apples, then I turned them enough to fully coat with the better batter. Now we were back on track! Usually I'm much more focused when baking. Guess I need to bake more!
The new Dorie Greenspan book will help there. The recipe below is very close to the one in the book, but I give my changes and the directions are my own. I'll leave out my mistakes, OK? Do consider buying Baking Chez Moi. I think it is another classic that I'll use for a long, long time. Not only are the recipes great, but there are plenty of tips and tricks. Want to learn how to form a dough log that is tight so there are no little holes in the middle of your slice and bake cookies. Dorie has photos showing just what to do by using a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Ever wonder what the difference is between Patisserie, Confiserie, Boulangerie and Viennoiserie or what those words mean? Check out page 209. Want the skinny on toasting, roasting and browning nuts? See page 320. If you read carefully you'll also find out what she means by 'French baked' and so much more.
This lovely bake with custard and thinly sliced apples goes together quickly (if you have your ingredients at room temperature of course) with the peeling and slicing the the apples the most time consuming part except for the baking. I used my food processor with the 4mm disc and that worked beautifully. The dessert is not too sweet and the lavish use of vanilla brings both fragrance and flavor to this simple dessert. The lemon zest and nutmeg are just hints of flavor and they enhance the apple flavor so nicely. Use apples that hold their shape while baking. I used Galas and they worked well. For a less mellow apple flavor consider Granny Smiths or Pippins. It's apple season here in the Northern Hemisphere, so use your favorites and make the Custardy Apple Squares your own. You can cut rectangles, too, as I did. Such a rebel.
Custardy Apple Squares
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi
3 medium, juicy sweet apples like Gala, peeled
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
grated zest from 1/2 a Myer lemon or regular lemon
pinch sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more butter for the baking pan
confectioners sugar or whipped cream for topping (optional)
If you have forgotten like I did, bring the eggs, and mild to room temperature, melt the butter and let it cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Set aside.
Slice the peeled apples in uniform thin slices. I halved the apples, used a melon ball tool to remove the core, then used a paring knife to remove the stem and blossom ends. Once all the apples were prepared, I used a food processor with a 4 mm disc to slice them, filling the large feed tube tightly with the apples (two halves plus a about a third of another half). Set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, sea salt and nutmeg together in a small bowl or on a sheet of waxed paper.
Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers. I use a cup measure to hold the sugar, which gives enough room to rub in the zest.
Using the stand mixer and beater attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar for two minutes. The sugar will dissolve and the eggs will be pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then the milk and then the melted butter. Finally, beat in the flour mixture. Add the apple slices. With a flexible spatula or your clean hand, turn the apple slices gently so each is coated with the batter. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and use the spatula to even the top as much as possible. The top will still be bumpy, but that is O.K.
Bake for 40-50 minutes (although I suggest checking sooner...this is one batter you don't want to overcook), or until golden brown and puffed. To check for doneness, you can insert a knife in the center...it will come out clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes on a cooling rack, then run a sharp knife around the sides. Cut squares or rectangles and serve with a cake server or pancake turner. Dust with confectioners sugar or give served slices a dollop of whipped cream. Serve and enjoy.