Sweets

French Apple Cake

French Apple Cake

 

I have read quite a few recipes for this very simple French apple cake over time, but never actually got around to making it until a few days ago. What an unexpected revelation! My expectations, as simple as this cake appears to be, were delightfully misconstrued. This cake is absolutely delicious in the best possible ways. Its moist buttery custard like texture surrounding tender chunks of apples is pure perfection. Neither too sweet nor fancy, this is a cake I, and hopefully you, will be baking again, and again, and again.

The secrets to success here are using a variety of absolutely fresh crisp apples and the best quality butter you can find, preferably a French butter or a full fat brand of butter in North America.

In my kitchen I like to keep on hand a serviceable butter for cooking and a French butter for baking and for spreading on bread and toast. The quality, flavor, and color of the butter you use when baking is going to significantly impact the overall flavor, texture, and indeed the aroma of all your baked goods. Fat content matters. French butter has maintained centuries old standards in how the cows are fed, the quality and culturing of the cream, and producing a higher butter fat content that supports flavor as well as a supple texture. President brand is a serviceable French butter that is widely available in grocery stores in the US and Europe and well worth the extra coins spent. Other brands to look for in the US are Plugra, Keller’s European Style, and Land O’Lakes extra creamy butter.

French Apple Cake

  • 5 assorted large firm apples (about 1 ¾ pounds)
  • 9 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
  • ¾ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum (or Calvados)

In a small saucepan melt 8 tablespoons of butter and set aside to cool.

Peel the apples, cut them into quarters, remove the cores, and cut  into 3/4 inch chunks.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter is melted add the apples and toss until coated with butter. Then sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the apples and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the apples just begin to color. Transfer the apples to a large plate and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C with rack centered in the oven. Top the rack with the baking  sheet.

For this recipe I would suggest using an oven thermometer to be sure the oven temperature is spot on.

Generously butter and lightly flour an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.

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

In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs until foamy. Add ¾ cup of sugar and whisk vigorously until well combined. Add the vanilla and rum (or Calvados) and whisk until combined.

Then whisk in half the flour mixture until combined. Then add half the melted butter and whisk. Add the remaining flour mixture and melted butter and whisk until the batter is smooth and thick. Then add the apples and, using a silicon spatula, fold them into the batter until evenly coated.

Scrape the mixture into the springform pan and level out the top a bit. Sprinkle the top with a tablespoon of sugar and transfer to the oven.

Monitor your temperature and baking time carefully. Total baking time will be between 50 and 60 minutes. You want to rotate the cake after 25 minutes for even baking.

Be careful not to over bake this cake as you want the texture of the cake to be very moist with an almost custardy texture. The cake will be done when a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The batter should be just set as it will firm up a bit once taken out of the oven.

When the cake is finished set it out on a cooling rack. After about five minutes run a small flexible pastry spatula around the sides of the baking pan, open the side the pan, and remove it.

Best to let the cake cool completely before transferring it to a cake platter. The easiest way to do this is to run a small flexible pastry spatula around the edges of the cake. Then slide a long pasty spatula under the cake to gently release it and then slide it onto a cake platter.

Serving:

This cake should be served either warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cake is just perfect served as it is, but if you like add a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche, or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Less is more in this case.

Bon appetit!

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Tart

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Tart

 

It’s cherry season in the northern hemisphere judging from the abundance of fresh cherries from the US and Canada that are available in the supermarkets here in Thailand at the moment. Cherries do not grow in the tropics so they are a real indulgence that is well worth savoring, if ever so briefly.

As a cook, what immediately came to mind was making a classic Italian/ French fresh cherry frangipane tart. Making tarts can get complicated, but this tart is relatively easy to make and beautifully showcases the plump whole fresh cherries nestled into a frangipane (almond flvored) cream and baked until golden brown. The scent of almonds wafting through the kitchen seductively compliments the juicy sweet tartness of the gently softened cherries.

 

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Cherry Tart

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Cherry Tart

 

Bing cherries are your best choice for a fragipane tart. They are plump, firm, deeply colored, and have a crisp sweet sourness. To pit or not to pit the cherries? Some cooks do not, but pitting the cherries requires so little effort.  Cherry/olive pitters are available online, worth the small investment, and will last a lifetime.

Other fresh stone fruits you may want to try for this recipe include apricots, nectarines, plums, or peaches.

 

Fresh Cherry Frangipani Tart     makes a 9 inch tart

Cherry/ Olive pitter

Cherry/ Olive pitter

Prepared ahead:

  • Your favorite pasty dough, well chilled, rolled out, and fitted into a 9 inch tart pan.
  • 18 oz/ 500 g fresh dark red (Bing) cherries, stems and pits removed

 

Frangipani Cream:

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 3 ½ oz/ 100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons rum
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons light colored jam for glazing

Place the almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor and blitz until the almonds have been reduced to a stone ground flour like consistency.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the butter is creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining sugar and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Once again scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the almond mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Then add the salt, rum, and almond extract. Mix until combined. Then add the egg and milk and mix until light and fluffy.

If you are not using the frangipane cream right away, cover and refrigerate. Be sure to bring the cream to room temperature before assembling the tart.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 f/180 c

 

Assembling the tart:

Remove the pastry lined tart pan from the refrigerator and spoon the frangipane cream into the trat shell and even out the surface with a silicone spatula.

Arrange the pitted cherries over the entire surface of the tart, pressing ever so gently so the cream just anchors the cherries in place.

Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the pastry crust is lightly browned and frangipane cream has puffed up and golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the tart after the first 30 minutes to insure even baking.

While the tart is baking heat the jam in a small pan until melted, strain out the solids, and set aside.

When the tart is done transfer to a cooling rack. Brush the glaze over the top of the tart and cool to room temperature.

Serve cut into wedges. This tart needs no flourishes. Beautiful just s it is.

 

 

Hawaiian Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Hawaiian Pineapple Upside Down Cake

 

Pineapple upside down cake is a real American classic and I would have to say it is still my very favorite cake of all cakes. It all began when the Dole Pineapple Company in Hawaii developed commercial pineapple farming and a canning method in the early 2oth century that quickly made pineapple readily available across the nation. Then a Dole Recipe Contest winner’s recipe clinched this cake’s culinary “pop icon” status and pineapple upside down cakes were baking in homemaker’s ovens across America.

I posted a Pineapple Upside Down cake recipe back in 2015 (See here) that pretty much replicates the Dole contest winners recipe. But recently I relocated another favorite Pineapple upside down cake recipe from the Border Grill in Los Angeles that I loved and made all the time in LA and later when living in Hawaii. With just a few minor tweaks here is what’s become my moist, sweet, sour, and luxuriously rich Hawaiian Pineapple Upside down cake with macadamia nuts no less.

 

Hawaiian Pineapple Upside Down Cake   serves 6

Ingredients:

Hawaiian Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Hawaiian Pineapple uUpside Down Cake

  • 4 tablespoons/ 2 oz unsalted butter melted
  • 9 tablespoons/ 4 ½ oz unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 can round pineapple slices in syrup, reserving the syrup
  • 1 3/4 oz/ 50 g whole unsalted macadamia nuts
  • 1 ½ cups pastry flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple syrup

 

Equipment: one 9 or 10 inch round cake pan, very well buttered

Preheat oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Place 4 tablespoons/ 2 oz butter in a small saucepan over set over low heat. Once the butter is melted add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is thick and emulsified. Promptly pour the mixture into the cake pan and spread evenly to cover the bottom of the pan.

Blot the pineapple rounds with a paper towel and arrange them in a circular pattern around the pan with a final round placed in the center. Place whole macadamia nuts in the center of each pineapple and the remaining nuts placed  between the rounds. Set aside while you prepare the batter.

In a mixing bowl, combine the pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of sea salt. Stir to combine the ingredients evenly and set aside.

In a larger mixing bowl combine the remaining 9 tablespoons/ 4 ½ oz softened butter, sour cream or Greek yogurt, egg yolks, and vanilla. Using a hand held mixer whisk the ingredients together until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add half of the dry ingredients and briefly beat until combined. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the pineapple syrup and continue to beat, once again scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the batter is thick and smooth, about 1 ½ minutes. The mixture will be quite stiff as it should be.

Spoon the batter in dollops atop and around the pineapple rings. Then, using a small flexible spatula dipped into the reserved pineapple syrup, spread the batter evenly over the surface of the fruit right to the edges of the pan. Repeatedly dipping the spatula in the syrup makes the spreading of the batter easier and with smoother results.

Transfer the pan to the center of the oven and bake for 18 to 25 minutes. Be mindful once you reach the 20 minute mark. You want the batter to be just baked without drying out. The surface should be just slightly colored and done when a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let cool for just a couple minutes, but no more or it will stick to the bottom of the pan.

Then, confidently, invert the cake onto a serving plate. The cake should release pretty much intact but If not quite, simply preposition the pineapple as needed. This cake’s charm is after all its artisanal appeal!

An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie

An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie

 

Come the Holiday season pumpkin pies are bound to be on many a holiday table. There are those who love pumpkin pie and those who don’t. I have to admit store bought pumpkin pies can often be pretty uninspiring. However, years ago I came upon Nancy Silverton’s pumpkin pie recipe in her Pastries from the La Brea Bakery cookbook and garnered new perspectives on how beguiling a pumpkin pie can actually be. All of Nancy Silverton’s cookbooks, and MOZZA in particular, are my favorite resources for some guidance or inspiration. Her taste is impeccable, her recipes are refined and exacting, and you can be confident that the results will deliver perfection.

Bear with me. This recipe is indeed more complicated than opening a can of pumpkin puree, tossing it together with a few spices and a couple of other ingredients, and popped into the oven in 10 minutes. Just to reassure you, this pumpkin pie really is worth all the extra effort invested. I’ve had rave reviews every time I’ve served it. This is a recipe you will be revisiting for beautiful finishing flourishes for your holiday meals for years to come.

I have adapted Nancy Silverton’s recipe with a few minor adjustments.

 

An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie     makes 1 10 inch pie

I would suggest roasting the yams and pumpkin, pureeing them both, and making the pastry dough the day before making the pie. Having all the ingredients readily at hand makes assembling the pie a whole lot easier on baking day.

The yams and pumpkin can be baked together. Preheat the oven to 400 f / 200 c. Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Remove the seeds and stringy membranes and place on a baking tray, skin side down, along with the yams. Brush all with olive oil and transfer to the oven. Both the pumpkin and the yams will take about 45 minutes. The pumpkin should be very tender and a deep orange. The yams should be very soft and almost bursting when finished. Remove the skins from both. Mash the yams and pumpkin separately and set aside to cool. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate.

Special item: 10 inch pie pan

For the dough:

  • 4 oz/113 g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco), chilled
  • 2¾ cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt (or flaked sea salt)
  • ¼ cup ice water

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the well chilled cubed butter, shortening, and salt and mix on low for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix another 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low between each addition, until it is the consistency of a coarse meal. Begin adding small amounts of the ice water just until the dough begins to come together. You will probably will not need to use all the water and by all means do not over mix!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed a few times to gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, flatten each into a disc and wrap in plastic film. Chill one of the discs for at least 2 hours or overnight. Freeze the remaining dough for another use.

When the dough is well chilled, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11 inch circle about ¼ inch thick, flouring the dough as necessary. Fold the dough into quarters and place the counterpoint in the middle of the pie pan. Unfold the dough and arrange it it evenly in the pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Trim the dough, leaving ½ inch of the dough hanging over the edge. Fold the ½ inch section of the dough underneath so it is even with the rim of the pan to create a thicker edge. Make a scalloped edge by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of the other hand. Continue around the entire edge of the dough. Chill until firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Lightly brush the entire interior of the pie shell with melted butter. Line the bottom and sides of the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or metal pie weights, making sure the beans or weights are pressed tightly into the corners of the dough. Bake for about 25 minutes until the top of the crust is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes. Then remove the beans or pie weights and carefully peel off the paper lining. If the bottom of the pie shell is not uniformly browned, return it unlined to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes until fully cooked and lightly browned.

While the pie shell is baking you can prepare the filling.

For the filling:

  • 2 cups roasted yam puree
  • ½ cup roasted pumpkin puree
  • 2 oz/ 57 g unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 extra large organic eggs
  • 1 extra large organic egg yolk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (or rum)
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or flaked sea salt)
  • 1 very small pinch of ground cloves
    1 small pinch white pepper

Place the yam and pumpkin purees into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process until very smooth.

In a small sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of a knife scrape out the flesh and seeds and add to the butter along with the pod. Swirl the pan to insure the butter cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma. Promptly remove from the heat and set aside. Remove the vanilla pod and reserve it for another use. Once the butter is cooled and the black burned bits have settled to the bottom of the pan carefully pour the butter into the food processor leaving most of the black bits behind in the pan. If you are using Vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean, add it to the food processor along with the butter. Puree the ingredients in the processor until smooth.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, cream, milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, brandy or rum, ginger, allspice, salt, cloves, and pepper. Add the pumpkin yam mixture and whisk until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Pour the pie filling into the pie shell to about ¼ inch below the top edge. Giggle the pan to level the filling.

For garnishing:

  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 to 5 gratings fresh whole nutmeg

Lightly brush the scalloped rim of the blind baked pastry shell with milk.

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the pie filling.

Place the pie in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour, checking the pie after 40 minutes. The filling should be just set without quivering. Do not be tempted to over bake as this will cause the surface of the pie to crack while cooling.

Cool the pie on a cooling rack until it is room temperature and ready to serve. If you intend serve the pie later, seal with plastic film and refrigerate. Be sure to ring the pie back to room temperature for serving.

Serving: Serve at room temperature with a lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with a small dash of vanilla extract.

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