Sunday, June 5, 2011

Farmhouse Apple Cake

I am madly in love with this cake. Seriously. Unless you are horribly allergic to apples (even then, you could probably use pears instead ;), you must make it! I ran across the recipe over at A Soft Place to Land and bookmarked it as interesting, then kind of forgot about it.

Then the other night I realized I had a few apples in the fridge that were looking rather sad and needed to find something to make with them. Didn't feel like applesauce, didn't have any puff pastry on hand... but I did have all the ingredients for Farmhouse Apple Cake (I love it when that happens!), so decided to give it a whirl.

Honestly, you can probably use any apples you have handy, this doesn't seem to be an overly fussy recipe, but ones that will hold together when cooked are best; I used Spartans. Granny Smiths would probably do nicely as well. Peel and slice them thinly, either with a knife or on a mandoline*. Then simply mix up the batter, blend the apples in and pour it all into a greased pan and then into the oven for an hour to bake. (The waiting is the worst part as your entire kitchen will smell of apples and vanilla. Pure torture.)

The result is a moist, fragrant dessert that can't really be called cake. It's more like a cross between a bread pudding and a custard stuffed full of warm apple slices. It has the rich, sweet smell of a vanilla custard, but the gooey, sweet texture of a bread pudding, plus the layers and layers of thin, tender apples. Serve it warm paired with a bit of vanilla ice cream... it's just unbelievable. I'm sitting here typing this and my mouth is literally watering at the thought of it.

So... here's the recipe, with a few notes/modifications:

Farmhouse Apple Cake
courtesy of A Soft Place to Land
7 tbsp butter, melted (I used lactose-free margarine)
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)
4 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt (optional)
pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. (My oven runs hot so I prefer 375F and to cook it a bit longer if necessary) Grease a round pan or baking dish and set aside. In a stand or handheld mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. This can take a bit so I prefer to use my stand mixer so I have my hands free. Once ready, add in the flour, milk, butter, vanilla, salt and nutmeg and beat just enough to incorporate. Quickly whisk in the baking soda (it will start to foam a bit on contact with the batter), then fold in the apple slices and pour it all into the baking dish. Pop it into the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. Check it at that point to make sure it isn't burning (because of it's low flour and high sugar content, it will darken considerably during baking... this is ok (it gives a lovely caramelized flavor to it), just make sure it doesn't burn as sugar has a tendency to do), and either remove it to cool or continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Once removed, allow it to settle for a few minutes before cutting, but serve warm with ice cream, caramel sauce, or whipped cream. Or even just a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

As you can see above, I made mine lactose-free so that B could enjoy it as well. If you're lactose-intolerant, don't fear substitutions in this recipe as they do not harm the final result one tiny bit. You can, of course, go the full butter and milk route as well. This cake keeps fairly well, though the leftovers aren't quite as amazing as when it's fresh made, so either invite over some company or go ahead and have a second helping ;)

*Note on mandolines: They are bloody useful little creatures, you can zing through a pile of apples or potatoes or what-have-you in no time flat and get wonderfully thin, uniform slices, but use them with extreme caution!!! The blades on these things are wickedly sharp, and if you are not careful, you can hurt yourself very easily. I managed to slice my finger quite badly the first time I used mine. If you are looking to get one, buy the best model you can afford. Make sure it is sturdy (if it wobbles or bends, you increase the risk of accidents), make sure the hand/saftey guard is sturdy and easy to grip, and ideally look for one with removable/interchangeable blades. If you cannot remove the blade to clean it, it will eventually rust and/or get food stuck in it you cannot remove. When using one, be aware of the density of the food you are slicing; a raw potato will take a different amount of force than an apple will. Be gentle and use smooth movements - you should not have to force what you are cutting across the blade (if you do, then the blade is dull and needs to be sharpened or replaced). Also, forcing the item across the blade means you are effectively forcing your hand towards the blade as well, should you slip. I don't mean to scare you away from using a mandoline by any means, just please be careful! :)

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