Tag Archives: apple

The alphabet post: Apples, Batlow, Cake

image

We are almost at the end of our road trip, and have eaten our way around a few villages and towns.

Sure, there are more Aussie meat pies and pub steaks than you can poke a kangaroo paw at; and at least one dinner in an RSL (soldiers and veterans) club Chinese restaurant, which served local favourites like honey chicken and sweet and sour pork… But, we also had freshly caught trout from the pristine Snowy Mountains lakes, home made jams and tea cosies (ok, tea cosies aren’t food, but they might just deserve a post to themselves), local beer, wine and schnapps, just baked bread and pastries, good coffee in surprisingly hipster cafes, and new season apples from Batlow, one of Australia’s apple producing regions at the foot of the Snowy.

image

If food was the icing on the cake for the trip, then the rural environment revealed itself to be a multi layered and endlessly fascinating cake.

image

One day we were climbing the granite peaks of Mount Kosciuszko, snuggled up in gloves and beanies; another day we were bare feet on the beach, having driven through a patch of rainforest, across rich dairy farms, on a dirt road (in our small city car! and we made it!!) and to the ocean. We looked at a wooden cabin tucked away on oh-so-picturesque acres and wondered if it could become our holiday retreat (maybe, if we had a sea plane that can land on the nearby lake, or became a lady & gent of leisure).

image

For days, I had that broad, slow-spoken rural Aussie accent in my ears. Farmer types that greeted each other with “G’day”, “yeah mate”, occasionally “strewth“, and generally as few words as possible. In the evenings, even in the smallest communities we visited, guys greeted other guys – and the publicans – in the local pub over a social beer or two.

~~~

New season apples began appearing in the shops before Easter, and I made this apple cake. While apple season lasts, I’ll probably make this a few more times.

image

The recipe is Marie-Hélène’s apple cake, from Dorie Greenspan and adapted by David Lebovitz. Many bloggers have written about this recipe, including the French Fridays with Dorie crew and Fiesta Friday party-goer Patty (though the experience was more, um, exciting for her). This really is a perfect example of pared back elegance.

The cake has more apples than cake batter, it really is all about the apples. The batter is simple, though heady with vanilla and calvados (apple brandy). The whole thing bakes into one moist, wonderful, fragrant whole. It tastes clean, homely, sweet but not too sweet. The combination of apples, vanilla, calvados tempts you back for just one more slice – time and again – until somehow there is no apple cake left.

image

This time, I dared to temper with perfection and added a hazelnut/cream topping, which added an extra bit of crunch to the cake. Think of a streusel topping, but with less than a quarter the amount of streusel.

And, to make easy sharing, I baked these in mini cake pans and mini pie dishes. The pie-cakes stayed at home as dessert. The mini cakes went to work to be shared with friends.

I’ve found this is a great way to show off those heirloom apple varieties, as the minimal, simple batter sits back and helps the apples’ flavours to shine, rather than distracting you from the apples.

image

Tonight, because it’s Anzac day, I’ll be serving some of our apple bounty baked, with an Anzac biscuits (cookies in American English 🙂 ) crumble topping. This is one of my go-to Anzac biscuits recipes, and the Sydney Living Museum blog recently featured a post about this Aussie and New Zealand food icon. Tonight’s crumble will be improvised with beach house pantry staples, probably with a handful of macadamia nuts and spoonfuls of local honey. I might even get some of the Fiesta Friday crowd to play two-up – but only if it’s legal to play on Anzac day in your state!!

Before my excitement bubbles over, I’ll leave you with the apple cake recipe.

image

French apple cake
(based on recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table)

Ingredients

Cake
3/4 cup or 110g flour (I’ve also used 70g plain flour + 50g finely chopped almonds instead)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (a mix of varieties)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar (I used mostly castor / granulated sugar plus a bit of brown sugar)
3 tablespoons calvados/apple brandy, substitute good brandy or dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or more if you don’t have calvados)
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

Topping, I made this bit up
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon castor sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

2. Heavily butter a 20-23cm springform pan and place it on a baking tray. (Or, 5-6 mini-things, like pie dishes / cake pans)

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

4. Peel and core the apples, then dice into small-med bits. (If using mini-whatever, slice them smaller and thinner, as they will spend less time in the oven)

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until foamy-ish, then rum/brandy and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then stir in half of the butter, do the same with remaining flour /butter.

6. Fold in the apple until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the cake pan.

7. Bake for 40 minutes for full sized cake (about 20-25 min for mini-versions), mix topping ingredients together and randomly dollop over cake(s). Return to oven for another 10-20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean-ish. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, loosen from the pan and remove.

Home, and a homely pie with walnut pastry

IMG_20130704_171146

At the end of the Lord of the Rings series, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin ride back into the Shire, home…at last.

We heaved a similar sigh on returning home from holidays on Monday night. Not that we’ve been fighting dragons or destroying magical rings, but we could finally unpack our suitcases, instinctively recognise the currency again (I never quite figured out the difference between 10 and 20 cent Euro coins), stop thinking about hotel bookings and catch up on this blog!

I can also buy groceries and make dinner on a whim, knowing exactly what is in the pantry and which kitchen utensils are where. (First dinner at home? Rigatoni with crispy prosciutto, baby peas, goats milk fetta and just enough cream cheese to mix everything together)

Don’t get me wrong. Scotland, London, Germany – were beautiful, often magical. I am in love with Hebridean sunlight and kaffee und kuchen in Germany, and am still a little obsessed by black faced sheep. But there is something about home, our little world. Even going back to work on Tuesday was fun, catching up with friends, staying awake though my brain was still on central European time.

I’ll be sorting our 2000-odd holiday snaps for a while, so expect random photos of peat bogs, lochs, black faced sheep, churches and castles at random intervals. Meanwhile, on the theme of home coming, here’s a homely apple, pear and quince pie with walnut pastry.

apple-pie5

Just before going on holidays, I made savoury galettes with the Tuesdays with Dorie group. After the galette, I tweaked the cornmeal pastry recipe, using ground walnuts instead of the cornmeal, and made it into a mini pie.

It was my first time making a lattice top for a pie, and it worked!

apple-pie6 

Continue reading

We love our bread and butter (and apple and pudding)

brioche-pudding6

Sydney has suddenly remembered winter is coming, and we had better start to prepare for it. For the past week, the mornings have had a decidedly wintry vibe. My light weight coats look more inviting in the evenings. Even in our temperate winters, there is something bracing about walking into a gust of cold wind, knowing that you are well wrapped up and no cold air can sneak under your collar or around your fingers.

Summer (and summer picnics), it’s been nice, see you on the other side.

On a brighter note, autumn and winter can be a good time to visit towns and attractions on the northern or southern coastline that are often overrun by weekenders and tourists in summer. We did exactly that this weekend, meandering through 2-3 cities and towns, and ending up at the start of the southern escarpment of the Great Dividing Range overlooking a valley that is still green from summer. Our accommodation – just outside the nearest town – was low-key yet unexpectedly good. The highlight for me was finding a rickety old set of home-made swings in a corner of the garden, and swinging on it until I got the neighbours’ labradors’ attention. I think they wanted a go too.

jamberoo1

jamberoo2

Earlier in the week, I made a poshed-up version of bread and butter pudding that seemed an apt way to ease us into the rusticating weekend. It also used up the mountain of brioche I had made a few days ago (brioche-specific post(s) coming up). Both Mr Gander and I have had some pretty uninspiring examples of this pudding in the past. Sometimes, the bread just tastes like stale bread, or the custard is too thin, too sweet, or there just isn’t enough excitement to make me forget that I’m eating soggy bread. This recipe was a little different, and I felt more confident it would succeed in winning us over to bread and butter style puddings.

And succeed it did. (as Yoda might say)

Brioche is very thinly sliced (frozen brioche was easy to slice thinly), and placed in a cake or loaf pan in alternating layers with thin slices of brandy-scented apples. A vanilla custard-like mixture is poured over, left to soak up for an hour, and baked.

brioche-pudding5

Continue reading

Topping! Focaccia three ways

focaccia6b

Focaccia brings back bad memories of suburban sandwich shops: dry, flat squares of bread, topped with desiccated bits of herbs and with a dense crumb. Or dry, thick-bottomed things, smothered in greasy ‘Italianate’ toppings like ham and cheese.

Nancy Silverton’s quip about bad focaccia sums it up well:

Here in Los Angeles, those dense, cake-like squares of dry, flavorless bread, topped with rosemary if you were lucky, always seemed like a bad cliché — something Italian American restaurants offered for their bread service as a way to appear authentic or simply to stick with a theme.

Since then, I’ve encountered another kind of focaccia from real bakeries: thinner, simpler, with deeper uneven dents made by the baker’s fingers (or the apprentice’s).

I began this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) focaccia wondering which type of focaccia will come out of the oven. I needn’t have worried. This recipe and I are going to be good friends; actually, my friends and this recipe have become good friends.

After the initial kneading, and during the 36 hour rest, the dough ballooned and coyly promised fabulous thing. Fresh from the oven, it delivered on that promise: we inhaled lightly crusty, pillowy, chewy bread.

Since I can’t help tweaking recipes, I tried a few sweet and savoury toppings. Each one worked well and showed off the bread’s versatility.

focaccia4a

Continue reading