French Apple Cake – David Lebovitz

French Apple CakeIt’s a lovely day to bake a cake.  That’s what I thought as I rummaged through my fridge, searching for inspiration.  I had a veritable bounty of apples, and I remembered that I had read a very interesting recipe by David Lebovitz using a fair number of apples.  I looked it up, and sure enough I had all the ingredients in the pantry.  Which was great as it meant apple cake was definitely on the cards for supper.  So I made a cake.  Loved it so much that we scoffed it down before managing to take any photos of it.  Of course, this meant that I had to make another one.  So, for the second time in a week I baked a cake.  I did have an excuse.  We were taking my Grandmother out for dinner, and we needed a cake to have with tea and coffee afterwards.  When Aji (my Grandmother) was eating it she said that she liked it.  Which is high praise indeed.

David’s French Apple Cake is wonderfully simple.  There is no fussing around with creaming butter or sifting flour.  It is wonderfully moist and not too sweet, which is perfect for me.  I agree with his comments that this cake does not need cinnamon, and that the alcohol does add to the flavour of this cake.

VARIATIONS: The original recipe states that a variety of apples is best for this dish.  I only had green granny smith cooking apples, and they were wonderful.  Also, I did not peel my apple (they were well washed though).  Self raising flour saves you from needing to measure out a fiddly amount of baking powder.  Additionally, I used wholemeal flour, as that was what I grabbed by mistake, and it worked out just fine.  You could, of course, do half white and half wholemeal, or all white.  The rum is important and should not be omitted, but other alcohols would be lovely to try. For example, I used a hazelnut liqueur (as I ran out of rum) although I think an apple brandy like Calvados would be sublime.  Pear would make an interesting substitution, I plan to make one later in the week, I’ll let you know how it turns out.  Another substitution that I plan to try is whole seedless grapes.  I know that this might sound a bit odd, but I have had an olive oil based grape cake, and the batter was a very similar taste and texture, so I am fairly confident that I will work.

Begin by preheating your oven to 180 °C (355 °F).  If you have a fan forced oven, you may wish to drop the temperature a little.  I  actually cooked mine at 170 °C.  Butter and line your cake tin.  The original recipe only calls for buttering of the pan, but I found two problems with this.  Firstly, as the apple cooks, it caramelises and can stick to your cake tin.  Secondly, the batter is a slightly runny one, and can leak out of you tin. I found lining the dish eliminated both issues.  Next, using a whisk, mix your flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl just enough to combine.  Melt your butter and allow to cool, so it doesn’t cook the egg when you eventually mix it all together.  Now prep your apples.  I didn’t peel mine, it sped up and already fast process.  Cut the cheeks off the apples.  Each cheek can be easily cut into 9 pieces.  There will be some apple still attached to the core.  Slice these off and cut them into 3 pieces each.  These pictures may make this clearer.

Whisk the eggs until they are foamy.  This won’t take long.  Add the sugar and whisk it in, followed by the rum and vanilla extract.  Now whisk in half the flour, and then gently stir in half the cooled melted butter.  Stir though the rest of the flour, then the remaining butter.  Gently fold the apples into the mixture until the apples are coated with the batter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Mine took 55 minutes, incidentally.  And that’s it.  Serve with a dusting of sugar, ice cream or a dollop of cream.

Happy Baking 😛



French Apple Cake

(Recipe from David Lebovit’s French Apple Cake)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 50-60 minutes

Yield: 1 x 23cm (9″) round or 20cm (8″) square cake

  • 3/4 cup plain wholemeal flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup/115g/4 oz melted butter (salted or unsalted fine), cooled
  • 4 large apples, washed and chopped as described above
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup/150g/5.3 oz sugar (I used raw sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons/45mL hazelnut liquor (or dark rum)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 °C (355 °F).  Grease and line your cake tin.  In a small bowl, briefly whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  If you have not done so, melt your butter and prep your apples.

In a large bowl crack your eggs, and whisk them well by hand until they become frothy.  This should take only a couple of minutes.  Add in the sugar, followed by the alcohol and the vanilla extract, whisking well after each addition.

Once combined, whisk in half or the flour, then stir in half of the butter.  The mixture should start to look thicker and glossy.  Stir in the remaining flour and then the butter.  Once well combined, fold the apples into the batter.  Once the apples are well coated by the batter, pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until done – to check for doneness, insert a skewer or toothpick into the centre of the cake.  It should come out clean or with a few crumbs attached.  There should not be any wet batter left on the skewer.

Let stand for 5 minutes before turning out.  Dust with icing (powdered) sugar, if desired and serve as is or with cream or ice cream.  This should keep, covered, for up to 3 days in a cool room, or 5 days in the fridge.


David Lebovitz – Living the good life in Paris

Dorie Greenspan

About French food


Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum Sauce

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum SauceWell my pretties, it has been a while.  Please forgive the decided lack of posts the last couple of months, I promise to do better!  Life got in the way of my blogging, and by life I mean our oven blew up.  It seriously did.  Scuba was cooking one night and BAM!  The fuses were blown and so was the oven.  It’s ok, I had it fixed and it is working again.  Then the air con decided to start leaking..  It is also repaired.  I tells ya, it never rains, it pours.

So onto my latest creation.  Beef cheeks are an awesome cut of meat.  With the right cooking, they are fall apart tender with a lovely texture, and lend themselves to any type of braising, slow cooking or slow roasting.  I have cooked it many ways, and I find I do like the stove top method of braising this wonderful meat the best as I can keep it it submerged in its simmering liquid and top it up quite easily.  This is definitely not a quick weeknight meal, unless you start it in a slow cooker and leave it to cook while you do more exciting things 😛

VARIATIONS:  This recipe can be fiddled with if you can’t find beef cheeks.  Any cut of lean beef that is suitable for stewing, like chuck steak, brisket or gravy beef should be fine.  Also, you don’t have to use red wine.  Beef or chicken stock will be fine.  I used chicken stock so that the red capsicum would shine through.  If you don’t want to use asparagus, green beans are also nice.

GLUTEN FREE SUBSTITUTIONS: Choose a gluten free pasta or rice to serve.  Use home-made chicken stock in lieu of store bought or bouillon cube or just use water.

Begin by making a mirepoix – a French term for an aromatic mixture of onion, celery and carrot that is diced finely and sweated off in some olive oil.  I also added a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper at this point.  To this, we will add garlic and the first 2 red capsicums, also finely diced.

We will continue to sweat the vegetables off in the oil until the onion becomes translucent and some of the lovely red from the capsicum leaches out and makes the onion turn a faint yellow.  This should take about 10 minutes.   Now, push the vegetables to the edge of the pot and clear a space in the centre to brown our meat.  Turn the heat to a medium-high heat and brown the meat for about 5 minutes on each side, being careful not to burn the vegetables.

Once nicely browned, add the wine and the stock and bring to the boil.  Cover and reduce heat so that the pot id gently simmering.  Simmer for two to three hours, or until the meat can be easily shredded.  You may need to top up the the pot with water , so check the pot every 30 minutes to every hour,  I found that I needed 1 cup of water every hour to stop the pot from boiling dry.

Once the meat is ready to be shredded, remove from the pot and keep warm.  Add the remaining red capsicum to the pot, and simmer gently for 45 minutes.  I know, I know, there is already red capsicum in the pot, but we are trying to amp up and enhance the capsicum flavour.  Plus the sauce will have a more vibrant red colour by adding capsicum later in the cooking.  You may wish to simmer with the lid off as we are trying to create a thick sauce of between 2 to 3 cups volume.  You can drain off some of the cooking liquid if you have too much or you could  prepare a double lot of the capsicum sauce and freeze the extra, it makes a luscious soup especially with a dash of cream.  While the capsicum is doing its thing, shred the meat.

I did this with my fingers (which were clean!) as this meant that when I was finished, any meat that ‘fell’ off the chopping board was fair game.  Also, prepare your asparagus and pasta, I had gnocci with mine which only takes 2 minutes to cook!  Once you have the capsicum nicely cooked and it is at the right volume, get out your trusty stick blender and blitz away.  I like mine fairly fine so I blitzed until there were no chunks.  Look how pretty it is.  If you are being super fancy, you could strain the capsicum sauce through a muslin cloth.    Return the meat to the pot with the asparagus.  Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.  After 2 minutes on a low heat, add the gnocci (or pasta of your choice) to the pot and stir.  Serve with crusty bread and a glass of the leftover wine.  Yummy.

Happy Noshing 😛

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum Sauce

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum Sauce

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: up to 4 hours

Yield: Serves 4 generously

  • 3 tablespoons/60 mL olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, finely diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 red capsicum, finely diced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic (about 4 fat cloves) or to taste
  • 600 grams/1.3 lb beef cheeks, whole
  • 2 cups/500 mL  red wine
  • 1 cup/250 mL chicken stock
  • 2-3 cups/500-750 mL water, extra
  • 2 capsicum, extra, rough dice
  • 2 bunches asparagus, woody part trimmed and sliced into 2.5 cm batons
  • salt and pepper – extra, to taste if needed
  • 450g/1 lb pasta of choice

Heat the oil.  Add the onion, celery, carrot salt and pepper.  Stir, then add the capsicum and garlic.  Let cook on a medium heat until onions become translucent, stirring occasionally.

Move the vegetables to the edge of the pan, turn up the heat and add the beef cheeks. Brown the cheeks for about 5 minutes on each side, being careful not to burn the vegetables.

Once the meat is browned, add the wine and the stock to the pan, brig to boil , then reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, topping up the liquid in the pot with water as needed every 30 minutes to stop the pot running dry.  When the meat is easily shredded, remove it from the pot and keep warm.

Add the extra capsicum to the liquid in the pot and simmer until tender, from 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  You may wish to simmer the capsicum uncovered to reduce the cooking liquid, as we are aiming for about 2 1/2 cups of capsicum purée  to plate up with.

While the capsicum is cooking, shred the meat, prepare the asparagus, and get the water boiling for your pasta of choice.  5 minutes before the capsicum is ready, start cooking your pasta.

Once the capsicum is cooked, blend it with the mirepoix and enough cooking liquid to make up to about 2 1/2 cups of sauce.  Reintroduce the beef cheeks into the sauce and add the asparagus.  Check for salt and pepper and add extra to taste if needed.  Cook at a simmer for 2 minutes, just long enough to heat the meat thoroughly and to just cook the asparagus.  Add your pasta of choice to your sauce, stir and serve.