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 😛

Yum!

Yum!

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.

LINKS:

David Lebovitz – Living the good life in Paris

Dorie Greenspan

About French food

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

This is something I made a while ago.  The beauty of this lovely extract is that it will keep indefinitely, due to the high alcohol content.  All you need is alcohol and vanilla beans.  I actually used bourbon this time around, but any 35% or 70 proof (or stronger) alcohol will work.  It makes a fantastic gift and can even be used as wedding favours.  You can even print pretty labels to place on the bottles to personalise the gift.

VARIATIONS: I use 5 or 6 vanilla bean pods in my extract as I like it quite strong.  You could always reduce the amount to 3 or 4 if you prefer.  Also, the type of alcohol can be varied to change the taste.   Think vanilla rum extract, or vanilla vodka extract.  Or maybe tequila or brandy vanilla extract if more your style.

USES:  While we’re not making this to drink, but rather to enhance our baked treats, there is no rule to say you can’t drink it.  A nip of vanilla laced bourbon would hit the spot right about now.  Or maybe a ‘special’ spiked coffee.  Or, OMG, an adults only milkshake…  You can thank me later.

Happy Tasting 😛

VANILLA EXTRACT

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Infusing time: 2 months

Yield: 250 mL/1 cup, 50 serves

  • 5-6 vanilla beans
  • up to 250 ml/ 1 cup 35% (70 proof) alcohol, I used bourbon
  • 250mL/1 cup capacity glass bottle

Split the vanilla bean pods in half 4/5 of the way along its length.  Place the vanilla beans into the bottle.  Fill the bottle up with your choice of alcohol.  Close bottle and invert a couple of times.  Store in a cupboard or pantry for 2 months before using, inverting the bottle every few days.  As the volume decreases to 1/3 of the bottle, top up the liquid with you choice of alcohol.  You can also add spent vanilla beans used in other recipes to boost the vanilla flavour.

LINKS:

Vanilla Bean Facts

Wikipedia’s take on Vanilla Extract

I Found Free Label Templates Here!  Just download and alter at will.

Vanilla and Star Anise Infused Sugar

Vanilla Star Anise Infused Sugar

Vanilla infused sugar has to be the easiest recipe I know.  It is also tempting to eat it straight from the canister, although you probably shouldn’t.  Every time you open the lid, the heavenly smell of vanilla envelops you.  The hardest part of the recipe is waiting the 3 to 6 weeks for the flavour of the infusion to fully develop.  This is another recipe that you can increase the quantities to give as a gift.  An additional bonus to this recipe is that it utilises a vanilla bean that has already been spent.  That is, you have scraped the delicious caviar out and used it for another luscious morsel.  Instead of throwing away the empty pod, you can utilise it and make some vanilla sugar, vanilla extract or even some vanilla syrup.  Some people like to remove or sift out the solid particulate out of the castor sugar, but I like how it looks left in.  At the last minute, I got creative and decided to add some star anise to my vanilla sugar base to add a little je ne sais quoi.  What a fabulous idea that turned out to be.

VARIATIONS:  Infused sugars are not limited to just vanilla, although vanilla is the most well known.  Cinnamon, cloves, glace ginger, rose petals (organic), violet petals (organic), lavender,fresh rosemary, dried orange, mandarin or lemon peel can all make wonderfully different infused sugars, and they make great gifts.  My favourites are ginger & cardamom infused sugar, and vanilla & star anise infused sugar.

USES: Depending on the flavour, there are a multitude of uses for this delicacy.  Scatter over your crepes, have it in your herbal tea or latte, substituted for regular sugar in your baking,  muddle it in a cocktail or rim the glass with it, mix it with butter and smear it on hot toast or rain it over cookies before baking them.  You could even pour it over Crème Brûlée  before flaming it with a blowtorch.  Yum!

Begin by pouring half your sugar into your storage jar.  Now look at the sugar.  Do not eat the sugar.  This is important.

Push the vanilla beans into the sugar.  Try and spread them out so they can more easily share their perfumed goodness into their environment.

Now top up the jar with more sugar.  Leave about a 2.5cm (or 1″) gap so that you can shake the sugar jar freely.

And here is where I decided to add the star anise.  I would have added it in three steps if I had planned to use it – 1/3 on the bottom or the jar, 1/3 when  half the sugar was added, and the rest after all the sugar was in the jar.  As it was, I just inverted the jar a few more times, and used the handle of my wooden spoon to push the pods deeper into the sugar.

Happy Sprinkling   😛

Vanilla Star Anise Infused Sugar

VANILLA AND STAR ANISE INFUSED SUGAR

Preparation time: 5  minutes

Infusing time: 3 to 6 weeks

Yield: 4 1/2 Cups

  • 900 grams/28 oz/ 4 cups caster (superfine) sugar
  • split and spent vanilla bean, caviar used in another recipe
  • 9 – 12 star anise
  • 1 kg/32 oz jar, to store

Place 1/3 of your star anise into you clean and dry jar.  Pour half the sugar (2 cups) into the jar.  Insert your spent vanilla pods into the sugar.  Try and spread the pods so they can come into contact with as much sugar as possible.  Scatter a further 1/3 of the star anise on top of the sugar and vanilla bean pods.  Add the remaining sugar to the jar.  Top the sugar with the last portion of star anise.  Shake the jar.  Store in a cupboard or pantry.  Shake the jar every few days, and start using when flavour has developed to your satisfaction.  If desired, sift out the spices at this time.

LINKS:

Types of Vanilla 

Some Star Anise Information

I Found Free Label Templates Here!  Just download and alter at will.