Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (from Dorie Greenspan)
|November 17, 2010||Posted by ameliaps under apples, dessert, simple|
There are times where we need a little sweet comfort after a simple week-night dinner…
This cake, which is almost a tart (thin and with more apples than batter), is perfect for those nights. It’s simple, casual yet nonchalantly chic. Perfectly French. And it is so quick to assemble. You might consider serving it with a dollop of crème fraîche and some freshly grated orange zest.
I found it on Chez Pim‘s under “Dorie’s French supper” post, as part of her new series: Dinner @ 8. Pim describes it as follows: “This cake is everything I love about homey French desserts: beguilingly simple and not even very pretty, but presents the very essence of what it’s supposed to be. In this case, the spirit of autome itself”
The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book, Around My French Table (exactly on page 432). It calls for rum, but since I had none on hand I used some Grand Marnier (and it worked great).
Did I mention the aroma? I left it baking in the oven for an hour and went off to fold clothes in the other side of the house…when I returned I was instantly happy from the cozy aroma the cake produced around the house. Then, I cut myself a warm slice: it was moist, delicate, wholesome, with a subtle apple flavor and a faint hint of the liqueur. I will make this one again, many times, that I know!!!
Tip: cut the apples as thin as you can: they will become “one” with the batter
Here is how Dorie talks about her friend Marie-Hélène:
“I’ve watched her in her kitchen, in the hopes of nabbing a recipe by observation, but it’s impossible. Like so many really good cooks, Marie-Hélène starts off with a set of ingredients that could be annotated and recipe-ized, but once she starts mixing, stirring, boiling, baking or sauteing, she makes so many mid-cooking adjustments that you just have to throw up your hands and content yourself with being the lucky recipient…”
And here is how she describes how the recipe came together:
‘’It’s got two eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter — oh, and rum,’ she said. ‘I mix the eggs and sugar together, then I add some flour, some butter, some flour and some butter.’ When I asked how much flour and butter, I got a genuinely apologetic shrug, and when I asked what kind of apples she used, the answer was divers…’”
You can just picture these wonderful two ladies in a French kitchen sipping wine and having a casual conversation, while effortlessly putting together a understated but delicious dinner.
Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 8 servings
8 T butter (1 stick) + a bit more for the cake pan
3/4 cup AP flour
3/4 t baking powder
4 large apples (or 5 smalls)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 T dark rum
1/2 t vanilla extract
a big pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Cut butter into big chunks and add them into a small glass bowl. Heat it in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds or so, until half of the butter chunks are melted. Remove the bowl from the microwave, stir briskly until all the butter chunks are all melted. Set the butter bowl aside.
Butter and flour the cake pan. Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl. Peel the apples, quarter, core, and then slice them into thin petals.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until pale, foamy, and thickened. When you see that the whisk begins to leave visible tracks in the batter as it beats, it’s ready. Shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes. Stop the machine, add the rum, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk again to combine. Add the flour and turn the mixer on at the lowest setting to blend in the flour. Just a few turns should do, the rest can be finished by hand.
Switch to rubber spatula, fold* in any flour clumps still visible in the batter. When the flour is fully incorporated, pour in the melted butter and continue to fold until the batter is homogeneous again. Add the apple slices all at once, fold them in until all the apple chunks are coated with batter. You don’t have to be so delicate here, this batter can take it.
*By folding I mean take your rubber spatula, scrape down under the batter from the side of the bowl toward the middle, then lift the spatula up. Turn the bowl a little, take the spatula and scrape under the batter again, and again toward the middle and lift. Keep doing this, turning the bowl a little bit each time, until you come all the way around to where you started out, or until whatever you’re trying to add to the batter is completely incorporated into it.
In the end, you’ll have a cake batter that’s more apple-y than batter-y. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Pour the apple cake batter into the buttered/floured cake pan, pressing down gently to let the apple slices settle and level a bit. You may tap the pan on the counter a couple times to let out big air pockets if there’s any.
Place the cake pan on a cookie sheet, then in the oven. Set your timer for 1 hour.