French Apple Cake – I Wouldn’t Change a Thing!

Most of the time when I follow a baking recipe, I have to change something.  It might be the extract or the zest or the alcohol or the fruit that I change, but I must change something.  When I made this recipe, for some reason, I just followed like a sheep in a herd and I’m so glad I did.  It’s lovely.  It’s delicious.  With coffee, with tea, by itself.  I’m a fan.

IMG_9873-001a

French Apple Cake
Published September 1, 2012,  Cook’s Illustrated.
Serves 8 to 10

The microwaved apples should be pliable but not completely soft when cooked. To test for doneness, take one apple slice and try to bend it. If it snaps in half, it’s too firm; microwave it for an additional 30 seconds and test again. If Calvados is unavailable, 1 tablespoon of apple brandy or white rum can be substituted.
Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon Calvados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with Calvados and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.
3. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.
5. Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1¼ hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges, and serve.

Annie
This is me, not changing a thing

Potato, Leek and Watercress Soup

Farmer Tom from Hope’s Edge delivered gorgeous fronds of leeks to me in early May last year – not nearly far enough into the growing season to have them as large as they were.  But these leeks were special.  They’d been heeled in and over-wintered under a deep layer of straw.

Spring pulled Leeks

When we had a bumper crop of King Richard leeks last fall, I decided to give it a try.  Who knows, right?  As E and I tromped out to the garden to take a look, I could see bits of brown stem poking through the straw and I wasn’t sure they’d made it.  Our property is windy and the deep bed of straw had been partially blown off – by all those blizzards this winter.  But some stuck and that was enough!  While I couldn’t make a stock out of the tips, I was  sure I could use the tender white and lime green parts closer to the roots.

This recipe used up the rest of the watercress from a batch of local cress which I wrote about in the Maine Ingredient – Creamy Potato and Watercress Soup.  Similar, to this soup, but creamier and more elegant.

Potato, Leek & Watercress Soup by Annie Mahle

Potato, Leek and Watercress Soup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups diced onions; about 1/2 a large onion
4 cups diced leeks; about 5 medium leeks
6 cups white potatoes, quartered and sliced thinly; about 4 potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups lightly packed watercress leaves and stems, coarsely chopped into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup cream fraiche

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the onions, leeks, salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and white wine and bring to a simmer.  Add the broth and bring to a simmer again.  Simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to break apart slightly, about another 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the watercress.  Serve immediately with a dollop of cream fraiche on top.

Serves 4 to 6