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.


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.

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


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.

This is me, not changing a thing

A Night with the Girlies

Our girls wanted to make dinner together tonight and learn how to make what we would eat.  They have absorbed a lot by osmosis, but don't always want to help me in the kitchen anymore.  Of course when they were little and wanted to be in the kitchen with me all the time, it took more time to clean up than it did to make anything!

This is the dinner menu they chose (after I nixed the boxed orange mac and cheese first, of course.)

Roasted Garlic with Herbed Crostinis
Poached Salmon with Rosemary, Pancetta and Mushroom Sauce
Roasted Asparagus
Baked Potatoes
Chocolate Chip Cookies made with Browned Butter and Sea Salt

And a word about the cookies.  We used the latest Cook's Illustrated recipe which promised chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.  And does it deliver.  I'm so thankful it wasn't me testing 400 plus versions before arriving at this one.  This is the chocolate chip cookie I've been trying to create for years. 

And we may have added a new twist.  After tasting our first cooked batch I realized that with three cooks, we forgot the salt.  I sprinkled some on the top of the rest just as they came out of the oven and was it good!

Having fun with my girls

© 2009 Anne Mahle

The Maine Ingredient – latest column

Wow.  What a response to this weeks column in the Portland Press Herald on No Knead Sourdough Breads! Biggest response to a column ever.  The three recipes include Rustic Sourdough Bread, Brown Rice and Flax Seed Bread and Maple, Oatmeal, Sourdough Bread.  I’ll make the same offer to readers of the blog that I did in the column.  If you’d like to try working with sourdough in your bread, just email me with your address and I’d be happy to send you some of mine. It’s 100 years old and was given to me by a guest on our windjammer.

I’ve been refining my own version of this technique for over a year now based on Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times and the subsequent article that ran in Cook’s Illustrated.  Neither used sourdough and I’ve found it so easy to incorporate into what has become a solid producer of excellent quality bread with a thicky, crispy, golden crust and a moist, irregular-holed interior.

Space in the column didn’t allow for me to talk much about the care and feeding of a sourdough starter, and while it’s fairly simple, like everything, a few tips here and there to prevent major disasters is maybe helpful.  What is first and most important to remember about sourdough is that it is a living, growing organism.  For this reason, it’s most important to keep your culture in a loose lidded arrangement or a plastic container with a lid that can pop off.  If you store it in glass, the pressure will cause the glass to shatter and it is one unholy mess to clean up.

Because it is living, it needs to be feed.  It is forgiving and I think they regulate themselves to a certain degree as I notice mine changes from winter to summer.  In the summer I’m using and therefore feeding my starter almost every day and it’s fresh and lively all the time.  I don’t refrigerate it and even in the warm galley, it’s fine.  In the wintertime, however, I do refrigerate to dial down the activity.  I use it more sporadically and I notice that it’s overall just a little slower.  This is what I would suggest for most home cooks who will be baking at the most once or twice a week.

How to feed your starter is by using 1-2 cups in a recipe and replacing it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water.  It should be the consistency of pancake batter or a little thinner.  Shake it well and return it to the refrigerator.  You can make starter with any kind of flour, but I usually just use all purpose white, mostly for space reasons.

A happy starter is always slightly sour smelling and filled with bubbles.  One that is starving and not as happy has a sharper smell and has separated into a watery top layer and a thin bottom layer.  If this happens, it’s not dead, just feed it and maybe use less of it in a recipe as it’s going to give a stronger flavor.  Then bump up your feeding a little bit.  That’s it.  Also, if you find that once summer arrives and you aren’t baking bread for a few months, just freeze it.  It will come back to it’s lively self in the fall once you defrost and feed it.  I’ve had my starter for years now and its still going strong.

Many happy loaves to you all!

UPDATED 6/15/10
Due to the overwhelming response of requests for this starter we can no longer offer it free of charge. There is now a nominal charge of $10 for the starter and $5 for shipping. Thank you for your understanding.

© 2009 Anne Mahle