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Thursday, October 20, 2011

dorset apple cake

I am trying out this idea of a blogging party. I think. Is that what you call it?  Or is it a link party? It's called the Improv Challenge. But it's planned very well in advance, so I am not sure where the Improv part comes in. Anyway, I was invited to this ... um, event, and I felt so very much like I am in the "in" crowd. Of course, I let them know that I would have to check my schedule and maybe pencil them in, just so I could seem even cooler. Really, though, who doesn't like being invited somewhere? Or sometime, as the case may be? I was rather touched.

I guess there will be a link to me, and down below all of my incessant rambling I am giving you a link to them. And by "them" I mean a whole bunch of other people who are participating. You need to click on that link and see what other, more creative people did to rise to the challenge. I can only imagine how inferior I am going to feel when I see what everyone else comes up with.

The challenge this month was to create something with apples and caramel. I think these people might be more of bakers than vegetable artisans, so we'll see how long our relationship goes before we have to claim artistic differences and go our separate ways. However, I must say we are off to a fabulous start. Maybe it's just the honeymoon stage, but they want me to use apples, and my Abundant Harvest Organics box this week contains many many tart green apples. You know how much I love to use up the items in that box! And if you don't know, welcome to my blog. This is where I complain about using up the vegetables and fruits that pour into my home at alarmingly speedy rates.

So, I was planning to cook something with these tart apples long before I got the invitation to be challenged. Or to improvise. Or to party or link or play along. 

One Thanksgiving, many many years ago, my sister-in-law hosted both sides of her family at her home. One of the guests was her grandmother, who had met her grandfather while he was stationed in Germany during World War II. She fell in love with the American soldier and followed him to the land of the free. Along with all of her worldly possessions,  her grandmother brought a recipe for apple cake from the Motherland. And then, she did some other things for 50 years, before she brought apple cake to my sister-in-law's house for Thanksgiving. The cake was very very dense and rich and delicious. And it had apples in it. And I remember Großmutter mentioning that the cake called for no wet ingredients, but rather the moisture came entirely from the apples that were mixed in with all of the dry ingredients. Other than that, about all I can remember is that it was brownish (probably from cinnamon?), it was an entire sheet cake, and the dog ate all of the leftovers before morning.

Well, I always meant to get that recipe. But like many things I mean to do, I kept putting it off. And since my sister-in-law's grandmother died a few years later, I waited too long. I tried googling apple cake recipes. I tired search parameters like "German" and "no liquid" and "dense" and everything else I could think of. But I haven't found anything that seems like the right cake.

In other words, the cake I made here, today, has absolutely nothing to do with the old German grandmother I met at Thanksgiving long ago.

But it is a very delicious, not-too-sweet, dense apple cake, from the other side of the pond.

This one just happens to be small and round as opposed to a sheet cake. It happens to contain no cinnamon whatsoever. And it is from Dorset, in England, which is on the same continent but the other side of Germany in WWII. So, basically the similarities are that it is made with apples. 

I found the recipe for this when I was searching for that other cake. And although I tweaked it here and 
there to fit my needs, I am sure glad I stumbled on Dorset Apple Cake. I flipped it upside down by putting the apple slices in the pan first, sort of like a pineapple upside-down cake. I left out the sultanas, once I learned that they are actually raisins (yuck!) and I added some brown sugar to the top (which became the bottom) before baking, so it would have a nice caramel-y layer. I don't know this counts as a recipe with "apples and caramel" for this party/link/improv/event, but it's what I am submitting. 

It's not too sweet. It is really like a coffee cake. It doesn't have much in the way of liquids, and that turns out to be okay, because it has tons of apples that release their juices as they bake. This particular cake happened to go to the second grade teachers at my kids' school, after taking all 80 second graders on a field trip to the Nature Center where they met owls and went on hikes. If those teachers don't deserve a token of my appreciation, who does? And now I have hit two of the grade levels at school. Kindergarten, I am looking at you next!

The measurements are a bit wonky (as they say in and around Dorset, England), because I had to calculate all of the measurements from grams and ounces and tins to cups and teaspoons and cake pans. Bear with me, it's worth it.

 Dorset Apple Cake
(which mostly came from this recipe here.)

1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 teaspoons cornstarch
1 stick cold butter (plus more for the pan)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound apples, peeled, cored, and diced (about 2 cups)
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 more apples, skins still on, sliced into very thin wedges
1/4 cup brown sugar

First, preheat the oven to 375 fahrenheit, and prepare a 9-inch round baking dish by buttering it.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces and cut it into the flour mixture with a couple of forks or a pastry blender. The result should be a coarse, crumbly mixture. Stir in the chopped apples and sugar. 

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Stir in the milk. Add this mixture to the flour and apple mixture. It will be very dry, but do your best to get it evenly distributed. Set this batter aside.

Slice two apples into very thin slices, and arrange them in concentric circles in the pan.

Carefully (so as not to disturb the arranged apples), put the batter into the pan. It is very dry and lumpy, so lightly press down on it to make it take shape.

Sprinkle the brown sugar over it all. This will caramelize in the oven, and give the cake a nice sweet, caramelly bottom once it is inverted.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until it is just starting to turn golden.

Let it cool before taking it out of the pan. If some of the apples stick in the pan, just gently release them and tuck them back where they belong of the top of the cake!


And now, go enjoy some other ways people interpreted "apples and caramel."


The Improve Cooking Challenge


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