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Apple, Blackberry & Almond Cake

7 Sep

A few days ago my boyfriend and I had another set of friends over to the apartment for dinner. This recent spate of hospitality stems from a combination of the novelty of cohabitation, getting back into town after a summer away, and having great friends who are willing to do things like watch my ridiculous cat for two months while I was away.

a slice

Given my current obsession with (read: addiction to) caramel, I had salted caramel ice cream and some dark salted caramel sauce on hand. Frankly, I was hoping to be rid of both of them given that my obsession with salted caramel is paired with an equally enormous lack of willpower around what I am beginning to believe should be a controlled substance….

Accordingly, I wanted to use up the ice cream and sauce without creating a dessert so overwhelmingly saccharine that we all developed an aversion to sugar, so I looked over some of my more trustworthy websites and found this apple blackberry cake recipe on Lottie & Doof. He had adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe (also a trusted source). The idea of a “lighter” fruit desert appealed to me given the decadent nature of its proposed toppings. I had some blackberries on hand in the freezer, and we’re just coming into peak apple season here in Michigan, so it seemed as if the stars had aligned.

healthy. full of fiber and vitamins. unlikely virtuous enough to make up for the caramel, though.

I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit, however. Memories of the orange cornmeal cake were still fresh in my mind, so I added some almond extract and orange zest to the batter and topped the whole concoction with toasted almond slivers. I can’t say I regret any of the decisions I’ve made – aside from the one to eat three pieces in one sitting. With the ice cream. And the salted caramel sauce. And several vats of beer. And the dinner itself, which we will discuss another time. I DIGRESS.

Ingredients

For Cake 

  • 2 large gala apples, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 & 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Zest from 1/2 large orange
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • 3/4 cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
For Topping
  • 1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Two tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375F and spray a 9″ springform with non-stick baking spray.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt + orange zest) in a small bowl.
3. Whisk together wet ingredients (melted butter, sugar, almond extract, milk and eggs) in a medium-large bowl.
4. Whisk flour mixture into wet ingredients, and spread batter evenly in prepared springform pan.
5. Arrange apple chunks and blackberries atop batter, pressing them gently into the mixture when necessary.
6. Top with toasted almond slivers, and press these gently into the batter as well when possible. Mix the 2 tbsp brown sugar and cinnamon together, and sprinkle over the top of the batter before dotting the entire ensemble with the remaining 2 tbsps butter.
7. Bake for about 55 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden, the apples are tender, and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Mmmm....

8. Drizzle with this:

dark salted caramel sauce

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Orange Almond Cornmeal Cake

29 Aug

The base recipe for this cake comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast, the sequel to one of my favorite cookbooks. The first cookbook, Great Food Fast, was referred to as the ‘magic cookbook’ by my friends in undergrad,  which should give you some idea of its powers. My boyfriend bought me the ‘sister’ cookbook for my birthday last year, and because there is some balance to the universe requested a cake from it for our belated celebration of his birthday this year.

While I love the original version of this cake, it lacked a little bit of oomph, so I tweaked it by adding a hint of almond to the batter and swapping out some of the coarse sugar topping for toasted almond slivers. Whether you make the original version or my very slightly adapted one, it’s sure to be a hit: the orange zest, olive oil and white wine are a combination of ingredients that initially make you tilt your head to the side with suspicion, but they work in concert to create a lightly sweetened, intensely flavourful and moist cake. I like to serve this with Garret McCord’s cinnamon ice cream from Simply Recipes – which will likely be featured in an upcoming post (after I make it again – the latest batch is rapidly disappearing, for some reason). While the combination of orange, almond and cinnamon may seem somewhat “Christmas-ey”, the cake is light enough that it makes for a terrific end of summer dessert as well.

Cake

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 & 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Zest from one orange*

batter in prepared cake pan

Topping
  • 3 tbsp – 1/3 cup coarse sanding sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

denuded orange...

*Use a microplane for this. If you don’t have one, buy one. Just do it. It will change your life. For years I slaved away over my cheese grater, scraping my knuckles every time, and as a result almost always omitted zest from recipes. This was a dark period in my life.

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Using a pastry or basting brush, brush the insides of a 9″ round cake pan with olive oil. Trace out a circle of parchment paper using the bottom of the pan, cut to fit, and insert into the inside of the cake pan. This should also be brushed with olive oil – this is a cake that desperately wants to stick to the pan;

2. Toast the almond slivers by spreading them evenly on a metal platter in the toaster oven or on a baking sheet at around 300F. Once their delicious scent begins to waft through the air it may be too late (the thin slicing means that almond slivers have a tendency to quickly transition from toasted to burnt), so watch them like a hawk once they start to brown;

3. Using a whisk, mix together the wet ingredients (eggs, sugar, olive oil, wine & almond extract) in a medium-large bowl;

4. Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and orange zest), taking care to make sure that the orange zest does not clump together too much. Whisk dry ingredients gently into wet ingredients;

5. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and top with almond slivers and sugar (the amounts of the topping ingredients are variable because they can be easily adjusted to taste – I found that 3 tbsp of coarse sugar and 1/4 cup of toasted almond slivers provided a good balance of sweet and savory crunch, but you can easily go big or go home and max out both – let me know how it works out if you do!).

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes on central rack of oven, until “cake begins to pull away from side of pan” or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the cake pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then gently run a (plastic, if you treat your bakeware kindly) knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, and then ‘re-invert’ onto wire rack until it cools completely.

Enjoy!

Strawberry Apple Pie

2 Sep
strawberry apple pie

fresh out of the oven

Unfortunately, as I spent the past three & a half months away from home I haven’t had the opportunity to bake in a very long time. I also missed the early July birthday of someone very close to me, and I promised him that when I returned home we would set aside a day for a belated celebration. His one request was that this year, instead of the usual mint-chocolate concoction, I make him a more rustic, summery dessert: strawberry rhubarb pie.

While this was all very well and good, I neglected to think about the seasonality of one of the primary ingredients of said baked good, and after a fruitless walk to Kroger and a (surprisingly) fruitless stop at Whole Foods, I realized that drastic measures would need to be taken in order to produce a pie in a timely fashion, namely the tricky business of ingredient substitution. While there is apparently a statewide paucity of rhubarb in Michigan at the moment, these beauties are popping up all over the place:

tart & crunchy

paula red apples

Accordingly, I decided to throw caution to the wind and experiment with a heretofore unheard of combination of late summer and early fall fruits: strawberries and apples.

I adapted Deb’s “improved” strawberry rhubarb pie recipe from over at Smitten Kitchen, and I also used her recommended buttery pie crust recipe. I really love this crust because it’s easy to make (I successfully used it to bake two rounds of turkey pot pie after Canadian Thanksgiving last October) and requires only four ingredients that most cooks have readily available in their kitchens – in my mind the hallmark of a good recipe!

note the enormous flecks of butter

The best thing about these is that you can prepare them beforehand, wrap them in plastic and store them in the fridge. I made mine the night before.

The ingredients you’ll need are:

  • 3 cups large strawberries (about a 1 lb package)
  • 4 cups (2 very large or 3 medium) tart apples. I used Paula Red, but Granny Smith would probably work just as well.
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
  • 2 tbsp butter, finely chopped
  • 2 pre-prepared pie crusts
  • One egg yolk beaten with one tsp water, for the glaze

Kitchen Equipment:

  • One 9″ pie pan
  • Pastry blender (for making the crusts)
  • One large bowl
  • One wooden spoon
  • Scissors to trim pie crust overhang

Unsurprisingly, you’ll first need to chop up all the fruit. Hull and quarter the strawberries, and then peel the apples and chop them into large, satisfying chunks. You’ll want to mix the fruit together with the two sugars, lemon juice and tapioca, like so:

you definitely sample some of the filling after you mix in the sugar, just to make sure it's, you know, okay

pie filling

Once your filling is all set, preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Unwrap one of your pie crusts and roll it out into a 12 inch circle, and then drape it over your 9″ pie pan.

draped crust

And now for the fun part. Transfer your pie filling to the pie pan, making sure to scrape all of the juices out of the bowl to make for a more flavourful pie. Once you’ve evenly spread the filling over the bottom crust, dot it with the two tablespoons of butter that have already been cut into small pieces.

Then, roll out your second pie crust (though you’ll only need an 11-inch circle this time), and cut a few decorative slits on the top of it. After you have centred the top crust over the filling and the pie pan, cut all the overhanging crust so that it extends only a 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pie pan. This is very important, because I neglected to cut enough off, and sure enough I had a drooping monstrosity on my hands about five minutes after I put the pie in the oven. Once you have achieved your 1/2 inch overhang (I’m serious here people, don’t overshoot!), fold the bottom crust over the top crust and create an aesthetically pleasing pattern by tamping it down symmetrically with your thumb.

i'm deadly serious. be very careful about the amount of crust.

WAY too much crust along the edges. Tread carefully, fellow bakers.

Your pie is now ready to be baked. Put it in the oven at 400 for the first 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes. The pie will be ready when the crust is golden brown and the juices are visibly bubbling. When you remove it on the oven you can cool it on a wire rack for several hours, to allow the juices to gel and the pie to achieve that turgid, diner-pie, gooey consistency.

the aforementioned crust issues are readily apparent here...

The buttery golden colour you're shooting for.

Despite the overwhelming amount of crust I produced, and the resulting asymmetrical and off-kilter appearance of the dessert, the pie itself was delicious. While the birthday recipient is generally a somewhat taciturn individual, the fact that he ate two enormous pieces for dessert and then another one for breakfast the following morning attests to the quality of the baked good. While you are no doubt all mourning the seasonal disappearance of rhubarb, I strongly encourage you to experiment with this summer/fall combination of fruit, and try out this pie!

summer fruit + fall fruit = stroke of genius

Go forth and make this post haste!