December 16, 2004
Friday, December 10
I don't have a real passion for cooked apples. They are one of such fruits that I very much prefer fresh to cooked forms (another example is strawberry), and therefore, one that rarely appears in my baking experiences.
There are times, though, when I am drawn to certain recipe(s) that calls for baking apples, like a few months ago when I first got an electric copy of All About Apples: A tasting menu from Scott Carsberg of Lampreia (Scott Carsberg, Hillel Cooperman) that I had downloaded (for free!) at tastingmenu.com. I was fascinated with its beautiful photographs and sophisticated recipes, of course (somehow cooking regular dishes with apples seems a lot more appealing to me... come to think about it, it might be very cinnamon-y cooked apple that I don't really like, maybe), and found one recipe called Bolzano Apple Cake (whose description is available here). "Sweet apple bricks laid tightly one on top of the other"... what a beautiful idea would that be. I naturally had to try and see it.
And it was about a month ago from now when I actually brought myself to try it (image below), only to find out that I didn't like it very much, to my great disappointment. It smelled wonderful while it was baking and when it came out of the oven, and it even tasted very good. What I didn't like however was its texture - so rightly described in the book as "all spongy, buttery, fruity goodness"; it really was buttery and fruity, and what bothered me the most was its sponginess inside the cake. I would not have been so disappointed if I had not intended to make "apple cake" but rather "apple pudding" or something, but its sponginess, or more like squashiness due to the liquid released from the apples just wasn't to my liking, personally. It was also a bit too sweet, again, for my taste.
But I also thought it was shame not to like the cake, which was so heavenly flavorful and apple-y yummy. That was how I ended up giving the second try, this time with a bit of adjustments.
First of all, I baked the cake in a shallow pan (or a rimmed cookie sheet, to be precise) and made it really thin, aiming for a higher ratio of the golden brown surface to the soggy interior. I made the same amount of batter (half of the recipe) as the first time, but with a 3x larger surface area, making it 1/3 thick.
Other changes I made were: drastically reducing sugar; adding some spices (ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves); using half & half instead of milk (I just didn't have milk in the fridge); and drizzling Calvados when the cake was done. In fact, I had used Calvados last time, too, and I liked it so much I did this again. Also I sliced the apples directly over the batter to prevent them from turning brown; last time I prepared the ingredients ready, sliced up all the apples, combined the ingredients, and then threw in the apples all at one time. That way, most of the apple slices had become brown by the time I finished the last slice, and I just don't like seeing fresh fruits turning their colors like that.
As the cake was being made very thin, probably about .1-inch thick, baking time was also shorter - still in the region of 40 minutes or so, which would be relatively long for a thin cake like this.
This time, although the inside was still very soft and looking almost undercooked just like the first time, the cake wasn't all that spongy, thankfully, mainly because it was too thin to have too much spongy part. The cake was very tender and fragile, very easy to fall apart, all the same.
As I ate a couple of squares of the hot apple cake, I found they were like pancakes; thin, tender, small pieces of hot, buttery, sweet pancakes with layers of apple slices and just an enough amount of spices. plus aromatic Calvados. I liked this way a lot better than pudding-like masses... of course, these squares would take a lot more time and efforts to prepare than real pan cakes.
posted by chika at: 12/16/2004 03:17:00 PM