Apple Pie Cake

(Apple Pie Cake)

I woke up yesterday morning with the words apple pie cake still lingering in my head between layers of sleep and a rapidly evaporating scene involving two turnips who twalked (talked and walked). Tip : cheese before bed, is rarely a good idea. Especially cheesecake.

Since twalking turnips are too challenging to conjure up, I settled on making the apple pie cake of my dreams. Rifling through the internet over a bowl of warm oatmeal revealed that such a singular thing did indeed exist. In its many forms, it is a well known Russian dessert, a Dorie Greenspan or Martha Stewart recipe, and also something that resembles apple pie filling between layers of frosting and butter cake. For the purposes of this dessert exercise, I chose the Dorie Greenspan route.

If you find the decision between having pie or cake a particularly taxing one, this recipe cleverly has a foot in each realm. The pastry tastes just so, but with a cakey consistency. Its baked craggy bumps and folds and that gentle lifting scent of warm cinnamon brought to mind the pies I never baked cooling on window sills of houses I never lived in. Seemingly heavy stuff, but not really. Just something incredibly easy to make, enjoyable to eat and pleasing to share. Below is the recipe, a down-sized version of the original which made 18 servings and seemed like overkill even to the two pie lovers of this household.

Apple Pie-Cake :
(a down-sized version of a recipe from Baking by Dorie Greenspan)

For the dough :
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour

For the apples :
4 large green apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the dough, place the butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until smooth. Add the egg, lemon juice and pinch of salt, beating to combine. Add the flour and baking powder and slowly mix until the dough comes together. Add a few more tablespoons of flour if the dough looks too wet. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 2 hours before using.

When you are ready to roll the dough, first prepare the filling. Peel, core and slice the apples roughly 1/4 inch thick. Toss with the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, then set aside.

Cut the dough in half and roll the first half to fit a 8 or 9 inch pie pan. Line the pan with the dough. Pile the sliced apples on top of the dough, then roll the second half of the dough as a lid. Crimp or press the edges of the pastry together. Cut a few slits on top of the pastry and sprinkle with extra sugar and cinnamon if you wish. Bake in a preheated 180’C oven for approximately 1 hour, until the pastry is golden brown (cover loosely with foil if it appears to be browning too quickly, half way through the baking time).

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Profiteroles, vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce

(Profiteroles, vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce)

Blame it on the weather. I wanted steamed pudding. The weather said no. And it’s pretty hard to argue with sunshine and warm breezes. So ice-cream it is.

We used to serve profiteroles with ice-cream at a bistro I worked in many years ago. At the time, they were presented as three dainty choux buns, stuffed with a rotating list of flavoured ice-creams (hazelnut was my absolute favourite), drizzled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts. Prior to that, my only exposure to profiteroles were the frozen ones filled with Grand Marnier custard that mom would buy by the boxful. You were meant to defrost them before eating, but I liked them straight from the freezer despite the threat of brain-freeze.

We had these profiteroles with vanilla ice-cream (a lactose-free version) and plenty of chocolate sauce for dessert last night and I’ve subsequently discovered two things. 1. As a dessert item, these are damn good. No wonder they were so popular at the bistro. 2. What’s even better is, after the very last bite is gone, the remaining puddle of melted ice-cream and chocolate sauce co-mingle to form a few bonus spoonfuls of instant chocolate ice-cream!

So I think we’ll be having more frequent profiterole-themed desserts from now on, and it’s also tempting to have another wack at eclairs which I haven’t made since the Daring Bakers challenge from eons ago.

(PS: I’m heading to Hobart to work for a couple of weeks. It’s only been a few months since my last trip and having covered a few of the usual suspects including the tourist trifecta of Salamanca markets, Pigeonhole Cafe and the MONA gallery (all brilliant and highly recommended), I’m keen to explore and discover other new things. Any suggestions most welcome!)

Profiteroles :
(adapted from Beyond Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson & Justin Piers Gellatly)

For the choux pastry :
(makes 12)
125g water
50g butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
70g plain flour
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

In a medium pot, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and add the flour all at once. Using a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, beat the mixture rigorously. It will start to come away from the sides of the pot. Cook for about a minute then remove the pot from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool a little then beat in the eggs one by one, making sure they are fully incorporated. Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the trays, about 1 1/2 inches apart. (You can pipe the dough but I like mine more freeform). Bake for 20 minutes then turn the oven down to 140’C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. The profiteroles should have a crisp outer shell and a dry interior. When they are ready, cool them on a wire rack, then split them in half, fill with scoops of vanilla ice-cream (I used this one) and serve with a generous amount of chocolate sauce.

For the chocolate sauce :
250g 70% dark chocolate buttons
350g water, just boiled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour the water over the chocolate and sugar. Whisk well or blitz with a stick blender/immersion blender to get rid of any lumps. Stir in the vanilla extract and use immediately and keep covered and reheat it when you need it.

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Double chocolate brown sugar lamingtons

(Double chocolate brown sugar lamingtons)

The best things I ate this week? Juicy, dribbly, sweet and sour West Indian cucumber pickles, straight from the jar. Plump steamed dumplings stuffed with barbecued eel and spring onions. Misshapen blue corn tortillas piled high with ceviche, pickled jalepenos, avocado, chilli and lime. And this lamington. Turns out the best things in life aren’t necessarily always the prettiest.

My favourite things act as antidotes to the melancholic nature of a season. August feels less friendly when you’ve misplaced a favourite woolen blanket or feel too keenly the cold creep of kitchen tiles on bare feet. Sometimes, it’s also just about wanting a little bit of cake, nothing too heavy, preferably chocolate flavoured, maybe with a sprinkle of coconut and some brown sugar as well, thanks…

Double chocolate brown sugar lamingtons :

For the sponge :
6 eggs
140g brown sugar
pinch of salt
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

chocolate sauce for dipping (recipe below)
250g dessicated coconut

Whisk the eggs in an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and salt and continue whisking for a few minutes. Sift the remaining dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in gently but thoroughly. Transfer this mixture to a greaseproof paper-lined 8″ x 12″ baking tray. Bake in a preheated 175’C oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Once the cake is cooled, peel away the baking paper. With a serrated knife, trim the edges of the cake (or leave it if you don’t mind slightly rough edges on your end product) and split the sponge in half lengthways. Spread filling of your choice on one half of the sponge. Here I’ve used a salted caramel sauce but you can also use cherry jam, chocolate custard or whipped vanilla cream. You can also skip this step if you want unfilled lamingtons. Sandwich the sponge back together and cut into as many squares as you like (12-16 squares, depending on how big you want each portion to be). Dip each square in chocolate sauce and dredge in dessicated coconut.

For the chocolate sauce :
(You can use a more traditional recipe for chocolate frosting, but I prefer this one because it has more depth of flavour and is less sugary. It doesn’t set the way the frosting recipes do, but the sauce soaks in a little and sticks well to each sponge square.)

200g brown sugar
120g cocoa powder
400g water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium pan, place the brown sugar and cocoa. Whisk in the water and vanilla. Bring to boil, stirring. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened. Strain and leave to cool before using.

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