Fall is by far the best season. In New England, it is unreal how beautiful it can be: crisp October days with a blue sky that reminds me of home, trees turning electric orange and red, and a fresh pre-winter smell. Apples abound, pumpkin beers are everywhere, and I can once again rock tights and boots. Yes, fall is awesome.
It therefore makes sense to make use of this bounty. And since apple and pumpkin treats are my favorite, it is time to bake.
I saw this recipe in September’s Cooks Illustrated and KNEW I had to have it. I brought it out at Shabbat dinner midway through high holidays. There were only 3 of us eating, but, hey, Shabbat dinner is for celebrating so getting elaborate with food is a must.
There are few words to describe how delicious this cake is. Hubby ranked it in his “top 5 desserts ever” (and he assures me he keeps a very diligent list in his head) and I have to agree. The bottom apple layer is a rich custard, the middle layer is the perfect white cake, and the top has a perfect sugary crunch. Every bite made me sigh.
Unfortunately the cake was too huge to eat before it went bad so I’m going to try this in miniature size post-December (or maybe for Thanksgiving). Up next in my baking horizon: gluten free pumpkin and apple treats.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September 2012.
1 1/2 pounds Macoun (or other tart and crispy) apples, peeled, cored, cut in half crosswise and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon Calvados (french apple brandy)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 ounces all purpose flour (1 cup), plus an extra 2 tablespoons to firm up “cakey” middle layer
7 ounces sugar (1 cup), plus some to make the top crispy
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 yolks for the custardy bottom layer
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray and put on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Microwave apples until you can bend them without snapping, about 4 minutes. Toss the apples with the brandy and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, measure out the rest of your ingredients. Whisk 5 oz flour, 7 oz sugar, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. Whisk 1 egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in a larger bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk together. Reserve 1 cup of batter for the top layer.
Add egg yolks to main batter and whisk. Fold the cooled apples in and pour batter into spring-form pan. This will be your custard layer. Spread the batter around pan and lightly press down to create a compact apple layer.
Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into your reserved batter. This will create the “cakeier” layer. Pour this over the apple layer already in pan and again spread evenly to create a smooth, even layer. Sprinkle the top evenly with sugar – this is what gives it the perfect crunch (think the best part of muffins).
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden. The original recipe said this would take 75 minutes, but only took 45 in my mini-convection oven. Keep and eye on it and don’t let the top burn (one edge of mine did, which was the only part that was marred!).
Transfer the spring-form pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan, remove outer layer of pan and then let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours before removing bottom (I used a cake lifter to move it to a cake plate). Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and enjoy. This will literally be the best dessert you have ever eaten.