Posts Tagged With: apple cider

Caramelized apple upside-down cake

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For some, pumpkin spice everything may be all the rage for those fall months when leaves spin slow to the ground and we shake out the coats and scarves so hastily hidden away with summer’s arrival.  But before flavored syrups and the facility of canned pumpkin, another fruit reigned over autumn: the apple.  A New England native, the apple is an automatic October symbol for me.  I think every elementary school student in the area has a field trip to a local orchard.  My town hosts at least five apple picking locations, each vying for some title of prowess – the best cider !  Apple cider doughnuts ! 10 different apple varieties !  Hay rides ! Pick your own ! It’s a glorious, fall-hued chaos that absolutely epitomizes the start of cooler weather, shorter days, and (perhaps most importantly) the baking season.

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Recently, apple pies were made and sold in the center of town and listening to everyone talk about the crust and the filling and the spices and the apples made me ALMOST want to eat pie.

But then I remembered.

I don’t really like apple pie (a phrase not to be uttered in a town that thrives on apple consumption).  In fact, I really just like apples straight up and down: plucked from the tree, polished on my pants, and devoured with an excellent crunch and the occasional spatter.

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So what to do with this bounty of fruit so often relegated to pie filling ?  Oddly enough, the answer came from France, and more precisely from my home-away-from-home in the heart of Bourgogne.  During one of many Dijon visits, my friend’s mother brought out a gâteau aux pommes.  A “simple, family recipe – nothing special” with caramelized apples and a buttery cake that melts in your mouth.  Simple ?  Nothing special ?  Au contraire !  It looks and tastes both classy and purely of apples, as the ingredients can’t hide behind the spices of cinnamon and nutmeg so often paired with American desserts.  This upside-down caramel apple cake relies on sweet apples, butter, and sugar to create a winning dessert that looks chic but is easy to craft.

When I asked Brigitte if I could use her recipe, she sent me a scanned, handwritten version that included instructions such as “carameliser le moule” – caramelize the cake pan.  How…how does one do that ?  How does one even make a caramel, exactly ? As such, I have gone through and provided my “Americanized” version of the quantities and instructions.  While somewhat capricious, I have yet to entirely ruin this cake (and it’s becoming somewhat ubiquitous in my repertoire of apple-based dishes).  Head to an orchard and pick (or pick up) some Macoun, Gala, or Fuji apples and try your hand at this French family “gâteau.”

Ingredients (for the cake):

3-4 medium apples (Use a firm fleshed variety – no McIntosh !)
1/2 stick butter (+ 1 tbsp for the pan)
1 cup flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons milk (more as needed)

For the caramel:

You can use a 1:3 ratio of water to sugar – I think I used 1/4 cup water to 3/4 cup sugar but any incarnation of this ratio is fine – if you have apples that are less sweet, use more sugar but you really only need enough to cover the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan.

Directions:

Peel and cut the apple into thin slices. Set aside – do not season with lemon thought you may be tempted to do so !  It is okay if they brown a little during the cake preparation process.

Liberally butter the interior of a 9 inch cake pan and set aside.  I place the pan on the stovetop over a warm eye to keep the caramel from hardening somewhat, but you do not need to do this.

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“Caramelize the cake pan” – yes, the infamous step. I interpret this as making caramel in a pan and pouring it into the cake mould.  Yes, we are going to make a wet caramel and no, don’t panic.

Put the sugar and the water in a pot on medium high heat.  Stir initially to incorporate the sugar into the water but once mixed, just leave it alone on the eye. Let it bubble until it turns a nice deep caramel color – you will see the sugary liquid change from clear, to a light brown, to an amber tone. Take it off the heat and carefully pour the hot caramel into your warm cake pan.  Be sure to cover the entire bottom of the pan (swirl as necessary).

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Arrange the apple slices in the caramel and be careful not to burn yourself !  The caramel may look pretty, but it is essentially molten sugar.  Your skin will not like it.  I like to place the apples in an attractive pattern but you do not need to take the time to do this – it’s your call.  Be sure to evenly place the apples around the mould.

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Once the apples are arranged, mix up the cake batter.  Soften your butter and whip it until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat for 1 minute.  Crack the egg into the batter, pour in the vanilla, and mix again until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter batter and mix until smooth – add the milk to thin the batter to a spreadable consistency.  Depending on the day and the temperature of the butter, I add more or less milk to the batter – start with 2 tablespoons and continue as necessary.

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Pour the batter over the apples and use a spatula to smooth the top of the cake.  Be sure to cover all of the apples !

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Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 325F.  (Sometimes, I get impatient and increase the temperature to 350F…shh, don’t tell).

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Once the top of the cake is a nice golden brown, remove from the oven.  It is a dense cake – I usually touch the top to check for a little spring, but the cake is done when the middle is no longer jiggly.

Let the cake cool slightly – 10 to 15 minutes – before turning it out onto a plate.  This step is tricky – start by running a knife around the edges of the cake pan.  Then, place a plate over top of the cake pan.  Using oven mitts, in one movement flip the cake onto the plate.  Tap the bottom of the pan and slowly lift it up.  Don’t panic if a few apples have stuck to the pan – just put them back into place. As Julia Child (or perhaps Meryl Streep) said, “When you’re alone in the kitchen – who’s to see ?”

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Serve warm or cool as dessert, a tea cake, or even (in my house) as breakfast !  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an extra touch. Bon appétit ! 🙂

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Apple Cider Bourbon Cake

**Before you read on, please take a look at my note regarding English/Metric measurements.

 

For Christmas, my family asked me to take care of dessert – typical, given that I love sweets.  In keeping with their request, I decided to make a warm apple cider bourbon cake.  It’s a simple, moist gateau topped with an apple caramel that is best served with ice cream and perhaps a cup of tea (or a little sip of calvados…or pommeau….).

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Apple Cider Bourbon Cake

Ingredients :

SAUCE
4 cups apple cider
3/4 cups bourbon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 to 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

CAKE
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt (if you use salted butter, you need not add the salt)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup apple cider
3 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup bourbon
7 tbsp butter
3/4 packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Ice cream for serving

The timing of this cake can be a little tricky.  The sauce needs to be prepared FIRST as it constitutes a layer of the cake as it cooks.  The sauce will take at most 45 minutes, less depending on the strength of your stovetop.

FOR THE SAUCE :

In a large pot (with tall sides), combine the cider, bourbon, brown sugar, corn syrup, vinegar, cinnamon and vanilla and put over medium high heat.  I suggest that you microwave the corn syrup to make it easier to pour…since it can be very stubborn and refuse to pour out of the measuring cup.  Stir all of these ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved and the entire mixture comes to a boil.  Allow it to bubble for about 10 minutes.  Then, add the heavy cream and reduce the heat slightly to prevent the mixture from curdling or separating.  Allow the caramel to boil for roughly 25 minutes.  The sauce will thicken and the bubbles will take on a glassy sheen.

Once you have reached this point, the caramel sauce is ready and can be removed from the heat.  As it cools, it will thicken more.

FOR THE CAKE :

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper (I trace the pan and then cut the paper to size) and cover the sides with butter.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda (cinnamon as well for those that like a little extra spice).  In a glass measuring cup, mix the apple cider, canola oil and bourbon.

Cream the butter in the mixmaster (or if you are like me and sans mixer, use your whisk and mix until the butter is light and fluffy).  Add the brown sugar and vanilla and continue to whip the butter until it has lightened in color.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure everything is well incorporated before adding the second egg.

Add the flour mixture with the cider mixture, alternating one with the other until it has been completely mixed in.  You will want to turn the mixmaster to it’s slowest speed to avoid a flour cloud.  If using a whisk, simply stir, do not whip, for best results.

TASTE.  If the batter doesn’t taste good, the cake won’t either.  If you like more bourbon, this is the time to add it.  I often put more in than I have noted above (but not much !) as the alcohol cooks off in the stove.  The same goes for cinnamon and vanilla.

Spread 2/3 of the batter in the prepared cake pan.  Drizzle in a circular motion, moving from the center of the cake outwards, the caramel mixture that was made earlier.  You made need to reheat it – do so over the stove on a low setting to avoid separation.  IF THE CARAMEL SEPARATES – have no fear !  It will taste just as good – simply make sure you mix it well before serving.  In any case, once the batter has been covered with a layer of caramel, put the remaining third of batter on top, being careful not to blend the three distinct layers together.

The cake pan will be very full, so I often place the cake pan on top of a cookie sheet just in case it overflows…this way you avoid a big mess in the oven.  The cake will cook for about 40 minutes or until springy to the touch (and a lovely golden brown color on top).  Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before running a knife around the edge and inverting the cake onto a cooling rack.  When ready to “ice” and serve, remove the parchment paper and place on a platter (I used a cake stand but I often just use a plate).  Warm the remaining caramel and pour 1/2 over the top of the cake.

To serve, cut cake and pair with a scoop (or more…) of vanilla ice cream.  Pour a spoonful of the remaining caramel sauce over the cake and ice cream and enjoy !

Bon appétit !

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