Wednesday, December 1, 2010

24 Days before Christmas

The year has certainly flown by, at least for me and I cannot believe that it is already December. I have been mixing and playing with batter but of a different sort - concrete! Like baking, the ratio or liquid, water in this case has to be precisely measured (taking into account the humidity in the air) to achieve the right consistency so the concrete would cure correctly. At some point E & I stopped counting at 2000lbs of concrete and we still have 100 or so more lbs to mix and pour but alas we've hit below freezing temperatures so we'll have to wait until next Spring to do that.

So enough of that, I don't think anyone reading this is at all interested in concrete discussion.
Well, usually by this time, I would have started my Christmas baking soon after Thanksgiving but it's hard to get into the mood since I broke or rather crushed my thumb on my dominant hand nonetheless about 2 months ago! ironically nothing involving the landscaping E&I was working on. Since you all know sitting still isn't quite my cup of tea. As I mentioned, I have been busy mixing batter just not the edible kind even with my injury.

As I had to go shopping to prep Thanksgiving dinner last week, I passed by the apples and the delicious appley aroma wafted my way and gave me a little inspiration to bake something, so I thought what about an Apple Cake! I remembered many years ago I had made such a delicious thing in a simple manner. These days, with my injury, simple and humble are the key ingredients I seek for. As simple as it is, I cannot for the life of me find where that recipe was so I went to my trusted resource and after reading the ingredients and with slight modifications found this recipe to be easy, unpretentious and fool proof but most importantly delicious! If any of you like to try your hand at first time baking, try this and you won't be disappointed. If I am able to mix it and wield a knife with my left hand, you have absolutely no excuses. Original recipe can be found here.

Brown Butter Apple Cake
adapted from

1 cup Spelt flour or 3/4 cup AP Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 scant teaspoon of Cardamom (optional)
4 large apples (4 different kinds-I used Braeburns & Honeycrisps)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Calvados
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
finely grated zest from 1 lemon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and line the bottom of an 8" cake pan with parchment paper. I used a 9" spring form pan for easier removal for my sake and not to have the trouble of cutting a piece of parchment and so my cake's height turned out on the shallow side.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat on the stove until it is golden brown. Remove from heat.

Peel and core the apples and cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks while the butter cools.

Whisk together the dry ingredients ( flour, baking powder, cardamom )

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Add sugar and whisk to blend. Whisk in the Calvados and vanilla. Carefully whisk in half the flour mixture until incorporated, add half the cooled melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour mixture and the melted butter. Switch to a spatula and mix gently until you have a smooth but rather thick batter. Fold in the lemon zest and gently fold in the apples until it is coated with the batter. Turn out the mix into the buttered pan and push and poke it to the sides with the spatula and give the pan a slight shake and jiggle to even out the batter and remove air pockets.

Slide the pan into the oven. If using a spring form pan, place it on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top of the cake is golden brown, the sides pull away from the pan and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. It only took 45 minutes for me likely because of my pan size.

I haven't tried it but I bet it is delicious with served with a simple sabayon spiked with Calvados and scented with Cardamom. If you dare to try here's my Sabayon recipe and let me know what you think.

Simple Sabayon
Makes about 2 cups

4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Calvados ( able to substitute with other alcohol)
1 cup heavy cream
A couple of pinches of cardamom ( optional)

Beat 3/4 cup heavy cream just until stiff peaks form and keep chilled in refrigerator. Prepare a bain marie or water bath on the stove and also a bowl of ice and cold water. Using a large metal bowl whisk together yolks, sugar, calvados and 1/4 cup cream. Set it over a bain marie whisking constantly and vigorously, cooking the sabayon until thick and whisk leaves tracks. Set cooked sabayon over the bowl of cold water and ice and gently whisk to cool the sabayon. Gently fold in the chilled whipped cream with a spatula. Serve or cover and chill. The sabayon can be made a day ahead.


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