Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sautéed Apple Cake

This cake should really be called procrastination cake because I created it when I was doing just that. I was supposed to be cutting the grass, a task I loathe, but I kept putting it off. Addison is my resident lawn maintenance engineer and with him back at school I am stuck with the job. I can whip up a cake or a batch of cookies with ease, but cutting the grass is out of my skill set. I'm truly terrible at it. I can't see where I have cut and I can't see where I need to cut. I either go over the same spot several times or miss whole chunks. As I survey my results I often find tufts of grass sticking up between my crooked rows. 

When my husband was alive we had a clear division of labor. I tended the garden and he took care of the grass. It created perfect harmony in our marriage. He actually enjoyed cutting the grass with the engineer in him making it a calculated and precise art. He would check to see which direction and pattern our neighbor had done and he would do the same. They both appreciated each other's devotion to a beautifully manicured lawn. I realize my attempts would not live up to his standard and so I put off cutting the grass as long as possible thus Sautéed Apple Cake was born. 

While my skills on our lawn don't measure up, when the cake was in the oven Maddie said the house smelled so good she wished she could bottle the scent. High praise from my darling daughter. She was eager to sample the cake, but knew she would probably have to wait while I photographed it. "Yes!" was her response when I finally handed her a piece. Such is the patience required of those who live with a food blogger. 

I have been baking with white whole-wheat flour a lot lately. It has a little more sustenance than regular all-purpose flour, but still allows for a delicate crumb in baked goods. All-purpose flour can be substituted if you wish. I used Fiji apples because I like their flavor and had a large beautiful bag of them. Fiji apples are quite sweet. (I also like to bake with Honeycrisp apples.) If you use a tart apple like a Granny Smith you might want to increase the granulated sugar in the cake batter by a
1/4 cup (50 g).

Because this is a rustic cake I did not peel the apples and I like the added flavor the peel provides. Feel free to remove the peel if you prefer. Sauté the apples over medium-high heat for a few minutes to caramelize the sugars and intensify the apple flavor. Adding a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the sautéed apples adds another depth of flavor.

A large rubber spatula makes folding the apples into the cake batter much easier. Fold just until incorporated to keep the cake tender and delicate.

Sautéed Apple Cake
makes one 9-inch (23-cm) cake

6 medium apples (Fiji, Honeycrisp, or any firm apple)
2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 1/4 cups (315 g) white whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (160 g) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
confectioners' sugar to dust top

Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (23-cm) spring-form pan and dust with flour. (The cake can be made in a regular 9-inch round or square cake pan. It just won't be removed from the pan.)

For the apples - Cut apples in quarters, remove core. Cut each quarter in half and cut in thirds or bite-size pieces. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Add apples and sauté over medium-high heat to lightly brown the apples, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon sauté another 1-2 minutes until the cinnamon is fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

For the cake - Preheat oven to 350℉ (175℃). Stir together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Put butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until light about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat 4-5 minutes. Add vanilla extract. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk in 2-3 additions. Mix just until combined. Fold in cooled apples using a large rubber spatula. Spread in prepared pan.

For the topping - mix 1 tablespoon granulated sugar with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the cake. Bake until a tester comes out clean about 55-65 minutes.

If serving warm allow to cool 10-15 minutes before removing the ring of the spring-form pan. Otherwise allow to cool completely before removing the ring. Leave the cake on the spring-form base. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving. Store covered cake at room temperature for up to 2 days

Friday, September 12, 2014

Peach Shortcake

If I had to pick one dessert that says summer it would be shortcake. It was the star attraction at more than one gathering I attended this summer. Which just goes to show great minds think alike. What better way to celebrate the season's best ripe fruit than pairing it with tender shortcake and a pile of softly whipped cream?

These tender shortcakes get a punch of flavor from a good dose of orange and lemon zest and a delicate crunch from a little yellow cornmeal and a generous coating of buttery sugar on top. While strawberry shortcake tends to be the norm, I used peaches because they won't be around much longer. But any seasonal fruit will do. A mixture of fresh berries is equally tasty. If using berries mash a few to release some juice and sprinkle with a bit of sugar to make a nice sauce.

If you are lucky enough to have any left-over shortcake it is good spread with butter and jam for breakfast or an afternoon snack. But don't count on left-overs as the tender shortcakes tend to disappear fast with or without fruit and whipped cream.

A microplane grater will yield finely grated zest, but I find you don't get very much zest from each piece of citrus. If I want the zest to be more substantial I prefer to use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to remove large strips of peel being careful not to remove any bitter white pith, then finely chop with a knife. Rub the sugar and zest between your fingers to release the fragrant oils into the sugar. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients.

Use a wooden spoon to stir together the dry ingredients with the whipping cream just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times and then form into small to medium-size balls of dough. 

Peach Shortcake
makes 10-12 shortcakes

2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (80 g) yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350℃ (175℉). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Put 2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar in a large bowl add orange and lemon zest. Rub the sugar and zest between your fingers to release the fragrant oils into the sugar. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.

Add 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy cream to the dry ingredients, stir just until combine. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until the dough comes together. Be careful not to overwork the dough or the shortcakes will lose their tender texture.

Divide dough into equal pieces and roll into balls. The dough will make 10 medium-size balls or 12 small balls. Put the remaining 1/4 cup (50 g) of granulated sugar in a small bowl. Dip the top half of each ball in the melted butter then the sugar. Place sugar side up on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the tops crack and the shortcake is baked through about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool or serve warm.

To assemble:

8 peaches or nectarines
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (15 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream, 1 tablespoon (15 g) granulated sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat with a whisk or a hand mixer until the cream holds soft peaks. Slice the peaches into a bowl. Add a little sugar if desired. Slice a shortcake in half horizontally and put base on a plate. Fill with peaches and whipped cream, top with shortcake biscuit. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tomato Salad with Roasted Corn Relish

I love this time of year when tomatoes and corn are at their peak. They just beg to be put together. Not only are the colors pretty the flavors enhance each other, especially when the corn is roasted with an bit of onion which brings out the sweetness in both. Round out the flavors with some cheese to make a perfect end of summer salad. I used feta cheese, but fresh mozzarella or goat cheese would work as well. If you have fresh herbs in the garden toss in some. Purple opal basil and chives were what I had on hand.

The salad is dressed with a simple shallot vinaigrette. Any light-colored vinegar will work. I used a white balsamic, but cider or sherry vinegar is a good alternative. This salad is a nice first course or a good side to grilled meat. But hurry before the last of the summer crops are gone.

Tomato Salad with Roasted Corn Relish
Serves 6

2 ears fresh corn on the cob
1 small red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 medium ripe tomatoes
4 ounces (113 g) feta cheese
fresh basil and chives, (or other fresh herbs) optional
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). With a sharp knife cut the corn kernels off the cob. Dice the onion into small pieces. Toss the corn kernels and diced onion with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the corn and onions are soft and slightly brown about 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Slice tomatoes into rounds and layer on a serving platter. Spoon the corn and onion relish over the tomatoes. Crumble feta cheese on top. If using, chop basil and chives (or other herbs) and sprinkle on top. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shake the Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe below) vigorously and drizzle over the tomatoes and corn and onion relish. Serve.

Shallot Vinaigrette 

2 teaspoons shallots, finely minced
2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider, white balsamic, or sherry vinegar)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Put the minced shallots, vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil in a small glass jar. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with a lid and shake vigorously until the dressing has emulsified. Store any left-over vinaigrette in the refrigerator.