Monday, October 16, 2017

Cardamom-Cognac Apple Cake

Being a part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party has pushed me to try more new recipes than I think I normally would during my busy time of year. Cook Beautiful is enticing because it is divided into seasons, contains beautiful photography, and contains suggestions for decorating a seasonal table. I was also impressed how many recipes did not contain meat, helpful when you are married to a vegetarian!

When I encountered this recipe in Cook Beautiful, I decided this would be a great candidate for recipe modification. I like to modify recipes to be lower carb and grain/gluten free so that everyone in my household can consume them. Recipes like this, that are baked and served out of the same pan, are prime candidates because there are fewer concerns about structure. Just the same, my end result had a satisfying enough structure that it would have stood on its own.

I will start by posting the original recipe as it appears in the cookbook, and then go on to discuss the changes I made and why.

Cardamom-Cognac Apple Cake
(from Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone)

Serves 8-10

1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3 tbsp cognac (Calvados, rum, or bourbon work well, too)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (75 ml) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
3 medium Honeycrisp apples
1 stick (4 oz/115 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the pan
1 tbsp turbinao sugar
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C.) Nestle a piece of parchment paper into an 8- or 9- inch (20- or 23-cm) cast-iron pan and grease it with butter.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Whisk in the granulated sugar, cognac, and vanilla extract. Pour in the buttermilk and whisk to combine.

Peel, halve, and core 2 1/2 of the apples, then cut them into 1/2-in-thick (12-mm-thick) cubes. Reserve the remaining half apple, unpeeled, and cut it into 1/4-inch (6-mm) slices, for the top.

Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined, then gently fold in half of the melted butter. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and melted butter. Gently fold in the cubed apples, reserving the slices. Transfer the batter to the pan and arrange the apple slices in a circular pattern on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until the cake turns a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a cooling rack and let it sit for 5 minutes. The cake may be served warm or at room temperature, directly from the skillet; whichever you choose, make sure to dust it with confectioners' sugar before serving.

I have learned through years of experimentation and recipes (both good and bad) that the key to gluten/grain-free baking is never to use just one flour. Since I have all these flours on hand already, it isn't a big deal for me, but if you are starting from scratch, you might even consider just buying a gluten-free flour mix like King Arthur Flour. Per cup of all-purpose flour, I used 1/3 cup sorghum flour, 1/3 cup brown rice flour, and a heaping 1/3 cup tapioca flour. For the granulated sugar, I used 1/2 cup coconut sugar. Now this was a crap shoot, and I tasted the batter before baking, because coconut sugar is not as sweet as granulated, but too much of it can really alter the color and texture of the batter. It makes it appear as though molasses had been added. As sugar substitutes go, we prefer natural substitutes over chemical, even though they are higher calorie. As sugars go, coconut sugar is very low on the glycemic index, which suits our purposes.

Other changes I made to the recipe - I had bourbon so I used that in my cute little OXO cup as pictured. I had Mutsu apples from the local NC orchards, but they are huge: I used 1 1/2 diced in the batter and 1/2 unpeeled on top. I did not sprinkle with confectioners' sugar for presentation, nor did I use a cast-iron pan, just a pie plate.

This was a successful modification, and I'm sure the original recipe is a delight, and would be a quick dessert to stick in the oven while dinner was consumed. I did make dinner that same night from the cookbook: Meyer Lemon Ricotta Toasts with Blistered Grapes and Roasted Pumpkin and Brussels Sprouts with Poached Eggs. Everything was a success!

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. All experiences and opinions are my own!

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