Caroline Cooks

A modest documentation of my culinary exploits.

Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Gâteau de Mamy à la Poire from Chocolate and Zucchini

Having long admired the photography and writing of more seasoned food bloggers, I decided I should give some of their recipes a whirl.

This lovely apple cake comes from Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini. It's one of her early entries-- the measurements are all in metric-- and incorporates all the qualities I love in a cake: it is buttery, dense, not overly sweet, and the recipe is passed down from a grandmother on a scrap of paper. And it's very French.

While the cake has a simple, rustic charm, the technique for creating it is somewhat unconventional. A round cake pan is almost entirely filled with layers of unadultered apple slices. Then a dough-- not a batter, but a dough-- is poured over them.

I stuck the pan in the oven, apprehensive about how it was all going to come together. In every other apple-based dessert I've made, the fruit is tossed in melted butter, or sugar, or lemon juice. Or it is thoroughly integrated into a batter. As it was, the dough was only touching the topmost layer of apple slices, and I envisioned the raw apples at the bottom burning and sticking to the pan. At the very least, I couldn't see them becomming soft enough to form a cohesive cake. But when a recipe's been passed down through multiple generations and shared with the world, you have to assume it will work out.

I opened the oven 30 minutes later to find a dark, crusty surface resembling bread. Worried that it was drying out, I pulled the cake from the oven even though 10 minutes of baking time remained. After letting the cake settle and cool for a few minutes, I inverted it onto a plate and was pleasantly surprised to find the bottommost apple slices lush and tender. A few clung to the pan but were scraped off effortlessly. And the rest of the cake did not look dried out as I had feared (though my panic may have left it slightly underdone). I inverted the cake once again so the apples were repositioned on the bottom. Indeed, the firm top seemed to act as an insulator for the rich interior. I promptly cut myself a slice.

The surface that had appeared dry was actually quite chewy and sweet; it was as if all the sugar had floated to the top and caramelized there. My fork broke through to a thick cakey inside, redolent of the vanilla I added (not in the original recipe). It continued though, encountering more and more apple as it made its way down. The apples were quite tender but not at all mushy. After finishing a slice it was hard to resist a second.

The original recipe can be found here. Below is the version with my conversions, the addition of vanilla, and the shorter baking time.

1/2 cup butter, melted
3 apples, peeled and sliced
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400. Arrange the apple slices in a buttered 8-inch round pan.

Mix the sugar with the eggs. Add the flour and baking powder. Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the dough over the apples and bake 30-40 minutes.

Let the cake settle a few minutes, then invert onto a plate. Scrape off the apple slice the stick to the pan and rearrange them on the cake. Using another plate, invert the cake again so the apples are on the bottom.


Anonymous Swan said...

After having made this cake, C&Z's cake(the 2nd version with the almond powder) three, four times, every time looking ugly(sticking to bottoms (of cake pans, that is :-) )but tasting wonderul,I found out a few tricks of my it's a 'quicky'in my reportoire, everybody loves it!!! What I do is take 1 1/2 times the amount of every ingredient in the recipe, and add just a little more 'dry'stuff (flour or almond powder). AND use a greased piece of baking paper (?) on the bottom of the pan. Now first pour in a thin layer of the batter, then the fruit (I use pears), then the rest of the batter, and just cook according to your own experience with your oven...mine usually takes a bit longer.
Then, after cooling a bit (10 mins), turn around and remove the paper. Now there's the tough choice of which side goes up.....

It took me some practice, but now I totally LOVE this one, so light and wonderful, I think the almond really makes a difference and not worrying too much about 10 grams more or less of any of the ingredients makes it an easy one...Your version looks pretty good too!

4:41 PM  

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