A friend (who really knows the the way to this girl’s heart) gifted me with Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking for my birthday back in July. The summer was so full (and hot) that I rarely turned on the oven, but now that Fall is in full swing (and I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off on Netflix), I was itching to get back to baking and trying some new recipes!
Having done our traditional apple picking trip a few weeks back, I’m up to my eyeballs in apples, even after having made two pies, but Classic German Baking was ready for me with three different Apfelkuchen recipes. I fully intend to try all three in the coming weeks, but based on what was in my pantry/fridge, I went with the Versunkener Apfelkuchen first, which also happens to be the simplest of the three. And since the recipe declared it “great for people baking with small children” I asked Little Miss Cleaver to help out. (The smiley face was all LMC’s idea and execution).
The high egg and butter content makes the cake-crumb similar to that of a pound cake and the batter is lightly flavored with lemon-zest, making it a bright alternative to the cinnamon and nutmeg-heavy desserts typical of fall and making it suitable as a spring and summer dessert too. The raw sugar sprinkled on the top before baking gives the top a pleasing crunch. I didn’t have any cream on hand to make whipped cream, but it would be nice finish to this simple, but pleasing dessert.
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German Sunken Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)
Easy enough to whip together on a weekday and fun to make with kids, this classic German cake combines apples and lemon zest under a raw sugar crust for a bright and delicious dessert.
3 medium apples
1 medium lemon, scrubbed
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar
9 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (130g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
11/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons demerara (raw) sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” round cake pan (or springform pan) with an oil-based spread (like Crisco or baking spray) and line the bottom of the pan with parchment.
Peel the apples, then core and slice into 8ths (I use a corer/slicer to make quick work of this).
Zest the lemon into a bowl with the butter and sugar. Cut the lemon in half and juice one half. Strain any seeds and set the juice aside.
Using a sturdy wooden spoon or mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla extract and one egg, mixing until fully combined. Add remaining eggs one at a time, fully combining each egg before adding the next.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon juice and flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apple slices with the core side down in a circle around the edge of the pan, pressing down slightly, so each slice is secured in place. Take the remaining apples and place in the center. Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with demerara sugar.
Place pan in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Let the cake cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing pan. The cake should be firm enough that it should be easy to move without disturbing the apples.
Enjoy at room temperature with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Adapted from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss
German Sunken Apple Cake Versunkener ApfelkuchenServes 8 Ingredients: 3 medium apples 1 medium lemon 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar 9 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (130g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 eggs, room temperature 1 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 Tablespoons demerara (raw) sugar
Ever since my trip to Quebec, I have been obsessed with puff pastry. That, and all the seasons of the Great British Bake Off, I've been watching.
Well, rough puff pastry. I'd like to give full-on puff pastry a try but a) time and b) the pounding sounds to flatten the butter would drive my dog nuts. So to avoid extended periods of dog barking, I've turned to an easier version that uses grated frozen butter to avoid all the pounding.
But full, rough, or store bought, puff pastry (or pâte feuilletée if you're feeling French) makes an excellent bae for this deceptively elegant, yet simple traditional crisp tart (or tarte fine). I'd suggest making the puff pastry the day before, then assembling the tart takes only 15 minutes or so. I daresay, it's easier than pie.
"Rough" Puff Pastry
- 260 grams salted butter (about 2 1/2 sticks), grated
- 350 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2-2/3 cup of cold water
Freeze butter and grate. This is easiest if you have a food processor or a rotary grater, but can be done by hand. Place grated butter and measured flour in freezer for at least an hour.
When butter and flour are sufficiently cold, mix together flour, salt, and 60g of the butter together with your fingers. Add water until dough just holds together, but is not sticky or wet. The dough will be firm. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough feels like it's holding together well, about 1 minute. Rest dough in fridge for about 5 minutes while you prepare for next step. If you work quickly, you can do the following in one go. If the dough and particularly the butter, starts to get too warm and easy to work stop and chill in the freezer for a few minutes before continuing.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a long rectangle. Sprinkle half the remaining butter on 2/3rd of the dough. Fold the rectangle in thirds, starting with the un-buttered third.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees ( so the open ends are facing the side) and repeat step 1.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat folds (without the butter) as in step 1. Repeat turn/roll/fold 2 more times.
- Cut dough in half, wrap each half secruly in plastic wrap and store in fridge overnight. If you're making tart in less than an hour, or are planning to not use the dough for more than a day, store in the freezer and thaw in the fridge prior to use.
Crisp Apple Tart/Tarte Fine aux Pommes
- 1/2 of rough puff pastry recipe (above), or 1 sheet frozen pre-made pastry, thawed.
- 2 medium apples, with peels, sliced thin
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons orange marmalade, apricot jelly, or apple jelly
- 2 Tablespoons Demera (raw) sugar (can subsititute granulated sugar, if desired)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter, diced into cubes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a large rectangle, about 9 x 12 inches, cut edges to be neat, if needed. Transfer to baking tray.
Using a sharp knife, score a 1 inch border around the dough. Beat egg in a bowl, adding a splash of water to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash along the outside border of the tart only. Mix jelly of your choice with a splash of water. Brush jelly mixture on center of tart.
Arrange apples in three rows on center of tart, overlapping slightly. Mix together sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle sugar and spice mixture over entire tart.
Bake for 30 minutes in the center of oven, until pastry is nicely browned. Cut into 6 slices. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
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Crisp Apple Tart (Tarte Fine Aux Pommes)Serves 6 Ingredients: 1/2 puff pastry recipe or store bought frozen puff pastry, thawed 2 medium apples 1 egg 2 tablespoons orange marmalade 2 tablespoons demera sugar 1/4 tsp cinnamon Nutmeg 2 Tablespoons salted butter
Fall-Spiced Apple Hand Pies
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup shortening or unsalted butter
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup cold water
- 8 medium apples, I recommend a variety of firm apples. The photos above use Jonagolds and Macs.
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup flour or cornstarch
- Caramel sauce (optional) (I like the one from the Joy of Cooking)
- 1 egg whisked with a Tablespoon of water
- Demerara/raw sugar
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.
Make crust. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut in shortening until mixture resembles damp sand. Add water, a little bit at a time, until dough sticks together. You will want it slightly more elastic than crust for a pan pie. Break dough into two evenly sized pieces, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator up to a day in advance.
Prepare filling. Peel, core, and dice apples into small chunks. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced apples with lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and flour. Mix well, until all apple pieces are coated.
Line two rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Remove crust from refrigerator. Cut each ball of dough into four equal pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 7 to 8 inch square. Place dough on cookie sheet. Using a slotted spoon, scoop filling into the center of the square. If desired, drizzle caramel sauce generously over filling.
Fold dough over filling, so top portion of crust is about 1/4 inch shy of the edge of the bottom. Fold up bottom crust to meet top crust and pinch/crimp to seal. Repeat for remaining pies.
Whisk together 1 egg with 1 Tablespoon water. Brush egg wash generously over pies. Sprinkle the top of each pie with a small amount of demerara sugar.
Place cookie sheets in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown, rotating pans halfway through cooking time.
Cool pies on wire rack prior to storage. To store, wrap in tin foil and place in refrigerator for up to one week. Serve cool, or reheat for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.
Not gonna lie, of all the pies I make, apple pies are by far the the most time consuming with all the peeling, coring, chopping and mixing, it probably takes twice as long as a berry pie (even with a peeling machine, which I can't recommend enough!). But all that work? So worth it!
My baking assistant certainly though the ribbons of peel were fun,and the cinnamon and sugar-covered apple-slices were A-OK by her. And truthfully, after eight years of annual apple pie-making, I've got my process down. And so we've already eaten one pie, and have the second in the freezer for later this winter.
Book Illustration: Time for A Hug by Phillis Gershator, Mim Green, with Illustrations by David Walker, a new favorite in our house.
Interested in Children's books? Me too! As the daughter of a former elementary-school librarian, who currently reads at least 5 new picture books a week (thanks local library!), I've started compiling a list our our household favorites with detailed reviews over on my Pinterest Page.
Little Miss Cleaver is, for the most part, a pretty good eater and if there's one thing she loves to eat above else it's fruit (unless it's honeydew melon, because she ain't having none of that).
She is, however, somewhat picky about the quality and seasonality of her fruit. Watermelon in July - gimme more! Watermelon in a fruit salad in September - no way. So it's perhaps unsurprising that her favorite outings seem to be our PYO trips, because fruit fresh off the plant? Nothing better than that!
And I tend to agree, our annual Ricker Hill trip is always one of my favorite days of the year. Beautiful views, fresh fruit, apple cider doughnuts, and Steinbeck gets to come too? And this year they even added a hard cider tasting room.
Its was unseasonably warm this year, but everyone still had a great time (even Mr. Cleaver, who we forgot to get in front of the camera!), but I think LMC had the best time of all!
PS - check out the photos from last year, my little one has gotten so big!
It's no secret that I love Autumn in Maine. Fall has always been my favorite time of year and New England has the best Autumns of them all. And this year I get to share it all with Little Miss Cleaver - which makes it even better.
This year we crammed both of the Cleaver Family fall favorite field trips into one gloriously busy week: the Fair (Cumberland County) and apple picking (Ricker Hill). Miss Cleaver was wide-eyed at all the new things to look at (but not allowed to put in her mouth) and Mr. Cleaver and I loved watching her take it all in. Steinbeck was just happy to be there.
For years now, Mr. Cleaver and I talked about how some day we would take our future children on these annual adventures with us and what a thrill it is to be actually doing it now. We met in the fall and married in the fall (6 years this Sunday!), and the return of the season each year serves as a reminder of how this little family, my greatest joy, made its start. Small wonder that Autumn's my favorite time of year.
Or should I say, almost mastered?
PPS: Thanks to those of you who voted for the Pride's Corner Drive-In. Unfortunately they didn't win a new projector, but another Maine Drive-In (in Saco) did!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to scratch a big item off my bucket list, appear on 207. For those not from southern Maine, 207 is a nightly local news magazine show, similar to the Evening Magazine shows that are shown in various US markets. A typical episode of 207 may have a performance by a local or visiting band, interviews with a author, a cooking segment with a local chef or baker, and some other local news story
Since it's inception on our local NBC affiliate, 207 has been hosted by local news anchors Kathleen Shannon and Rob Caldwell. Ever since we moved back to Maine, it's been part of Mr. Cleaver and I's nightly ritual to watch the show (followed by Jeopardy!) and so it's been a dream of mine to be on the show somehow to and to get a 207 mug the guests use on the show.
So last week when I came home from knitting and Mr. Cleaver told me that 207 was holding a contest to be on the show, all you have to do was post on their facebook page about your favorite (original) apple recipe. So post I did:
Every year I turn my big bag of apples into a number of delicious apples pies. I even have streusel topped and cup-pie (mini-pies made in a cupcake tin) options!
I would call myself a 207 super fan and I would love the chance to roll out some dough with Kathleen. I'd even bring some choice samples from my vintage apron collection for us to wear!
Granted, I think there was about four people who posted, but nonetheless, I was thrilled when I got a facebook message from Kathleen asking me to be on the show!
After getting the details (you have 5 minutes to assemble a pie!), and making my sample pre-baked pie, I went to WCSH6 studio yesterday morning to film my segment. A producer brought me up to the Kitchen set (which lives on the sales floor) and I began to set up.
Some funny things I learned about the set and baking on tv:
- While everything on the kitchen set works (stove, microwave, sink, stovetop), there is another kitchen for staff's daily use directly behind the kitchen with a fridge, microwave, coffeemaker, dishwasher, and official cooler. There are some fake cabinet panels that cover the doorway during filming.
- The cameras are all controlled remotely. So there are no camera guys, but you can see the cameras move.
- There are some big banks of lights that are hot, but not super hot, and while I was mic'ed, I didn't have to wear any makeup other than what I walked in off the street with.
- You actually do it in five minutes, with no editing it down and five minutes goes by really fast! But you just keep working while you talk/ talk while you work.
- Things go in the little ingredient bowls because a) it goes faster and b) they can't show any product labels, including generics, less it seem like an endorsement.
- Kathleen Shannon takes her shoes off in the kitchen segments. So technically, we were barefoot (her), knocked up (me), and in a kitchen.
I have to say that while I was nervous about my first television appearance, Kathleen was a total pro,who made it very easy on me and I had a blast. It was a total bucket-list worthy experience. After our segment was finished filming, Kathleen was nice enough to give me tour of the rest of the studio where I discovered that everything is on different floors (i.e. the weather green screen is no where near the news set) and that all the sets are much smaller than you would think.
And I got not one, but two 207 mugs, because she gave me an extra for Mr. Cleaver because we're such big fans. Earned it baby!
I'm not 100% sure when the segment is going to air, either Friday or Wednesday, but I'll try to post a heads-up for locals when I know for sure. In any case, they always post video (and the recipe) online afterwards, so I'll post the video or a link as soon as it's available. Fingers crossed I don't come across as a total goob and even if I do, it was still super fun!.
First of all, I wanted to thank everyone for their kind words on our big announcement. Mr. Cleaver and I appreciate each and every one. It also appears that March is quite the month for blogger babies, from the number of comments I received from ladies with similar due dates!
In the first of what will be many full Fall weekends, Mr. Cleaver and I caught a cozy Sarah Jarosz show at USM. If you're not familiar with this bluegrass musician yet, I'd highly recommend you check her out. She has a fabulous voice and is no slouch on the mandolin/banjo/guitar either. Also, seeing her adorable outfit really confirmed my need for a pair of cowboy boots someday.
I utilized about a third of my massive bag of freshly picked apples in a pair of apple crisps. I'm thinking this coming weekend will be the big pie-making event.
One of the crisps went to Bristol's for our first (massive!) yarn swap. The pile of odd balls in the photo above was already well-picked over by this time, and doesn't include the three other piles of sock yarn, sweater lots, and 3-4 balls. When it comes to yarn, I managed to leave with less than I came, taking only a Zauberball and a sweater's worth of purple Blue Moon BFL DK that I want to be a cardigan yesterday. I did however, also come home with a grocery bag full of jersey fabric and a cut of nice wool. I've been venturing into the land the sewing with knits and free fabric to practice with is always appreciated it.
Lastly, I had hoped to share my first maternity sewing project with you, but I started guessing on the tutorial instructions halfway through, and had to spend to quality time with a seam ripper this morning, so it'll be a bit on that one yet.
How are you enjoying these first days of fall? (or spring, for any southern hemisphere readers?)