Sunken Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)

A long time ago I had a piece of sunken apple cake and have thought about it ever since. Then a baby (now toddler) came along and time for baking went a bit by the wayside. It’s a rainy September evening, the toddler is asleep, and I had the ingredients on hand, so no time like the present!

The Kitchn and Smitten Kitchen are two very reliable sources for recipes, but one of my quibbles is they don’t do baking recipes by weight or in metric, only volume. *first world sigh* Sally’s Baking Addiction shows conversions (yay!) but she doesn’t have an Versunkener Apfelkuchen recipe, so. Here I am to the rescue! I made the cake pretty much exactly to the Kitchn letter, although I reduced the flour ever so slightly per Smitten Kitchen‘s recommendation. It turned out fantastically and will make for an excellent breakfast tomorrow (if it lasts that long).

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium apples, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 of a lemon (zested and juiced)
  • 125 g white sugar
  • 130 g room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 200 g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) fine sea salt
  • 1-2 TB (15-30 ml) demerara sugar (also called sugar in the raw)

Instructions:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F/177ºC. Line the bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Thinly slice each quarter lengthwise without cutting all the way through to the core side, leaving the quarter hinged together. Put the zest of the lemon into a large bowl and set aside; save the lemon juice.

Place the sugar and butter in the bowl with the lemon zest and beat (a stand mixer or hand mixer is your friend) until light and fluffy. Stop and scrape down the sides; add the vanilla extract and 1 of the eggs. Beat until combined before adding the second egg. Beat until combined and then add the third egg. Scrape down the sides. Beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour mixture until just combined, and beat in the juice from the reserved lemon half. Scrape down the sides with a spatula and give the batter one last mix by hand.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Gently press the apple quarters into the batter, core-side down, leaving only a bit of space between each quarter. If you have any apple left over, break off slices and insert them into any open space available. Sprinkle the top evenly with the demerara sugar.

Bake, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the cake is golden-brown and a tester inserted into the cake (not apple) comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Place the pan on a rack to cool for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge and removing the springform ring. Let cool to room temperature.

Serve with whipped cream or eat furtively in the kitchen and hope no one notices the large slice missing.

 

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Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I took the baby to Wisconsin this past winter to introduce her to family and friends. When I arrived at my oldest friend’s house, a heavenly smell greeted me. She had chicken and and wild rice soup in the slow cooker, which to be honest always struck me as the kind of soup grannies order from the corner café. What a strange stereotype! The rich, homey taste convinced me though, so I brought her recipe back home and adapted it to my non slow cooker having self. I’ve also cut down on the béchamel sauce as I don’t really like extremely creamy soups.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup wild rice mix (not parboiled)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and rough diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 liters (8 cups) water
  • 1 Knorr cacito de pollo (my preferred stock pots)
  • 1.5 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp adobo powder (or salt if you don’t have adobo)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 40 grams butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk

Instructions:

Put raw chicken (don’t bother to cut it up), rice, vegetables, water, stock and herbs/spices into a 5.5 liter dutch oven or other similar heavy pot. Heat over medium heat until the water breaks into a boil and then lower the heat until it’s just the barest simmer. Cover, stirring occasionally and allow to cook for two hours.

After two hours, fish out the chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly in a bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or a fork and then add back to the pot.

Make the béchamel: melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it’s fully melted, whisk in the flour so there’s no lumps, and allow to cook stirring all the while until the roux bubbles for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens. Add to the chicken soup and stir until completely incorporated.

 

 

 

Pasta e Fagioli

I think it’s probably very likely that for many Midwesterners like myself, their first exposure to pasta e fagioli was at The Olive Garden. Unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks can’t be beat! Even if your culinary tastes are somewhat more refined these days, this is a hearty, healthy (and cheap) soup that’s great with crusty bread or toast!

Ingredients:

  • 100 g bacon lardons (thick cut bacon cut into strips)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 400 g can of tomato sauce
  • 150 g chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 500 ml chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1200 ml water
  • 400 g cannellini or Santa Pau beans
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • secret ingredient: parmesan rind (optional – when I finish a wedge of parmesan cheese I chuck it in a ziploc in the freezer)

 

Instructions:

Brown the bacon in a large pot (I use a 5.5 liter pot) over medium high heat. When the bacon is browned, swirl in the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they start to become soft, about 10 min.

Add the red pepper flakes, herbs, tomato sauce, spinach, broth and water. Chuck that parmesan rind in if you have it! Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 min. Add the beans and allow to gently simmer for 10 more minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper. Finally, add the pasta and simmer until al dente.

Serve with bread and grated parmesan.

Spanish lentils with chorizo

Another winter, another lentil recipe. This is a pretty traditional “lentejas con chorizo” recipe, if you make a double batch it freezes really well.

Adapted from Recetas de Rechupete

Ingredients:

  • 250 g pardina lentils, rinsed
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (or half sweet, half hot)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 400 g can of tomato sauce
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 100 g Spanish spicy chorizo, skin removed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • water
  • olive oil

Instructions:

Sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat in a couple of good glugs of olive oil until they start to soften. Add the carrots and red pepper and sauté for 5 minutes or so, until the carrots start to soften slightly. Add the lentils and chorizo and fry them in the oil and vegetables for a few minutes, until the chorizo starts to render fat. Add in the bay leaves, paprikas, tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add three sauce cans’ worth of water and stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow the lentils to simmer over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and carrots are tender.

 

 

Roasted Peach Salad with Jamón Ibérico

Err, so this summer’s menu has consisted mostly of mini Weetabix and BLT sandwiches. Not that I haven’t had time to cook, but baking a baby (we’re almost there!), moving house and scorching temperatures sucked all the energy out of me. I have made one thing on the regular because it takes less than 30 minutes start to finish and is oh-so-delicious and decadent. It ain’t cheap to make, but when the rest of your meals are bowls of cereal it averages out.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver; he describes it as a starter, but we usually eat it as a main summer salad for two. I bulk it out with more greens and use jamón ibérico instead of parma ham, which c’mon, we all know is the best thing ever.

Ingredients:

  • 4 peaches
  • quality olive oil
  • sea salt (flakes if you got ’em)
  • cracked pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 125 g ball of buffalo mozzarella
  • 100 g jamón ibérico
  • 125 g arugula or mesclun
  • a couple of sprigs of mint, leaves picked

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven (top + bottom elements) to 200ºC/450ºF.  Vertically halve and destone the peaches, then lie them cut-side up in a snug-fitting roasting tray. Drizzle with oil, a bit of salt, slide into the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until charred and sticky. Keep an eye on them and rotate the tray for even cooking.

In the meantime, squeeze the juice of half a lemon, double as much olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste into a jar with a sealable lid and shake-shake-shake. Usually when the peaches are done roasting I add a tablespoon or two of the peach juices from the pan to the jar, the sugar from the juice helps emulsify the dressing.

Divide the greens on plates, lie the peaches cut side up on the greens, tear the mozzarella up and pop a chunk on top of each peach. Arrange the jamón around the salad and drizzle the whole lot with the dressing. Sprinkle the mint leaves on top and serve straight away.

Servings: Two as a main meal or four as a starter.

 

Honey Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

Another week, another bread recipe. This is my current bread star, because after wrapping my head around artisanal loaves I wanted to make “regular” bread for the sandwich lover in the house. Joel goes through about one loaf a week for toast and sandwiches. This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour fits the bill; it’s soft, fluffy and makes great toast. It’s also hella easy and makes two loaves: one to eat and one to freeze. I’ve made it several times to adjust the flavors and to make sure my metric conversions were accurate. It’s considerably less sweet than the original recipe, which in my opinion makes it a bit more all-purpose. The instructions are also slightly different because I don’t use a bread machine/Kitchen Aid nor do I have much patience for kneading. The stretch and fold (envelope) method works just fine.

Ingredients:

  • 450 ml boiling water (or 410 boiling + 40 ml tepid water to dissolve fresh yeast)
  • 100 g rolled oats
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 10 g honey
  • 45 g sunflower oil or 56 g melted butter
  • 15 g salt
  • 180 g whole wheat flour
  • 470 g white flour
  • 1 cake fresh yeast or 9.5 g instant yeast

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the boiling water, oats, maple, brown sugar, honey, oil or butter, and salt. Let cool to lukewarm, about 10 to 15 minutes.

If using fresh yeast, dissolve in tepid water and then mix in with the oatmeal (or sift instant yeast with the flours). Add the flours to the oatmeal mix, stir until a rough dough forms and there’s no loose flour, then pat into a ball. Cover with cling film and let rest for 20 minutes. Tip the dough out onto an oiled surface and give it 8 envelope folds, form it into a ball and drop it seam side down into the bowl. Cover and let rise 30 minutes, tip out the dough give it 8 more folds. Return the dough ball to the bowl and allow to rise 30 more minutes. The dough should become quite puffy since it’s warm.

Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ (900 g) bread pans. Cover the pans with cling film and allow the loaves to rise until they’ve crowned about 2 cm over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Bake the loaves on the middle rack in a preheated 177ºC/350°F oven (bottom element only) for about 40 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they’re golden brown. Turn the loaves out onto a rack to cool. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Yield:  2 sandwich loaves, 32 slices total, 104 calories per slice.

Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread

Alas, it’s been so long between posts, between life/school/family/work I don’t have as much time as I’d like to be witty. I still cook every day but I rarely get around to documenting my recipes. So for the time being you’ll have to do without banter, just ingredients + instructions. My old flatmate used to bring this dense, flavorful bread back from Portugal, and I’ve made this a few times now – if you can’t finish the whole loaf, grind it up for breadcrumbs and use it to top macaroni and cheese, you won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients:

  • 225 ml boiling water
  • 175 g corn meal
  • 1. 5 tsp (8 g) sea salt
  • 10 g brown sugar
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 7 g instant yeast or 1/2 cake fresh yeast dissolved in 65 ml tepid water
  • 200 g white flour
  • 50 g rye flour

Instructions:

Mix cornmeal, salt, sugar and 1 TB oil in a large bowl, stir in boiling water and allow to cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water and stir into cornmeal mix. Gradually add flours, stirring until well mixed. Form the dough into a ball, cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Tip the dough ball out onto an oiled counter top and fold 8 times (see this video for the stretch and fold method), form back into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour. After the bulk rise, tip the dough onto an oiled counter top and stretch and fold 4 times, then shape into a boule, and leave on the counter covered with cling film or a towel. Leave it to rise while the oven heats.

Heat the oven (bottom element only) for 30 minutes to 225ºC/450ºF with a cast iron pot inside. Remove the pot’s cover, carefully place the boule inside and bake for 25 minutes with the cover on. Remove the cover, rotate the pot and bake for 20 more minutes until the bread is dark golden.

Carefully remove and let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing and eating. Bread is easier to slice when it’s cool.

Side note: If you are new to baking I recommend http://www.thefreshloaf.com for tips and videos on how to prepare, shape and bake bread.