Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Apple Rum Cake and Fritters

When I started doing research for Monday's show, I wanted to look in some places that I hadn't gone for other shows. I figured everyone knew how to put an apple pie together, too. So if I was going to have a pie, I wanted one with a twist. I initially considered the Roman Apple Crostata that I started making last year but realized that the crust can be a little involved. Then I came across this animal that can't quite decide if it wants to be a cake or a pie. The book from which it came, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux, calls it a cake. But the pasta frolla, the base for the classic Italian crostata (pie) makes one think twice about such a claim. Although the execution is somewhat involved, there is nothing tricky about making this unique desert. If you want to impress, give this a shot!

Italian Apple Rum Cake

For the pastry bottom:
1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter cut into ten pieces
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:
1/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon rum
Juice of 1 lemon
4 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
2 tablespoons finely minced almonds

For the cake batter:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons rum
1/2 cup regular flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons finely ground almonds

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and lightly dust with flour.
I a food processor fitted with the metal blade, mix the flour,sugar, salt, baking powder and lemon zest. Add the cold butter and pulse 10 or 11 times for one second per pulse. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse just until it comes together. Briefly knead on a lightly floured surface, form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Remove and roll out into a circle about 13 1/2 inches in diameter. Place in the prepared pan. Dough should come about 1 1/2 inches up the side. The floured tines of a fork can help in this. Put back in the refrigerator while preparing the apple filling.

Place raisins in a bowl and pour the 1 tablespoon of rum over them to plump. Place the juice of the lemon in a bowl. Peel, core and slice the apples into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Add to the bowl of lemon juice turning them from time to time to prevent them from oxidizing.

Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with the minced almonds. Place the apple slices on the pastry in a concentric circle starting on the outside.
Sprinkle the raisins over the top and return to the refrigerator while you make your cake batter.

Stir the melted butter and sugar together and whisk in the egg yolks and rum. Sift flour and baking powder into mixture stirring as you do. Whisk in milk making sure no lumps form. Stir in the two tablespoons of ground almonds. Whip egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold them into the mixture and pour and spread over the apples making sure it reaches the edge all the way around.

Bake on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, remove release spring, remove pan and finish cooling.

If the cake was complicated then this recipe for apple fritters is ridiculously easy. Don't expect the yeast-raised version from your favorite bakery. This is not them. This is very light in comparison but still very good. Remember to have hot oil. Nothing worse than a grease-laden pastry to lay like lead in an unsatisfied stomach.

Apple Fritters

3 firm, somewhat sweet, cooking apples
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons rum
Peel of one lemon, grated
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil
Confectioner's sugar

Peel and core the apples, and cut them into slices about 3/8 inch thick.
Put granulated sugar, rum and lemon peel in a bowl with the apple slices turning them over gently a few times and letting them steep for at least one hour.
Put 1 cup of water into a soup plate and sift in flour all the time beating with a fork to prevent lumps.
Pour enough oil into a skillet to come up 1/2 inch.
Remove the apple slices and pat them dry of paper towels. When the oil is hot, dip them in the batter and put as many as will fit without crowding into the hot oil. Fry on both sides until golden. Remove to a rack to drain. Sprinkle with the confectioner's sugar and serve.

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