When you leave for a trip, are you like me — down to the wire trying to finish it all? Wash clothes and pack suitcase … check. Water plants … check. Halt mail and newspaper … check. Pay bills … check. Send itinerary to family … check. Type out instructions for neighbor … check. Empty out fridge of perishables … um, okay, but wait, I can’t just throw out that cheese, that bulb of fennel, those apples, etc. And they won’t be edible when I get back either, so I find myself squeezing in some last minute baking and cooking that adds to my whirlwind of chores. I really hate to waste food, and my friends would much rather have baked offerings rather than raw apples on the precipice of rottendom.
This apple sharlotka from Smitten Kitchen was a great way to get rid of a lot of apples that otherwise would have met their demise in the fridge while I traveled from Princeton, N.J. to warmer climes last week. (Note to self: When returning to snowy New Jersey, stay longer in warm Scottsdale, Arizona if you’re likely to be stranded overnight in snowy Chicago.)
The recipe called for six apples, but I used eight, since I wanted to bring them all the way to the top of the pan, as Smitten Kitchen had in her photo.
The batter is supposed to be beaten until very thick, then poured over the apples and baked. I followed the directions, but the batter was so thick, it had trouble oozing its way to the bottom of the pan. I figured it would drizzle down, but even before placing the pan in the oven, there was no way all that batter was going to fit inside. Of course, I had increased the amounts of batter ingredients since I had also increased the number of apples too. I should have known better than to tamper with a new recipe the first time out.
Here’s what the pan looked like when it came out of the oven. The top had developed into a lightly browned crunchy disk that was difficult to cut without making a mess. A serrated knife kept the mess to a minimum. But the top was supposed to look more like a lunar landscape, with bumps of apples peeking through, rather than a flat plane of beige.
Before placing the large pan in the oven, I had scooped out some of the apples and mixed them in the bowl with the leftover batter. I poured this leftover batter and apples into two small buttered ramekins. These little beauties turned out much better in texture than the sharlotka in the larger pan, since the batter was distributed much more evenly. (Is this making any sense to you?)
I was also able to flip the small cakes out onto a plate, reverse them, and serve them neatly without any problem, something that Smitten Kitchen suggests with the larger sharlotka. But had I tried this with the larger sharlotka, mine wouldn’t have held together since there wasn’t enough batter dispersed with the apples to help it retain its shape.
Here’s a photo of a slice from the large sharlotka. It’s got a good “cake-like” consistency at the edges but not in the center, where it’s nearly all apples and no cake. It was good, but not as good as the small sharlotkas, whose apples were mixed in the bowl with the batter.
Have a look for yourself at the interior of the small sharlotkas. The apples and cake are distributed evenly throughout. Next time I make this (and I will because it’s a delicious dessert that uses no butter, no milk or cream – i.e. almost dietetic!) I’ll make it in the large pan, but will fold the apple slices into the batter.
I still had a couple of hours (and two apples) left before leaving for the airport, so I made these apple muffins at the last minute, using a recipe I found on the blog of my good friend, Stacey Snacks. She made it as a cake, but I’ve baked them as muffins a few times and they always turn out great.
They were still warm when I wrapped them and left for the airport. The smell kept tempting me throughout the flight, during which no snacks or food was served. I’d like to report that I had strong enough will power to resist, and delivered the box intact to my friend in Scottsdale. I said I’d like to, but alas no… During a wait for a connecting flight in Dallas, the symmetrical box of nine muffins was reduced by one as I gave in to temptation. Sure wish I’d had one with me when I got stuck in Chicago on the way back home.
Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths (I used 8 winesap apples)
3 large eggs (4 eggs)
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar (1 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 1/4 tsp)
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cup)
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (I would say forget the parchment paper. It makes it messy when it comes time to slice, since the apples are moist and you don’t really need it.) Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.
Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. (I had leftover batter and mixed in some remaining apple slices into the batter, then placed in two small ramekins. This technique works better in getting the batter distributed than just pouring it over the apples, as I did with the larger pan. Next time I make this recipe, I will fold the apples into the batter with the large pan rather than placing the apples in the pan and pouring the batter over the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. (The large pan needed about 1 1/4 hours in the oven. The small pans only about 50 minutes.) Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. (Good luck with the flipping part. It worked great for the little ones but the large one was just too juicy on the bottom to try without courting disaster.) Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.
Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar. Eat it plain, or with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped or sour cream.
Apple Cake (or Muffins)
From Stacey Snacks
My Favorite Easy Apple Cake: