12 October 2008

bountiful is a big word

When I look out of the window, there is no denying that summer is over. But that is not to say that the months-long, depressive gray soup of German autumn has already come up.
No, the sun is shining, golden and still surprisingly warm, adding a glow to the last flowers outside. And the apples, of course.

We have spent the weekend mostly in the garden, weeding the dead plants out, de-scumming the pond, generally making the first attempts at getting everything settled for the winter to come. Oh, and we harvested the last bunch of grapes. I am still more than a little amazed myself, but we have a proper grape vine covering two storeys of one south wall of our house, and harvest has been surprisingly bountiful. (Yes, actually bountiful enough to justify such a big word.)

I have grown up with apples, pears and plums growing in almost every garden. But grape vine is something quite exoic for me, at least to have in my own garden. Well, to have next to the driveway, but that would be nitpicking, wouldn't it?

I just wonder when our peach tree will bear fruit for the first time, and our kiwi plant...

Anyway, this is the season for apples, no way around it. And apple cake, consequentially.

I have been on search for a recipe that would be sufficiently moist (she'd say soggy) enough for her to like, with some sort of vanilla cream and still not too artificial in taste.

We've been through a good number of miserable fails in this regard already, but finally, it seems we're on to something. Maybe it still requires a little tweaking here and there, but this one definitely is a keeper.

Apple cake with vanilla custard

for the shortcrust pastry
250g butter, cold
400g flour
100g sugar
1 egg
one sachet vanilla sugar
one generous pinch of salt

for the filling
6 large apples (Boskoop or similar)
one tablespoon of butter
300 ml cream
100g sugar
1 whole vanilla-pod
4 eggs, whole

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the shortcrust pastry and swiftly mix to incorporate all flour. Set aside to chill.
I usually take the mixer for this, running through the dough until it just starts to form clusters and looks like coarse sand or real good crumbles. (Which you could take this recipe for just as well, actually.)

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Peel and core the apples, cut into slices.
Originally, the recipe called for the apples to be freid in some butter before adding them to the cake. For boskoop apples, this might be unnecessary as they turn rather soft when cooked. Other sorts might benefit from this, use your own judgememt.

In a small pot, heat the cream and the sugar. Open the vanilla and scrape out the seeds, add to the cream. Bring all to a short boil, then leave to cool a little.
You can add the emptied seed-pod to the cream and fish it out before you continue. But I save those pods to make vanilla-rum-sirup in a bottle on my kitchen shelf, so mine goes there everytime.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy. Add the cream, first in little steps, then in increasingly greater quantities. Mix until well combined; there is no need to work in air at this step.
Never pour the eggs into the milk. You'll end up with vanilla-flavoured scrambled eggs, which might be nice as well under certain circumstances, but is definitely not what we need here.

Line a round springform pan with non-stick paper or grease well. Either roll out the shortcrust pastry or pour in the coarse crumples to form the base and a rim more or less three fingers high.

Loosely arrange the sliced apples on the base, then pour in the vanilla cream, but no higher than the rim.

Bake until the custard has set, approximately 40 to 60 minutes. Leave to cool on a rack, do not cut before the cake has cooled sufficiently.

The cake is moist and rich, actually I can imagine this making perfectly nice desserts when made in individual portions, maybe in a muffin-pan or somehing similar... I will have to try this one day.

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