My apologies for posting this a little late, it's been very exciting and tiring at the same time around here between Baby Saffron saying her first words (Dada and Yaya -the best way she can say her own name right now) and her first two teeth imminently about to burst through, resulting in rather rough patches.
The days are distinctly colder now, it's time to cover up, the fall colors are out and putting on their best show (well not necessarily here but I know in a lot of other places they are) and it's time to start eating comfort foods and waging war on our waistlines, but such sweet war it is. While I love going on a picnic on a hot summer day, wearing a sundress and maybe, if we are so lucky, having some place to swim after we eat, I really do prefer early fall days when the sun still beats strongly enough to overcome the crisp, somewhat biting air but the atmosphere has already been cleansed of the polluted haze left behind by the unblinking heat of summer.
You know those days, right after the rain, when the sky is an unfaltering deep blue, the breeze nips gently at your face and hands and the air smells fresh.
On such days, it is possible to feel invincible as a child does when he is let out of school and can run free through the park with his scooter, his nanny running wildly after him.
On such days, it is possible to be brought to tears by some of the comments you left me to be eligible for the giveaway in the last post. This is where I have to tell you that I want to give each one of you an Ottolenghi Cookbook so that no one is left out, particularly when you gave me such precious or delicate gifts. Alas, that cannot be, but I want you all to know that in my head I'm giving you each a book. The actual book will travel to Mumbai (Bombay), India to Shaheen of Purple Foodie. Congratulations Shaheen, please send me your address so I can dispatch it to you! I hope you will let me know how you like it when you've tried some of the recipes in there.
In the giveaway post, I promised to give you the recipe for Ottolenghi's apple and olive oil cake with maple icing because it is sinfully good for such a hearty cake, particularly the icing. It is the perfect cake to take with you on a picnic to a nearby park on a gorgeous fall day, or to simply bake to have with tea or coffee on a grey, rainy day best spent at home. I like to think it's the sort of cake that my grandmother would have baked for me as an after school treat, had there been a Persian tradition of baking such cakes.
This cake is so incredibly moist, I was surprised when I actually bit into it the first time. I told A. that the icing was so good that he might decide to marry me again, but I do love maple syrup and muscovado sugar so I thought perhaps I was just being overly susceptible to their charms; he thought the cake and the icing were sinfully good. The apples and plumped sultanas give it an extra dimension both in taste and texture; the Bramleys, very tart green apples that look like Granny Smiths on steroids, balancing out the sweetness of the sugar and sultana raisins in the recipe. If you like apple cakes that are rustic but good enough and pretty enough, particularly with the icing, to be served at tea for company, I do hope you will give this one a try, it's definitely a keeper in this kitchen.
I am sending this cake over to Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen who is hosting the High Tea Treats edition of the Monthly Mingle (founded by the awesome Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey). While A. managed to eat the piece he is holding in the first picture with his hand, I do recommend the use of a fork to eat this cake because it can be quite crumbly and, well, it's probably best to let your high tea guests use forks to eat their food.
Finally, this is for those of you that asked if I am going to New Zealand in your comments. I can at least tell you that I am not going to New Zealand, so that is not the hint I was giving you, although I hope to go back there very soon.
Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
adapted from the Ottolenghi Cookbook
For an 8 inch cake that serves 6-8 (either 2 layers with icing in between or 1 cake with lots of icing on top or no icing and just dusted icing/confectioner's sugar)
For the cake:
80g or 3oz sultanas
4 tbsp water
280g or 2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
120ml or 1/2 cup olive oil
160g or 3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Bramley apples or 4 Granny Smiths
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites
icing/confectioner's sugar (optional) for dusting - if not making the icing*
For the icing:
100g or 1 stick - 2 tsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
100g or 1/2 cup light muscovado sugar
85ml or 3 oz maple syrup
220g or 1 cup cream cheese
For the cake:
- Heat the oven to 170C (325F)/Gas Mark 3.
- Grease (I used butter) a springform pan 20cm (8 in.) in diameter, then line the bottom and sides of it with baking parchment (if you are generous with your greasage, the baking parchment will adhere to the pan nicely which is very convenient when you want to get the cake out of it).
- Put the sultana raisins and the water in a saucepan and simmer on low heat until the water has been absorbed completely. Set aside to cool.
- Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda) and set aside.
- Peel, core and dice the apples into 1cm or 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, mix the olive oil and sugar together by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (which I have but I did it by hand so you can too).
- Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into the oil and sugar. Beat until well mixed (the vanilla can clump when you scrape it out so make sure to "de-clump" it).
- Add the lightly beaten eggs gradually, leaving you with a thick, smooth batter in the end.
- Add the diced apples, sultanas, and the lemon zest.
- Add the dry ingredients, folding in gently (you can do this in one go).
- In a separate clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
- Fold the whisked egg whites very gently (to lose as little air as possible) into the main batter in 2 additions. 2 additions is best as the more additions you do, the more you are folding the batter and losing air.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the surface (there can be errant pieces of apple sticking out). Bake for an hour and a half or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (it took my oven about an hour and ten minutes so do check before the stipulated time if it looks done to you).
- Let cool completely in the pan.
- The flavors of the cake mature over time so for best results wrap the cake in cling film/saran wrap and refrigerate for up to three days before assembly. That means make the icing on the day you will be eating the cake.
For the icing:
- Beat the butter, muscovado sugar and maple syrup together either by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used my stand mixer for this) until light and airy. Add the cream cheese and continue beating until thoroughly blended and smooth.
- If you wish to put icing in between two layers, cut the cake in half using a serrated knife.
- Spread the icing as you wish, between two layers, over the top of the cake only, on top and on the sides, knock yourself out. I followed the directions but it doesn't mean you have to on this.
*- If you do not wish to make the icing, you can simply sift some icing sugar on the cake. Your waistline will thank you for it.