Monday, October 4, 2010

Apple-Hazelnut Upside-down Cake

After the first time we have to turn on the furnace, it's Fall. Time to make fall food, like chili and stews and apple desserts. Every weekend while Mr. Hunting Creek indulges in a glut of college football (Go Bears!), I like to bake a new dessert. There's something about baking that appeals to me: the ritual of getting out all of the ingredients, the preparation of the's almost like a religious rite.
If you are a tentative baker, there are a few things that you can do to improve your baking one hundredfold: measure everything out ahead of time. Get out all of your ingredients and make sure you have everything. Prepare your baking pan. Preheat your oven. It's like the checklist that pilots do before take-off. My daughter measures out all of her ingredients beforehand and she makes the best Toll House cookies.
She attributes this to her mise en place ritual. Mise en place is just French for preparation - getting everything ready to go. Professional chefs rely on it to make their cooking as fast and mistake free as possible. If you get in the habit of doing it every time, soon you will be baking like a pro too.
This weekend I had fresh picked Virginia apples and so an apple dessert was indicated.
I used Nittany apples which are an East Coast variety (if you can't tell by the name) but any good tart baking apple will work. Granny Smith, York, Greening...something tart.

Apple-Hazelnut Upside-Down Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and lightly flour a 9x2 inch cake pan.

First we make the topping:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Two peeled and cored apples

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of the baking pan, and tilt it so it is evenly coating the bottom. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg and then sprinkle all over the bottom of the pan. Then slice the apples and arrange all over the bottom. You can arrange in a pretty design, or just dump them in. Just make sure that they are evenly spread in the bottom on the pan. I like to make a nice design, but I'm OCD like that.

Then make the cake:

2 tablespoons hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

First, put the hazelnuts in the food processor with 1/4 cup of the flour and chop them up until they are ground up. Then add the rest of the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix a couple times. Set aside in a bowl. While you prepare the wet ingredients

1 peeled and cored apple
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons rum ( I like dark rum)
2 teaspoons vanilla

I do the whole thing in my Cuisinart. Slice up that last apple into chunks and chop it up - about 5-6 times. You should have about 1 cup. I can tell by looking because I have done this a zillion times, but if you aren't sure, take it out and measure it.
Add butter and sugar and mix a few times, until smooth - about 30-45 seconds or so.
Then add the eggs and mix those in. Add the milk and rum and extracts. Mix a couple seconds. Then add your reserved flour mixture above. Mix just until blended, about 3 or 4 times. You don't want to over mix once you add the flour. This makes your cake tough.
Pour the batter over the apples in the pan, making sure they are all covered and the batter is even. This batter is super delicious, so DO NOT taste more than once.
Bake about one hour, or an hour and ten minutes. Mine only took an hour.
Let it cool for 10-15 minutes before unmolding. I like it warm, but it is good cold too. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or creme anglaise.

Now that you have your nut-fruit upside down cake template, mix it up by substituting pecans for hazelnuts, or use walnuts, or almonds. Use pears instead of apples. Try using brown sugar instead of white sugar for the topping. Use brandy or amaretto instead of rum.
Pretty soon people will be begging you to bring "that cake you make".

This recipe is based on one in Abby Mandel's excellent book, Cuisinart Classroom, readily available for 1 penny plus shipping from Amazon. Of course I adapted it to my own quirks.

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